Buemi storms to London ePrix pole on Saturday

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LONDON – Sebastien Buemi will start today’s FIA Formula E London ePrix from pole position after posting the fastest time during qualifying on Saturday afternoon at Battersea Park.

The e.dams driver produced a stunning lap of 1:24.648 in the final stage of qualifying to take pole by over four-tenths of a second from Dragon Racing’s Jerome d’Ambrosio.

Title rivals Lucas di Grassi and Nelson Piquet locked out the second row of the grid, leaving the championship fight finely-poised ahead of the race later today.

Q1 saw di Grassi lay an early claim to pole position in his bid to get back ahead of Piquet at the top of the standings by setting the fastest time. The Brazilian managed to edge out e.dams driver Nicolas Prost after the first part of qualifying by just 0.153 seconds, with Sam Bird finishing a further six-tenths of a second back due to a battery issue.

Fabio Leimer finished his first Formula E qualifying in the wall, which in turn prevented Stephane Sarrazin from posting a quicker lap, leaving him fourth in Q1.

Andretti’s Jean-Eric Vergne headed up the second group in qualifying as he went in search of a fourth pole position of the season, but an early mistake cost him dearly. A lock-up in the middle sector meant that he had to abandon his first lap, and his second full-power effort was only good enough for second place behind di Grassi.

Oliver Turvey made an impressive start to life in Formula E by ranking fourth after the first two groups, whilst Bruno Senna rounded out the top five at the halfway point in the session.

The third group resembled something of a throwback to the 2006 F1 season as Jarno Trulli, Sakon Yamamoto and Nick Heidfeld all headed out on track. However, none of the trio were able to topple di Grassi at the top, with Heidfeld finishing as the lead Q3 car in eighth place. Daniel Abt went ninth, whilst Karun Chandhok ended the session in the wall after locking up at the final corner.

In the fourth and final qualifying group, the title race took a big swing as Sebastien Buemi shot to the top of the timesheets with his first lap, going four-tenths quicker than di Grassi to secure pole position for the London ePrix. Championship leader Nelson Piquet Jr put together a ragged lap, leaving him fourth overall.

Jerome d’Ambrosio dealt another blow to di Grassi’s title hopes by edging out the Brazilian driver by just one-thousandth of a second for second place, relegating the title fighter down to third on the grid.

In a rather tantalizing prospect for the title race, we have the three serious championship contenders starting within the top four, and with the likes of d’Ambrosio and Vergne lurking, the fight for the race win at Battersea Park is set to be an intense one.

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The London ePrix kicks off at 4pm local time at Battersea Park on Saturday.

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