Motor Sport Report - 4/8/14

Australian GP contract extended; Latvala wins home rally; Aussie Scott wins Indycars; Earnhardt wins Pocono; Whincup back on top; Brabham out of luck again; De Pasquale sizzles at Assen

Jamie Whincup in pursuit at Queensland Raceway

AGP locked in until 2020

PERHAPS encouraged by Daniel Ricciardo’s stunning Formula One season with Red Bull Racing, Victorian premier Denis Napthine’s government has shaken off strident opposition to secure the F1 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne for another five years, 2016-2020.

The positive outcome came after 12 months of negotiations involving Australian Grand Prix Corporation chairman Ron Walker and Formula One Management Limited boss Bernie Ecclestone.

Conscious of the possibility of another Aussie on top of the F1 world in the near future, the premier declared: "Within this contract we hope to see Australia's own Daniel Ricciardo win the Australian Grand Prix and become world champion."

Ecclestone said the signing of the new contract was well deserved by Melbourne, the world's sporting capital, which will celebrate two decades of F1 at next year's event. Victoria nicked the race from Adelaide, which held the race from 1985-1995.

Australia is set to host the opening round of the 2015 FIA Formula One World Championship on March 12-15.

Home triumph for Latvala

JARI-MATTI Latvala (with co-driver Miikka Anttila) snagged a massive victory over reigning world champion Sebastien Ogier in a memorable day for the Finn as, for the first time in four years, a Finnish pair triumphed in their home event in the FIA World Rally Championship.

Latvala won a thriller that went all the way to the finishing line, clinching victory for Volkswagen over French teammates Ogier/Julien Ingrassia by just 3.6 seconds. 

Brit Kris Meeke fought hard throughout to take third in a Citroen.

Known as ‘Formula One in the forest’, Rally Finland was the 12th consecutive rally win for the Wolfsburg-based team, and its eighth win in the current season.

All three WRC championship titles – for the manufacturer, the driver and the co-driver – beckon. Ogier on 187 points leads Latvala on 143 in the drivers title.

With occasional Hyundai factory driver Chris Atkinson again on the sidelines, antipodean glory in the mother of all rallies was in the hands of Kiwis Hayden Paddon/John Kennard, who took their i20 WRC to eighth.

Despite early dramas, including a broken wheel and punctures, Australian Molly Taylor grittily claimed third spot in the FIA Junior WRC category in her Citroen and now sits sixth in the standings.

“It’s a dream come true to finish on the podium here,” Taylor said. “We certainly weren‘t expecting this outcome after what we went through on Friday and Saturday.

“Despite the punctures, we kept on fighting. I knew we had the potential to be in the top five on the stages and that a podium finish was possible.

“I always love driving on these roads. It’s really enjoyable to race here.”

The next WRC event will be held on the tarmac roads of Rallye Deutschland on August 21-24.

Atkinson makes his return for Hyundai on home soil in Rally Australia on the Coffs Coast, September 11-14.

Aussies on top in Indycars

SCOTT Dixon reckons he is a Kiwi, but the hospital records show he was born in Brisbane. That’s Brisbane, Queensland, AUSTRALIA!  He’s one of us.  Well, he is when he wins.

We quietly disowned Dixon when he qualified 22nd and last for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio yesterday, but he was ours again after 90 laps when he was atop the podium. Oi, oi, oi!

It was the fifth victory for the so-called “Master of Mid-Ohio” in the past eight years after he and the Ganassi team went for a four-stop fuel and tyre strategy. He made it to the line – just – before running out of motion lotion.

Dixon won by 5.4 seconds from pole man Sebastien Bourdais.

"Truthfully, I didn't think it was possible," said Dixon, who has never gone winless in 10 consecutive seasons, after taking his first win this year.

He thanked the team, Chevrolet, but not god nor his place of birth.

Fellow Queenslander Will Power finished sixth to snatch back the lead (by a mere four points) in the  Indycar Series championship from Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves, who finished 19th after a stuck throttle.

In eighth was Sydney’s Ryan Briscoe, driving another Ganassi entry.

The Indycar series has been decided in the season finale the past eight years and next weekend moves on to Milwaukee, the first of three consecutive weekends of competition to close the season.

NASCAR: Marcos still hunting for 2014 win

DALE Earnhardt Jr added another Pocono win to the one he bagged earlier in the season, becoming the third three-time winner in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this season, joining Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski.

Dale Jr led the final 14 laps and held off Kevin Harvick after a late restart to win the 400.

The race was marred by a 13-car pileup in the late stages.

Tasmania’s Marcos Ambrose climbed from his 27th starting slot to 14th in his Richard Petty Ford.

Ambrose now heads into a race considered the most crucial for his 2014 season, at the Watkins Glen road course, his best shot at posting a victory that would score him a start in the championship-deciding Chase.

Frosty deflated as Jamie hits back

WHILE his leading rival Mark Winterbottom dealt with an awful weekend of racing, V8 Supercars series champ Jamie Whincup continued his stunning recent resurgence to do what cream usually does – rise to the top.

The Red Bull Holden ace, who now has his nose ahead for the first time since the opening race of the year as he chases down a record sixth title, made the most of a horror day at Queensland Raceway for rival Mark Winterbottom.

Whincup and teammate Craig Lowndes posted one-two finishes in Saturday’s two shorter races before James Courtney, driving a Holden Racing Team Commodore that has rediscovered pace, enjoyed his second win of the year in Sunday’s 200-kilometre contest.

Whincup’s revival is best exemplified by his six wins in nine races and a jump from a nowhere fifth in the standings in June to being the leader going to this month's Sydney Motorsport Park 400.

Whincup landed only a modest sixth place on Sunday. 

Frosty Winterbottom had looked good for a strong finish, only to fall back to 22nd after a puncture caused by the outside edge of a kerb soon after his final pit stop.

In the title chase, Winterbottom has dropped to second, just 15 points behind Whincup.

Series newcomers Volvo and Nissan couldn’t pull off a win across the weekend despite pole positions to each marque. James Moffat’s first V8 Supercars pole on Sunday came 30 years after his father Allan’s last pole (in a Mazda).

Whincup, typically, isn’t getting ahead of himself, reiterating his usual mantra of “there’s a long way to go”.

Brabham toughs it out in Indy Lights

ROOKIE Matthew Brabham’s current dose of bad luck continued in the two races of round 10 of the American Indy Lights Championship held at Mid-Ohio.

Driving his Andretti Autosports car (number 83, like his dad Geoff), the third-generation racer encountered gearbox selection issues during the Saturday race but held on to a fifth-place finish.

Brabham, 20, qualified third for the Sunday race and was confident of a podium, but this proved to be misplaced optimism after his left-rear tyre was cut in the usual scramble at the start, sending him into a rival and ending his day before completing a lap.

"The car was going sideways down the straight and it was moving all over the place,” recounted Brabham. “Then when I got into Turn One, as soon as I hit the brakes, the whole rear end of the car just bottomed out. It felt like I just had no grip at the rear – I just spun. I'm sorry for (collecting Luiz) Razia. My tyre was gone before I got to the corner, and I couldn't brake the car – everything was locking up. I'm not sure what happened behind me at the start... I think we were all pretty closely bunched there. Maybe I caught a little bit of a hit from behind?"

De Pasquale sizzles at Assen

AUSTRALIA’S coming man, Anton De Pasquale, continues his stellar form in Europe, taking a win and a close second in races seven and eight of  the 2014 Formula Renault 1.6 NEC Championship at Assen in the Netherlands.

The 18-year-old from Werribee in Victoria earlier romped to pole position for each of the races.

The runaway series leader, De Pasquale's winning ways continued with victory on Saturday and then finishing a close second on Sunday.

The Formula Renault 1.6 Series runs on a bunch of iconic European circuits, and is a modern yet heavily controlled wings ‘n’ slicks racing formula, providing for a level playing field with hardware.

Using an uber-light FIA-spec carbonfibre monocoque and a 1600cc 140-horsepower Renault engine, the category is part of Renault Sport's highly regarded European motorsport ladder, which includes 2.0-litre and 3.5-litre categories as a proven pathway to F1.

Mark Larkham’s Australian MotorSport Academy manages and mentors De Pasquale.


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