Friday, October 5, 2018

Friday Five: Bathurst, Suzuka, Thailand, Dover, Wales

The first weekend of October has plenty of historic events taking place from an endurance race on a mountain and a rally on an island. It is a very busy period around the Asia-Pacific for two-wheel racing and four. Championships are tightening up and it seems after each race another handful of drivers are eliminated from the competition. We start in Australia.

Bathurst 1000
The second endurance race of the 2018 Supercars season will be the 61st Bathurst 1000.

Shane van Gisbergen enters at the championship leader with a 55-point lead over fellow New Zealander Scott McLaughlin. Van Gisbergen has finished first or second in eight consecutive races. He and Earl Bamber, who joins van Gisbergen in the #97 Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden are coming off a second place result in the Sundown 500, a race where Triple Eight Race Engineering swept the podium. Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell won the race while Craig Lowndes and Steven Richards finished third.

McLaughlin has not finished on the podium in the last three races and he and Alexandre Prémat finished fourth at Sandown. Whincup and Lowndes are third and fourth in the championship, 338 points and 567 points behind van Gisbergen respectively. Defending Bathurst 1000 winner David Reynolds is fifth in the championship and he is 52 points behind Lowndes. Reynolds and Luke Youlden are back to defend their Bathurst victory in the #9 Erebus Motorsport Holden. They started on pole position at Sandown before finishing fifth.

Fabian Coulthard is sixth in the championship and he is paired again with Tony D'Alberto. This pairing finished third in last year's Bathurst 1000 and it was each of their first Bathurst podium finish. Rick Kelly is a two-time Bathurst 1000 winner but since switching to Nissan he has only one top ten finish in five Bathurst starts. His co-driver with be Garry Jacobson, who finished eighth last year in his Bathurst debut as co-driver for Jason Bright.

Chaz Mostert won the 2014 Bathurst 1000 but the Ford driver but he has not won a Supercars race since last year's first race at Surfers Paradise. His co-driver will be James Moffat, who finished second to Mostert at Bathurst in 2014. Scott Pye finished second in last year's Bathurst 1000 and he is joined again by Warren Luff. Pye got his first Supercars victory earlier this season at Melbourne. Tim Slade is the final driver mathematically alive for the championship. Ashley Walsh will be Slade's co-driver. Walsh missed last year's Bathurst 1000 due to an injury.

Holden has won three consecutive Bathurst 1000s. No driver has successful defended a Bathurst victory since Lowndes and Whincup won three consecutive years from 2006 to 2008. Lowndes leads all active drivers with six Bathurst victories followed by Whincup and Richards on four, Garth Tander on three and Kelly and Will Davison on two.

Seven drivers have won the Bathurst 1000 and the Bathurst 12 Hour. Those drivers are Allan Grice, John Bowe, Dick Johnson, Paul Morris, Lowndes, Whincup and Jonathon Webb. Webb won both races in 2016, the only driver to accomplish that feat. Van Gisbergen could add his name to this list.

The Bathurst 1000 will go green at 9:10 p.m. ET on Saturday October 6th.

Japanese Grand Prix
Formula One remains on the road and the Japanese Grand Prix is the 17th of 21 rounds on the 2018 calendar.

Lewis Hamilton is coming off the 70th victory of his career last week at Sochi. Hamilton extended his championship lead to 50 points over Sebastian Vettel. Hamilton and Vettel are each tied with four victories in the Japanese Grand Prix. Only Michael Schumacher has more with the German having won this race on six occasions. All four of Vettel's victories have come at Suzuka while Hamilton won the 2007 race at Fuji. Mercedes-Benz has won the Japanese Grand Prix in four consecutive years. Ferrari is the only manufacture to have won this race in five consecutive years when it did it from 2000 to 2004. Schumacher's 2004 victory is the most recent Ferrari victory in Japan.

Valterri Bottas and Kimi Räikkönen remain mathematically alive for the championship with the two Finns trailing Hamilton by 117 points and 120 points respectively with 125 points left on the table. Bottas has never finished on the podium at Suzuka and he finished fourth last year while picking up fastest lap in the process. Räikkönen won the 2005 Japanese Grand Prix with a famous final lap pass on Giancarlo Fisichella after Räikkönen started 17th. Räikkönen has not stood on the podium at Suzuka since that victory. He finished third in both races held at Fuji in 2007 and 2008.

Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo are the only other drivers over 100 points this season though both Red Bull drivers have been eliminated from the championship. Verstappen has finished in the points in four consecutive races including two of those results with the Dutchman ending up on the podium. Ricciardo has not had a podium finish since his victory in the Monaco Grand Prix in May.

The Japanese Grand Prix will take place at 1:10 a.m. ET on Sunday October 7th.

Thailand Grand Prix
With five races remaining in the MotoGP season, five riders are alive for the championship. The series makes it inaugural trek to Buriram for the Thailand Grand Prix.

Marc Márquez won at Aragón two weeks ago and it was his sixth victory of the season. Márquez has seven consecutive podium finishes and he has a 72-point lead over Andrea Dovizioso. Dovizioso has four consecutive podium finishes. Márquez has won at 22 different tracks in his grand prix motorcycle racing career. The last time Márquez won at a new track was at Phillip Island in 2015. Dovizioso has won at 15 different tracks in his career and he has multiple victories at only four tracks. Those tracks are Barcelona, Donington Park, Motegi and Sepang. Sepang is the only track Dovizioso has won at multiple times in MotoGP. All three of Dovizioso's victories this season have come at track he had never won at prior to this year.

Valentino Rossi is third in the championship, 87 points behind Márquez. Rossi has not finished on the podium in the last four races and he still has a 29-point gap over Jorge Lorenzo and Maverick Viñales. Lorenzo has not scored points in the last two races despite starting on pole position on each occasion. Lorenzo has won three consecutive pole positions when factoring in the cancelled Silverstone round. Since finishing third in consecutive races in the Netherlands and Germany, Viñales' best finish is fifth.

The Thailand Grand Prix will be run at 3:00 a.m. ET on Sunday October 7th.

NASCAR at Dover
With seven races to go, 12 drivers are alive for the NASCAR Cup championship with the series heading to Dover.

Kyle Busch leads after the reset with 3,055 points and he is five points ahead of Kevin Harvick. Martin Truex, Jr. sits on 3,038 points in third with Brad Keselowski on 3,025 points in fourth. Rounding out the top five is Clint Bowyer on 3,015 points. Joey Logano and Kurt Busch are tied on 3,014 points. Thanks to his victory at Charlotte last week, Ryan Blaney will start this round in eighth on 3,013 points.

Chase Elliott starts the second round in the drop zone on 3,008 points. Two points behind Elliott is Kyle Larson. Aric Almirola is 11th on 3,001 points and Alex Bowman brings up the rear on 3,000 points.

Kyle Busch won last year's race after a late race charge pass Elliott. Truex, Jr. won this race the year before and that has given Toyota two consecutive victories in the autumn Dover race after having never won it prior to 2016. Ford has not won this race since Greg Biffle took the victory in 2008.

Jimmie Johnson leads all drivers with five victories in the autumn Dover race. Johnson has won 11 times at Dover in the Cup while the rest of the entry list has combined for 15 Dover Cup victories. Johnson has won led the most laps all-time at Dover with 3,105 laps led. Johnson's average finish of 9.1 is fourth best at Dover amongst active drivers. Elliott has the best average finish at 5.0 and he had four consecutive top five finishes at the track before he finished 12th in this year's May race. Daniel Suárez has finished in the top ten in all three of his Dover starts and he finished third in May. Larson has seven top ten finishes in nine Dover starts.

The NASCAR Cup race is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. ET on Sunday October 7th.

Wales Rally GB
Four drivers are alive for the World Rally Championship with the series contesting the 74th Wales Rally GB.

Thierry Neuville heads in as the championship leader with 177 points. The Belgian Hyundai driver has three victories this season and while he did not finish in the points in the last round in Turkey, Neuville did pick up five points for winning the power stage. Thirteen points back is Toyota's Ott Tänak. Tänak leads all drivers with four victories this season and the Estonian has won three consecutive rallies. The five-time defending World Rally champion Sébastien Ogier finds himself 23 points out of the championship lead with three rounds to go. Esapekka Lappi is alive for the title but he trails Neuville by 89 points with 90 points left on the table.

Ogier had won Wales Rally GB for four consecutive years prior to his third place finish last year. Ogier is tied with Petter Solberg and Hannu Mikkola for most Wales Rally GB victories. Elfyn Evans won last year's race and he became the first British driver to win on home soil since Richard Burns in 2000. Evans' lone podium finish this season was second in Portugal to Neuville.

Jari-Matti Latvala won the 2012 Wales Rally GB. Latvala finished second in the last race at Turkey and he has not won since last year at Sweden. Latvala is tied for fifth the championship with Andreas Mikkelsen on 75 points.

Over or Under?
1. Over or Under: 3.5 Fords in the top ten?
2. Over or Under: 2.5 Renault powered cars finishing in the points?
3. Over or Under: 19.5 finishers in the Thailand Grand Prix?
4. Over or Under: 125.5 laps led combined for Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott?
5. Over or Under: 4.5 points scored by British drivers?

Last Week's Over/Unders
1. Over or Under: 1.5 red flag periods? (Under: There was one red flag).
2. Over or Under: 8.5 cautions? (Under: There were eight cautions).
3. Over or Under: 22.5 lead lap finishers? (Over: There were 26 lead lap finishers)
4. Over or Under: 24.5 laps being the longest green flag run? (Over: The longest green flag run was 31 laps).
5. Over or Under: 190.5 minutes in race length? (Under: The race took 81 minutes and 34 seconds).
Last Week: 3 Unders; 2 Overs. Overall: Unders 7; Overs 3

1. There will be a first time winner in the Bathurst 1000.
2. None of the Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull teammates finish within a position of each other.
3. A Ducati rider picks up fastest lap in the race but does not start on pole position.
4. A championship ineligible driver finishes in the top five at Dover.
5. Ford drivers win at least six stages.

Last Week's Predictions
1. The driver that scores fastest lap at Sochi does finish on the podium (Correct! Valtteri Bottas had fastest lap and finished second).
2. Austin Dillon does not advance from the first round (Correct! Dillon didn't advance).
3. Tom Sykes gets at least one podium finish (Correct! Sykes finished second in the first race).
4. At least two Mercedes-AMG entries finish on the overall 3 Hours of Barcelona podium (Wrong! After the Team Black Falcon disqualification, a Mercedes-AMG, Ferrari and Jaguar finished on the podium).
5. Three different teams win at Ningbo (Wrong! Thed Björk and Yvan Muller split races).
Last Week: 3/5. Overall: 6/10