Big weekend for Americans abroad in ELMS, Formula Ford Festival

Jeansonne and Kotyk. Photo courtesy Team USA Scholarship
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This weekend, the Formula 1 world came to the United States for the United States Grand Prix from Circuit of The Americas. But it was also a big weekend for Americans racing in Europe this weekend.

American teams claimed titles in European Le Mans Series competition in Portimao, Portugal, while this year’s two Team USA Scholarship drivers excelled in the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch, England.

PAIR OF AMERICAN TEAM CHAMPIONS IN ELMS

At the European Le Mans Series finale in Portimao, Portugal, two American teams captured titles with the DragonSpeed-run, G-Drive Racing-backed entry driven by Memo Rojas, Leo Roussel and Ryo Hirakawa in LMP2 and with the Anglo-American United Autosports team in LMP3, with a pair of American drivers in Sean Rayhall and John Falb.

Rojas and Roussel are the LMP2 driver’s champions with Hirakawa not on equal points after missing a couple races in the No. 22 Oreca 07 Gibson. Elton Julian’s DragonSpeed team has focused primarily on Europe in recent years, and propelled both the team’s No. 22 and 21 cars to success in ELMS throughout the year, and made its debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

United Ligier leads Panis-Barthez Ligier and G-Drive Oreca, which won LMP2 title. Photo: Onroak/DPPI

United Autosports missed out in LMP2 with its trio of Filipe Albuquerque, Will Owen and Hugo de Sadeleer in its No. 32 Ligier JS P217 Gibson, coming both second in the race (to Graff Racing’s trio of Richard Bradley, James Allen and Gustavo Yacaman) and the championship (down 12 points to Rojas and Roussel). The result was unfortunate as it came with a 55-second stop-and-go penalty for exceeding the maximum pit speed limit.

But it did defend its LMP3 title as last year, with Rayhall and Falb finishing second in the race in its No. 2 Ligier JS P3 chassis, behind teammates Wayne Boyd, Mark Patterson and Christian England in the No. 3. Rayhall has blogged for NBC Sports this season and undoubtedly will have a fun read soon as the pair recovered from an issue in qualifying that resigned them to the back of the field.

“Winning the ELMS LMP3 title is extremely satisfying – it’s a great series – six, four-hour races is a great formula. Zak (Brown) and Richard (Dean) at UA have been fantastic as have our car crew. Their professionalism gives us confidence in the car and its paid dividends for us all. Christian [England] was catching me before I made a small mistake which allowed him to get ahead,” Falb said.

JEANSONNE, KOTYK IMPRESS IN FORMULA FORD FESTIVAL

We’ll leave it to Team USA Scholarship founder Jeremy Shaw to recap the outings of Aaron Jeansonne and Jonathan Kotyk, this year’s recipients, in the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch this weekend, linked here.

The pair finished just outside the top 10 in the 20-lap final, Kotyk in 11th and Jeansonne in 13th. Both improved from 16th (Kotyk, in No. 21) and 18th (Jeansonne, in No. 22) on the grid, with Kotyk’s fastest time of 50.809 seconds slightly quicker than race winner Joey Foster’s best of 50.892. The full results from the weekend are here.

All the news covering this year’s crop is linked here, and here’s a link to their blog pages (Jeansonne, Kotyk).

Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward points’ slide

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Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.