Formula E/LAT

Sam Bird wins frantic Formula E season-opener in Hong Kong

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Sam Bird made a flying start to the new Formula E season in Hong Kong on Saturday by taking his sixth victory in the series despite being hit with a drive-through penalty following a crash in the pit lane.

Bird started the race second for DS Virgin Racing behind pole-sitter Jean-Eric Vergne and retained position for much of the opening half of the race, albeit interrupted for 30 minutes following a red flag when the track was blocked by a crash.

Bird stayed close to Vergne before making his move for the lead shortly before the car changes, and was quickly able to pull out a lead.

However, the Briton put his win hopes in doubt after locking up when trying to turn into his pit garage, causing his car to go straight on and into some nearby pit equipment, narrowly avoiding some bystanders.

Bird completed his car swap and emerged from the pits still leading, but was hit with a drive-through penalty for having made the change outside of the garage.

After quickly gapping the struggling Vergne, Bird took his penalty and came back out still in front of his former teammate, with Mahindra’s Nick Heidfeld sitting just behind in third.

Bird put his foot down to re-establish his earlier advantage, eventually crossing the line more than 11 seconds clear to claim the first win of the 2017/18 season.

“That was a really crazy race. I’m finding it hard to process what happened really,” Bird said.

“It’s not often you win having a drive-through penalty in Formula E. Firstly I’ve got to thank the team. We thought it was going to be really difficult coming into this year.

“The likes of Audi have made a big step, Renault still obviously being strong which makes Techeetah strong, Mahindra were fantastic last year, other teams have caught up…

“So we thought it was going to be tough to dominate round one, but I’ll take that.”

Vergne held on to second place ahead of Heidfeld despite struggling with a lack of radio and telemetry, while Nelson Piquet Jr. matched Jaguar’s best result in Formula E on debut for the team in P4.

Daniel Abt led Audi’s charge in fifth after teammate and defending series champion Lucas di Grassi sustained early damage, causing him to drop back and fail to recover.

Antonio Felix da Costa finished sixth for Andretti ahead of leading debutant Edoardo Mortara in seventh, while Alex Lynn, Nicolas Prost and Luca Filippi rounded out the points-paying positions.

The new Formula E season continues with the second leg of the Hong Kong double-header on Sunday.

BREAKING: John Force taken to hospital after Phoenix eliminations crash

Photo courtesy NHRA
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16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force has been taken to a local hospital for evaluation and examination following a wicked crash with fellow Funny Car driver Johnnie Lindberg.

The crash occurred during the quarterfinals of Sunday’s final eliminations in the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix.

Force was headed for a win when the engine on his Peak Chevrolet Camaro blew up just as it crossed the finish line, destroying the body. Lindberg, meanwhile, lost traction about one-third of the way down-track, but then got back into the gas to try and catch Force.

Force appeared to lose control of the body-less car and went across from the left lane he was in to the right-hand lane, where he hit the retaining wall in front of Lindberg.

Lindberg tried to avoid Force, but couldn’t. To make matters worse, the body on Lindberg’s car then came off and Force’s and Lindberg’s cars got tangled up in Lindberg’s parachute, sending both chassis’ into the left retaining wall.

Lindberg emerged from his Funny Car under his own power and was checked at the medical center before heading back to his pit.

Force, meanwhile, was helped out of his mangled wreck by the NHRA Safety Safari and was transported by ambulance to the hospital due to the severity of the impact.

Even though Force will be credited with the round win, he obviously will not be able to continue for the remainder of the eliminations.

To add insult to injury, NHRA officials charged Force with oiling down the racetrack, his third of the season in just the first two races. That will cost him 15 points in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series standings and a fine of $4,000.

Here are several posts from social media, including video of the incident from NHRA:

This is the second time Force has had an engine explode and the body blew off in the last two weeks. He also wrecked during the qualifying Feb. 9 for the season-opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California. Here’s the video of that wreck:

MORE: John Force taken to hospital as a precaution after Funny Car motor explodes.

We’ll update Force’s condition when it becomes available.

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