Buemi victorious in first London ePrix, cuts into Piquet’s advantage ahead of Formula E finale

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LONDON – Sebastien Buemi brought himself back into the thick of the fight for the inaugural FIA Formula E championship by winning the first London ePrix race on Saturday at Battersea Park.

Starting from pole position, the Swiss driver was rarely challenged en route to his third victory of the season as he slashed the gap to championship leader Nelson Piquet Jr to just five points ahead of the last race of the season on Sunday.

Piquet could only finish the race in fifth place following an early clash with title rival Lucas di Grassi, who crossed the line just ahead in fourth to give himself an outside chance of winning the championship on Sunday.

Following the decision to reprofile the first corner in the morning, the start of the race took place under the safety car before the drivers were finally released on lap two. From pole, Buemi immediately shot off into the distance, leaving Jerome d’Ambrosio trailing in second place by a couple of seconds after the opening five laps.

Just behind, there was a dramatic twist in the race for the Formula E championship. Running fourth, series leader Nelson Piquet Jr bravely tried to overtake Lucas di Grassi for third place, using his FanBoost to have an extra 40 bhp. However, the two Brazilians made slight contact, forcing Piquet onto the kerbing and to drop back into the clutches of Jean-Eric Vergne. The Frenchman took full advantage of this, slipping into third place on lap three.

Vergne put another spoke in the works at the front by lunging down the inside of di Grassi on lap seven, making a fantastic overtake to seize third place. His Andretti team engineer quickly gave him the call to get his head down and push on for second place, whilst Buemi continued to push on at the front.

Buemi retained his advantage to the first round of pit stops, coming in one lap after the first teams that decided to come in. The Swiss driver retained his advantage after switching cars ahead of d’Ambrosio, who in turn had been caught by Vergne during the pit stop cycle. Di Grassi and Piquet remained in fourth and fifth place respectively, and as the race entered its second half, the advantage lay with Buemi.

However, his lead was eradicated when the safety car was deployed on lap 17 after Daniel Abt crashed at the final corner. The German had been dealing with a steering problem on his car following contact earlier that lap, but ended up in the wall.

The safety car was brought in at the end of lap 20, allowing the drivers to return to full speed. Buemi wasted little time in re-establishing his lead over d’Ambrosio. Di Grassi did appear to make up some ground on Vergne in third place, but soon found his mirrors filled with Piquet in fifth. Despite using his FanBoost again, Piquet was unable to make a pass, and dropped back from his compatriot with five laps remaining.

At the front, Buemi was able to simply monitor the gap to d’Ambrosio behind before crossing the line to win the first London ePrix event and move to within five points of Piquet at the front.

D’Ambrosio managed to keep his head to finish second ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne, who scored his second podium finish of the season in third place. Di Grassi kept himself in the title fight by finishing fourth, whilst Piquet saw his advantage drop to just five points in fifth, edging out Sam Bird on the final lap of the race.

Heading into Sunday’s season finale, just 13 points separate Piquet, Buemi and di Grassi, setting the stage for a thrilling last battle at Battersea Park tomorrow.

Top Fuel driver Austin Prock earns 2019 NHRA top rookie honors

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Having just completed a promising first year in NHRA Top Fuel competition, Austin Prock is on the road to even greater drag racing success in his career.

That’s why it’s not surprising that Prock was named the winner of the 2019 Auto Club Road to the Future Award during Monday night’s annual NHRA Awards dinner at the Ray Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California.

The Road to the Future Award is NHRA’s version of Rookie of the Year, and Prock was among the brightest young stars on the circuit this past season, including winning his first national event at the Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways in suburban Seattle, the 16th race on the 24-race schedule.

What made that first win all the more sweeter is it came at the same event that his boss, legendary 16-time Funny Car champion John Force, captured his milestone 150th career win.

One month ago, Prock set a personal best run of 3.688 seconds at 334.40 mph over veteran driver Doug Kalitta in the first round of eliminations at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals three weeks ago in Ennis, Texas (suburban Dallas).

“I am proud of the season this Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist team put together,” Prock said in a media release. “My guys worked their asses off all season long to give me the opportunity to win the Auto Club Road the Future Award. I couldn’t have done it without them.

“I would have never been here without John Force and Robert Hight (president of John Force Racing). They gave me the opportunity to fulfill my dream and I owe the world to them. I hope I made them proud.”

Prock became only the 10th rookie in the history of the NHRA pro ranks to both win a race in their first season and also go on to win the Road to the Future award. He also was the 13th rookie in the sport’s history to qualify for the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six race playoffs.

Prock becomes the sixth John Force Racing driver to earn the Road to the Future Award, joining Tony Pedregon (1996), Hight (2005), Ashley Force-Hood (2007), Mike Neff (2008), Courtney Force (2012) and Brittany Force (2013).

Austin Prock is the son of veteran crew chief Jimmy Prock, who tuned Hight to his third career NHRA Funny Car championship this past Sunday.

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