Ricciardo delighted with top three finish

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Daniel Ricciardo has made an incredible start to his life with Red Bull by claiming the first podium finish of his Formula 1 career at his home race in Australia.

Having qualified in second place, Ricciardo made a good start to hold position behind Nico Rosberg and stay out of trouble to record his first top three finish, fending off the advances of Kevin Magnussen in the dying stages of the race.

In front of a home crowd, it was a very popular result, whilst it came as a surprise to Red Bull after a disastrous winter that saw many write the team off as possible title contenders. On the podium after the race, a beaming Ricciardo expressed his relief and joy.

“Two to three weeks ago, I would have bet pretty much everything I have that we would not be standing up here,” he explained. “Just full credit to the team for an unbelievable turnaround. I don’t understand how they did it, but they did so thank you guys.”

Ricciardo’s result was made all the sweeter by the home crowd that cheered his every move at Albert Park, and he also paid tribute to the retired Mark Webber by deliberately tripping up on the podium, just as his compatriot did in Brazil last year.

“Of course, the Aussie fans! Wow. Completely overwhelming. No words. I’m tripping balls right now.

“I thought I’d do a stack to commemorate Mark as well. It’s an Aussie thing. Really pleased to be up here.”

Interviewee and 1980 world champion Alan Jones summed up the thoughts of the nation, telling his fellow countryman: “You’ve done us all pround.”

Ricciardo finished as the sole Red Bull on Sunday after Sebastian Vettel was forced to retire from the race on lap five due to a problem on his power unit. It also marks the emergence of a new young superstar in the sport as the Australian driver finally proves his ability after two years stuck in the midfield with Toro Rosso.

UPDATE: RICCIARDO EXCLUDED (09:13 ET)

Ricciardo has been excluded from the Australian Grand Prix due to an irregularity with his fuel system. For the full story, click here.

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds