van der Garde not scared of Marussia

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Caterham driver Giedo van der Garde has dismissed rival team Marussia’s pace ahead of the 2013 Formula One season.

During an interview, the Dutch driver revealed he did not see the team as a threat.

“Not really. Marussia has progressed and Jules Bianchi is a fast guy who can adapt to a car in no time, but we have to wait until Melbourne to see where everyone stands.”

van der Garde will make his Formula One debut at the Australian Grand Prix in ten days time, but at 27, he is the oldest rookie. He does bring a wealth of experience to Caterham, but  opted to play down his early season chances.

“Don’t expect us to be fighting for the top ten straight away. But I do think we have a lot of potential. We will get a major upgrade in Spain, so from that race we should be able to make some big steps.”

Caterham struggled to impress during pre-season as they were consistently outpaced by Marussia, but they did manage to complete an extensive programme in preparation for 2013. The pressure will be on both van der Garde and Charles Pic to deliver this season, and Caterham will be keen to bridge the gap to the midfield. Since entering the sport in 2010, the team has failed to score any points, but with the grid appearing to be closer than ever, this could be a breakthrough season for Caterham.

NHRA: John Force-like motor explosions get contagious during Sunday’s Gatornationals

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
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John Force is rubbing off on others – but probably not the way they or he would like.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion has had spectacular motor explosions in each of the first three races of the new NHRA season, including during Friday’s qualifying for this weekend’s Gatornationals.

During Sunday’s quarterfinals of eliminations, Force’s teammate (and son-in-law and president of John Force Racing) Robert Hight squared off with fellow Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.

As the duo closed in on the finish line, both cars experienced spectacular motor explosions of their own – virtually side-by-side and nearly at the same time.

Hight’s car was the first to explode, tossing its body high in the air. A split-second later, Hagan’s car exploded, also sending the body flying.

Check out the NHRA video:

Hight wound up losing the race.

Hagan, meanwhile, and his crack pit crew rolled their backup car off the hauler, put in a new motor and went on to race through the semifinals and into the finals, losing to race winner “Fast Jack” Beckman.

“We had a pretty great race day, to be honest,” Hagan said. “I’ve never been to the finals in Gainesville.

“We obviously had a huge blow up in the second round, then to watch these guys pull the other car back out and put it together in the amount of time they had, then turn a win light on against Capps (Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the semifinals), then to be able to go to a final, it was huge and it speaks for itself.”

As for Hight, here’s his take on what happened with the motor explosion:

“I couldn’t see (Hagan) over there and it wasn’t like it was hazing the tires or anything else. As it turns out it wasn’t spinning at all. It kicked two rods out when it blacked the bearings in the crank then it hit the valves and blew up.

“The thing gave me no indication at all before that. What really scared me was once I got it under control and I look over and see his body is off his car. I am thinking ‘Oh man, he got gathered up in me.’ Then I stood up and looked and his injector was sideways so I realized he had an explosion as well. We are just lucky we didn’t get into each other.”

As for the guy who has had so much trouble in the motor department, John Force, he lost in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations to daughter Courtney Force.

John Force planned on shutting the motor off on his car at around the 700-foot mark of the 1,000-foot dragstrip, not wanting to risk another motor explosion – even though it meant a likely loss to his daughter.

Now John Force and his entire four-car team, including Courtney Force, Robert Hight and daughter and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, will be off for extensive testing to try and determine what’s been causing the motor explosions.

“We have to evaluate it and go test,” Force said. “We’ll figure it out.”

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