Will Power

Power primed for a third Sonoma win

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It’s been a dry spell for Verizon Team Penske driver Will Power. The Australian powerhouse has, for various reasons, been stuck in a winless drought since Sao Paulo, Brazil, in April, 2012. A total of 25 races have passed since he emerged victorious.

But as Team Penske has consistently led the IndyCar contingent at Sonoma over the last three years – Power and former teammate Ryan Briscoe have won the last three races at Sonoma between them – this is as good a spot as any for Power to finally break his duck.

“I can’t wait to get back there. It’s a track I’ve had a lot of success on,” Power said in a media teleconference on Monday. “Although the competition has definitely heated up this year, we still expect to be running right at the front.”

Power discussed the improved competition level in IndyCar earlier this year in a MotorSportsTalk interview, and elaborated on it as one of the reasons why winning has gotten harder in 2013.

“There have been nine different winners this year, so it’s really hard to predict how fast you’re going to be, and you know, who is going to be in the front and who you’re going to be challenging,” he said. “The competition is definitely tougher, for sure. There are some things that were homologated at the end of last year, which gave us a little bit of an advantage and every other Chevy team. The car itself, you’re really boxed into a corner as far as setup. There’s not much adjustment on this car that you can do because of the way it was designed with this rearward weight distribution. So you’re stuck, and you can’t set it up to suit yourself. You have to drive it as it is. I think that that itself closes the field up.”

It should be a straightforward two-stop race at Sonoma, over the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma’s 85 laps (4 p.m EST, Sunday, NBCSN). The last couple years have seen fewer full-course cautions on permanent road courses (just one at Barber, zero at Mid-Ohio this year), which allows for maximum attack the entire race.

“That is the best possible scenario, if there is no yellows, because it means you don’t have to plan for anything,” Power said “Two‑on‑two, just a real race there; there’s no manipulation by a yellow. That’s been the case on quite a few of the road courses in the last couple years for INDYCAR. They have been very green races. Basically, it just shows that the level, the standard of driving, has done really ‑‑ has gone up a lot.  People don’t make mistakes anymore.”

IMSA: Polesitters set at Lime Rock Park

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No. 67 Ford. Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Polesitters have been set following qualifying for Saturday’s Northeast Grand Prix, the next round on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season. It doesn’t feature the Prototype class but does have the other three classes (Prototype Challenge, GT Le Mans, GT Daytona).

Colin Braun has the class pole in Prototype Challenge in the No. 54 CORE autosport Oreca FLM09, with Braun qualifying instead of teammate and co-driver Jon Bennett. The top four cars were only separated by 0.154 of a second.

Most PC teams opted to qualify their Silver-rated drivers instead for the two-hour, 40-minute race, which left Braun with a decided advantage going in over the lesser experienced pros or gentlemen drivers alongside.  But Braun only barely held on for the top spot.

Braun’s best time was a 48.824-second lap around the 1.53-mile Lime Rock Park bull ring.

Robert Alon edged into second at 48.840 in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca FLM09 he shares with Tom Kimber-Smith. “TKS” and Michael Guasch won this race overall last year.

James French posted a 48.930 in the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports entry he’ll share with Kyle Marcelli, good for third on the grid. That team seeks to atone for a near-miss here last year, when it was leading overall before Conor Daly collided with then-GTD class leader Christopher Haase at the downhill in his No. 48 Paul Miller Audi to open the door for PR1.

French was only just ahead of Jose Gutierrez in the third Starworks Motorsport entry, the No. 7 Aviation American Gin entry at 48.978 seconds that he’ll share with Sean Rayhall this weekend.

Richard Westbrook took another GT Le Mans class pole for the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing outfit with its No. 67 Ford GT he shares with Ryan Briscoe. Westbrook ran a 50.748 best time.

That No. 67 car has been on a roll, having won the last three races in class since the car’s first triumph at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in early May.

The No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM, No. 4 Corvette C7.R and No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE were second through fourth, thus making it four different manufacturers in the top four spots.

Spencer Pumpelly took the first GT Daytona class pole for Change Racing in its No. 16 Lamborghini Huracán GT3, a car he shares with Corey Lewis.

Pumpelly edged fellow Georgia resident Andrew Davis in the first of two Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMSs, the No. 6 car, ahead of Matt Bell in the No. 9 Audi. Davis shares with Robin Liddell, Bell with Lawson Aschenbach. Pumpelly’s best lap was 53.148 seconds to Davis’ 53.178.

Christina Nielsen was fourth (No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3) with Madison Snow (No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3) completing the top five in the 14-car class.

The two-hour, 40-minute race begins Saturday at 3 p.m. ET on FOX, live there, and also live via IMSA Radio.

Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge

Two cars that haven’t won yet this year are on the pole for Saturday’s two-hour, 30-minute Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race from Lime Rock Park.

CJ Wilson Racing has the pole in GS with Danny Burkett, who co-drives the team’s No. 33 Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport with Marc Miller, edged Canadian countryman Scott Maxwell in his No. 15 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Shelby GT350R-C he shares with Billy Johnson.

Meanwhile in ST, the No. 25 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 of defending class champions Chad McCumbee and Stevan McAleer have that class pole over another Mazda from Riley Racing and the No. 93 HART Honda Civic Si.

Haryanto’s F1 future unclear beyond Hungarian GP

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 22: Rio Haryanto of Indonesia and Manor Racing walks in the Paddock  during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Hungary at Hungaroring on July 22, 2016 in Budapest, Hungary.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Rio Haryanto’s future in Formula 1 with Manor remains unclear beyond this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix, but the Indonesian driver is hopeful he will see out the season.

Haryanto became Indonesia’s first F1 driver at the beginning of the year in Australia, enjoying backing from state-owned oil company Pertamina.

Haryanto conceded over the Monaco Grand Prix weekend that he was unsure of seeing out the season due to a shortfall in funding that only secured his seat until after this weekend’s race in Hungary.

When asked if he will be racing in Germany weekend, Haryanto told reporters: “I think so. We will see.

“Obviously if you see me at Hockenheim, then I think that would secure the whole season.”

Haryanto’s manager Piers Hunnisett offered a similar verdict to Reuters.

“We’ve got to be positive and hope Rio will be in Germany,” he said.

“We’ve had many promises which haven’t come true. We keep working hard and it is our plan to be in Germany.”

Haryanto has recorded a best finish of 15th so far in F1, and has outqualified Manor teammate Pascal Wehrlein in half of their races together.

Besides its race drivers, Manor also enjoys ties with 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi and GP2’s Jordan King, both of whom enjoy junior roles with the team. Rossi is the team’s reserve driver.

Should Haryanto not race in Germany, Rossi would not be able to step in given the clash with the Honda Indy 200 IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio.

After Hungary, the next four F1 races clash with IndyCar weekends, including the season finale at Sonoma on September 18 that shares a date with the Singapore Grand Prix.

Rossi, for his part, addressed his own future in a recent USA Today Sports interview with Brant James.

“I’m definitely deciding between Formula 1 and IndyCar,” Rossi told James at the Toronto weekend.

Renault planning no further F1 engine updates until 2017

20 MAGNUSSEN Kevin (dnk) Renault action during the 2016 Formula One World Championship, Grand Prix of Hungary from July 22 to 24, Hungaroring, Budapest - Photo Francois Flamand / DPPI
© Renault Sport
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Renault is not planning to introduce any major updates to its engine over the remainder of the 2016 Formula 1 season, preferring to focus resources on next season’s power unit.

Renault entered 2016 looking to make big gains after a difficult season that saw its relationship with Red Bull sour over the quality of its power unit.

Significant progress was made, allowing Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to take the first Renault-powered victory in 18 months at the Spanish Grand Prix.

A major update was introduced to the power unit in Monaco, allowing Red Bull to make up ground on Ferrari and help Renault’s works team to find more pace.

Although another engine update was thought to be planned for later in the season, Renault engine chief Remi Taffin confirmed on Friday that attention had now been turned to 2017.

“I think it will be next year,” Taffin said when asked the next update would arrive.

“The big step we will have will be next year’s engine, race one.

“Until we get to the end of the season now we will be working on the specification we have now, trying to extract the most out it.

“But there won’t be any more let’s say big step as we had for race one and six.”

Taffin said he took pleasure in the progress Renault has made since last season, but believes that there is more ground to be made up.

“I think it only be a good satisfaction, because where we were coming from was a difficult year last year,” Taffin said.

“Now we can see the improvement on track and everything we got out from the factory to the track was working well, so that was a good step forward, either first race or actually Monaco/Montreal specification we introduced.

“It’s all working well. I just have to say we’re on it, but we have a good way to go.”

Porsche leads Friday WEC practice at the Nurburgring

Porsche 919 Hybrid, Porsche Team: Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley, Mark Webber
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Porsche edged out Audi and Toyota to lead both practice sessions ahead of this weekend’s FIA World Endurance Championship round at the Nurburgring in Germany.

In the first on-track action for the WEC teams since the 24 Hours of Le Mans last month, all three of the LMP1 manufacturers debuted their high-downforce aero kits introduced for this weekend’s race.

The Le Mans-winning no. 2 Porsche crew of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb headed up a one-two finish for the German marque in their 919 Hybrid car, edging out the no. 1 team by 0.047 seconds.

Audi followed close behind with Marcel Fassler and Andre Lotterer – missing regular teammate Benoit Treluyer due to injury – finishing two-tenths shy of the fastest time in third place.

The three-time Le Mans winners drew closer in second practice, finishing just 0.014 seconds behind the no. 1 Porsche as Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber and Brendon Hartley set the pace.

The second Audi R18 followed in third place, but with just 1.3 seconds separating the six LMP1-H cars, the battle over the rest of the weekend looks set to rage on.

“We can’t read too much into today’s lap times, as it is race conditions that count,” no. 1 Porsche driver Mark Webber said.

“But we got the maximum out of today and the most information we could. The Nürburgring is fantastic for these fast cars, and we we’re happy to see the sun all day.

“Car number 1 is in good shape and we’re looking forward to qualifying tomorrow.”

In LMP2, G-Drive’s no. 26 Oreca led both FP1 and FP2, enjoying an advantage of over one second in the evening. Manor finished second ahead of Strakka in FP1 before the two teams swapped places at the end of FP2, both running with revised line-ups since Le Mans.

GTE Pro offered a tight battle between Aston Martin Racing, AF Corse and Ford through the day. The no. 97 Vantage V8 shared by Richie Stanaway and Darren Turner posted the fastest time of the day in FP2, leading the pair of Ferrari 488 GTEs in P2 and P3.

AF Corse led FP2 in GTE Am from Larbre Competition, having trailed behind the no. 98 Aston Martin Vantage earlier in the day.