McLaren finishes as bottom Mercedes team in China

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Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen will have been pleased to have finally seen the checkered flag in yesterday’s Chinese Grand Prix after a disastrous weekend that saw the McLaren team leave Shanghai empty handed.

After a terrible 2013 campaign, the team had appeared to have made a big step forwards as both of its drivers finished on the podium at the Australian Grand Prix. However, since that impressive 33 point haul, Button and Magnussen have mustered just 10 points and failed to score any in the past two grands prix. On Sunday in China, Button came home in 11th place, with the rookie Magnussen two places further back.

“It was pretty difficult out there,” Button said. “It felt a little bit like qualifying yesterday, we just couldn’t get the front tyres working – they just grained.

“We’ve got a few upgrades for the next grand prix, in Barcelona, but they won’t be enough to close our performance gap to the fastest cars.”

Magnussen also had little to say about the race: “It felt like a long race, because there wasn’t much I could do out there. Our car lacks downforce – that’s its main problem. The way it’s set up, and how it feels, has always been positive; it’s just low on grip, that’s all. So, clearly, we need to work as hard as we can to create that missing downforce.”

McLaren had promised to make a big gain in Malaysia three weeks ago, with Ron Dennis predicting that the team would have cut the gap to Mercedes at the front by half a second. Instead, the British squad in fact finished as the bottom Mercedes-powered team in China behind the works team, Williams and Force India.

Button and Magnussen will be keen on responding at the Spanish Grand Prix next month, where the team should debut its first major upgrade package for the MP4-29 that could remedy some of its problems.

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.