Jolyon Palmer crowned 2014 GP2 Series champion

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Jolyon Palmer has been crowned the 2014 GP2 Series champion after winning today’s feature race in Russia, with title rival Felipe Nasr finishing down the order in 18th position.

Palmer has led the championship since the second race of the season in Bahrain, but finally clinched the title with a supreme win in Sochi on Saturday as he fought off Mitch Evans in the final few laps of the race.

Pole-sitter Stoffel Vandoorne had been in control of the race, wrestling the lead back from Takuya Izawa after a poor start, but a mistimed pit call under the safety car meant that he had to stay out longer than planned.

The McLaren junior driver managed to pull out a lead on the restart, but not enough to hang onto first position when he eventually took to the pits with four laps to go. He was followed into the pits by Artem Markelov, releasing Palmer into the lead of the race ahead of Evans.

Despite coming under increasing pressure, Palmer managed to hang on and claim his fourth win of the season as Nasr – the only man who could have stopped him in Sochi – was slapped with a drive-through penalty, ending his title hopes.

Palmer becomes the first British champion of the GP2 Series since Lewis Hamilton in 2006, and will now be looking to make the move up to Formula 1 in 2015.

“It feels amazing,” a speechless Palmer said on the podium after the race. “Honestly, it wasn’t going to be easy to do it this weekend, especially not today. I can’t thank the team enough. It feels amazing to be champion.

“Four years of hard work for me in GP2, and it’s an amazing end to it. We can just go out there and enjoy it and have fun [tomorrow].”

Palmer’s success will make him a prime candidate for many of the available seats in F1 next season, and it will also give him the chance to follow in his father’s footsteps, who raced in the 1980s.

2014 has seen GP2 go from strength to strength, providing some entertaining racing on the F1 undercard. Not only has Palmer been a worthy champion, but the likes of Stoffel Vandoorne and Raffaele Marciello have come to the fore as racing stars for the future.

Following tomorrow’s sprint race, GP2 will take another one month break before rejoining the F1 schedule for the final race of the year in Abu Dhabi.

Roll of Honor – GP2 Champions

2005 Nico Rosberg
2006 Lewis Hamilton
2007 Timo Glock
2008 Giorgio Pantano
2009 Nico Hulkenberg
2010 Pastor Maldonado
2011 Romain Grosjean
2012 Davide Valsecchi
2013 Fabio Leimer
2014 Jolyon Palmer

March 28 in Motorsports History: Adrian Fernandez wins Motegi’s first race

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While auto racing is an international sport, oval racing remains uniquely American. 

That almost always has remained the case since the inception of the sport, but in 1998, the citizens of Japan got their first taste of American oval racing.

Having opened the previous year, Twin Ring Motegi was built by Honda in an effort to bring Indy-style racing to the Land of the Rising Sun. 

Adrian Fernandez was the first driver to win at the facility, taking the checkered flag in CART’s inaugural race after shaking off flu earlier that day.

Fernandez held off a hard-charging Al Unser Jr to win by 1.086 seconds. The victory was the second of his career and his first since Toronto in 1996.

Adrian Fernandez celebrates with Al Unser Jr and Gil de Ferran after winning the inaugural race at Motegi. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The race was also memorable for a violent crash involving Bobby Rahal.

Running third with 15 laps remaining, Rahal’s right front suspension broke in Turn 2, causing his car to hit the outside wall and flip down the backstretch.

Luckily, Rahal walked away from the accident without a scratch.

“The car was on rails through (turns) 1 and 2, and all of a sudden it just got up into the marbles, and it was gone,” Rahal said. “Thank God we’ve got such safe cars.”

The following season, Fernadez went back-to-back and won again at Motegi. The track remained on the CART schedule until 2002.

In 2003, Honda switched their alliance to the Indy Racing Leauge, and Motegi followed suit.

The track continued to host IndyCar racing until 2011 with the final race being held on the facility’s 2.98-mile road course, as the oval sustained damage in the Tōhoku earthquake earlier that year.

Also on this date:

1976: Clay Regazzoni won the United States Grand Prix – West, Formula One’s first race on the Long Beach street circuit. The Grand Prix would become an IndyCar event following the 1983 edition of the race.

1993: Ayrton Senna won his home race, the Grand Prix of Brazil, for the second and final time of his career. The victory was also the 100th in F1 for McLaren.

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