Formula E/LAT

Sam Bird wins frantic Formula E season-opener in Hong Kong

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Sam Bird made a flying start to the new Formula E season in Hong Kong on Saturday by taking his sixth victory in the series despite being hit with a drive-through penalty following a crash in the pit lane.

Bird started the race second for DS Virgin Racing behind pole-sitter Jean-Eric Vergne and retained position for much of the opening half of the race, albeit interrupted for 30 minutes following a red flag when the track was blocked by a crash.

Bird stayed close to Vergne before making his move for the lead shortly before the car changes, and was quickly able to pull out a lead.

However, the Briton put his win hopes in doubt after locking up when trying to turn into his pit garage, causing his car to go straight on and into some nearby pit equipment, narrowly avoiding some bystanders.

Bird completed his car swap and emerged from the pits still leading, but was hit with a drive-through penalty for having made the change outside of the garage.

After quickly gapping the struggling Vergne, Bird took his penalty and came back out still in front of his former teammate, with Mahindra’s Nick Heidfeld sitting just behind in third.

Bird put his foot down to re-establish his earlier advantage, eventually crossing the line more than 11 seconds clear to claim the first win of the 2017/18 season.

“That was a really crazy race. I’m finding it hard to process what happened really,” Bird said.

“It’s not often you win having a drive-through penalty in Formula E. Firstly I’ve got to thank the team. We thought it was going to be really difficult coming into this year.

“The likes of Audi have made a big step, Renault still obviously being strong which makes Techeetah strong, Mahindra were fantastic last year, other teams have caught up…

“So we thought it was going to be tough to dominate round one, but I’ll take that.”

Vergne held on to second place ahead of Heidfeld despite struggling with a lack of radio and telemetry, while Nelson Piquet Jr. matched Jaguar’s best result in Formula E on debut for the team in P4.

Daniel Abt led Audi’s charge in fifth after teammate and defending series champion Lucas di Grassi sustained early damage, causing him to drop back and fail to recover.

Antonio Felix da Costa finished sixth for Andretti ahead of leading debutant Edoardo Mortara in seventh, while Alex Lynn, Nicolas Prost and Luca Filippi rounded out the points-paying positions.

The new Formula E season continues with the second leg of the Hong Kong double-header on Sunday.

Could Scott Dixon someday break Foyt, Andretti wins and championships records?

IndyCar
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With five races left in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season, Scott Dixon is in the driver’s seat to potentially earn a fifth career IndyCar championship.

After winning Sunday at Toronto, Dixon now has a 62-point edge over second-ranked and defending series champ Josef Newgarden and a 70-point lead over third-ranked Alexander Rossi.

The triumph north of the border was Dixon’s third there, as well as his 44th career IndyCar win, third-highest in IndyCar annals.

Add in the four IndyCar championships and those are stellar numbers indeed.

What makes things all the more amazing is Dixon has done all that in under 18 full seasons on the IndyCar circuit. Heck, he’s only 37 years old, too (although he turns 38 on July 22).

Dixon’s championships have come in 2003 (his first full season in IndyCar after two prior seasons in CART/Champ Car), 2008, 2013 and most recently in 2015.

The quiet, unassuming New Zealander has been one of the most successful drivers ever not just in IndyCar, but in all forms of motorsports.

When his name is mentioned, it’s typically included with the only two drivers who have more career wins than he does: A.J. Foyt (67 wins and seven championships, both records) and Mario Andretti (52 wins and four titles).

That’s a pretty lofty pair to be part of.

One might think that after all the success he’s had, Dixon could easily walk away from IndyCar and Chip Ganassi Racing and enjoy an early retirement.

But competing in and winning races isn’t really a job for Dixon. He enjoys what he’s doing so much that he easily could keep doing what he’s doing – and at a high level – for another seven or more years, at least.

So, can Dixon catch Mario and A.J.? The former would be easier than the latter, for sure.

Numerically, it’s possible – at least part of it:

* Dixon can easily be competitive into his mid-40s.

* He’s averaged three-plus wins every season since 2007 (37 wins from then through Sunday). That means if he can keep that average going, he could reach 24 more wins – to overtake Foyt – by 2026. Yes, that may be a stretch to even imagine, but if there’s any current driver who potentially could overtake Foyt, it’s Dixon.

* Dixon already has three wins this season, and with five more races still to go, he could easily win another one, two or maybe even three more in 2018 as he continues his road to the championship. And let’s not forget that with each additional win, that’s one win closer to overtaking Andretti and Foyt.

In his usual modest and humble manner, Dixon downplays not just talk comparing him with Andretti and Foyt, but also overtaking one or both.

“I think A.J. is pretty safe,” he said. “He’s a long ways ahead. … Eight (championships) is an infinity away. Takes a long time to get eight.”

But that doesn’t mean Dixon can’t keep working at approaching Foyt’s mark.

“I think for us, we take it race by race,” he said. “We’re in the business of winning races. If we’re not doing that, I won’t have a job for too long. That’s the focus for right now.”

If he wins the championship this year, he’ll pass Andretti’s championship mark. That would be one record down, three to go.

And if he can win nine more races over the next few seasons, he’ll pass Andretti’s 52 career wins, making it two records down and two more to go.

“Right now with 44 wins, next on the list is Mario I think at 52 or something,” Dixon said after Sunday’s win. “We’ll see how it goes. Right now, we’re just trying to get the job done for the team.”

And he’s doing a darn good job at that indeed – with likely even more success still to come.

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