Wilson leads IndyCar second practice in Houston

Leave a comment

Justin Wilson, one of the talented shoes in the IZOD IndyCar Series field without a win thus far in 2013, led IndyCar’s second 45-minute practice session with a late flier on his 18th lap.

“I think it went reasonably well. It’s a tough track, really bumpy but when the grip comes up it feels good,” he said. “Once the car comes in it’s good. You’re bouncing around and hopefully landing in the right spot, trying not to lose things. I think we see a lot of that. It’s so hard to keep it on that knife edge. Hopefully we keep it up for tomorrow.”

The driver of the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda for Dale Coyne Racing set a fastest time of 1:04.4237. After getting acquainted with the temporary chicane installed in the first practice session earlier in the day, teams were able to attack further this afternoon before more track adjustments come overnight.

“That’s something else we’ll have to deal with is the track changing,” he said. “It’ll be tough to judge that braking point and especially if people get it wrong, it would be a tedious session. That’s been kind of the story of today, learning and evolving.”

Will Power was second and Tristan Vautier third, rounding out those who clocked a lap in the 1:04 range at the MD Anderson Center Speedway at Reliant Park. Power and Wilson raced in both Champ Car events held at the circuit in 2006 and 2007.

“I honestly couldn’t remember that much anyway,” Power deadpanned. “Obviously it was delayed with the chicane. Apart from that, it’s a vicious circuit. Learn the braking point. But it’s a good day for us; I think we have a good car.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay and two-time Houston winner Sebastien Bourdais rounded out the top five.

It was an adventurous session for points leader Helio Castroneves, who spun twice, and ended the session 11th. Power described how Castroneves has driven this season in pursuit of his elusive first championship.

“I think he’s just trying things; he’s an aggressive driver,” Power said. “He’s wanted a championship his whole career and is very close to getting that. To me, I’ve seen him at his absolute best this year. I think he’s driven the right way in every race to get the points, that’s put him in this position.”

Additionally interesting – perhaps humorous – was James Hinchcliffe’s trot down the length of the front straight in his firesuit and with his helmet still on after his newly pink No. 27 GoDaddy Chevrolet stopped at Turn 2.

Josef Newgarden didn’t complete a lap after damage incurred from the first practice session of the day.

Qualifying for Race 1 will occur from 10:45 to 11:15 a.m. Saturday morning. Rather than a Firestone Fast Six knockout session, qualifying will be a 30-minute session with the 24 cars split into two groups, each getting 12 minutes. That mirrors the format done for Race 2 at Detroit and Toronto, the previous two doubleheaders this season. The qualifying order for both days races will be based on a random draw and not these results.

A qualifying show was scheduled for tonight at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN and will be aired as planned; however, the content will change to cover the first practice sessions and additional material. Race 1 will still go live on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET and Sunday’s at 1 p.m. ET, both on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.

Neuville wins Rally Australia; Ogier takes FIA WRC title

Sebastien Ogier. Photo: Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.”