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Austin set for heavy rain across US GP weekend

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The United States Grand Prix weekend is poised to be a wet one thanks to the biggest rain event to hit Texas in many months.

That is the summation of Formula 1’s official weather forecaster, UBIMET, which issued its prediction for the coming race weekend at the Circuit of The Americas on Wednesday.

Austin has not been hit by any prolonged showers since August, but that looks set to change this weekend as all three days of on-track action are forecast to be affected by rain.

Here is a breakdown of the weather forecast courtesy of UBIMET:

Friday 23 October – FP1 and FP2

“At the start of the Formula-1-weekend on Friday, heavy, partly thundery rain is expected throughout the day in Greater Austin.

“‘During both sessions, Practice 1 and Practice 2, the racers will see quite damp and wet conditions on the track’, predicts Formula 1 Chief Meteorologist Steffen Dietz.

“Due to the compact clouds and the rain, temperatures won’t change too much during the day. After 22 degrees in the morning they will rise up to 25 degrees in the afternoon.

Saturday 24 October – FP3 and Qualifying

“On Saturday, a strong frontal system will arrive in Austin and cater for very unsettled weather. Overcast skies and partly heavy rain with high precipitation rates will affect the track, particularly before noon.

“‘During the afternoon some further, but weaker showers are still expected, so the starting grid could easily be jumbled by the rain too,’ says Dietz.

“Again, a maximum value of 24 degrees is reached in the afternoon.”

Sunday 25 October – Race

“Sunday will see again abundant clouds with probably some isolated showers. However, their intensity should not be comparable to the amounts of the two previous days at all.

“In any case, the race could see one of these showers hitting the track. Temperatures will slightly drop after the frontal passage, reaching highs of 22 degrees at most.

“The moderate-to-fresh northerly winds will lead to not-so-comfortable conditions for the spectators.”

The US GP at COTA has only been affected by adverse weather conditions once in its previous three editions, when fog caused the beginning of FP1 for the 2013 race to be delayed as the medical helicopter could not take off.

There have been numerous occasions where rain has struck during the US GP before. Here’s three of them for your viewing pleasure:

Michael Schumacher scored a crucial win in wet conditions during the 2003 race:

Gilles Villeneuve won a highly wet 1979 race at Watkins Glen:

James Hunt won in the wet at Watkins Glen in 1977:

April 9 in Motorsports History: Al Unser Jr. gets sixth Long Beach win

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The list of winners in the Grand Prix of Long Beach is a ‘who’s who’ of open-wheel racing.

Mario Andretti won at the famed street course four times. His son Michael won there twice.

Paul Tracy is also a four-time winner at the beach. Alex Zanardi, Juan Pablo Montoya, Sebastien Bourdais, and Alexander Rossi also have won at the famed course multiple times.

But there is only one “King of the Beach”: Al Unser Jr.

The winningest driver in the race’s history, Unser won at Long Beach four consecutive times from 1988-91. He won again in 1994 and entered the 1995 edition as the race’s defending champion and the defending CART champion as well.

Starting fourth, Unser made slight contact with Gil de Ferran when he passed the Brazilian on Lap 3. He then continued to move up to the front, taking the race lead from Teo Fabi on Lap 30.

Once he had the lead, Unser ran away from the field, winning by more than 23 seconds over Scott Pruett.

Unser’s victory was such a familiar scene that after the race, CART news manager John Procida began the winner’s news conference with the following statement: “Well, we have a very familiar face on the top rung of the podium. As we listed on the prerace press release, this seems to be the Al Unser Invitational.”

Indeed it was. Unser’s victory was his sixth at Long Beach, and the 28th of his career. overall. While it would be his last win there, Unser continued to race at Long Beach through 1998 before missing 1999 with a broken leg and moving to the Indy Racing Leauge in 2000.

In 2009, Unser was inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame, which honors significant contributors to the race and California motorsports community.

“It truly is just an honor to be mentioned with the names and the legends that have already been put into the sidewalk,” Unser said during the induction ceremony. “To have Brian (Redman, the inaugural winner of the race) and Parnelli (Jones) is really an honor and just to be in their company is very, very special.”

Also on this date:

1971: Jacques Villeneuve was born in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Canada. The second-generation driver was one of the best in open-wheel racing during the 1990s, winning the Indianapolis 500 and CART championship in ’95 and becoming a Formula One champion two years later.

1989: Rick Mears dominated CART’s Checker Autoworks 200 at Phoenix International Raceway, leading every lap from the pole and lapping the field.

2011: Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas won the Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park, their sixth consecutive victory in Grand Am competition. Their lengthy win streak, which started on Aug. 7, 2010 at Watkins Glen, prompted Grand Am to offer a $25,000 bounty for any Daytona Prototype team that could beat the dominant duo. The Action Express trio of Joao Barbosa, J.C. France, and Terry Borcheller finally unseated Pruett and Rojas in the series’ next round at Virginia International Raceway.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994