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Toro Rosso-Honda Formula 1 deal announced for 2018

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Scuderia Toro Rosso will link up with Japanese manufacturer Honda in Formula 1 next season after signing a multi-year deal, announced on Friday in Singapore.

After returning to F1 as an engine manufacturer in 2015, Honda has endured three difficult years exclusively supplying McLaren, with the British team opting to cut ties at the end of the current season.

Eager to remain in the sport, a deal was struck for Honda to work with Toro Rosso from 2018, with the team’s existing Renault engine supply moving in the opposite direction to McLaren.

The deal was confirmed shortly after first practice for the Singapore Grand Prix, ending months of speculation about Honda’s future in the sport.

“Scuderia Toro Rosso is pleased to announce that it has reached a multi-year agreement with Honda Motor Co. Ltd. to run Honda power units starting from the 2018 Formula 1 season,” a statement from Toro Rosso reads, with confirmation of Renault’s departure coming earlier in the day.

“Everyone in our team is very much looking forward to working with Honda,” Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost said.

“Ever since its founder Soichiro Honda entered his motorcycles in events, racing has always been a central part of the company’s ethos.  It’s a very exciting challenge and I hope that both parties will gain a great deal from it as we develop together.

“Honda has a long history in Formula 1, dating back to 1964 when it first entered the sport with its own team and, as an engine supplier it has taken five drivers’ world championship titles and six constructors’.

“This heritage, together with the full confidence that we have in Honda’s capabilities to succeed, make me strongly believe that we will achieve a fruitful future together.”

Honda president and representative director Takahiro Hachigo added: “Toro Rosso is an experienced team with a youthful energy and history of nurturing the stars of the future.

“Everyone at Honda is looking forward to working with Toro Rosso, and we are excited to start this new chapter in our Formula 1 journey with them. I would like to express our appreciation to Liberty Media and the FIA for their cooperation toward the realization of this partnership.

“Honda and Toro Rosso will work as one team to strive for progress and a successful future together. We appreciate the support of our fans as we begin this challenge.”

The Toro Rosso-Honda deal is also shaping up to be a pre-cursor for a possible deal with the senior Red Bull team in 2019, with speculation emerging in Singapore that Renault is looking to end its contract at the end of next season.

Sebastien Ogier in driver’s seat for sixth straight World Rally Championship title

Sebastien Ogier leads the way in the WRC title chase. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) — Thierry Neuville finished the sixth stage of Rally Australia on Friday without a rear left tire, damaging his chances of catching five-time defending champion Sebastien Ogier for the World Rally Championship title.

The Belgian driver entered the rally just three points behind Ogier in the closest title fight in 15 years.

He held the upper hand on his French rival, building a near-10 second gap through the first five stages at Coffs Harbour before hitting a chicane and finishing the stage with only three tires on his Hyundai.

Neuville was fortunate the puncture occurred late enough in the day to finish all six forestry stages and avoid a retirement. But the mistake cost him 40 seconds and gave Ogier, who is 33 seconds ahead of him, a clear run at his sixth straight championship.

In his last start with Ford before a move to Citroen next year, Ogier struggled as the first to drive the dusty, slippery forest routes.

“I pushed like crazy, I was on the limit over the jump and everywhere, I can’t do (any) more,” Ogier said. “I was on the limit.”

With Ogier on sweeping duties the back markers flourished, and Mads Ostberg took the lead in his return to the series.

Ostberg was forced to miss the previous round in Spain to make way for rally winner and nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, who was making the last of his three guest appearances for Citroen.

Now back in the seat, Ostberg leads Jari-Matti Latvala by 6.8 seconds in the Australian rally, with sixth-stage winner Craig Breen in third.

Ogier was seventh, 38.2 seconds off the pace, but only needs to finish ahead of Neuville to claim the championship title. Neuville is in 10th place after six stages.

Roles will reverse on Saturday, with Ogier to start further back in the field and do his best on cleaner roads to make up the day-one deficit before Sunday’s final stages.

Andreas Mikkelsen, the 2016 Rally Australia champion, was an early dropout after rolling into a ditch in his Hyundai. Mikkelsen had only just avoided a tractor that had found its way onto the course.

Former winner Molly Taylor and co-driver Malcolm Read were also forced out of their event when their Subaru hit a hay bale at high speed on the morning’s second stage. Both reported soreness but suffered no serious injuries.

The 24-stage rally totals 319 kilometers (197 miles). Ten stages are scheduled Saturday with the final six on Sunday, most of them through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.