GP3: Stoneman and Niederhauser close out season with wins

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ABU DHABI – The 2014 GP3 Series season came to a close in Abu Dhabi this weekend with Dean Stoneman and Patric Niederhauser claiming one race win apiece on Saturday and Sunday respectively.

Stoneman had been the only driver with a chance of stopping Red Bull junior driver Alex Lynn from winning the championship, but fell out of contention when he failed to secure pole position on Friday.

However, a great start in the feature race saw Stoneman pass pole-sitter Marvin Kirchhofer and move into the lead off the line. He slowly began to eke out a lead over the German driver, but was given very little breathing space throughout the race. At the flag, Stoneman was victorious, but by just 0.8 seconds.

The battle between Stoneman and Kirchhofer was for second place in the championship, making Sunday’s race a final chance for both drivers to pick up the points needed to finish as vice-champion. Thanks to the reverse grid rule, Stoneman started from eighth place with Kirchhofer one place ahead.

Pole-sitter Nick Yelloly made a poor start to relinquish the lead at the first corner to Switzerland’s Patric Niederhauser. The Arden driver didn’t look back, storming to his third win of the season by 4.9 seconds from Yelloly and Lynn.

Kirchhofer’s hopes of finishing second in the championship looked dashed when he stalled on the grid, forcing the ART engineers to wheel him into the pit lane. However, Stoneman himself hit trouble on the first lap when contact was made at the first chicane, forcing him to retire. The resulting safety car period allowed Kirchhofer to catch the pack, and with just three points needed to move ahead of Stoneman, he had a glimmer of hope once again.

Although Kirchhofer did manage to fight his way up to P12 at the flag, it simply wasn’t enough, meaning that Stoneman finished his first full GP3 season as runner-up behind compatriot Alex Lynn.

Lynn is known to be in the running for a Formula 1 drive with Toro Rosso next season, but with Carlos Sainz Jr. and Jean-Eric Vergne also vying for the place, it could well be that a move into either GP2 or Formula Renault 3.5 is more likely.

IndyCar’s season finale at St. Pete approved to have 20,000 fans

IndyCar St. Pete fans
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The NTT IndyCar Series’ season finale will be permitted up to 20,000 fans, making the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg possibly the circuit’s most well-attended race of 2020. The race originally was scheduled as the season opener before being moved to Oct. 25 because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

IndyCar has enjoyed limited crowds at Road America, Iowa Speedway, Gateway, Mid-Ohio and this weekend’s doubleheader races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, which could have up to 10,000 fans in attendance. That had been the largest maximum grandstand crowd for an IndyCar race this season.

At a St. Petersburg city council meeting Thursday, Mayor Rick Kriseman approved plans by race organizers Green Savoree Racing Promotions to hold the Oct. 23-25 weekend for the IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Pete with 20,000 fans who would follow health and safety protocols that include mandatory temperature checks and masks.

 “My thanks to Green Savoree Racing Promotions and IndyCar for their flexibility and resilience during this challenging time,” Kriseman said in a release. “I know that everyone is excited to get back on the track in St. Pete. I can’t wait for Oct. 23rd. I know everyone will embrace this race the St. Pete way, adhering to the COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Let’s have some great racing in the Sunshine City.”

Paddock and the pit lane will remain closed to spectators, and social distancing of at least 6 feet will be observed on site.

“Our entire team greatly appreciates the patience and understanding of our ticket holders as we worked through this process with Mayor Kriseman, City Council and local health officials,” Kim Green, co-owner, chairman and CEO of Green Savoree Promotions. “It’s important for everyone who attends to read and follow all the COVID-19 protocols to contribute to a fun, safe and successful event for us all.”

“The ongoing guidance and support of Mayor Kriseman, City Council, and the City of St. Petersburg’s event team have been phenomenal,” said Kevin Savoree, co-owner, president and COO of Green Savoree Promotions. “We also would not be in this position to move this spring tradition to fall without Firestone’s unwavering commitment and dedication. It’s going to be a terrific weekend again in downtown St. Pete in three weeks featuring world-class racing from INDYCAR.”