Giedo van der Garde to replace Sutil for FP1 in China

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Sauber test driver Giedo van der Garde is set to get his second practice run-out of the season at next weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix when he replaces Adrian Sutil during the first Friday session.

The Dutchman joined Sauber at the beginning of the season after being dropped by Caterham, and has set his sights on a full-time drive with the team in 2015. He first got behind the wheel of the Sauber C33 during practice at the last race in Bahrain, where he replaced Esteban Gutierrez for FP1 and finished just three-tenths of a second behind Adrian Sutil.

Next week, van der Garde will replace Sutil for the session, having also ran at the in-season test in Bahrain earlier this week.

The team is also set to bring a number of upgrades to the race in Shanghai after a disastrous start to the season that has yielded zero points and a number of DNFs.

“The team keeps working relentlessly to get on top of the performance limitations that so far have not allowed us to race where we want to,” head of track engineering Giampaolo Dall’Ara explained. “We look forward to the Chinese Grand Prix as the next step, thanks to a number of updates we’ll be introducing and more track experience we gathered during the Bahrain test.”

After such a poor start to 2014, the pressure will undoubtedly be on Gutierrez and Sutil as three drivers are already eyeing up their seats for next season. van der Garde has a strong case after an impressive debut season with Caterham, but Russian youngster Sergey Sirotkin is also keen on claiming a seat after finally securing his FIA superlicense in Bahrain earlier this week.

Finally, former IndyCar driver Simona de Silvestro is also in the running for a seat after having a fitting earlier this week. She is set to test Sauber’s 2012 car at Fiorano in the coming weeks as part of her preparation for a full-time drive.

NHRA: Antron Brown on verge of earning 50th career Top Fuel win this weekend at Phoenix

Photo courtesy Toyota Racing
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When you’re used to winning championships – like three in the previous five seasons – any other season finish is disappointing.

That’s kind of how NHRA Top Fuel dragster driver Antron Brown looked at his fourth-place showing in the 2017 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

“At the end of the day, we had a very competitive season last year and made it to 10 final rounds,” Brown said. “But we got into the Countdown (NHRA’s six-race playoffs) and our timing was off.

“We struggled with a lot of problems we don’t usually have. Now it’s time for a new chapter for this team and time to get better. This is a new beginning for us and it’s going to be fun and exciting and we’re coming after them.”

Antron Brown hugs the NHRA Top Fuel championship trophy after winning it in 2016. (Photo by David Allio/Icon Sportswire)

Brown had a good start to 2018, reaching the semifinals before losing to Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tony Schumacher in the season-opening Lucas Oil Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California.

“We had a great performance at Pomona and I couldn’t be more proud of what our Matco/Toyota guys did,” Brown said. “Now we are going to Phoenix where we’ve won three times (2009, 2012 and 2014, and was runner-up in 2011) and we’ll just try to hit it hard and get a fourth.”

Next up on the NHRA 24-race national event circuit is the second race of the season, this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix (Chandler, Arizona).

Brown has definite plans to make it four wins in Phoenix. And if he does that Sunday, he’ll set a significant career milestone: it would be his 50th career win driving a Top Fueler and the 66th win overall (he won 16 races in Pro Stock Motorcycle before shifting from two to four wheels).

In so doing, Brown would become only the fourth Top Fuel driver in NHRA history to hit the 50-win mark. The others are Tony Schumacher (83), Larry Dixon (62) and Joe Amato (52).

This will be the second time Brown has been racing in Phoenix this month. He was part of the preseason test there for Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock cars a week before the season began.

“Testing went really well there,” said Brown, leaving him optimistic that he can reach victory circle once again. “I love going back to Phoenix.”

Brown has been the most dominant driver in NHRA Top Fuel competition since 2012, winning more than twice the number of races (34) than the next most successful Top Fuel driver (16 by Schumacher) in that time period.

He also has a 71 percent overall win percentage, which exceeds both eight-time Top Fuel champ Schumacher and 16-time Funny Car champ John Force.

“I’m just pumped up, feeling like we’ve got some unfinished business from last year,” Brown said. “We had a good outing but didn’t close the deal, so this year, we’re looking forward to getting back there and getting off to a great start.”

NOTES: Brown will serve as honorary pace car driver for the March 4th Pennzoil 400 NASCAR Cup race at Las Vegas. He’ll be joined by teammates Matt Hagan and Leah Pritchett in a weekend full of activities that they’ll all be involved in.

“I’m really excited,” Brown said. “It’s going to be my first experience as a pace car driver, and I’m just super stoked to go out there and drive the Camry pace car for Pennzoil and start those NASCAR boys off the right way. Throttle down, pedal to the metal. I just want them to get off to a great start.”

Brown has won four times at The Strip, the drag strip adjacent to Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I couldn’t be more excited to have the opportunity,” he said. “It’s an honor to be out there with such talented drivers, and I know I’m going to really enjoy watching our NASCAR counterparts.”

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