INDY 500: Takuma Sato wins…in a Honda
Alonso shines before his Honda engine fails; Scott Dixon walks away from huge shunt
Takuma Sato won a dramatic Indianapolis 500, but Fernando Alonso won over the crowd…
Five years ago Sato was fighting for his first win in the Indy 500 when he dived under Dario Franchitti on the final lap and spun into the wall. Game over.
This year, Sato, now a wiser and less impetuous 40, put it all together over the concluding 10 laps pushing through to the lead, losing it…and then finally making a tense and robust passing move stick on veteran Penske star Helio Castroneves.
He drank the traditional milk in Victory Lane after winning the best-known race in the world.
Driving for Andretti Autosport Honda, Sato is the first Japanese to win America’s classic motor race. He praised Castroneves afterwards, saying: “Helio drive fair – I can trust him.”
Finishing third was British rookie Ed Jones, who came on strongly in the closing stages in his Dale Coyne Honda.
It was a race of 35 lead changes among 15 different drivers including high-profile rookie Alonso, who lived up to his reputation as a fast, smooth and brave driver.
Despite his lack of oval track experience, Alonso looked like he had been doing it forever, drafting expertly and overtaking decisively.
The McLaren F1 driver led for a total of 27 laps before his Andretti Autosport Honda blew an engine on lap 179 of 200 whilst he was in the top 10 and moving forward again.
So his Indy campaign ended like so many of his recent F1 outings have ended…
Honda engines had the power edge over the rival Chevrolets, but were not as reliable, as Alonso discovered (or maybe he already knew).
“The whole day was a very nice experience,” Alonso said afterwards. “The racing was fun.” He indicated it was too early to think about next year but was open to returning.
Undoubtedly, many in the crowd of an estimated 300,000 were drawn there by the presence of the two-time Formula One world champion, particularly after his stirring qualifying effort to claim a slot on row two.
Alonso fever was rampant in the month of May lead-up. He was the hot topic on every sports TV and radio show. The other drivers in the field mock-disparagingly referred themselves 'the other 32' and celebrated any press conference question unrelated to the Spaniard.
Most Americans though were thrilled that Alonso had chosen their sport over Monaco. He was up for challenge of racing on the 2.5-mile oval with four turns banked at a hardly steep 9 degrees, giving it some similarities with road racing (minus the run off areas and right turns).
Just 18 of the 33 starters got to the end. Several huge crashes decimated the field and added to the Indy legend. Pole man Brisbane-born New Zealander Scott Dixon walked away from one of the scariest shunts seen at the Brickyard, his Ganassi Honda launching over Jay Howard’s ricocheting car at maximum speed and flying through the air before an infield wall scythed it in two on landing. Dixon reported a sore ankle.
A remarkably composed Dixon shrugged off the crash, praising the Dallara chassis’s safety integrity and declaring he couldn’t wait to return to Indy in 12 months.
One lucky man was Castroneves, who drove under Dixon’s flying car as he tried to avoid the wreckage.
The clean up and safety fencing repairs took nearly 20 minutes before racing resumed.
The ferocious crash ended a mixed week for four-time IndyCar champion Dixon, who after winning the pole was robbed at gunpoint at a Taco Bell fast-food outlet than evening.
Aussie James Davison, a surprise late addition to the starting grid (from position 33) as a replacement for the injured Sebastien Bourdais in another Dale Coyne entry, raced hard and overcame a drive through to climb all the way to the lead (on a different fuel strategy). He looked set for a top 10 finish when, with 17 laps remaining, he was involved in a bruising multi car pile-up with Oriol Servia which also involved fellow Australian Will Power, Canadian JR Hinchcliffe and American Josef Newgarden.
1. Takuma Sato, JPN, Andretti Autosport Dallara-Honda 200 laps
2. Helio Castroneves, BRA, Team Penske Dallara-Chevrolet + 0.201s
3. Ed Jones, UAE, Dale Coyne Racing Dallara-Honda + 0.528s
4. Max Chilton, GBR, Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara-Honda + 1.136s
5. Tony Kanaan, BRA, Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara-Honda + 1.657s.
6. Juan Pablo Montoya, COL, Team Penske Dallara-Chevrolet + 1.715s
7. Alexander Rossi, USA, Andretti Herta Dallara-Honda + 2.422s
8. Marco Andretti, USA, Andretti Autosport Dallara-Honda + 2.541s
9. Gabby Chaves, COL, Harding Racing Dallara-Chevrolet + 3.831s
10. Carlos Munoz, COL, A.J. Foyt Enterprises Dallara-Chevrolet + 4.532s
11. Ed Carpenter, USA, Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara-Chevrolet + 4.623s
12. Graham Rahal, USA, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Dallara-Honda + 5.031s
13. Mikhail Aleshin, RUS, Schmidt Peterson Dallara-Honda + 5.699s
14. Simon Pagenaud, FRA, Team Penske Dallara-Chevrolet + 6.051s
15. Sebastian Saavedra, COL, Juncos Racing Dallara-Chevrolet + 12.667s
16. JR Hildebrand, USA, Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara-Chevrolet + 33.219s
17. Pippa Mann, GBR, Dale Coyne Racing Dallara-Honda+ 1 lap
18. Spencer Pigot, USA, Juncos Racing Dallara-Chevrolet + 6 laps
Aussie solid in Monaco Supercup
Another impressive run from Matt Campbell
German Michael Ammermueller, the winner of the opening Porsche Supercup two races in Barcelona, remains unbeaten after taking out round three on the streets of Monaco
Australian driver Matt Campbell, a Monaco first timer and Supercup rookie, finished fifth.
From Warwick in Queensland, Campbell earlier qualified fifth and 0.7sec away from Ammermueller’s pole lap.
Campbell remains fourth in the Supercup standings led by Ammermueller.
Bates – Harry, that is - takes National Capital Rally in Canberra
Tight at the top after capital thriller
Corolla 2000 driver Harry Bates capitalised on his knowledge of local conditions to take out both legs of a hard fought CAMS National Capital Rally in Canberra and move to a narrow lead in the Australian championship series.
The win puts Bates, co-driven by John McCarthy, three points clear of friend and rival Subaru’s Molly Taylor, who with co-driver Bill Hayes, posted a solid performance over the weekend to claim second outright, one minute, 23 seconds away.
Another Canberra local, Mick Patton and co-driver Bernie Webb returned to the Australian Rally Championship after a seven-month break from the sport to claim the final spot on the podium in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X.
Bates led the event from the start, only relinquishing top spot once to Taylor after the second stage. Regaining the lead in stage three, Bates was not headed again.
Bates said the win today was anything but easy with heavy morning showers over the demanding technical stages yesterday adding an extra ingredient of uncertainty, with some of the soft clay sections contributing to car damage among a long list of competitors.
“It’s never nice when you are in the lead by nearly a minute and you are having all the elements thrown at you and today exactly that happened,” Bates said.
“But I’m stoked to bring it home; we decided to go out on the last few stages and have a crack and see if we could bring it home in style.
Defending national champion Taylor wasn’t too disappointed with second place.
“It’s incredibly tight, incredibly exciting,” she said. “This rally was the toughest rally we have done so far this year. We all worked really hard for it.
“Both days have been completely different for us; the first day we were pushing with everything we had and today with all the attrition it was really about driving a smart rally, take it back a step and drive with our heads,” Taylor explained.
Repco Rally Team’s Mick Patton and Bernie Webb took today’s surprise podium in their stride.
“We didn’t really have any expectations for the weekend and that’s probably why we found a bit of pace,” said Patton.
The National Capital Rally was cruel to a number of the ARC front runners; Coffs Coast Rally Team’s Nathan Quinn and David Calder went into the event in the lead but two flat tyres in the second heat followed by mechanical issues robbed them of any points on Sunday.
Sharing a new Mini Cooper, Eli Evans and co-driver Glen Weston posted the fastest time on Sunday’s second stage, only to break a control arm on the next stage. The pair were able to make the final control to salvage some points from the day.