A.J. Foyt likely to keep Honda, Sato for 2014, and stay at one car

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It’s not the pivotal piece in the IZOD IndyCar Series silly season but as one of few paying rides, without the need for a driver to bring sponsorship, A.J. Foyt’s No. 14 ABC Supply Honda is still a plum seat on the grid.

Foyt said Wednesday it’s likely he’ll keep Honda and driver Takuma Sato for next year.

“Well, we’ll be with Honda, and we’ll probably be with Sato,” Foyt said in a Wednesday teleconference.  “We’ve got a pretty good combination going.  I think we’re going to work out everything.  I definitely know we’ll probably be with Honda.  They’re coming out with some new stuff.  They’ve got a little bit to catch up with the Chevrolet products and the superspeedways. Now on the road course and all that, Honda holds their own.  But on some of the big tracks, I think maybe the Chevrolet has a little bit more power than we do.  At least it’s proven that way, but they’re working hard.  Honda’s a very good company, and they’ve been good to us.  So it looks like we’ll be with Honda.”

Sato emerged as the points leader heading into Indianapolis on the strength of his first career win at Long Beach, and the first for Foyt’s team since 2002. But from Indianapolis onwards, Sato has had a miserable run of events, with just one top-10 finish in 12 races (Milwaukee) and seven consecutive finishes of 20th or worse heading into Houston.

Foyt also rubbished the suggestion of running a second car next year, saying he’d rather do it right. Foyt traditionally runs a second car at the Indianapolis 500.

“The way I look at that, I would like to run two cars again, but getting a proper sponsor and doing it 100 percent,” he said, “I’m not doing it until we can do it right.  It only takes one car to win the race, and I know it makes it easier when you’ve got a team with two or three cars, because if something happens to one, you’ve got a good back up on the next one.  But I’d like to go back to a two‑car team, but at the same time, it takes a lot of money now.  If you can’t do it right, there is no sense in trying to do it.”

Foyt returned to the track for the first time in months at Tuesday’s manufacturer test in Fontana, Calif., ahead of his home race in Houston next month.

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.”