FIA Formula E/LAT

Di Grassi clinches maiden Formula E title, Vergne wins Montreal finale

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MONTREAL, Canada – Lucas di Grassi has been crowned FIA Formula E champion after finishing seventh in Sunday’s season finale in Montreal, with title rival Sebastien Buemi failing to score.

Di Grassi moved into the lead of the drivers’ championship for the first time this season on Saturday by winning the Montreal opener, opening up an 18-point lead when Buemi was disqualified.

Buemi’s struggles continued on Sunday as he qualified a lowly 14th, and was then hit at the start, forcing him to take a pit stop after being shown a black and orange flag, causing him to drop to the back of the field.

Buemi was able to fight his way back up to 11th by the checkered flag, but with di Grassi finishing seventh, the championship was comfortably settled.

The Brazilian is Formula E’s third champion in as many seasons, clinching the title despite taking just two wins compared to Buemi’s six, the Renault racer’s New York no-show proving costly.

The race itself was won by Jean-Eric Vergne, who finally took his first Formula E win after finishing second on six previous occasions, passing pole-sitter Felix Rosenqvist in the second stint of the race.

Rosenqvist held on to second for Mahindra, securing himself third place in the drivers’ championship after Sam Bird could only take P4 on the day for DS Virgin Racing, finishing behind teammate Jose Maria Lopez.

Nick Heidfeld put in a quietly impressive display to take P5 for Mahindra ahead of Daniel Abt, who di Grassi let past at the line in the sister ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport car.

Despite closing the gap to Renault in the teams’ championship with a strong double score, the ABT squad was unable to deny the French marque a third straight title, clinched even though Buemi finished 11th and Nicolas Prost failed to finish.

Stephane Sarrazin recovered from a first lap spin to finish eighth for Techeetah, securing another double-score for the team, while Jerome d’Ambrosio and Tom Dillmann rounded out the points.

Formula E now takes a break until the start of collective testing in Valencia in October, with the opening race taking place in Hong Kong in early December.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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