Vandoorne: Getting a point in Bahrain ‘a bonus’ on F1 debut

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Stoffel Vandoorne made the most of his surprise Formula 1 debut in Bahrain by finishing 10th to pick up a solitary point for McLaren, the team’s first of the season.

Reserve driver Vandoorne flew overnight from Japan to Bahrain on Thursday after Fernando Alonso was ruled out of the race weekend due to a fractured rib sustained in Australia two weeks ago.

The Belgian driver qualified 12th on Saturday, and enjoyed a spirited drive in the race to battle his way to 10th place at the checkered flag.

Vandoorne pulled off fine overtaking moves on Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg among others, and told NBCSN after the race he felt comfortable behind the wheel of the McLaren MP4-31.

“Very good to come away with one point this wekend,” Vandoorne said.

“Today the focus was on operationally making no mistakes and bringing the car home. That’s what I managed to do. Getting a point was a bonus.

“I felt very confident and comfortable in the car. I knew I did something good. Today was a good finish on the weekend.”

Vandoorne became the 64th driver in the history of F1 to score points on debut, but said he was not thinking about the records or enormity of his achievement.

“I still don’t realize what I’ve done! Trying to enjoy the moment,” Vandoorne said.

“This weekend has been a success on the whole. It’s never been easy to jump in a car without any testing in the season.

“My first Formula 1 race, first race would be tricky to do, but I coped with the pressure that came with it. Just to finish and then finish 10th.”

Vandoorne may yet be drafted in for the Chinese Grand Prix in two weeks’ time should Alonso not be fit enough, but the Belgian was just grateful for the opportunity he received in Bahrain.

“I don’t know yet,” he said when asked if he’d be racing in China.

“It’s not up to me to decide that. Just be happy about the one shot this weekend and go from there.”

Vandoorne now sits above both Alonso and teammate Jenson Button in the drivers’ championship, with the latter retiring early on in Bahrain.

Travis Pastrana leads flag-to-flag in Nitro Rallycross as the series returns to America

Pastrana Nitro Rallycross
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Travis Pastrana waited until the final trip around ERX Motor Park to take his Joker Lap – a longer way around the course that all drivers must do at least once in a race – and came out cleanly to win his first Nitro Rallycross race of 2022. With this win, Pastrana is the third driver to visit Victory Lane in the first three rounds of the 2022-23 season.

“This is the closest to a motocross track,” Pastrana told Katie Osborne on Peacock. “Thank you so much for a beautiful facility. It’s been a rough start to the season and I’m so thankful to be back out here. We had a good run in the side-by-side and now for this. This is much needed.”

Another thing needed was the sense of improvement. And Pastrana earned that affirmation each time he completed a lap around the course.

“I get my lap times read out and they said ‘fastest time of the week,’ ‘fastest time of the week’ (each time around) ” Pastrana said. “This is really special. We’re a long way behind in the championship, but welcome to America.”

In a pre-race press conference, Pastrana said that as Nitro Rallycross heads back to America, it was time for an American to win and he made good on his promise. Pastrana took the early lead over Robin Larsson and let the back of his Subaru hang out, taking risks he might not otherwise take if not for his need to win.

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Larsson’s second-place finish completed a perfect sweep of the podium in three rounds. In fact, he has not yet finished worse than second after winning the opening round at Lydden Hill in the United Kingdom and finishing second at Strangnas in Sweeden.

Fraser McConnel rounded out the podium for his best result of the season. He finished fourth in each of the first two rounds.

Last year, Pastrana finished second in this race to Scott Speed before narrowly edging his teammate for the championship.

Andreas Bakkerud crashed in prelims, but rebounded to finish just off the block in fourth. Bakkerud won the second round ahead of his teammate Larsson.

Oliver Bennett completed the top five.

Minneapolis is the first of three rounds scheduled in the United States. Next on the schedule is Glen Helen, Calif. on Octo 30 and then Phoenix at Wild Horse Pass on November 12th. Nitro Rallycross will then head to Saudi Arabia in December to continue their 2022-23 season.