Young Drivers’ Test gets underway at Silverstone

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The Young Drivers’ Test has begun at a warm and sunny Silverstone. Over the course of the next three days 31 different drivers will be in action.

Ten teams are participating in the test after Mercedes were banned from participating by the FIA International Tribunal.

Red Bull and Lotus originally planned to run Mark Webber and Kimi Raikkonen respectively during the test but decided not to after an FIA clarification informed them of limits on the running race drivers could do.

Here’s who will be appearing at the test for each of the teams plus notes on each of the young drivers:

Red Bull

Antonio Felix da Costa – Starred in Formula Renault 3.5 last year
Carlos Sainz Jnr – Son of the two-time World Rally Champion
Daniel Ricciardo
Sebastian Vettel

Ferrari

Davide Rigon – GT driver whose single-seater career was interrupted by a broken leg in 2011
Felipe Massa

McLaren

Kevin Magnussen – Son of ex-F1 driver Jan Magnussen, impressing in Formula Renault 3.5
Oliver Turvey – McLaren test driver
Gary Paffett – McLaren test driver

Lotus

Nicolas Prost – Son of four-times F1 champion Alain Prost, last major single-seater race was five years ago
Davide Valsecchi – Reigning GP2 champion

Sauber

Robin Frijns – Reigning Formula Renault 3.5 champion
Kimiya Sato – Third in German F3 last year, not related to the IndyCar driver
Nico Hulkenberg

Force India

James Calado – Fifth in GP2 last year and top rookie
Adrian Sutil
Paul di Resta

Williams

Daniel Juncadella – Reigning European F3 champion, now drives for Mercedes in the DTM
Susie Wolff – Williams test driver last raced a single-seater in 2005
Pastor Maldonado

Toro Rosso

Johnny Cecotto Jnr – Son of ex-F1 and motorbike racer
Daniil Kvyat – Reigning Formula Renault 2.0 Alps champion currently racing in GP3 and F3
Carlos Sainz Jnr
Daniel Ricciardo
Jean-Eric Vergne

Caterham

Alexander Rossi – American driver currently racing in GP2
Will Stevens – Caterham’s newest recruit is fourth in Formula Renault 3.5
Charles Pic
Giedo van der Garde

Marussia

Tio Ellinas – Currently leading GP3
Rodolfo Gonzalez – Raced in GP2 until last year, scoring few points
Max Chilton
Jules Bianchi

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

Follow@KyleMLavigne