Credit: Chris Owens/INDYCAR

A “refreshing” 83 laps today for Jacques Villeneuve at Indy (VIDEO)

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Former Indianapolis 500 and Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve got re-acquainted with an old friend today.

The 43-year-old French-Canadian, who won the 1995 edition of The Greatest Spectacle in Racing, turned in 83 laps at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today as part of a refresher test for his ‘500’ return next month with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Villeneuve topped out with a lap of 217.742 miles per hour in the No. 5 Dollar General Honda, and he admitted today that it took a bit of time for him to get truly sorted in the cockpit.

“It took a while to get there,” said Villeneuve, who is now cleared to take part in ‘500’ practice starting May 11. “The first few laps were surprising because it felt like I was going fast and I looked and it was 180 [mph]. I thought, ‘There’s still a long way to go,’ and then 190.

“And [after] another 10 laps, I started getting in the rhythm and once you start going flat all around, it becomes easy. I think your brain [and] your vision just needs to get used to driving at speed.”

Villeneuve added that with a stiff 25 mph wind blowing around the Speedway, there was no point to trim out his car early on. But they did manage to focus on the car’s set-up as the day progressed.

Should he qualify for the “500,” he’ll tie a record for the biggest gap between starts in the world’s greatest race. Two drivers, Cy Marshall and Roland Free, currently hold the record for their starts between 1930 and 1947.

As part of his refresher test, Villeneuve had to run 30 laps that make up the second and third phases of the race’s Rookie Orientation Program. Phase 2 of ROP involves 15 laps between 205-210 mph, and Phase 3 requires 15 laps at 210+ mph.

Ecclestone has ‘no doubts’ Monza will remain on F1 calendar

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MILAN (AP) Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone is confident the Italian Grand Prix in Monza can find the needed cash to stay on the calendar.

Ecclestone tells the Gazzetta dello Sport, “We will find the right solution – I no longer have doubts – to provide a future for the Italian GP.”

No circuit has hosted more F1 racing than Monza, but officials at the track outside Milan have had trouble producing the estimated 25 million euros ($26.6 million) per year that Ecclestone seeks to keep the race in place after the current contract expires next year.

Ecclstone says, “Things have been cleared up and there is only one go between, (Angelo) Sticchi Damiani, the president of the Italian Automobile Club.”

The Italian GP next year is scheduled for Sept. 4.

Alternative engine solution rejected by F1 Commission

Nico Rosberg

Plans to introduce a new alternative, cheaper engine into Formula 1 for 2017 – hypothetically a 2.2-liter V6 similar to what is seen in IndyCar – will at least temporarily go on the backburner.

The F1 Commission has rejected the so called “alternative engine solution,” where several companies submitted proposals to be that alternative supplier.

“The F1 Commission voted not to pursue this option at this stage — however, it may be reassessed after the Power Unit manufacturers have presented their proposal to the Strategy Group,” the FIA said on Wednesday.

“The parties involved have agreed on a course to address several key areas relating to Power Unit supply in Formula One,” the statement added.

Meanwhile the statement outlined four things the current manufacturers – Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault and Honda – would be tasked with improving on the current 1.6-liter formula:

Those are:

  • a guarantee of supply to teams
  • the need to reduce the engines’ cost
  • simplification of the specification
  • “improved noise”

Further meetings between the manufacturers and the governing body are scheduled, including one this weekend at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix season finale.

As F1 heads into the final weekend of the season, political/paddock items such as Red Bull and Toro Rosso’s respective power unit futures, whether Renault’s takeover of Lotus will finally become official and what will happen with Manor’s team leadership stake – this marks Graeme Lowdon and John Booth’s final weekends although ex-McLaren man Dave Ryan has been hired as the team’s new racing director – are among the talking points.

Stoffel Vandoorne’s Super Formula test hampered by engine woes

Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Stoffel Vandoorne
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You couldn’t make this stuff up.

Dominant GP2 Series champion Stoffel Vandoorne had his first go in a Super Formula car at Suzuka on Wednesday, but the engine woes that have hampered his Formula 1 team’s efforts (McLaren) all season appear to be equal opportunity woes.

Vandoorne only completed a limited day of running due to technical issues; naturally, and in an unfortunate coincidence, the Super Formula cars also have Honda power.

The Belgian is now en route from Japan to Abu Dhabi, where this weekend’s final round of the GP2 season will be held alongside the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

FIA Formula E to remain at Battersea Park following vote

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Wandsworth Council’s Community Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee voted seven to four late Tuesday night, in favor of retaining the FIA Formula E event in Battersea Park.

This will see the London ePrix – the season finale for the electric open-wheel championship – continue at the site for at least the next two seasons.

The 2016 race will run July 2-3, to avoid a direct head-to-head clash with the British Grand Prix a week later in Silverstone.

Battersea Park’s race faced local opposition in recent weeks, which put the race under threat.