Daytona kicks off Red Bull GRC’s quartet of doubleheader weekends

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As there are only eight race weekends, but 12 events, on the Red Bull Global Rallycross schedule, there are four weekends that are likely going to be key to this year’s Supercars championship.

Those four are the four doubleheader weekends, an increase of three from 2014, starting this weekend at Daytona Beach (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, LIVE on NBC).

Whereas last year it was just Los Angeles that featured a Red Bull GRC weekend double, this year doubles occur in Daytona Beach this weekend, Detroit next month, Los Angeles in September and Barbados in October.

All told, that’s eight of the 12 races right there, and they’ll be crucial to not lose too many points at any one weekend.

Missing the setup isn’t so much a problem on doubleheader weekends as avoiding trouble, said SH Rallycross driver Nelson Piquet Jr.

“Setup is not the problem. It’s just don’t get involved in any accidents the first race,” Piquet told MotorSportsTalk at the Red Bull GRC media day in Long Beach. “That destroys your weekend.”

Piquet would know. Finishes of 12th and ninth in Los Angeles last year severely dented his championship hopes, after banking five top-five finishes in the first six races of the season.

“It’s one thing we learned the hard way last year in L.A.,” he said. “It was a tough race, and it ruined our whole weekend.”

Another driver who had a rough go in L.A. last year was extreme sports legend Bucky Lasek, one of Subaru’s drivers in the No. 81 Subaru WRX-STi. He was 11th and fifth.

“I had the mindset in L.A. to keep a clean car, and you can’t control the car,” Lasek told MotorSportsTalk in Long Beach. “It’s uncontrollable. Your fate is not in your own hands in GRC. It’s in the hands of 12-15 cars.

“You have to take the good with bad, bad with good. I had a lot of DNFs and I would have done better in the points. Sometimes it was due to car issues with other people. All of a sudden I’d be in back fighting for sixth.”

Steve Arpin of Chip Ganassi Racing noted another important factor – with no backup cars, there’s no room for error.

“That’s gonna be tough; we don’t have backup cars,” said Arpin, who finished second at the X Games to Scott Speed earlier this month.

“You go in and know you have a whole another show the next day.

“The biggest thing with those is just being smart. We know this is a heavy contact sport. It can turn your season around in a hurry. You can gain a lot, but also lose a lot. Just be smart and consistent throughout the weekend.”

Having been in Red Bull GRC for several years, Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross’ Tanner Foust noted the importance of track time, and how doubleheaders are good for that.

“One of the problems that I think existed with GRC in the past has been limited amount of driving time,” he told MotorSportsTalk at Long Beach. “You want to have fun. Sometimes you go to a weekend and go less than 30 minutes. It’s great for doubleheaders, but it’s tough on teams because there can be tough rebuilds overnight.

“These are the points I think it will increase emphasis on: getting cars set up for the track quickly. Because if you’re successful on track, its double points. If you’re not successful, setup-wise, you cost yourself double pints. You need the robustness in the car. And keep the car clean during a weekend so you don’t overwork your team. I love the doubleheaders and it adds another challenge.”

A year ago, Scott Speed and Rhys Millen split the Los Angeles wins, while Joni Wiman (second and third) and Ken Block (third and second) podiumed in both races.

Wiman and Block finished first and second in the championship.

That’s plenty proof positive that doubleheaders mean more, particularly with the increased number in 2015.

Valtteri Bottas wins chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas won a chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix while six-time series champion Lewis Hamilton finished fourth after getting a late time penalty Sunday.

The Formula One race was interrupted three times by a safety car, and nine of 20 drivers abandoned, including both Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon – who tried to overtake Hamilton on the outside with 10 laps left, touched wheels and flew off track.

Hamilton was given a 5-second time penalty for causing the collision, having earlier been hit with a three-place grid penalty after an incident in Saturday’s qualifying was reviewed by stewards.

SHOW OF SUPPORT: Drivers take knee before race

Bottas led all 71 laps in the eighth victory of his career. It was the second consecutive victory in the season opener for the Finn, though he won four months earlier in 2019 after this season’s start was delayed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Lando Norris of McLaren F1 celebrates after his first podium finish (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).

Bottas started from pole position and Hamilton from fifth, but it looked like a straight fight between the two Mercedes drivers as has been the case so often in recent years.

But late drama in Spielberg ensured otherwise and Hamilton’s time penalty meant Charles Leclerc took second place for Ferrari, and Lando Norris sent McLaren’s garage into raptures – and threw all social distancing rules out of the window amid the euphoria – with third place.

It was the 20-year-old British driver’s first career podium, and his superb final lap was the fastest of a dramatic season opener.

Norris became the youngest British driver to secure a podium finish and the third-youngest ever in Formula One.

Valtteri Bottas leads Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).