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Monday Motor Sport Report

By Peter McKay, 01 Sep 2014 Motorsport

Monday Motor Sport Report

Victorian dominates in Belgium; Marques back on top; Tony Stewart returns to racing; Aussies out of luck in Sepang; First world rally champ dead at 70

FORMULA RENAULT 1.6: De Pasquale Fires at Zolder

IN EUROPE, Victorian teenager Anton De Pasquale continues to dominate the Formula Renault 1.6 NEC Championship, his great recent form extending to a win and a fourth in two rounds held at Zolder, Belgium at the weekend.

Boosting his already robust prospects for this and the remaining rounds of the 2014 championship, De Pasquale received a welcome sponsorship boost from the CAMS Foundation, a system that financially assists talented young Australians on the international stage.

The 18-year-old former Australian Formula Ford champion had another strong qualifying at Zolder – second-quickest for race one and pole for race two.

In the dramatic first race, he was in contention for the win but was jumped at a restart and finished fourth.

He made amends in the second race, winning by a few seconds to extend his championship lead to 53 points.  It was his sixth win in 10 starts in the Renault series, demonstrating why he is very much the man to beat in this year’s championship.

CAMS Foundation chairman Geoff Morgan is an admirer of De Pasquale: "Anton has demonstrated what is possible for a highly talented young Aussie abroad, and the CAMS Foundation is really pleased to be able to contribute to Anton's genuine and committed attempt at winning this championship."

Mark Larkham, who is managing DePasquale's career via his Australian MotorSport Academy, is already engaged in discussions with top European Formula Renault 2.0 teams for next year.

Two rounds remain in the current championship, with Spa Franchorchamps in Belgium coming up on October 5.

MOTOGP: Marques (of course)

REIGNING world champion Marc Marquez returned to his spectacular winning ways in the British MotoGP at Silverstone, plundering his 11th race success of 12 this year, proving his last-round in Czecho was merely an aberration.

Marquez and fellow Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo thrilled the Brits with a titanic, on-the-edge duel across the whole race, the two separated by no more than fractions throughout.

Lorenzo made his usual lightning start, with Marquez stalking the Yamaha star into the second part of the race, before swooping by in his imperious way.

But a mistake five laps out handed the lead back to Lorenzo. From then it was a fight to finish. 

With three remaining, Marquez pounced aggressively, the two twice getting very close as the Honda hero forced an “excuse me” path back to the front.

That made it 12 GP wins from 12 for Honda this year.

Lorenzo’s team-mate Valentino Rossi worked hard for third.

Another Marquez – Marc’s little brother Alex – contributed to a less-than satisfactory outcome at Silverstone for Australia’s Moto3 title aspirant Jack Miller.

The typically manic Moto3 race was won by Honda’s Alex Rins on the final corner, with Alex Marquez (Honda) and KTM’s Enea Bastianini also on the podium. The winning margin was a whopping 0.011sec.

Miller (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was sixth, which shrinks Miller’s championship lead over the younger Marquez to 13 points, with Rins 16 points further back. The Honda men are coming hard at Miller…

Anthony West finished 22nd in Moto2 at Silverstone.

NASCAR:  Smoke return the talk of Atlanta

IN A race weekend that marked the return to competition of Tony Stewart after he skipped three races following the controversial incident that resulted in the death of Kevin Ward Jr, the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta was not short of prurient interest.

“Smoke” Stewart ended his self-imposed seclusion after a three-week spell away to grieve, delivering a statement at a press conference before qualifying. With a quivering voice, Stewart said the death of Ward will “affect my life forever”.

“I’ve taken the last couple of weeks off out of respect for Kevin and his family and also to cope with the accident in my own way,” he said.

“It’s given me the time to think about life and how easy it is to take it for granted. I miss my team, my teammates and I miss being back in the race car, and I think being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time.”

Ward, 20, was killed when he exited his wrecked sprint car after contact with Stewart and walked on to the track (in a black racing suit), apparently to show his displeasure to the three-time NASCAR champion. He was struck by the rear right tyre of Stewart’s car.  Investigators have said Stewart has no case to answer.

Stewart qualified 12th in Atlanta while Marcos Ambrose struggled to 32nd.

SEPANG 12 HOUR: Aussies out of luck

BATHURST 12-Hour star team Clearwater Racing has again showcased its international credentials with a crushing victory in the 2014 Sepang 12 Hour.

The team’s familiar Ferrari F458 crewed by Mok Weng, Alif Hamdan and Gianmaria Bruni won by a lap from pole position.

Completing the team’s dominance, Clearwater’s other F458 driven by Craig Baird/Richard Wee/Keita Sawa was second.

The Craft-Bamboo Aston Martin V12 Vantage of second-fastest qualifier Warren Luff/Frank Yu/Stefan Mucke held a strong third position until the 11th hour, when it lost a lap due to a wheel hub failure.

Returning to the track, Mucke charged hard, slicing the gap to the third-placed Audi to just five seconds at the chequered flag.

Underscoring the reliability of today’s sports cars, 22 of the 28 starters made it to the finish.

Luff immediately jumped a plane back to Australia for two days of testing with the Holden Racing Team. He will share a Commodore with Garth Tander in the enduros.

RALLY: Bjorn Waldegard 1943-2014

BJORN Waldegard, the inaugural world rally champion in 1979 and one of the tough enduring men of the sport with a career spanning 30 years, died on August 29.

The Swede took his first international victory at the wheel of a Porsche 911 on the 1969 Monte Carlo Rally, while his last WRC success came for Toyota on the 1990 Safari. At 46, this made him the oldest driver to win a WRC event, a record that still stands.

He was always hard to beat in the gruelling African Safari Rally, an event he won on four occasions.

In all, he won 16 WRC events – driving for Porsche, Mercedes, Lancia, Ford and Toyota.

He rallied at the top level until 1992, when a broken arm suffered during a crash in the 1992 Safari Rally forced his retirement.

Waldegard, who was 70, died from a malignant shoulder melanoma.

Waldegard rallied in New Zealand and Australia, and also visited Perth in December 1989 to help Toyota present its new Celica GT-Four to the local motoring media.

Toyota Australia’s long-serving PR man Mike Breen remembers the big Swede as an amazing character.

“He arrived in the morning from Germany, then spent most of the day taking journos for rides in the street-stock GT-Four,” recalled Breen.

“He kept complaining it wasn't a 'real' rally car.  Later, it became local hero Neal Bates’ first Toyota rally car.”

Breen drove Waldegard from the rally stage directly to the Burswood casino, where they enjoyed a pleasant dinner. 

“Bjorn then said he would stay at the casino for a while, that I should go back to the hotel and that he would catch a cab later.

“Next morning I went to the hotel lobby at 7am and there he was, sitting there in the same clothes. He hadn't been to bed all night. Bjorn was indestructible. No wonder he won so many Safari rallies.

“He then went to the airport and caught the plane back to Germany.”