Rahal works through setup options in Texas test

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Graham Rahal’s first trip back to Texas Motor Speedway since his near-miss in June of last year featured several new elements, but still good pace.

The Columbus native, now driving for father Bobby’s Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team, ran 94 laps on Wednesday with a best lap of 214.058mph on the 1.5-mile high banked oval.

“We worked through some items that we wanted to try on the Midas / Big O Tires car and it worked out to be pretty beneficial,” Rahal (right, with fellow Texas tester Ed Carpenter) said. “I think we found a good direction so hopefully when James (Jakes) comes back here after Long Beach we will have a good place to start with him and then move on to the race.  We tried several things for Honda and some things for ourselves that Gerry and Eddie had planned, some of which were based on Eddie’s previous experience with other teams. There were some questions that we had and I think we found some good answers.  We are pretty optimistic about coming back here for the race weekend.”

Race engineer Gerry Hughes noted the cooler, windy conditions at hand were unlikely going to be consistent with the temperatures for the IndyCar race there in June. As a result, Rahal’s teammate James Jakes, who was also on hand, didn’t test and has been rescheduled to after Long Beach in April.

See also: Eight test Wednesday in Texas 

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.”