Sebring

Sebring 12-hour 2014 musings, race observations

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Some observations and insights gleaned from the week at Sebring International Raceway, site of the latest Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and now run under the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship banner:

  • When it was green, it was entertaining racing. Toss out the first six hours that were caution-infested, and from hour seven on, it was some seriously impressive action between P2 and DP spec cars at the front, both GT classes and a hat tip in particular to James Gue and David Heinemeier Hansson, a pair of Silver-rated drivers who flew the flag for the beleaguered PC class in a two-stint lead battle after a series of unfortunate accidents in that category earlier in the race.
  • But Coldplay’s “Yellow” might have been the race’s perfect anthem. The 11 full-course cautions, including the last one thrown in the last hour for the stranded, off-pace and off-position Marsh Racing Corvette DP, did not allow the stars to shine for nearly as long as they should have. In total, more than five hours were spent behind the safety car.
  • And the yellows were too long. IMSA’s Scot Elkins told assembled media after the race they’ll work on improving the procedure to speed up yellow flag periods, which at the low end were anywhere from 20-25 minutes per. To be fair, Sebring’s 3.7-mile track length doesn’t help, with four-plus minute lap times under yellow.
  • Officiating/safety/etc. Without belaboring the point, the officiating mistakes admitted were unfortunate and unneeded for the series, particularly after the ending at Daytona. As for safety, the Ben Keating Viper fire was also tough to watch, but he mercifully escaped without injury.
  • David Bowie’s “Changes” was the entry list’s anthem. More than half the GT Daytona class lineups changed during the week (cars No. 13, 18, 19, 22, 27, 44, 45, 49, 71, 73, 94 and 555), seemingly by the hour depending on driver rankings. In a three-driver lineup, only one designated Platinum/Gold pro would be allowed, so that meant Silver-rated (technically amateur, with some exceptions) drivers were the hot ticket. Various inconsistencies exist within the four-tier system (these three plus Bronze) and it’s something that is probably going to be addressed going forward by the powers-that-be.
  • No P1? No problem. Early last week, I wrote that it could take some getting used to not having any P1 cars on track. With that the case, I can’t remember a Sebring in the last 15 years or so that wide-open where you had no idea how was going to win overall except for 2011, and the balance was strong between the P2 and DP-spec cars. On this front, it was entertaining and was building to an excellent crescendo before the last yellow.
  • The PC dilemma. A tough weekend for the second prototype class as a whole, as two major accidents and a high volume of spins by the amateur drivers stuck out more than the sublime qualifying lap turned in by former Indianapolis 500 pole sitter Bruno Junqueira on Friday. PC qualifying is can’t miss – Junqueira, Alex Tagliani, Colin Braun, Raphael Matos, Gunnar Jeannette, Martin Plowman, Renger van der Zande, Tom Kimber-Smith, Tonis Kasemets and Stephen Simpson are all high-quality pro drivers and put on a show on Friday. Some of the ams are better than others, but some of the spins – particularly by the No. 87 BAR1 Motorsports entry, which was involved in no less than 4 of the 11 yellows – were regrettable. Enforcing some sort of minimum standard for licensing should be something explored down the road. It might mean the cars end up with less damage, too.
  • Porsche’s ridiculously strong start. Regardless of how Porsche got its second straight GTLM win, with the officiating error that occurred, there’s still no denying that the new factory effort has come out of the gate very impressive. Porsche’s new 991-spec 911 RSR has had the measure of the field – only slightly but enough to make a difference – and been pacesetters at two widely different types of circuits. BMW had luck but not pace in Daytona; the reverse was true Saturday in Sebring. SRT Viper is close to its second win, and appears a fraction ahead of Corvette, as it sorts out its new C7.R. Ferrari is on the back foot after two devastating accidents for Matteo Malucelli.
  • Krohn’s standout drive. Krohn Racing delivered an outstanding performance to end fourth in GTLM; the privateer team is running an older Ferrari F458 Italia chassis and only doing the four NAEC rounds this year. Tracy Krohn and Nic Jonsson celebrated their 100th race together and third driver Andrea Bertolini proved an invaluable addition.
  • Magnus wins on track and on YouTube. Magnus Racing took the GTD class win, and also continued their usual shenanigans throughout the week in video. They began the week with the bizarre even by Magnus standards “Rediscovering SportsCar, Part 2,” and ended it with the classic Media Barons-style short sequence of videos called “the 12 Hours of Seefried,” named for new Sebring third driver Marco Seefried.
  • AIM on target in return. Second for the AIM Autosport Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, driven by the ex-Daytona Level 5 trio of Townsend Bell, Bill Sweedler and Jeff Segal and new recruit Maurizio Mediani, was better than expected considering the lateness of the program coming together. Good on the Andrew Bordin/Ian Willis-led crew for their efforts.
  • Rum Bum won the livery game. Can’t say as I’d seen a tie-dye car before until the new Rum Bum/Snow Racing Porsche 911 GT America showed up. Not sure how it’s perceived in photos, but I loved the look on site.
  • There’s a month until Long Beach, and 1.5 until Monterey. Long Beach next month will have a significantly reduced grid from the 63 at Sebring as it will only include P and GTLM class cars. All four classes return at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May, but in split P/GTLM and PC/GTD races.

Late yellow in Hungary Q3 leaves Ricciardo ‘pretty angry’

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 23:  Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing in the post qualifying press conference during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Hungary at Hungaroring on July 23, 2016 in Budapest, Hungary.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Daniel Ricciardo felt “pretty angry” after his final lap in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix was ruined by a yellow flag.

Ricciardo spent the entirety of qualifying running towards the top of the timesheets as wet conditions prompted drivers to think on their feet with tire choice and the risks they took.

The track was dry enough for slicks by Q3, where Ricciardo sat third after his first run despite running wide at the final corner and nearly spinning.

The Australian geared up for a final run just before the checkered flag fell, only for a yellow flag shown following a spin for Fernando Alonso to force him to back off.

Ricciardo was left to settle for third on the grid, but thinks he could have been in the mix on the front row had he been able to finish his lap.

“I don’t know. We got hurt by the yellow as well,” Ricciardo said.

“I was pretty angry on that last lap because I was up a bit and I think it would have put me closer to pole.

“It would have been interesting without the yellow. I’m a little disappointed because it’s a ‘what could have been’.

“But at the same time I think the session went really well. I think in all conditions we were competitive.”

Qualifying ran for twice its usual length due to a mix of rain and red flags, with parts of the track remaining damp in Q3.

“It was crazy, you had to adapt quickly, when to go on to slicks in Q2,” Ricciardo said.

“Even just the little things like getting out of pit lane in Q2 on slick tires when it was so wet, sideways coming into Trun 1. It was fun. It was challenging.

“On the last corner in Q3, there was still a wet patch just next to the curb, it sort of sucked me in as I opened DRS as well.

“I was in for a little bit of a ride, but in the end, survived.”

The Hungarian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from 7am ET on Sunday.

Hamilton ‘not too disappointed’ despite having last Hungary Q3 run ruined

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, of Britain, steers his car during the qualifying session for Sunday's Formula One Hungary Grand Prix, at the Hungaroring racetrack, in Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, July 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
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Lewis Hamilton says he is “not too disappointed” with second place on the grid for Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix despite having his final Q3 run ruined by a yellow flag.

Hamilton sat on provisional pole after his first flying lap in Q3, making the most of his slick tires after narrowly escaping elimination in Q2 on a drying circuit.

The Briton found a further four-tenths of a second in the first sector of his final lap, only to back off under yellow flags shown following a spin for Fernando Alonso at Turn 5.

The majority of drivers on their final hot lap were affected, but Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg managed to find more time in the final sector to snatch pole position away.

Despite being denied a sixth pole position in Hungary, Hamilton wasn’t too downbeat after qualifying, saying he did all he could.

“I don’t know how much Nico was up but I had the fastest first sector, I was four-tenths up,” Hamilton said.

“I felt good on that lap. A bit unfortunate with Fernando, but these things happen so I’m not really too disappointed.

“It was a tricky session. I did the best I could do.

“We still have a long race ahead of us tomorrow so I’ll give it everything I’ve got from there.”

The focus after qualifying is already on whether Rosberg did enough to slow under the yellow flags, although the stewards are yet to show any indication of investigating his lap.

The Hungarian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from 7am ET on Sunday.

WATCH: Lucas Oil Pro Motocross from Washougal

Photo credit: ProMotocross.com/Matt Rice
Photo credit: ProMotocross.com/Matt Rice
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Here are details and times for this weekend’s Lucas Oil Pro Motocross action from Spring Creek this weekend. Notes via an NBC Sports Group Press Box press release are below.

All streams are at motostream.nbcsports.com via NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports App.

LUCAS OIL PRO MOTOCROSS CHAMPIONSHIP – WASHOUGAL NATIONAL – SATURDAY AT 6:30 P.M. ET ON NBCSN

NBCSN presents Round 9 of the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship this weekend with the Washuougal National in Washougal, Wash., on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Ken Roczen continues to dominate the 450 Class standings this season, coming off his sixth sweep of the 2016 campaign in Millville, Minn., last weekend. The 2014 450 Class champion holds a 55-point lead over Eli Tomac with four rounds remaining. Jeremy Martin won in the 250 Class last weekend, but trails Cooper Webb by 44 points with four rounds to go.

Veteran play-by-play voice Jason Weigandt, analyst and two-time AMA Pro Motocross Champion Grant Langston, and pit reporter Georgia Lindsay will call this weekend’s action.

Date  Program Time (ET) Network
Sat., July 23 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Washougal – Practice 1 p.m. Streaming
Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Washougal – Moto 1s 4 p.m. MAVTV
Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Washougal – Moto 2s 6:30 p.m. NBCSN

 

Nico Rosberg snatches pole position in Hungarian GP qualifying epic

Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg, of Germany, steers his car during the qualifying session for Sunday's Formula One Hungary Grand Prix, at the Hungaroring racetrack, in Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, July 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
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Nico Rosberg snatched pole position for the Hungarian Grand Prix away in dramatic fashion at the end of a mammoth qualifying session at the Hungaroring, edging out Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton.

The start of qualifying was delayed after heavy rain hit the area following final practice, drenching the track.

The safety car was sent out at regular intervals to monitor conditions before the track was deemed dry enough after a 20-minute wait, although just five minutes of running was possible before more rain resulted in another red flag.

Once the track had dried and the sun was out, running was able to resume, only for on-track incidents to result in a further three red flags in Q1 alone.

Q2 and Q3 proved to be less eventful affairs, the crescendo being a battle between Hamilton and Rosberg once again. Hamilton drew first blood in Q3, going three-tenths of a second faster than Rosberg with his first lap, only for the German to close to within a tenth before pitting for a fresh set to super-soft tires.

Hamilton was forced to back off on his final qualifying lap after a spin for Fernando Alonso, but Rosberg dodged the yellow flags, giving him the chance to improve through the final sector.

Rosberg picked up the mantle emphatically, going 0.143 seconds faster than Hamilton to take a shock pole position, his second in Hungary.

Hamilton was left lamenting more bad luck in second place, having gone four-tenths faster than Rosberg in the first sector before his lap was ruined.

Red Bull locked out the second row, Daniel Ricciardo leading from Max Verstappen, while Sebastian Vettel finished down in fifth as the sole Ferrari to make it through to the top 10.

Carlos Sainz Jr. matched his best qualifying of the season in P6 ahead of the McLaren duo of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, both of whom benefitted from the wet conditions to make it through to Q3. Nico Hulkenberg and Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top 10, both having been caught out by the yellow flag.

Haas’ hopes of making Q3 for the first time in F1 were dashed in a crazy 60-second period at the end of Q2 as drivers switched to slick tires. Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez both sat well inside the top 10 after their final laps, only for a flurry of improvements to leave them P11 and P15 on the grid.

Daniil Kvyat, Sergio Perez and Felipe Nasr also lost out, finishing 12th, 13th and 16th respectively, but Kimi Raikkonen was arguably the biggest loser. As the first man to take the checkered flag, Raikkonen sat P1. Less than a minute later, he was P14.

Renault’s hopes of building on its top-10 finish in FP3 were dashed as a late red flag in Q1 denied Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen the chance to make it through to Q2. Palmer finished 17th, two places ahead of Magnussen as the French team’s tough start to the year continued.

Felipe Massa and Marcus Ericsson were both casualties of the conditions in Q1, crashing out in separate incidents. Ericsson caused the second red flag after sliding off-track, while Massa made the switch to intermediate tires too early, resulting in a crash at Turn 4 that ended his qualifying. Massa and Ericsson will start 18th and 20th respectively.

Manor was unable to capitalize on the wet conditions in Q1 as Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto locked out the back row of the grid. Haryanto was responsible for the fourth and final red flag in Q1, his crash bringing the session to an early end.

The Hungarian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from 7am ET on Sunday.