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Conor Daly among finalists for 2017 ROC Factor competition

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Verizon IndyCar Series racer Conor Daly has been named as one of the finalists for the ‘ROC Factor’ competition ahead of the Race of Champions later this month.

The Race of Champions pits drivers from an array of series up against each other in a multi-discipline challenge, with this year’s event taking place in Miami on January 21-22.

The line-up features a number of motorsport’s biggest names, including Juan Pablo Montoya, Tony Kanaan, Sebastian Vettel, Tom Kristensen, Jenson Button, Alexander Rossi, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch.

Following the successful running of the ROC Factor competition for the 2015 Race of Champions in London, the competition returned for Miami, with applicants getting the chance to team up with either James Hinchcliffe or Helio Castroneves.

The 10 finalists to join Hinchcliffe on ROC Team North America were confirmed on Wednesday, with 2017 Foyt IndyCar racer Daly among them.

The 10 finalists for ROC Factor to join Team North America are:

  • Shea Adam
  • Bill Caswell
  • Gary Grant
  • Conor Daly
  • Christopher Hill
  • Glenn McGee
  • Floyd Raglin
  • Stefan Rzadzinski
  • John Sabol
  • Jeff Seehorn

10 finalists have also been named to join Castroneves on Team Latin America:

  • Cesar Baltazar Rivera, Mexico
  • Rafael Duarte Oliveira, Brazil
  • Gabriel Glusman, Argentina
  • Thomas Graef, Brazil
  • Jaime Guerrero, Colombia
  • Luis Martinez, Cuba
  • Gonzalo Rodriguez, Peru
  • Federico Treviño, Mexico
  • David Tuaty, Peru
  • Esteban Yanguas, Colombia

Both ROC Factor contests are now live on Facebook, allowing fans to vote for their favorite and complete the line-up for the Race of Champions. You can find out more information by clicking here.

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.