Sauber test driver Giedo van der Garde is set to get his second practice run-out of the season at next weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix when he replaces Adrian Sutil during the first Friday session.
The Dutchman joined Sauber at the beginning of the season after being dropped by Caterham, and has set his sights on a full-time drive with the team in 2015. He first got behind the wheel of the Sauber C33 during practice at the last race in Bahrain, where he replaced Esteban Gutierrez for FP1 and finished just three-tenths of a second behind Adrian Sutil.
Next week, van der Garde will replace Sutil for the session, having also ran at the in-season test in Bahrain earlier this week.
The team is also set to bring a number of upgrades to the race in Shanghai after a disastrous start to the season that has yielded zero points and a number of DNFs.
“The team keeps working relentlessly to get on top of the performance limitations that so far have not allowed us to race where we want to,” head of track engineering Giampaolo Dall’Ara explained. “We look forward to the Chinese Grand Prix as the next step, thanks to a number of updates we’ll be introducing and more track experience we gathered during the Bahrain test.”
After such a poor start to 2014, the pressure will undoubtedly be on Gutierrez and Sutil as three drivers are already eyeing up their seats for next season. van der Garde has a strong case after an impressive debut season with Caterham, but Russian youngster Sergey Sirotkin is also keen on claiming a seat after finally securing his FIA superlicense in Bahrain earlier this week.
Finally, former IndyCar driver Simona de Silvestro is also in the running for a seat after having a fitting earlier this week. She is set to test Sauber’s 2012 car at Fiorano in the coming weeks as part of her preparation for a full-time drive.
Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.
There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.
Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.
Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.
By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.
With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.
This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.
Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.
Two privateers have started the season on a high note.
Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.
The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.
Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.
In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.