Sutil, Sauber endure miserable weekend in Bahrain

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It’s hard to call the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend anything but a nightmare for the Sauber squad.

While its 2013 driver Nico Hulkenberg was busy finishing fifth a second straight race for Force India, and its 2012 driver Sergio Perez making his return to the podium for the first time since Monza that year, but now Hulkenberg’s teammate at Force India, Esteban Gutierrez and Adrian Sutil had utterly miserable weekends.

Sutil’s in particular started bad and went worse as it went on. A loss of power put an early end to his Friday second practice. Saturday saw him dropped to the back of the grid after he was ruled to have blocked Romain Grosjean’s Lotus.

Then Sunday, he was the first of Sauber’s two cars that got speared by another car acting like a Swiss army knife. Gutierrez’s barrel roll after being hit by the other Lotus, driven by Pastor Maldonado, garnered the headlines but Sutil’s race ended before that dramatic moment when Jules Bianchi misjudged a braking point in his Marussia, and made contact with the German.

End result? P22 and last after rolling off from the same grid position.

“My race was over quite early. Jules (Bianchi) braked too late andwent into my car in the hairpin. I was not able to do anything to prevent it, and my car was damaged,” Sutil said in the team’s post-race release. “He was driving aggressively for the whole race and pushed me off at the start. With his move he destroyed mine as well as his own race. It was unnecessary.”

With the team’s second consecutive double DNF, Sauber has the fewest race finishes on the grid this year with just the two from Melbourne.

Continued chassis development and gains from Ferrari on the power unit front will be the only way for Sauber to progress this year, as the perennial midfielders seek the level of competitiveness achieved by Williams, Force India and occasionally Toro Rosso thus far through three Grands Prix.

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.