Hulkenberg: Le Mans entry ‘completely different’ to Alonso’s Indy shot

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Nico Hulkenberg is surprised by Fernando Alonso’s decision to skip the Monaco Grand Prix so he can enter the 101st Indianapolis 500 next month, believing it is “completely different” to his own shot at Le Mans two years ago.

Alonso announced on Wednesday that he would be racing in this year’s Indy 500, bailing on the Formula 1 race in Monaco so he can pilot the McLaren-Honda-Andretti entry at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Hulkenberg was the last F1 driver to cross codes, entering the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Porsche in 2015 as part of its third-car line-up in the LMP1 class.

Alongside Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber, Hulkenberg claimed an unlikely victory in the 24-hour race, becoming the first current F1 driver to win at Le Mans since 1991.

Comparisons have been drawn following Alonso’s announcement, but Hulkenberg said it was different as his Porsche duties never impacted on his work in F1 with Force India.

“My case was completely different. I didn’t go away from F1 in the way he is,” Hulkenberg said on Thursday in Bahrain, as quoted by crash.net.

“I would have never done it if I had to miss a race for it, especially Monaco. A big decision and big news obviously and he can do what he wants.

“I am a bit surprised like everybody about this situation.”

Hulkenberg also said that Alonso’s run in the ‘500 will be a challenge given he will have just 10 days of running prior to the race to get to grips with the new style of car he will be racing.

“I think it is quite tough. I don’t know much about Indy but he has never driven these cars or an oval, so do you think you can come in and win that easily?” Hulkenberg questioned.

“I at least had half a year practice [for Le Mans]. It sounds like a challenge but obviously Fernando likes challenges.”

Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward points’ slide

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Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.