Lucas di Grassi stays cool to win frantic Mexico City ePrix

© Getty Images
0 Comments

Lucas di Grassi delivered a lesson in composure to his Formula E championship rivals on Saturday by claiming an emphatic victory in the Mexico City ePrix at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

Starting third on the grid, di Grassi managed to pick off Renault e.dams’ Nicolas Prost for second place just before the car swaps, before then using his FanBoost to dispose of pole-sitter and early leader Jerome d’Ambrosio one lap after pitting.

Di Grassi was not able to shake off his rivals at first, with d’Ambrosio and Prost having been joined by championship leader Sebastien Buemi and Daniel Abt, but was given the break he needed when chaos ensued just behind.

Keen to not lose sight of his championship rival at the front, Buemi attempted a move on d’Ambrosio just one lap after di Grassi had passed, only to be blocked off. A frustrated Buemi tried again a few laps later, second guessing d’Ambrosio by trying to sell a dummy – only to make contact with the Belgian.

Both drivers continued without losing a position, leaving Buemi to have a third bite of the cherry with eight laps remaining. The Swiss driver slung his e.dams around the outside of d’Ambrosio at the first corner, cutting the chicane in the process and therefore being left to give the position back.

As Buemi slowed, the train of cars behind him bunched up, much to the frustration of d’Ambrosio who now found himself at risk of losing a place to Prost. Angered by Buemi’s antics, d’Ambrosio cut the final chicane to take back second place that he believed to rightly be his, restoring the status quo.

All of this gave di Grassi a healthy buffer at the front, culminating in his third Formula E victory and a return to the top of the championship standings.

D’Ambrosio edged out Buemi in a dash to the line for second place, much to the chagrin of the e.dams driver who was left to settle for P3. However, both drivers were called to see the stewards after the race, with no decision on their tangle being made at the time of writing.

Loic Duval benefitted from the late drama to finish fourth ahead of Prost, who dropped back after receiving a penalty for an unsafe release from the pits. Robin Frijns worked his way up to sixth for Andretti Autosport, while Sam Bird ended the race seventh for DS Virgin Racing.

A late spin dropped Abt down to eighth place come the checkered flag, while Nick Heidfeld and Stephane Sarrazin rounded out the points in P9 and P10 respectively.

The next Formula E race takes place in Long Beach, California on April 2.

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

0 Comments

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

DETAILS FOR THE 61ST ROLEX 24How to watch, entry lists, schedules for the IMSA season opener

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN GTPRolex 24 at Daytona kicks off new golden era for sports cars

But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds