Fernando Alonso quickest in rain-hit first practice

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Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso finished quickest in the first free practice session for the Spanish Grand Prix this morning, setting the fastest time at the very end of the session as drivers left it late to take advantage of a drying track.

A heavy downpour just before practice got underway curtailed running during the first half of the session, with DRS being disabled due to the wet conditions. Many drivers were caught out on the damp track, but it soon began to dry out, allowing them to continually better their times in pursuit of top spot. Lewis Hamilton, Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne and Felipe Massa all went quickest at one point, yet it was home favourite Alonso who finished the session quickest with a time of 1:25.252; two tenths quicker than teammate Massa.

Vergne finished an excellent third for Toro Rosso, with the Italian team looking strong in this opening sessions, although whether this is due to their upgrades or the wet weather remains to be seen. In fourth place was Romain Grosjean, who is looking to repeat his strong performance at the Circuit de Catalunya from last season, and he was closely followed by Adrian Sutil and Lewis Hamilton, who finished fifth and sixth respectively. Valtteri Bottas impressed many to finish in seventh, whilst Caterham will be pleased to have soundly beaten Marussia towards the back of the grid. Red Bull and McLaren had difficult sessions, with Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber finishing P19 and P20 respectively, and Jenson Button failed to post a time. However, they may have been looking to bide their time and wait for a dry session later this afternoon.

A wet practice is never ideal, but it could be a good indicator of the result should storms hit the circuit for the race on Sunday. Ferrari will be pleased to have returned to action so excellently, although, as they will know from Bahrain, there are no points awarded for topping practice sessions.

You can find a complete classification of results here.

Dodge to celebrate 50th anniversary of Hemi motor at NHRA U.S. Nationals

Photo courtesy Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
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When this year’s NHRA U.S. Nationals plays out from August 29 through September 3 at Indianapolis Raceway Park, a lot of folks are going to be channeling one of the most famous lines in motorsports:

“Hey, that thing got a Hemi?”

Dodge and parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles on Thursday – on National Hemi Day, no less – announced that it will celebrate the Hemi’s 50th anniversary of Super Stock cars with the 18th annual Dodge Hemi Challenge during the U.S. Nationals.

Cars that will take part in the Challenge will be 1968 Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda cars – “The most iconic of the Mopar package cars,” touted a Dodge press release – in a head-to-head battle.

The Dart and Barracuda were purpose built for use solely on a drag strip. The 23 entrants in the Challenge will drive their personally owned versions of the ’68 ‘Cuda and Dart.

The winner of the Challenge – which will be held August 30-31 – will take home a $15,000 purse, while cash rewards will be available for all 16 drivers that qualify for final eliminations.

“The Dodge brand is proud to serve as title sponsor of the NHRA Dodge HEMI Challenge, an event that spotlights the legacy and power of the 426 HEMI engine,” said Steve Beahm, Head of Passenger Cars, Dodge//SRT, Chrysler and FIAT, FCA North America.

Beahm added, “This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda Super Stock cars that debuted back in 1968 and are still competing today, which makes our support of this edition of the HEMI Challenge extra special.”

One special incentive for contestants is the 42.6-pound NHRA Dodge HEMI Challenge trophy, created in the spirit of the 426 (cubic inch) HEMI engine.

Jimmy Daniels has won the Challenge the last two years and goes for a three-peat in this year’s race within a race. His father, Jim Daniels, won the race in 2010.

The Challenge’s all-time winningest driver is Charlie Westcott Jr. of Parma, Michigan, who captured the Challenge in six different years: 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012 and 2014.

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