Friday, September 30, 2016

Friday Five: Petit Le Mans, Malaysia, Dover, Corsica and Magny-Cours

The first weekend of October sees the end of the IMSA season and the end of the Daytona Prototype-era in Georgia. The first round of the Chase ends in Delaware. Formula One makes a much later trip to Malaysia than in recent years. France will be busy with a rally on Corisca and motorcycle buzzing around the heart of the country. One person could clinch his fifth championship with another duo go for their third consecutive crown but have teammates in their way.

Petit Le Mans
This year's Petit Le Mans not only marks the final round of the 2016 IMSA SportsCar Championship but it is the end of the Daytona Prototype-era as the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class will be ushered in for the 2017 season.

Three teams are battling it out for the Prototype championship and all three are Corvette DPs. Action Express Racing holds the first two spots in the championship with the #31 of Dane Cameron and Eric Curran leading the class with 285 points, one clear of their teammates and two-time defending champions Christian Fittipaldi and João Barbosa in the #5 entry. The #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP of Ricky and Jordan Taylor trails the #31 entry by seven points.

Cameron and Curran won two of the previous three rounds with a second to the Taylor brothers at the most recent round at Austin. The Taylor brothers lead the class with three victories this season. Fittipaldi and Barbosa only victory this season was at Watkins Glen. Both Action Express cars have finished on the podium in seven of the nine races contested this season. Simon Pagenaud joins Cameron and Curran in the #31 Corvette DP while Felipe Albuquerque will be the third driver in the #5 entry. Max Angelelli once again joins the Taylor brothers as their third driver. The #2 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier-Honda returns with Scott Sharp, Pipo Derani and Johannes van Overbeek. ESM won at Daytona and Sebring and were running at the front at Watkins Glen until an engine failure ended their race after 158 laps.

In GTLM, the fight is between four teams but the #4 Corvette of Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner have a good grasp on the championship. Gavin and Milner have 329 points after victories at Daytona, Sebring, Lime Rock and Road America, 11 points clear of the #67 Ford GT of Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook. The Australian-British pairing won three consecutive races at Laguna Seca, Watkins Glen and Mosport. The #3 Corvette of Jan Magnussen and Antonio García trail their teammates by 24 points and their only victory was at VIR two races ago. The #912 Porsche of Earl Bamber and Frédéric Makowiecki kept their title hopes alive with a victory at Austin but still trail by 28 points entering the final round.

Porsche famously won last year's rain-shortened Petit Le Mans with Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet and Richard Leitz. Audi loans factory drivers Marcel Fässler and Mike Rockenfeller to be the third drivers in the #4 and #3 Corvettes respectively. Scott Dixon returns to the #67 Ford.

The Prototype Challenge class is a two-horse race. The #8 Starworks Oreca of Renger van der Zande and Alex Popow won their fourth race of the season at Austin and has 329 points, ten clear of the #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca of Tom Kimber-Smith and Robert Alon. Kimber-Smith and Alon has four consecutive podiums won at Road America two races ago. David Heinemeier Hansson joins van der Zande and Popow in the Starworks entry and Jose Gutierrez joins the PR1/Mathiasen duo.

In the GTD class, the championship is Christian Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan's to lose. The drivers of the #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari hold a 32-point lead over the #33 Riley Motorsports Viper of Jeroen Bleekemolen and Ben Keating. Nielsen and Balzan essentially just need to run the minimum drive time to clinch the title. Should Nielsen do that, she will become the first woman to win a major sports car class championship in the United States. Jeff Segal will be the third driver in the #63 Ferrari with Marc Miller rounding out the driver line-up in the #33 Viper.

Malaysia Grand Prix
After a week off, Formula One is still in the Pacific and will run the Malaysia Grand Prix.

Nico Rosberg took the championship lead with his victory at Singapore. The German leads his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton by eight points. It is the first time Rosberg has held the championship lead since he led by a single point after Hamilton's victory at the British Grand Prix. Mercedes' only victory at Sepang came at the hands of Hamilton in 2014. Hamilton has four consecutive podiums at Sepang. Rosberg has three podiums at Sepang but the only time he has finished ahead of Hamilton at the track was in 2010.

Daniel Ricciardo is third in the championship, 94 points behind Rosberg as the Australian has four podiums in the last five races. Ricciardo heads to one of his worst tracks. The Red Bull driver has one point in four starts at Sepang. Sebastian Vettel sits fourth in the championship, 120 behind Rosberg. Vettel has won four of the last six Malaysia Grand Prix. Vettel has one podium in the last seven races after starting the season with five podiums in the first eight races.

Kimi Räikkönen rounds out the top five in the championship, as he is five points behind his Ferrari teammate. He has three podiums this season with his last coming at Austria after Rosberg and Hamilton came together, dropping Rosberg from the podium, as Rosberg had to limp home with a broken front wing. His last podium at Sepang was in 2008 when he won the race. With 150 points left on the table, Max Verstappen is the final driver mathematically eligible for the championship as the Dutchman trails by 144 points. He has four podiums this season. Last year, Verstappen finished seventh at Sepang and became the youngest-driver to score points in Formula One history in his second career start.

Valterri Bottas is seventh in the championship with 70 points, four ahead of Sergio Pérez. Nico Hülkenberg trails his Force India teammate by 20 points and Felipe Massa rounds out the top ten on 41 points. Fernando Alonso is just five points behind his former Ferrari teammate. Carlos Sainz, Jr. sits on 30 points and hasn't scored in the last four races. Romain Grosjean is two behind Sainz, Jr. and hasn't scored in the last six races. Daniil Kvyat has 25 points and his ninth at Singapore was just his third points finish since switching to Toro Rosso after round four. He had two points finishes, include a third in China in his four starts with Red Bull.

Jenson Button will be attempting to make his 300 Formula One start this weekend. Only Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher are ahead of him all-time.

Dover International Speedway
Kevin Harvick joined Martin Truex, Jr. in the second round of the Chase after his victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last weekend. Brad Keselowski leads the points standings with 2,087 points with Truex, Jr. in second. Kyle Busch is two points behind Keselowski and Matt Kenseth is nine points back. Kenseth won at Dover earlier this season, ending Chevrolet's streak of six consecutive victories at the track. Joey Logano rounds out the top five and is 14 points behind his Penske teammate.

Denny Hamlin is tied with Harvick on 2,071 points. Harvick won last year's Chase race at Dover, his only victory at the track. Hamlin has the second-worst average finish at Dover among the Chase drivers at 18.6. Jimmie Johnson is a point behind Hamlin and Harvick. Johnson has the most victories at all-time at Dover with ten. He has finished 41st and 25th in his last two Dover races. He is two points ahead of his teammate Chase Elliott, who finished third at Dover in May. Elliott and Carl Edwards are tied on 2,068 points. Edwards has failed to get a top ten finish at Dover in his last seven starts at the one-mile oval.

Kurt Busch sits in 11th on 2,067 points and his fifth at Dover in May ended a slump of eight consecutive Dover races without a top ten finish. He is ten points clear of Kyle Larson, who is on the bubble. Larson has the best average finish at Dover among drivers with at least three starts at 6.2. In five Dover starts, Larson has two top five finishes, four top tens and his worst finish at the track is 11th, which came in his first Dover start. He finished second at Dover in May.

Larson is five points clear of his Ganassi teammate Jamie McMurray and Austin Dillon. McMurray's fourth at Dover last October was his second top five finish at the track in 26 starts. Dillon has the worst average finish of the Chase drivers at Dover with a 26.7 and he has finished 33rd in the last three Dover races. His best finish at the track is 20th. Tony Stewart is 21 points behind Larson. Stewart has finished outside the top ten in the last four Dover races and has not started in the top ten at the track since the spring of 2006, a race where he had to be substituted for by Ricky Rudd due to injuries. Chris Buescher is 30 points behind Larson. He finished 18th at Dover in May.

Tour de Corse
The tenth round of the 2016 World Rally Championship is the 59th Tour de Corse after Rally China was cancelled.

Sébastien Ogier scored his third victory of the season at Rallye Deutschland and has 169 points, 59 points ahead of his Volkswagen teammate Andreas Mikkelsen. Ogier has seven podiums from nine rallies this season. Despite being a three-times world champion, Ogier has never won Tour de Corse. He did win the Rallye de France Alsace twice. Mikkelsen won Rally Poland earlier this season.

Hyundai teammates Haydon Paddon and Thierry Neuville are tied on 94 points with Paddon holding the tiebreaker. Both driver have rally victories with Paddon winning in Argentina and Neuville in Italy. Pardon holds the tiebreaker after a second in Sweden while Neuville has two third-place finishes. Defending Tour de Corse winner Jari-Matti Latvala has 89 points and his only victory this season was in Mexico.

Dani Sordo finished second at Rallye Deutschland and is now sixth with 86 points. M-Sport Ford driver Mads Østberg is the final driver with a puncher's chance for the championship. The Norwegian driver has 78 points and he finished third at Sweden and Mexico.

Entering the antepenultimate round of the 2016 World Superbike season, three riders have a shot at the title and all are British.

Jonathan Rea leads the championship with 393 points after nine victories and 18 podiums from twenty races. Forty-seven points behind Rea is his Kawasaki teammate Tom Sykes, who has five victories and 14 podiums this season. Ducati rider Chaz Davies is 98 points behind Rea after five victories and ten podiums. Honda drivers Michael van der Mark and Nicky Hayden round out the top five with 203 points and 198 points respectively. Hayden is the only non-British rider to win this season after taking a victory in the wet at Sepang. Hayden is coming off scoring a point in MotoGP at Aragón.

In World Supersport, three riders are alive for the title with three races to go. Kenan Sofuoglu leads with 171 points. The Turkish rider has five victories and seven podiums from nine races. He could clinch his fifth World Supersport title this weekend. His Kawasaki teammate Randy Krummenacher trails him by 53 points. Since winning the opening round at Phillip Island, Krummenacher has two podium finishes and has scored points in all but one race. American P.J. Jacobsen trails Sofuoglu by 62 points. The Honda rider has four podiums this season but has yet to stand on the top step. Jacobsen won last year at Magny-Cours.

1. Over or Under: 3.5 American drivers winning a class at Petit Le Mans?
2. Over or Under: 13.5 points scored for Force India?
3. Over or Under: 1.5 Chase drivers finishing behind Chris Buescher at Dover?
4. Over or Under: 45.5 seconds margin of victory in Tour de Corse?
5. Over or Under: 4.5 nationalities represented in the top five of the World Supersport race?

Last Week's Over/Unders
1. Under: Nicky Hayden scored one point at Aragón.
2. Over: The average green flag run at Loudon was 38.4 laps.
3. Under: One Ligier was on the ELMS podium at Spa.
4. Over: Germans scored 44 points in Budapest.
5. Over: Five Japanese drivers scored at Sportsland SUGO.

1. The entire PC podium finishes ahead of the GTLM race winner.
2. Max Verstappen scores fastest lap of the race.
3. None of the bottom four in the Chase entering Dover advance to round two.
4. Sébastien Ogier wins at least six stages.
5. Two Ducatis finish on the podium in one of the World Superbike races

Last Week's Predictions
1. Aleix Espargaró finishes ahead of Maverick Viñales and in the top five (Wrong. Espargaró finished seventh and Viñales finished fourth).
2. The Loudon race winner leads fewer than 65 laps (Correct. Harvick led eight laps).
3. United Autosport clinches the LMP3 championship but doesn't win the race (Correct. The #2 United Autosport clinched the title and finished second).
4. A driver gets his first DTM podium of the season (Correct. Adrien Tambay and António Félix da Costa both got their first podiums of the season).
5. The average age of the Sportsland SUGO podium will be over 32 years of age (Wrong. The average age of the Super Formula podium was 27.333).
Overall: 3/5