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Montoya feels his stock car experience will help in IndyCar return


IndyCars and stock cars may be drastically different racing machines, but Juan Pablo Montoya believes that his time in NASCAR has provided him with lessons that will be valuable to him as he prepares to return to the open-wheel landscape next season for Team Penske.

I think you learn so many things about the cars that you will never understand, or believe or see,” Montoya noted Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “There are a lot more basic things that you ignore in open wheel…There are a lot of things to learn.

“And as I said at the beginning of this week, it is going to be an uphill battle in a lot of ways, but I am looking forward to the challenge.”

The outspoken Colombian has only won twice in his seven years of Sprint Cup competition, and has only been able to make the Chase once. It has been a marked contrast from his past glory days in open-wheel, which were filled with accomplishments such as the 1999 CART championship, the 2000 Indianapolis 500 victory, and seven Grand Prix wins in Formula One from 2001-2006.

However, Montoya is not one to think that his stock car career hasn’t been fruitful.

“There is a lot of pluses of being here these years,” he said. “I don’t think that they are wasted years. I think that I learned a lot. I’m just looking forward to being in a winning car.”

Montoya will be part of a formidable three-car stable at Team Penske next year in IndyCar alongside Helio Castroneves (the current IZOD IndyCar Series championship leader) and Will Power. And you would assume that he’ll indeed have a car that’s capable of making him a winner again.

But even with all of his talent, he admits that it will take a bit to get used to things – especially the equipment, which has changed considerably since his first go-round in IndyCar.

“One of the good things about it is that when I drove [IndyCars], they were sequential – manually sequential gearbox. Now they are paddle shift like the F1 [car] was,” Montoya said.

“It is actually…I would say…easier than it used to be…I hadn’t even thought about the push-to-pass yet. There are a lot of things I am going to learn and a lot of mistakes I am going to do with the push-to-pass; not using it or over using it and stuff.

“We’ll learn, and I think the more I look at videos and prepare myself for the race, the better I am going to be.”

Formula E: Team Aguri confirms da Costa for second season

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Antonio Felix da Costa has been confirmed for a second season with Team Aguri for the 2015-2016 FIA Formula E Championship, which begins later this month in Beijing.

He won once this past year at Buenos Aires and finished eighth in the points despite missing both the season opener and season finale due to clashes with his DTM schedule.

Said the 24-year-old Portuguese driver, “I am really happy to continue with Team Aguri and Formula E for season two. This championship is earning its respect in the world of motorsport and I am honoured to be involved. Regarding the season, I am really looking forward to getting started.”

Team Aguri team principal Mark Preston added, “It is a great pleasure to have Antonio continuing with the team for season two of Formula E. Antonio brought us our maiden win in Buenos Aires and helped to develop the team from scratch, he will continue to build on that success for season two and beyond.”

The team that bares the name of ex-Formula 1 driver and team owner Aguri Suzuki has not yet confirmed its second driver, which is the last outstanding seat to be filled on the Formula E grid.

Amlin, which had partnered with Aguri last year, is now present with the Andretti Formula E team and its drivers, Robin Frijns and Simona de Silvestro.

Hulkenberg leads shorter than normal FP1 in Russia

Nico Hulkenberg
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Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg posted a 1:44.355 lap of the of the Sochi Autodrom to lead a fairly abnormal, and shorter than usual, first free practice for the Russian Grand Prix.

Hulkenberg posted the time to conclude the usual 90-minute session, to pip Nico Rosberg at 1:44.407 on his final lap. The usual 90-minute session was shortened due to a track delay for cleanup of diesel fuel on course.

Sebastian Vettel, Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo completed the top five.

While the clock started on time for the full 90-minute session, track activity was halted for the opening 30 minutes to clean up diesel spillage on the track at Turn 8.

It left teams and drivers with just a 60-minute first free practice to tackle the Sochi Autodrom, but did not push the session later or affect the timetable for the rest of the day. However, with a damp if not entirely wet track, it made things difficult in FP1.

The delay also meant that teams weren’t able to use an extra set of Pirellis handed out at the start of FP1. Supersofts can be used for the first time in FP2.

During the delay, it did offer a chance for sarcasm, and Manor seized the opportunity following a comment from McLaren Honda’s Fernando Alonso noting that even with Mercedes engines next year, Manor wouldn’t move ahead of them.

NBC’s Will Buxton explained the track surface dilemma drivers would face in this session.

With just under one hour to go in the session, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson was the first to head out on course, leading several others. Ericsson made the first laps of the weekend at the track where he made his final start for Caterham a year ago.

Both Williams drivers went on course on Pirelli’s wet weather tires for their installation laps. Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg tried the intermediates, and Alonso was first on course in slicks.

No official times were registered until there were less than 40 minutes remaining in the session, with Alonso registering a 2:00.736 time, while putting down a bevy of sparks. He quickly lowered the mark to 1:56.327, and 1:53.854 after that. Ericsson was next in at a 1:58.926, although dropped into the 1:54 range not long after.

Alonso’s teammate Jenson Button clocked in at 1:50.920 with just under 20 minutes remaining and for the first time this year, we could say we had a McLaren Honda 1-2 on track, albeit under abnormal circumstances.

The trsck got busy in the final 15 minutes, with Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen posting a 1:50.870 to lead before Alonso clocked in a 1:49.240.

A 1:47.959 from Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, then a 1:45.987 from Hulkenberg followed in the final 10 minutes as times firmly began to drop. Vettel got down to a 1:45.491 shortly thereafter, and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton came up two tenths shy of the mark at a 1:45.691.

Ericsson reported a power cut near the end of the session down at Sauber but otherwise there were no issues through the field, other than a handful of spins, including one from Hamilton on his final flier at the second-to-last corner.

FP2 begins from 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.