Sarrazin takes surprise pole in wet London ePrix qualifying


LONDON – Venturi’s Stephane Sarrazin will start the final race of the inaugural FIA Formula E season from pole position after posting the fastest time during qualifying in London on Sunday afternoon.

The French driver took full advantage of an early running slot in the session to post a fastest lap time of 1:23.901, edging out Jerome d’Ambrosio at the top of the timesheets.

In another twist of fate ahead of the championship decider this afternoon, a heavy rain shower meant that both Nelson Piquet Jr and Lucas di Grassi were unable to qualify inside the top ten.

However, Saturday winner Sebastien Buemi was fortunate to be sent out in Q2, allowing him to finish sixth and be the leading title fighter on the grid for the final race of the season.

Ahead of Sunday’s running at Battersea Park, a portion of the first corner was re-tarmaced to allow the stewards to remove the yellow flag zone and the TecPro barrier that had been implemented on Saturday due to safety concerns.

As the Q1 group headed out on track at the beginning of qualifying, light rain began to fall at Battersea Park, giving the drivers an additional challenge for the session.

Stephane Sarrazin made light of the conditions, though, posting a fastest lap time of 1:23.901 to lead the way after the first quintet had taken to the track. However, with the three championship contenders all in separate groups and to follow, his position was far from secure.

Saturday pole-sitter Sebastien Buemi was the stand-out runner in the second group in qualifying, with the three points on offer for P1 set to play a big part in deciding the fate of the title. However, the Swiss driver was unable to produce a repeat display, fading in the second half of his final lap to lie sixth at the halfway point in qualifying.

Before any of the drivers in Q3 were able to post a lap time, a red flag was issued after Sakon Yamamoto crashed his Amlin Aguri car, forcing the rest of the runners to return to the pits. However, the break allowed time for a heavy rain shower to hit Battersea Park, making conditions more difficult when the session resumed.

Championship leader Nelson Piquet Jr gave everything he had on his flying lap, pushing hard and kicking the back-end of the car out, but his lap was only good enough for P12. The conditions meant that all five of the Q3 runners filled out positions 11-15, lapping around ten seconds off the dry pace.

The rain eased ahead of Q4, playing to di Grassi’s advantage as he looked to keep his hopes of winning the Formula E title alive in qualifying. The Brazilian bided his time and saved his full power laps until later in the session when the track was dryer, allowing him to qualify 11th.

Oliver Turvey also ran well in the wet to finish 12th ahead of Simona de Silvestro in 13th, with Nicolas Prost finishing 15th in Q4. The end result was that Piquet had been demoted to 16th on the grid by the end of the session, leaving his championship hopes in serious doubt.

The advantage now lies with Buemi, but with the grid mixed up and rain threatening to also hit during the race later on Sunday, the battle of Battersea is far from over.


Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws

More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”