Sauber plans round of aero upgrades for Spanish GP

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It’s not been the easiest of starts for Sauber to the 2014 Formula One season. The Swiss team has struggled with reliability issues; Adrian Sutil has failed to finish the last three Grands Prix and arguably Esteban Gutierrez’s only moment of notoriety came under unfortunate circumstances when he got speared by Pastor Maldonado’s Lotus at Bahrain.

Caterham and Marussia are yet to score, which was expected, but Sauber and Lotus are both yet to get on the scoreboard this season.

So heading into the Spanish GP weekend, Sauber seeks a turnaround as they plan a weight reduction and substantial aerodynamic updates, per head of track engineering Giampaolo Dall’Ara, in a team pre-race release.

“At the Spanish Grand Prix both C33s will have essential revisions, following an extensive weight reduction and a significant aerodynamic update,” he said. “This update consists of a modified front wing and a new engine cover, new side-pod fins and deflectors, as well as a number of other aerodynamic changes. Besides that, we will also have a software improvement which will enable us to use the potential of the power unit in a better way. We expect a busy Friday at the track while tuning the set-up to the new package.”

Sutil has exactly one goal this weekend: Finish.

“We will be travelling to Barcelona with some car updates, which I hope will help us to improve our performance,” he said. “Obviously, I expect more than in the last races. After three retirements in a row, we need to finish this race.”

Gutierrez has something to defend this race, having set fastest lap here last year.

“For us it is an opportunity to improve our level of competitiveness. I have faith in my team, everyone is doing their best,” said the young Mexican. “We are positive and expect to make a step forward. Last year was very positive for me because I did the fastest lap in the race. I am fully prepared to go for the maximum and to get the most out of the car.”

Test and reserve driver Giedo van der Garde will also be busy around the weekend. The Dutchman is expected to run in FP1 on Friday, and he’ll have a full test day a week from Tuesday.

We’ll see if the changes bring Sauber closer to the front of the field.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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