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IndyCar: Briscoe provides update on IMS road course evolution

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Only Graham Rahal will be able to match Ryan Briscoe’s perception of how the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course has evolved, from an exploratory test held last fall through today’s open test for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Grand Prix of Indianapolis, to be held May 10.

The driver of the No. 8 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet ended Wednesday’s test session second fastest at 1:09.6558 (126.054mph), trailing only CGR teammate Scott Dixon.

Rahal and Briscoe tested back in the fall before the GP of Indy was formally announced; for Briscoe, today marked his first time on the IMS road course driving in his usual entry as opposed to the National Guard Panther Racing car he drove last year (a sponsor which now, coincidentally, sponsors Rahal).

“When I was here back in October and did some laps in the IndyCar, we were trying the configurations.  We actually ran turn one going backwards.  That was weird,” Briscoe admitted.

“And the banking felt huge.  When we go this way for the 500, you don’t even notice the banking. It doesn’t feel like there’s any banking at all. You go backwards through it, it’s like you lean over, the steering gets heavy. It really stood out.”

Briscoe noted the two major passing zones.

“One and seven are the big pass zones,” Briscoe added, describing the track. “I think (there’s) just huge improvements over what was the F1 track with extending the straight down the middle, slowing down turn seven, then opening up the next set of S’s in eight, nine and ten where it used to be very slow and now it’s really fast and challenging.”

Briscoe didn’t have the chance to compete in an F1 race, but he was a Toyota-affiliated reserve and test driver during the 2004 season before coming over to North America to race in IndyCar.

He said the weirdness of seeing the Pagoda on driver’s right, as opposed to driver’s left, was stranger outside the cockpit than in it.

“I think still it looks the strangest from outside the car,” he said. “When we’re out there driving, it’s just another racetrack really. But you stop and you have a look and you see the cars coming up the straight the wrong way, it takes some getting used to, for sure.”

Upon his return to CGR for the first time since the 2005 season, Briscoe has shown flashes of speed but hasn’t had a huge weekend as yet. The GP of Indy provides him his best chance yet at his first Firestone Fast Six qualifying and race podium appearance of the season.

Folger to make MotoGP debut with Tech3 in 2017

JEREZ DE LA FRONTERA, SPAIN - APRIL 22: Jonas Folger of Germany and Dynavolt Intact GP  rounds the bend during the MotoGp of Spain - Free Practice at Circuito de Jerez on April 22, 2016 in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain.  (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)
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Yamaha Tech3 has confirmed that rising German talent Jonas Folger will make his MotoGP debut with the team in 2017, stepping up from Moto2.

Folger, 22, finished sixth in last year’s Moto2 riders’ championship, and already has one pole position and two podiums to his name after four races in 2016.

The Kalex rider will make the jump up to MotoGP for 2017, joining the Yamaha satellite team on a one-year deal with an option for a second.

“I am super excited about the news and I still can’t believe this is happening,” Folger said.

“I have been racing for years in the motorcycling world championship and to make the move up to the premier class is a dream come true plus I’d like to thank all my sponsors that have stuck by me all these years.

“Furthermore, it’s an honor to make this step with Yamaha, Hervé Poncharal and Tech3 team who have such a long and deep history in the paddock. I will try my absolute best to repay the faith the team has put in me, and I’m really looking forward to the new adventure.

“However, I will remain completely focused for the rest of the year in the intermediate class but I can’t wait for Valencia where I will sample the Yamaha YZR-M1 for the first time.”

Folger will get his first taste of the Tech3-run Yamaha bike at the traditional end of season MotoGP test in Spain this November.

Hamilton asks fans to trust and respect Mercedes team

SOCHI, RUSSIA - MAY 01:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP leaves the paddock after the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on May 1, 2016 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
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Three-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton has called on his fans to trust and respect the Mercedes team amid unfounded allegations of sabotage in the past two races.

Hamilton suffered an issue on his power unit in qualifying for both the Chinese and Russian Grands Prix, helping teammate Nico Rosberg on his way to a streak of four successive victories to start the season.

Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff responded to claims on social media that the team was deliberately hindering Hamilton’s efforts by calling the accusers “lunatics”, before Mercedes itself wrote an open letter to its fans in response to the claims.

Hamilton has now issued a message of his own via his Facebook page on Friday:

Dear All,

I want you to know how grateful I am for all of your support. I’d like to ask that you please trust in my team, as I do. This is my family. These guys have been the greatest, hardest working people for me, and that is why I am now 3x World Champion.

Please don’t put any more thought into my team doing anything unjust towards me, and understand that it would be in no ones best interest for that to be the case. We’ve had the best 3 years together, and whilst it’s not going to plan right now, all will unfold in its own time.

I trust these guys 1000% and my mechanics are incredible, the best in the business. I respect them so please do the same. They are the guys that are going to make winning this championship possible.

Thank you once again.

Hamilton will bid to end Rosberg’s winning streak and get back into the title hunt when F1 arrives in Europe next weekend for the Spanish Grand Prix.

Button confused by Red Bull’s decision to drop Kvyat

SOCHI, RUSSIA - APRIL 30: Jenson Button of Great Britain and McLaren Honda in the garage during final practice ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on April 30, 2016 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
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2009 Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button questioned Red Bull’s decision to drop Daniil Kvyat for Max Verstappen as of the Spanish Grand Prix, saying the team has “short memories”.

Red Bull announced on Thursday that Kvyat would be returning to Toro Rosso, its B-team, as of the next race in Barcelona, with Verstappen moving in the opposite direction.

The decision sparked mixed reactions on social media, with many pointing out that Kvyat had been on the podium just three weeks ago in China.

Button made the exact same point in a couple of tweets sent from his Twitter account on Thursday.

IMS confirms 100th Indy 500 reserved seats are sold out

Indianapolis 500
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials have confirmed Friday that the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil will have a sellout crowd, with confirmation all reserved seats have been sold.

“Every Indianapolis 500 is special, but the buzz surrounding the 100th Running has been building for nearly a year, ever since the checkered flag fell on the 99th,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said in a release. “Our fans are the best in sports and their incredible support of this year’s race will make it a truly historic day for ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.’”

Further information is linked here, via the IMS website.