Auto Club 400 - Practice

Keselowski expects more Fontana-like tire issues during season

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Tire problems were one of the biggest stories to emerge in yesterday’s Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway, which saw multiple drivers suffer failures.

NASCAR defended the work of manufacturer Goodyear, largely putting the failures down to aggressive set-ups and air pressures from the teams. Some of the drivers, however, still pinned the blame on Goodyear.

One of them was Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski, who suffered a failure with a handful of laps to go and finished 26th, causing him to lose the Sprint Cup points lead.

Keselowski also had several tire failures during Saturday’s practice sessions on the two-mile oval going into the race, and he said that caused the No. 2 team to go more conservative on the air pressures for the race.

Still, he became one of many drivers to have tire troubles.

“If air pressure was the issue then it is a pretty simple fix, you just enforce a minimum rule,” Keselowski argued in post-race. “If air pressure was the issue we would have blown this many tires last year because it is all the same air pressure settings as last year. If anything we were more conservative after the issues yesterday.

“I am not going to say it wasn’t a factor but at the end of the day you can’t add 500-600 pounds of downforce to a race car along with a track that has bumps like you are on a freeway in Michigan. The tires just aren’t made for it. There is not enough margin in the cars and tires to do that and that is what we saw today.”

Keselowski also indicated that with the Gen-6 cars achieving higher speeds and having more downforce than last year thanks to the new aero package, more tire issues such as the ones seen at Fontana may emerge later on.

“This tire didn’t have any margin,” Keselowski said. “We have probably a half a dozen tires remaining that have no margin and I would expect similar issues through the season. No margin from last year and we have increased the demand significantly.

“If you are going to fix it, you either have to change the margin on the tire or put the cars back to their configuration last year where they were less harsh on the tires.”

Jeff Gordon was also critical of Goodyear, saying that the tire situation was “just uncalled for.” However, other drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kurt Busch agreed with NASCAR’s belief that the matter wasn’t a Goodyear problem.

Earnhardt singled out Fontana’s bumpy backstretch as a culprit behind the issues, while Busch noted NASCAR’s decision to let teams decide on camber changes for their cars.

Lotus prepared for close fight with Force India for P5

SUZUKA, JAPAN - SEPTEMBER 26:  Romain Grosjean of France and Lotus drives during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka Circuit on September 26, 2015 in Suzuka.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Lotus technical director Nick Chester believes that the team faces a close fight with Force India for fifth place in the constructors’ championship that will rage on until the end of the 2015 Formula 1 season.

Lotus currently ranks sixth in the teams’ standings, 17 points behind Force India in fifth with five races remaining this year.

Finishing fifth in the constructors’ championship would not only secure some much-needed additional prize money for Lotus, but it would also secure it a place on the F1 Strategy Group for 2016 when it is poised to become Renault F1 Team.

Reflecting on last weekend’s race in Japan, Chester said he was pleased with the double-points finished achieved by Lotus drivers Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean, and believes that the team can catch up in the coming weeks if Force India hits trouble.

“[Japan] was very rewarding and also very important for us in our fight for fifth place in the constructors’ championship,” Chester said. “We closed up a little bit more on Force India and of course there is a bit more to do.

“They had a good race in Monza when both our cars got knocked out but effectively we’re one good race away where they have a bad one and we can catch up. It will be tight all the way until the end of the season.

Looking ahead to the upcoming Russian Grand Prix in Sochi, Chester spoke of the challenge posed to both the teams and the drivers by the tight and twisting circuit around the site of the old winter Olympic park.

“We know that the surface is very smooth and last year we struggled generating temperature with the tires, partly through the smooth surface and partly through what was a conservative tire allocation,” Chester said.

“Pirelli’s softer allocation for this year along with the more weathered track surface and our better knowledge of the circuit should mean we fare far better in this regard. In terms of its needs, we know that it’s a track that is quite power and traction-sensitive.

“The layout presents a lot of slow speed corners and long straights. Braking down into turn 13 is very severe and you come out of the kink before you brake so it is a difficult corner to get right. Overall, the whole track is quite technical, so it certainly a challenging one for the drivers.”

Status targets 2016 GP2 title after GP3 exit

2015 GP2 Series Round 8.
Autodromo di Monza, Italy.
Sunday 6 September 2015.
Marlon Stockinger (PHL, Status Grand Prix) 
Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _G7C2088
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Status Grand Prix has set its sights on winning the 2016 GP2 Series championship following its decision to close down its GP3 team at the end of the current season.

Earlier this week, GP3 issued a statement confirming its team roster for the next three seasons that featured new entries from DAMS and Virtuosi Racing.

However, both Carlin and Status did not appear on the list, signalling that both had opted to leave GP3 at the end of 2015.

Status first entered GP3 back in 2010, but only set up a GP2 team in 2015 after taking over the old Caterham Racing operation.

This will now become the main focus for the Irish outfit, though, as explained by team boss Teddy Yip Jr. earlier this week.

“Status Grand Prix has not renewed entry into the GP3 Series from 2016 onwards in order to maximize focus on our GP2 campaign,” Yip said.

“Having finished second in the team championship in the inaugural GP3 Series, we have enjoyed six successful years in the category collecting nine race wins, 26 podium finishes and vying for numerous team and driver titles.

“We are very proud to have given opportunities and achieved success with drivers such as Robert Wickens, Antonio Felix da Costa, Alexander Sims and our current GP2 race winner, Richie Stanaway.

“We now look forward to finishing the 2015 GP2 and GP3 seasons on a high before mounting a robust GP2 title campaign in 2016.”

Both GP2 and GP3 return from a one-month break next weekend in support of the Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix.