GP2: Vandoorne continues pole position streak in Bahrain

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Stoffel Vandoorne’s streak of pole positions in the GP2 Series has carried over into the new season as the Belgian driver topped the timesheets during today’s qualifying session in Bahrain.

Vandoorne started on pole position for the last four races of the 2014 season en route to securing second place in the drivers’ championship, and claimed a fifth to start the new season at the Bahrain International Circuit on Friday evening.

The ART Grand Prix driver posted a fastest lap of 1:39.237 to finish three-tenths of a second ahead of teammate Nobuharu Matsushita, who will make his GP2 debut from the front row of the grid.

Another rookie that excelled in qualifying was DAMS driver Alex Lynn. Last year’s GP3 winner qualified third on the grid ahead of the returning Arthur Pic, whilst Ferrari junior driver Raffaele Marciello could only finish fifth due to a technical problem on his car during the session.

Jordan King was unable to repeat his run to first place in practice during the qualifying session, but qualified sixth ahead of fellow debutant Norman Nato.

American hopeful Alexander Rossi will start his third season in GP2 from eighth place on the grid ahead of Red Bull youngster Pierre Gasly and ex-Sauber reserve Sergey Sirotkin, who qualified ninth and tenth respectively.

Vandoorne has been tipped as the favorite for this year’s championship, and was pleased to have lived up to the hype during qualifying by extending his record run of pole positions.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” Vandoorne said. “We’ve had a good pre-season, although we were not always showing pace. It’s good to grab the first pole of the year. It’s my fifth in a row in GP2.

“I’m really happy. It’s also a really good team result because we’ve locked out the front row. Now we’re in the best position for tomorrow.”

Vandoorne managed to convert pole position into a race win at this round last year, but believes tire management will be key to a repeat result on Saturday.

“I’m starting from the best position, but we’ll see tomorrow,” the Belgian said. “Last year, as a rookie, I did pretty well here. It shows you can do a great job as a rookie.

“Tomorrow is going to be an interesting race especially with the medium and soft Compounds. I think degradation will be quite important for everybody so let’s see how this is going to pan out.”

New study surveys drivers’ opinions on crashes, concussions, more

James Black/IndyCar
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Auto racing safety has continued to improve through the decades, but the sport remains inherently dangerous, according to a new survey.

At the close of 2018, a new organization called Racing Safety United emerged with the intention of reducing drivers’ risk of being harmed.

RSU is made up of more than 30 members including former NASCAR Cup Series competitor Jerry Nadeau, two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Randy LaJoie, NHRA team owner Don Schumacher and motorsports journalist Dick Berggren.

One of RSU’s first initiatives was to determine what current drivers thought of racing safety. The organization developed a 14-question survey and promoted it on select motorsports websites and forums. 

Participants were given the opportunity to disclose their identity or remain anonymous, and those who provided contact information were entered to win a $500 prize (for anonymous participants, the prize funds would be donated to a motorsports charity). 

More than 140 individuals participated in the survey over the course of 12 months. Below are the results of the survey:

Driver status

The vast majority of survey participants (60%) were amateur racers, while 26% of the participants were classified as Semi-Pro/Professional racers. The remaining 14% consisted of other individuals involved in the sport such as team owners and crew chiefs. 

When asked how frequently they race, 58% of driver respondents averaged 10 or more times per year on track, while 42% averaged 10 times or less.

The top five tracks respondents said they raced most often: Road Atlanta (21 votes), Watkins Glen (17 votes), Virginia International Raceway (16 votes), Mid-Ohio (16 votes), and Road America (13 votes).

Vehicular damage, injuries common

Over a third of respondents said they had been injured while racing, and almost two-thirds sasid they had suffered severe vehicle damage while racing

Driver error was cited as the top cause of vehicle damage (42 mentions), followed by concrete walls (26 mentions), mechanical failures (24 mentions), and other drivers (19 mentions). The study concluded those results indicated a need for better driver training/coaching, energy absorbing walls, and more technical inspections.

Almost a quarter of drivers said they had experienced racing-related concussions, and nearly half the respondents said one or multiple concussions would affect their decision to race in the future. 

Drivers primarily influenced by peers 

Roughly half the drivers said they would consider adopting new safety equipment if influenced by another driver (51 total mentions) and/or if recommended by a sanctioning body (47 total mentions). The study concluded those results indicated a need for drivers to become safety advocates and educate other drivers and for sanctioning bodies to mandate safety equipment. 

Drivers concerned with concrete walls

Approximately three-quarters of the drivers surveyed said they believed certain race tracks were more dangerous than others. Nearly half the drivers surveyed believe that concrete walls were the primary cause of damage to drivers and vehicles. 

Drivers willing to help

Just more than three-quarters of the drivers surveyed said that they would be willing to join a safety alliance to advocate for safer tracks. Two-thirds of drivers said that they also would be willing to contribute to a motorsports safety fund.

Click here for the full results of RSU’s survey

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