In this week’s Racing Digest we’ve got Takuma Sato starting on pole, Marco Simoncelli starting on pole and even Charles Pic starting on pole. We’ve then got the first two crashing and the third failing to take up his place at the front of the grid. Enjoy!
We kick off with Indycar’s trip to Iowa, where fans of chirpy Japanese racing drivers with a propensity to crash got a big treat in qualifying. Takuma Sato – he of Jordan, BAR and Super Aguri fame – landed pole position, a superb result for a man still getting his head round oval racing and one that had Taku’s many fans dreaming of a maiden series win.
Alas, t’was not to be. Sato dropped back as Dario Franchitti took the race lead, and for a long while it looked as though the Scot would take yet another Indycar victory. However Dario faded late on, and the battled ended up being between Marco Andretti and Sato’s team-mate Tony Kanaan. Marco won it, the 24-year-old taking his first win since his maiden season way back in 2006. T.K took second with Scot Dixon producing a great drive from 23rd on the grid to make the podium. J.R Hilderbrand was fourth with Franchitti fifth, the Ganassi man now leading the standings after title rival Will Power was eliminated in an early pitlane shunt.
And Sato? He crashed out, of course.
Support series Indy Lights was won by Josef Newgarden, the Tennessee racer’s third of the season. He now holds a lead of close to 50 points over team-mate (and Badger favourite) Esteban Guerrieri. That said the next sequence of races are on road courses – expect Esteban to shine when the going gets twisty.
It all finally turned around for Kurt Busch at the Infineon Raceway, as NASCAR took a break from ovals and decided to try turning right a few turns a lap. The Penske driver had been fast enough to seal pole position at the past three rounds, but failed to capitalise each time. This weekend, thanks to a couple of mistakes on his final qualifying run, Busch started further down in 11th but was leading by lap 13. Thanks to stretching his fuel out to last three stops instead of the rest of the field’s four, he managed to regain the lead and dictate the pace of the cars behind thanks to a few multi-car pile-ups bringing out the yellow flags. Five-time Sears Point winner Jeff Gordon also made the three stop count by climbing to second, and Cup Chase leader Carl Edwards rounded out the podium in third.
On to GP2, which unlike it’s big brother Formula One has a bit of a title battle going on. Valencia-based team Addax enjoyed a perfect qualifying session as Charles Pic beat team-mate Giedo van deer Garde to pole. The two bonus points sent Charlie in to the championship lead, but the curse of the table topper is alive and well in GP2, and Pic duly failed to get off the grid for Saturday’s race. Giedo duly took up his place at the head of the field and looked set for the win – one which would have sent him to the top of the standings – but was then hit with a drive-through for ignoring yellow flags. As such Romain Grosjean assumed P1 and actually managed to hold it to the chequered flag. It was his second win of the campaign and promotes him to the top of the championship. Behind him van der Garde drove a stunner to climb back up to second with Davide Valsecchi completing the podium.
The sprint race saw poleman Esteban Gutierrez triumph, his first victory since graduating from GP3. The Mexican looked full-on wild at the wheel all weekend but married that with a cool head in the sprint to claim the win with Luiz Razia second and van deer Grade third. Here’s how that leaves the top of the championship standings:
- Romain Grosjean (DAMS) – 34
- Giedo van der Garde (Addax) – 33
- Davide Valssechi (AirAsia) – 30
- Sam Bird (iSport) – 27
- Charles Pic (Addax) – 24
For more GP2 action shots see Octane Photo’s gallery from Valencia.
Another level down, GP3 was dominated by Brits this weekend, with Adrian Quaife-Hobbs taking the feature race win from Lewis Williamson. Dean Smith had run second but lost power on the final lap and dropped to fifth, dashing hopes of a British podium lockout and allowing Kiwi prodigy Mitch Evans to snatch the final rostrum spot. The sprint race was won by James Calado with Alex Sims second, completing a top weekend for the Brits. Meanwhile championship leader Nigel Melker failed to score in Valencia, allowing Evans to take the points lead. It’s close though, with any one of a dozen drivers still a reasonable shout for the title. Definitely one worth keeping an eye.
The oft-forgotten Formula Two championship was at Spa this weekend, where Will Bratt and Mirko Bortolotti shared the wins. Bratt triumphed in the wet race one, going from fifth to first on the first lap (take that, Ayrton Senna) and holding out at the front as Bortolotti chased him down. The Italian then won race two with ease, coming home ahead of title rival Christopher Zanella and Bratt. Bortolotti and Zanella are starting to really pull away at the head of the standings now, the Italian heading the Swiss by just five points with a gap of nearly 30 points to third-placed man Miki Monras. They’re back in action this coming weekend as there series travels to the Nurburgring.
From four wheels to two we switch to Moto GP, where the ever-controversial Marco Simoncelli scored his second pole of the season at Dutch circuit Assen.
But Marco made the headlines for all the wrong reasons yet again, coming together with reigning champ Jorge Lorenzo on lap one and exiting the race. Lorenzo – who would recover to sixth at the flag – later renewed calls for Simoncelli to be banned. Danny John-Jules won’t like that one bit.
Out front Ben Spies took his first Moto GP win, beating Casey Stoner to the flag. Casey won’t be too down however, as he’s increased his points advantage still further. The Aussie’s record this year is impressive: four wins, a second and a third from seven races leave him with a 28-point cushion over Lorenzo heading to the next round in Italy.
Finally we’re on to all things gravelly and sideways, the IRC moved to Belgium for the prestigious Ypres Rally, and it was local veteran Freddy Loix who hauled his Skoda to yet another win on home soil, his seventh and second in a row. The 40-year old and WRC mainstay won from a minute and a half from Peugeot’s Bryan Bouffier, with 2010 Junior WRC runner-up Hans Weij finishing his first IRC event on the podium. Regular challengers Andreas Mikkelsen, Thierry Neuville and Bruno Malgalhaes all suffered crashes or retirements during the weekned. Brit Guy Wilks, who had a puncture that cost him 5 minutes before a brilliant recovery, finished fifth. Loix now inherits the championship lead, but mainly due to points leader and reigning champion Juho Hanninen not entering the event.