Ricciardo snatches Spa podium while Verstappen’s rut of DNFs rolls on

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With the throng of Dutch fans making the quick trip to Spa to support Max Verstappen’s Red Bull, they were instead left to watch the teenager incur another retirement in Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix while teammate Daniel Ricciardo again seized the opportunity at his disposal for a surprise podium finish.

Verstappen had his sixth retirement in 12 races this season in the Renault-powered, TAG Heuer-badged Red Bull just on Lap 8. He slowed on course and exited La Source, then limping up the hill through Eau Rouge before parking on the side of the track, driver’s right – game over.

“I’m very disappointed. I can’t believe it keeps happening. Six times this year. Fifty percent retirement,” Verstappen lamented to NBCSN’s Will Buxton post-race. “It’s unbelievable. I can’t believe these things happen. I’m competing against Fernando (Alonso) in terms of retirements.

Ricciardo, quite by contrast, parlayed Verstappen’s retirement and Kimi Raikkonen’s 10-second stop-and-go penalty for failing to slow down in a yellow flag zone into another podium finish himself.

Following a restart from the Safety Car period when Sahara Force India teammates Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon clashed, Ricciardo and Raikkonen swallowed Valtteri Bottas at the end of the Kemmel Straight, in a move reminiscent of Mika Hakkinen’s famous overtake on Michael Schumacher in the 2000 race where Ricardo Zonta got swallowed wholely.

Ricciardo then pulled away from Raikkonen the rest of the race by several seconds to score the surprise podium result.

“That was huge. Max dropped out early. I know it’s full of Dutchies. Thanks for hanging around – we all do!” Ricciardo said on the podium.

“Kimi had a penalty so we got into fourth. Had good mid-race pace, then the Safety Car came at the right time. We had an opportunity and great to capitalize on it with Valtteri on the restart.”

The podium is Ricciardo’s sixth of the year, matching Verstappen’s DNF number.

NHRA: Dodge/Mopar to unveil new Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car today 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 makes its debut today at 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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