FIA WEC hot laps with Allan McNish are hard to top

McNish (center) flanked by Duval and Kristensen. Photo: Getty Images

If you’ve seen Truth in 24, you get why there’s probably no one better in the world of sports car racing describing a single lap of a circuit than Allan McNish.

McNish’s vivid, incredibly detailed, yet passionate description of the 8.4-mile Circuit de la Sarthe is one of the film’s highlight moments.

So imagine that scene, except getting a first hand account from the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship World Champion and three-time Le Mans winner when you’re strapped in the passenger’s seat of an Audi S3 with him behind the wheel.

As he’s driving.

Media rides are something you still have to pinch yourself when you get to do them. And in the past, I’ve had rides with Johnny O’Connell, Alex Figge and Kevin Estre (the latter at Mid-Ohio this year) in the Pirelli World Challenge series, an IndyCar two-seater hot lap earlier this year and McNish’s longtime Audi teammate Dindo Capello last year at Circuit of The Americas in an RS7 last year at COTA.

If you want a description of the track in basic form, I’ll leave you to my words riding with Capello from last year.

But to augment that, I’ll add McNish’s thoughts of describing the track as he was driving on this go around for three ferocious, flying laps, again thanks to the FIA WEC.

McNish notes how Turn 1 offers so many different lines for corner entry.

“Way too many options. You can gain or lose so much time depending on where you apex,” he explains.

Like Capello a year ago, McNish gives the esses – the run out of Turn 2 from Turns 3 through 7 – sincere praise.

The first lap again takes some getting used to, to just feel the change of direction as it’s happening between left, right, left, right and so forth.

“You have to hit this curb (sounding like keehhhh-rb) just at this moment to nail the apex,” McNish says of one of the right-handers in this sequence. “Any further off and you’ve lost it for that lap.”

Turns 8 and 9 are hard, but important ones, before the left-hand Turn 10 kink and the Turn 11 hairpin.

“The grip level through here is just insane!” says McNish at the hairpin, noting the rubber buildup on apex entry.

A run down the backstraight follows and McNish notes how important track limits will be at the 3.427-mile, 20-turn circuit. In the technical Turn 12-15 section, drivers in the FIA WEC have to be careful to ensure not to run wide on corner exit. The FIA WEC race enforced track limits at the runoff areas, while IMSA did not.

McNish wasn’t as over-steery as Capello through the carousel, Turns 16-18, but he did note how bad the lighting would be from about 6:45 to 7:15 p.m. or so on the back half of the track with the sunset pretty much in the drivers’ eyes.

The highlights of the ride actually came on the second and third laps. Lap two saw a tire pressure sensor light come on… which didn’t faze either of us. McNish was just extracting the maximum of the car.

And then on the third lap, McNish took the time on the back straight to reflect on the fact COTA marked his final win in sports car racing before his retirement at the end of the 2013 season.

“We’d survived a challenge from the Toyotas and the other Audi, and Loic (Duval) and Tom (Kristensen) had been great in their stints,” McNish said.

“It also vaulted us into the lead in the World Championship, and we never looked back.”

Nor did I after this run, another thrill and a highlight of the weekend. My hair wasn’t long for the ride, either (photos here and here).

Might “Mr. Le Mans” be an option next year to cap off the trio of lap following Dindo and “Nishy?”

Sincere thanks to Fiona Miller from FIA WEC and Teresa Pass from Audi for the opportunity.

Jett Lawrence wins Hangtown Pro Motocross, remains perfect in 450s

Lawrence Hangtown Motocross
Align Media

Jett Lawrence remains perfect in the Pro Motocross series after recording another perfect round at Hangtown in Rancho Cordova, California. In his second start on a 450, Lawrence won his second National with his fourth consecutive moto win. It is getting increasingly difficult to find the right superlatives to describe the exploits on the reigning 250 West Supercross champion.

“The track was so brutal out there,” Lawrence told NBC Sports Jason Thomas. “The bike handles amazing even when it’s not too friendly. You had to be really patient; you couldn’t take too much. I didn’t eat enough before that second moto. I kind of lost energy halfway through, but luckily I could use technique and balance and just keep that flow going.”

Lawrence leaves Hangtown with an 18-point advantage over Ferrandis in the 450 Motocross standings, but perhaps more importantly, he climbed to 19th in the SuperMotocross standings and should he stay there, he has an automatic invitation to the Main events in the SMX Championship.

“On this track, you just have to manage,” Lawrence continued. “If you try to take too much and not respect the track, it will bite you very quickly. It was humbling on the first few laps. I got kicked on the cutout at the start of the third section, the tabletop going to the left. I had to get my focus because the boys were coming.”

Still in his first few races since returning from a concussion suffered at Houston in the Supercross series, Dylan Ferrandis finished second with results of third in Moto 1 and second in Moto 2. While Ferrandis was happy with the result, he remains hopeful that he will contend for victory shortly.

“The first moto was very hard for my physically, Ferrandis said. “I got arm pump and when you get arm pump your body gets tired. But I’m very happy because we made a big change for the second moto. We tried stuff every session today and in the last moto the bike was much better, but unfortunately I wasn’t sure what I could do with this bike because the track was very hard and difficult to pass.”

RESULTS: How they finished in the 450 Overall at Hangtown

With the rash of injuries at the end of the Supercross season, the podium was filled with heartwarming stories. Cooper Webb returned to action last week in Pala and failed to make the podium. He is steadily improving with a third-place finish in Hangtown. after finishing with a 4-2.

“It’s incredible what seven days can do,” Webb said. “Last week I felt like I was going to get lapped in the second moto. This week, I could see the leader. It was nice. I fought hard, learned how to suffer again there and that felt nice.

Moto 2 wasn’t pretty for Lawrence. On several occasions in the opening laps, he nearly high sided as he rode the front wheel through the ruts. The reward was worth the risk. By the halfway point, Lawrence had 4.5-second lead over Webb, who was embroiled in a tight three-rider battle for second with his teammate Aaron Plessinger pressuring him and Ferrandis ready to take advantage if those made contact.

It took 20 minutes for Plessinger to get around Webb and once he did, he trailed Lawrence by four seconds. But then, with three minutes remaining, Plessinger crashed and had difficulty restarting the bike, handing second back to Webb who has seven seconds behind Lawrence. Plessinger fell to fourth with results of third and sixth.

Adam Cianciarulo rounded out the top five with a 5-4.

Last week Hunter Lawrence won the overall with a 3-1. He repeated that feat in Hangtown in an exact replica of his Fox Raceway results last week. In Moto 1, Lawrence got off to a slow start and lost 10 seconds in the opening laps. Forced to overcome a sixth-place position in the race at the end of Lap 1, he once again caught the riders ahead of him when the field hit heavy traffic. For the second week, scored another 3-1 for the Hangtown National win.

“The start was crucial’ I knew I had to go,” Lawrence told NBC Sports’ Jason Thomas. “They laid a lot of water down, so I didn’t want to be behind any longer than [I was]. First hot one of the year, was a bit of a wakeup call, so I’m happy to get out of here safe and healthy.”

Lawrence’s third-place finish in Moto 1 featured a fierce battle for final spot on the podium when he caught Spain’s Guillem Farres and France’s Tom Vialle. With Lawrence hailing from Australia, the international nature of the sport was highlighted.

Lawrence left Hangtown with a 10-point advantage over Haiden Deegan in the Pro Motocross championship battle.

Click here for 250 overall results

Justin Cooper finished second in both motos to finish second overall. Hangtown represented a huge improvement from Fox Raceway where he finished fifth overall with a 5-4 finish in the two motos. Cooper pressured Haiden Deegan in the second half of Moto 1 and he earned the holeshot in the second moto and stayed within three seconds of Lawrence in that race.

“He was following me a little bit, checking out my lines, seeing where he was better,” Cooper said. “It’s disappointing to give up the lead like that but it was way better than last weekend. I will definitely take two seconds. I want to be on the top of the step. I feel like I get close to the top step but I never get it done. That’s building up the frustration – the fire. I really want to get one of these wins, so it’s time to start digging.”

Haiden Deegan earned the first holeshot of his career in Moto 1 and rode away from the field, building a four-second lead in the opening laps. Cooper trimmed the lead at the halfway point and for a while it leveled off at two seconds. Then Cooper made another charge with three to go and closed to within a second. Deegan was biding his time, however.

“I was saving a little. I knew at the end Justin was going to try and put a charge on. I let him get up close and then sent it super hard at the end to break him a little at the end.”

Deegan’s first moto win comes in only his fourth National and he remains perfect in regard to podiums this year.

“This was a dream since I was a little kid, to win,” Deegan said. “And in my fourth race, it’s gnarly. I was just sending it. I was getting a little tired at the end becasue I left my mouth open the whole time. It’s unreal; I’m so hyped. I wanted to win bad and I proved it to you guys.”

Chaos erupted in turn 1 in Moto 2 Jeremy Martin went and another rider ran over his arm. Michael Mosiman crashed further down the track on that same lap. Both riders were helped off course by the Alpinestars Medical team.

2023 Motocross Race Recaps

Fox Raceway: Jett Lawrence wins in first 450 start

2023 Supercross Race Recaps

Salt Lake City: Chase Sexton ends the season with win
Denver: Chase Sexton wins, takes points’ lead with Eli Tomac injury
Nashville: Chase Sexton keeps hope alive; Cooper Webb out
New Jersey: Justin Barcia wins muddy race; first in two years
Atlanta: Chase Sexton is back in the championship picture
Glendale: Eli Tomac wins 51st, breaks tie with James Stewart
Seattle: Eli Tomac wins and ties Webb for first
Detroit: Chase Sexton inherits win after Aaron Plessinger falls
Indianapolis: Ken Roczen gets first win in more than a year
Daytona: Eli Tomac extends Daytona record with seventh win
Arlington: Cooper Webb wins for second time, closes to two of Tomac
Oakland: Eli Tomac ties Ricky Carmichael with 48 wins
Tampa: Cooper Webb gets first 2023 win
Houston: Eli Tomac bounces back from A2 crash to win third race of 2023
Anaheim 2: Triple Crown produces new winners Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen
San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Eli Tomac wins opener for the first time

More SuperMotocross coverage

Chase Sexton is out for Hangtown
Enzo Lopes re-signs with Club MX for 2024
Record Supercross attendance reported in 2023
SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Pala
Results and points after Pala
Jett Lawrence wins Pala in his first MX start
450 Champion Chase Sexton takes back what he gave away
250 West Supercross champion Jett Lawrence ends dream career
250 East Supercross champion Hunter Lawrence overcomes doubt and injury