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MRTI: Razia, Hargrove, Starrantino score Saturday IMS wins

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Five of six Mazda Road to Indy races on the revised 2.439-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course saw first-time series winners in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tire, Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tire and Cooper Tire USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

Luiz Razia (Indy Lights) and Adrian Starrantino (USF2000) added their names to the IMS list of winners, while Scott Hargrove (Pro Mazda) made it 2-for-2 in that series this weekend (See Friday’s results here).

INDY LIGHTS 

From pole, Luiz Razia captured his first win of his Indy Lights career and the first for the usually dominant Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team this season. SPM, which has won the last four series championships in succession, was 0-for-5 heading into Saturday’s race.

Razia won from teammate Jack Harvey, who also scored his second podium in as many days (the pair were second and third on Friday, behind Matthew Brabham).

Behind them, championship protagonists Zach Veach and Gabby Chaves had another frustrating afternoon in ending seventh and eighth, respectively after off-course excursions at Turn 1 late in the race. They ended ninth and 11th on Friday.

Chaves’ Belardi Auto Racing teammate, Alex Baron, finished third behind the SPM pair ahead of Veach’s Andretti Autosport teammate, young “Matty Brabs.” The championship’s been shaken up as a result with both Razia and Harvey now fully into the title fight after finding their footing in the opening three weekends of the year.

PRO MAZDA

Scott Hargrove completed a weekend sweep of the Pro Mazda races on the IMS road courses, with his Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing teammate Neil Alberico finishing second in Saturday’s second race.

Hargrove held off Spencer Pigot, who had gone 4-for-4 in wins to start the season, in the early stages of the race before Pigot had an issue that dropped him to 14th. He rebounded to eight but it was still a rough weekend for the points leader.

Alberico came through to second with Pigot’s teammate at Juncos Racing, Jose Gutierrez, third and on the podium for the first time. Garett Grist and Kyle Kaiser completed the top five.

USF2000

Although he started from pole, JAY Motorsports’ Adrian Starrantino had to work hard Saturday to secure his first USF2000 win. But the young American pulled it off.

Starrantino fell behind Victor Franzoni at the start but on Lap 11, an issue dropped him back. Starrantino held on as Florian Latorre shaded him, with Franzoni third.

Clark Toppe finished fourth with one of Starrantino’s teammates, Henrik Furuseth, putting in a great drive to climb from 20th up to fifth.

After this weekend on the road course, Pro Mazda and USF2000 head to the 0.686-mile Lucas Oil Raceway oval for the Night Before the 500 on May 24, while Indy Lights’ next race is the Freedom 100 on IMS’ oval May 23, Carb Day.

Hill expects Rosberg to be ‘more formidable’ in 2016

xxxx during the Formula One Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez  on November 1, 2015 in Mexico City, Mexico.
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1996 Formula 1 world champion Damon Hill believes that Nico Rosberg will be “more formidable” in 2016 following his back-to-back title defeats to Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton.

Rosberg took the title race down to the final race of the year in 2014 before losing to Hamilton, and proved to be the Briton’s closest rival again in 2015, albeit losing the championship with three rounds remaining.

Rosberg endured a five-month winless streak last season that led many to question his ability to battle with Hamilton for a championship, only for the German to answer by winning the final three races of the year.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Hill said that Rosberg showed his true strength with this trio of victories, signalling that he could put up a greater fight to Hamilton for the title in 2016.

“I think he is a little bit more formidable now,” Hill said. “I think after the Austin defeat, that day when he lost the championship and Lewis infamously tossed the cap and he tossed it straight back, there was a moment where Nico said ‘OK, I am not going to take this anymore’ and he did go ahead and win all the remaining races.

“He can go on ahead and become the other world champion’s son [Keke Rosberg won the F1 title in 1982] to become a world champion himself.

“He probably knows time is running out and when you get all those ingredients together you maybe get a little bit of a hardening of the determination. Maybe he will be more determined this year and harder to beat.”

MotoGP to introduce stewards’ panel for 2016 season

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - OCTOBER 25:  Marc Marquez of Spain and Repsol Honda Team leads Valentino Rossi of Italy and Movistar Yamaha MotoGP during the MotoGP race during the MotoGP Of Malaysia at Sepang Circuit on October 25, 2015 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)
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The FIM has confirmed that a new, dedicated stewards’ panel will be created for the 2016 MotoGP season following the controversy between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez at the end of last year.

Rossi and Marquez became embroiled in a tense rivalry that saw them clash in Malaysia, with Rossi appearing to raise his leg and cause his adversary to fall from his bike.

Rossi was handed a penalty that dropped him to the back of the grid for the championship decider in Valencia, where Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo clinched a third world title.

The incident did little good of the reputation of the drivers involved nor MotoGP as a whole, prompting officials to create a new stewards’ panel for 2016 that will deal with similar affairs.

Previously, race direction has also dealt with stewarding matters, but these responsibilities will now be split for 2016.

“We want to let race direction focus on managing the races because there are a lot of responsibilities and delicate matters to do,” FIM president Vito Ippolito said.

“We want to let them be free to manage the race but not to involve them anymore with the task of penalizing riders. It needs more time and special dedication.

“On the other side we will have the panel of three stewards. It will be the current race director who is Mike Webb and two more stewards from the FIM.

“One of them possibily also a permanent steward as we think with this structure, with this panel of stewards completely dedicated to judge the behaviour of riders during the races and practice, we can achieve a very high level of decisions.”

Vandoorne was considered for Renault Formula 1 seat

LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - JANUARY 25:  Stoffel Vandoorne of Belgium and McLaren Honda drives during wet weather tyre testing at Circuit Paul Ricard on January 25, 2016 in Le Castellet, France.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Newly-appointed Renault Sport racing director Frederic Vasseur claims that the French manufacturer considered signing GP2 champion and McLaren junior driver Stoffel Vandoorne for its comeback season in Formula 1.

Renault will return to F1 this year with a works team for the first time since 2010, and unveiled its driver line-up of Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer at an event in France on Wednesday.

Magnussen was drafted in to replace Pastor Maldonado after the Venezuelan driver’s financial backing fell through and negotiations with the team broke down.

Speaking to DH.be, Vasseur revealed that Vandoorne was considered for the seat before Renault ultimately signed Magnussen for 2016.

“We had to put a cross next to Stoffel. He is under contract with McLaren and the team did not want to part ways,” Vasseur said.

“So we needed someone who was available and our choice was therefore focused on Kevin.”

Vandoorne is set to race in the Japanese Super Formula series in 2016, having tested a car over the winter. Despite winning the 2015 GP2 title in record-breaking fashion, the Belgian is not yet able to make the step up to F1, but looks set to do so with McLaren when either Jenson Button or Fernando Alonso leave the team.

Buemi content with fightback to second in Buenos Aires

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA - FEBRUARY 6:  In this handout image supplied by Formula E, Sebastien Buemi (SUI), Renault e.Dams Z.E.15 & Sam Bird (GBR), DS Virgin Racing DSV-01, during the Buenos Aires Formula E race at Puerto Madero Street Circuit on February 6, 2016 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Photo by Sam Bloxham/LAT/Formula E via Getty Images)
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BUENOS AIRES – Sebastien Buemi felt content with his performance in Saturday’s Buenos Aires ePrix after bouncing back from a mistake in qualifying to finish second and extend his lead at the top of the Formula E drivers’ championship.

Buemi locked up during his 200kW lap in qualifying at Puerto Madero to resign himself to 18th position on the grid, handing his rivals an opportunity to overhaul him in the title race.

The Renault e.dams driver produced a spirited display to pick through the order during the race before coming into contention for the win late on after a safety car period.

Although Buemi could not overhaul DS Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird at the front of the pack, he remained happy with second place in light of his qualifying error.

“The mistake in qualifying was very annoying, because when you have such a good car and such a good team, you want to reward them with the best possible result,” Buemi told MotorSportsTalk.

“But in the end I did my best to come back. I think I did a good job. 18 points are better than zero so happy with that.”

Buemi is now targeting an error-free weekend at the next race in Mexico City as he looks to extend the four-point gap to Lucas di Grassi at the top of the standings.

“Clearly [the result] shows that we have a very strong car and we just need to make sure from now on we don’t miss any points,” Buemi said.

“Putrajaya, the team made a mistake, the car didn’t finish the race. But today obviously I made one [in qualifying] and I tried to work the car to catch it back.

“We’ve seen today that it’s easy to leave the weekend with zero points. I have only four points advantage in the championship, so I’m going to try to expand it as much as possible.”