Prost snatches Miami ePrix win; Speed second in Formula E’s U.S. opener


MIAMI – Nicolas Prost, son of four-time World Champion Alain, has snatched a dramatic victory in the fifth round of the inaugural FIA Formula E Championship at the Miami ePrix, courtesy of a pass for the lead on the second-to-last lap of the 39-lap race.

As leader Daniel Abt (No. 66 Audi Sport ABT) slowed to conserve energy to make it to the finish, Prost (No. 8 e.dams Renault) made it past in Turn 8 to lead onto the start straight.

Not long after, Scott Speed (No. 28 Andretti Autosport) made it through on the inside of Abt into Turn 1 for second. Despite hounding Prost for the lead on the final lap, the American came up just short at 0.433 of a second off the win in his first open-wheel race in years. Prost started third, and Speed 10th, on the afternoon.

Prost becomes the fifth different winner in as many FE races; Speed scores a home podium as an American driver, in the first of two U.S. races, in the Andretti Sports Marketing-promoted event; Abt came home third for his first podium in the series.

The win is Prost’s first in FE, but not his first in America; he is a past two-time overall winner of Petit Le Mans with the Rebellion Racing organization.

Much of the race changed during the pit stop cycle to change cars, as you’d expect, and the erstwhile leaders fell a bit through the pack as a result.

Polesitter Jean-Eric Vergne (No. 27 Andretti Autosport) led the opening 18 laps, but never by too much with Sam Bird (No. 2 Virgin Racing) and Prost hounding him and staying within a few tenths.

Vergne, despite being one of three FanBoost recipients (Bruno Senna, Salvador Duran the others), still burned through his available energy faster than the rest of the field on the first sequence.

A lap after Vergne made a fairly noticeable lockup when his battery life was under 10 percent, Bird and Prost had a bit more in hand. Bird made it past Vergne for the lead on the inside at Turn 5 on Lap 19.

That lap opened the pit stop sequence with Vergne, Abt, and at least eight others making their stop to change cars.

Prost, Speed and Bird, among others, pitted a lap later on Lap 20, with the last two drivers, Nelson Piquet Jr. and Nick Heidfeld stopping on Lap 21.

Abt inherited the lead following the pit stop sequence on Lap 23, ahead of Prost, Lucas di Grassi, Vergne and Speed. Bird fell to seventh and was never back in contention due to energy issues.

Speed passed his teammate a lap later as Vergne’s car began to fade, and with more energy to burn, Speed was able to charge closer to the podium trio. Abt, meanwhile, had burned through more energy earlier in his stint and had to drive slower to conserve it to the finish, which ultimately cost him.

By Lap 33, just 1.4 seconds covered the top four and a lap later, Speed made it past di Grassi for third. On Lap 36 the top three were separated by under eight tenths of a second, and it built to the crescendo of the final three laps.

Prost made the pass on Abt at Turn 8, with Speed following through shortly thereafter for second. That trio maintained the gap to the checkered flag.

Jerome d’Ambrosio (No. 7 Dragon Racing), who started eighth, ran a quiet but solid race en route to a season-best fourth – his third top-six in five races.

Piquet Jr. (No. 99 China Racing), who fell back from second on the start, salvaged a fifth place and valuable championship points.

Two drivers who turned in barnburner efforts from the back of the field were Antonio Felix da Costa (No. 55 Amlin Aguri) and Loic Duval (No. 6 Dragon Racing), ending sixth and seventh after starting 16th and 18th on the grid.

Bird ended eighth, ahead of di Grassi and Duran. Senna and Stephane Sarrazin retired; Vergne, meanwhile, struggled to 18th and retired with two laps to go with overheating issues.

Prost, courtesy of the win, has unofficially taken over the points lead from di Grassi. His e.dams Renault team should well extend its lead in the Team’s Championship.

The series resumes on April 4 in Long Beach, on a truncated version of the Grand Prix circuit, for the second U.S. race.

Unofficial results from Round 5 are linked here.

Ford Mustang GT3 test has Austin Cindric dreaming of Daytona: ‘I want to drive that car’

Cindric Ford GT3 test
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Austin Cindric wasn’t the “mystery” test driver behind the wheel of the new Ford Mustang GT3 at Sebring International Raceway, but the Team Penske driver desperately wanted to be.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, an amateur sports car driver himself, made the big reveal via a Tuesday tweet that provided the first video evidence of the GT3 Mustang on track.

“I’ve watched the video in question about a million times,” Cindric said Wednesday during a Ford Performance Zoom news conference to promote NASCAR’s first road course weekend of the season at Circuit of the Americas. “Definitely exciting times for sure. I want to drive that car. It suits my experience level and also the relationships that I have.”

Ford will enter the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next season with its GT3 Mustang, entering a two-car factory effort (that will be managed by Multimatic) in GTD Pro and making customer cars available in the GT Daytona category.

That increases the likelihood of seeing more NASCAR drivers crossing over to IMSA. Cindric has been the only full-time Cup driver in the Rolex 24 at Daytona the past two years, but Ford Performance global director Mark Rushbrook has said the GT3 Mustang will provide more opportunities.

Ford has used its GT4 Mustang as a NASCAR driver development tool in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge with Harrison Burton and Zane Smith combining to win the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in January.

“We’re excited about the Next Gen car and the new architecture there and the similarities between that car and GT3 and even GT4 cars,” Rushbrook said at the announcement of the Ford GT3 program in January 2022 at Daytona. “We think it’s a great opportunity and to do be able to do that in a 24-hour race and get NASCAR drivers even more time is something we need to consider taking advantage of that opportunity.”

Given his sports car background, Cindric probably still would be in the Rolex 24 regardless. He has eight IMSA starts since the 2017 season opener at Daytona, racing a Lexus RCF GT3 and Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the GT category. The 2022 Daytona 500 winner made his second LMP2 start this year with Rick Ware Racing.

But Cindric’s preference naturally would be in a Ford, particularly with sports car racing enjoying convergence and crossovers in both GT and prototype racing.

“It’s an exciting time in GT racing, just as it is now for prototype racing with a lot of new regulations and manufacturers building new GT3 cars,” he said. “And also the opportunity with WEC (the World Endurance Championship) and Le Mans and how that all lines up for that category of car. It’s definitely an exciting time. I want to be as much of a part of that as possible.”

Though those odds seemingly will increase with multiple Ford entries in the Rolex 24 field next year, Cindric said NASCAR drivers still have to put in the networking to land rides as he has in recent years.

“Now how (the GT3 Mustang) relates to specifically NASCAR drivers and how often they want to be in the Rolex, could it be an influence? Absolutely, as far as the tie-in with the manufacturer,” Cindric said. “But the challenge and the drive and the logistics of getting an opportunity for a race like the Rolex 24 will be just as challenging as it always is to find your one-off ride for the race. At least from my experience, that’s what I still anticipate.”

It turned out the “mystery” test driver wasn’t from NASCAR (Farley revealed the driver to be 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Joey Hand after a fan asked whether it was Joey Logano).

But Cindric believes there could be more Cup drivers — and perhaps himself — behind the wheel of Mustang GT3s in the future.

“There’s definitely more of a pathway than I think there would be before as far as Ford drivers are concerned,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to drive that thing. It’s obviously a great looking car. That’s the first box you’ve got to check. And it’s cool (to have) a guy like Jim Farley, no doubt he’s a racer just as much as he is steering the ship for Ford. It’s cool to see he’s just as excited as the rest of us about it.”