Mario Andretti hails Haas F1 Team’s first test

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Today kicks off the second week of testing ahead of the Formula 1 season, and Haas F1 Team will be looking for a second straight solid – if not better – week of running at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

The team and several key observers hailed Haas’ first week of running as a good one, and so too has 1978 World Champion Mario Andretti – America’s most recent World Champion.

Andretti and I talked at Phoenix International Raceway this weekend for the Verizon IndyCar Series Test in the West, and he was impressed with the Gene Haas and Guenther Steiner-led team’s first test.

“I think it was a pleasant surprise, to run as much as they did, and to be on pace straight away,” Andretti told NBC Sports.

“At least they were there and not at back of the pack. They were the middle of the pack.

“To be there is a feat in itself. Clearly, they’ve put together the right pieces. I’m thinking they surprised everyone going into the first test.”

Haas F1 Team is the first American team, of course, since Team Haas – no relation – in 1986.

From an American driver standpoint, Alexander Rossi started five Grands Prix last year to end an eight-year drought since Scott Speed’s last start in 2007. His 2006 debut ended a prior 13-year drought since Michael Andretti.

Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez share the Haas VF-16 Ferrari chassis. Gutierrez tests today to kick off the second test of the preseason.

The team took time to wish Andretti a happy birthday on Sunday.

SuperMotocross set to introduce Leader Lights beginning with the World Championship finals

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In a continuing effort to help fans keep track of the on track action, SuperMotocross is in the process of developing and implementing leader lights for the unified series.

Currently Supercross (SMX) utilizes stanchions in the infield that are triggered manually by a race official. At least two stanchions are used in each race as a way to draw the eye to the leader, which is especially useful in the tight confines of the stadium series when lapping often begins before the halfway mark in the 22-bike field. This system has been in place for the past two decades.

Later this year, a fully automated system will move to the bike itself to replace the old system. At that point, fans will be able to identify the leader regardless of where he is on track.

The leader lights were tested in the second Anaheim round this year. An example can be seen at the 1:45 mark in the video above on the No. 69 bike.

“What we don’t want to do is move too fast, where it’s confusing to people,” said Mike Muye, senior director of operations for Supercross and SMX in a press release. “We’ve really just focused on the leader at this point with the thought that maybe down the road we’ll introduce others.”

Scheduled to debut with the first SuperMotocross World Championship race at zMax Dragway, located just outside the Charlotte Motor Speedway, a 3D carbon fiber-printed LED light will be affixed to each motorcycle. Ten timing loops positioned around the track will trigger the lights of the leader, which will turn green.

SMX’s partner LiveTime Scoring helped develop and implement the system that has been tested in some form or fashion since 2019.

When the leader lights are successfully deployed, SuperMotocross will explore expanding the system to identify the second- and third-place riders. Depending on need and fan acceptance, more positions could be added.

SuperMotocross is exploring future enhancements, including allowing for live fan interaction with the lights and ways to use the lighting system during the race’s opening ceremony.