Pocono INDYCAR 400

A tribute to Target’s 100 wins in racing

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Target has been an integral part of racing for more than 20 years, in association with Chip Ganassi Racing. As it secured its 100th win this weekend, here are some of the monumental wins in that time frame:

SURFERS’ PARADISE 1994: ANDRETTI TAKES A NUMBER OF FIRSTS

After years of domination by Team Penske and Newman/Haas Racing with Penske and Lola chassis and Chevrolet and Ford Cosworth engines, the then-upstart Target Chip Ganassi Racing team opened its 1994 IndyCar account with a win by Michael Andretti in a Reynard-Ford on the streets of Surfers’ Paradise, Australia. The win was Reynard’s first in IndyCar and was a nice return for Andretti, after his one-year sojourn into Formula One with McLaren.

U.S. 500 1996: VASSER WINS $1 MILLION

Jimmy Vasser’s run to the 1996 IndyCar championship included wins in four of the first six races, culminating with a win at the U.S. 500 at the Michigan International Speedway and a $1 million prize. The race ran several hundred miles away from the Indianapolis 500 in the first of the split years between CART and the new-for-1996 Indy Racing League, and unfortunately for CART, a massive accident occurred before the start in Michigan. But once green, Vasser and teammate Alex Zanardi dominated the race.

LAGUNA SECA 1996: “THE PASS.”

We could write thousands of words about the legendary move Alex Zanardi pulled at Bryan Herta at the Corkscrew, but what’s the point? The video below tells you all you need to know.

CLEVELAND 1997, LONG BEACH 1998: ZANARDI’S ICONIC COMEBACKS

After being trapped at the back of the pack at the Burke Lakefront Airport in 1997 and again on the streets of Long Beach the following year, Zanardi scythed through the field on both occasions for two memorable wins.

INDY, MILWAUKEE 2000: MONTOYA DOES THE DOUBLE

Juan Pablo Montoya and the Target team shifted cars to IRL-spec chassis for the 2000 Indianapolis 500, and promptly kicked everyone’s rear ends. A week later, back in his now normal Lola-Toyota after years with the Reynard-Honda package, Montoya took Toyota’s first CART win at the Milwaukee Mile.

TEXAS 2002: WARD BY A NOSE

One of the closest wins secured in Target Ganassi’s history came from Jeff Ward, at the summer Texas IRL race in 2002. Ward edged Al Unser Jr. by 0.011 of a second for his only IRL victory.

HOMESTEAD 2003: DIXON TAKES IRL OPENER

Then 22, and in his first race in IRL machinery after the team shifted its entire operations from CART to the IRL, Scott Dixon opened the 2003 season with a victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the last year before the track’s reconfiguration to add higher banks in the turns.

WATKINS GLEN 2005: DIXON BREATHES NEW LIFE INTO PROGRAM

The Ganassi/Toyota partnership struggled through trying seasons in 2004 and 2005, and was on the verge of back-to-back winless seasons as an organization before Dixon saved them with a win on the road course at Watkins Glen. Then-teammate Giorgio Pantano finished fourth in the race.

HOMESTEAD, CHICAGO 2006: WHELDON’S BOOK-ENDS

Ganassi signed 2005 Indianapolis 500 and IRL champion Dan Wheldon to partner Dixon ahead of 2006 and the Englishman won the first and last rounds of the season. Homestead came in a photo finish over Helio Castroneves, and Chicagoland after a duel the entire race with Castroneves, Dixon and Sam Hornish Jr. Wheldon lost the championship to Hornish on a tie-breaker.

INDY 500 2008: DIXON RETURNS CGR TO THE PROMISED LAND

It had been since 2000 for Target Chip Ganassi Racing to win at Indianapolis before Dixon delivered the victory in 2008 ‘500, one of a series-high six en route to his second series title.

HOMESTEAD 2009: SLOW IS FAST FOR FRANCHITTI

Running at a slower pace to make more fuel mileage, Dario Franchitti mastered the game at the season finale at Homestead to take his fifth win of his return season to IndyCar and first in the Target Ganassi stable, to secure his second series championship. It set him on a charge of winning each of the next three.

INDY 500 2010: FRANCHITTI’S DOMINANCE ON DISPLAY

A day Franchitti ran on rails with one of the best set-up cars in his illustrious career. He led 155 of 200 laps en route to his second Indianapolis 500 victory.

TORONTO 2011: A ONE-TWO IN TORONTO AS MORE STORES OPEN

Toronto 2011 had drama, with a battle between Franchitti and championship rival Will Power, and eventually ended in a 1-2 finish for the Target team as the store was expanding its market share into Canada. Believe it or not, this is the last road or street race Franchitti has won in the IZOD IndyCar Series.

INDY 500 2012: ANOTHER FRANCHITTI WIN IN DRAMATIC FASHION

This one came after Takuma Sato interrupted the planned Target Ganassi 1-2 up front. But Sato went for it on Franchitti, who played the race craft game to perfection in allowing Sato just enough room to try the move into Turn 1 on the last lap but not too much as if to squeeze him. Sato lost it, and the rest is history as Franchitti joined the list of three-time Indianapolis 500 winners.

POCONO 2013: 100 COMES WITH A GANASSI 1-2-3

Dixon, a staple of the Target Chip Ganassi Racing empire since 2002, was the one who hit the bullseye to secure the 100th win in Pocono, Pa., Ganassi’s home state. Charlie Kimball in second and Franchitti in third just made for icing on the cake.

It’s an unfortunate coincidence that on the same weekend Target won its 100th race as a sponsor, its founder, Douglas Dayton, died at the age of 88. Dayton, a Wayzata, Minn. native, died Friday after a long bout with cancer.

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.”