First event of 2014 TORC championship in the books

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Writer’s Note: The following is a recap of this weekend’s season-opening event for TORC: The Off-Road Championship – the “Duel in the Desert” from Primm, Nevada. NBCSN will air the event on Friday, April 25 at 11 p.m. ET. If you don’t want to know who won until then, we suggest you find another post to read here on MotorSportsTalk…

While gamblers hoped for a jackpot at the nearby casinos, the drivers of TORC: The Off-Road Championship entered the weekend at Primm Valley Off-Road Raceway hoping for a strong start to their 2014 seasons.

The “Duel in the Desert” began with an action-packed Round 1 on Saturday that saw Adrian Cenni win the PRO 4 race with a last-lap pass on Johnny Greaves, who still claimed second despite rolling his truck early in the race.

But a momentary mistake on Greaves’ part – in which he got loose in a corner and hit a hay bale – allowed Cenni to reel him in. On the final circuit, the two went side-by-side before Cenni made the pass stick in Turn 3 and then went on to win.

Meanwhile, Chad Hord’s wire-to-wire triumph in PRO 2 was overshadowed by the stunning barrel roll that Arie Luyendyk Jr. took after mid-air contact with another competitor.

Luckily, Arie Jr. was alert upon his transfer to a local hospital and earlier today, he was spotted back at the track to not only watch but also join the NBCSN team in the booth:

The 24-truck PRO Light class started the day, and that race was won from the pole by C.J. Greaves.

Saturday’s Podium Finishers

  • PRO 4: 1. Adrian Cenni; 2. Johnny Greaves; 3. Mark Kvamme
  • PRO 2: 1. Chad Hord; 2. Marty Hart; 3. Mike Jenkins
  • PRO Light: 1. C.J. Greaves; 2. Doug Mittag; 3. Jerett Brooks

However, in today’s Round 2 of the Duel, Johnny Greaves avenged his near-miss yesterday by beating Cenni to the checkered flag in PRO 4.

Greaves took the lead shortly after the drop of the green flag and held it up to the competition caution. When the green came back out at Lap 10, Greaves was able to maintain the point while second-place Mark Jenkins went over the wall to trigger a full-course yellow.

The incident elevated Cenni to second place, but Greaves quickly pulled away when the race went green again.

In PRO 2, Hord rocketed from fourth to the lead on the opening lap but lost the point shortly after the competition yellow to C.J. Greaves. C.J. then hung on the rest of the way for the victory, a nice follow-up to his third-place finish in PRO Light behind winner Jerett Brooks and runner-up Kyle Hart.

Sunday’s Podium Finishers

  • PRO 4: 1. Johnny Greaves; 2. Adrian Cenni; 3. Scott Douglas
  • PRO 2: 1. C.J. Greaves; 2. Chad Hord; 3. Patrick Clark
  • PRO Light: 1. Jerett Brooks; 2. Kyle Hart; 3. C.J. Greaves

TORC: The Off-Road Championship will return to action for the Showdown in Charlotte on April 25 and 26 at The Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.