Andretti drivers say GP of Long Beach should stay with IndyCar

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With Formula One’s bid to bring a second American-based Grand Prix to the New York/New Jersey region floundering, the series is now coveting a return to the streets of Long Beach, California, where it raced in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

The latest story in that saga emerged recently as the Long Beach City Council proposed a three-year extension of its contract with the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, which should keep the IndyCars racing by the Pacific Ocean through 2018.

However, at the end of that extension, the event would be opened up for bidding, which could give F1 a way back to Southern California.

The event has been an American open-wheel racing staple since 1984 – and the Andretti Autosport drivers believe it needs to stay that way.

Marco Andretti – whose father, Michael, and grandfather, Mario, combined for six Long Beach wins in their driving careers – scoffed at the idea (“They were supposed to go to Jersey, too,” he noted) while James Hinchcliffe said the money needed for upgrades and sanctioning fees would “further bankrupt California.”

And former Long Beach winner and Verizon IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay felt like the event was on its way to returning to its past splendor, when the likes of the Andrettis, Al Unser Jr., and other superstars dueled through the streets.

“It’s an IndyCar race. It needs to be,” said Hunter-Reay. “That’s where the glory days were, and we’re heading back there. The crowds are ‑‑ on Friday, this race is the best I think I’ve ever seen. Just getting here, we couldn’t find a way through the crowd on a Friday.”

Much has been made about the costs of a possible F1 event at Long Beach and whether or not they would be worth it for the city. But the Grand Prix’s founder, Chris Pook, now a critical part of F1’s attempt to return to the Beach, has said that those costs would be far less than what some are expecting.

“People have been saying it would cost $100 million,” he said in March to the Orange County (Calif.) Register. “That number has just stuck in people’s minds. It’s not even close to that.”

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.”