Sao Paulo flashback: 2010 season starts with a bang

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The start of the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season in Sao Paulo, Brazil was anything but a smooth one.

Prior to the race, the Sambadromo main straight on the all-new street circuit needed an overnight grinding job to provide more grip for the drivers; the repairs forced qualifying to be staged on race morning. Then, just after the green flag, a multi-car wreck ensued at Turn 1 and culminated with Brazilian racer Mario Moraes somehow driving up and onto the top of Marco Andretti’s machine.

No one was seriously injured in the accident, but it nonetheless set the tone for perhaps the craziest race of the campaign. On Lap 30, a short but powerful storm soaked the 2.5-mile Anhembi Park circuit, knocking out all communications for an extended period and eventually bringing out the red flag to stop the race.

Following a delay of 36 minutes, leaders Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power decided to go to slick tires to try and take advantage of a drying circuit. Dario Franchitti would inherit the lead at the restart on Lap 38, but would pit five laps later. That set up a battle between Hunter-Reay and Ryan Briscoe. Briscoe took the lead from Hunter-Reay on Lap 50 and the two would trade it over the next several laps until Briscoe locked up and went into the tire barriers at Turn 7 on Lap 54 to bring out a full-course caution.

The green came back at Lap 56 — and more importantly, with six minutes remaining in the event — but Hunter-Reay was unable to hang on as Power passed him in the Turn 11 hairpin on Lap 58. That would prove to be the winning moment, as the Australian pulled away to a 1.85-second victory (Lap 61).

Power, who was making his first start since breaking two vertebrae in a practice crash the year before at Sonoma Raceway, would later call the event “probably the most mixed-up race that [he had] ever been in.”

Nonetheless, it was a highly memorable affair for the Brazilian fans, who proved their heartiness by waiting out the storms in the stands. They were rewarded with a wild race and a third-place showing from countryman Vitor Meira, who beat out another Brazilian, Raphael Matos, for the final spot on the podium.

Catch this year’s Sao Paulo Indy 300 on Sunday, May 5 at 11 a.m. ET on the NBC Sports Network, and NBC Sports Live Extra for your online and mobile devices.

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.”