2015 Singapore Grand Prix Preview

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Since joining the Formula 1 calendar back in 2008, the Singapore Grand Prix has quickly established itself as one of the most exciting and unique races in the 65-year history of the sport.

Singapore hosted F1’s very first night race, and although it no longer is the only one on the calendar – Bahrain is an night race; Abu Dhabi a twilight race – it remains the original. It is a modern wonder that has become one of the biggest jewels in F1’s crown.

Last year’s race proved to be one of the biggest turning points in the championship fight as Lewis Hamilton moved into the lead of the championship when Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg was forced to retire due to an electrical issue. It was the gamechanger.

Fast forward 12 months, and the gamechanger has already occurred. Hamilton’s victory at Monza two weeks ago, combined with Rosberg’s retirement with three laps remaining, saw the Briton move into a 53-point lead at the top of the drivers’ championship.

With seven races remaining in 2015, Hamilton is closing in on a third world championship. A third win in Singapore would see his lead swell to over 60 points, but Rosberg has vowed not to give up in this race.

Here are a few things to look out for in this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix.

2015 Singapore Grand Prix – Talking Points

A Hamilton hat-trick?

Hamilton’s recent form and record in Singapore suggest that a third victory on Sunday is little more than a formality. The defending world champion is undeniably in the form of his life, and it is difficult to bet against him.

Rosberg has proven on occasion that he can compete with Hamilton in 2015, and with overtaking around the tight streets of Marina Bay coming at a premium, whoever wins the drag race down to the first corner will be in a strong position to convert it into a race win.

Right now, victory won’t change much for Rosberg. What he really needs is for Hamilton to hit trouble and cancel out his own DNF in Italy. Otherwise, it will become all the more certain that we will be crowning a three-time champion in Abu Dhabi.

History in the making

This weekend’s race is an important one for Hamilton regardless of his title aspirations. This marks his 161st grand prix – the same number of races that his hero Ayrton Senna took part in between 1984 and 1994.

It would also be his 41st career victory should he win – the same number of victories that Senna claimed. The similarities are quite interesting to note. Comparing the two defining drivers of their respective eras is impossible and unfair to even attempt, but Hamilton will be reaching a big personal milestone if he wins on Sunday.

Rossi, finally

2,982 days since an American driver last lined up on the grid to start a Formula 1 grand prix, Alexander Rossi will finally (finally!) end the drought when he races for Manor on Sunday.

After so many near-misses in 2014 and a snub from Haas F1 Team just last week, Rossi will get the chance he has worked all his life for. He will be a grand prix driver.

The pace of the car means that there’s no chance of us hearing Star Spangled Banner from the top step of the podium, nor is there any real likelihood of him scoring any points. Nevertheless, it is a start, and a big breakthrough.

This will be a weekend of trial and error for Rossi, given that he has not stepped in an F1 car since August 2014, but we will watch with great curiosity to see how he fares.

Movers and shakers

This weekend could see the pecking order shift around a bit due to the unique nature of the Marina Bay Street Circuit. Williams has been particularly poor on the more technical tracks so far in 2015, so it could be a tricky weekend for Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa.

On the flip side of that, the likes of Force India and Lotus will be hoping to capitalize and work their way up into the top five. Ferrari will be hoping to create another opportunity for itself like it did in Hungary, and even McLaren will fancy its chances more than usual in Singapore.

Under the lights, sparks will inevitably fly.

Hazed no more

Heading into the race weekend in Singapore, there were concerns about the high levels of air pollution and heavy haze that had built up due to the forest burning in nearby Indonesia.

Over the past few days, the Pollutant Standard Index (PSI) level that measures the pollution has fallen after local officials seeded the clouds, meaning that we are poised for a trouble-free and unaffected weekend of running.

2015 Singapore Grand Prix – Facts and Figures

Track: Marina Bay Street Circuit
Laps: 61
Corners: 23
Lap Record: N/A (modified layout for 2015)
Tire Compounds: Super-Soft (Option); Soft (Prime)
2014 Winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2014 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:45.681
2014 Fastest Lap: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:50.417
DRS Zone: Main Straight (T11 to T1); T7 to T8

2015 Singapore Grand Prix – TV Times

Free Practice 1: NBC Sports Live Extra 6am ET 9/18
Free Practice 2: NBCSN 9:30am ET 9/18
Free Practice 3: NBC Sports Live Extra 6am ET 9/19
Qualifying: CNBC 9am ET 9/19
Race: NBCSN 7:30am ET 9/20

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.”