Formula E: di Grassi, da Costa still with something to prove in Miami


MIAMI – Heading into the fifth round of the FIA Formula E Championship season, one driver seeks a bounceback after a suspension failure damaged his win chances. The other seeks to prove his victory in the most recent race wasn’t a fluke.

For Lucas di Grassi (Audi Sport ABT) and Antonio Felix da Costa (Amlin Aguri), the Miami ePrix is a big opportunity to either make amends on the last round in Buenos Aires, Argentina or continue their pursuit of the leading entries this season.

Di Grassi, the series points leader, was both fast and consistent in the opening three rounds. With three podium finishes including a win in the series-opening Beijing ePrix in September, di Grassi leapt out to an impressive score of 58 points from three races.

But the suspension failure in Buenos Aires brought the field closer. Three drivers – Virgin’s Sam Bird and the e.dams pair of Sebastien Buemi and Nicolas Prost – are within 15 points, and thus in striking range to take over the championship lead this weekend.

“Yes, there was a suspension failure, and we don’t know what caused it,” di Grassi said during Friday’s FIA Formula E Championship press conference in Miami. “We need to have a stronger suspension for the car, which is essential.

“The teams are catching us up. It’s very challenging and we have to drive more on the limit.”

Da Costa, who emerged victorious in Buenos Aires, said the kerbs were likely to cause a wealth of suspension issues.

“We knew from day one in preseason, the suspensions are very fragile,” da Costa told MotorSportsTalk. “Even putting a wheel off, they can bend straightaway, let alone if you hit the high kerbs. I understand they’re fragile so the batteries don’t have to bring weight. I was lucky though, in the right spot, right time.”

The Portuguese driver is playing catchup this season after missing the season-opening round in Beijing due to his DTM commitments. He also acknowledged the team has made strides since the season opener.

“To be perfectly honest, we started as backmarkers,” da Costa admitted. “We put the team together very late. We have been playing a little bit of a catchup game. I missed first race due to DTM so this didn’t help.

“Every weekend we’re doing more to help us improve. We’re finally getting close to the top teams. We should be closer more towards the end of season.”

Amlin Aguri, which began the year with Takuma Sato and Katherine Legge, now has da Costa and Salvador Duran in the cars this weekend. Legge, who’s here this weekend, may return alongside da Costa later this season.

Alas it’s di Grassi’s Audi Sport Abt team that Amlin Aguri – and others – are seeking to catch in terms of outright pace this weekend.

Di Grassi has downplayed the performance thus far and notes the improved presence of the other nine teams on the grid.

“We’re just trying to keep it up,” the Brazilian said. “There’s still seven races to go, so we’re not even close to being through half of it. We try to make the best of what we can get.

“The championship is picking up more and more. The driver who gets faster into the track, and a little bit of edge can have a good result. It’s absolutely open to see who will win.”

Given the first four races of the championship thus far, it is indeed.

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.