There was no F1 this weekend but there was a ludicrous amount of action elsewhere, with this week’s Racing Digest covering no fewer than 11 different series. We were so pushed for space we had to ignore the Superstars Series’ trip to Donington Park – oh the humanity! Enjoy.
Two-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves has had a miserable start to the 2011 Indycar campaign, but that looked set to end on Sunday night as he led entering the final stages of the series’ annual trip to the Milwaukee Mile.
But it all went wrong for Helio as the race entered its closing stages, his rear tyre beginning to lose pressure rapidly and making a pitstop inevitable. Sniffing blood second place man Tony Kaanan put the hammer down, but the Brazilian crashed as he persued Castroneves. When Helio was finally forced to make a stop old Mr. Reliable Dario Franchitti was there to scoop up the victory, beating Graham Rahal and Oriel Servia. Will Power was fourth, and he and Dario are now tied for the lead of the championship and pulling well clear of third place man Servia. Looks like another belting battle between these two for the title is on the cards.
Last year’s Sprint Cup runner-up Denny Hamlin won his first NASCAR race for nearly 9 months with success at the Bubba Burger 250. With fuel mileage being the buzz word in American Stock Car this season, many drivers were running lean on gas with only a handful of laps to go, but when Dale Earnhardt Jr – a contender in recent races – blew a tyre the front runners all went for a quick splash-and-dash stop, with the order at the restart being Hamlin from Matt Kenseth, with the latter getting wheelspin when the green flag waved and Denny took the lead. Try as he did, Kenseth had to settle for second place. Pole man Kurt Busch, who has been the fastest man outside of Sunday for three weekends now, could only manage 11th place. Carl Edwards still leads the series, with Keven Harwick 20 points back in second place.
After races in Holland and Austria the DTM was back on German soil this weekend, racing at the Euro Speedway venue in Lausitz. Martin Tomczyk’s Team Phoenix hadn’t won in over a decade until the German scored victory at the Red Bull Ring two weeks ago, but would you believe he went and made it two in a row for them on Sunday? Tomczyk beat Timo Scheider and poleman Bruno Spengler to the win and thus leaps to the top of the championship standings, heading perennial series runner-up Spengler by a single point. Next up the DTM hits the streets of Nuremberg.
Race one of V8 Supercar’s trip to Hidden Valley Raceway ended in almost farcical fashion. After a late race safety car Mark Winterbottom led from Jamie Whincup, Shane van Gisbergen and Lee Holdsworth, but as the green flag fell all four managed to tangle entering turn one. That promoted a delighted Rick Kelly in to the lead, which he would hold until the flag. It was perhaps the most fortunate win of the 2006 series champ’s Supercar career.
Race two was less ridiculous, with van Gisbergen charging through late on to snatch the win from Craig Lowndes. Whincup continues to comfortably head team-mate Lowndes in the championship, despite enduring only his second winless weekend of 2011.
Formula Renault 3.5 stars Robert Wickens and Daniel Ricciardo both currently hold reserve driver positions at F1 teams, but judging by their performances in race one of the series’ Nurburgring event both have what it takes to become fully-fledged grand prix racers. Running on slick tyres in damp conditions they fought a cracking battle at the head of the field, with Wickens eventually triumphing by the narrowest of margins. Showing great skill to balance pace with traction, both men did their reputations a world of good at the German venue, finishing nearly half a minute clear of the third place finisher.
Another FR 3.5 racer whose reputation continues to grow is Kevin Korjus. The 18-year-old Estonian rookie completed the podium in race one before using a clever tyre strategy to take the win in Sunday’;s race. It was his third of the season, a superb achievement for a lad born in 1993 (isn’t that scary?) and competing against experienced junior campaigners like Ricciardo, and Wickens. The Canadian was second in race two with Fairuz Fuazy – who was making his first appearance of the season – taking third. Wickens heads the standings by 30 points, with Korjus and Jean-Eric Vergne level on 102 his nearest challengers. Ricciardo is fourth, despite having missed the opening round in Spain.
There was plenty of action at Kent circuit Brands Hatch this weekend. Felipe Nasr once again emerged as the highest points scorer in British F3, finishing second to Lucas Foresti in the opening run, sixth in race two and then taking a brilliant win in the rain-soaked race three. Nasr heads the standings with an advantage in excess of 40 points, and you’d be brave to put your money on anyone but the Brazilian taking the title. Race two saw a maiden series win for Brit Harry Tincknell, who kept his cool through a safety car period to beat Baharini racer Menasheh Idafar. Congrats to the London-born lad on his maiden triumph.
Meanwhile Scott Malvern continued his utter domination of the British Formula Ford championship at Brands. The Essex-born racer has now won nine successive races over three rounds (take that Sebastian Vettel) and proven himself to be the real class of the field. This weekend Malvern took a hattrick of wins at Brands Hatch, with Antti Buri, Geoff Urhane and Nick McBride sharing the second place finishes. Next up for the series is a trip to Dutch venue Zandvoort on August 13/14.
After making a bit of a plonker of himself last time out at Oulton Park Matt Neal put things right with a top weekend in the BTCC, scoring two race wins at Croft. The first was a real thriller, as Neal beat Mat Jackson to victory by just 0.055 seconds – a photo finish, if you will, though surely motor racing’s use of timing technology makes photography pretty redundant in deciding race winners. Neal won race two by a far more comfortable 0.9 seconds, this time fending off the challenge of Rob Collard, before Jackson won the final run from Nick Foster and Collard. All of this means Neal heads the standings, nine points clear of Jackson.
Chevrolet continued their dominance of the WTCC with another double win at Brno. Brit Rob Huff got the better of Swiss team-mate Yvan Muller in race one, squeezing himself past in the early stages and held on to the chequered flag, but Muller would have the last laugh by securing a lights to flag finish in race two. Huff still leads the title challenge by 25 points from Muller, but the other Chevrolet driver and former BTCC champ Alain Menu scored two third places to still be in the hunt at half distance.
Also running at Brno was Auto GP. The wins here were shared between veteran Luca Filippi, who beat Fabio Crestani and Kevin Ceccon in race one, and Samuele Buttarelli, who came home ahead of Rio Haryanto and Filippi in the second run. Filippi now leads the standings, 11 points clear of Ceccon.
The one make dominance also affected the Acropolis Rally, with the Sebastian’s of Citroen ruling the roost in the WRC. Monsieur Ogier beat Monsieur Leob by 10 seconds in a race that was more dictated by stage running order than overall pace, thanks to the hindrance of going first on a gravel surface. With Ogier slowing on Saturday to give Leob the first running Sunday morning, the tactic worked well for the younger Frenchman, who also gained the bonus point on offer for fastest power stage time. He now only sits 22 points behind Leob, with Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen sandwiched between the two.