Lotus drafts in Kovalainen to aid constructors’ fight

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Lotus has confirmed that Heikki Kovalainen will replace the injured Kimi Raikkonen for the final two rounds of the 2013 Formula One season, with the Finn set to return to racing after almost one year since his last grand prix for Caterham.

Kovalainen has been drafted in due to his experience in Formula One, racing between 2007 and 2012 and claiming one race win during this time. Although Lotus’ reserve driver, Davide Valsecchi, was thought to be the logical replacement for Raikkonen, the team has opted to sign a more experienced driver as it looks to pass Ferrari for third place in the constructors’ championship.

“On the one hand we had our reserve driver Davide Valsecchi – who is a talented young driver that has shown a great deal of promise – and on the other we had the opportunity to bring in a seasoned Formula One competitor in Heikki,” team principal Eric Boullier said. “Whilst we have every faith in Davide’s abilities, we are obviously involved in a tight constructors’ championship battle, so it was decided that the experience Heikki could bring to the team would be invaluable as we aim to finish the year in the best position possible.”

Lotus trails Ferrari by just eleven points in the battle for third place, with the difference between P3 and P4 being many millions of dollars in prize money.

“It is a fantastic opportunity for me to join Lotus F1 Team for the final two races of 2013,” Kovalainen said in a statement. “We’ve seen this year that the E21 is a car which can win races and finish on the podium, so I will be pushing hard for the best results possible.”

The Finn will be looking to end his run of finishes outside of the points, having failed to score any since the 2009 Singapore Grand Prix.

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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