Pirelli World Challenge: Duncan Ende highlights dangers of distracted driving

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Living in Los Angeles, Pirelli World Challenge driver Duncan Ende is constantly reminded of the dangers of distracted driving.

“It’s bad when I’m driving in my car and sometimes really scary when I’m on my road bicycle, and drivers on the road are speaking on the phone, looking at the map on their phone, or paying attention to the kids in the backseat of their Prius,” said Ende, who drives the No. 24 GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS in the GT class.

“Racing with Andy Pilgrim while we come through the GTS field like we did in Austin [Texas] is very exciting, but it’s much less stressful than seeing a driver on their cell phone in my mirror while I drive down the 405 freeway.”

For the last three seasons, Ende has done his best to educate the public about why it’s important to drive focused. Since 2011, he has aligned himself with an organization called STANDD – Stop Texting and Driving Distracted – which sets up a booth at every race next to GMG Racing’s piece of the World Challenge paddock. There, STANDD asks spectators to sign a pledge form (pictured; Photo Credit: SCCA Pro Racing) and make a personal commitment to safe driving.

The organization was created by Divetta Thompson, who lost her 18-year-old son, Rodney, in an October 2008 car accident. According to the STANDD website, “speed, music, and texting” all played factors in the fatal crash.

She believes that being a part of the World Challenge family has been important in helping spread her group’s message.

“We have really enjoyed being a part of Duncan’s racing program, and being a part of World Challenge this year has been incredible for STANDD,” said Thompson. “We’ve felt really welcomed and embraced by World Challenge and GMG Racing, and we’ve been really successful in spreading our message this year.

“At Long Beach, we had the highest amount of sign-ups for an event that we’ve ever had. We are incredibly happy and proud to see the STANDD logo on the front of the beautiful Audi R8 that Duncan is racing this year.”

In addition to their efforts in World Challenge, STANDD has released an Android app that can reduce the risk of distracted driving by automatically sending a text message response if the phone is in a moving car. An iPhone version of the app will be available at the end of this month.

The Pirelli World Challenge’s next race weekend is July 4-6 at Lime Rock Park. NBC Sports Network will televise the race on Saturday, July 20, at 4 pm ET.

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
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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.