Bahrain denies pre-emptive arrests before F1 race

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The Bahrain government has denied rounding up and arresting members of the political opposition ahead of next week’s F1 race.

Human Rights Watch claims 20 people were arrested including leaders of anti-government protests.

“These raids and detentions suggest that officials are more concerned with getting activists out of circulation for the Formula One race than with addressing the legitimate grievances that have led so many Bahrainis to take to the streets,” said the organization’s Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson.

A government information minister denied claims the 20 had been unlawfully arrested without warrants being produced.

“We discredit any news of such arrests in recent days or even months,” said Bahrain information minister Sameera Rajab. “This doesn’t happen in Bahrain. If there is any action against peace and security, it must be dealt with according to law.”

Human Rights Watch claims to have information from local sources that “activists who live in towns close by or next to the track for the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix and who have led anti-government protests in the past” have been targeted for arrest since the beginning of the month.

Bernie Ecclestone said last week “I haven’t had any negative reports from anybody there.”

“I don’t think they’ll upset the talks by making protests,” he added. “It didn’t help them last year, so if they had any brains they’d just get on with their talks.”

Hunter McElrea wins Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 Scholarship

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Hunter McElrea bested 18 competitors to win the third annual Road to Indy USF2000 $200,000 Scholarship Shootout on Sunday at Bondurant Racing School in Chandler, Ariz.

The two-day contest featured on-track competition in Formula Mazda cars as well as interview sessions and assessment from a panel of judges.

“I can’t believe it,” McElrea said at IndyCar.com. “This is definitely the most exciting opportunity that I have had in my racing career. I cannot thank Mazda and everyone enough for making this possible for me. The fact that I am going to be on the grid next year thanks to them is a dream come true.

“They have given me the opportunity to prove myself in such a high level that I never even thought I would be able to reach. I have to thank Andersen Promotions, Cooper tires, all of the judges, everyone from Mazda, the Bondurant Racing School and the other competitors, who literally pushed me to the limit.

“I am just so happy. It is still sinking in, but I just can’t wait to get next year started, and I’ll be representing Mazda in that nice Soul Red USF2000 car.”

MORE: Michael Carter wins Mazda Road to 24 shootout

The 19-year-old McElrea was born in California, but reared in Australia.

As a result of winning the award, McElrea will compete in the 2019 season of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, the first rung of the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder.

McElrea won the Australian Formula Ford Championship this year on the strength of 13 victories in 21 races.

Early competition resulted in a final field of six drivers that included Jake Craig, Michael Eastwell, Braden Eves, Flinn Lazier and Ross Martin. They competed in a qualification session and 30-minute simulated race. McElrea won that race.

“Today was an incredible day,” said Tom Long, Mazda Motorsports factory driver and one of the judges. “There was so much talent here for the shootout. Hunter McElrea just rose to the top when it was time to shine, but our decision was very, very difficult.

“In the end, given all of the circumstances, we were able to make a pretty good decision and we are really, really proud of not only Hunter but our whole team here with Mazda to be able to grant this $200,000 scholarship for his opportunity in USF2000 next year.”