Flat tire deflates Hunter-Reay’s hopes in Brazil

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Defending IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay appeared to have a good chance of converting the Sao Paulo Indy 300 pole into his second win of the season. But the Andretti Autosport driver’s chances for victory in Brazil were done in around the middle stages of the vent by a flat tire on his No. 1 DHL/Sun Drop Chevrolet.

The American paced the first nine laps before Tony Kanaan took the lead from him in the Turn 11 hairpin. Hunter-Reay settled into second place until the first caution period, where he managed to win the race off pit road by beating Kanaan and Scott Dixon out of the pits. Lining up 10th for the subsequent restart, he quickly made his way back toward the front on the second stint and inherited the lead on Lap 34 during a green flag pit stop cycle.

Takuma Sato, however, managed to take the lead from Hunter-Reay on that very same lap before giving it back when he pitted under yellow at Lap 37. Hunter-Reay and Kanaan swapped the lead under green on Laps 44 and 45, but two laps later, the former was forced to come to pit road in order to get rid of his flat Firestone.

That cost Hunter-Reay key track position and after being forced to save fuel for the final stint of the race, he wound up 11th at the checkered flag — a result that he called “extremely disappointing.”

“[We] absolutely had the car to win,” he said. “Guys gave me a great, great car…the pit stops were awesome. [We] definitely needed to capitalize on this opportunity, but we got a flat tire about halfway through the race which pretty much sidelined us.

“We pit super early on the last stop, had to save fuel the remainder of the race. I was lifting halfway down the straightaway so…We were wounded and stayed that way.”

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.