Friday, October 16, 2015

Friday Five: Hockenheim, Estoril, Qatar, Phillip Island, SUGO

Three seasons come to a close this weekend and four champions will be crowned. History could be made in Germany. A Portuguese driver hopes to claim a title on home soil. World Superbike will finish under the lights. MotoGP heads to the antepenultimate round of their season. Five drivers from three countries battle for a title in Japan.

Four drivers head to the DTM season finale at Hockheimring eligible for the title. Mercedes-Benz driver Pascal Wehrlein has 165 points and leads the championship. He has two victories and five podiums this season and his scored points in 14 of 16 races. Wehrlein turns 21 years old on the final day of the season and is set to become the youngest DTM champion, beating the record of 24 years, 10 months and 25 days set by Marco Wittmann last year.

Italian Edoardo Mortara is second in the championship. The Audi driver trails Wehrlein by 37 points. His lone victory came at Red Bull Ring and he has five podiums. Two-time DTM champion Mattias Ekström trails Wehrlein by 38 points despite having the same amount of victories and same amount of podiums. The Swede has only scored 16 points in the last six races compared to Wehrlein's 71 points.

Bruno Spengler is the final championship contender but the 2012 champion will need to sweep the weekend if he hopes to claim his second title. The Canadian has six podiums this season but has yet to make it to the top step of the podium. Spengler has not won in 33 races. His last victory was Red Bull Ring 2013. This is the longest drought of Spengler's career.

Last year, Ekström picked up his fourth career victory at Hockenheimring, however, last year's victory was his first in the autumn Hockenheim race. Ekström won the second race of this season at Hockenheim. Spengler has three Hockenheim victories, including two in the autumn race. While Mortara could leave Hockenheim as champion, the Italian has yet to win a Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters race in Deutschland. He has two wins at Red Bull Ring and he won at Zandvoort in 2012. Mortara finished second to Ekström at Hockenheim earlier this season. Wehrlein entered the 2015 season having never finished in the points at Hockenheim, however, he finished second to Jamie Green in this year's season opener.

If Wehrlein wins the championship, it will be the first time since DTM returned in 2000 that Germans have won three consecutive championships. He would also be the first Mercedes-Benz driver to win the title since Paul di Resta in 2010.

The 2015 European Le Mans Series finale from Estoril features 30 cars on the entry list and three championships to be decided.

In LMP2, the #38 Jota Sport Gibson-Nissan of Simon Dolan, Filipe Albuquerque and Harry Tincknell lead the championships with 76 points, one more than the #41 Greaves Motorsport Gibson-Nissan of Gary Hirsch, Björn Wirdheim and Jon Lancaster. The #46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca-Nissan of Pierre Thiriet, Ludovic Badey and Nicolas Lapierre are the final championship eligible team in class with 66 points. Greaves Motorsport has two victories while Jota Sport and Thiriet by TDS Racing each have one victory. The #41 was awarded the victory in the most recent round at Paul Ricard after the #38 Gibson was assessed a time penalty for Filipe Albuquerque exceeding maximum drive time, dropping them from victory to third.

In GTE, the #60 Formula Racing Ferrari F458 Italia of Johnny Laursen, Mikkel Mac and Andrea Rizzoli has won the last two races and leads the championship with 73 points. Nineteen points back of Formula Racing is the #52 BMW Team Marc VDS Z4 of Andy Priaulx, Henry Hassid and Jesse Krohn. Twenty-two points back in third is the #55 AF Corse Ferrari of Duncan Cameron, Matt Griffin and Aaron Scott. The #88 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR of Christian Ried is 23 points behind Formula Racing and Ried will be joined by Richard Lietz and Sebastian Asch. Rounding out the top five is the #66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari of Robert Smith, who is 24 points back. James Calado and Rory Butcher will join Smith in the #66.

Only two teams have a shot for the GTC title. The #59 TDS Racing BMW Z4 GT3 of Franck Perera, Dino Lunardi and Eric Dermont lead with 82 points. The #62 AF Corse Ferrari of Francesco Castelacci and Stuart Hall trail by 13 points and will be joined Thomas Flohr. Both teams have two victories and a second place finish. The difference is the #59 finished fourth at Imola while the #62 retired at Silverstone.

The LMP3 title was clinched at Paul Richard after the #3 Team LNT Ginetta-Nissan of Charlie Robertson and Sir Chris Hoy won their third race of the season.

The 2015 World Superbike champion has already been decided but Jonathan Rea could make history this weekend in the season finale from Losail International Circuit in Qatar. The champion-elect has won 14 of the first 24 races, has 22 podiums and his worst finish in 2015 is fourth in both Jerez races. Should Rea sweep the weekend, he will end the season with the second-most victories in a WSBK season behind only Doug Polen's 17 in the 1991 season. If Rea were to finish on the podium in both races, he would end with 24, the second most podiums in a season behind Colin Edwards' 25 in the 2002 season.

Chaz Davies is second in the championship with 383 points, 16 points ahead 2013 World Superbike champion Tom Sykes. Davies has five victories to Sykes' four. Leon Haslam is fourth in the championship with 297 points and he has won victory. British riders have won all 24 races this season.

Jordi Torres rounds out the top five 222 points. The Spaniard has three podiums with his best finish being second in race two from Jerez. Defending champion Sylvain Guintoli is sixth in the championship with 201 points and he scored his first podium of the season in race one at the most recent round at Magny-Cours. Last year, Guintoli swept the weekend at Qatar and came from behind to win the title by six points over Sykes.

In the five previous WSBK appearances at Losail, only one British rider has won at the track. Two-time champion James Toseland won at the track in 2006 and 2007.

Phillip Island
The 2015 MotoGP championship will be won by a Yamaha rider. Valentino Rossi leads Jorge Lorenzo by 18 points after Rossi finished second at Motegi to Dani Pedrosa while Lorenzo finished third. Marc Márquez was eliminated from championship contention at Motegi after finishing fourth.

Rossi is the all-time leader in Australian Grand Prix victories with eight and is tied with Australian Casey Stoner for most Australian Grand Prix victories in the 500cc/MotoGP class with six. The Italian won last year's race at Phillip Island after Márquez fell while leading. Lorenzo has three Australian Grand Prix victories but his lone MotoGP victory down under came in 2013. The Majorcan won back-to-back 250cc race at Phillip Island in 2006-07. Márquez's lone win at Phillip Island was the 2010 125cc race.

Márquez is still third in the championship with 197 points. Ducati rider Andrea Iannone is 25 points behind Márquez after he suffered his first retirement of 2015 at Motegi when he had an engine failure. Pedrosa's victory at Motegi jumped him up to fifth in the championship, two points ahead of Tech3 Yamaha rider Bradley Smith. Andrea Dovizioso is seventh, four points behind Pedrosa with 150 points. Cal Crutchlow is eight with 98 points. Danilo Petrucci has retired from the last two races after finishing in the points in 14 consecutive races. He is five points behind Crutchlow. Pol Espargaró is edging out his brother Aleix for the final spot in the top ten. Pol has 88 points to Aleix's 81 points.

Sportsland SUGO
Five drivers are still alive for the Super Formula title as the series heads to their penultimate round of the season.

Hiroaki Ishiura leads with 41 points and he has two victories and four podiums from five races. Ishiura's worst finish of the season was fifth at the season opener at Suzuka. Defending champion Kazuki Nakajima trails Ishiura by seven points. Nakajima won the most recent round at Autopolis and has three runner-up finishes this season. Nakajima missed the Okayama round in May after recovering from injuries suffered at the FIA World Endurance Championship round at Spa-Francorchamps.

Twelve points back in third is João Paulo de Oliveira. The Brazilian won at Fuji in July and is looking for his first Super Formula title since 2010. André Lotterer is the final championship eligible driver and he is 21 points back of Ishiura. Lotterer won the season opener at Suzuka. Super Formula rookie Kauai Kobayashi is fifth and is 27 points behind Ishiura with 29 points left on the table. The former Sauber F1 and Caterham driver finished second to Ishiura at Okayama and third at Autopolis.

Ishiura's lone podium at Sportsland SUGO was a second place finish in 2013. He finished in the points in all five of his SUGO starts. Nakajima finished second last year at SUGO and has two points in four starts at the track. Sportsland SUGO is one of de Oliveira's worst tracks. The Brazilian's best finish in seven starts is sixth and he has three retirements and one disqualification at the track. Last year, his race ended on lap one after he and Lotterer made contact. The German has one victory and five podiums in 12 starts at SUGO. This will be Kobayashi's first career start at SUGO

1. Over or Under: 0.5 races being won from pole position at Hockenheim?
2. Over or Under: 25.5 laps between the overall winner at Estoril and final classified car?
3. Over or Under: 3.5 podiums in Qatar for Italian bikes?
4. Over or Under: 6.25 seconds being the difference between first and second at Phillip Island?
5. Over or Under: 2.5 Honda drivers finishing in the points at Sportsland SUGO?

Last Week's Over/Unders
1. Under: Three of the top ten finishers in the Bathurst 1000 started outside the top ten. Those three just happened to be the three teams to stand on the podium
2. Over: There were nine cautions at Charlotte.
3. Under: The only French driver to win at Fuji was Julien Canal.
4. Over: Nicky Hayden scored three points at Motegi
5. Over: The McLaren cars completed a combined 106 laps at Sochi.

1. At least one race winner at Hockenheim also ends up with fastest lap of the race.
2. At least four British drivers are victorious across the four classes at Estoril.
3. British riders sweep the weekend in Qatar.
4. Only one factory Yamaha rider finishes on the podium at Phillip Island.
5. At least three drivers are eligible for the Super Formula championships after Sportsland SUGO.

Last Week's Predictions
1. Two European drivers finish in the top ten (Correct. Alexandre Prémat and Sébastien Bourdais both finished in the top ten).
2. Jimmie Johnson finished ahead of at least six Chase drivers (Wrong. He finished ahead of one Chase driver after his engine expired).
3. A team gets their first victory of the season at Fuji (Correct. The #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche scored their first victory of the season in GTE-Am).
4. Andrea Dovizioso finishes ahead of his Ducati teammate Andrea Iannone (Correct. Andrea Dovizioso finished fifth and Andrea Iannone retired).
5. Nico Hülkenberg leaves Sochi ahead of his Force India teammate Sergio Pérez in the championship (Wrong. Hülkenberg's race ended on lap one. Pérez ended up on the podium).
Overall: 3/5 Running Tally: 15/30