Force India focusing on precision for Monaco

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Both Force India drivers, Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg, have finished in the points in every race they’ve finished thus far in 2014.

To keep up the streak, as the team currently sits fourth in the Constructor’s Championship, both drivers described how precise you have to be on the streets of Monaco.

“In terms of precision it’s right up there with Singapore as the toughest race of the year,” Hulkenberg said in the team’s pre-race advance. “You never get a break during the lap; you are always working hard because it’s corner after corner. Even the straights are really short and it’s high-speed for such a narrow track. I particularly enjoy the swimming pool area, which is very quick, and the two right-hand corners before the tunnel.”

Added Perez, “It’s a big challenge and I have always believed it’s a circuit where the driver can really make a difference. So you always have the chance to do something special there. It’s not the most difficult lap of the year, but you have to always keep your concentration.”

Hulkenberg enthused about the magnitude of Monaco from there.

“It’s the event of the year. Your heartbeat goes up when you arrive there and walk over the bridge into the pits,” he said. “The place looks amazing with the buildings, the scenery and the mountains. Of course the biggest thrill is driving the track because it’s so unique and gives you the biggest excitement of the year.”

You can see the Monaco Grand Prix weekend starting at 4 a.m. ET, Thursday, with Practice 1 live streamed on NBC Sports Live Extra. Practice 2 is on NBCSN at 8 a.m. ET Thursday.

MRTI: Keith Donegan earns Mazda Shootout Scholarship

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Dublin, Ireland’s Keith Donegan claimed a $200K scholarship from Mazda after emerging victorious at the second annual Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. The 20-year-old Donegan earned an at-large nomination for the scholarship based on his performance at this year’s Formula Ford Festival, in which he finished second in the final, and emerged from a pack of 17 drivers from across the globe to claim the scholarship.

“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” said an emotional Donegan, who earlier in his career actually spent two years away from racing as he focused on academics. “The weekend was really good and I enjoyed it. I have to say a huge thanks to Mazda and Cooper Tires and everyone at the Mazda Road to Indy. I enjoyed every moment. Throughout the weekend we were consistent and I kept the small things in check. I didn’t make any stupid mistakes and kept my head cool and that really paid off in the end.”

The two-day shootout was held at the Bondurant Racing School in Arizona and saw the nominated drivers tackle the school’s 1.6-mile circuit in Formula Mazda race cars before facing on and off-track assessments. Donegan was selected by a panel of judges that included former driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series TV analyst Scott Goodyear, Mazda drivers Tom Long, Andrew Carbonell, and Jonathan Bomarito, as well as Victor Franzoni – the current champion of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – and Oliver Askew, the current champion of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

Donegan was humbled to be in the presence of drivers who have won scholarships and championships previously, and added that he is grateful to have the opportunity to continue his racing career.

“You see all these champions here today that will go on to great things in the future and I’m sure the names you see here today aren’t going to disappear,” Donegan added. “They will be back up there and I’m sure I will be racing them again some day. It is an unbelievable opportunity to be given and for Mazda to provide that for any young driver. It just gives that bit of motivation that you need because the [U.S.] is where you need to go to become a professional these days. It is such a boost to my career.”

Donegan is now slated to join the 2018 USF2000 championship, with further announcements regarding the team with whom he’ll be racing to come in the future.

Follow @KyleMLavigne