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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.

โ€œIt 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 teamโ€™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, itโ€™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.โ€

Alan Permane, Sporting Director, added, โ€œItโ€™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.โ€

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)

MRTI: Road America Sunday notebook

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Sunday at Road America for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires saw two series complete their second races of the weekend, with the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda taking to the track – the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires completed their weekend on Saturday.

Indy Lights saw a driver take an emotional first career win, while a chaotic USF2000 race saw the championship leader complete a weekend sweep.

Reports on both races are below.

Indy Lights: Franzoni Takes Emotional Maiden Win in Indy Lights

Victory Franzoni took an emotional first career victory Sunday at Road America. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Victor Franzoni finished third in Race 1 on Saturday, but did so despite driving what he described as “the worst of my career” to the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

Sunday, however, was the exact opposite for the affable Brazilian driver, who took his maiden Indy Lights win in what has been an emotional weekend for him and his Juncos Racing team as they raced in memory of the late Jeff Green, Franzoni’s Pro Mazda teammate last year.

Pato O’Ward started on the pole, but engaged in an intense duel with Santi Urrutia in the opening laps.

Their battle came to a head on Lap 4, when Urrutia tried diving inside of O’Ward entering Turn 5, but they both ran wide on the exit – O’Ward even took to the outside grass – which opened the door for Franzoni to blitz by both of them entering Turn 6.

O’Ward, Urrutia, and Colton Herta then immediately had a hard fight for second, which saw them go three-wide in Turn 8. Ultimately, Urrutia lost out as he was pushed off the track and suffered front wing damage, forcing a pit stop for repairs – he ultimately finished seven laps off the lead in seventh.

Up front, Franzoni pulled away from everyone to win by nearly seven seconds. Herta emerged in second after battling with O’Ward, while Aaron Telitz passed O’Ward in the final laps to take the final spot on the podium. Ryan Norman rounded out the top five, with Dalton Kellett finishing sixth.

Full results are below.

USF2000: Kirkwood Survives Race 2 Carnage to Complete Weekend Sweep

Kyle Kirkwood survived a lot of chaos to win Race 2 at Road America and complete the weekend sweep. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

While Race 1 almost appeared easy for Kyle Kirkwood, who passed pole sitter Jose Sierra for the lead in Turn 1 off the start and then led every lap on the way to victory, Race 2 was a completely different story.

Kirkwood needed to outduel Kaylen Frederick and Lucas Kohl and survive a seemingly endless slew of carnage in Race 2 to grab the win, his fifth of the year, to complete a weekend sweep.

Three times the race was slowed by full-course cautions for on-track incidents.

The first came on the opening lap for separate incidents involving Sabre Cook, Russell McDonough, Jose Sierra, and Max Peichel – Cook and McDonough appeared to go off into the Turn 1 gravel, while Sierra and Peichel got together approaching Turn 5 and ended up against the outside wall.

A second caution was flown only a couple laps after racing resumed when Darren Keane and Kyle Dupell got together in Canada Corner, spinning off the track and stalling as a result.

And a third caution was flown in the waning laps when Lindh, who had been running second, went off into the Turn 3 gravel trap, while Kory Enders and Calvin Ming got together and spun in Turn 6.

Up front, Lucas Kohl had worked his way into the lead, passing Lindh in Turn 1 off the start, while Kirkwood had moved up to second, ahead of third-place runner Kaylen Frederick.

A restart with one lap remaining saw Kirkwood jump to the outside of Kohl entering Turn 1, and he completed the pass before they even got to the corner, Frederick then was able to get around Kohl for second, while Colin Kaminsky and Igor Fraga rounded out the top five. Of note: second-place man in the championship Alex Baron finished seventh, allowing Kirkwood to widen an already immense championship lead.

Results are below. Kirkwood now leads Baron by 94 points. Frederick now sits third, jumping ahead of Fraga and Sierra, who sit fourth and fifth.

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