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Daniel Ricciardo gains 12 places in epic Italian GP effort

By Peter Mckay, 04 Sep 2017 Motorsport

Daniel Ricciardo gains 12 places in epic Italian GP effort

Majestic Hamilton grabs the title ascendancy at Monza

Ricciardo overcomes huge grid penalty to finish fourth

Mercedes-Benz’s Lewis Hamilton has taken the lead in the Formula One world championship after capitalising on Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel’s lack- lustre qualifying effort in the rain the previous afternoon at Monza.

Hamilton finished nearly five seconds ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, who started fourth, while Vettel was never in the hunt, hanging on to third in his Ferrari, 36 seconds back on the winner.

On the podium Hamilton was booed loudly by the maniacal Ferrari fans hoping to have something better to celebrate the Scuderia’s 70th anniversary.  The Brit stayed cool: “You know what? I love it here in Italy and I love the passion of the Ferrari fans,” he responded “We don’t get to see this energy anywhere else, apart from maybe Silverstone.”

“Mercedes power is definitely better than Ferrari power,” Hamilton added defiantly, his only obvious mistake coming mid-race when, under no pressure, he slid wide and put two wheels in the dirt.  

But Hamilton had to share the Italian Grand Prix limelight with Daniel Ricciardo after the Australian pulled off a succession of outstanding overtaking moves that hauled his Red Bull Renault from 16th on the starting grid to fourth and closing on third-placed Vettel.

After Saturday’s relentless wet weather during qualifying shook up the pecking order, a raft of ludicrous grid penalties imposed on drivers who had key car components installed for the race were then applied.

It was a strange looking starting order.  In fact, laughably, only Hamilton started the race in the same place (first) he qualified!

After lengthy delays and a heavy crash involving the Haas of Romain Grosjean, the first session of qualifying was halted, restarting very late (at 4.40pm), and still in rainy conditions.

Finally, Hamilton emerged on top after a truly impressive lap which got him ahead of Max Verstappen and Ricciardo, who for some time had locked out the front row.

The Red Bull drivers had nothing but pride to fight for, their grid penalties relating them to starting back in the Wallyworld postcode.

What we could look forward to, hopefully, was Raikkonen and Vettel from fifth and sixth pushing desperately in the opening laps to get on terms with Hamilton. They also had to be leery of the inexperienced Lance Stroll, starting second in a Williams, and Esteban Ocon, third in a Force India (after the Bulls were penalised).

There was also the tasty prospect of the best overtakers in the business coming through from 13th (Verstappen) and 16th (Ricciardo). 

“I loved it out there today,” said Ricciardo after his stunning drive. “It was good fun. Two of my favourite races this year have been starting from the back…Silverstone and this one.

“Some good overtakes in the race kept me excited and I had some real pace in the end. I could see Seb and the thought of a podium was tempting me, so I was obviously trying to catch him right up to the end. The boys did the quickest pit stop and I also got the fastest lap so that’s very cool. You can almost call it a perfect day. We couldn’t have done much more from where we started.”

Behind Ricciardo, was Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, the final victim of the Aussie’s adventurous overtaking. He started fifth and finished fifth.

Ocon was a good sixth, redeeming himself after the dramas with his team-mate at the Spa race. The two Williams drivers, Stroll and Felipe Massa were next, with Force India’s Sergio Perez ninth, and Verstappen grabbing the final point after an early stop to change a tyre damaged in a tangle with Massa.

Having won the last two grands prix, Hamilton leads the championship for the first time this season and has a slight three point margin over Vettel with seven races remaining. The next race is on the streets of Singapore, a layout that favours the Ferraris and is also good for the Red Bulls.

Wild Watkins Glen set up tense Indy Car finale

Championship leader Newgarden has a bad day at the office

Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi held off Scott Dixon in a thrilling Grand Prix at The Glen 60-lap road course race, as the 2017 IndyCar Series championship tightened up with just one race remaining.

The one-time Formula One driver Rossi won the 60-lap race at Watkins Glen International from the pole, edging four-time Watkins Glen winner Scott Dixon (Ganassi Honda) by 0.9514 of a second at the flag.

Ryan Hunter-Reay finished third to give Andretti Autosport two podium finishers.

The win was Rossi’s second in the IndyCar Series after his victory in the 2016 Indianapolis 500.

Josef Newgarden, who held a handy lead going into the Watkins Glen race, finished way back in 18th after his Penske Chevrolet car was damaged in a collision leaving the pits.

The American’s lead has now shrunk to a mere three points over New Zealand’s Scott Dixon.

September 17’s double points season finale, the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma – another road course – will settle the championship with seven drivers still mathematically in the title hunt.

 Helio Castroneves’ fourth at The Glen allowed the Penske Chevrolet driver to retain third in the championship, 22 points behind Newgarden.

Australia’s Will Power still has a chance. Sixth at Watkins Glen, he is fifth in the standings, 68 points from the lead.

Matt Campbell wins Monza Supercup

Second Porsche round victory for Queenslander

Australia’s Matt Campbell has stormed to his second Porsche Supercup race victory at Monza before returning home to drive with Shane Van Gisbergen at Red Bull Holden Racing in the Pirtek Enduro Cup.

Campbell, who won a Supercup race in Austria earlier in the season, has moved to third in the standings.

After qualifying was abandoned due to heavy rain, the Monza Supercup grid was based on Friday’s practice times. Campbell was fastest so he started the race from pole, his fourth in a dream debut season in Supercup.

The Carrera Cup Australia champion made a great start and was clear of the carnage that followed further back.

After a safety car period, Campbell again made a terrific jump and headed off to a slick win on one of the great tracks of the world.

The next Porsche Supercup race is the final twin-race event on the same card as the Mexican Grand Prix in late October.

Will Rally Australia be the title decider?

With this year’s unpredictable World Rally Championship being one of the closest in history, organisers of the final round, Rally Australia, are daring to hope that their event could be the title decider.

New-generation rally machines from Toyota, Hyundai, M-Sport Ford, and Citroën - faster, louder, and more spectacular-looking – have all had moments of glory this season, providing a tight championship tussle that has thrown up a variety of winners.

With three rounds remaining, the British-based M-Sport squad has edged clear in both the drivers’ and constructors’ title races after a strong performance at the Rally Germany, when Ford Fiesta drivers Ott Tänak and Sébastien Ogier, claimed victory and third place respectively.

With toughest title rival Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) experiencing a forgettable rally on strangely muddy tarmac in Germany, Ogier pulled 17 points clear at the head of the drivers’ standings, while a combined haul of 40 points increased M-Sport's advantage in the teams' championship to 64 points.

With Tänak mathematically still in the title chase, M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson is worried about complacency hurting his squad.

“Historically, we have been in this position before and ended up losing it," he noted.

Coming up next is Rally Catalunya on tight Spanish tarmac (October 5-8), then the dirt Wales Rally GB (October 26-29), before the  fastest rally drivers and cars on the planet head to the New South Wales Coffs Coast for the final of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship on November 16-19.

As one of Australia’s biggest motor sporting events of the year, it will attract a global television audience to follow the action over the forest, rural, and city special stages.

On the 25th anniversary of WRC in Australia, Rally Australia has entries from a bunch of local heroes from Australia and New Zealand striving to make an impact alongside the big stars in the FIA World Rally Championship.

Five of the region’s fastest young talents are keen to benchmark their ability and enjoy the chance to be part of a world championship event in their own backyard.

Australians Harry Bates, Molly Taylor, Brendan Reeves, and Nathan Quinn, and New Zealander Mike Young confirmed their entry plans.   “They are proof there’s enormous talent in rallying in Australia and New Zealand,” said Clerk of Course. Harry, Molly, Brendan, Mike, and Nathan are all at different stages in their WRC journeys, but hopefully the experience at Rally Australia will turbo-charge their paths.”

The beauty of rallying is its accessibility – for spectators and competitors alike.

While it is impossible for anyone, even those with an international racing licence, to buy a car and hit the track in Supercars or Formula One, rallying even at the world championship level is open to any appropriately licensed driver/co-driver with a suitable rally car.  I know.  As a complete rally novice, with the similarly inexperienced co-driver Nick Senior, I did it in the Rally Australia round of the 1989 WRC on the west coast.  We used a front drive Toyota Celica press car with a roll cage and safety equipment hastily added and the suspension beefed up.  There we were, complete novices alongside Juha Kankkunen, Carlos Sainz, Markku Alen, and the rest.  After Greg Carr took pity on us and sold us a copy of his pace notes, we headed off on our magical mystery tour.  In a result more down to good luck than skill, we survived to finish 23rd outright.

So, yes, anyone can compete in a WRC round…

Hyundai’s factory driver Hayden Paddon is a great example of a driver from Down Under making it to the world stage. New Zealander Paddon broke through to win the Rally Agentina round of the WRC last year. Thousands of supporters will be in Coffs to watch Paddon try to win the nearest event to a home rally, on his favourite surface.

After a colourful free rally show and ceremonial start in the centre of Coffs Harbour on Thursday November 16, the 13th and final round of the WRC will cover a total of 318km across 21 competitive stages until the Sunday afternoon finish.

Friday will test drivers with all-new stages, re-located to the north of the coastal city service park. The Super Special Stage on the Coffs Harbour waterfront on Friday and Saturday nights – featuring actor and rally fan Shane Jacobson as guest commentator - will incorporate a new roundabout obstacle and an extra jump, giving spectators longer views of the cars.

A new Saturday afternoon stage, Argents Hill, will be the first of two televised live around the world. On Sunday, a 90-minute live broadcast from the Wedding Bells Power Stage will close the event and the 2017 season.

Dedicated spectator zones will be provided at several locations each day, offering excellent, safe vantage points and full facilities. Shuttle buses will be available from Coffs Harbour, or fans will be able to follow directions on Rally Australia’s free mobile app.