Friday, December 4, 2015

Friday Finales: Homebush and Thunderhill

It might be the first weekend of December but the motorsport season is not over and there are two events taking place and a championship to be decided. One driver goes for his first title while another is looking for his first championship in 16 years. Meanwhile, a slew of stars get together for an endurance race in Southern California.

Two drivers enter the V8 Supercars season finale from Homebush Street Circuit in Sydney Olympic Park with a shot at the 2015 championship.

Mark Winterbottom enters with the title within his grasp. The Prodrive Racing Australia Ford driver leads Red Bull Racing Australia Holden's Craig Lowndes by 179 points with 300 points left on the table. Winterbottom has nine victories and 15 podiums from the first 33 races but has not stood on the podium since finishing second to Lowndes in the Bathurst 1000. Lowndes has six victories; including two at the most recent round at Phillip Island. Lowndes has finished on the podium in the last four races and has 16 podiums total.

Since Bathurst, Winterbottom has finished outside the top ten in three of eight races, while Lowndes has finished in the top four in seven of eight races with a retirement in the second race from Pukekhohe Park Raceway being the lone blemish on his résumé in the last six weeks.

Winterbottom has finished in the top five of the championship every year since he joined what was Ford Performance Racing in 2006. He finished second to Jamie Whincup in the 2006 championship and has finished third in the championship five times, including last year. Lowndes is a three-time championship but his last title came in 1999. Since his last title, Lowndes has finished runner-up in the championship five times, three times to his teammate Whincup. Lowndes' first championship in 1996 is the only time he has won the title and the Bathurst 1000 in the same year.

Both drivers have won on the Homebush Street Circuit. Lowndes has two victories and Winterbottom has one. The two drivers split the 2011 races with Lowndes winning race one of the Sydney 500 weekend in 2012. Holden has won the last five races on the Homebush Street Circuit and nine of 13 races. Ford has won the other four races.

25 Hours of Thunderhill
The final major endurance race of the year in the United States takes place this weekend. The 14th running of 25 Hours of Thunderhill features an Indianapolis 500 winner, a NASCAR Cup champion and some of the best from American sports car racing. This race will feature a new edition to the grid: LMP3 machinery.

The #17 Davidson Racing Norma BMW won last year's race and Brian Frisselle, Kyle Marcelli and Randy Pobst are entered in the #17 Norma. However, standing in the team's way of another win in the event will be three Ginetta LMP3s of Ryno Racing. The #5 Ginetta will have Randy Carpenter, Ryan Carpenter and George Kurtz behind the wheel. Those three are also entered in the #8 Ginetta alongside Colin Braun and Ethan Stone. Randy Carpenter and Stone are also entered the #20 Ginetta.

Al Unser, Jr. will return in the #52 JFC Racing Wolf-GB08MJ-K20 alongside Miles Jackson, Todd Harris and Ryan Eversley. ONE Motorsports has entered two Radical SR3s. John Shafer and John Falb are entered in both the #63 and #67 Radicals with Todd Slusher entered in the #63 and Sean Rayhall entered in the #67. All the entries above are entered in the ESR class.

Davidson Racing has a car entered in the ES class. The #16 DR Eagle will be driven by Alex Lloyd, Brad Frisselle, Dion von Moltke and Brandon Kraus. The #3 Team Quick Racing Products Superlite SLC will feature Mike Skeen, Darrell Anderson, Chris Durbin and Kurt Rezzetano. Other ES class entries to keep an eye on are the #06 Stammer, Inc./Bavarian Performance BMW M3 of Jeffrey Stammer, Derek Welch, Eddie Nakato and Matt Crandall and Flying Lizard Motorsports has entered an Audi R8 LMS for Johannes van Overbeek, Guy Cosmo, Darren Law and Tomonobu Fujii.

Mazda has entered four Global MX-5 Cup cars in the E0 class. The #07 Mazda will be shared by Ken Saward, John Stott, Jeronimo Esteve and Stevan McAllen. In the #55 Mazda will be Taz Harvey, Richard Fisher and Randy Miller. Camden Jones, Mike Allen, Ben Robertaccio and Michael Brockman will drive the #56 Mazda and Robert DeVaux, Liam Dwyer and Nathan Edmonds will be in the #70 Mazda. CA Sport has entered two Nissan 370Zs. The #15 will be shared by Ric Shaw, Philip Alexander, Stephan Borness and Dave Cox and the #33 will be driven by Ray Mason, Lara Tallamn, Carl Rydqvist, Vesko Kozarov and Byron Smith. Another E0 class to keep an eye on is the #61 RoadShagger Racing BMW M3 of Gavin Ernstone, Jon Morley, Thomas Merrill and Kurt Busch.

1. Over or Under: 100.5 points separating the V8 Supercars champion and second?
2. Over or Under: 1.5 Ginetta finishing at least 75% of the race winner's lap total?

Last Week's Over/Unders
1. Over: Eight points separated the top two in the GP3 championship.
2. Under: One South American scored points in Abu Dhabi. Felipe Massa finished eighth.
3. Over: One victory for Stoffel Vandoorne in Abu Dhabi.
4. Over: Two podiums for not Citroën drivers. Hugo Valente in a Chevrolet and Nobert Michelisz in a Honda.

1. A manufacture that isn't Holden or Ford wins at least one race at Homebush.
2. Rain will prevent the winner of the 25 Hours of Thunderhill from completing 700 laps.

Last Week's Predictions
1. Esteban Ocon takes the GP3 championship and wins a race this weekend (Correct and Wrong. Ocon won the title but did not win a race).
2. There are at least two changes in championship position after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (Wrong. One change. Kimi Räikkönen jumped Valtteri Bottas).
3. Stoffel Vandoorne leaves Bahrain as the sole all-time leader in GP2 victories (Correct. He won race one).
4. Mehdi Bennani finishes in the top ten of the WTCC standings (Correct. He finished eighth).
Overall: 2.5/4 Running Tally: 35.5/67