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Franzoni captures decisive Pro Mazda win Saturday at Watkins Glen

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WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – For the second straight race, Victor Franzoni stalked his prey running ahead of him in Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires competition – Anthony Martin – and for the second straight race he made the move by for the lead and the win.

Franzoni, the Brazilian, got the pole in his No. 23 Juncos Racing entry but lost the lead on the opening lap to Martin’s No. 8 Cape Motorsports car off the line. Contact between Team Pelfrey teammates Robert Megennis and Nikita Lastochkin on Lap 2 brought out a full-course caution.

While Martin led from the restart on Lap 5, Franzoni stalked him – with gaps anywhere from 0.2 to 0.4 of a second as Franzoni tried to use a run up the hill in the esses to pass Martin on the outside. But Martin was able to defend.

The Australian, however, was not able to do so for the rest of the 30-minute race.

On Lap 12, Franzoni got an earlier run on Martin up the hill and made it past the Australian around the outside into the Bus Stop chicane. The outside pass of Martin for the lead was the same as was done last week at Gateway Motorsports Park.

“Every time you learn a bit more. I tried the outside of Turn 7 and it didn’t work. I thought I’d lose too much time!” Franzoni told NBC Sports post-race. “That lap, now it’s my chance. We can see in the straight how much time left. I was seeing 20-22-23 minutes! I was excited as I had to do something. It was risky to overtake; I think there’s such a small space but I had to go for it to overtake.”

What was a gap of only a couple tenths from there grew to a final margin of victory of 3.5743 seconds, for his sixth win of the year in 11 races.

With Franzoni scoring two bonus points for pole and fastest race lap (a 1:43.574 to Martin’s 1:44.277), he now takes an unofficial eight point lead on Martin into Sunday’s season finale, 319-311. Martin got one bonus point for leading the most laps, 11 of the 14 but not the one that counted most.

Martin was, like last week, left to tip his cap to Franzoni.

“My car was very good first couple laps. I was able to get the lead and hold onto it for a bit. It exponentially got worse and worse. I was just, I knew he had a run on me going into the Bus Stop. I had to do what I could to defend. Only so much you can do. We’ll go into tomorrow for a wet one, and do the best I can,” Martin said.

Carlos Cunha upheld Pelfrey’s honor with his fourth consecutive third place finish, with Sting Ray Robb and Kris Wright scoring season best finishes for World Speed Motorsports and JDC Motorsports to complete the top five finishers.

The second race of the weekend and the final race for the Mazda Renesis rotary engine takes place Sunday morning at 7:55 a.m., with more than $790,000 available to the season champion to step up into Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires.

McLaren almost back on schedule with 2018 F1 car after delay

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McLaren is almost back on schedule with its 2018 Formula 1 car development after losing two weeks due to a delay in deciding on its engine supplier, according to racing director Eric Boullier.

McLaren confirmed back in September it would be cutting ties with Honda at the end of the year after three difficult seasons, favoring a switch to Renault power units.

The decision was not taken lightly by McLaren, causing it to lose two weeks in the development of next year’s car, but Boullier confirmed in an interview with the official F1 website that the team is almost back on-track.

“Maybe we made the decision to change the engine manufacturer two weeks too late for our schedule, but these two weeks have almost been recovered,” Boullier said.

“Any big decisions are always difficult to take. The concept of McLaren winning with Honda was a dream for everybody, yes – it was a beautiful story.

“Today we have huge respect for them and we definitely don’t divorce with fights and screams and finger pointing. We are all very professional – and in the end it was a business decision, which they understand.

“There is a sadness that it didn’t work out like we wanted. McLaren-Honda in terms of brands was a good fit – in terms of results it didn’t work.

“That’s what it is in the end. Now we have to see that we get back to competitiveness – back to the top!”