Lotus reaches top 10 for the first time in 2014 thanks to Grosjean


Romain Grosjean has secured Lotus’ first top 10 grid position of the season during qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix on what was a bittersweet day for the British team.

Whilst the Frenchman finally found his feet with the E22 car to qualify 10th, teammate Pastor Maldonado did not even make it out on track after an engine problem forced him to sit on the sidelines during qualifying.

The Venezuelan driver had a disastrous Friday in China, spinning in FP1 and then crashing at the pit entry in FP2. However, when he was forced to pull over during practice on Saturday morning, it was through no fault of his own. When the car was recovered and brought back to the pits, it was found that there was an engine problem that required fixing.

Fighting alone, Grosjean was keen on securing the Lotus’ best qualifying result of the season after a difficult start to the year. Financial problems blighted much of the team’s progress at the beginning of the year, meaning that it had to miss the first test in Jerez. Ever since, it had been behind in the development race, but the team finally appears to have found some form in China.

In Q1, Grosjean managed to scrape through in 16th position ahead of Esteban Gutierrez after the rain grew heavier towards the end of the session, preventing any improvements. A well-timed lap in Q2 meant that he eased through in 7th place whilst Kimi Raikkonen, Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen all failed to make it into the final part of qualifying.

Q3 was a less fruitful session for the Frenchman, and he finished three-tenths of a second adrift of the rest of the field to finish down in 10th place. However, simply to make it through into the top 10 shootout was a major achievement for the entire Lotus team.

Now, the target will be for Grosjean to score the team’s first points of the season tomorrow, and with light rain forecast, he might just be able to make it a reality.

Despite not technically qualifying, Maldonado should be permitted to race by the stewards after setting times within the required 107% of the fastest driver during practice on Friday.

Lewis Hamilton will start the Chinese Grand Prix from pole position. You can watch the race live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 2:30am ET tomorrow.

NHRA: John Force-like motor explosions get contagious during Sunday’s Gatornationals

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
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John Force is rubbing off on others – but probably not the way they or he would like.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion has had spectacular motor explosions in each of the first three races of the new NHRA season, including during Friday’s qualifying for this weekend’s Gatornationals.

During Sunday’s quarterfinals of eliminations, Force’s teammate (and son-in-law and president of John Force Racing) Robert Hight squared off with fellow Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.

As the duo closed in on the finish line, both cars experienced spectacular motor explosions of their own – virtually side-by-side and nearly at the same time.

Hight’s car was the first to explode, tossing its body high in the air. A split-second later, Hagan’s car exploded, also sending the body flying.

Check out the NHRA video:

Hight wound up losing the race.

Hagan, meanwhile, and his crack pit crew rolled their backup car off the hauler, put in a new motor and went on to race through the semifinals and into the finals, losing to race winner “Fast Jack” Beckman.

“We had a pretty great race day, to be honest,” Hagan said. “I’ve never been to the finals in Gainesville.

“We obviously had a huge blow up in the second round, then to watch these guys pull the other car back out and put it together in the amount of time they had, then turn a win light on against Capps (Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the semifinals), then to be able to go to a final, it was huge and it speaks for itself.”

As for Hight, here’s his take on what happened with the motor explosion:

“I couldn’t see (Hagan) over there and it wasn’t like it was hazing the tires or anything else. As it turns out it wasn’t spinning at all. It kicked two rods out when it blacked the bearings in the crank then it hit the valves and blew up.

“The thing gave me no indication at all before that. What really scared me was once I got it under control and I look over and see his body is off his car. I am thinking ‘Oh man, he got gathered up in me.’ Then I stood up and looked and his injector was sideways so I realized he had an explosion as well. We are just lucky we didn’t get into each other.”

As for the guy who has had so much trouble in the motor department, John Force, he lost in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations to daughter Courtney Force.

John Force planned on shutting the motor off on his car at around the 700-foot mark of the 1,000-foot dragstrip, not wanting to risk another motor explosion – even though it meant a likely loss to his daughter.

Now John Force and his entire four-car team, including Courtney Force, Robert Hight and daughter and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, will be off for extensive testing to try and determine what’s been causing the motor explosions.

“We have to evaluate it and go test,” Force said. “We’ll figure it out.”

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