McLaren junior Vandoorne stars to win on GP2 debut

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McLaren junior driver Stoffel Vandoorne has won the opening round of the 2014 GP2 championship after producing a sparkling performance in his very first race in the series.

The Belgian youngster took the lead at the start of the race and commanded proceedings from there on in, ensuring that he maintained a steady gap to his rivals before inheriting the lead from the long-running Simon Trummer, who opted to pit with just two laps to go on a somewhat misjudged strategy.

However, it was a less fruitful day for the American drivers on the grid as Conor Daly finished down in 12th place, whilst Alexander Rossi had a luckless race to finish in P22.

Pole-sitter Jolyon Palmer made a bad start in his DAMS to allow Vandoorne into the lead and teammate Stephane Richelmi up into second place, whilst further back 2013 GP3 runner-up Facu Regalia was forced into an early retirement. After a few laps of jostling for position, the race calmed when the safety car was deployed following a crash between Axcil Jefferies and Kimiya Sato, giving Vandoorne a chance to compose himself and control the pack from the front.

When the safety car finally peeled into the pits, a number of drivers followed suit for a fresh set of hard tires. Vandoorne kept hold of his lead ahead of Carlin’s Julian Leal and Palmer, who had fought back from P6 into the top three.

A number of drivers had elected to start on the hard tire, though, and were at the head of the field as a result. This reverse strategy proved to be a stroke of genius as the track continued to rubber in and get quicker, thus giving them the advantage when they switched to the option tire. Arthur Pic and Takuya Izawa both benefitted greatly and fought their way into the top ten, but out in front, Simon Trummer elected to go it alone.

Having stalled on the grid, Trummer had raced well to get into the lead after every other driver had stopped, but instead of pitting earlier and giving him more laps on the quicker tire, Rapax opted to bring him in with just two laps to go. Nevertheless, he managed to fight past a few cars on the soft compound, and eventually crossed the line in a well-earned seventh place.

Vandoorne was the star of the day, though. Having cut his teeth in the Renault-backed series, the move to GP2 was one that many expected to truly prove his star quality, and he certainly showed his worth in the feature race on Saturday. The Belgian driver eventually crossed the line 1.5 seconds ahead of Leal, and claimed a maiden GP2 win on debut.

On the podium, Vandoorne was clearly elated, and he was joined in celebrating by a number of the McLaren F1 team members including Ron Dennis and Eric Boullier, who hold him in high regard. However, he will have to fight back from P8 tomorrow in the sprint race as part of the reverse grid.

For Daly and Rossi, tomorrow should be about aiming to pick up some points and avoid leaving Bahrain empty handed.

Click here for the complete classification and race results.

Travis Pastrana leads flag-to-flag in Nitro Rallycross as the series returns to America

Pastrana Nitro Rallycross
Barry Chin / Getty Images
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Travis Pastrana waited until the final trip around ERX Motor Park to take his Joker Lap – a longer way around the course that all drivers must do at least once in a race – and came out cleanly to win his first Nitro Rallycross race of 2022. With this win, Pastrana is the third driver to visit Victory Lane in the first three rounds of the 2022-23 season.

“This is the closest to a motocross track,” Pastrana told Katie Osborne on Peacock. “Thank you so much for a beautiful facility. It’s been a rough start to the season and I’m so thankful to be back out here. We had a good run in the side-by-side and now for this. This is much needed.”

Another thing needed was the sense of improvement. And Pastrana earned that affirmation each time he completed a lap around the course.

“I get my lap times read out and they said ‘fastest time of the week,’ ‘fastest time of the week’ (each time around) ” Pastrana said. “This is really special. We’re a long way behind in the championship, but welcome to America.”

In a pre-race press conference, Pastrana said that as Nitro Rallycross heads back to America, it was time for an American to win and he made good on his promise. Pastrana took the early lead over Robin Larsson and let the back of his Subaru hang out, taking risks he might not otherwise take if not for his need to win.

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Larsson’s second-place finish completed a perfect sweep of the podium in three rounds. In fact, he has not yet finished worse than second after winning the opening round at Lydden Hill in the United Kingdom and finishing second at Strangnas in Sweeden.

Fraser McConnel rounded out the podium for his best result of the season. He finished fourth in each of the first two rounds.

Last year, Pastrana finished second in this race to Scott Speed before narrowly edging his teammate for the championship.

Andreas Bakkerud crashed in prelims, but rebounded to finish just off the block in fourth. Bakkerud won the second round ahead of his teammate Larsson.

Oliver Bennett completed the top five.

Minneapolis is the first of three rounds scheduled in the United States. Next on the schedule is Glen Helen, Calif. on Octo 30 and then Phoenix at Wild Horse Pass on November 12th. Nitro Rallycross will then head to Saudi Arabia in December to continue their 2022-23 season.