The weekend roundup: In other news beyond F1, Indy, NASCAR

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This weekend may have been the busiest for series not called Formula One, IndyCar and NASCAR. F1 and the two domestic North American sports car championships, GRAND-AM and the American Le Mans Series, were all off. But here’s what else was going on around the motorsports world this weekend:

  • The Australian V8 Supercars made their North American race debut at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas (pictured). Defending series champion Jamie Whincup, of the Red Bull Australia Holden team, won three of the four races on offer, with Fabian Coulthard taking the other Sunday race. Nearly 69,000 fans attended the three-day weekend, an impressive debut number.
  • Also in Austin, it was a busy weekend for the Pirelli World Challenge. GT and GTS each had two races, with the TC and TCB classes opening their 2013 seasons with a tripleheader round. In GT, Johnny O’Connell (Cadillac, Saturday) and James Sofronas (GMG Audi, Sunday) were winners, with GTS wins going to Lawson Aschenbach (Blackdog Camaro, Saturday) and Andy Lee (Best IT Camaro, Sunday). Compass360 Racing swept the three TC races with Ryan Winchester’s Civic Si taking both Saturday wins, and teammate Brett Sandberg winning on Sunday. Meanwhile in TCB, 15-year-old phenom Ernie Francis Jr. swept the entire weekend in his MAZDA2.
  • Audi’s Mike Rockenfeller took the DTM win in Brands Hatch ahead of Bruno Spengler and Robert Wickens. McLaren F1 tester Gary Paffett was issued a post-race penalty for failing to yield to yellow flags, which promoted ex-Marussia test driver Wickens to his first DTM podium. American Joey Hand also recorded his best DTM finish, fifth in his BMW.
  • At Le Mans’ short Bugatti circuit, Dani Pedrosa took the MotoGP win ahead of Cal Crutchlow and Marc Marquez. Pedrosa now leads Marquez in that championship.
  • Black Falcon Racing’s Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 and drivers Bernd Schneider, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Sean Edwards and Nicki Thiim won the 24 Hours of the Nurburgring on the legendary “Green Hell,” a race interrupted by heavy rain overnight.

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.”