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.


Ford Mustang GT3 test has Austin Cindric dreaming of Daytona: ‘I want to drive that car’

Cindric Ford GT3 test
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Austin Cindric wasn’t the “mystery” test driver behind the wheel of the new Ford Mustang GT3 at Sebring International Raceway, but the Team Penske driver desperately wanted to be.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, an amateur sports car driver himself, made the big reveal via a Tuesday tweet that provided the first video evidence of the GT3 Mustang on track.

“I’ve watched the video in question about a million times,” Cindric said Wednesday during a Ford Performance Zoom news conference to promote NASCAR’s first road course weekend of the season at Circuit of the Americas. “Definitely exciting times for sure. I want to drive that car. It suits my experience level and also the relationships that I have.”

Ford will enter the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next season with its GT3 Mustang, entering a two-car factory effort (that will be managed by Multimatic) in GTD Pro and making customer cars available in the GT Daytona category.

That increases the likelihood of seeing more NASCAR drivers crossing over to IMSA. Cindric has been the only full-time Cup driver in the Rolex 24 at Daytona the past two years, but Ford Performance global director Mark Rushbrook has said the GT3 Mustang will provide more opportunities.

Ford has used its GT4 Mustang as a NASCAR driver development tool in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge with Harrison Burton and Zane Smith combining to win the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in January.

“We’re excited about the Next Gen car and the new architecture there and the similarities between that car and GT3 and even GT4 cars,” Rushbrook said at the announcement of the Ford GT3 program in January 2022 at Daytona. “We think it’s a great opportunity and to do be able to do that in a 24-hour race and get NASCAR drivers even more time is something we need to consider taking advantage of that opportunity.”

Given his sports car background, Cindric probably still would be in the Rolex 24 regardless. He has eight IMSA starts since the 2017 season opener at Daytona, racing a Lexus RCF GT3 and Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the GT category. The 2022 Daytona 500 winner made his second LMP2 start this year with Rick Ware Racing.

But Cindric’s preference naturally would be in a Ford, particularly with sports car racing enjoying convergence and crossovers in both GT and prototype racing.

“It’s an exciting time in GT racing, just as it is now for prototype racing with a lot of new regulations and manufacturers building new GT3 cars,” he said. “And also the opportunity with WEC (the World Endurance Championship) and Le Mans and how that all lines up for that category of car. It’s definitely an exciting time. I want to be as much of a part of that as possible.”

Though those odds seemingly will increase with multiple Ford entries in the Rolex 24 field next year, Cindric said NASCAR drivers still have to put in the networking to land rides as he has in recent years.

“Now how (the GT3 Mustang) relates to specifically NASCAR drivers and how often they want to be in the Rolex, could it be an influence? Absolutely, as far as the tie-in with the manufacturer,” Cindric said. “But the challenge and the drive and the logistics of getting an opportunity for a race like the Rolex 24 will be just as challenging as it always is to find your one-off ride for the race. At least from my experience, that’s what I still anticipate.”

It turned out the “mystery” test driver wasn’t from NASCAR (Farley revealed the driver to be 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Joey Hand after a fan asked whether it was Joey Logano).

But Cindric believes there could be more Cup drivers — and perhaps himself — behind the wheel of Mustang GT3s in the future.

“There’s definitely more of a pathway than I think there would be before as far as Ford drivers are concerned,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to drive that thing. It’s obviously a great looking car. That’s the first box you’ve got to check. And it’s cool (to have) a guy like Jim Farley, no doubt he’s a racer just as much as he is steering the ship for Ford. It’s cool to see he’s just as excited as the rest of us about it.”