Vandoorne among those who star in GP2, GP3 post-season testing

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The FIA GP2 and GP3 Series have got a few days of post-season testing in the books at Abu Dhabi following last weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Both of their seasons are in the books – Fabio Leimer and Daniil Kvyat have captured the respective titles – and this test provided a look at some hoping to impress for 2014.

Chief among them is McLaren junior driver Stoffel Vandoorne of Belgium, who blitzed the Yas Marina circuit with a record lap of 1:48.657 on the third day of GP2 testing, driving for DAMS. The pole time set during the race weekend was American Alexander Rossi’s mark of 1:48.931. Vandoorne had not driven a GP2 car prior to the test, and raced in the World Series by Renault this year.

Giovanni Venturini (Trident) and Rio Haryanto (Caterham) also got into the 1:48 range during the afternoon session on day 3.

GP3 runner-up Facu Regalia got down to a 1:49.373 driving for the Barwa Addax operation in GP2. It would make sense for him to jump into GP2 with series champion Kvyat moving up to Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2014.

American Conor Daly’s waiting paid off and he had an opportunity with ART’s GP2 car. He only had one new set of tires available to him, which he used in the afternoon session. It marked his first GP2 outing since a one-off at Malaysia at the start of the year.

Swiss driver Patric Niederhauser led the GP3 sessions for Arden after eclipsing the mark set by ART’s Oliver Rowland in the morning of day 3. Niederhauser’s best time was a 1:55.372.

A few other names to note from GP3: Indy Lights driver Jack Hawksworth ended the third day of testing 10th fastest (1:55.991), fellow Englishman Dean Stoneman followed up his excellent Abu Dhabi race weekend with third place of 1:55.565, and Nissan GT Academy winner Jann Mardenborough, who competed at Le Mans this year in an LMP2 Zytek Nissan, was sixth quickest at 1:55.721.

Full results from GP2 and GP3 testing are linked here via their official websites.

NHRA: John Force-like motor explosions get contagious during Sunday’s Gatornationals

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
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John Force is rubbing off on others – but probably not the way they or he would like.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion has had spectacular motor explosions in each of the first three races of the new NHRA season, including during Friday’s qualifying for this weekend’s Gatornationals.

During Sunday’s quarterfinals of eliminations, Force’s teammate (and son-in-law and president of John Force Racing) Robert Hight squared off with fellow Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.

As the duo closed in on the finish line, both cars experienced spectacular motor explosions of their own – virtually side-by-side and nearly at the same time.

Hight’s car was the first to explode, tossing its body high in the air. A split-second later, Hagan’s car exploded, also sending the body flying.

Check out the NHRA video:

Hight wound up losing the race.

Hagan, meanwhile, and his crack pit crew rolled their backup car off the hauler, put in a new motor and went on to race through the semifinals and into the finals, losing to race winner “Fast Jack” Beckman.

“We had a pretty great race day, to be honest,” Hagan said. “I’ve never been to the finals in Gainesville.

“We obviously had a huge blow up in the second round, then to watch these guys pull the other car back out and put it together in the amount of time they had, then turn a win light on against Capps (Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the semifinals), then to be able to go to a final, it was huge and it speaks for itself.”

As for Hight, here’s his take on what happened with the motor explosion:

“I couldn’t see (Hagan) over there and it wasn’t like it was hazing the tires or anything else. As it turns out it wasn’t spinning at all. It kicked two rods out when it blacked the bearings in the crank then it hit the valves and blew up.

“The thing gave me no indication at all before that. What really scared me was once I got it under control and I look over and see his body is off his car. I am thinking ‘Oh man, he got gathered up in me.’ Then I stood up and looked and his injector was sideways so I realized he had an explosion as well. We are just lucky we didn’t get into each other.”

As for the guy who has had so much trouble in the motor department, John Force, he lost in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations to daughter Courtney Force.

John Force planned on shutting the motor off on his car at around the 700-foot mark of the 1,000-foot dragstrip, not wanting to risk another motor explosion – even though it meant a likely loss to his daughter.

Now John Force and his entire four-car team, including Courtney Force, Robert Hight and daughter and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, will be off for extensive testing to try and determine what’s been causing the motor explosions.

“We have to evaluate it and go test,” Force said. “We’ll figure it out.”

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