MRTI: Harvey sweeps; title battle shift during Mid-Ohio 7-race weekend

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Here’s  a quick roundup of the results from the weekend for the Mazda Road to Indy at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course:

INDY LIGHTS

English rookie Jack Harvey delivered his first Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires win on Saturday in dominant fashion and completed the weekend sweep on Sunday with another win, this time by “only” 12.180 seconds compared to 17-plus on Saturday. In both races he started from pole and set the fastest lap.

Additionally and suddenly, the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian driver is in title contention with three races to go.

Points leader Gabby Chaves posted finishes of second (race 1) and third (race 2) with Zach Veach ending fourth (race 1) and second (race 2). It leaves Chaves now 18 points ahead of Harvey (431-413) with Veach now third, his lowest position of the season, on 407 points, with just three races remaining.

RESULTS: Race 1, Race 2

PRO MAZDA

A pair of abnormal winners came through to win the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires races at Mid-Ohio. Nicolas Costa of Brazil scored an overdue first win for Team Pelfrey on Saturday, and his team manager Nigel Tuckey and resident Pelfrey mentor/adviser/goofball Anders Krohn jumped in the pond outside the Mid-Ohio media center to celebrate. Garett Grist won Sunday’s race two for Andretti Autosport.

Despite tough weekends, Spencer Pigot held onto the points lead over Scott Hargrove. The Canadian closed to within 14 points of the Rising Star Racing American driver with three races to go.

RESULTS: Race 1, Race 2

USF2000

Each of the three title contenders in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda bagged a win in the Mid-Ohio triple header weekend, with things now murkier exiting the weekend than they were going in. In order, RC Enerson, Jake Eidson and Florian Latorre grabbed the victories – Eidson’s in race two the most fortuitous following an incident between Enerson and Victor Franzoni at Turn 4 in a green/white/checkered finish on a damp and drying track.

The points standings leaving the weekend: Latorre now leads Eidson by 30 with Enerson third, a further three points behind Eidson. Just two races remain for USF2000.

RESULTS: Race 1, Race 2, Race 3

Street race in Vietnam could lead Formula One’s Asia expansion

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TOKYO (AP) — Formula One is expected to add more races in Asia, including a street circuit in the capital of Vietnam, a country with little auto racing history that is on the verge of getting a marquee event.

“We think Hanoi could come on in the next couple of years, and we’re working with the Hanoi government to that end,” Sean Bratches, Formula One’s managing director of commercial operations, told the Associated Press.

There is even speculation it could be on the schedule next season, which Bratches rebuffed.

Vietnam would join countries like Azerbaijan, Russia and Bahrain, which have Grand Prix races, little history in the sport, and authoritarian governments with deep pockets that serve F1 as it tries to expand into new markets.

“This (Hanoi) is a street race where we can go downtown, where we can activate a large fan base,” Bratches said. “And you have extraordinary iconography from a television standpoint.”

A second race in China is also likely and would join Shanghai on the F1 calendar. Bratches said deciding where to stage the GP will “be left to local Chinese partners” – Beijing is a strong candidate.

Bratches runs the commercial side of Formula One, which was acquired last year by U.S.-based Liberty Media from long-time operator Bernie Ecclestone.

Formula One’s long-term goal is to have 24-25 races – up from the present 21 – and arrange them in three geographical segments: Asia, Europe and the Americas. Bratches said the Europe-based races would stay in middle of the calendar, with Asia or the Americas opening or ending the season.

He said their positioning had not been decided, and getting this done will be slowed by current contracts that mandate specific places on the calendar for several races. This means eventually that all the races in Asia would be run together, as would races in Europe and the Americas.

The F1 schedule is now an inefficient jumble, allowing Bratches to take a good-natured poke at how the sport was run under Ecclestone.

“We’ve acquired an undermanaged asset that’s 67-years-old, but effectively a start-up,” Bratches said.

Early-season races in Australia and China this year were conducted either side of a trip to Bahrain in the Middle East. Late in the season Formula One returns to Asia with races in Japan and Singapore.

The Canadian GP this season is run in the middle of the European swing, separated by four months from the other races in the Americas – the United States, Mexico and Brazil. These three are followed by the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi, which means another trip across the globe.

“With the right economics, with the right structure and cadence of events across territories, 24 or 25 is probably where we’d like to be from a longer-term standpoint,” Bratches said.

Big changes are not likely to happen until the 2020 season ends. This is when many current rules and contracts expire as F1’s new owners try to redistribute some income to allow smaller teams to compete.

“There’s more interest than we have capacity in the schedule,” Bratches said, firing off Berlin, Paris or London as potentially attractive venues. “We want to be very selective.”

“Those cites from an economic impact standpoint would find us value, as do others around the world,” Bratches added. “It’s very important for us as we move forward to go to locations that are a credit to the Formula One brand.”

An expanded schedule would have to be approved by the teams, which will be stretched by the travel and the wear-and-tear on their crews. The burden will fall on the smaller teams, which have significantly smaller revenue compared with Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull.

Bratches also envisions another race in the U.S., joining the United States Grand Prix held annually in Austin, Texas. A street race in Miami is a strong candidate, as are possible venues like Las Vegas or New York.

“We see the United States and China as countries that could support two races,” he said.

Liberty Media has reported Formula One’s total annual revenue at $1.8 billion, generated by fees paid by promoters, broadcast rights, advertising and sponsorship. Race promotion fees also tend to be higher in Asia, which makes the area attractive – along with a largely untapped fan base.

In a four-year cycle, F1 generates more revenue than FIFA or the International Olympic Committee, which rely almost entirely on one-time showcase events.

Reports suggest Vietnamese promoters may pay between $50-60 million annually as a race fee, with those fees paid by the government. Bratches said 19 of 21 Formula One races are supported by government payments.

“The race promotion fee being derived from the government … is a model that has worked historically,” Bratches said.