FORMULA 1: Texas big for Lewis, a three-time champ
AMID tears under the helmet, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton secured his third world driver’s championship in the best possible way, winning a memorable US Grand Prix in Austin from his title challengers Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel.
But Rosberg gifted Hamilton the title in Texas with a bad error that handed the Briton the lead in the closing stages of a race that had many plot twists, safety cars, and plenty of incidents – only 12 of the 22 starters reached the finish.
A few torrid arm-wrestles resulted in damaged cars.
The title fight was complicated by hurricane-generated bad weather. Drenching rain hit practice and ultimately postponed qualifying until Sunday morning, when Rosberg took pole from Mercedes team-mate Hamilton, with the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat claiming the second row.
When the cars went out for the race, on intermediate tyres, it was the first time the drivers had experienced anything like a drying line.
Hamilton bumped Rosberg off line in the first corner, allowing the two Red Bulls past, with the Russian pushing hard to close on the lead Merc.
With a patchy grey line forming, the teams were busy calculating when their drivers should switch from the fading inters on to slicks.
Ricciardo got Aussie hearts fluttering when he charged to the lead on lap 15 and moved to a six- second advantage.
But the Mercs and Vettel’s Ferrari showed their normal superior pace in the dry and soon pushed our man back.
Kvyat showed plenty of flight but his race ended in the barriers.
Both Williams also retired as did Kimi Raikkonen after he fired off and damaged a brake cooling duct.
Ricciardo, struggling with a damaged car, ultimately grabbed 10th and a single championship point from McLaren’s Fernando Alonso on the final lap.
Hamilton was gracious to Rosberg afterwards, complimenting his team-mate. It wasn’t reciprocated by the dispirited German, who questioned Hamilton’s aggression in the first corner.
But that’s what you do if you want to be world champion.
MOTOGP: Rossi sanctioned after bizarre Malaysian race
EVEN before the riders hit the track for the Malaysian MotoGP, mind games and associated tensions between championship contenders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo blew out to include Marc Marquez, bewildered to find himself verballed by the Italian superstar. Que?
Those who thought that was the end of it were very wrong.
The back-in-form Dani Pedrosa continued with his sparkling pole-winning qualifying pace to dominate the race from flag to flag.
But a stunning early race scrap between the feuding Rossi and Marquez means history will barely acknowledge Pedrosa’s brilliant performance.
Six laps in, after some red-hot exchanges, Rossi and Marquez’s ferocious duel for third turned bizarrely nasty.
As the pair leaned on each other through turn 14, Rossi appeared to twice turn his head to look at Marquez, who was hanging on around the outside.
The bikes came together, and Marquez hit the deck, a sad conclusion to what had been an enthralling struggle.
Pedrosa went on to beat the delighted Lorenzo to the line by 3.6 seconds with a restrained Rossi third, his championship lead pared to seven points.
A post-race sanction by officials allowed Rossi to keep his points from Sepang but punishment came with a rear-of-grid start in the decider at Valencia in two weekends’ time.
V8 SUPERCARS: Courtney’s Gold Coast fairytale
HRT’S James Courtney scored a hugely emotional victory in Sunday’s 300km leg of the Gold Coast 600, while a day earlier a head-shaking mistake by a crew member cost V8 Supercars Championship leader Mark Winterbottom a likely bag of valuable points at the business end of the season.
Craig Lowndes went into the weekend 399 points in arrears and left the Gold Coast with the margin back to 258 points.
Courtney, racing for the first time in over two months after being hurt by flying debris in Sydney, showed true grit.
“I knew it was going to be tough, and I didn’t know how it was all going to hold up,” said Courtney, referring to his return from five broken ribs and a punctured lung.
Saturday first…when unfathomably, at the first pit stop, Winterbottom was released straight into the side ofGarth Tander’s HRT Commodore leaving pit lane, causing extensive suspension damage to his Falcon FG X. He also had to bear a long wait for repairs plus a penalty before finishing in 24th place.
But if Winterbottom was initially less than thrilled – there was a report of a helmet thrown in disgust – he later wasn’t blaming anyone, taking the view that the Prodrive team takes both its knocks and successes with equanimity.
“You don’t crucify someone; you have a chat and try to eliminate the problems and then do what we do best,” Winterbottom said.
But this wasn’t the only talking point.
How about the colour switch by 2015 part-timer Russell Ingall? At Sandown and Bathurst he raced with HRT; two weeks after the 1000r he was back wearing blue, deputising for Chaz Mostert aboard a Prodrive Falcon with young gun Cameron Waters.
Also dominating the pitlane chat was gossip on the silly season driver moves. One firm switch for 2016 is the jump by Will Davison from Erebus Mercedes to Tekno, replacing the Triple Eight-bound Shane van Gisbergen.
Others heading out of their current teams at the end of the year are Walkinshaw’s Tim Slade (tipped to land at BJR), and Nissan’s James Moffat (to GRM Volvo). And maybe Prodrive’s David Reynolds. So plenty of drivers with a lot to prove…
Pole both days went to New Zealanders. Shane van Gisbergen was quickest on Saturday and then raced off with his first win of the year from an impressive David Reynolds, who fought tenaciously to keep Lowndes at bay.
Impressive too were the co-drivers, Jono Webb, who opened an early lead despite being under the weather, before handing over to the Giz. Dean Canto also did his usual solid job for Reynolds, as did Steve Richards for Lowndes
The punters were also entertained by the vigorous mid-race scrap between HRT team-mates Garth Tander and Courtney, the latter showing no problems with his tender torso. They finished fourth and fifth on Saturday.
Sunday started well for Scotty McLaughlin. His third pole of the year, edging Lowndes, van Gisbergen, Jamie Whincup, Winterbottom and Scott Pye (also with a rib injury to deal with).
Steve Richards took an early lead in the Red Bull #888, but a clever call by HRT to bring in the Courtney/Jack Perkins Commodore off schedule for a drink of fuel put them in the box seat.
An enterprising second was the Nissan pair of Rick Kelly/David Russell ahead of Tander/Warren Luff, who banked their second podium of the weekend.
Lowndes/Richards had to settle for fourth, with Saturday winners van Gisbergen/Webb fifth.
Winterbottom, who with Steve Owen finished 11th, was candid about his Gold Coast races. “It was an average weekend – I can't really sugar coat it,” he said.
“We need to bounce back. The other team has got momentum and we've halted. We didn't make mistakes on track and I'm proud of the way Steve and I had a run but there's other areas that we need to tidy up. We'll go home and we'll work hard.”
WRC: Ogier crash hands Mikkelsen maiden win
NORWEGIAN Andreas Mikkelsen claimed his maiden WRC victory at the partly gravel but mainly tarmac Rally Catalunya on Sunday, after his Volkswagen team-mate world champion Sébastien Ogier crashed out of the lead four kilometres from the finish.
In a hugely dramatic ending to a captivating event, the popular Mikkelsen and co-driver Ola Floene finished the last stage to hear they had managed to pinch second place from Jari-Matti Latvala after a fierce final day fight.
Moments later came the news that Ogier had misjudged a corner and smashed his Polo R into a roadside barrier, ripping a wheel from the car.
Mikkelsen was initially stunned into silence as he grappled to comprehend that Ogier had made a rare error.
But he soon got to celebrate his first WRC win in 64 attempts.
“It was absurd because Ogier never makes mistakes so when they told me I didn’t believe it. It was a big surprise, and although it’s not the way I want to win a rally, we’ve been so close so many times that I feel I really deserve this one,” said 26-year-old Mikkelsen.
The eventual winning margin over Latvala was 3.1sec, with Dani Sordo taking the final podium place for Hyundai, a further 18.1sec back.
ARC: Eli takes title number three
CITROEN’S Eli Evans and Glen Weston have pocketed their third Australian Rally Championship, sealing the deal on Saturday during the second Heat of Scouts Rally SA.
Evans needed only to finish third or better to keep the title out of reach of Molly Taylor. After the day’s 12 stages he had done the deed with a flourish, winning the heat by 25.7 seconds ahead of second placed Steve Mackenzie and Taylor, who’d dropped time with an engine issue and a blown strut top.
Taylor admitted to trialling a tyre combination she hadn’t ever run previously on the Renault Clio. “It was really taily to begin with, but I worked out what to do and it was much better on the second two thirds,” she said.
“Unbelievably fast, the fastest roads in Australia, and the biggest white gums on the edge of them you’ve ever seen,” Taylor’s co-driver Bill Hayes remarked during a tense Saturday.
Taylor held second early but slipped to third as she continued to struggle with the engine cut problem she began to experience yesterday afternoon in her Renault Clio. “Every time we change from second to third it just dies; it’s incredibly frustrating!” she commented.
The day was about Eli Evans and his third Australian championship.
“It’s my third championship now with Glen (Weston, co-driver). It’s a pretty proud moment. This year with Citroen, it was a whole new challenge, I hadn’t driven the car at the start of the year. To be standing here right now winning the championship is something Glen and I worked hard to earn and I feel like we’re deserving winners,” he said.
F1: Jolyon Palmer to race for Lotus
LOTUS F1’s current third and reserve driver Jolyon Palmer, whose father is former grand prix racer Dr Jonathan Palmer, has been promoted to a race seat for the 2016 season, completing the team’s driver line-up alongside Pastor Maldonado.
While Lotus’ future ownership remains problematical, the second-generation driver now knows what he’ll be doing next season.
Palmer, 24, has driven for the team in the majority of this season’s Free Practice 1 sessions, this year following an outstanding GP2 campaign in 2014 where he won the championship in dominant fashion.
“We’ve seen Jolyon’s hard work and talent this season in the way he’s approached his third driver role and he is a really popular choice for the team,” said Gerard Lopez, the team principal.
“As well as having a great future ahead of him behind the wheel, Jolyon is an intelligent and highly marketable asset to the team.”