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Rossi set to end America’s 2,982 day F1 driver drought

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2,982 days. That is how long it has been since an American driver last lined up on the grid to start a Formula 1 grand prix.

But on Sunday in Singapore, the drought will come to an end when Alexander Rossi makes his long-awaited grand prix debut for Manor.

Those 2,982 days (or eight years, one month and 29 days) have passed since Scott Speed started his final race for Scuderia Toro Rosso at the Nürburgring in Germany.

The 2007 European Grand Prix will be remembered as one of the most frantic race starts in F1 history. A heavy rain shower hit the Nürburgring on the first lap, turning the majority of the track into an ice rink as the drivers struggled for grip.

The rain arrived so quickly that most did not even have time to change tires, except for Marcus Winkelhock, whose only F1 start will forever be remembered for his spell in the lead of the race with backmarkers Spyker.

Speed was one of the drivers to fall foul of the weather, spinning off at the first corner on lap two. His race – and F1 career – ended in the gravel. An argument with Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost led to his sacking and replacement by 20-year-old Sebastian Vettel for the next race in Hungary. The rest, as they say, is history.

Since then, America’s relationship with F1 has hit peaks and troughs. The 2007 race at Indianapolis was the last at the Brickyard for F1, and the failure of the US F1 Team left many questioning whether the sport could ever crack the United States.

But in the past few years, so much has changed. And Rossi’s full grand prix debut is just the culmination of that all.

The return of the United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas has proven to be a huge hit, welcoming bumper crowds since debuting in 2012. The arrival of an American team next year backed by NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas is also huge for the sport’s profile in its perennial problem market.

An American driver is arguably the biggest coup, though. And although Rossi is only confirmed for five races with Manor, it is still a big breakthrough.

It ends the drought that – despite never getting near the 22 years between Speed and Michael Andretti’s last grand prix in 1993 with McLaren – has been cause for concern. For Rossi, it also puts him firmly on Haas’ radar for the future, as he will have the experience that the team said he was lacking before.

Speaking after qualifying in Singapore on Saturday, Rossi was somewhat downbeat with his performance, but was still very excited to be on the cusp of his grand prix debut.

“I’m pretty comfortable with the car and the circuit, but my target was to qualify ahead of my new teammate, so anything short of that is disappointing,” Rossi said, having qualified 20th behind Will Stevens in the sister Manor car.

“I was quick all morning, and in my first qualifying run, but I didn’t make the most of my second run; we didn’t improve enough.

“As for tomorrow, it’s going to be a tough race but I’ve waited a long time for this moment and I’m very excited to get started.”

He has waited a very long time. It’s what drivers dream of. It is what parents make sacrifices for and what gambles are taken for.

Come Sunday night in Singapore when the lights go out and the race begins, it will all have been worth it for Alexander Rossi.

Racing Safety United aims to reduce the risk of injury to drivers

Racing Safety United
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Racing is an inherently dangerous sport.

The Racing Safety United (RSU) alliance aims to reduce some of that risk with the formation of a multi-discipline advocacy group that includes all major stakeholders of the sport: sanctioning bodies, drivers, track owners and equipment manufacturers – just to name a few of the many businesses that impact a driver’s welfare once they strap into the seat of a racecar.

Originally spearheaded by sports car driver RJ Valentine, the alliance initially intends to focus on track safety. Because expenses can be razor thin for short tracks, a financial aid program is in the works to help with safety upgrades.

“As a racer, I’ve witnessed a lot of horrible crashes and it always astounds me that, for the most part, the motorsports community continues to accept it, including drivers,” Valentine said in a press release. “Because safety improvement adoption is slow, I realized we need support from constituents in all sectors of motorsports to make any real changes happen.

“Initially, track safety is one of RSU’s top priorities, mainly because it receives the least amount of attention. However, we intend to address all safety areas from helmets to driver education.”

RSU’s first official meeting is scheduled on December 6th during the PRI Show to discuss and prioritize safety initiatives.

The RSU is currently made up of 30 members including former NASCAR driver Jerry Nadeau, NHRA team owner Don Schumacher, Flying Lizard owner Darren Law, Randy Lajoie – owner of The Joie of Seating, sportscar driver Andrew Pilgrim and journalist Dick Berggren.

More information can be found on the RSU site.