Monday, March 31, 2014

First Time Since 1955 – Mercedes 1-2 in F1!

SEPANG, MALAYSIA – The weekend belonged to Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes.  Some may have questioned Hamilton’s departure from McLaren, but if Hamilton can continue to perform like this, a second Championship for the Brit may be a reality.  Hamilton needed this win after a disappointing race in Australia where he had to retire early.  Nico Rosberg also ran an amazing race coming is second behind his teammate.  "We're in the most difficult of conditions and the car was fantastic," said Hamilton as he celebrated his first win at Sepang. "It's probably the best car I have ever driven. "This is Mercedes’ first 1-2 finish in Formula 1 since 1955.

The World Champion Red Bull team had a good and bad day.  Sebastian Vettel was able to garner a 3rd place podium finish behind the silver arrows, but teammate Daniel Ricciardo had another rather disappointing day.  After being disqualified for a fuel flow infraction in Australia, stripping the driver of his second place finish, Ricciardo suffered a pit-stop fiasco after the front left wheel was not mounted properly during the pit stop, requiring his crew having to push him back into his box.  Later, a tire puncture and front wing failure put the Aussie 6 laps down.  FIA decided that wasn’t enough, and has placed a 10 position starting penalty for an “unsafe release” for the Bahrain race.  Red Bull team boss, Christian Horner commented “The rules are pretty clear,” he said. “For an unsafe release, it is a stop-go penalty of 10 seconds and a 10-place grid penalty for the next race, so the punishment is harsh for the crime. It is the rules, so that is what it will be.”  

Fernando Alonso was able to capitalize on Ricciardo’s bad luck finishing in fourth place.  But it was not easy as Nico Hulkenberg drove an impressive race with a fifth place finish for the up and coming Force India team.  “Today was a super team effort and I’m very happy with fifth place. We were the only team among the frontrunners to do a two-stop race and we had good pace all afternoon. It shows that the team’s hard work over the winter is paying off and it feels great to be so competitive and fighting up at the front. We showed that we could manage the tyres well, although I felt a bit more comfortable on the medium compound tyres than on the hards, but we always had the tyre management under control. So I’m feeling happy that we can take all these positives to Bahrain and leave Malaysia with a good helping of points.”

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ganassi Wins Sebring 24 Hour in Debut

SEBRING, FL – The 62nd Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring endurance race was a different race this year with nearly half the race run under a yellow flag.  At the top of heap was the Ganassi No. 01 Riley-Ford of Franchitti/Pruett/Rojas with a Roush-Yates Eco-Boost engine. Franchitti clinched the victory when the Tequila Patron HPD ARX-03B/Honda into pit row for a final service with 40 minutes remaining – though the margin of victory was only 4.682 sec over the HPD, the tightest in Sebring history.   The Ganassi win also gives Chip and company the first team to win Sebring, The Rolex 24, the Indy 500 and the Daytona 500.  Quite an impressive feat!  “It’s incredible,” Pruett said. “After all those victories you hope to get, this was still one on my bucket list. I’ve won here in class but never won overall. It’s even more exciting to win it overall, and to win it for Ford both times. I can’t say enough about the Ganassi group. We all worked together as a team and kept digging.” 

The Action Express DP Corvette of Barbosa/Fittipaldi/Bourdais started at the podium and finished third in a strong debut at Sebring.  The Corvette led nearly 1/3 of the race, which is pretty impressive with 11 lead changes in the race.  The team was set for a victory as they were able to conserve fuel allowing them to run one less pit stop than their competitors, but a misplaced caution period dashed their hopes.  "Just before that last caution we were feeling pretty good about our chances,” said Team Manager Gary Nelson. "We were running second and had been saving fuel for several hours… That yellow would not have changed things for us had it come out one lap sooner or 3 laps later. It just hit at the worst time for us. When you don't get the breaks and still finish on the podium it shows Action Express is a great team. We congratulate Chip Ganassi and his 01 team for their historic win.”

The GTD category was won by the Magnus Racing no.44 Porsche 911GT America from the 10th starting position.  This was a hard fought victory with the Magnus team having to overcome a series of obstacles.  The first was contact made with the No. 94 Turner BMW of Dane Cameron which sent the Porsche spinning into the dirt damaging the left rear and right-front grill.  They were able to make some initial repairs to the grill, but it was to remain to be a problem, but with all the cautions, they were able to baby it through the race.  Then, during Andy Lally’s stint, the air compressor for the transmission failed.  The team was able to execute repairs only losing one lap, but with 5 hours left, the team was confident they were still in the running for a win.  “I still can’t believe it. We won Sebring,” stated Lally. “I just don’t have the words to describe it, what a team effort. Everyone on this team was just perfect. Perfect job by John and Marco, perfect pit stops, fast repairs, and a brilliant call at the end. Sebring has always been the one that escaped me, and we finally, finally did it. I can’t thank everyone at Magnus, and everyone at Flex-Box, enough for making this a reality.” 

One of the more exciting moments of the race was experienced by Ben Keating when his No 33 SRT Viper GT3 caught fire when the Viper broke a drive shaft yoke.  The driveshaft apparently severed a fuel line, causing two flaming tire streaks from behind the Viper. We’ve got a solid bulkhead for situations like this so I have a rearview camera,” Keating said. “I looked in my rearview mirror and it was like Back to the Future! I saw the two streaks of flames coming out of the back of the car in the camera before there was any smoke. So I got on the radio and said, ‘guys I’m on fire. I’m getting out.’ I hit the fire button, hopped out, but there was no flames or smoke inside the car when I got out. No smoke inhalation, no burns, no issues other than a melted car.” 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Keselowski Wins Las Vegas 400 as Jr. Runs Out Of Gas

LAS VAGAS, NV – The stars were aligned for Brad Keselowski Sunday who won the Las Vegas Kobalt 400 with a last-lap pass of Dale Earhardt Jr who ran out of gas.  "I think 10, 15 laps, whatever that was, and forced him to kind of get up into his speed line, and that was just taking fuel from his car," Keselowski said. "Once that happened, I knew we were in really good shape. It was going to play out one of two ways: He was going to have to get in fuel conservation mode and I think I could have passed him and drove away, or he was going to have to burn fuel to keep me behind him. At that point it was just a matter of whether a yellow came out or not because it was just a ticking time bomb, and it worked in our favor today."

Despite running out of gas, Jr. was able to hold on to a second place finish, followed by Paul Menard, Joey Logano and Carl Edwards.  "We weren't going to run first or second had we not stayed out on that strategy," said Earnhardt.  "We knew we were a lap short.  We tried to save as much (fuel) as we could.  We got it to about half a lap and it ran out off of (turn) two there.  We took a gamble and didn't win the race, but it still worked in our favor to run second.  It gave us a chance to win.”

The race-deciding move for Keselowski came on lap 156 when during a caution for track debris, stayed out while most drivers pitted.  The move put Brad in the top spot and on a different race-strategy.  Kevin Harvick, who had been running a strong race and appeared to be the best contender for the win, pitted after his front left-front hub locked up, dashing any chance to win. Harvick commented, “the car just kind of lost the handling in the last 15 or 20 laps before we went behind the wall. It started to get really loose, which makes sense with that left-front brake dragging like that.