Double DNF for Toro Rosso caps off bad weekend for Red Bull

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The return of the Austrian Grand Prix last weekend was masterminded by billionaire owner of the Red Bull brand, Dietrich Mateschitz. As the owner of the defending world champion team and its sister squad, Toro Rosso, it was intended to be their big weekend to impress.

Instead, not only did the main Red Bull team flounder and score just four points, but Toro Rosso’s weekend also went badly as both Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat retired from the race.

It had all started so well for Kvyat. On Saturday, he qualified in seventh place ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton, only to drop back off the line down to tenth place. He then became embroiled in a battle with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo for position, and pulled off a remarkable overtake on the Australian.

Ultimately, it wasn’t to be though. Kvyat suffered a failure on his right rear wheel that sent him off into the gravel, and he was forced to retire from the race.

“I’m obviously disappointed with how today turned out, especially because everything was working so well this weekend and it seemed like a promising race,” the Russian explained. “Our pace was strong, our updates and also tire management worked well.

“The start was difficult, I lost a few positions but I managed to get a position back. From then on I was able to push hard and it looked like we could have a strong result. Around lap 26 I saw my rear right tyre blow up and I was forced to stop.”

Teammate Jean-Eric Vergne ran outside of the points for the majority of the grand prix, and eventually retired from the race due to a problem with his brakes.

“I have struggled with the brakes from the beginning of the race,” he said. “It’s difficult to drive the car with such a considerable rear locking. It’s not good for tire life and for the balance in general so it was really a tricky race. I was doing my best to finish it at least but in the end I just could not bring the car to the checkered flag.

“Problems happen, it’s a shame that they occurred here but the new aero package is working well and we have a good car to face the next grand prix in Silverstone.”

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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