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F1 fans – and Darth Vader – raise a laugh on gray Friday in China

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Friday’s Formula 1 running ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai is unlikely to be remembered very fondly by any of the drivers, with their days reduced largely to sitting in the back of the garage.

Wet weather wasn’t the issue. Instead, the thick fog that hung over Shanghai meant the medical helicopter was unable to land at the local hospital, putting the sessions on hold.

It wasn’t the weekend F1 wanted in China. At a time when Liberty Media is looking for ways to improve the sport and increase its entertainment value, to have Friday’s running written off felt like a bit of an own goal.

And yet the passionate fans in China were able to offer some brilliant scenes as they refused to have their mood dampened by the drab weather.

Despite only hosting F1 since 2004, China is home to some of the sport’s most passionate fans, with even the engineers having fan clubs come out in support in Shanghai. Haas engineer Ayao Komatsu was given a cheer by a banner in the grandstands on Friday.

But naturally, it is the drivers who garner the most attention. Sebastian Vettel had a small group of fans out in force, although clearly one of them didn’t get the memo about who was ‘L’…

They got there in the end though.

Lewis Hamilton went the extra mile to go and speak with his fans, throwing a number of signed Mercedes caps into the crowd after being given the green light to cross the track during a session.

“I have an amazing following here, there are a lot of British flags out there. It’s a real shame they everyone drives out because it’s a long way from the city and people have traveled from all over to come out,” Hamilton said.

“Then the weather’s not great for us, but they sit there patiently waiting, do one lap in practice in P1 and then no laps in P2. I’m just grateful that the FIA opened up to let me go on the track, let me run across to get to the other side. You’re normally not allowed to do that.”

But the undoubted surprise of FP2 was the appearance of actual Darth Vader in the grandstands.

How do we know it’s actual Darth Vader? He even got a tag on the FOM world feed as ‘Sith Lord’.

So for all of the woe about the lack of on-track action, F1 fans were able to come through with the goods once again on Friday in Shanghai, making FP2 one of the most entertaining sessions-that-wasn’t-a-session in recent memory.

That said, it’ll still go some way to topping the rain stoppage in qualifying for the USGP back in 2015…

2016 Knoxville Nationals champ Jason Johnson succumbs to injuries from sprint car crash

Photo courtesy Jason Johnson Racing official Facebook page
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Former Knoxville Nationals champion sprint car driver Jason Johnson has died from injuries suffered in a crash Saturday night in a World of Outlaws race at Beaver Dam (Wisconsin) Raceway).

Known as the “Ragin’ Cajun” for his aggressive style of racing, Johnson, 41, passed away this morning, according to an announcement by WoO. He was one of the most respected and well-liked drivers on the circuit by both fellow competitors and fans.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Johnson, a Eunice, Louisiana resident, was racing for the lead in the main event on the one-third-mile clay track with eventual race winner Daryn Pitman, when Johnson crashed on Lap 18 shortly after a restart.

Johnson’s car left the track surface in Turn 3 and flew through at least one billboard adjacent to the racetrack, according to media and witness reports.

It took rescue workers several minutes to extricate Johnson, who was taken by ambulance to a local hospital before being airlifted to Aurora Summit Hospital in Summit, Wisconsin, according to the Journal Sentinel report.

How many will remember Johnson:

Johnson, who won the 2016 Knoxville Nationals – the sport’s biggest race – in Iowa in storybook fashion, had been a primarily part-time racer on various sprint car circuits from 1998 until he went full-time on the Outlaws series, capturing Rookie of the Year honors in 2015.

MORE: Knoxville win should be big boost to Jason Johnson’s season, career

Johnson had 12 wins on the Outlaws circuit, including two victories this season.

The Journal Sentinel also posted a statement from SLS Promotions, which promoted Saturday’s race:

“Everyone at SLS Promotions offers our deepest, most sincere thoughts, prayers and condolences to Bobbi Johnson (Jason’s wife), Jaxx Johnson (the couple’s son) and the entire Johnson family and JJR Racing team.

“Jason was a great competitor and true ambassador for the sport. It was an honor and a privilege to work with him during his time on the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series trail. Jason will never be forgotten”

Other notables also commented on his death on social media:

According to the Journal Sentinel, Johnson is the second driver in four years to die at the small track northwest of Milwaukee. In September 2014, Scott Semmelann, 47, was killed there while practicing for an Interstate Racing Association event.

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