Calendar clash scuppers Hulkenberg’s Le Mans defence plans

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Nico Hulkenberg’s hopes of defending the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Porsche next June have been scuppered by the updated Formula 1 calendar that the World Motor Sport Council released on Thursday.

The original provisional calendar safeguarded the Le Mans weekend, as has been commonplace in the past few years, allowing Hulkenberg to return to the Circuit de la Sarthe and defend his win in 2016.

Hulkenberg played an instrumental role in winning Porsche its first overall Le Mans victory since 1998 in June, racing alongside Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy in the no. 19 car.

However, the updated F1 calendar now sees the European Grand Prix in Azerbaijan move forward by one month, forming a somewhat trying back-to-back with the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.

As a result, the race in Baku now clashes with Le Mans, which looks set to prevent Hulkenberg from defending his title alongside Bamber and Tandy.

It is worth stressing that, for the time being, the F1 schedule for 2016 remains provisional, and is unlikely to be firmed up until the last WMSC meeting of the year in December.

In a report from motorsport.com, a Porsche insider said that the German marque would wait until the calendar had been approved before finding a replacement for Hulkenberg, leaving the door open for the Force India driver.

Said insider also suggested that any replacement for Hulkenberg would already be working within the Porsche setup, as opposed to an outsider such as IndyCar driver Juan Pablo Montoya, who is due to test the team’s 919 Hybrid LMP1 car soon.

The ‘Le Mans or F1’ decision will not be one that fans are left with, though, as the FIA stipulated in its statement that the grand prix in Azerbaijan would start after the 24 hour race had finished.

Supercross: Talon Hawkins to debut in Houston in relief of Jalek Swoll

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Talon Hawkins, 19, will make his Monster Energy Supercross debut on a 250 this week in Houston, Texas as a fill-in rider for Jalek Swoll.

During the Anaheim 2 weekend, the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team announced Swoll underwent successful surgery to repair a broken arm suffered in a practice crash.

That same weekend, Hawkins made some noise. He took the lead from teammate Casey Cohran on Lap 2 of the 250 SX Futures Main and led for three laps before he was overtaken by eventual winner Daxton Bennick. Cochran also got around him to push Hawkins to third.

This will not be Hawkins SuperMotocross professional debut, however; he made three Lucas Oil Pro Motocross starts last year with results of 19th at Spring Creek in Millville, Minnesota, 27th at Ironman in Crawfordsville, Indiana and a best finish of 17th in the season finale at Fox Raceway in Pala, California.

Hawkins also has a top-10 finish in the 125 All-Star division at Pala in 2019 riding a Husqvarna.

Speaking with RacerXOnline.com before the Loretta Lynn Amateur Nationals, Hawkins predicted his future with Husqvarna would come down to how he performed in that race.

“It all just comes down to how I perform at Loretta’s,” Hawkins said. “Say I do really well, I get a top three in both classes and do a pretty solid job, I would like to go pro and just kind of finish out the rest of the series. But there’s also the option of waiting a little bit longer, going back out to [Aldon] Baker’s [Factory] or going anywhere and training, and just being prepared. I’m also open to that too. Honestly, it’s whatever the team wants. Whatever we think is the best option is what we’re going to go with. So, I don’t really have a plan right now, just looking into the future.”

Hawkins finished third overall in the 125 B/C and Schoolboy divisions at the Loretta Lynn Amateur Nationals.