Mark Webber’s 1st WEC season to end in a very familiar place

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The World Endurance Championship wraps up its 2014 season this coming weekend at Interlagos with a six-hour race, and that will also mark the end of Mark Webber’s first campaign in the series.

Webber, now driving for the Porsche LMP1 factory team, knows the Sao Paulo track very well from his previous life in Formula One. The Australian took two of his nine career Grand Prix wins there, and also ended his F1 tenure there in 2013.

But now, he’s about to see the legendary Brazilian track in a whole new light.

“I always enjoyed driving there in Formula One,” he said in a Porsche release. “With the Grand Prix wins in 2009 and 2011, I have some very special memories of the place. The atmosphere is electric with the fans being very close to the track, different to modern circuits where the grandstands are farther away.

“At 4.3 kilometers, it means it is a small circuit and the WEC is a huge grid. It is a little bit of a shame they resurfaced the track, because the bumps were a special challenge that is taken away now. I think the 919 will like the track and, hopefully, we can push for our best result of the year there.”

Webber and No. 20 Porsche 919 Hybrid co-drivers Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley are coming off their third podium run of the season in the most recent WEC race in Bahrain.

That race also marked the first time that both sides of the Porsche 919 Hybrid program landed on a WEC podium, as the No. 14 team (Romain Dumas/Neel Jani/Marc Lieb) finished second.

Now, Porsche has one more opportunity in 2014 to take the next step: Winning.

“We can be proud of having achieved three pole positions and five podium finishes with such a complex race car in such strong competition,” said Porsche’s LMP1 head, Fritz Enzinger. “Even more important for the future: The way we improved race by race shows that we’ve got the structures right. This goes for the technical concept, as well as for the driver line-up and the operational side with a team growing so well together.

“We have learned from every situation and tried our utmost to reduce the competition’s advantage in terms of experience. In case a small opportunity would open up to climb on the next and final step of the podium in Brazil, we want to be ready to take it.”

All of the Porsche LMP1 drivers have been announced today as confirmed to continue their current roles in 2015. Additionally, the marque says that it will field a third 919 Hybrid for next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans (June 13-14) and, in a tune-up for that race, the WEC event at Spa-Francorchamps (May 2); Porsche says no decisions have yet been made regarding a driver line-up for the third car.

NHRA: John Force-like motor explosions get contagious during Sunday’s Gatornationals

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
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John Force is rubbing off on others – but probably not the way they or he would like.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion has had spectacular motor explosions in each of the first three races of the new NHRA season, including during Friday’s qualifying for this weekend’s Gatornationals.

During Sunday’s quarterfinals of eliminations, Force’s teammate (and son-in-law and president of John Force Racing) Robert Hight squared off with fellow Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.

As the duo closed in on the finish line, both cars experienced spectacular motor explosions of their own – virtually side-by-side and nearly at the same time.

Hight’s car was the first to explode, tossing its body high in the air. A split-second later, Hagan’s car exploded, also sending the body flying.

Check out the NHRA video:

Hight wound up losing the race.

Hagan, meanwhile, and his crack pit crew rolled their backup car off the hauler, put in a new motor and went on to race through the semifinals and into the finals, losing to race winner “Fast Jack” Beckman.

“We had a pretty great race day, to be honest,” Hagan said. “I’ve never been to the finals in Gainesville.

“We obviously had a huge blow up in the second round, then to watch these guys pull the other car back out and put it together in the amount of time they had, then turn a win light on against Capps (Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the semifinals), then to be able to go to a final, it was huge and it speaks for itself.”

As for Hight, here’s his take on what happened with the motor explosion:

“I couldn’t see (Hagan) over there and it wasn’t like it was hazing the tires or anything else. As it turns out it wasn’t spinning at all. It kicked two rods out when it blacked the bearings in the crank then it hit the valves and blew up.

“The thing gave me no indication at all before that. What really scared me was once I got it under control and I look over and see his body is off his car. I am thinking ‘Oh man, he got gathered up in me.’ Then I stood up and looked and his injector was sideways so I realized he had an explosion as well. We are just lucky we didn’t get into each other.”

As for the guy who has had so much trouble in the motor department, John Force, he lost in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations to daughter Courtney Force.

John Force planned on shutting the motor off on his car at around the 700-foot mark of the 1,000-foot dragstrip, not wanting to risk another motor explosion – even though it meant a likely loss to his daughter.

Now John Force and his entire four-car team, including Courtney Force, Robert Hight and daughter and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, will be off for extensive testing to try and determine what’s been causing the motor explosions.

“We have to evaluate it and go test,” Force said. “We’ll figure it out.”

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