Karam could end up in Ganassi development program

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Sage Karam, the 2013 Firestone Indy Lights Series champion, is still unsure of his official plans for the rest of 2014 beyond his appearance with Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

But the potential exists, per the Associated Press, he could have a full-season opportunity with CGR for the remainder of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

Ganassi team president Steve Lauletta told the AP’s Jenna Fryer “we’re close” to a second Ford EcoBoost Riley for Karam and Marino Franchitti.

Franchitti’s in the same boat, where his sports car status for the rest of 2014 is yet to be determined beyond Daytona. Franchitti raced the 2013 American Le Mans Series season with Level 5 Motorsports in one of that team’s HPD P2 cars.

As for Karam, a part-time opportunity with Ganassi could be better than a full-time opportunity elsewhere.

With the number of available full-time seats in IndyCar shrinking, and most requiring several million dollars to bring to a seat, Karam could be molded into part of a development program.

Those anoraks who have followed Ganassi’s history might remember the name Alex Lloyd, when it comes to a development program with the team.

Lloyd was as much a victim of timing as anything else, despite his prodigious talent.

He stormed through the 2007 Indy Lights series en route to the title, but was unable to make the full-time jump into IndyCar in 2008 with few seats available to begin with. Additionally, that was the year Champ Car folded into IndyCar, and several teams came in from the opposing series.

Lloyd was signed to a development contract with CGR, but his only race opportunity came in a jointly entered CGR-Rahal Letterman Racing Honda at the Indianapolis 500, as a teammate to Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Come the fall of 2008, Dario Franchitti was named as a replacement for Dan Wheldon in the No. 10 Target car for 2009, and Lloyd’s shot at one of IndyCar’s prime seats had passed.

Lloyd did what he could over the next three years, including winning the 2010 IndyCar series rookie-of-the-year honors and posting a fourth place finish at the Indianapolis 500 in a Dale Coyne Racing entry. But the commercial realities of the sport have sidelined Lloyd since the end of 2011.

He now is an editor-at-large for Yahoo! Autos; those who watched him coming through the ranks are no doubt frustrated he never got a true top-line opportunity in IndyCar.

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.”