IndyCar Detroit Auto Racing

SST/World Challenge Round-up from Detroit and New Jersey

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Writer’s Note: The following is a recap of this weekend’s Stadium Super Trucks and Pirelli World Challenge events that took place in Detroit’s Belle Isle Park and New Jersey Motorsports Park. NBCSN will broadcast the Detroit PWC round on Sun., June 15 at 2:30 p.m. ET and the Detroit SST round on Fri., June 20 at 1:30 a.m. ET; for more details on the New Jersey PWC round, we’ll refer you to If you don’t want to know who won until then, we suggest you find another post to read here on MotorSportsTalk…

This year’s Detroit Grand Prix gathering on Belle Isle Park really was all about sweeps.

In addition to Team Penske winning both Verizon IndyCar Series events (Will Power on Saturday, Helio Castroneves on Sunday), former IndyCar driver E.J. Viso won all three Stadium Super Truck races, while Johnny O’Connell and Dean Martin claimed both Pirelli World Challenge races in GT and GTS respectively.

On Sunday, Viso had to deal with Burt Jenner on the final lap to complete his Motor City trifecta. But the Venezuelan got past him for the lead in Turn 4 of the Belle Isle street circuit and after the two made contact, Arie Luyendyk Jr. and Robby Gordon were able to overtake Jenner for second and third before the checkered flag.

“I am obviously starting to feel more comfortable with the truck,” Viso said in a release. “It was a great weekend and a great track. This new series is going to be the next thing, it’s really catching on with the fans, sponsors and drivers.

“The trucks are very fun to drive and I had a blast. This is only my second opportunity in the trucks, and I hope there are many others. Now I am looking forward to X Games next weekend in Austin, which I am sure is going to be a different animal but I am ready for that challenge.”

Meanwhile in Pirelli World Challenge action, O’Connell (No. 3 Cadillac Racing CTS-V.R) and Martin (No. 50 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302S) not only triumphed twice in their respective classes but did so in wire-to-wire fashion.

O’Connell, the reigning GT champion in PWC, now has three wins on the season, while Martin now has two in his pocket.

“There are certain tracks that you know that you have to do well at. When we are on the street circuits we have an opportunity,” said O’Connell. “The hardest thing for any driver is winning the first time at any track and once you win you wake up the next morning knowing that you can do it again.”

While O’Connell’s sweep no doubt pleased the General Motors crowd, Martin’s sweep was also a home win for Ford, which is situated in nearby Dearborn, Michigan.

“We are committed to doing a full season in the series with our Mustang; the Mustangs really show their strength here in Detroit, our home territory,” Martin said. “It’s really great to bring home a win for Ford here. Hats off to our crew – [this was a] brand new car that was originally built as a show car and we tore it down and took what was left from the race car from Barber.”

Martin was one of multiple Mustang drivers involved in an opening-lap pileup during the first GT/GTS race of the Barber weekend back in April.

Winning on Belle Isle in the GT-A subcategory for gentlemen drivers were Dan Knox (No. 80 ACS Manufacturing, Inc./Performance SpeedTech SRT Viper GT3-R) on Saturday and Marcelo Hahn (No. 0 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo FL2) on Sunday. Hahn is now the first driver to pick up multiple GT-A wins this year.

As the GT classes battled on Belle Isle, the PWC’s Touring Car-based categories stayed busy with a weekend twin-bill on the road course at New Jersey Motorsports Park.

There were a few sweeps in Jersey as well, with Michael DiMeo winning both rounds in TC and Shea Holbrook pulling the same feat in TC-A. Brian Price (Saturday) and Tyler Palmer (Sunday) split wins in TCB.

DiMeo and his No. 71 Grand Alarms Honda Civic Si have been unstoppable in TC this season, and now have a sparkling record of six wins in six starts. Holbrook’s chalked up three TC-A wins now in 2014 with her No. 67 TRUECar/Lucas Oil/Radium Honda Civic Si, and her win on Sunday came as part of a 1-2 TC-A result for Shea Racing as teammate Jason Cherry finished P2.

Price’s TCB win on Saturday was a wire-to-wire triumph, but Palmer’s TCB win on Sunday wasn’t decided for him until late. In that race, Palmer, Price, and Paul Holton all took turns at the front, but it was Palmer (No. 37 Mini Cooper) who pulled off the winning pass on Price with two laps to go.

“We were switching positions nearly every corner,” Palmer said of his late-race battle. “I don’t know how many lead changes there were or position changes in general.

“Price got loose in Turn 1 and I took that corner great, I had speed coming out of 2, went to the inside for 3, cleared him and was hoping he wouldn’t be close enough to get around me on the front straight with the power of the Hondas. That was the best race of the year excitement wise for the fans by far.”

Williams hopes to improve on 2014 performance in Russian GP

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At this weekend’s Russian GP, Williams Martini Racing is looking for more of the same from Valtteri Bottas and a little improvement from Felipe Massa.

Last year, Bottas started and finished third while Lewis Hamilton ran away with the win, finishing 13 seconds over Nico Rosberg and 17 over Bottas in the inaugural race at the Sochi Autodrom.

Meanwhile, Massa started 18th after a fuel flow issue knocked him out of the first round of qualifying and managed an 11th-place finish.

Bottas and Massa enter the Sochi race fifth and sixth in the driver standings.

“We had a good result last year in Russia so we’re expecting another strong weekend and a good collection of points,” said Bottas in a release. “We all know the track now and it has a really good flow, with the long straights a good fit for our car.”

Bottas has finished in the top five in each of the last three races, two of which were won by Hamilton.

“Pace-wise we were close to Mercedes in Japan and I think we can be close again in Sochi, just like we were in 2014,” Bottas said, who also noted after Japan the team is set to turn its focus to its 2016 car.

Massa, who has two podium finishes this year, will try to bounce back from a DNF at Marina Bay and a 17th-place finish in Japan.

“I hope to make amends for qualifying last year and I’m confident we can have a competitive race,” Massa said in a team release.

“Russia is a very nice track with a few long straights which makes it interesting for overtaking,” Massa said of the 18-turn track. “The circuit has almost everything, starting with a straight and then moving into high-speed corners and then very slow corners in the middle sector. This makes setting up the car really important and the importance of downforce evident.”

The Russian Grand Prix can been seen on NBCSN on Sunday at 7 am ET.

Rossi: Looking ahead to Russia and returning to GP2

Rossi (right) looks for more. Photo: GP2 Series Media Service.
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It’s been just over a week since I returned to Europe from Japan, and preparations now are all focused on Russia.

I landed back in the U.K. on Monday evening, with my body clock screaming at me about how I should be on Japanese time, but I had 36 hours to relax at home in the U.K. before I was back on a plane to Spain to prepare for the next race, this time returning to my GP2 car in Russia this weekend as we fight for more wins.

SEE ALSO: Rossi: Reflecting on my first two F1 races

I spent most of the week working out and preparing with my GP2 team, Racing Engineering, who are based down on Spain’s South West coast, about an hour’s drive from Seville. It’s a beautiful part of the world, especially in early Fall as the Summers are really hot! While there, I’m either in the team’s factory or sweating through a training session. That’s my job and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

The transition back to GP2 in Russia is something I’m really looking forward to. That might sound a bit strange to some, knowing I’m an F1 race driver, but I have unfinished business in GP2 and this is very important to me and my team, Racing Engineering.

I was asked how I will manage the switch from F1 to GP2, and back again when we go to Austin where I’ll be back in an F1 car, but for me it’s simple. GP2 is a very different mindset from F1. In F1 the main target is to finish ahead of my teammate, but in GP2 we have a very realistic chance of winning every race we take part in.

We’ve proved that all season, particularly in the last couple of rounds, in Spa and Italy where we won twice, keeping the Championship alive for this weekend in Russia and, hopefully, the last races in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.

The battles with Stoffel have been awesome all year, and even though he has enough of a points gap to make the overall 2015 Championship a tough ask, we still want to delay whatever celebrations he has planned, and I think we have a good opportunity to do so in Sochi, and again in Bahrain and then Abu Dhabi at the end of the year.

I haven’t raced in Sochi, only simulations. I did go to Russia last year with Marussia, so I know what to expect off track, and since I’ve been in the sim I know the circuit layout well. We’ve been working on setup options and I’m with a team that has shown consistently they know how to approach every aspect of a race weekend. I’m feeling good, really good about what’s ahead.

Sochi, it’s long, particularly for a street circuit and quite a bit of it is on public roads so there’s a bit of Singapore in there, and maybe a bit of Melbourne too. It’s pretty quick, but there’s a few big braking zones and that gives us a chance to overtake, and obviously you need to be super accurate everywhere. The walls will bite, there’s very little margin for error, just like in Singapore, but I prefer street courses and normally I’m quite confident with my surroundings.

After Russia, I’m back to the UK for a week, and then it’s Austin, Texas and the U.S. Formula 1 Grand Prix. I have a very busy week already planned, but I have made sure I have time every day to train, to maintain focus and to prepare mentally and physically for what will take place in my home country.

The media interest is growing but over the years that I’ve been in and around F1, I’ve learned my priority is what happens in the car. Media work is not something you can be taught, it’s something you pick up and adapt to, being able to switch on and switch off from the demands of the media, the fans and the sponsors. I know exactly how important the media is to my career and it’s an important balance with my sporting duties driving a race car.

I’ve always been impressed by race drivers and athletes in all sports who can do that. Those who can clearly switch into race mode when they walk into the garage and get into the car, into analytical mode with the engineers, support and collaboration with the mechanics, and, I guess you’d say, promotional mode with the journalists, fans and team sponsors.

It might seem like a relatively simple task, but for a 21st century racing driver, it’s an important skill because there are many people vying for your attention. You never stop learning and improving at your craft and profession, and this aspect I keep right at the forefront of my mind, no matter what stage I’m at.

For now though, the focus is Sochi, Russia and keeping up the momentum we’ve had all year in GP2. We’ve prepared well and I can’t wait to get back into my car, push hard all weekend and fight for more race wins.

It’s all about focus.