It has been a massive weekend of Motorsport not only here in Australia but around the world.
So we bring you the Daily Auto Fix weekend wrap.
First up we have the opening round of the American Formula Drift series which opened on the streets of Long Beach. Interestingly the Circuit which they use for the Formula Drift is actually used a week later by the Indycar series for its Long Beach Grand Prix event.
Going into the weekend defending champion Michael Essa was the favourite after he qualified first. Other big names from the championship were right up there in qualifying.
The top 10 were as follows:
Vaughn Gittin Jr.
There were a couple of notable names that qualified outside of the top 10 Darren McNamara, Ken Gushi and Robbie Nishida.
But the real competition didn’t start until the Top 32 faced off.
The first of the big names to fall was Gushi who didn’t progress past the first round, Gittin Jr, and McQuarrie were also out earlier than expected in the top 16.
Dropping out in the Top 8 were McNamara, Bakchis, Wang and Aasbo.
For the final four shoot out it was
Essa v Moen and Pawlak v Forsberg which resulted in some great racing and very tight competition
Essa v Moen
Moen outscored Essa to progress to the Final
Pawlak v Forsberg
Forsberg outscored Pawlak to move into the final
So it was Moen in his Nissan 240SX vs Forsberg in his Nissan 370Z
The next round is at Road Atlanta in just over a months time on May 9 and 10.
First night race for the year for the mostly troubled teams, as they headed to Bahrain only a week after the Malaysian Grand Prix.
As expected Mercedes were quick out of the box but the other constant in the mix was Fernando Alonso who featured in the top 3 for the first two sessions.
Qualifying was an all dry affair for the first time this year.
No real surprises in Q1, but at the end of Q2 Sebastian Vettel was just outside the top 10 and did not progress into Q3.
As expected Mercedes scored a 1-2, but with Nico Rosberg on Pole. Daniel Ricciardo putting in a stunning effort to qualify third by due to an out standing penalty from Malaysia he would start 10 places lower on the grid. Valtteri Bottas & Sergio Perez filled out the top 5.
At the start of the race both Mercedes rocketed away from the start, Hamilton got past Rosberg for the lead on the first corner.
Also doing well of the start were both the Williams, with Felipe Massa picking up 7 places and Bottas picking up 5 places in the first lap.
Coming together together on the first lap was Pastor Maldonado and Jean-Eric Vergne resulting in a flat for Vergne, he would go onto to retire on lap 18 due to damage sustained from the accident.
Lap 13 Perez and Bottas have a great tussle for 3rd with Perez taking the position from the Williams driver in the end.
Lap 14 Sutil scuffles with Bianchi which results in a puncture for both drivers.
Lap 15 Vettel complains over the radio that his DRS is not working as Riccardo is hot on his tail.
Just one lap later we head the words all Australian’s have been waiting to hear
“Sebastian, let Daniel go through please. Daniel is quicker than you. Let him by please.”
Vettel then pulls over and lets Riccardo through.
Lap 19 Rosberg and Hamilton fight for the lead, Rosberg gets the lead back, Hamilton takes it back shortly there after but not before some really tight racing side by side by the two.
Lap 20 Bianchi is giving a drive through penalty after the collision with Sutil, strangely enough two laps later Sutil retires due to the damage from the early incident with Bianchi.
Lap 25 the two Williams’s are fighting for 3rd position, Bottas radios in that he wants to “Box” to ber able get out the fight with his team mate.
The very next lap the two Force India drivers battled for 4th position, Perez took 4th from his team mate Hulkenberg after they both fight for position with Massa. Hulkenberg then radioed to the team saying that his team mate was trying to push him off the road.
Button reported on lap 27 that his DRS was not working, the second driver today to have issues.
Will this be an on going issue during the year?
Lap 28 Perez charged through the field and took 3rd from Massa, Hulkenberg also took the opportunity to get past Massa.
On Lap 41 the biggest incident of the race happened involving Pastor Maldonado and Esteban Gutierrez. As Maldonado left the pits lane exit and re entered the track he ran straight into the side of Gutierrez and flips the Sauber over, luckily it landed back on its wheels and Gutierrez walked away but still a scary moment for the Mexican. The incident brings out the safety car, and not surprisingly Maldonado is given a stop go penalty.
Before returning to normal racing team management at Mercedes spoke to both drivers over the radio and asks them to bring both cars home safely.
At the restart the Mercedes raced away and were immediately fighting with each other, obviously both drivers were not paying any attention to team orders.
The two Force India’s are fighting for 3rd and 4th position, whilst the two Red Bulls were fighting for 5th and 6th. There was some just amazing driving by Riccardo to defend and keeps his position over the multi world champion Vettel, lap after lap the dice and Riccardo just defends and manages to stay in front of Vettel.
Button is forced to retire on his 250th gp due to a clutch problem with just two laps to go.
So at the end of the race it was another 1-2 finish for Mercedes with a well deserved 3rd place to Perez. Ricciardo fought back from 13th to finish in 4th place. Finally a good finish for the Australian with no penalties hanging over him bring on the next race to see what he can do.
Post race there were a number of penalties handed out to drivers who caused accidents in the race. Not surprisingly Maldonado was given a five place grid penalty and three penalty against his super licence. Bianchi was given two points against his licence for causing the accident with Sutil.
This new Super Licence penalty system is an interesting one, the FIA’s definition of the rules is as follows
In accordance with Article 16.3, the stewards may impose penalty points on a driver’s Super Licence. If a driver accrues 12 penalty points his licence will be suspended for the following Event, following which 12 points will be removed from the licence.
Penalty points will remain on a driver’s Super Licence for a period of 12 months after which they will be respectively removed on the 12 month anniversary of their imposition.
The running tally for the year so far looks like this
Jules Bianchi 4
Pastor Maldonado 3
Valtteri Bottas 2
Adrian Sutil 2
It will be interesting to see if any one driver accruals the 12 points during the season.
The Championship after 3 rounds are below
1 Nico Rosberg 61
2 Lewis Hamilton 50
3 Nico Hulkenberg 28
4 Fernando Alonso 26
5 Jenson Button 23
6 Sebastian Vettel 23
7 Kevin Magnussen 20
8 Valtteri Bottas 18
9 Sergio Perez 16
10 Daniel Ricciardo 12
We now have a two week break until the next race in China.
ARC – Australian Rally Championship
For round 2 the teams headed to Perth for the Forest Rally which is based out fo the sea side town of Busselton, 3 hours south of Perth.
One of the key elements of Forest Rally, well despite the dust is the ball bearing sized gravel which can make the roads extremely slippery so it was always going to be a challenge for the drivers.
Brendan Reeves and his sister co driver Rhianon Gelsomino took out the event in their Mazda 2 race car after beating home the Renault team of Scott Pedder and Dale Moscstt.
It was a even sweeter win for Reeves after Pedder who had won 17 out of the 19 stages over the weekend had a mechanical issues which caused him to miss a stage. But due to the number of stages wins and because he won Heat 1 Pedder had enough points to still be on the podium.
In third was the Citroen team of Adrian Coppin and Tim Batten, who narrowly beat home team mates Tony Sullens and Julia Barkely.
In the West Australian Rally Championship, which was also part of the East Coast Bullbars 4WD National Rally Series, it was an all Subaru Impreza WRX affair with Dylan King and Lee Tierney taking the win. Doug Tostevin/Tammy Adams took second with John O’Dowd/Ben Searcy taking third.
The Side-by-Side competition was won by Cody Crocker/Greg Foletta (Polaris RZR 1000 XP) ahead of Michael Guest/David Green (CanAm Maverick 1000 X RS) and Nathan/Les Chivers (CanAm Maverick 1000 X RS).
Ben Grabham (KTM EXC) led the Moto field from the opening stage of the event and took victory in the Quit Forest Rally Moto. Graeme McKinley (KTM 505 SX) was second and Nathan Grech (CanAm Renegade XXC) was third.
Rounding out the main categories at the event Jason and Paul Lowther (Toyota Corolla) won the WA Clubman Cup Series and Graeme Miles/Kathy Miles (Holden Commodore) won the Classic Rally Challenge.
The teams now have a two month break until the International Rally of QLD
All images courtesy of the ARC/Stuart Bowes
WRC – World Rally Championship
The WRC headed to Portugal for the fourth round of this years championship.
The big question should be would the VW team be stoppable? The answer was no, they again dominated the Rally.
VW driver Sebastien Ogier continued his domination and won his 3rd rally of the year. Second, with his best performance this year, was Mikko Hirvonen in his Ford Fiesta RS, third was Mads Ostberg in his Citroen DS3.
Ogier took an early lead in the event and managed to keep it though out the event, with Hirvonen and Ostberg unable to keep up with the Frenchman’s pace.
The rally was had a high crash count which claimed Kris Meeke, Robert Kubica, Jari-Matti Latvala. and Dani Sordo, who was challenging for a podium for the Hyundai team.
Ogier now leads the championship by 29 points from Latvala and Ostberg.
Top 10 results from the event
1. S. OGIER
2. M. HIRVONEN
3. M. OSTBERG
4. A. MIKKELSEN
5. H. SOLBERG
V8 Supercars Winton
It was a weekend of massive highs for some and lows for others.
Red Bull Racing had weekend they would rather forget with neither Red Bull driver finishing higher than 7th, which really put a dent in both their championship hopes. Lowndes still leads the championship, but his lead is now just 28 points.
But the weekend was full of first and some very happy firsts for some teams.
Fabian Coulthard has his first race win of the year, winning race 7 after starting from pole.
Also in race 7 Dale Wood took his first ever V8 Supercar Podium, after he finished 3rd, he was beaten home by Shane van Gisbergen who took 2nd.
Race 7 was not good for the two Volvos with both Robert Dahlgren and Scott McLaughlin DNF
Full Race 7 highlights here
Featured a fantastic first for the year, the first win for the Erebus Team, with Lee Holdsworth taking his first win for the team after a hard fought battle with the pole sitter Fabian Coulthard. With only a few laps left Holdsworth made the move on Coulthard on the inside of turn 3 and went on to take the win. a hard charging Winterbottom also managed to get past Coulthard to take 2nd place, relegating Coulthard to finish 3rd.
There was just amazing scenes of happiness and celebration in the pits after the race with a very happy and emotional team owner Betty Klimenko unable to speak due to her overwhelming relief after the nail bitting finish. It was a very happy Holdsworth who jumped straight out of his car and onto the roof to celebrate, he was one happy man.
Full Race 8 Highlights
Mark Winterbottom took a well deserved win, his first since winning the Bathurst 1000 last year.
James Courtney’s horror weekend improved when he finished 2nd, and fellow Walkinshaw team mate Tim Slade had his best finish of the season with a 3rd place.
Race 9 was also all about the pit lane speeding penalties given out to no less 5 different drivers, that included Rick Kelly, Scott McLaughlin, Robert Dahlgren, Russell Ingall and Fabian Coulthard the penalty for Coulthard costs him the race win as he was leading at the time.
Full Race 9 Highlights
Championship Points Table after the Winton Round
1 Craig Lowndes 701
2 Mark Winterbottom 673 -28
3 Fabian Coulthard 658 -43
4 James Courtney 609 -92
5 Jamie Whincup 606 -95
The Championship now heads to the home of the Jandal on ANZAC Day weekend for the ITM 500 Auckland from April 24-27.