Pocono INDYCAR 400

Scott Dixon wins in Ganassi 1-2-3 finish at Pocono

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Scott Dixon spearheaded a Chip Ganassi Racing sweep of the podium, leading teammates Charlie Kimball and Dario Franchitti to the checkered flag and winning the Pocono IndyCar 400.

Dixon’s victory, his first of the season, proved to be a milestone for both his sponsor Target – which achieved its 100th victory as a primary sponsor in motorsports – and for engine manufacturer Honda, which claimed its 200th IndyCar victory in style. It also marked the first time that a Ganassi team had finished 1-2-3 in any form of motorsports.

“Going into this morning, I was not thinking we could win,” Dixon told ESPN in Victory Lane. “The team has definitely not given up, and you have to hand it to Honda as well. Fuel mileage was a big key today and we still had speed up front without having to save [fuel] all the time.

“There’s no doubt the Honda teams have kind of been the underdogs recently. At the start of the year, we had some good runs with Sato and a few other guys getting some victories, but we’d been struggling a little bit. We had our own problems as a team. But to get a 1-2-3, Charlie second, Dario third…It was a fantastic day.”

His boss, Chip Ganassi, also admitted that he wasn’t expecting the final outcome.

“I was just hoping for a decent finish today,” he said. “I want to thank everybody involved with this team for pulling it off – Honda, our guys in the shop, everybody across all of our teams contributed to this today.”

Dixon took the lead for good from Kimball with 28 laps to go, just after the cycle ended on the final wave of green flag stops. That cycle was started by Marco Andretti with 34 laps remaining, and his lack of fuel mileage forced him to save fuel and fall back to tenth at the checkered flag after dominating much of the afternoon.

“I think we should have responded quicker,” Andretti said about the situation. “I’m so frustrated for everybody. We were so dominant and I’m just so gutted.”

Joining him in the hard-luck club was Tony Kanaan, whose bid for a Triple Crown ended with a critical mistake while going for the lead on Lap 106. Going into Turn 1, he moved to the inside of Dixon but clipped his front wing in the process of making the pass.

With the wing moving around, Kanaan had to pit on Lap 110 for a new nosecone and subsequently went a lap down. He was able to get back on the lead lap, but had to settle for 13th.

In the title picture, Helio Castroneves increased his lead over Ryan Hunter-Reay to 23 points after the latter was hit from behind by Takuma Sato in a pit road incident at Lap 61. Hunter-Reay eventually returned to the track but finished 20th in contrast to Castroneves’ eighth-place result.

IZOD IndyCar Series – Pocono IndyCar 400
Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pa.
Final Results

Order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):
1. (17) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 160, Running
2. (12) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, 160, Running
3. (20) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 160, Running
4. (4) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 160, Running
5. (15) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 160, Running
6. (8) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 160, Running
7. (22) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 160, Running
8. (6) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 160, Running
9. (14) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 160, Running
10. (1) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Chevy, 160, Running
11. (9) Simona De Silvestro, Dallara-Chevy, 160, Running
12. (13) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, 160, Running
13. (5) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 160, Running
14. (19) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Chevy, 159, Running
15. (21) Pippa Mann, Dallara-Honda, 159, Running
16. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 159, Running
17. (24) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Honda, 158, Running
18. (16) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 158, Running
19. (10) Tristan Vautier, Dallara-Honda, 158, Running
20. (2) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Chevy, 121, Handling
21. (23) EJ Viso, Dallara-Chevy, 104, Handling
22. (7) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 61, Contact
23. (18) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 2, Mechanical
24. (3) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Chevy, 0, Contact

Race Statistics
Winners average speed: 192.864
Time of Race: 02:04:26.4178
Margin of victory: 0.4572 of a second.
Cautions: 2 for 12 laps
Lead changes: 16 among five drivers

Lap Leaders
Andretti 1 – 29
Kanaan 30 – 31
Power 32 – 33
Kimball 34
Andretti 35 – 60
Kanaan 61 – 62
Power 63 – 65
Kanaan 66 – 71
Andretti 72 – 94
Kanaan 95 – 96
Dixon 97 – 106
Kanaan 107 – 109
Power 110 – 111
Andretti 112 – 121
Power 122 – 129
Kimball 130 – 132
Dixon 133 – 160

Point Standings
Castroneves 356
Hunter-Reay 333
Andretti 301
Dixon 292
Hinchcliffe 272
Kanaan 271
Pagenaud 269
Wilson 253
Power 242
Sato 241

Yamaha, Ducati enjoy launches ahead of new MotoGP season

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MotoGP heavyweights Yamaha and Ducati geared up for the new season of motorcycle racing’s premier championship with launches this week.

Yamaha and Ducati both enter 2017 with a new line-up following Jorge Lorenzo’s decision to move from the former to the latter, acting as one of a number of shake-ups in the rider market.

Three-time MotoGP champion Lorenzo replaces Andrea Iannone at Ducati, who sought refuge at Suzuki after a seat was freed up by Maverick Viñales following his move to Yamaha in replace of – the man who started the merry-go-round all – Lorenzo.

Yamaha was the first to take the covers off its new bike at a launch in Madrid on Thursday, with Viñales being joined by nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi for the unveiling of the YZR-M1.

The new bike features a darker blue as its main livery color, as well as greater presence for title sponsor Movistar.

“I had the first test in Valencia after the race, but particularly after we moved to Sepang and we could have more kilometers and [do] more work on the new bike,” Rossi said.

“We discovered a very good potential. It looks like we can be stronger. For sure now it’s important to work in the three tests before the first race, and try to arrive ready in Qatar. But the first impression is very good.”

Ducati followed suit earlier today by unveiling its new livery for 2017, with Lorenzo making one of his first official appearances in the team’s colors following the expiration of his Yamaha contract on December 31.

The team presented its 2016 bike, the Desmosedici GP16, in ’17 colors, as well as removing the controversial – and now banned – winglets from its model.

The new MotoGP season begins in Qatar on March 26, with pre-season testing set to start at the end of January in Malaysia.

Neuville leads Ogier midway through Monte Carlo Rally

Thierry Neuville (BEL) competes during the FIA World Rally Championship 2017 in Monte Carlo, Monaco on January 20, 2017
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MONACO (AP) Belgian driver Thierry Neuville took a 45-second lead Friday over defending world rally champion Sebastien Ogier midway through the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally.

Overnight leader Neuville won three of Friday’s six special stages, while Ogier struggled early on before pegging Neuville back by winning the last two. Ott Tanak of Estonia is third.

Four-time champion Ogier is now driving for Ford M-Sport after switching from Volkswagen last month. The Frenchman was eight seconds behind Neuville’s Hyundai overnight and quickly under pressure.

Tanak, who also drives for M-Sport, won Friday’s first special stage – the third of 17 overall – ahead of Neuville, with Ogier in ninth.

Difficult morning conditions saw snow and sheet ice on the roads. With all the top drivers fitting studded winter tires, Ogier still went off into a ditch.

“It happened at a junction, it was very, very icy. I pulled the handbrake but the car never turned,” Ogier said. “I slipped into the ditch and became stuck.”

Neuville won the next three specials – with Ogier second on 4 and 5 – but Ogier finally found his best form to trim back the deficit from 1:12 to 45 seconds. He also overtook Tanak, who is a fraction of a second behind Ogier.

Conditions were slushy in the afternoon as the icy roads began melting.

“For me this was more tricky than this morning and difficult to know what rhythm to go,” Neuville said.

A spectator was killed on Thursday night after being hit by a car during the first stage.

Organizers said the spectator was struck by a car driven by New Zealand driver Hayden Paddon during the first of two night stages.

That stage was canceled but the second went ahead, with Neuville beating Ogier.

There are six specials Saturday with the race concluding Sunday lunchtime.

Last year, Ogier won by nearly two minutes ahead of then-teammate Andreas Mikkelsen of Norway.

Ogier announced last month that he was going to drive the Ford Fiesta for M-Sport this season. A fifth title would move him into outright second place on the all-time list behind countryman Sebastien Loeb, who won nine straight titles.

The 33-year-old Ogier, who has won 38 career races, is tied with Finnish drivers Tommi Makinen – who won four straight – and Juha Kankkunen.

The next event in the 13-race season is in Sweden in three weeks.

BRDC: Reports Silverstone will definitely drop British GP ‘speculative and wrong’

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 10:  The grid at the start of the race during the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone on July 10, 2016 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
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The British Racing Drivers Club has issued a statement dismissing suggestions that Silverstone will definitely drop its Formula 1 race following the 2019 season.

Doubt was cast over the future of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone following a leaked letter from BRDC chairman John Grant, in which he admitted to concerns about the cost of hosting the race.

Grant admitted that BRDC officials were considering triggering a clause in Silverstone’s F1 contract that would allow it to end its commitment after 2019 due to “ruinous” costs.

In a statement issued on Friday, the BRDC stressed that no final decision had been made and that suggestions a final decision to drop the race had already been made were incorrect.

“The British Racing Drivers Club wishes to make clear that recent press reports suggesting that talks have been unsuccessful and that the British Grand Prix will definitely be dropped after 2019 are speculative and wrong,” the statement reads.

“Our objective is to preserve the British Grand Prix at Silverstone for many years to come but, of course, we can only do this if it makes economic sense,” Grant added.

“As I have said before, we will be considering over the next six months if we should give notice of our intention to exercise the break clause in our grand prix contract at the end of 2019. No decision has been made, or will be made, until mid-July.

“In the meantime, we will be using this period to explore all interested parties, hopefully in private, various ways in which we might work out a more sustainable proposition.”

Jacques Villeneuve: Indy 500 ‘the biggest, most important race in the world’

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 25: Jacques Villeneuve of Canada driver of the #5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara Honda during the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 mile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 25, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
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1995 CART champion Jacques Villeneuve has called the Indianapolis 500 “the biggest, most important race in the world”, believing that its long-running traditions are key to its enduring appeal.

Villeneuve won the Indy 500 in 1995 en route to the CART title, having finished second at the Brickyard the previous year.

Villeneuve moved into Formula 1 following his CART title victory, becoming world champion with Williams in 1997 before ultimately leaving the series mid-way through the 2006 season.

Villeneuve appeared in his third ‘500 in 2014, finishing 14th for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (pictured above).

Speaking at Autosport International last week, Villeneuve spoke warmly of his experiences at the ‘500, saying it dwarfed any other race in motorsport.

“[You’re] running at an average speed of 230 mph in traffic, in a place where you’re still allowed to risk your life basically because it’s marginally safer than 20 years ago, and half a million people in the grandstands,” Villeneuve said.

“Back then it was an event that lasted three weeks. You would build on it so the energy was incredible. It felt like a big gladiatorial ring from the Roman Empire. It was very special.

“It is the biggest, most important race in the world. Obviously an F1 championship is bigger, but as a one single event, it’s the biggest one.”

Villeneuve said that he did not appreciate the enormity of the event until he finally raced at the ‘500, having followed F1 more closely as a child by virtue of his father, Gilles, who raced for Ferrari.

“The Indy 500, I didn’t grow up with it. I grew up with Formula 1, so I didn’t really know what it represented,” Villeneuve said

“I didn’t think about it until I raced in Atlantics and I thought ‘oh wow, there’s half a million people here, that’s cool’.

“I still didn’t really understand why there was one toilet where they didn’t put the door because one year there was a driver who didn’t close his door and they decided to keep it like that for the next 40 years.

“There’s lots of stuff in America that’s very important, the history of why things have happened. Why do you drink milk when you’ve won the Indy 500? It’s because – I don’t know which driver – in the past was thirsty and asked for a jug of milk. They gave it to him and it became tradition.

“All these little things keep it alive. To get a race where people come almost daily for three weeks, that takes a lot of passion. But when you’re in it, OK it’s just a race and there’s lots of people, great, but it’s a stepping stone to F1.

“When you’re out of it, you realize first of all I survived it, and then you’ve won it. And then you realize that it’s still present and alive.

“And then you realize that that win was 22 years ago, and then you understand the meaning of what you accomplished.”