Senna, Kobayashi go 1-2 in class in WEC debuts

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It’s been several years that the words “Senna wins” could be typed for a race report. Bruno Senna brought those legendary words back to print on Sunday afternoon in the FIA World Endurance Championship opener at Silverstone.

The ex-Williams Formula One driver, Senna drove a flawless race with co-drivers Darren Turner and Stefan Mucke to deliver a GTE Pro class victory for Aston Martin Racing in the team’s No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage.

“I’m really happy to start my GT career with a win,” Senna told the official WEC website. “It’s been great joining Aston Martin Racing and to get a pole position and win and go home from our first WEC race of the year with so many points for the championship is unbelievable. It was a tough race; we had to push hard while avoiding accidents, but my team did a great job. We must now keep pushing hard; the competition here is very, very strong.”

Incidentally, Senna’s last win came at Silverstone, but on the old course layout in the 2008 GP2 sprint race there. He finished second in that year’s championship to Giorgio Pantano, and moved to LMP1 sports cars in 2009 before making his F1 debut in 2010 with HRT.

The other ex-F1 pilot from 2012 now racing in WEC, Kamui Kobayashi, also starred. The ex-Sauber man co-drove the No. 71 AF Corse-entered Ferrari F458 Italia with Toni Vilander and finished second in class behind the Aston Martin.

A bevy of ex-F1 drivers compete in the series and Allan McNish (Audi R18 e-tron quattro, LMP1) and Antonio Pizzonia (G-Drive by Delta-ADR Oreca 03 Nissan, LMP2) also won their classes. McNish’s lone season in F1 was in 2002 with Toyota, while Pizzonia raced parts of 2003 through 2005 with Jaguar (now Red Bull) and Williams.

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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