Kobayashi set to refund fans should he miss out on 2014 grid

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Japanese racer Kamui Kobayashi is prepared to refund his supporters should he fail to secure a seat on the 2014 Formula One grid, having raised over $1.8m through donations in order to prolong his career in the sport.

Kobayashi raced for Toyota and Sauber between 2009 and 2012, but he was dropped by the Swiss team at the end of last season in favor of Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez. This year, he has been working with Ferrari as part of their endurance racing programme, but he is still determined to return to F1.

“Personally speaking, I want to come back in Formula One next year,” Kobyashi explained on his website. “And today, there is one thing I want to be clear about “Kamui Support” [the donation drive]. All of the donations to “Kamui Support” have not been used at all this year, because this was purely for an F1 seat.

“And if I don’t need to use them for next year’s F1 seat, I want to return them to all whom made donations.”

This is an incredibly noble gesture of Kobayashi, although he is still focusing on his commitments with Ferrari, having spent a weekend with the team in Monaco.

“I will put all of my effort for the jobs Scuderia Ferrari offered to me and hoping to give you good news as soon as possible. So, I wish you all the best and keep supporting me.”

Known for his banzai style of driving, Kobayashi’s possible comeback will split the opinions of fans and critics, but he is determined to return to the premier class of motorsport next season.

Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at Ground Zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.