Renault Sport

Kubica puts F1 comeback chances at ’80 to 90 per cent’

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Ex-Formula 1 driver Robert Kubica says his chances of a comeback are at “80 to 90 per cent” after enjoying a successful test with Renault as part of his long-running comeback from injury.

Kubica raced in F1 between 2006 and 2010, taking one grand prix victory, but was forced to quit ahead of the 2011 season after suffering severe injuries to his right arm and hand in a rally accident.

Kubica made his motorsport comeback in rallying, racing in the FIA World Rally Championship before returning to circuit racing last year with a handful of one-off events.

The Pole has recently tested a number of single-seater cars, culminating in half a day’s running at Valencia with Renault in a 2012 F1 car.

Speaking to Auto Express following a showrun in a Renault F1 car at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, Kubica said that he felt comfortable behind the wheel once again, allaying any fears he had about his capability.

“My first target was to see if I could be capable of doing it. So this is more or less done,” Kubica said.

“Second, let’s say, realistically talking, is raising the game slowly and step by step. F1 is a tough competition and I have been away from racing a long time.

“I think most of the question marks I had are gone, and I’m very comfortable with it. Actually it was a huge relief for me because this test would have been a case of ‘yes, I can do this’ or ‘no, I have to close the door on F1 forever’.

“I know it seems strange because I was away for a very long time and I kept quiet, but I never said that I’d never be back. Because I knew that there is a chance for me.

“I always said it would be very difficult. But Valencia showed, in fact, that it’s not really as difficult as I thought. It’s more possible than I ever thought. It’s a good feeling and I’m happy that I have this day done.”

When asked about his chances of making a full-time comeback racing in F1, Kubica said that the test had changed his perspective completely, giving himself strong odds to do so.

“If you asked me how much I was realistically thinking that coming back to F1 was possible, I would have put myself up to 10 or maximum 20 per cent chance,” Kubica said.

“The clock is running, not just the classification, but also getting older. F1 is going so fast that some people forget. Not everyone, but some.

“Because I’m very realistic, and I’m keeping my feet on the ground, I’d [now] put it at 80 or 90 per cent.”

Kubica is set to enjoy a second private test with Renault in the near future, making him a player in the evolving driver market for F1 in 2018.

NHRA: Dodge/Mopar unveils new Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car in Denver

Photos/video courtesy Dodge/Mopar
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If you’re a fan of NHRA Funny Car racing and Dodge/Mopar, you may notice something different at this weekend’s Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in suburban Denver, Colorado.

Two-time (2011 and 2014) NHRA Funny Car champ Matt Hagan – who has won the last two NHRA national events in the last four weeks – will be piloting a newly-designed 2019 Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, a 10,000-horsepower Funny Car that was unveiled this morning ahead of Dodge/Mopar’s premier NHRA national event.

The new Charger SRT Hellcat succeeds the former Mopar Dodge Charger R/T, which had been in use since 2015.

“We improved on the body design,” Hagan said of the new Charger Hellcat. “It was already a great design, a great body. But now, we’re going to have a little more downforce, a little more traction on these racetracks and it will be a huge performance advantage.”

The new Hellcat includes a number of innovations, including a new front splitter to increase downforce. Just like its predecessor, the R/T, the Hellcat will go head-to-head with Chevrolet’s Camaro in the NHRA Funny Car ranks.

“We will be able to press harder with more downforce on the nose, which translates into huge amounts of downforce on the run,” Hagan said.

According to a media release, the new Hellcat features major design changes in three key areas: the front end, bodysides and burst panel placement:

* “At the front, the shape of the nose has been tweaked and a new splitter (photo), built of carbon fiber and Kevlar like the rest of the Funny Car body, has been added. The splitter substantially mimics the look and shape of the production vehicle’s splitter while generating greater downforce to help plant the Funny Car to the track.

* “Bodyside scallops have been redesigned to more closely identify with the production Hellcat while also enhancing on-track function and performance. The deeper character lines provide greater visual ties to the street version of the Hellcat, while also helping to mitigate the “body burn” common on all Funny Cars due to the close positioning of the exhaust headers.

* “The location of the burst panel on the hood has also been reworked. The panel is now centered over the top of the engine to more efficiently release energy and pressure in the event of engine issues, a common occurrence in race cars that are pushed to the razor’s edge of performance.”

Since the R/T was first introduced into the Don Schumacher Racing corps, it has gone on to 50 wins, 42 runner-up finishes and 40 No. 1 qualifiers in NHRA national events and one NHRA Funny Car World Championship (Ron Capps, 2016).

The new Charger SRT Hellcat, which can exceed 330-plus mph and covers 1,000 feet in under four seconds, is the drag strip version of the supercharged, 707-horsepower production Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, the quickest, fastest and most powerful sedan in the world.

While Hagan will drive the first Hellcat, his other three Dodge-powered DSR teammates – Capps, Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr. – will soon take delivery of their own versions of the car over the remaining 11 races of the 2018 season.

One day after winning two weeks ago at Norwalk, Ohio, Hagan and crew chief Dickie Venables put the new Hellcat through its paces with several test runs. The results were so strong that it was decided to debut the car at Denver and run all qualifying and elimination rounds with it.

“We made four good, solid runs in testing at Norwalk,” said Hagan. “We put the body through a lot of different things and were really, really pleased with it.

“I really think it’s going to translate over to performance on the race track, and hopefully more win lights in the future.”

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