Ken Block seizes opportunity, wins Red Bull GRC at MCAS New River

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One energy drink-sponsored car’s crash led to another energy drink-sponsored car’s opportunity in the fourth round of the season sponsored by an energy drink.

Ken Block, in the No. 43 Monster Energy Ford Fiesta ST for Hoonigan Racing Division, took his second win in four Red Bull Global Rallycross races this season at the MCAS New River military base in Jacksonville, N.C.

Block seized his opportunity following a restart from a red flag, after an accident for Brian Deegan, in the No. 38 Rockstar Energy Drink Chip Ganassi Racing Ford Fiesta ST, with four laps to go following the Turn 2 right-hand kink on the 0.993-mile circuit.

That brought out the red flag in the eight-lap Supercars final and forced a restart of the order. Patrik Sandell had led 2014 GRC Supercars champion Joni Wiman and Block prior to the red.

After the restart, Block launched better off the line and moved into the lead. He was not challenged over the final four laps and able to secure the victory.

Wiman was due to finish second, which would have been the best finish of the year for the Olsbergs MSE driver, but a mechanical issue resigned him to an eighth place.

It promoted Sandell back to a season-best second in the No. 18 Kobalt Tools Bryan Herta Rallysport Ford Fiesta ST, and Nelson Piquet Jr., the newly crowned FIA Formula E champion, to third in the No. 07 HAUS Vaporizer red-white-and-blue SH Rallycross Ford Fiesta ST.

Austin Dyne and Steve Arpin completed the top five finishers in the final.

Wiman’s issue capped off a brutal day for OMSE, as prior points leader Sebastian Eriksson had a left front issue, either a puncture or suspension, and limped home to a ninth place finish, two laps down.

Deegan, in his first Red Bull GRC regular season start of the year (he had run the X Games in Austin), had pace but the heavy accident resigned him to 10th.

Neither of the Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross drivers, Scott Speed nor Tanner Foust, made it into the Supercars final after various issues during the day.

Block and Eriksson split the Semifinal wins; Bucky Lasek of Subaru took the Last Chance Qualifier win.

Eriksson had led Block by nine points going into the weekend, but Block’s second win will promote him to the championship lead.

The Red Bull GRC season resumes July 25-26 in Detroit, with Rounds 5 and 6 serving as the series’ second doubleheader round of the season and with Round 6 marking the midpoint of the 2015 campaign.

F1 tests: Mercedes innovates with wheel adjustment system

Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images
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MONTMELÓ, Spain — Veteran Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time on the second day of Formula One preseason testing on Thursday, but Mercedes still garnered more attention by introducing an innovative wheel adjustment system.

On-board footage showed defending champion Lewis Hamilton pulling the steering wheel back and forth on the front straight to apparently change the angle of the front wheels on his Mercedes car.

The team stayed tight-lipped about the car’s new feature but guaranteed it was “safe” and “legal.”

“I probably won’t shed a great deal more light than what you saw on the TV but yeah we have a system in the car, it’s a novel idea,” team technical director James Allison told F1 TV. ”We’ve got a name for it, it’s called DAS, if you’re interested, and it just introduces an extra dimension for the steering, for the driver, which we hope will be useful during the year. But precisely how we use it and why we use it, that’s something we will keep to ourselves.”

Allison said governing body FIA knew in advance that the team was introducing the new system.

“It’s something we’ve been talking to them (about) for some time,” he said. “The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems and we’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements. I’m pleased we got it on the car, it seems to be useful, and we’ll see over the coming days how it benefits us.”

Hamilton said he was still trying to get used to the system, but praised the team for coming up with the innovation.

“I’ve only had one morning on (it, so) I don’t really have a lot to talk about with it. We’re trying to get on top of it, understand it, but safety-wise no problem today and the FIA are OK with the project.

“For me it’s really encouraging to see that my team is continuing to innovate and stay ahead of the game, and I think that’s down to the great minds in the team and so hopefully that’ll work to our benefit.”

Hamilton led the time charts on Wednesday but was only ninth-fastest on Thursday.

MORE: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas fastest in Day 1 of F1 practice
MORE: Sergio Perez fastest early on Day 2 of F1 Practice

The 40-year-old Raikkonen, who has a chance this season to break the record for most race starts in F1, was fastest with a time of 1 minute, 17.091 seconds in his Alfa Romea. He was 0.2 seconds quicker than Sergio Pérez with Racing Point. Daniel Ricciardo of Renault was third.

Raikkonen caused a red flag near the end of the afternoon session when his car stopped on the track with an apparent mechanical issue. The Finnish driver had spun earlier in the session, as did Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, Romain Grosjean of Haas and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, formerly known as Toro Rosso.

Grosjean had the most laps among the 13 drivers who went to the track on Thursday, with 158.

Bottas was the slowest driver of the day, while Sebastian Vettel was sixth-fastest with Ferrari.

Pérez had set the quickest time in the morning session. The Mexican driver had been third fastest on Wednesday, behind Hamilton and Bottas.

Drivers will be back on the track on Friday to close out the first week of testing. Teams will have another three days to test next week.

Preseason testing has been reduced from eight to six days to help compensate for the record 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam Grand Prix and the return of the Dutch GP. Midseason testing also has been eliminated.

The season opens on March 15 at the Australian GP.

The Barcelona-Catalunya track will host the Spanish GP on May 10.