Gripping IndyCar showdown and debut rally winner

Weekend Racing Wrap

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The World Rally Championship returned with a bang in Argentina after a seven-week break, and after a dramatic ending to the rally, a brand new winner took the spoils.

Elsewhere the World Touring Car Championship, European F3 and Formula V8 3.5 races were struck by bad weather at the Hungaroring while Formula E had their first race around the streets of Paris. Stoffel Vandoorne was in action in Super Formula as the series kicked off for 2016; and in America both IndyCar and NASCAR saw late-race contact.


Race 4 of 16: Alabama

Simon Pagenaud, Penske, IndyCar,, Barber Motorsports Park, 2016
Pagenaud survived a late attack from Rahal
Though Simon Pagenaud’s breakthrough Penske victory at Long Beach was overshadowed by a controversial stewards’ call, the same couldn’t be said for his follow-up victory following a tense scrap with Graham Rahal at Barber Motorsports Park.

Pagenaud led from pole position but his lead was twice eradicated by lengthy spells in traffic. That initially brought team mate Will Power onto his tail, but Rahal split the Penskes at the final round of pit stops and the Honda-powered driver took the fight to Pagenaud over the final laps.

Rahal, who had saved his push-to-pass boosts for a late attack, pounced on Pagenaud and made contact as he took the lead – the stewards deemed it a racing incident. Pagenaud fought back, pressuring Rahal into tangling with the lapped Jack Hawksworth and suffering front wing damage which costs him the lead a few corners later.

Rahal might have lost another place to Power but the Penske man fell victim to Josef Newgarden in the final laps – last year’s winner passing Power twice during the course of the 90-lap race.

Juan Pablo Montoya made it three Penskes in the top five despite having started last after failing to get the soft tyres to work in qualifying.

World Rally Championship

Round 4 of 14: Argentina

Hayden Paddon became the first New Zealander to win a round of the World Rally Championship in a dramatic Rally Argentina. Paddon was in the fight at the front from day one, and come Saturday he and Jari-Matti Latvala edged away from world champion Sebastien Ogier. The gap fluctuated between the top two but Latvala just had enough in hand until a dramatic crash on stage 14 handed Paddon a surprise lead into the final day.

Mechanical problems hindered Paddon’s progress in the first of Sunday’s three stages, and a tentative run through the penultimate stage saw Ogier slash the gap to just 2.6 seconds. Come the final stage however Paddon showed his metal, with a time good enough to not only win the stage and the rally along with it.

Super Formula

Round 1 of 7: Suzuka

Stoffel Vandoorne, Super Formula, Suzuka, 2016
Vandoorne achieved a debut podium in Super Formula
Naoki Yamamoto led from lights to flag in the opening round of the season while McLaren reserve Stoffel Vandoorne took a maiden podium on his first outing.

Yamamoto pulled a three second gap early on and even second placed Yuji Kunimoto’s attempt at an undercut couldn’t deny the Team Mugen driver as he finished runner-up, with Vandoorne third. Meanwhile it was a bad day for former F1 drivers; Kazuki Nakajima could only manage twelfth, Kamui Kobayashi had a loosely fitted right-rear that required an early pit stop, and Narain Kathikeyan’s car gave up all together following his trip to the pit lane.

European Formula Three

Round 2 (Races 4-6 of 30): Hungaroring

The first race of the weekend began without Nikita Mazepin. The Force India junior driver was banned from taking part following an altercation with Calum Illot in the paddock after practice which left his rival with a bruised face.

Maximilian Gunther took pole position for all three races in Hungary, but could only convert one as he duplicated his results from the opening weekend. George Russell jumped him at the start of race one, but tyre problems meant he lost his lead to eventual winner Ralf Aron. The Safety Car was deployed following a clash between Callum Ilott and Ben Barnicoat, after which Niko Kari and Joel Eriksson joined Aron on an all-rookie podium.

In race two Gunther learned his lesson, and kept his lead from the lights all the way through until the end of the race. Aron produced another strong performance to finish as runner-up, while Ferrari-backed Guan Yu Zhou passed Russell for third on lap eleven.

Heavy rain on Sunday meant race three began behind the Safety Car, protecting Gunther’s pole position. The race went green after two laps and soon after Russell launched a surprise attack on Gunther. Contact was made and both retired, handing victory to Ben Barnicoat. Eriksson took second and Lance Stroll passed Zhou on lap nine for an eventual third.

World Touring Car Championship

Round 3 (Races 5-6 of 24): Hungaroring

WTCC shared a billing with F3 at the Hungaroring but both its races were run in wet conditions. Mehdi Bennani took his second career win ahead of Loeb Racing team-mate Tom Chilton in the damp opener.

The Moroccan led from the reverse-grid pole on wet tyres when others chose slicks or a combination of the two, while Chilton made his way up from tenth on the grid. The Citroens of Jose Maria Lopez and Yvan Muller opted for slicks, a choice that proved to be a mistake with both eventually pitting – this the first race since their entry that the works Citroens failed to score. Lada scored their best result with Nicky Catsburg third, Gabriele Tarquini fifth (having pitted on the formation lap to fit wets) and Hugo Valente sixth.

If race one was damp, then race two was sodden. Lopez took the win from pole ahead of Muller, atoning for their strategy error in the opener. Muller started from the lower reaches of the top ten, but made a storming start to finish the first lap in second place, by which time the safety car was deployed to clear Gregoire Demoustier’s crashed Citroen.

Third-placed Rob Huff was quick off the restart and looked inside Muller, who then moved across. Contact was made pushing Muller wide, and Huff closed right up to Lopez for the lead, before being given a controversial penalty for the incident. Lopez and Muller then continued unhindered, with Tiago Monteiro completing the podium 15 seconds behind.

Formula E

Round 7 of 11: Paris

Lucas di Grassi took his second victory in as many races, dominating in the first ever Paris ePrix. He took the lead from pole sitter Sam Bird at turn one, holding the lead thereafter.

The DS Virgin and Renault eDams pairings were line astern behind the Abt Audi for much of their home race, including when Bird made contact with team mate Jean-Eric Vergne. Sebastien Buemi piled the pressure on Bird who cracked with five laps to go, locking up and overshooting turn one. A swift U-turn meant he only dropped to sixth. Ma Qing Hua crashed heavily moments later bringing out a Safety Car, and the lengthy recovery meant the race came to an anti-climactic end.


Race 9 of 36: Richmond

Carl Edwards pushed team-mate Kyle Busch aside to get past in the final corner at Richmond International Speedway. His second win in as many races came after leading 151 laps, meaning the two Joe Gibbs drivers have won all four races in the month of April. Tony Stewart returned after a back injury, but suffered a cut tyre on lap 268 in a race that included eight cautions and eight different leaders.

Formula V8 3.5

Round 2 (Races 3-4 of 18): Hungaroring

Video not available yet

Tom Dillmann, Formula V8 3.5, Hungaroring, 2016
Dillmann lost the lead twice in Hungary but bounced back
Tom Dillmann led the points standings after following Johnny Cecotto Jnr home in race one, but was fuming at himself after throwing the lead away following a Safety Car period. Ironically the interruption was caused by his team mate Alfonso Celis Jnr who triggered a collision with Egor Orudzhev.

Third place went to Louis Deletraz, who pressurised Dillmann until the end, but was challenged both by the tight Hungaroring track and a fuel leak which filled his cockpit with fumes.

Dillmann made amends in a soaking wet race two despite again losing the lead, this time to Matthieu Vaxiviere. The mandatory pit stop caught out Vaxiviere whose advantage was eradicated by a Safety Car appearance after several of his rivals had already pitted.

Roy Nissany spun out of second place as the race got underway but fought his way back to finish in the same position, applying huge pressure to Dillmann over the final laps. Dillmann hung on to give AVF their first victory in the category, and became the fourth difference winner in as many races.

Aurelien Panis took third ahead of Deletraz while Vaxiviere recovered to fifth.

Also last weekend

Valentino Rossi became the first non-Spanish rider to win a race in Moto GP this season – ironically at Jerez in Spain – as he led from pole position to the chequered flag. Rossi was largely unchallenged in the race after seeing off a brief attack from team mate Jorge Lorenzo. Rossi and Lorenzo completed the first Yamaha one-two of the season but Marc Marquez sustained his points lead by joining them on the podium.

Over to you

What racing action did you watch last weekend? Let us know in the comments.

Next weekend Formula One heads to Russia, while both NASCAR and IMSA have another round apiece over in the United States.

Thanks to Robert Mathershaw (@Mathers) for contributing to this article.

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26 comments on “Gripping IndyCar showdown and debut rally winner”

  1. The Formula E race was a bit of a procession – JEV was a mobile chicane for his team-mate. Shame, as Sam v Lucas would have been interesting.

    WTCC apparently permits overtaking under safety-car (unless Huff was just complaining before the line/boards) and I can’t help but think Honda got that questionable drive-through to appease the other teams, given the investigation into their flat floor – a floor which has subsequently been deemed legal after the race weekend.

    Vandoorne would be an exciting full-season F1 prospect in a developed McHonda next year. I’d like to see JB stick around though, so that would mean Alonso throwing in the towel/somehow stealing Rosberg’s seat!

    1. I really enjoyed the FE.

      I miss that kind of intensity that we used to have in F1 where you genuinely wasn’t sure if someone was going to make it past. I didn’t mind that it was a track where there were only two half chances at making a pass.

      The track was tight, and you’d stick it in a wall or down an escape road if you mess it up (as did Sam Bird).

      We were robbed of a great finalé, though. Can’t help but feel they could have tried to move that car of Ma’s a little bit quicker.

  2. Kobayashi also had a 10 second stop & go. If Vandoorne does not have a seat in F1 next season I won’t be able to think of where he would go next.

    MotoGP race was rather boring. Lorenzo had a terrible excuse for his lack of pace and the Honda boys were never really on the same level anyway.

    Blancpain Endurace race was brilliant stuff, 0.3 between the top two after 3 hours.

  3. The officiating in Indycar this year has been pathetic.

    There was a part early in the race yesterday where Charlie Kimball pulled a brilliant overtake round the outside of James Hinchcliffe & then slowly moved back across the track to take the racing like for the next corner & got told to give the place back for blocking???? That was one of the most ridiculous penalty call’s that I have ever seen, It was a great overtake & some good, hard, close racing, It warranted no penalty.

    Then there was also the ‘warning’ for Pagenaut last week that was just as dumb….. You can really tell that Brian Barnhart is back in control!

    1. The warning for Pagenaud was weak, I agree– but it’s because the other 3 or 4 drivers who had committed the same offense earlier in the race hadn’t even been reviewed. Ignoring them, and punishing Pagenaud because he was leading the race, would have been just as bad.

      At least, starting this week, they’ve got a transponder loop to verify people are honoring the exit lines.

    2. I, too, was upset by that call. How they go from saying “we’re going to give no warnings” at Long Beach to suddenly giving all the cars who broke the rule a warning to suddently deciding hard fair racing is “blocking” is beyond me. It’s a shame since the racing was very good at Barber and that finish was a stunner. Indy Car so many times is good in spite of itself. If the stewards could get some consistency and a spine (when it’s actually appropriate) then I feel like it could start to gain more ground in popularity.

      1. So let me get this straight…in Indycar you are allowed to challenge the leader when being lapped so you can hope to get a yellow and improve your pathetic position artificially even though you should be getting the hell out of the way so that those who deserve to race for the win can do so. But once the leader passes you, you should let others pass ?!?!? According to P.T.

        Blue flags are supposed to indicate you are about to be lapped. Leaders are approaching and allow them past.
        Blue flags in Indycar mean hold up the leader as long as possible but no one else? Back asswards if you ask me.

        Nascar Bump and run is a legitimate move particularly on the last lap/corner?!? (don’t get me started on Nascar)

        Is Indycar now allowing bump and run as Rahal’s “racing incident” seemed to indicate?

        Do they even have a rule book or do they make it up as they go along?

        American racing “rules” kill me…..

        1. it was a small touch and not a “bump” on purpose like they do in nascar, so it was a racing incident.

  4. The Argentinian rally was a blast to see through, I am really glad for Paddon, but terribly sad for Latvalla. Hopefully Jari recovers at the next rally in Portugal.

    The MotoGP race yesterday was also really boring – I am glad Rossi won, but it was definitely the easiest race he ever had – nobody else could match him the whole weekend!

    1. @revenger210 That’s not true. Lorenzo looked like the man to ride to an easy win all weekend up to Q2…?

    2. it wasn’t easy for Rossi, he found something to defeat the 2 fastest riders in motogp, and at 37 years of age! was a masterful ride by him.

  5. If you’ve never been to Barber Motorsports Park before, please do.

    The museum alone is worth the cost of admission and more, especially if you love motorcycles. The circuit itself is beautiful. I’ve likened it to Brands Hatch before, with its constant elevation changes and long, sweeping corners.

    And two years in a row, the race has been fantastic. Some said open-wheel racing couldn’t be a draw in the southeast United States, and this race almost broke the attendance record, with 83,000+ in attendance for the weekend – and it felt like there were way more people.

  6. Despite leaving me a little cold at Long Beach, I’m glad I gave IndyCar another go. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

  7. Excellent drive by Rahal up until he battled for the lead with Pagenaud. He would have won had he not been so
    overly aggressive.

  8. What is the flashing lights around the air box of Super Formula car’s? The SF car’s charging something?

    1. @bilarxos Its to inform fans/viewers that the driver is using the P2P.

  9. Blancpain GT at Monza was awesome, plenty of drivers that came up through the ranks in European single seater as well, could well be covered in these pages

  10. What does Vandoorne need to do to get a.race seat? Dominates GP2, leads McLaren point standings and now goes around the world enters diffrent planet racing and lands it on podium.

    If I was in any team save Mercedes, I would be giving him a call. Teams like Williams, Force India, Haas, Renault, Manor need a driver like that right away. Lile yesterday. Manor should be offering him a free seat until year ends, hoping he gets.them some points… Sauber should be begging them to come save them.

    McLaren should send Alonso to Le Mans this year,… Just to make room.

    I just cannot fathom how some drivers are in F1 and Vandoorne is not.

    1. If it was absolutely certain he is right at the top level he will be in a team next year probably a number of teams would run him but have drivers under contract, that still leaves Sauber though.

      Next season a lot of F1 contracts are up for renewal. Renault or Williams would be a good place.

    2. @jureo

      I just cannot fathom how some drivers are in F1 and Vandoorne is not.

      Because however good he is – and I agree 100% he’s the real deal and deserves to be racing in F1 – he’s contracted to a team who is currently running two world champions and they’re not going to bench one of them for a rookie.

      Teams like Williams, Force India, Haas, Renault, Manor need a driver like that right away

      I wish driver talent were worth that much in F1 but it isn’t. To buy him out of his McLaren contract would cost a lot of money (keep in mind in some cases it would also mean ditching other drivers who bring budgets) which those teams could spent on making their cars quicker, which will almost certainly have a more dependable return.

      Vandoorne’s a great driver and deserves an F1 seat. McLaren have invested in his potential and they aren’t going to let him go to another team cheaply any more than they are going to pension off championship-winning drivers before their time has come.

      1. I don’t think Vandoorne needs to be in F1 yet, Super Formula will build up his credentials even more, and competing in different chategories might give him the edge over everyone else when he does come into f1, and he will probably come to f1 in a developed McLaren and can fight for podiums straight away. sometimes I think running aound the top in other series would be more fun and fulfilling for a driver then running midfield in f1, just look at Hulkenburg- he should be winning racing series and probably would if in WEC, Indycar or Super Formula.

      2. Also, what good is McLaren contract, when clearly Jenson and Alonso are looking to extend their carrers.

  11. it is great we have alternatives to F1 in serious open wheel racing with great drivers in both Indycar and Super Formula. even WEC is a great alternative with the massive pace they have now. I find it fascinating that WEC cars accelerate faster then F1 cars (according to Mark Webber), Super Formula cars take turns faster then F1 cars and Indycar sounds better and has better race tracks then F1.

  12. The WRC finale was brilliant. Both Paddon and Ogier had the crowd and the commentators gasping as they flung their cars into the high speed final sections. For Paddon to come out 11 seconds quicker than Ogier was maybe the single best stage I’ve ever seen in many years watching.

    I love FE but Paris was a dud.

    Goes to show you need to follow more than a couple of series to get something good every weekend.

    1. very impressive from Paddon showing up Neuville and Sordo in the Hyundai, he is a real talent. shame Kubica didn’t get a seat in a factory team, as he showed similar impressive speed last year and could have had a result like this also this year. but there is so few factory seats in WRC, Elfyn Evans had to revert back to WRC2 and Kubica refuses to drive as an independent as there is no chance to compete regularly and successfully. Latvala, what a disappointment.

  13. Vey nice of Paddon …

    WRC is already great … it only need a fight for the victory like that more times during the year!

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