Hulman-George family told to keep IndyCar, IMS

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According to the Associated Press, the Boston Consulting Group has suggested that the Hulman-George family retain possession of both IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

BCG was hired following the end of the 2012 IndyCar season to assess the series and the legendary race track, and to offer ideas on how to strengthen them in the years ahead. Per the AP, suggestions from the group — which the family is under no obligation to follow — range from a 15-race IndyCar schedule over 19 weeks to a three-race playoff with a season finale on the IMS road course.

Also in the report were ideas from focus groups on how IndyCar could distinguish itself from other series — particularly NASCAR, which has fallen from its lofty heights in the early to mid-2000s but still remains America’s most popular form of racing by a considerable margin.

“Focus groups suggested that marketing strategies should be geared to ‘positioning IndyCar as having the most skilled, daredevil drivers and not theatrical off-track personalities,'” the AP’s Jenna Fryer wrote. “They indicated they valued fast cars over science and engineering; winning over points challenges; suspense through lead changes over entertainment through crashes; and the diversity of track types rather than ovals.”

Fryer also wrote that BCG called IndyCar “the best pure racing motorsports league in the U.S….but the series suffers from lack of awareness.”

As for the Brickyard itself,  BCG has suggested more use of the facility (only 21 of the 132 days the track was used in 2012 were for “major-revenue generating events”) and a reworking of its ticket price tiers.

Neuville wins Rally Australia; Ogier takes FIA WRC title

Sebastien Ogier. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Belgium’s Thierry Neuville won Rally Australia by 22.5 seconds on Sunday as torrential rain added drama to the last day of the last race of the World Rally Championship season.

Neuville entered the final day with an almost 20 second advantage after inheriting the rally lead Saturday when his Hyundai teammate, defending champion Andreas Mikkelsen crashed and was forced to retire for the day.

His lead was halved by Jari-Matti Latvala early Sunday as monsoon-like rain made conditions treacherous on muddy forest stages on the New South Wales coast. The rain stopped on the short Wedding Bells stage where Neuville was almost 5 seconds quicker than his rivals, stretching his lead to 14.7 seconds entering the last stage.

COFFS HARBOUR, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 17: Thierry Neuville of Belgium and Nicolas Gilsoul of Belgium compete in their Hyundai Motorsport WRT Hyundai i20 coupe WRC during Day One of the WRC Australia on November 17, 2017 in COFFS HARBOUR, Australia. (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)

That stage was full of incident. The driver’s door on Neuville’s Hyundai i20 coupe swung open in the middle of the stage and Neuville had to slam it closed as he approached a corner.

Latvala’s Toyota then crashed seconds from the end of the stage, allowing Estonia’s Ott Tanak, in a Ford, to take second place overall and New Zealalnd’s Haydon Paddon, in a Hyundai, to sneak into third.

Sebastian Ogier was fourth after winning the final, power stage but the Frenchman had already clinched his fifth world title before Rally Australia began. Neuville’s win was his fourth of the season, two more than Ogier, and was enough to give him second place in world drivers’ standings for the third time in five years.

Ogier owed his drivers’ title to his consistency: he retired only once and finished no worse than fifth all season.

Neuville admitted the last day was touch and go as the rain made some stages perilous, forcing the cancellation of the second to last stage.

“That was a hell of a ride,” Neuville said. “Really, really tricky conditions.

“I kept the car on the road but it was close sometimes. I knew I could make a difference but I had to be clever. You lose grip, you lose control and the car doesn’t respond to your input.”