Sebastian Bourdais

IndyCar: Bourdais wins pole for Honda 200 at Mid-Ohio (VIDEO)

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The battle for the Honda 200 pole position came down to the final moments of the Firestone Fast Six, but Toronto Race 1 winner Sebastien Bourdais emerged with the top spot on the grid thanks to his last lap of 1 minute, 24.1610 seconds around a rapidly drying Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Bourdais and the other competitors in the FF6 rode out the final round on the Firestone wet tires despite the changing track, which had been soaked prior to the start of the three-round qualifying session.

American driver Josef Newgarden appeared set to win the pole for the small Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team. But after Bourdais knocked him off the top spot, the Tennessee native could only get back up to second with his last lap of 1:24.6787.

“It was a totally different [third round] than it was in the first two sessions,” Bourdais told IndyCar Radio after his second pole of 2014. “There was a developing dry line so we went from totally outside to having to venture into not really well-known territory with the wet tires, which was really difficult to know when to make the [line] switch.

“The last lap, I knew I was shy and I needed some more, so I went for it. I made it stick, the Mistic machine gave me everything it got, and it was enough.”

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Tony Kanaan will start third tomorrow as he hopes to continue his recent run of success. He’ll be joined in Row 2 by Andretti Autosport rookie Carlos Munoz.

Munoz’s teammate, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Team Penske’s Will Power will make up Row 3. Power could have a big chance to overtake Penske partner Helio Castroneves (+13 points over Power) for the Verizon IndyCar Series points lead, as Castroneves was unable to advance out of the first round and will have to start 15th.

Also faltering in the first round were Ryan Briscoe, Charlie Kimball and Scott Dixon – all from the Ganassi stable and all former Mid-Ohio winners. Briscoe and Kimball start 19th and 20th, while Dixon is starting 22nd and dead last.

Chip Ganassi Racing is seeking its sixth consecutive win at Mid-Ohio tomorrow afternoon (see some highlights from their current win streak here).

Under damp conditions, qualifying got underway with a red flag in Group 1 as multiple drivers including Briscoe, Power, and James Hinchcliffe all went off the slippery course just a few minutes into the 10-minute run. Officially, Briscoe triggered the red as he was briefly unable to get going after his spin in Turn 11.

The green returned with less than five minutes remaining, but almost immediately, another red came out for a spin involving Takuma Sato in Turn 6.

The session ran out of time while Sato was having his car restarted, but Race Control opted to give the drivers an additional period of time to run one more timed lap at speed. Juan Pablo Montoya, Carlos Huertas, Power, Simon Pagenaud, Mike Conway, and Kanaan were able to advance after the one-lap dash.

Group 2 also had an early red flag for Dixon, who slid into the grass at Turn 9. The green came back with less than four minutes left and when the time ran out, Hunter-Reay, Bourdais, Newgarden, Munoz, Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson had all posted laps good enough to advance to Round 2.

A spin for Montoya in Turn 1 briefly redflagged the second round of qualifying, costing him his two best laps. Montoya would wind up not advancing to the Firestone Fast 6 (he’ll start 11th), but Bourdais, Hunter-Reay, Kanaan, Munoz, Newgarden and Power did make it to the last round.

Qualifying Results
1. 11-Sebastien Bourdais, 1:24.1610
2. 67-Josef Newgarden
3. 10-Tony Kanaan
4. 34-Carlos Munoz
5. 28-Ryan Hunter-Reay
6. 12-Will Power
7. 15-Graham Rahal
8. 19-Justin Wilson
9. 77-Simon Pagenaud
10. 18-Carlos Huertas
11. 2-Juan Pablo Montoya
12. 20-Mike Conway
13. 7-Mikhail Aleshin
14. 17-Sebastian Saavedra
15. 3-Helio Castroneves
16. 25-Marco Andretti
17. 27-James Hinchcliffe
18. 98-Jack Hawksworth
19. 8-Ryan Briscoe
20. 83-Charlie Kimball
21. 14-Takuma Sato
22. 9-Scott Dixon

Mercedes AMG Petronas tops its 2014 point total, despite fewer points available

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The end of the Formula 1 season just completed means a chance to compare stats and points standings year-on-year. So forgive the dive into nerddom, but it’s the most wonderful time of year to bust out the calculators.

We’ll start first with the double World Champions, Mercedes AMG Petronas, who have managed to top their tally in the Constructor’s Championship from 2014.

For the second consecutive year, Mercedes has won 16 of 19 races and gone 1-2 in the driver’s championship.

Where they’ve improved: they set the record for 15 front row lockouts, they took 12 1-2 race finishes after taking “only” 11 in 2014, and, perhaps most impressively, topped its overall points total despite having fewer points on offer.

The double points finale last year meant a maximum of 86 points was possible (50 and 36 for first and second rather than the 25 and 18).

Yes, Mercedes scored fewer points this year at Abu Dhabi than last… but still scored the maximum achievable (43 of 43 versus 50 of 86).

It meant Mercedes ended 2015 with two more points than it did in 2014 – 703 to 701. Lewis Hamilton’s own tally went down by three, from 384 to 381, but teammate Nico Rosberg made up the difference with a five-point gain from 317 to 322.

Percentage-wise, Mercedes scored 703 of a maximum possible 817 points – or 86.07 percent of the potential maximum number (43 points, times 19 races).

It’s an uptick from the still remarkable 81.51 percent of the potential maximum last year (701 of 860).

To put in perspective how dominant that number is by contrast to the rest of the field, Mercedes scored 703 of 1,919 total points (101 total points per race, times 19 races) on offer in 2015.

That meant as one team, Mercedes brought home 36.63 percent of all points available in 2015, which is up from 34.7 percent last year (701 of 2,020 points).

The remaining eight teams that scored were left to divide up the remaining 63 and change percent… or an average of 7.92 percent, per team, or so.

So for 2016, on top of wishing Ferrari and the rest of the field can up their game to match, one of the early story lines to watch will be whether Mercedes can sustain this incredible amount of statistical dominance from its on-track success.

Audi to test six young guns in its DTM car

Photo: Audi
Photo: Audi
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It’s not just Mercedes (and Kevin Magnussen) that’s testing young guns in one of its DTM cars this week at Jerez.

Audi announced that it would give a six-pack of youngsters a shot to test as well, from Tuesday to Thursday, at the same place in the Audi RS 5 DTM.

Those six include:

  • Matthew Brabham (21/USA)
  • Mitch Evans (21/New Zealand)
  • Antonio Giovinazzi (21/Italy)
  • Ben Hanley (30/Great Britain)
  • Alex Palou (18/Spain)
  • Arthur Pic (24/France)

Note most of these six have or had some level of open-wheel experience, with Evans having tried his hand successfully in a couple different sports cars this year. The young Kiwi finished second in his debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans after winning at Spa in his sports car debut, driving Jota Sport’s Gibson 015S Nissan.

Brabham comes over to test the DTM car after racing primarily in the Mazda Road to Indy the last four years. He won the 2012 USF2000 and 2013 Pro Mazda titles, then raced the full 2014 and partial 2015 seasons in Indy Lights; he’s also driven in Formula E for Andretti Autosport and in the Stadium Super Trucks.

Kevin Hart, Ludacris, Marco Andretti head to Abu Dhabi for F1 finale

Marco Andretti
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Marco Andretti has had a good run of attending season finale events.

Obviously, the 28-year-old grandson of Mario Andretti rounded out his 10th season in the Verizon IndyCar Series at its own season finale at Sonoma, finishing 11th and then ending the year ninth in points.

But Andretti told NASCAR Talk’s Nate Ryan, among other reporters, at Phoenix International Raceway where he’d tested his IndyCar and then made the promotional rounds that he’d have a busy next couple weeks ahead.

“I’m watching too many races. I need to be in them!” Andretti said. “(Homestead), I’m going as Jeff Gordon’s guest. Then going to Abu Dhabi Formula 1. (Our season) needs to be longer.”

Last week, he and fellow IndyCar stars Josef Newgarden and James Hinchcliffe made the trip to Homestead-Miami Speedway – incidentally, as did Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton – to witness Jeff Gordon’s final drive before hanging up his helmet after 23 incredible years at NASCAR’s top level.

This week, it was Marco’s turn to hit Hamilton’s usual turf, as he and his friends Ludacris and Kevin Hart made the trip to Abu Dhabi to witness the F1 finale.

Marco, who had a Honda Racing F1 test in the late 2000s but never was able to make the move to emulate both Mario and Michael, each of whom raced in F1, appeared wowed by the Yas Marina Circuit once he arrived from Chicago.

Abu Dhabi F1 quals!! @kevinhart4real @ludacris

A photo posted by Marco Andretti (@marcoandretti) on

Yas is hands down the most insane facility ! #AbuDhabi. Wish I was driving !!

A photo posted by Marco Andretti (@marcoandretti) on

Andretti, Luda, Hart and crew met up with Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo at the weekend.

Andretti is continuing the trip into this week, with further posts via his Instagram page.

Hart – one of this country’s most talented and recognizable comedians at the moment – also appeared to enjoy the atmosphere.

As did Ludacris, who posted this view from a yacht.

The only way to watch the F1 Race in Abu Dhabi. #yachtlife

A photo posted by @ludacris on

The vacation crew found Hamilton after the race on Sunday night.

Hamilton’s friend, another artist in Big Sean, who’d performed the halftime show at the Philadelphia Eagles-Detroit Lions Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit, also made the flight out to Abu Dhabi.

Complete with other more obscure, random celebrities like Rick Astley – who apparently “Rick-rolled” free practice two coverage on the world feed – Edgar Davids and Dwight Yorke, it was a weekend of interesting folks hitting Abu Dhabi. My MotorSportsTalk colleague Luke Smith noted those three, below, in various tweets over the weekend.

Out of Thanksgiving, IndyCar’s open spots are exactly in same place as this time last year

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Now that it’s a new work week and the tryptophan has hopefully worked itself through your system, you’ve had and enjoyed your family time, it’s time for the final few full work weeks of the 2015 calendar before the next round of holidays – Christmas time.

Those who already have confirmed seats for the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season are certainly thankful for what they have.

Meanwhile if we flash back some 12 months to look at the then-available amount of talent waiting in the wings, here’s what stood as the unconfirmed seats:

  • Chip Ganassi Racing, fourth car (along with a formal confirmation of the full lineup)
  • Andretti Autosport, fourth car (plus a possible fifth)
  • Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, second car
  • KVSH Racing/KV Racing Technology, second car
  • CFH Racing, No. 20 road and street course driver alongside Ed Carpenter (ovals)
  • Dale Coyne Racing, both cars
  • Bryan Herta Autosport, first car

Flash forward 12 months later, and the situation is exactly identical. Those exact same seats have yet to be confirmed for 2016.

The only differences from above is that the first three drivers at Chip Ganassi Racing – four-time and defending champion Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball – already have been formally confirmed for 2016, and Sage Karam has not.

Karam’s manager told a little over a week ago that his contract was not retained for 2016; that said, it’s “only” November and conceivably he could return if enough budget is found.

Sebastien Bourdais is still anticipated to return with KVSH Racing for a third season; A.J. Foyt Enterprises also hasn’t formally confirmed, but is expected to keep its same lineup of Takuma Sato and Jack Hawksworth.

Gabby Chaves is expected to return for a second season with BHA, while of the other seats listed above, the second SPM seat is the most intriguing option.

Proof then that the more things change in IndyCar, the more they stay the same. And when there’s very little news on the driver market… there’s very little news on the driver market.