Hamilton braves the weather to top final US GP practice

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Lewis Hamilton managed to brave treacherous track conditions at the Circuit of The Americas on Saturday morning to top the timesheets in final practice for the United States Grand Prix.

Heavy rain onset by Hurricane Patricia and local flood warnings cast doubt on the viability of FP3 going ahead as planned, with COTA taking the decision to shut the gates to fans until midday on safety grounds.

The FIA decided to go ahead with the session as planned, beginning at 10am CT. Drivers were instructed to only use the full wet tire until told otherwise to aid water clearing on the track and increase grip.

All of the drivers managed to get out for a timed lap early on, knowing that the results from FP3 could be used to form the grid if qualifying is unable to go ahead as planned later today.

The Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen set the early pace, lapping over 20 seconds slower than usual dry conditions, but times improved as more and more drivers went out and cleared water.

Despite suffering an early spin, Hamilton managed to produce a lap of 1:59.517, handing him P1 on the timesheets as the only driver to get around COTA in less than two minutes.

Vettel finished eight-tenths of a second further back in second place ahead of Nico Hulkenberg and Valtteri Bottas. Carlos Sainz Jr. rounded out the top five for Toro Rosso.

With 30 minutes remaining, the rain grew heavier, prompting the teams to call their drivers back into the pits and stop pushing for quicker lap times.

Many drivers pushed over the limit throughout the session, going off track as a result. Nico Rosberg suffered front wing damage after losing control of his car, while Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen also had spins.

Although some did head out for exploratory runs later on, the wet conditions meant that there were no lap time improvements, handing Hamilton P1 and the upper hand if qualifying is indeed cancelled.

Qualifying is due to take place at 1pm CT, but with rain expected to intensify around this time, it is unclear whether or not the session will go ahead.

COTA has now encouraged fans to start making their way to the track, believing that the schedule will be followed as originally planned in spite of the weather.

Eli Tomac’s near-perfect season ended perfectly

ProMotocross.com
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From the start, Eli Tomac wanted to go into the season-ending race at Ironman Raceway with the 2020 red plate already in his possession. That final race has been know to devolve into muddy conditions and it is best not to leave things to chance.

For a rider with an almost perfect record of overall podium finishes, one would not have thought there would be much drama at the end of Round 11 at Budds Creek, but it took until the last lap of the final moto for Tomac to achieve his goal.

One reason was that Tomac’s near-perfect season was not so perfect. From the very beginning at Hangtown, Tomac struggled with poor starts to his events. Getting a bad jump out of the gate and finishing fourth in Moto 1 that weekend was not the auspicious beginning he wanted in search of his third consecutive 450 outdoor championship.

The hallmark of Tomac’s season has been overcoming bad starts. He rode through the field at Hangtown and nearly stood on the podium. Then he won Moto 2 and finished second overall. It was his first of nine consecutive overall podiums. Tomac came back the following week for a perfect sweep at Pala.

In Round 3, Tomac once again got off to a bad start. He finished fifth in Moto 1 at Thunder Valley – and then won Moto 2 in a duplication of his opening round.

In Round 5, Tomac had his worst performance until that time. He finished seventh in Moto 1. Nearly halfway through the season, a pattern was firmly established with his Moto 2 win.

Vanessa O’Brien, Kawasaki USA

One should recall that the hallmark of Tomac’s season was strong finishes. Four the next four weeks Tomac failed to podium only one time in a moto. On that occasion, he would stumble in Moto 2 at Spring Creek in Round 8 before scoring his second perfect race at Washougal.

And that is where it got interesting. Tomac left Washougal with a 50-point advantage over Marvin Musquin. It was just the scenario Tomac had seesawed his way through the season to achieve. But it was too good to be true.

In most of his previous bad performances, there was an extenuating circumstance for Tomac’s bad start: a fall or an off course excursion. This time, he simply rode an uninspired race and finished seventh again to match his worst single moto performance. He could not fully rebound in Moto 2 and finished third.

For the first time in 2019, Tomac failed to stand on the overall podium in fourth. Worse still, he lost 10 points to Musquin and no longer had his one-race cushion.

But this is a season of recovery for Tomac. At Budds Creek last week it was reported that Tomac’s lackluster performance in Washington was due to his overdoing his chores on his Colorado ranch. Rested and restored, Tomac scored his third perfect race with Moto 1 & 2 wins. And this time, he looked sharper than he had in any previous race.

Tomac did all the could do by winning both motos, but in the closing laps at Budds Creek he needed a little help to clinch the title. As it turned out, Tomac needed the perfect performance to clinch his third consecutive championship.

In Moto 1, he narrowly edged Ken Roczen and Musquin, to give the three championship contenders a sweep of the top three spots; that was not enough to regain his cushion.

Roczen was close enough to force Tomac into The Ironman needing to score points to permanently affix the red plate on his Kawasaki in 2020, but just as Tomac’s season has been marked by second half improvements, Roczen’s has been marred by a lack of performance in the second motos.

Musquin passed Roczen late in Moto 2 last week and could have extended the drama one more week if he could have caught second-place Jason Anderson. Musquin could not erase an 11-second deficit to the runner-up and now Tomac’s almost perfect season has a distinctly perfect feel to it.

Vanessa O’Brien, Kawasaki USA

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