Kimball: More direct interaction a benefit

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Three might be the magic number for Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing’s Charlie Kimball this year.

His third year of IndyCar is his first as part of the streamlined three-car effort between the Novo Nordisk camp and the flagship Target Chip Ganassi squad, where Kimball has been able to better directly interact with its drivers Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti.

A methodical approach has aided his development and progress to this point, and the feedback between the three has been beneficial.

“I think one thing I’ve noticed in the testing and then in the first two rounds of the season is that with three inputs from drivers, you have a better opportunity to learn, and learn from what they’re doing car-wise, driving-wise, engineering-wise,” Kimball said in a conference call on Wednesday. “So to be able to pull highlights from Scott and from Dario, and have a little more time to talk to them individually, the communication has been a little easier definitely starting the season. I think the more that the 83 team is able to run up front, the more we’re contributing back to the 9 and 10 cars.”

His integration in the team has also improved.

“I think the biggest things I’ve learned have not been about a certain corner or a certain racetrack,” he said. “It’s more about how to work with the team and how much effort to put in and how that be repaid by the crew members and by the mechanics. It’s more about managing the team and working with all of the tools that are available to maximize what options we have.”

Kimball had one of, if not his best overall weekends last race at Barber when he qualified fifth and finished fourth. He noted there were signs of being close to a result in the last three races of 2012, but ultimately they failed to come to fruition.

Both Kimball and Franchitti will be back in their usual liveries at Long Beach after having different orange and blue paint schemes at Barber.

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.”