12 MAXSpeed/Rotax finalists named for USF2000 test

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The Mazda Road to Indy added another rung to its already impressive ladder following an announcement in late June that Andersen Promotions and the Mazda Road to Indy had formed an alliance with the MAXSpeed Group and the United States Rotax Max Challenge program. Less than three months after the initial announcement, the partnership today unveiled the twelve finalists into the Mazda Road to Indy and MAXSpeed Group Driver Advancement Program who will vie for an opportunity to test in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

“We are very pleased to have such a strong partnership with Andersen Promotions and the Mazda Road to Indy,” expressed Richard Boisclair, President of the MAXSpeed Group. “Together we are taking Rotaxians up the ladder and trying to help them fulfill their dreams of competing in the open-wheel motorsports world. The twelve finalists into this first-ever program are well-deserved and will represent Rotax, karting and the Mazda Road to Indy program very well.”

Following the completion of a Driver Advancement Program application, the candidates were narrowed down to a group of 12 based on selection criteria. The competitors who have been chosen will now enter a final interview process with Verizon IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe, Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion Gabby Chaves, US karting legend Alan Rudolph and three-time Rotax Grand Finals champion and four-time Euro MAX champion Ben Cooper who will select the four winners.

The candidates are Oliver Askew, 17, of Tequesta, Fla.; Christian Brooks, 14, of Santa Clarita, Calif., Sabre Cook, 19, of Grand Junction, Colo.; Jake Craig, 14, of Mission Viejo, Calif.; Trenton Estep, 14, of San Antonio, Texas; Kyle Kirkwood, 15, of Jupiter, Fla.; Michael McCarthy, 15, of Clearwater, Fla.; Christian Munoz, 15, of Deerfield Beach, Fla.; Ryan Norberg, 15, of Orlando, Fla.; Enzo Prevost, 15, of Novato, Calif.; Gavin Reichelt, 15, of Rhinebeck, N.Y.; and Austin Versteeg, 15, of Sandy, Utah.

“We are excited to enter the interview process to select the winners of our inaugural program with the MAXSpeed Group and introduce these talented up-and-coming karters to USF2000,” said Michelle Kish, COO of Andersen Promotions. “It was difficult enough to narrow the initial field down to 12, so I don’t envy our judges in selecting the final four.”

The video conference interview process will begin immediately with all interviews being completed by September 29, 2014. The winners will be announced on Monday, October 13, just prior to the annual Rotax Pan American Challenge in Mooresville, N.C. From there, the four winners will take part in a USF2000 test under the watchful eye of Andersen Promotions and members of the Mazda Road to Indy staff.

“We would like to thank all of the competitors who submitted their resumes for the Driver Advancement Program, and congratulate those selected for interviews,” added Boisclair.

Lewis Hamilton takes F1 pole in dramatic Russian GP qualifying

Russian pole Lewis Hamilton
Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
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SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton took a step closer to equaling the Formula One win record Saturday by clinching pole position at the Russian Grand Prix, after narrowly avoiding early elimination when Sebastian Vettel crashed.

Hamilton charged to a track-record time of 1 minute, 31.304 seconds, beating the Red Bull of Max Verstappen by 0.563 for his fifth straight pole position. Hamilton can achieve his 91st career win in the race on Sunday, matching the record held by Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, was beaten into third by Verstappen’s fast run at the end of the session and was .652 off Hamilton’s time.

The long run from the grid to the first significant turn means Bottas could yet threaten to overtake Hamilton at the start Sunday using the slipstream from his teammate’s car.

“It’s nice being on pole but here is probably the worst place to be on pole,” Hamilton said.

“This year you’re seeing that our cars are more draggy and there’s more tow this year than we’ve seen in other years. So I generally expect one of (Verstappen and Bottas) to come flying by at some point. I think I’m just going to focus on my race and run the fastest race I can.”

Bottas earned his first win at the 2017 race in Russia after starting third and overtaking the two Ferraris ahead of him at the start.

Verstappen and Bottas both start the race on medium tires, which could give them an edge in terms of pit strategy over Hamilton, who is on soft tires, which wear much faster.

“I’m just going to have to nurse those tires for as far as I can. These guys, if they get by, they’re going to be pulling away,” Hamilton said.

Verstappen said he was delighted to start second.

“I wasn’t expecting that and of course it’s great for us. If we can get a good start tomorrow you never know what can happen,” he said.

Vettel lost control of his car over the kerb on the inside of the 90-degree, right-hand turn four and spun into the wall, before the Ferrari bounced back onto the track. Teammate Charles Leclerc was following closely behind and narrowly missed the wrecked car, driving over its discarded front wing.

“Oh my God, that was very, very close,” Leclerc told his team over the radio. Leclerc qualified 11th and Vettel 15th as Ferrari failed to reach the top-10 shootout with either car for the third time in four races.

Vettel’s crash meant the red flag was waved while Hamilton was trying to set his first valid lap time to make the third session – after his first attempt was earlier ruled out for going off the track.

After the track was cleared and the session restarted, Hamilton had to rush his out-lap to make it over the line in time for another flying lap with just a second to spare.

“It was horrible,” Hamilton said. “Heart in the mouth.”

Hamilton was also asked to report to race stewards over another incident in which he went off the track in the first part of qualifying. No further action was taken. It was found Hamilton didn’t gain an advantage because the lap time wasn’t counted.

Hamilton is the runaway championship leader with a 55-point advantage over second-place Bottas and 80 over Verstappen. If he can earn four more pole positions in the last seven races, he would be the first driver to 100 in F1 history.

Earlier in the third and final practice Saturday morning, Hamilton set the pace with a time of 1 minute, 33.279 seconds that was 0.776 better than his Mercedes teammate Bottas, who had been quickest in the first two sessions.