Formula E Notes: Lucas di Grassi keeps points lead; Nick Heidfeld excluded from Putrajaya ePrix

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With Lucas di Grassi having to start 18th in last night’s FIA Formula E race at Putrajaya, Malaysia after brushing the wall in qualifying, it appeared there would be a new points leader in F-E by the end of the day.

Instead, the Brazilian is still standing atop the standings thanks to a superb drive from the back to finish second behind race winner Sam Bird. In an event filled with multiple recovery drives, di Grassi’s surge may have been the most impressive of them all.

It indisputably left him feeling even better than he did during the September season opener at Beijing, which he won following a last-lap crash involving Nick Heidfeld and Nicolas Prost.

“For sure, this was beyond my expectations,” di Grassi said after the race. “Everyone is here to win, everyone is pushing to the limit as this track has proven once and for all this car is very tricky to drive even if you have done all the testing.

“The tiniest margin can ruin your whole weekend and that’s what happened in qualifying from my side and then to come all the way from the back of the grid on a street track to second is an amazing feeling. I felt I had a much better race than in Beijing where I won.”

di Grassi’s runner-up, as well as a 10th-place finish for teammate Daniel Abt, enabled Audi Sport ABT to assume the team championship lead as well in Putrajaya. They’ll take a one-point lead over Bird’s Virgin Racing team, 45-44, into Round 3 next month in Uruguay.

Abt had a poor start to the race and was forced to try and use strategy to make up ground. An early car swap on Lap 9 allowed him to go to the lead but in the end, a low level of remaining battery power on his second car made him easy pickings for the field and he struggled to nurse his car to the finish.

In the driver’s standings, di Grassi leads Bird by a three-point margin, 43-40.

Venturi driver Nick Heidfeld suffered an additional insult following last night’s ePrix when he was excluded from the race results.

Heidfeld, who was stuffed into a tire barrier during the first half of the race thanks to an aggressive inside move by Franck Montagny, was found to have made his pit stop car change outside of the permitted area in the garage by FIA officials.

He will be credited with a 19th-place finish, but because he was excluded, it cannot count as a dropped result at the end of the season.

Other post-race penalties include a five-thousand Euro fine against TrulliGP for releasing Michela Cerruti from the pits during practice with one of her wheel nuts not properly tightened; and a 10-spot grid penalty in Uruguay for Amlin Aguri’s Katherine Legge after her team had to swap the Rechargeable Energy Storage System in her car.

Adam Enticknap paves the way for the ‘Other 19’

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Once the 2020 Monster Energy AMA Supercross season kicks off in Anaheim, Calif. on January 4, eyes inevitably will begin to focus on the front of the field.

One rider will win that race. Two will stand on either side of him on the podium. Nineteen others will ride quietly back to the garage and if they’re lucky, get a few minutes to tell the tale of their race to a few members of the media. On their way off the track, the other 19 will take a minute to wave to the fans in the stands.

Adam Enticknap will motion for them to follow him.

One of the most engaging riders in the sport, Enticknap not only recognizes his role as a dark horse on Supercross grid, he revels in it.

“Not everyone is going to win,” Enticknap said last week at the Supercross media sessions. “There’s only one winner on a weekend; that’s it. There can’t be more than one winner. And everyone else has got to go home and eat too.”

A recognized Hip Hop artist known for his video ‘My Bikes Too Lit’, Enticknap is bringing new fans to the track – and as a result, he is putting a spotlight on riders deeper in the field.

Last year Enticknap was coming off a broken femur that marred his SX season. He made only three Mains with a 20th in Indianapolis, 15th at Houston, and an 18th at Las Vegas. In October, he earned a career-best 14th in the Monster Energy Cup at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. He got there by being consistent in the three heats, finishing 16-15-15.

But that’s not the point for Enticknap. Yes, he wants to win but it is just as important to be the ambassador for those riders who are known only to their fans.

“I’ve made a path for riders that are not going to win,” Enticknap said. “And that’s not saying that I don’t want to win, or that I’m not going to win, but I’ve made it so that the guy who’s finishing 20th and barely making the Mains can make a full career out of it. I’m probably the most famous, slowest guy on the track. It’s come from the way I’ve marketed myself and the way I’ve been with my fans and I’ve appreciated every second that I’ve been here.”

On a good weekend, Enticknap is one of the “other 19” in the Main Event.

“Without all of us, there really is no winner. Everybody’s got to show up and everybody’s got to compete during the weekend. In our sport, everyone is so hyper-focused on the guy who is winning all the time, but I hope that I’ve opened people’s eyes that sometimes it’s not just about the guy who wins the race as much as it is about the guy who is succeeding during the weekend.”

For Enticknap, success looks different than for last year’s champion Cooper Webb or Eli Tomac who won six of the 17 races in 2019. It’s about knowing that when it’s time to ride back to the hauler – whether that is at the end of the Main or after a Last Chance Qualifier – that nothing was left on the track.

“My best finish was a 14th at the Monster Energy Cup – ever in my career,” Enticknap emphasized. “Making my way from the bottom is huge. I made my way from not even making the top 40 to finishing 14th in A-Main Event. That’s huge.”

And that’s progress.

In his second season with H.E.P. Motorsports, Enticknap predicts he will make 10 Mains this year.

Even if he advances to only half of the Features, it will be his best season in eight years at this level. Enticknap qualified for seven Mains in 2017 with a best of 18th at Vegas. He was in five Mains in 2018 with a best of 16th at San Diego before signing with his current team – and getting injured without rightly being able to show what he could do with them.

“I want to break into the top 10 – that’s my goal for the year – but as of right now I’m succeeding in all the little goals that I’ve set and I want to keep succeeding,” Enticknap said.

It’s not enough to want to finish well, however; riders have to visualize a path to success. For Enticknap, that will come with because of how he approaches stadium races. Towering over the field, Enticknap is not a small man by anyone’s measure so it’s ironic that he makes a comparison between Supercross and ballet. The indoor season is about precision, technical mastery, and finesse. And that is where Enticknap believes he shines.

“Supercross is more of a ballet. It’s more perfection. It’s something that takes so much talent – and you can see it in real life. When you watch an outdoor race, you’re like ‘that guy’s a beast’; he’s manhandling it; he’s hammering the throttle. And when you see a Supercross race it’s just so rhythmic and flowing and light. So much finesse on everything. Just such a fluent, technical race.”

Enticknap credits his background in BMX racing as one of the reasons why he is so fluid on a tight track.

“Supercross fits my riding style a lot,” Enticknap said. “I don’t like to just hang it out and get all sideways and just swap, swap, swap. I like to be very precise in all my movement. I’m a perfectionist. It helps in Supercross because everything is just timed by the millisecond.”

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