GP2: Nasr and Cecotto star on a tough weekend for US drivers

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Felipe Nasr and Johnny Cecotto Jr. have been the stars of the second GP2 weekend of the season in Spain as both claimed one win at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

However, it was a disappointing weekend for American drivers Conor Daly and Alexander Rossi, who both failed to score any points once again due to a number of problems.

Qualifying saw Stephane Richelmi secure his first pole position in the series for DAMS, but he stalled on the grid, handing the advantage to teammate Jolyon Palmer, who had qualified in second place for the feature race. Palmer made an early stop to change onto the hard tire, and this proved to be costly as Cecotto – who had started way back down in 16th place – went deep into the race before stopping for a set of softs. This allowed him to clinch his third GP2 victory, and answer a number of critics who dislike his aggressive driving style.

The feature race saw Alexander Rossi retire with an engine problem, whilst Conor Daly could only come home in 17th place as he struggled on the soft tire.

For the sprint race on Sunday, the top eight finishers were reversed to form the grid, handing pole to Arden driver Tom Dillman who was stepping in for the injured Andre Negrao. The Frenchman performed admirably on his return to the series and eventually finished in third place.

The star of Sunday was unquestionably Felipe Nasr, who claimed his first ever GP2 win after recording 10 podium finishes over the past two years. He finished ahead of Palmer, who, with his fourth podium in as many races, has stormed into the lead of the championship.

Daly’s race ended prematurely when he was caught up in an incident between Simon Trummer and Artem Markelov. Rossi endured a quiet race to cross the line down in 14th.

GP2 now has a two week break before the Monaco Grand Prix weekend, but its own support series – GP3 – will not return until Austria. Red Bull junior Alex Lynn leads the championship after completing a grand chelem – pole, fastest lap, win, lead every lap – on Saturday, whilst Dean Stoneman won the sprint race on Sunday.

Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward points’ slide

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Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.