Arie Luyendyk Jr. adapts to racing Stadium Super Trucks

Leave a comment

For Arie Luyendyk Jr., life and his celebrity status changed when he starred on “The Bachelorette.” But racing fans will instantly recognize him as the son of the two-time Indianapolis 500 champion, and a one-time starter in the race in his own career.

Luyendyk’s back to racing full-time in 2013 for the first time in five years. The all-time starts leader in Indy Lights (the current, 2002-2013 iteration) has now done a racing career 180, as he races in one of the Stadium Super Trucks in Robby Gordon’s new series.

“I think the SST is so fun and unique, compared to what I’m normally used to with IndyCar,” Luyendyk told MotorSports Talk at Long Beach. “As a driver, it’s been a lot to get used to. Our first event in Phoenix was insane. There’s so much support for series – it is new and fresh – but happy to be a part of it at the ground level because I think this thing is going to get big.”

Corralling a truck and racing it indoors is something he didn’t expect to be doing, but he described that sensation.

“You have these 600hp trucks that are doing big jumps, and on TV it looks great,” he said. “Our first broadcast on NBC went really well. In the stadium, you have the noise reverberating, the huge jumps, the pyrotechnics. It’s like a Supercross race with trucks. And I feel like you can race these a lot harder than the bikes. I’m having a blast doing it.”

It’s an adaption for Luyendyk to this style of racing, but he did well in his debut, finishing fourth.

“It’s a lot like driving in the rain,” he explained. “The dirt does change a lot through the race so you’re adapting in the moment. It’s actually very technical; it might not look that way on TV. But it’s how you read a jump, read the terrain, what you have to do to preload before a jump.

“A lot of these off-road guys have a jump on me – pun intended – but it was really cool to come so close to a podium in my first race. Robby got me at the end. Basically to have never done anything like it before, and finish fourth after racing with Robby, Rob Mac, and P.J. Jones was really fun.”

Sebastien Ogier in driver’s seat for sixth straight World Rally Championship title

Sebastien Ogier leads the way in the WRC title chase. Photo: Getty Images
Leave a comment

COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) — Thierry Neuville finished the sixth stage of Rally Australia on Friday without a rear left tire, damaging his chances of catching five-time defending champion Sebastien Ogier for the World Rally Championship title.

The Belgian driver entered the rally just three points behind Ogier in the closest title fight in 15 years.

He held the upper hand on his French rival, building a near-10 second gap through the first five stages at Coffs Harbour before hitting a chicane and finishing the stage with only three tires on his Hyundai.

Neuville was fortunate the puncture occurred late enough in the day to finish all six forestry stages and avoid a retirement. But the mistake cost him 40 seconds and gave Ogier, who is 33 seconds ahead of him, a clear run at his sixth straight championship.

In his last start with Ford before a move to Citroen next year, Ogier struggled as the first to drive the dusty, slippery forest routes.

“I pushed like crazy, I was on the limit over the jump and everywhere, I can’t do (any) more,” Ogier said. “I was on the limit.”

With Ogier on sweeping duties the back markers flourished, and Mads Ostberg took the lead in his return to the series.

Ostberg was forced to miss the previous round in Spain to make way for rally winner and nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, who was making the last of his three guest appearances for Citroen.

Now back in the seat, Ostberg leads Jari-Matti Latvala by 6.8 seconds in the Australian rally, with sixth-stage winner Craig Breen in third.

Ogier was seventh, 38.2 seconds off the pace, but only needs to finish ahead of Neuville to claim the championship title. Neuville is in 10th place after six stages.

Roles will reverse on Saturday, with Ogier to start further back in the field and do his best on cleaner roads to make up the day-one deficit before Sunday’s final stages.

Andreas Mikkelsen, the 2016 Rally Australia champion, was an early dropout after rolling into a ditch in his Hyundai. Mikkelsen had only just avoided a tractor that had found its way onto the course.

Former winner Molly Taylor and co-driver Malcolm Read were also forced out of their event when their Subaru hit a hay bale at high speed on the morning’s second stage. Both reported soreness but suffered no serious injuries.

The 24-stage rally totals 319 kilometers (197 miles). Ten stages are scheduled Saturday with the final six on Sunday, most of them through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.