Hulkenberg: Unfair to compare Formula 1 and WEC


MONTMELO – Following his first endurance race at Spa-Francorchamps last weakend, Nico Hulkenberg has said that it is unfair to compare Formula 1 with the FIA World Endurance Championship, believing that both series can learn from one another.

Hulkenberg is balancing his F1 commitments in 2015 with two races for Porsche in the WEC – 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps and the 24 Hours of Le Mans – and finished sixth on debut last weekend.

When asked by MotorSportsTalk about his first weekend in the series, the German was upbeat and pleased with what he learned.

“It was good, generally quite positive,” Hulkenberg said. “Obviously the race was a bit of a shame, to have the clash early on which then took us out of the race and not fighting at the front with the Audis and the other Porsches, but otherwise, we learned a lot.

“A lot of first impressions and primers for everything there. I’m happy with how it went.”

One of the biggest differences between F1 and endurance racing is tire management, with less onus being placed on it in the WEC, allowing the drivers to push more throughout the race.

“When you think of endurance racing, people think ‘ah it’s cruising, you’ve got to look after everything’, but it’s actually pretty full on pushing,” Hulkenberg said.

“I was quite impressed with that and didn’t expect it quite like this. Tires are pretty consistent, you don’t have to think about it constantly. They also have traction control systems which also help you a great deal because they kick in when you overdo it with the throttle.”

Hulkenberg believes that a longer lasting tire may be beneficial in F1, as it would allow drivers to push throughout the race instead of holding back.

“I wouldn’t mind, from a driver point of view yes, you’re quite happy if you can push all the way through,” he said.

“You don’t have to worry so much. From a driver’s point of view it’s something that is very welcome, yes.”

The rapid rise of the WEC in the past few years has led many to compare it with F1, given the latter’s ‘closed door’ nature in the paddock and in terms of fan engagement. Hulkenberg does not believe it is a fair comparison to make, though.

“I know what F1 is like, I’ve been in this environment for a few years now, and this was completely new,” he said.

“Of course people are tempted to compare, but I think you shouldn’t always necessarily compare them, because they’re two different things at the pinnacle of motor racing. For me, both are fun.”

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

Grant Larson Turkey Night / DB3 Inc.

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)