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Vettel sets new fastest time on penultimate day of F1 testing

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Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time on the penultimate day of Formula 1 pre-season testing, edging out Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton as times once again were slashed in Barcelona.

Vettel managed to dip under the previous benchmark set by Valtteri Bottas on Wednesday, recording a best time of 1:19.024 on the super-soft tire.

Although the lap was the fastest of pre-season so far and just six-tenths of a second off the record time in Barcelona, Vettel could have gone quicker still, having backed off in the final sector.

The result means that Ferrari has now led three days of pre-season testing, equal with Mercedes, as it continues to build on an impressive testing period.

Hamilton split running in the Mercedes W08 car with Bottas, the Finn finishing eighth overall. Hamilton was three-tenths of a second shy of Vettel’s time in second place.

Force India’s Esteban Ocon ended the day third-fastest, one second off Vettel, while Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat put in an impressive display to wind up fourth on the final timesheets. Kevin Magnussen finished fifth for Haas ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.

McLaren had another mixed day as Stoffel Vandoorne suffered two on-track stoppages due to electrical issues, adding more misery to a difficult testing period. The Belgian ended the day seventh on the final timesheets.

Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson both conducted running for Sauber, finishing P9 and P11 respectively as Renault’s Jolyon Palmer split the pair. Palmer suffered an on-track stoppage at one point during the day. Williams drivers Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll were 12th and 13th, with Nico Hulkenberg propping up the timesheets for Renault after failing to set a time.

Pre-season testing concludes in Barcelona on Friday with another eight hours of running.

IndyCar star Scott Dixon to test skills on ‘American Ninja Warrior’

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Scott Dixon will be the latest IndyCar driver to enter the realm of reality TV when he auditions in Indianapolis next week for “American Ninja Warrior.”

The four-time IndyCar champion, nicknamed “The Iceman,” thought it sounded fun when he was approached with the idea of trying out. As the competition has drawn near, Dixon is wondering what he got himself into.

“I feel a lot of pressure on this one,” Dixon told The Associated Press before heading to this weekend’s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama IndyCar race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. “When it got to be about a month away, I figured I should start training for it, and it’s pretty hard stuff.”

IndyCar drivers Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden and Tony Kanaan all auditioned for the show, which follows competitors as they tackle a series of obstacle courses in qualifying rounds across the country. None of IndyCar’s contestants advanced out of the first round and neither did NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Dixon’s appearance comes about the same time the Game Show Network has Sebastien Bourdais as a guest host for “Daily Draw” for the entire week leading into the month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Most recently, Alexander Rossi and Conor Daly teamed to finish fourth on “The Amazing Race,” and James Hinchcliffe was a runner-up last year on “Dancing With The Stars.” Castroneves is a former “DWTS” winner.

Dixon, the 2008 winner of the Indianapolis 500 who ranks fourth on IndyCar’s all-time wins list, is accustomed to success. But the New Zealander not so sure he’s going to become the next great ninja. Most of his fitness work focuses on endurance training, and preparing for the obstacle course has taken Dixon out of his element.

“It’s not my wheelhouse,” he said. “This is agility kind of stuff and I’m looking forward to the process. I’m not looking forward so much to the failure, because it’s going to happen at some point, so I guess I just have to make the most of it and enjoy the experience.”

Dixon was famously robbed at gunpoint in the drive-thru of a Taco Bell last year hours after he won the pole for the Indy 500. Asked if his ninja training will have him better prepared should that happen again, he did not think so.

“I suppose if I run away it would help,” Dixon said. “But I don’t exactly have a ninja toolkit to get me through that situation.”