In this week’s racing digest we’ve kept it simple, focusing on just Indycar, Le Mans, MotoGP and NASCAR. Though that may sound brief we can assure you it ain’t – get ready for grids decided by lottery, terrifying accidents and the tears of Sebastien Bourdais. Epic!
In Indycar’s double-header event at Texas Motor Speedway the wins were shared by the series’ two standout drivers – and the two men you can be pretty sure will do battle for this year’s title. Dario Franchitti triumphed in the first, beating team-mate Scott Dixon and arch-rival Will Power in the 114-lap event.
Then it all got a bit mad as the grid for race two was drawn by drivers turning around numbered tyres to reveal their starting position. No, that’s really what they did. Tony Kanaan drew pole, rookie Wade Cunningham netted P2 and Power was a very happy man after taking P3. Dario meanwhile was not a happy bunny: he drew a lowly 28th starting spot.
And we can’t blame him. The lottery system was never going to fly with a purist racer of Mr Franchitti’s sort, especially if it left him at the back of the field for a race that could well prove crucial at the end of the campaign. It was the randomn nature of the grid taht got his goat – he’d have prevered a reversal of the race one finishing order, which does seem a whole lot more balanced.
“Had they inverted [the grid] I would have started worse, but it would have been fair for everyone. I would have started last, Scott (Dixon) would have started second-last and Will (Power) would have started 28th. It would have been some performance parameter and that’s all I was asking for.”
Still, the Scot battled his way back to seventh at the flag, a typically gutsy drive from a man who could undoubtedly have won titles in F1 given the right breaks (Is it starting to show that I’m a bit of a Dario fan?)
Anyway, the win went to Power – the road course specialist’s first on an oval – which boots his points lead to ??. A lack of pace on oval’s cost Power last year’s championship, but the signs in Texas were that he may now have added speedway skills to his already-impressive arsenal. Anyway, here are Indycar’s finest posing for a typically understated photo opportunity in Texas. And remember: the U.S Grand Prix will be in the Lone Star State next year. Who fancies seeing Vettel and Alonso in Stetsons?
Le Mans – oh Le Mans. This reporter made the wise/foolish decision (delete as you feel applicable) to watch as much of the 24-hour classic as humanly possible this year. With breaks for FP3 in Canada (one hour), some Indycar (two hours) and sleep (37 minutes at most) this turned in to something of an epic undertaking. My reward? One of the best races at the enduro classic in living memory. It had it all: close racing between the mighty factory efforts of Audi and Peugeot, shocking shunts and the usual emotional breakdowns at the end.
And it was the latter that really made the event special. Two in particular stood out: firstly, Sebastien Bourdais’ tears as he took a third runner-up finish at his home race were proof of just how much Le Mans means to the drivers. Secondly, the reaction of Audi boss Wolfgang Ulrich, who stood stoney faced through the entire event then finally let go when his car finally took the chequered flag. It was the sort of emotion only true passion (and a total lack of sleep) can bring.
In the end it was the #2 Audi of Andre Lotterer, Marcel Frassler and Benoit Trelyeur who triumphed, beating the #9 Peugeot of Bourdais, Pedro Lamy and Simon Pagenaud. After a full 24 hours of competition the gap at the flag was just 13.8 seconds – the fourth closest finish in the history of the event.
The race was marred somewhat by a pair of scary accident for the other two Audi’s, but fortunately neither resulted in any serious injuries. Here’s one-time Formula One driver Alan McNish’s earl;y race shunt – it’s a miracle none of the trackside photographers were caught by debris.
But unlike his F1 counterpart Sebastian Vettel, two-wheeled poleman Casey Stoner was able to hold his lead throughout to claim his second win in as many weekends. Team-mate Andrea Dovizioso was second, with American rider Colin Edwards completing the podium. It was the Texan’s first taste of MotoGP champagne since he took runner-up spot at the same event (then held at Donington) two years ago. Meanwhile Spaniard Alvaro Bautista equalled his career best finish with fifth. Happy days all round!
Err, not quite. Table-topper Jorge Lorenzo slid out of contention on lap eight, thus registering his first DNF of the campaign and surrendering his championship lead to Stoner. The Aussie now has an 18-point advantage over Lorenzo with Dovizioso an increasingly distant third. Next up the series heads to Dutch venue Assen.
Finally, NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon got his challenge for the Sprint Cup underway this weekend, running in the top 5 for most of the Pocono 500 and pouncing while others floundered, taking his second race win of the season. For much of the distance though, former F1 favourite Juan Pablo Montoya, pole sitter Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin swapped turns to lead, but the Columbian would lose third gear and nurse his car home to 7th place, with Busch not having an answer for Gordon and ending up 2nd, and Hamlin suffering a blown tyre that severed a brake line and dropped him to 19th. The series leader Carl Edwards ended up 37th after a lengthy pitstop to diagnose engine issues, while rival and reigning champ Jimmie Johnson closed the points gap from 40 to 6 thanks to a strong 4th place.