F1 Testing in Bahrain - Day Three

Massa fastest for Williams on day 3 in Bahrain

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Felipe Massa has finished quickest on the penultimate day of winter testing in Bahrain by setting the fastest time across the course of the pre-season period at Sakhir.

Massa’s lap of 1:33.258 saw him finish ahead of Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg as the two drivers traded fastest times in the final hour of the session. The German driver eventually fell two-tenths short of the Brazilian’s time and was forced to settle for second place.

However, Rosberg was a full 1.9 seconds ahead of third placed Kimi Raikkonen as the Ferrari driver focused on a race simulation in the afternoon.

The talking point from today’s running in Bahrain was Red Bull’s continued problems. The team appeared to be on the verge of an improvement after a good day of testing for Daniel Ricciardo yesterday, but defending world champion Sebastian Vettel struggled greatly. Upon starting his first run, Vettel managed just half a lap before the Red Bull RB10 ground to a halt.

It was soon recovered and returned to the pits, but when Red Bull sent the car out for a second run, it lasted but a few seconds as Vettel stopped at the end of the pit lane. With just half a lap on the board and one day of pre-season testing left, Red Bull appear to be in trouble.

Besides Vettel’s stoppages, there were also red flags for French duo Jules Bianchi and Romain Grosjean on Saturday in Bahrain. Bianchi finished the day in seventh place for Marussia ahead of closest rivals Caterham, whilst Grosjean was the last classified driver to post a time down in ninth position. Adrian Sutil also hit trouble as a fire on his Sauber C33 early in the morning session meant that he failed to post a time.

Although the Mercedes-powered teams dominated once again, occupying four of the top six positions, Renault showed signs of improved reliability. Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat finished the day in fifth position with 81 laps under his belt, whilst Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson completed the most mileage with 117 laps. Despite Red Bull’s disastrous day, these are good signs for the French engine supplier.

With just one day to go in pre-season testing, the teams will get a final shot tomorrow to understand their cars and perfect their procedure ahead of the first round of the season in Australia (live on NBCSN on March 16).

Bahrain Day 3 – Times

1. Felipe Massa Williams 1:33.258 (99 laps)
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:33.484 +0.226 (103)
3. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:35.426 +2.168 (87)
4. Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1:35.894 +2.636 (88)
5. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:36.113 +2.855 (81)
6. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:36.205 +2.947 (115)
7. Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:37.087 +3.829 (78)
8. Marcus Ericsson Caterham 1:38.083 +4.825 (117)
9. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:42.166 +8.908 (33)
10. Adrian Sutil Sauber no time (1)
11. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull no time (0)

Conor Daly’s IndyCar gets painted

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Conor Daly
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Conor Daly will compete full-time in the Verizon IndyCar Series this year in a ride for Dale Coyne Racing.

Daly will make laps in the No. 18 Honda sponsored by Jonathan Byrd’s. The 24-year-old driver tweeted out a picture today of his race car getting painted for the season, which starts on March 13.

Daly has six IndyCar races under his belt so far.

USF2000 reintroduces National Class for 2016

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The National Class is officially back in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda series for 2016.

Yes, when Eric Filgueiras and Spencer Racing announced they’d be in the National Class, that kind of gave it away that the class would be back without it being formally introduced.

Luckily though, the series has released the news today. A formal release is below:

Drivers seeking to make their way onto the Mazda Road to Indy now have an alternate, lower-cost route onto the first rung, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, with today’s confirmation that the National Class will be returning in 2016.

The Mazda Road to Indy is unique in the world of auto racing, offering a scholarship-funded path all the way from karting via USF2000, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires to the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500.

Eligible to drivers at least 20 years of age before or during the 2016 season, the National Class will be open to all Sports Car Club of America-legal FC (Formula Continental) cars, from any chassis manufacturer, dating back to 2000. Any aerodynamic devices approved by the SCCA are permitted, although in the interests of safety all cars must be fitted with a nosebox crash structure, wheel tethers, Staubli devices, approved head surrounds and seats and yellow light system as required by all other current USF2000 cars.

Cars will be permitted to run either the same 2.0-liter Mazda MZR engine per the USF2000 Championship Class regulations or sealed 2.0-liter Ford Zetec motors as prepared by Elite Engines or Quicksilver RacEngines with National Class mapping. Any SCCA-legal 6″ and 8″ wheels may be used, although all cars must run on Cooper tires.

Entry fees will be discounted 50 percent below the Championship Class rate, and each race winner will earn a free entry for an upcoming event in the same season. The second-place finisher will claim a 50 percent reduction in the entry fee for an upcoming race. In addition, race winners equipped with the MZR engine will take home a $1,000 award from Mazda.

As an added benefit and based on a minimum average car count of five entries per race weekend, the 2016 National Class champion will receive an “entry ticket” to the Mazda Road to Indy $200K Scholarship Shootout in the fall of this year where champions of select junior level-open wheel and karting series from around the world will compete for a Mazda scholarship to enter the USF2000 Championship Class in 2017.

The point system will be the same used by the Masters Class (formerly Expert Class) in the Pro Mazda championship.

“We are excited to bring back the National Class and allow drivers to sample the Mazda Road to Indy,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “RC Enerson began his path on the ladder system in the National Class. It’s a great first step onto the platform for many drivers, and we are excited to offer this year’s champion an entry into the Shootout as well as a full-season entry package to USF2000 in 2017 in either the Championship or National Class.”

The Mazda Road to Indy will head to Barber Motorsport Park for Spring Training on March 5 (Indy Lights) and 6/7 (USF2000/Pro Mazda). The 2016 season will kick off on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., on March 11-13 in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Report: Scott Tucker arrested by FBI in payday lending scheme

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - JANUARY 30:  The #95 Level 5 Motorsports BMW Riley driven by Scott Tucker, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Richard Westbrook and Raphael Matos during The Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway on January 30, 2011 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)
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For four years from 2010 to 2013, Scott Tucker and Level 5 Motorsports were American Le Mans Series regulars, first in the Prototype Challenge class and then the LMP2 class. They won, a lot, and were a regular championship-contending effort, plus those who worked for the team had nothing but positive things to say about the operation that was run.

That said, the funding of the team was always perpetually questioned, as Tucker was always allegedly involved within the payday lending business, and had reportedly abusive practices towards customers.

This has been something of a bubbling story for five years but per Reuters, on Wednesday, Tucker and one of his lawyers were arrested by the FBI for their alleged exploitation.

Per Reuters, an indictment filed in Manhattan federal court outlined millions that went to Tucker, who then used it for various luxury items. Allegedly, more than $67 million went to the Level 5 Motorsports race team.

Level 5’s last IMSA series start came under the unified TUDOR United SportsCar Championship umbrella in January 2014, when the team won the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the GT Daytona class. The team withdrew from the championship following that race.

Social Roundup: IndyCar tests at Sonoma, Fontana

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Simon Pagenaud
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There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?

The engines of the Verizon IndyCar Series have roared back to life this week, a month before the season opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

After a test at Phoenix International Raceway two days ago, two more tests are occurring today in California, at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana and at Sonoma Raceway.

At Auto Cub Speedway is Ryan Hunter-Reay, Carlos Munoz and James Hinchcliffe.

In Sonoma is the entirety of the Chip Ganassi Racing team and Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud from Team Penske.

Here’s a look at how the day is progressing at each test through social media. We’ll update throughout the day. If you’re attending either test, tweet us pictures at @MotorSportsTalk or @danielmcfadin of how you’re taking in the beginning of the 2016 season.

Sonoma Raceway

Auto Club Speedway