WSR: Vaxiviere wins opening race at Spa-Francorchamps


Matthieu Vaxiviere has become the first driver to win two races in the 2015 Formula Renault 3.5 season after beating Jazeman Jaafar and Dean Stoneman in today’s round at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.

Appearing on the World Series by Renault package as its headline event, Formula Renault 3.5 acts as the final step for drivers en route to F1 and has helped to launch the careers of drivers such as Kevin Magnussen, Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo.

Vaxiviere won his first race of the year at Motorland Aragon at the end of April, but managed to clinch his second victory after fighting back to win today at Spa-Francorchamps.

Starting from pole position, the Lotus driver lost the lead to Arden’s Nicholas Latifi and was forced to toil in second place for six laps before making a brave pass around the outside of Pouhons to regain the lead.

From there, Vaxiviere pushed on to open up a lead to the rest of the field, eventually crossing the line with an advantage of five seconds over championship leader Jazeman Jaafar.

“I made a real mess of my start; we have to look at this to avoid it happening again,” Vaxiviere said. “I like driving the car with low-downforce and I was able to pressure Nicholas.

“He made a mistake and I made the most of this situation to try my passing move. I am happy with this win and I want to thank the team for all the work it had done.”

Red Bull-backed junior driver Dean Stoneman finished a further six seconds back in P3 ahead of Latifi and British racer Oliver Rowland.

The second race of the weekend at Spa takes place on Sunday afternoon, with qualifying being held in the morning.

IndyCar Power Rankings: Pato O’Ward moves to the top entering Texas Motor Speedway


The NBC Sports IndyCar power rankings naturally were as jumbled as the action on the streets of St. Petersburg after a chaotic opener to the 2023 season.

Pato O’Ward, who finished second because of an engine blip that cost him the lead with a few laps remaining, moves into the top spot ahead of St. Pete winner Marcus Ericsson and Alexander Rossi, who finished fourth in his Arrow McLaren debut. Scott Dixon and St. Pete pole-sitter Romain Grosjean (who led 31 laps) rounded out the top five.

St. Pete pole-sitter Romain Grosjean (who started first at St. Pete after capturing his second career pole position) Callum Ilott (a career-best fifth) and Graham Rahal entered the power rankings entering the season’s second race.

Three drivers fell out of the preseason top 10 after the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – including previously top-ranked Josef Newgarden, who finished 17th after qualifying 14th.

Heading into Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, here’s NBC Sports’ assessment of the current top 10 drivers through the first of 17 races this year (with previous preseason rankings in parenthesis):

NBC Sports’ IndyCar Power Rankings

1. Pato O’Ward (5) – If not for the dreaded “plenum event” in the No. 5 Chevrolet, the Arrow McLaren driver is opening the season with a victory capping a strong race weekend.

2. Marcus Ericsson (7) – He might be the most opportunistic driver in IndyCar, but that’s because the 2022 Indy 500 winner has become one of the series’ fastest and most consistent stars.

3. Alexander Rossi (10) – He overcame a frustrating Friday and mediocre qualifying to open his Arrow McLaren career with the sort of hard-earned top five missing in his last years at Andretti.

4. Scott Dixon (3) – Put aside his opening-lap skirmish with former teammate Felix Rosenqvist, and it was a typically stealthily good result for the six-time champion.

5. Romain Grosjean (NR) – The St. Petersburg pole-sitter consistently was fastest on the streets of St. Petersburg over the course of the race weekend, which he couldn’t say once last year.

6. Scott McLaughlin (6) – Easily the best of the Team Penske drivers before his crash with Grosjean, McLaughlin drove like a legitimate 2023 championship contender.

7. Callum Ilott (NR) – A quietly impressive top five for the confident Brit in Juncos Hollinger Racing’s first race as a two-car team. Texas will be a big oval litmus test.

8. Graham Rahal (NR) – Sixth at St. Pete, Rahal still has the goods on street courses, and Rahal Letterman Lanigan remains headed in the right direction.

9. Alex Palou (4) – He seemed a step behind Ericsson and Dixon in the race after just missing the Fast Six in qualifying, but this was a solid start for Palou.

10. Will Power (2) – An uncharacteristic mistake that crashed Colton Herta put a blemish on the type of steady weekend that helped him win the 2022 title.

Falling out (last week): Josef Newgarden (1), Colton Herta (8), Christian Lundgaard (9)