Awesome Alonso takes home victory at Spanish GP

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Fernando Alonso has claimed an emotional home victory at the Spanish Grand Prix today, perfecting his strategy to win the race ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and teammate Felipe Massa.

Despite starting from the front row, Mercedes endured a terrible race as they struggled with tire wear, causing them to drop through the field. Sebastian Vettel could only finish 4th as he struggled for pace, despite challenging for the lead early on. Ultimately though, no-one could stop Alonso from taking his second win at the Spanish Grand Prix.

Off the start, Alonso caused trouble for the leaders by slipping past Raikkonen through the exit of turn two, and then by not lifting he managed to squeeze out Hamilton around the outside of the long turn three. It was a gutsy move that delighted the Spanish fans, as he slotted into third place. Rosberg managed to stave off Vettel at the front, but his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, lost out to Raikkonen early on. Felipe Massa made a great start, passing Webber, Grosjean and Perez to lie 6th, whilst Jenson Button had a terrible start to slip down to P17.

At the front, Rosberg held the lead until the first round of stops whilst Ferrari made big gains thanks to some impressive outlaps, and Alonso relegated Vettel to P3. Massa had jumped Raikkonen, but the Finn soon caught up with the group. Just as Hamilton had fallen right back, Rosberg’s tires let him down which saw him drop behind all four of the chasing drivers to release Alonso at the front. The Spanish driver quickly set about opening the gap between himself and Vettel, and he had soon eased into a comfortable lead.

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It quickly became evident that strategy would be key, with Ferrari and Red Bull opting to make four stops whilst Lotus were trying to pit just three times. Mercedes’ weekend went from bad to worse as Hamilton bemoaned the fact that he was ‘slower than a Williams’, and he could only come home in P12. Rosberg did score some points for the German team, but eight points from a front-row lock out will be a great disappointment.

As the race panned out, Alonso continued to push ahead on the softer tires with Massa in P2 as Vettel struggled to keep up with the two Ferrari drivers. Instead, it was Raikkonen who posed the biggest threat to Alonso’s lead on a three-stop strategy, but it was not enough as the Spaniard managed to come out in the lead after making his final stop. He eventually eased home to win by 9.3 seconds.

Massa scored his first podium of the season in P3, after dropping behind Raikkonen, but he did finish ahead of the Red Bull duo of Vettel and Webber. Rosberg hung on for P6 at the end of the race ahead of a charging Paul di Resta, who was followed by the McLaren pairing of Jenson Button and Sergio Perez. Daniel Ricciardo completed the points, denying Esteban Gutierrez his first score.

Just three drivers retired from the race: Giedo van der Garde, Romain Grosjean and Jean-Eric Vergne.

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance
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LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).