Formula E: Di Grassi disqualified, handing win to Jerome d’Ambrosio

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Audi Sport ABT driver Lucas di Grassi appeared to have extended his lead at the top of the FIA Formula E championship standings with a crushing victory in Saturday’s Berlin ePrix, only for the stewards to disqualify him in the aftermath of the race and hand the race win to Jerome d’Ambrosio.

On a circuit constructed in the grounds of the disused Berlin Tempelhof airport, the site of the Berlin Airlift that saw the western allies keep the city supplied despite being under Soviet occupation at the beginning of the Cold War, di Grassi went unchallenged during the race.

Starting second on the grid, di Grassi managed to pass pole-sitter Jarno Trulli at turn two on the opening lap of the race before opening up a sizeable lead over the rest of the field.

The Brazilian led for all but one lap, falling into second place when he took his mandatory pit stop on lap 16 of the race before regaining P1 when championship rival Nelson Piquet Jr pitted.

Piquet was focused on damage limitation after qualifying down in 13th place, and although he had fresher tires and more power by going one lap longer than the rest of the field on his first stint, he could only move up into fifth position by the end of the race.

Di Grassi eventually stormed to victory by 7.5 seconds, and it proved to be just enough as his car came to a halt on his inlap following the end of the race.

However, worse news would follow. The stewards confirmed in the hours following the race that Audi Sport ABT had been deemed to have modified the front wing of his car, thus breaching the regulations and prompting di Grassi’s exclusion from the final results.

As a result, d’Ambrosio took his first race win in Formula E with Sebastien Buemi and Loic Duval completing the podium. Piquet finished the race in fourth after di Grassi’s exclusion, giving him a two point lead at the top of the championship standings ahead of Buemi.

Despite being excluded, di Grassi remains very much in the title hunt as he trails Piquet by just ten points with three races remaining. However, he made his feelings perfectly clear on Twitter after the race.

American team Andretti Formula E struggled in Berlin as Jean-Eric Vergne finished as its only points-scoring driver in seventh place. Scott Speed finished down in 13th place in the sister car.

After starting on pole position, Trulli dropped through the field across the course of the race before eventually retiring with two laps remaining.

To see the full results for the Berlin ePrix, click here.

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds