Legal row between Sauber and van der Garde rages on; next hearing set for Saturday as talks begin

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The legal dispute between Sauber F1 Team and its former reserve driver, Giedo van der Garde, continues to overshadow the start of the 2015 season with another court hearing set to be held on Saturday morning in Melbourne.

Van der Garde launched legal action against the team over the winter, citing unfair dismissal after holding a contract that said he would be racing for the team in F1 this year.

On Monday, the Victoria Supreme Court heard his case and eventually ruled on Wednesday that Sauber must race him at this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix.

However, it emerged on Friday just before practice that van der Garde did not hold a valid FIA super licence as Sauber had failed to complete the necessary paperwork, prompting accusations of contempt.

Van der Garde’s legal team lobbied with the judge to have Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn imprisoned or fined, and for the seizure of the team’s assets in Melbourne, preventing it from racing this weekend.

The judge eventually adjourned the hearing, with the Supreme Court of Victoria confirming that it would resume at 9:30am local time on Saturday (1830 ET on Friday).

Sauber and van der Garde were urged to have “very sensible discussions”, and it is believed that the two parties are now in contact over a settlement.

However, before the judge’s decision, such an outcome seemed unlikely. Upon arriving in Melbourne on Friday, van der Garde found that his pass was not working, and was forced to use a guest pass to even get into paddock.

The Dutchman was then spotted in Marcus Ericsson’s overalls ahead of FP1, after having a seat fitting in Felipe Nasr’s car ahead of a possible run-out in Malaysia. Sauber did not run either of its drivers in FP1, but did send both Ericsson and Felipe Nasr out on track for FP2.

Facing the media after practice on Friday, Kaltenborn refused to speak about the situation, but did admit that the saga has had a very negative effect on Sauber.

“Well, that’s a topic I can’t say anything about,” Kaltenborn said. “Just to make it clear, any questions about that I will not be able to answer.

“It’s definitely a very negative impact on the team because the situation was for a while unclear, we now have certain actions taken against the team and we are acting accordingly so there’s nothing much more I can say to that.”

When asked by NBCSN whether she believed that her position as team principal had become untenable, Kaltenborn simply said: “I’ve not considered that.”

With the court case resuming on Saturday, time is of the essence for Sauber if it is to take part in this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix. It must ensure that it addresses the issue of having three drivers contracted for two race seats, but if it fails to come to some kind of agreement with van der Garde, the possible seizure of its cars could end all of its racing activity in Melbourne.

Donny Schatz edges Kyle Larson for Outlaws victory at Lake Ozark

Trent Gower/World of Outlaws
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Donny Schatz made a last-lap pass on Kyle Larson, snatching a World of Outlaws victory Saturday night at Lake Ozark Speedway.

Larson started on the pole, led 30 of 35 laps and was in control until a caution set up a two-lap shootout to the finish before a limited crowd in Eldon, Missouri.

Schatz and Larson traded the lead twice over the final two laps, but the 10-time champion emerged with his first victory since the NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series returned in mid-May from a two-month layoff because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

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“Man, I don’t know what to say, but Kyle’s a damn good racer,” Schatz, who led five laps, told DirtVision after his 296th Outlaws win. “I kind of had to go where he didn’t. We got that green-white-checkered, and I decided I was going to send it. He decided the same thing.

Donny Schatz celebrates at Lake Ozark Speedway after his second Outlaws Sprint Car victory of the season (Trent Gower).

“I’m glad to get the win. It feels like it’s been forever. I’ve been out here 24 years, and every night is a learning experience still.”

Larson finished second in his fifth start since he began racing with the Outlaws after being suspended from NASCAR.

“Obviously, it would have been nice to get the win,” Larson said on DirtVision. “I figured Donny would rip the middle. The restarts before, he’d almost clear me in (turns) 3 and 4. I should have known to protect and block his momentum. I felt I exited 2 OK. We don’t have spotters or rearview mirrors so you can’t see how close he is or really hear it when the pace is so slow.

“I just didn’t do a good enough job to run a smarter final couple of laps.”

Brad Sweet, Larson’s brother in law, finished third, with Shane Stewart and David Gravel rounding out the top five.

Larson rebounded from a 10th in Friday’s feature at Lake Ozark Speedway, continuing his streak of top-10 finishes in all five of his starts since the Outlaws’ return.

“We got our car a lot better from last night, so that was a plus,” said Larson, who finished second and first in back-to-back nights last week at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at Pevely, Missouri. “These guys are really tough. To be on the podium with Donny and Brad, they’ve won lots of big races and championships, it’s nice. I just didn’t do what I needed to do that last restart.”

Larson nearly had a flawless night Saturday, turning a 11.426-second lap to capture his second pole position this season and won the pole dash to start first in the feature.

Larson, who was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing from his NASCAR Cup Series ride last month for using a racial slur in an iRacing event, said last week that he plans to run several more NOS Energy Sprint Car Series races this year.

Larson remains indefinitely suspended by NASCAR but was approved to race by the Outlaws after completing sensitivity training.