Manor unable to take part in Friday practice in Melbourne

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Manor Marussia F1 Team’s racing comeback did not go entirely to plan during practice for the Australian Grand Prix as neither Will Stevens nor Roberto Merhi managed to complete a single lap on Friday.

Marussia appeared to be dead and buried after its financial collapse in the wake of the Russian Grand Prix in October 2014, with assets sold and redundancies made.

However, a remarkable turn of events and an injection of fresh investment as allowed the team to rise again and return to F1 in 2015 as Manor Marussia F1 Team.

Manor has arrived in Melbourne still trying to find its feet, and reportedly has just one front wing at the track between its two cars.

On Friday, the team was unable to complete a single lap in the three hours of practice running, simply stating: “Given the complexities involved in returning to the racetrack, they were unable to run in either of today’s free practice sessions.”

Team principal John Booth explained how these problems were to be expected given that the car has not been tested, but underlined the team’s commitment to try and get out on track as soon as possible.

“We have had to overcome numerous hurdles to get to the Australian Grand Prix, but the challenge did not end with our arrival here in Melbourne,” Booth said. “This is effectively our first day of testing, and as we all know that is a less than straightforward experience for any team.

“The systems required to operate these cars are incredibly complex and this is the first time we have been able to begin the process of getting all the various elements of our operation and car package talking to each other. Only when that happens can you start to troubleshoot the various issues that every team encounters when you look to field a car for the first time.

“We are steadily working through that checklist and while it is disappointing that we haven’t been able to get the cars out in today’s free practice sessions, we are racers and will do our utmost to compete for all our fans and the people supporting us.”

Sporting director Graeme Lowdon (pictured) remained coy when asked whether the team would be able to get out on track this weekend, saying that the team is tackling each of its problems one by one.

“We literally have to deal with the problems one at a time and I think as we steadily get through them we’ll be able to put a little bit more accuracy on any kind of prediction,” Lowdon said. “At the moment it’s quite difficult to predict as you have binary problems – things are either going to work or they’re not going to work.

“But what I’m confident about is that we are not seeing anything that’s unusual, just things that have to be dealt with in a very short space of time and also once these problems are solved we wouldn’t expect to see them again.”

By simply turning up in Melbourne and passing scrutineering, Manor has ensured that it will receive its share of the 2014 prize money, making the trip worthwhile. However, it will be pushing to reward its fans and complete its comeback at some point this weekend by getting the car out on track tomorrow during practice or qualifying.

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)