Kubica hails ‘fantastic’ day with Renault; too early to say next step

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The “hype train” has left the station and pulled into the Hungaroring at Budapest, where today Robert Kubica made his return to a current Formula 1 chassis for the first time in seven years.

The Polish driver had had two prior tests in older Renault chassis (then dubbed Lotus) in the last month or so, but today he had an opportunity to run the Renault R.S.17 in the second day of the post-Hungarian Grand Prix test.

And what a day it was. From running through various tire compounds from Pirelli to completing a whopping 142 laps, second most on the day only to Luca Ghiotto at Williams, Kubica was the undoubted star of the afternoon. He posted a best time of 1:18.572, good for fourth overall.

It all began with him actually knocking over Nico Hulkenberg’s garage sign as he left the garage for the first time, but it all went better from there.

Kubica left the garage to a throng of fans supporting the Polish driver – incredible to witness.

Renault provided updates from there as Kubica worked through his program. After installation laps, his first timed laps were in the 1:22 bracket, and only sought to get better from there.

A couple other teams tweeted about Kubica’s return as well, which Renault later retweeted – as did Renault’s last World Champion driver, Fernando Alonso.

Kubica got down to 1:20.327 not long after he got going, and then made it into the 1:19 range after that at 1:19.681 after more than 30 laps. He completed the morning session with 74 laps done.

Kubica ran on the soft, supersoft and ultrasoft compounds. By late in the afternoon he’d gone down to a 1:18.952, and once onto the ultrasoft that time dipped to 1:18.572.

Kubica thanked the fans after he got out of the car following a surreal day.

Renault’s post-test release featured Kubica’s initial reaction, before he later met the media.

“It was a fantastic feeling for me to be here today in the R.S.17 and also it was amazing to see so many fans come to see me out on track, so thank you to all of them,” Kubica said.

“It has been an incredible journey to this point, where I have answered many questions to myself. I learnt a lot about the latest generation car, as there are a reasonable amount of differences between it and the Formula 1 cars I have driven in the past. The car is certainly wider than before. I was able to work through the team’s program methodically and I think we made good progress. Certainly my understanding of the R.S.17 and the 2017 tires came on a lot.

“After today, it’s too early to say what the next step might be. For now, I owe a big thanks to everyone at Renault Sport Formula One Team for making this test happen.”

Alan Permane, Sporting Director, added, “It’s been a full and productive day with over two Grands Prix worth of laps completed. We worked through a comprehensive program and Robert was able to give us great feedback. The R.S.17 ran faultlessly, even with the extreme temperatures we faced out on track. We have accumulated a lot of data over the past two days to add to the lessons learnt in the Grand Prix here, so we have scope to further optimize the car looking to the next Grands Prix after the summer shutdown.”

A surreal day no doubt, and perhaps the most important step yet in a potential return to Grand Prix racing for a driver hailed as one of the most talented of his generation.

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY – AUGUST 02: Robert Kubica of Poland driving the (46) Renault Sport Formula One Team Renault RS17 during day two of F1 in season testing at Hungaroring on August 2, 2017 in Budapest, Hungary. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

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