Saturday, April 5, 2014

Two Year Anniversary

Two years ago today I started writing this blog on a whim, thinking "why not?" Two years on, I am glad I made the decision. It has become a place to purge my mind of ideas, thoughts, passion for motorsport and burn off frustration that can come along the way and do it all with those other motorsport fans.

My following may be small but I am thankful to all those who take their time to follow me on Twitter, read my posts and participate in the never-ending discussion about motorsports. Here is to an even better third year and I hope you all continue to enjoy my posts.

With that said, I think we should talk about some racing and let's start in Australia.

The third round of the V8 Supercar season takes place at Winton Motor Raceway and we saw a few firsts. Race one saw a Holden sweep of the podium and a New Zealand 1-2 with Fabian Coulthard and Shane van Gisbergen leading the way. Dale Wood finished third scoring his first career V8SC podium. Jason Bright made it four Holdens in the top four with the Mercedes of Lee Holdsworth and Will Davison taking fifth and sixth. Mark Winterbottom was the top Ford finishing seventh ahead of the Red Bull Racing Australia Holdens of Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup. Russel Ingall rounded out the top ten after being black flagged with three laps to go while in third.

In race two, Lee Holdsworth broke through for Mercedes-Benz's first V8SC victory. Mark Winterbottom finished second and Fabian Coulthard made it three different manufactures on the podium in third. It's Holdsworth third career win and first since the 2010 season finale on the streets of Sydney Olympic Park. David Reynolds and David Wall made it three Fords in the top five and James Moffat was the top Nissan in sixth. Jason Bright finished seventh ahead of the second Mercedes of Will Davison. James Courtney was ninth and Chaz Mostert rounded out the top ten.

The Red Bull Holdens started twenty-first and twenty-third with Lowndes gaining seven positions and finishing sixteenth while Whincup could only pick up two positions and finish nineteenth. Scott McLaughlin started second and was leading early for Volvo but had to pit for a battery change and finished twenty-fifth. Shane van Gisbergen started third and fell to twentieth.

Still one race to go from Winton. Lowndes has 605 points and leads Coulthard by nineteen. Whincup is third, 77 points back. Winterbottom is the top Ford, 82 points backs in fourth. Van Gisbergen is fifth, 125 points back of Lowndes with Courtney 134 points back in sixth. Holdsworth's victory jumps him up to seventh, just ahead of his teammate Will Davison. McLaughlin and Tim Slade round out the top ten in the standings.

Race three from Winton takes place at 12:30 a.m. ET Sunday.

Vandoorne Wins On Debut
Escaping a grid penalty, McLaren development driver and ART Grand Prix's Stoffel Vandoorne of Belgium won on debut in the GP2 from Bahrain. Colombian Julián Leal finished second driving from Carlin while pole-sitter Jolyon Palmer finished third driving for DAMS and picked up the two bonus points for fastest lap. Stefano Coletti finished fourth for Racing Engineering with Campos' Arthur Pic rounding out the top five.

Takuya Izawa finished sixth on debut driving for ART. He started twenty-third. Simon Trummer started from the pit lane and finished seventh. Carlin's Felipe Nasr finished eighth and will start on pole in the sprint race Sunday as the top eight are inverted. Rounding out the points were René Binder of Arden and Adrian Quaife-Hobbs for Rapax.

Daniël de Jong finished eleventh with Conor Daly in twelfth. Daniel Abt started third and dropped to thirteenth. RT Russian Time drivers Mitch Evans and Artem Markelov rounded out the top fifteen. Alexander Rossi finished twenty-second.

The Bahrain sprint races takes place at 7:15 a.m. ET Sunday.

Mercedes Dominates Formula One Qualifying
Nico Rosberg won his second consecutive pole for the Bahrain Grand Prix while his teammate Lewis Hamilton ended up second after being fastest in each practice session this weekend. Daniel Ricciardo qualified third, 0.866 seconds back of the German. Ricciardo will have to serve a ten-grid spot penalty and drop to thirteenth after an unsafe pit release last week in Malaysia.

The Williams-Mercedes of Valterri Bottas qualified fourth and the Force India-Mercedes of Sergio Pérez made it four Mercedes powered cars in the top five. Over a second back in sixth was the top Ferrari of Kimi Räikkönen. Jenson Button qualified seventh ahead of Felipe Massa, Kevin Magnussen and Fernando Alonso rounded out the top ten.

The surprise of qualifying were German drivers Sebastian Vettel and Nico Hülkenberg failing to advance to Q3 while their teammates did make it to the final round. Vettel had an accident in third practice while Hülkenberg was the fastest driver in Q1. Toro Rosso drivers Daniil Kvyat and Jean-Éric Vergne will start on row seven ahead of the Sauber of Esteban Gutiérrez and Lotus driver Romain Grosjean.

Pastor Maldonado starts 17th after failing to advance to Q2 by 0.009 seconds. Adrian Sutil was 18th. Kamui Kobayashi and Jules Bianchi will start on row ten with Marcus Ericsson and Max Chilton rounding out the field. After an investigation of an incident involving Sutil and Grosjean from Q1, Sutil has been handed a five-spot grid penalty and start last in tomorrow's race.

Tomorrow's Bahrain Grand Prix will be on NBCSN. Coverage begins at 10:30 a.m. ET with the lights going out at 11:00 a.m. ET.

IndyCar's Off-Weekend
Seeing as how this is the two year anniversary for For the Love of Indy and IndyCar is the main series that is covered, we mind as well take a moment to talk IndyCar. The series off before heading to Long Beach ned weekend for the 40th anniversary of the Grand Prix of Long Beach.

A few thoughts:

1. I am looking forward to the standing start at Long Beach. It will be much better than five rows getting the green with another half dozen cars single file and the last third of the grid still not through the hairpin.

2. IndyCar reportedly has a three-year extension with Long Beach going to 2018. The reports are Chris Pook and Bernie Eccelstone are interested in Formula One returning to Long Beach for the first time since 1983. As great as the glitz and glamour of Formula One is, it can be a deathly blow. First, the infrastructure updates in Long Beach would cost millions of dollars and undoubtedly ticket prices would nearly triple (most expensive ticket currently is 3 days at $185 with Sunday general admission #55). Formula One has been trying to get New Jersey on the calendar for three years now, they should accomplish that first and if they want a third race in the United States invest in a permanent road course such as Road America, Laguna Seca and Road Atlanta, not street circuits.

3. A lot of talk over the removal of double-file restarts from road and street circuits this year. There have been mixed reviews but mostly it sounds like people are disappointed they are no more. I liked double-file restarts. I wasn't disappointed that they were removed but I wouldn't be against double-file restarts being reinstated.

Races such as Baltimore last year where pile up after pile up occurred in turn one were one of the reasons for the removal of double-file restarts. However, tight turn ones are few are far between on the schedule. Baltimore is gone and the only circuits where double-file restarts could be in question are Belle Isle, Toronto and maybe Houston depending on what improvements they do on the circuit before IndyCar returns. The permanent road courses (Barber, Indianapolis, Mid-Ohio and Sonoma), St. Petersburg and even Long Beach this weekend could accommodate double-file restarts.

More importantly, the pile ups are on the driver's shoulders. They have to be responsible when entering turn one and make sure they don't take themselves or anyone else out. Sure, it's easy to alleviate that problem by just getting rid of double-file restarts but if anything, the onus should be on the drivers to be professional enough to get through turn one.

Oh and one other thing, are we really doing double-file restarts on all ovals except Indianapolis? Really? We're going to act like Indianapolis shouldn't be molested with double-file restarts even though they were done at Indianapolis in 2011? Come on.

I could understand IndyCar not doing double-file restarts at the doubleheaders to preserve and protect equipment but they should be considered for the other twelve races of the season.

4. Still no title sponsor for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Wasn't this suppose to be a money grab for the Speedway? Wasn't the plan for this race to sell the naming rights at a healthy price? We are a little more than a month away from the event and nothing. If I was running the Speedway I would already be disappointed naming rights haven't been sold and would be livid if the race happens without a title sponsor.

I already support selling naming rights to the Indianapolis 500 because, if done correctly, sponsors will promote the race with their name on it. They will spread the word, give out free tickets to fans and people who are going to a race for the first time and IndyCar needs help spreading the word and getting people through the turnstiles.

Maybe the sponsor will be announced in the coming days but we are at the eleventh hour and when the road course race was announced, I was expecting a title sponsor announcement over the winter.

Ogier Retakes Rally de Portugal Lead
Defending World Rally champion Sébastien Ogier swept day three of Rally de Portugal, winning all five completed stages and holds a 38.1 second lead over Mikko Hirvonen entering the final three stages on Sunday. The victory by Ogier on stage eleven gave Volkswagen their 200th stage victory since entering WRC last season.

Citroën's Mads Østberg is third, nearly a minute and a half back of Ogier with the Hyundai of Dani Sordo in fourth, just over a minute and forty-six seconds back. Henning Solberg is fifth, just under four and a half minutes back. Ogier's Volkswagen teammate Andreas Mikkelsen is sixth, Martin Prokop is seventh and Hyundai drivers Juho Hänninen and Thierry Neuville are eighth and ninth. Tenth place is WRC2 leader and 2011 Dakar Rally winner Nasser Al-Attiyah.

It has been a physical Rally de Portugal. Neuville suffered a broken suspension that cost the Belgian a  lot of time on day three. Ott Tänak was running third when he crashed on stage ten. He has dropped to twenty-sixth, just ahead of Elfyn Evans who restarted after a roll on day two. Other drivers coming back after set backs on day two are Jari-Matti Latvala and Robert Kubica. Latvala is seventeenth, just sixteen minutes back of his teammate Ogier and around six and a half minutes back of Al-Attiyah in the final points paying position.

The final day of Rally de Portugal starts tomorrow at 2:35 a.m. ET.