Dixon

Roller coaster days for Dixon, Wilson, RHR Sunday at Long Beach

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As part of a Teen Cancer America press conference Sunday morning in Long Beach, Honda Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Justin Wilson and Ryan Hunter-Reay were joined by ex-Honda man and defending series champion Scott Dixon as they were all set to support the Roger Daltrey’s organization.

Good times, a good cause, and happy quotes:

Wilson: “I think we have some pretty excited team owners. I know that for sure. Dale is quite excited to have Teen Cancer America on the car for this event. It means a lot to everyone. I think it’s a fantastic cause. We were all talking about it earlier and it’s definitely something we can work on and it’s an understanding. The more we understand, the more we can do.”

Dixon: “It’s an honor to meet someone like Roger (Daltrey) but I think it’s more of an honor to see a person like him become interested and lend his support for such a great cause. For me, I’ve been working with CANTeen in New Zealand for so many years and there’s a gap in the healthcare system. There are so many changes going on for teens with their hormones and trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives. Cancer is something that is pretty tough for anyone fighting it is something that we believe in. Cancer as a whole is horrible and there are so many causes that are fighting it.”

Hunter-Reay: “It’s great to have everyone here and pushing in the same direction in the fight against cancer.  It’s great to have Roger at a Verizon IndyCar Series event and to get Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on the front stage. He doesn’t have to be here. He’s here on his own accord pushing the fight against cancer and the promotion to help these people who face such an ugly fight. We’re all here doing the same thing.”’

And then the race happened. Dixon contacted Wilson going into Turn 8, and RHR’s passing attempt on Newgarden at Turn 4 made emotions run high. Here’s the polite version of the official post-race quotes, as distributed by INDYCAR:

Dixon: “It was a tough situation for the Target team to be in there leading at the end and not make it. We ended up being about a half of a lap short on fuel and didn’t get a break with a yellow flag. We could have stayed out and tried it but then we would have risked running out of fuel and wrecking the field. I feel bad for the accident with Justin Wilson. I didn’t expect him to be there on the outside so I will go talk to him. Not the day we wanted but we’ll regroup and be ready for Barber.”’

Wilson: “The team did a fantastic job all day, had great pit stops, we had the fuel to make it to the end, we were making great fuel mileage under the yellows and great fuel mileage on track, and had a fantastic restart. I had a couple of looks, tried to go down the inside in turn one and got blocked, which is fine, he moved first, I went to the outside and got squeezed on the outside. I was like ‘hang on a minute.’ Then coming out of five the same thing happened. He [Dixon] chose the inside so I took the outside and nearly got put in the wall then so I did the old switchback out of six climbing the hill to seven and then to eight Scott had the inside but he wanted the outside as well and I got sandwiched between him and the wall, bent both sides of the car and the end of our day. I just feel for the Boy Scouts of America guys. We worked so hard, had fantastic strategy. We gambled and could make the mileage and we should have been at least on the podium. I think we are there and we have got what it takes. We have some great people and the car runs flawlessly and we are out there trying to win races. It is just frustrating when something like this is taken away from you.”

Hunter-Reay: “We had a strong car and (Josef) Newgarden came out of pit lane and I knew he was on cold tires. He was really struggling to get up to speed through Turn 1, and then through Turn 3 he had some wheel spin so I went for it. I started to back out because he was closing the door – I could have waited a little later, maybe that’s my fault but at the same time I had at least a half a car up along sides of him so I went for it. If we had given each other a little bit of room we both maybe would have gotten through there. It’s down to me to make the pass I guess, I’m not sure… a lot of people say that was my fault. I made the decision at that split second, when he had some wheel spin, to go for it knowing that I was on hot tires. That’s the type of driver I am, I go for it. I feel bad for everybody involved. Obviously it was a bit of a bottle neck there, and it got others involved that didn’t deserve to be involved and that’s what I feel really bad about. But thank you to DHL and Honda; the 28 car was so strong today… just very, very disappointed. I’ll look at it again, but a racing driver, when he’s in the moment, and he sees a chance to go for it… I went for it because I want to win the race.”

Wilson was more candid to Autosport’s Mark Glendenning, dropping expletives to describe the move. Considering Wilson is one of the nicest drivers in the paddock, for him to go off the deep end as he did in this piece speaks volumes about the level of frustration he was feeling.

BRDC: Reports Silverstone will definitely drop British GP ‘speculative and wrong’

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 10:  The grid at the start of the race during the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone on July 10, 2016 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
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The British Racing Drivers Club has issued a statement dismissing suggestions that Silverstone will definitely drop its Formula 1 race following the 2019 season.

Doubt was cast over the future of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone following a leaked letter from BRDC chairman John Grant, in which he admitted to concerns about the cost of hosting the race.

Grant admitted that BRDC officials were considering triggering a clause in Silverstone’s F1 contract that would allow it to end its commitment after 2019 due to “ruinous” costs.

In a statement issued on Friday, the BRDC stressed that no final decision had been made and that suggestions a final decision to drop the race had already been made were incorrect.

“The British Racing Drivers Club wishes to make clear that recent press reports suggesting that talks have been unsuccessful and that the British Grand Prix will definitely be dropped after 2019 are speculative and wrong,” the statement reads.

“Our objective is to preserve the British Grand Prix at Silverstone for many years to come but, of course, we can only do this if it makes economic sense,” Grant added.

“As I have said before, we will be considering over the next six months if we should give notice of our intention to exercise the break clause in our grand prix contract at the end of 2019. No decision has been made, or will be made, until mid-July.

“In the meantime, we will be using this period to explore all interested parties, hopefully in private, various ways in which we might work out a more sustainable proposition.”

Jacques Villeneuve: Indy 500 ‘the biggest, most important race in the world’

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 25: Jacques Villeneuve of Canada driver of the #5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara Honda during the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 mile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 25, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
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1995 CART champion Jacques Villeneuve has called the Indianapolis 500 “the biggest, most important race in the world”, believing that its long-running traditions are key to its enduring appeal.

Villeneuve won the Indy 500 in 1995 en route to the CART title, having finished second at the Brickyard the previous year.

Villeneuve moved into Formula 1 following his CART title victory, becoming world champion with Williams in 1997 before ultimately leaving the series mid-way through the 2006 season.

Villeneuve appeared in his third ‘500 in 2014, finishing 14th for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (pictured above).

Speaking at Autosport International last week, Villeneuve spoke warmly of his experiences at the ‘500, saying it dwarfed any other race in motorsport.

“[You’re] running at an average speed of 230 mph in traffic, in a place where you’re still allowed to risk your life basically because it’s marginally safer than 20 years ago, and half a million people in the grandstands,” Villeneuve said.

“Back then it was an event that lasted three weeks. You would build on it so the energy was incredible. It felt like a big gladiatorial ring from the Roman Empire. It was very special.

“It is the biggest, most important race in the world. Obviously an F1 championship is bigger, but as a one single event, it’s the biggest one.”

Villeneuve said that he did not appreciate the enormity of the event until he finally raced at the ‘500, having followed F1 more closely as a child by virtue of his father, Gilles, who raced for Ferrari.

“The Indy 500, I didn’t grow up with it. I grew up with Formula 1, so I didn’t really know what it represented,” Villeneuve said

“I didn’t think about it until I raced in Atlantics and I thought ‘oh wow, there’s half a million people here, that’s cool’.

“I still didn’t really understand why there was one toilet where they didn’t put the door because one year there was a driver who didn’t close his door and they decided to keep it like that for the next 40 years.

“There’s lots of stuff in America that’s very important, the history of why things have happened. Why do you drink milk when you’ve won the Indy 500? It’s because – I don’t know which driver – in the past was thirsty and asked for a jug of milk. They gave it to him and it became tradition.

“All these little things keep it alive. To get a race where people come almost daily for three weeks, that takes a lot of passion. But when you’re in it, OK it’s just a race and there’s lots of people, great, but it’s a stepping stone to F1.

“When you’re out of it, you realize first of all I survived it, and then you’ve won it. And then you realize that it’s still present and alive.

“And then you realize that that win was 22 years ago, and then you understand the meaning of what you accomplished.”

Niki Lauda confident Valtteri Bottas can be F1 world champion with Mercedes

Valtteri Bottas
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Mercedes non-executive director Niki Lauda believes that Valtteri Bottas can become Formula 1 world champion following his move to Mercedes ahead of the 2017 season.

Bottas was formally announced as a Mercedes driver on Monday, replacing Nico Rosberg following the German’s shock decision to retire following his world title win at the end of last year.

Speaking to RTL, Lauda expressed his belief that Bottas can be just as fast as Rosberg has been and is also capable of winning a world championship.

“We took Bottas because it was the best option. He is a driver who can be just as fast as Nico and I think he can win the world championship,” Lauda said.

“It was not easy to solve the problem of Rosberg, because we were looking for a driver who could do well in our team.

“So far we have always had the best two drivers who were both capable of fighting for the championship. The Nico-Lewis pairing is a good example, because they were two top drivers and fought head-to-head.”

Lauda is sure that Bottas can hit the ground running at Mercedes, proving to be a safe option with four seasons of F1 experience already under his belt.

“In the last three years we have won everything there was to win and that’s why we involved Bottas, who brings experience and speed to the team,” Lauda said.

“We can start the season very quietly and safely with these two drivers.”

Lauda also believes that Bottas will not become involved in any intra-team tension with new teammate Lewis Hamilton, the Briton having enjoyed a particularly fiery rivalry with Rosberg during their time together at Mercedes.

“Bottas is Finnish, he is calm, doesn’t talk much, but works hard,” Lauda said.

“I am sure that he will fit perfectly in the team and will not have any problems with Hamilton.”

After a down season in 2016, Ryan Hunter-Reay is looking up in 2017

Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone 600
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The 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season was one Ryan Hunter-Reay would likely rather forget.

If you were an IndyCar driver, you’d want to forget it too, as Hunter-Reay endured his worst season in the last eight:

* He failed to win even one race since 2009, his last season outside Andretti Autosport.

* He managed just three podium finishes (same as 2015, but he also had two wins that season).

* After finishing seventh, sixth and sixth in the previous three seasons, Hunter-Reay finished 12th in the IndyCar standings in 2016, his worst showing since finishing 15th in 2009.

* He had an average starting position of 11.8 and an average finish of 10.9.

All in all, 2016 was very much a hit-and-miss season, with more emphasis on the miss rather than the hit.

“2016 I think was just a season of missed opportunities, especially when I look at the big one that got away, which was the Indy 500,” Hunter-Reay said during Wednesday’s annual IndyCar preseason Media Day. “I knew after halfway through that race that I had a car to win it, it was just a matter of getting to that sprint, to that fight at the end.”

Unfortunately, RHR finished 24th in that event, two laps behind winner Alexander Rossi, following contact in the pits.

“And then Pocono, again, same situation, 500-mile race, very similar circumstances,” Hunter-Reay said, although he finished third at Pocono as opposed to how he did at Indy. “Those were two wins I feel like got away.”

It’s something he can’t help but lament because had things turned out differently, Hunter-Reay likely would not have finished as low in the standings as he did.

“It being my first ever season not winning a race with a full-time program – those two hurt when I think about them,” he said.

Another thing that hurt and was a miss was his performance in street courses. While he started the season strong with a third-place finish at St. Petersburg, that was the lone street course highlight of 2016.

At Long Beach, he finished 18th. He bounced back with finishes of seventh and third in the two Belle Isle races, but wound up 12th at Toronto.

“It was a season of struggles on the street courses for Andretti Autosport as a whole,” Hunter-Reay admitted. “We have been going back to look at that and we’re going to bring some changes in this year.

“We’ve obviously had some personnel changes at Andretti Autosport, and we’ve also had a directional change on the way we’re going to approach street circuits.

“We had a couple good street course races. You know, we finished on the podium at two last year, but it’s not enough. That’s something that we need to get on top of.”

Like his fellow IndyCar peers, Hunter-Reay is over 2016 and it’s on to 2017, with a hunger that can only be fed with greater success.

“Absolutely,” said the 2012 IndyCar champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner. “I’m always so motivated no matter what when I get in the race car.

“That’s how I’ve always been my whole career, just because I’ve always had to get in and prove myself to keep my ride. I have a lot of stability now with DHL (renewed at the end of last season). Obviously this is a great, great partner. It’s great for the series. I have four years left on my deal right now, and that stability within IndyCar, so big thanks to DHL and Andretti Autosport on that.”

While IndyCar will have a decidedly different race car in 2018, Hunter-Reay does not anticipate 2017 being similar to his 2016 campaign.

“I don’t want to make it seem like it’s a lame duck year for us,” he said. “This is something that we can progress on. We know the areas we need to improve in, and we’ve been focusing on that this off-season. I think we can improve there.

“There’s no reason why we can’t, and there’s no excuse not to, so that’s something that we’re very focused on, and I feel like we have a great opportunity to win four or five races this season, hopefully more. But it’s something where we’re going to have to go out and prove it.”

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