A weekend without F1 doesn’t mean a weekend without any motorsport, and luckily there was a gluttony of racing events being held all over the world for us to keep a keen eye on. Welcome to another Badger weekend digest, where Europe seems to be the place to be for action and intrigue.
Monza had quite the weekend for all things four-wheeled, with a clutch of categories holding races there over the course of the weekend.
Starting with the tin-tops, Brit Rob Huff had a dream weekend of one pole and two wins to extend his WTCC championship lead. It wasn’t all plain sailing though, with battles with both Chevrolet team-mates Alain Menu and Yvan Muller in each race. Menu and Muller even had a coming together themselves towards the end of race one, with the Frenchman Muller ending up continuing on to take second, while Menu was left to lick his wounds. The standings are dominated by all three Cruze drivers, with Huff on 120 points, Muller 84, and Menu with 79.
Moving on to Formula Renault 3.5, and both the Red Bull backed drivers of Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne managed to emulate Mark Webber’s Chinese Grand Prix performance by storming through the field in race 1. Although the victory ultimately went to Tech 1’s Kevin Korjus, Vergne came in second after qualifying down in 11th, while Ricciardo took 6th place after starting way down in 17th after a technical infringement by his ISR team. Between himself and Vergne were Brendon Hartley (5th), Chris Van Der Drift (4th) and Daniil Move (3rd).
Race 2 saw the same two names in the spotlight, but this time at the front of the grid. Riccardo lost the lead to Vergne when most of the front runners cut the first chicane, with the Frechman damaging his front wing in contact with race 1 winner Korjus. He managed to hold of Riccardo until lap 11, when the Aussie tried to pass into the Roggia chicane. Vergne had to cut the chicane to avoid a collision, maintaining his lead, and in doing so earning a 10-second penalty. The ISR team informed Riccardio of the punishment and he held back, crossing the line in second but picking up the win once the penalty was added. The result gives him a fighting chance of challenging Vergne, but the Frenchman now leads the championship with 90 points to his 36.
Also on the bill at Monza was Auto GP, which has joined the WTCC support package for 2011. The field is hardly star studded, lacking the likes of 2010 racers Giorgio Pantano and Romain Grosjean. Their biggest name is Luca Filippi, better known as the most experienced GP2 driver ever, and it was he who took runner-up spot in race one. The win however went to teenager Giovanni Venturini, and with the Italian picking up fifth in race two he leads the standings after weekend one of seven.
Also kicking off their 2011 championship this weekend was Japanese series Formula Nippon. Perhaps having accepted that his F1 career is over, former Williams driver Kazuki Nakajima has joined the fun this season and landed a podium first time out by taking third at the Suzuka opener. The race was won by Kazuki’s team-mate and former Jaguar F1 tester Andre Lotterer, with Takashi Kogure splitting the Team Tom’s drivers in runner-up spot.
If you thought F1 had issues with tyres and strategies this season, it’s exactly the same in the DTM. Mike Rockenfeller took his maiden win at Zandvoort after a bold tyre call that got him into the lead with only 11 laps to go. Pole man Bruno Spengler took second place to extend his lead in the standings. Many drivers tried stopping at different times to maximise the new Hancook tyres, but the main winner was Mattias Elkstrom, moving from 16th to 8th after staying out 15 laps longer than anyone else!
Over in Formula Two, Alex Brundle – son of F1 uber-commentator Martin – took his first pole position in the series but was powerless to stop Swiss driver Christopher Zanella scoring a maiden victory at a soggy Magny-Cours. Zanella would also take pole for race two and win that race as well, to take a strong lead in the series points standings. Brundle Jr took 3rd and 2nd to cap off a good weekend’s racing.
British Formula Three visited the redeveloped Snetterton circuit over the weekend, where Kevin Magnussen – son of one-time Stewart Grand Prix racer Jan – enjoyed the best of the spoils: the Dane won races one and three, with Brazilian Lucas Foresti claiming victory in the second run. After a difficult start to the season Snet provided Magnussen with the perfect tonic for revitalising his title bid. Carlin team-mate Felipe Nasr still leads the standings, despite going a whole weekend without victory for the first time this season.
Over the pond on American soil, NASCAR visited Dover with yet more pit-stop prowess the order of the day. Matt Kenseth took his second Sprint Cup win of the season after opting to take on only two new tyres in the final round of stops, while all his rivals picked four. While they were too bogged down in traffic to make their grip advantage count, Kenseth was unchallenged to cruise to the win. He now lies 6th in the Cup chase, 74 points of leader Carl Edwards, who could only manage a 7th place finish.
And finally, turning our attention briefly to the two-wheeled world, we doff our caps to Casey Stoner. The Aussie scored his second Moto GP win of the season in Sunday’s French Grand Prix, cruising away from the competition to beat Andrea Dovizioso by 14 seconds. Valentino Rossi scored his first podium for Ducati in third with points leader Jorge Lorenzo back in fourth.
But there was yet more injury heartbreak for pint-sized Spaniard Dani Pedrosa: his 18th lap tumble has left him with a broken collarbone and has thrown his participation in his home grand prix at the Circuit de Catalunya (June 5th) in to doubt. Ouch! Here’s wishing Dani a recovery every bit as speedy as his starts tend to be.
Did we miss anything? Let us know you’re weekend motorsport news below!