Friday, October 30, 2015

Friday Five: Shanghai, Mexico City, Martinsville, Autopolis, Buriram

A few championships head to their penultimate rounds of their respective 2015 seasons. Formula One returns to Mexico for the first time in over two decades. NASCAR heads to a short track. World Touring Car Championship heads to a new country. FIA World Endurance Championship returns to China. There will be some more racing in Japan.

The #17 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard took the championship lead after the trio won its third consecutive race at Fuji. They have 129 points and lead the #7 Audi R18 e-tron quattro of André Lotterer, Marcel Fässler and Benoît Tréluyer by one point. The #7 Audi has finished on the podium in every single race and won the first two races. The #17 has finished on the podium in every race but Silverstone when they retired.

The #18 Porsche of Marc Lieb, Romain Dumas and Neel Jani has finished second in four of six races and has 95.5 points. The #8 Audi of Lucas di Grassi, Loïc Duval and Oliver Jarvis is fourth in the championship with 79 points and one podium, a third at Austin. Toyota's struggle continues. The defending champions Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi have 59 points. The #2 Toyota of Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway and Alexander Wurz have 54 points.

In LMP2, the #26 G-Drive Racing Ligier-Nissan of Sam Bird, Julien Canal and Romain Rusinov have taken the championship leader after winning their second consecutive race and third of the season. The #26 leads with 126 points. Matthew Howson and Richard Bradley lost the LMP2 championship lead after their #47 Oreca-Nissan retired at Fuji and now trail the #26 G-Drive Ligier by 12 points. Nick Tandy will be the third driver in the KCMG entry. The #27 G-Drive Racing Ligier-Nissan of Gustavo Yacamán, Ricardo González and Pipo Derani has a victory, four consecutive third places finishes and is 15 points behind their teammates.

Richard Lietz holds a seven-point lead over the #71 AF Corse Ferrari of James Calado and Davide Rigon. Defending champions Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander won their second race of the season and has the #51 AF Corse Ferrari is 16.5 points behind the Austrian. Lietz' #91 Porsche co-drive Michael Christensen is fourth, a point and a half behind Bruni and Vilander. Frédéric Makowiecki rounds out the top five with 78 points. The #92 Porsche of Makowiecki and Patrick Pilet have finished second in class in the last three races.

The #72 SMP Racing Ferrari could lock up the GTE-Am championship in Shanghai. Andrea Bertolini, Viktor Shaitar and Aleksey Basov have 140 points and have three victories this season. The Russian team holds a 29-point lead over the #83 AF Corse Ferrari of Emmanuel Collard, François Perrodo and Rui Águas and has finished on the podium in every race this season. The #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche of Patrick Dempsey, Patrick Long and Marco Seefried picked up their first victory at Fuji and trail the #72 Ferrari by 36 points. The #98 Aston Martin of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda won the first two races of the season and trails the #72 Ferrari by 41 points.

Mexico City
The championship has already been decided. Lewis Hamilton heads to Mexico coming off his tenth victory of 2015 and clinching his third World Drivers' Championship in Austin. Hamilton could become the second driver to win all three North American Grand Prix (Canada, United States, Mexico), joining Ayrton Senna who won in Canada in 1988 and 1990, won in Mexico in 1989 and won consecutive United States Grand Prix in 1990-91. Hamilton could become the first driver to ever win the United States Grand Prix and Mexican Grand Prix in the same season.

The battle is now for second as Sebastian Vettel holds a four-point advantage over his fellow German Nico Rosberg. Vettel has five consecutive podium finishes while Rosberg has two runner-up finishes and two races he failed to finish in that time span.

While two Germans are battling for second, two Finns battle for fourth and they have already gotten together on the racetrack. Kimi Räikkönen is 12 points ahead of Valtteri Bottas. Both drivers retired from the United States Grand Prix. Two points behind Bottas is his Williams' teammate Felipe Massa. Thirty-three points behind Massa is Daniil Kvyat. Daniel Ricciardo is two points behind his Red Bull teammate. Sergio Pérez heads to his first ever Mexican Grand Prix and is coming off a third in Russia and a fifth in the United States. With his fourth in Austin, Max Verstappen jumped into the top ten of the championship, passing Romain Grosjean and Nico Hülkenberg, with 45 points.

Thirteenth through 16th all scored points at Austin. Felipe Nasr finished ninth, Pastor Maldonado finished eighth, Carlos Sainz, Jr. finished seventh and Jenson Button came home in sixth. Button jumped his McLaren teammate in the championship as the Brit has 16 points to Fernando Alonso's 11 points. Marcus Ericsson has nine points. Alexander Rossi is coming off a career-best 12th in his home race and Will Stevens picked up his second retirement of the season in the most recent round.

This will be the 17th Mexican Grand Prix and 16th on the Formula One calendar. Only once has a German engine won the race. Gerhard Berger won the 1986 race driving a Brabham-BMW. Williams has won the last two Mexican Grand Prix with Riccardo Patrese in 1991 and Nigel Mansell in 1992. A Honda engine has won the Mexican Grand Prix four times, including the manufactures first Grand Prix victory in 1965 with Richie Ginther.

Jim Clark won three Mexican Grand Prix, but only two of those were Formula One rounds. Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell also won the Mexican Grand Prix twice.

The semifinal round of the Chase opens from Martinsville Speedway.

Joey Logano won all three races in round two. Four other drivers who advanced to round three had top tens in all three second round races. Carl Edwards' best finish in round two was fifth at Talladega. Jeff Gordon scored his first top five of the Chase with his third at Talladega after starting on pole position. Kurt Busch quietly has four top tens in six races with fifth at Charlotte being his best finish of round two. Brad Keselowski had two ninths and a fourth in round two.

Martin Truex, Jr. advanced after getting a third, 15th and seventh in the second round. Kevin Harvick finished second in the first race of round two but finished 16th and 15th in the next two races. Kyle Busch finished fifth at Kansas but failed to finish in the top ten in other two races.

Chevrolet has won ten of the last twelve autumn Martinsville races with Hendrick Motorsports winning the last three with three different drivers. Toyota's two victories in the autumn Martinsville race were by Denny Hamlin in 2009-10. Ford has not won at Martinsville since October 20, 2002 when Kurt Busch won with Roush Racing.

Only three of the remaining eight drivers have won at Martinsville. Jeff Gordon leads with eight victories. Kurt Busch has two and won the 2014 spring race. Kevin Harvick's lone Martinsville win was the 2011 spring race. Of none-Chase drivers, Jimmie Johnson has eight Martinsville race, Denny Hamlin has five, Tony Stewart has three and Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. each have one victory. Earnhardt, Jr. won last year's autumn race, the week after being eliminated from the Chase.

Jeff Gordon has 28 top fives at Martinsville while the other seven Chase drivers combine for 23 top fives at the short track. Kyle Busch has eight top fives while Joey Logano has four, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch have three, Martin Truex, Jr. and Brad Keselowski have two and Carl Edwards has one. 

The penultimate round of the Super GT season will be at Autopolis.

In GT500, the #12 Team Impul Nissan GT-R of João Paulo de Oliveira and Hironobu Yasuda leads the championship with 51 points but has yet to score a victory this season. Takuya Izawa and Naoki Yamamoto are second, two points behind the #12 Nissan after they drove the #100 Team Kunimitsu Honda NSX-GT to victory in the most recent round at Sportsland SUGO. The #46 MOLA Nissan GT-R of Satoshu Motoyama and Masataka Yanagida are third on 45 points and were the winners in Buriram, Thailand earlier this season. Super Formula points leader Hiroaki Ishiura and Yuji Tachikawa is tied with the #46 MOLA Nissan. The #38 Team Zent Cerumo Lexus RC F has two runner-up finishes and a third this season. James Rossiter and Daisuke Ito won Suzuka 1000km in the #36 Lexus Team Petronas TOM's RC F and rounds out the top five of the championship with 43 points and the defending champions, the #1 NISMO Nissan GT-R of Tsugio Matsuda and Ronnie Quintarelli are tied with the #36 Lexus.

In GT300, André Couto leads with 74 points and is 20 points ahead of Katsumasa Chiyo. Couto and Chiyo both drive the #10 Gainer Nissan GT-R GT3. Chiyo missed the Fuji and Sportsland SUGO races due to Blancpain GT Series duty. Couto and Chiyo won at Fuji and Suzuka. Twenty-five points behind Couto are Koki Saga and Yuchi Nakayama, drivers of the #31 apr Toyota Prius GT. Saga and Nakayama won the season opener at Okayama. Ryuichiro Tomita is 29 points behind Couto but is the third driver in the #10 Nissan GT-R GT3. Tomita replaced Chiyo in the rounds he missed and ran Suzuka. The #3 NDDP Racing Nissan GT-R GT3 of Kazuki Hoshino and Mitsunori Takaboshi trail by 33 points and won in Thailand. Also 33 points back is the #11 Gainer Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 of Katsuyuki Hiranaka and Björn Wirdheim. Hirananka and Wirdheim have three podiums this season.

The World Touring Car Championship season heads to it's penultimate round of the 2015 season at Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand for the inaugural Race of Thailand and two drivers are eligible for the title.

Defending champion José María López leads with 396 points and looks to clinch his second consecutive title this weekend. López's Citroën teammate Yvan Muller trails the Argentine by 75 points and will have to outscore López by twenty points to keep his title hopes alive. Muller is a four-time WTCC champion.

López has eight victories this season to Muller's five. López has 16 podiums from 20 races while Muller has 12 podiums.

Citroën drivers have the top four in the championship as Sébastien Loeb is third with 282 points and Ma Qing Hua is fourth on 178 points. Zengõ Motorsport's Norbert Michelisz rounds out the top five on 172 points with Gabriele Tarquini of Honda one point behind the Hungarian. Tiago Monteiro is seventh on 165 points.

1. Over or Under: 189.5 laps completed in the 6 Hours of Shanghai?
2. Over or Under: 0.5 safety car periods in the Mexican Grand Prix?
3. Over or Under: 2.5 Chase drivers finishing in the top five in Martinsville?
4. Over or Under: 2.5 European drivers on the two podiums at Autopolis?
5. Over or Under: 0.5 retirements for Citroën drivers?

Last Week's Over/Unders
1. Over: Vettel went from 13th to third in the United States Grand Prix.
2. Under: One Ducati finished in the top ten at Sepang. That was Danilo Petrucci, who finished sixth.
3. Over: Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell's average finish at Surfers Paradise was 15.5.
4. Under: There were zero red flag periods at Talladega.
5. Over: Volkswagen won 17 stages at Rally Catalunya.

1. There will be at least two different class winners from the Fuji race.
2. Lewis Hamilton does not finish on the podium.
3. No one clinches a spot for the Homestead season finale.
4. There will be a first time winner in 2015 at Autopolis.
5. A driver outside the top seven in the champion scores a podium in Buriram.

Last Week's Predictions
1. Lewis Hamilton clinches the World Drivers' Championship (Correct).
2. Valentino Rossi finishes ahead of Jorge Lorenzo (Wrong. Lorenzo 2nd. Rossi 3rd).
3. Someone scores their first career victory at Surfers Paradise (Correct. Both James Courtney and Jack Perkins scored their first victories at Surfers Paradise).
4. At least one former Cup champion is eliminated at Talladega (Correct. Matt Kenseth is out).
5. The winner of the Power Stage is not the winner of Rally Catalunya (Wrong. Andreas Mikkelsen won both).
Overall: 3/5 Running Tally: 21/40