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Future of British GP at Silverstone in doubt following leaked BRDC letter

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The future of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone is in doubt after a leaked letter suggested that the circuit could stop hosting Formula 1 after 2019.

Silverstone hosted the very first F1 race back in 1950, and has been the permanent home of the British Grand Prix since the early 1990s.

The track usually plays host to a sell-out crowd for the event, with 130,000 fans witnessing Lewis Hamilton’s home victory last July.

However, the Silverstone race is now at risk after John Grant, the chairman of the British Racing Drivers’ Club, wrote to its members regarding the “potentially ruinous cost” of persisting with the F1 race if it continued to make a loss.

Part of Grant’s letter, which was published by ITV News earlier this week, stated that “even in a good year, the BGP [British GP] does not generate enough cash to cover its share of the site overheads”.

Grant revealed that the BRDC board is considering triggering a clause in Silverstone’s F1 contract this year that would allow it to stop hosting the race after 2019.

“Without some change in the economic equation, the risk and return are out of kilter, and so we are exploring various ways in which this might be altered,” Grant wrote.

“Among other alternatives, the board is considering whether we should give notice before the 2017 BGP (as required) of our intention to exercise the break clause in the BGP contract at the end of 2019.

“This is not a simple decision, and we will consider fully all the implications become coming to a conclusion by mid-year.”

Silverstone previously looked set to lose the British Grand Prix after 2009 when Donington Park won the contract to host the race from 2010 onwards.

However, investment in the new race dried up, making the project still-born and ensuring that Silverstone remained the host track for F1.

Should Silverstone stop hosting the race, it is difficult to see which other tracks in the UK could take over commitments for the British Grand Prix.

Former host tracks such as Brands Hatch and, should it decide to take another crack at hosting F1, Donington Park remain highly popular for national events, but may struggle to cope with the scale of a grand prix.

While smaller circuits have successfully joined the F1 calendar in recent years – most notably Austria’s Red Bull Ring – they have done so with significant backing, something that would be more difficult to secure in the UK.

However, F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone remains relaxed about the future of the race, even if he had doubts about Silverstone’s future.

“We don’t want to lose [it] and we are not going to lose Formula 1 in Great Britain,” Ecclestone told ITV News.

“We won’t let them [the fans] down. Maybe there will have to be a year without it, but normally we are going to be alright.

“We don’t want to lose it at Silverstone, for sure. We will have to see exactly what is happening and what the problems are.

“They say they are losing money, but people don’t understand why. The place is full and other countries don’t have such big crowds as we have and don’t have the same problems.

“It’s also a bit of a pity that our government doesn’t help a little bit because the British Grand Prix is good for England, good for business, good for everybody.”

1996 F1 world champion Damon Hill also questioned the lack of government support for the race when talking to Press Association Sport.

“This is a much-loved national event but, for whatever reason, it has always been very difficult to get additional funding from government,” Hill said.

“Maybe now is the time to look at the British Grand Prix in the context of what is happening elsewhere and realise that it is an extremely good shop window for waving our banner and pointing to our brilliance in this field.

“When you think about post-Brexit Britain, you must wonder if this is exactly the type of thing we need to invest in to show off what we can do.”

Ricky Brabec wins 2017 Sonora Rally (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Ricky Brabec wins Sonora Rally. Photo: Sonora Rally
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Honda rider Ricky Brabec, who won a stage at this year’s Dakar Rally, has captured the victory in last week’s Sonora Rally, held March 21-24 in Sonora, Mexico.

He led all four of the special stages in a start-to-finish romp for victory.

Despite Joan Barreda and Steve Hengeveld’s injuries that ruled them out of the rally, Brabec still had to focus on the job at hand.

“You are really racing against yourself out here, against the terrain,” he said in a release.  “I’m much more familiar now with open up a course than I was back in January at Dakar when I had to do it for the first time.”

Fellow Honda riders Mark Samuels and Andrew Short completed the podium. Samuels won the Sonora Rally’s Dakar Challenge, which presents a free opportunity for a rider to enter the 2018 Dakar Rally.

“The hard work of getting to Dakar is still ahead of me, but I will do everything in my power to make America proud,” Samuels said.

Polaris ATR rider Dave Sykes won the UTV class, with Eric Pucelik and Mike Shirley winning the Cars class.

On background, the Sonora Rally is the only event of its kind in North America. The rally raid format requires street legal vehicles to transit along untimed “liaison” sections and timed “special stages” over multiple days, with the lowest combined time winning the event. Now in its third year, the Sonora Rally realizes the vision of founders Scott Whitney and Darren Skilton to bring a world class rally raid event to these shores (2016 recap).

Brabec’s winning ride is captured in the below video, via Race-Dezert.

Meanwhile, because photos do this event more justice than words do, those are below (All Photos: Sonora Rally)

Webber: Alonso may not see out the season with McLaren

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Mark Webber never had the easiest time in Formula 1, particularly his latter years as the number two driver at Red Bull Racing to Sebastian Vettel.

That being said, he was never on the verge of leaving it directly until he announced his plans to move to Porsche’s LMP1 Team, where he raced for three years from 2014 to 2016 before retiring at the end of last season.

But the Australian pondered whether Fernando Alonso might not be able to see out the season with McLaren Honda, if the team and manufacturer’s woes continue.

“Alonso may not stay with the team,” Webber told Belgian outlet Sporza. “Maybe Stoffel (Vandoorne) soon will have a new teammate.”

“I could see it happen that Alonso does not drive out the season. He is very frustrated. Fernando doesn’t start for a sixth or seventh place; he wants to fight for the podium.”

Webber added that for Vandoorne’s sake, starting in a team with lower expectations might not be the worst thing for him. It may allow the Belgian rookie to learn without extra pressure, since the onus is focused on the team.

For Alonso though, time is of the essence for what’s left of his career in F1. This is his last season under contract with McLaren Honda and he made no secret of his frustration for how well he drove at Melbourne, yet the car wasn’t up for it.

“Well the race was good, one of my best races driving like that,” Alonso told NBCSN post-race. “The car’s uncompetitive and to be close for a point was a nice surprise. It was good fuel saving as well. I was surprised to keep it in the points. A suspension (issue) stopped us from getting this point.

“I feel very well prepared, driving at the best of my career, and I’m fighting for one point. That’s disappointing and frustrating. But so long as I’m driving at my best, it’s a problem for the team… not me.”

Rosberg, Button soak up their first weekends out of F1 (PHOTOS)

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Since 2008, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have won seven World Championships. The two drivers that won titles in that period not named Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel – Nico Rosberg (2016) and Jenson Button (2009) – were both enjoying their first weekends not on a Formula 1 grid as full-time drivers for the first time in more than a decade this weekend as the 2017 season commenced at Melbourne’s Albert Park.

Rosberg made a visit to preseason testing in Barcelona a few weeks ago for his first appearance as spectator since winning the World Championship. But he watched from home this weekend with his family and posted a few thoughts during both qualifying and the race:

We’re now quite familiar with Rosberg’s home TV set and coffee table. This is the first time Rosberg has been out of an F1 race since 2005, the year he won the first GP2 championship.

Button meanwhile paid a visit to California for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana… once he got off his couch. He checked in with seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson at Fontana.

Do you guys know if there's anything good to watch on tele this weekend? @storm_and_rogue_pomskies

A post shared by Jenson Button (@jensonbutton_22) on

Given McLaren Honda’s struggles, Button is probably smart to have got out when he did. He’d been on the grid since 2000, save for a couple races out in 2005 when BAR-Honda was barred from competing after being disqualified from the San Marino Grand Prix.

Meanwhile for Rosberg, he watched as Mercedes was unable to win the season opener for the first time since 2013.

DJR Team Penske wins three of four Supercars races at Melbourne

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DJR Team Penske has won its first Virgin Australia Supercars Championship races over the weekend during the Australian Grand Prix, with Scott McLaughlin and Fabian Coulthard taking the first three wins in the four-race, non-championship race weekend.

While Penske’s teams have long succeeded in North America and have had some international success, notably a Formula 1 win at the 1976 Austrian Grand Prix with John Watson, success has thus far eluded them since arriving in Supercars two years ago as majority shareholders of Dick Johnson Racing.

McLaughlin had the honor of beating Coulthard to the first win in race one of the weekend, before Coulthard doubled up with wins in races two and three. The first two races were one-two finishes, though, and McLaughlin said he’d received a text from Roger Penske in the wake of the victory.

“I got a text from Roger straight away and they’re all pretty happy,” McLaughlin told Supercars.com.

“They’re thanking me but I should be thanking them for giving me the opportunity.”

The first race was marred by this incident between Nick Percat and Lee Holdsworth, Percat having lost his brakes entering Turn 1 and crashing into Holdsworth, who was an innocent bystander.

But once the race resumed, McLaughlin held off Coulthard for the victory.

Coulthard led from start-to-finish in race two after his second straight pole position. He did the same in race three, albeit not in a Penske 1-2 as Jamie Whincup came second for Red Bull Holden Racing Team Commodore. McLaughlin was third.

A left-front puncture stopped Coulthard making it three in a row in the fourth race, and with steering damage, McLaughlin was resigned to 17th. Chaz Mostert took the win his Supercheap Ford, ending his own winless spell that dated to August of 2015.

Also of note from the weekend, ex-IndyCar driver Simona de Silvestro in her Team Harvey Norman Nissan Altima finished 13th in race one, her best finish yet in her first full season in the series.

The Supercars series is back in action at Symmons Plains Raceway on April 7-9.  Coulthard sits second in the series championship, 51 points back of Whincup’s teammate, Shane van Gisbergen.