Ricciardo: Red Bull can take hope from Ferrari’s recent turnaround

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Daniel Ricciardo will head into the new Formula 1 season with few expectations and no assurances over the updates provided to Red Bull by engine supplier Renault following a difficult 2015 campaign.

Ricciardo scored just two podium finishes last year as Red Bull spent much of the year struggling to match its rivals for pace, largely thanks to the issues with its power unit.

Renault will continue to supply Red Bull this year, albeit with power units rebadged as TAG Heuer, and expectations at the team are for a better quality of engine that can propel both Ricciardo and teammate Daniil Kvyat up the grid.

When asked by MotorSportsTalk if Red Bull could take hope from Ferrari’s turnaround in fortunes and progress with its power unit between 2014 and 2015, Ricciardo said the team could, but with some caution over the promises made by Renault.

“I think we can. I guess the question is when. I’d like to think by the time we get to Europe we should be pretty competitive,” Ricciardo said.

“Getting a lot closer to Ferrari and ahead of Williams, but it’s one of those things.

“Last year we were supposed to have updates pretty regularly and they didn’t come on time, and when they did come they weren’t really giving us what we wanted.

“For that, I’m going to be quite reserved with my expectations. I think realistically it has to be better and I think it will.”

Ricciardo did tentatively set his sights on taking a fourth grand prix victory across the course of the 2016 season, feeling that Renault has more room for improvement than its rivals.

“At the end of the season, a victory,” Ricciardo said when asked what he hoped for in 2016.

“I’d love to say more but one would be a good start. Last year we just got two podiums. One victory should then mean a few podiums along the way. Victory in Monaco would be alright.

“Don’t get me wrong, a win is what I’d hope for. I say that thinking the season is long. If it comes, I don’t think it’s going to come straightaway. I think it has to be better, it’s just how much better again.

“First few races, I think it’ll be more or less like last year, but once we get into the European season we should start to really develop more. There’s a lot of room for improvement with the power unit, more than I believe Mercedes or Ferrari have.

“For that, if we can get the right sort of ingredients behind it, we should see a bigger step. I think it will come. We’ve obviously had a few years now of these power units so whatever got misunderstood last year, I think there’s been enough time to understand it for this year.”

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.

On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.

Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)