Di Grassi dominates in Long Beach to reclaim Formula E championship lead

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Lucas di Grassi bounced back from his disqualification from the Mexico City ePrix three weeks ago in perfect fashion by claiming his second Formula E victory of the season around the famous streets of Long Beach.

The only American round on the season two Formula E calendar offered an intriguing race full of drama that saw di Grassi dominate proceedings to reclaim the lead of the championship.

Di Grassi started the race from second place behind DS Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird, with both benefitting from the exclusion of provisional pole-man Antonio Felix da Costa.

A good start saw di Grassi tail Bird for much of the opening stint of the race before passing for the lead on lap 12, before consolidating the lead through the pit stops.

Bird continued to tail the Brazilian after swapping cars, but he dropped back after locking up with cold brakes at Turn 5 to give di Grassi some breathing room.

A late safety car sparked by a crash for Nelson Piquet Jr. put di Grassi under pressure from Stephane Sarrazin in the final three laps, but he kept cool to cross the line first.

Di Grassi’s victory combined with a disastrous race for Sebastien Buemi that saw him finish three laps down in 16th place after clashing with Robin Frijns in the first half of the race.

Both drivers sustained damage and were forced to pit for repairs by the stewards, leaving Buemi to score just two points for the fastest lap and lose the lead of the championship to di Grassi.

Sarrazin followed in second place ahead of Daniel Abt, who scored his first podium finish of the season for his family team.

Mahindra Racing made a long first stint work well in the closing stages as Nick Heidfeld and Bruno Senna finished fourth and fifth respectively, while Bird recovered to cross the line in sixth place ahead of Dragon Racing drivers Jerome d’Ambrosio and Loic Duval.

Simona de Silvestro finally ended her Formula E points drought by finishing ninth for Andretti, while fellow IndyCar alumni Mike Conway also put his prior knowledge of Long Beach to good use to score his first top 10 finish in Formula E.

A penalty for leaving the pit lane too early caused Nicolas Prost to drop down to 11th at the end of the race, while Oliver Turvey was the sole NEXTEV TCR driver to finish in 12th.

Jean-Eric Vergne had another difficult race en route to 13th, while Salvador Duran was hit with a penalty for using too much energy in the first half of the race to leave him 14th at the flag ahead of Frijns and Buemi.

Having lost pole earlier in the day, da Costa’s afternoon failed to get much better as he retired from the race with seven laps remaining after battling his way back up into the points.

Formula E now heads to Europe for the remainder of the season, with the Paris ePrix scheduled for April 23.

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

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