Daniel Ricciardo has finished quickest in the first free practice session for the British Grand Prix, taking advantage of limited running due to the wet conditions to beat the other eleven drivers who managed to set a time.
A lengthy rain shower that began on Thursday night continued into the start of FP1, causing race control to disable DRS and declare the track to be wet. Valtteri Bottas was the first driver out for a sighter lap, but he, along with Pastor Maldonado and Esteban Gutierrez, came back to the pits to confirm that conditions were too bad for sustained running.
A long stand-off ensued once the rest of the field had been out for one lap, but the British fans remained as cheerful as ever despite the soggy conditions. With around 15 minutes to go, Daniel Ricciardo was the first driver to go out to post a flying lap time after telling his engineer that conditions were “not bad with the extreme tire”. His time of 1:57.992 sparked some of the field to venture out onto the circuit. Marussia’s Jules Bianchi was the next driver to post a time, going a full 12 seconds slower than Ricciardo before improving to be just 5.2 seconds off, but Gutierrez, Maldonado, van der Garde, Massa and Bottas could not beat the Australian’s quickest time. This honor fell to home favourite Lewis Hamilton, who went fastest with five minutes to go.
However, the conditions did catch out Charles Pic who went off at the final corner, making contact with the wall and coming to rest soon after. Ricciardo did however manage to recover P1 with just seconds to spare, and his time of 1:54.249 was not beaten come the end of the session.
The conditions were such that it makes it highly difficult to deduce much from the first free practice session, but one would imagine that the teams and fans will be hoping for better weather shortly.
In a continuing effort to help fans keep track of the on track action, SuperMotocross is in the process of developing and implementing leader lights for the unified series.
Currently Supercross (SMX) utilizes stanchions in the infield that are triggered manually by a race official. At least two stanchions are used in each race as a way to draw the eye to the leader, which is especially useful in the tight confines of the stadium series when lapping often begins before the halfway mark in the 22-bike field. This system has been in place for the past two decades.
Later this year, a fully automated system will move to the bike itself to replace the old system. At that point, fans will be able to identify the leader regardless of where he is on track.
The leader lights were tested in the second Anaheim round this year. An example can be seen at the 1:45 mark in the video above on the No. 69 bike.
“What we don’t want to do is move too fast, where it’s confusing to people,” said Mike Muye, senior director of operations for Supercross and SMX in a press release. “We’ve really just focused on the leader at this point with the thought that maybe down the road we’ll introduce others.”
Scheduled to debut with the first SuperMotocross World Championship race at zMax Dragway, located just outside the Charlotte Motor Speedway, a 3D carbon fiber-printed LED light will be affixed to each motorcycle. Ten timing loops positioned around the track will trigger the lights of the leader, which will turn green.
SMX’s partner LiveTime Scoring helped develop and implement the system that has been tested in some form or fashion since 2019.
When the leader lights are successfully deployed, SuperMotocross will explore expanding the system to identify the second- and third-place riders. Depending on need and fan acceptance, more positions could be added.
SuperMotocross is exploring future enhancements, including allowing for live fan interaction with the lights and ways to use the lighting system during the race’s opening ceremony.
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