Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI Preview: Mid-Ohio

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The forthcoming weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires might be the most pivotal of the season for all three series.

The streets of Toronto had a heavy impact – literally – on the championship battles in all three series. In the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, Pato O’Ward retook the championship lead by 17 points over Colton Herta, with Herta suffering an injured thumb after a crash in Race 1 qualifying.

Meanwhile, in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, things were essentially reset due to a pair of eighth place finishes for points leader Parker Thompson – he had contact in both races – and a weekend sweep from second-place runner Rinus VeeKay.

The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, however, saw Kirk Kirkwood get closer to clinching the title, and he is in position to do so before the calendar switches to the month of August.

Indy Lights and Pro Mazda see their usual double headers, with races on Saturday and Sunday, while USF2000 will enjoy a rare triple header, with races on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Talking points for all three series are below.

Indy Lights

  • The most crucial aspect of the Indy Lights title chase centers around the health of Colton Herta’s hand. If he’s fully healthy and can tackle the demanding Mid-Ohio track, then he’ll have a chance to gain on Pato O’Ward – O’Ward leads Herta by 18 points. But, if his thumb and hand aren’t healthy enough, it could give O’Ward a chance to make the gap insurmountable.
  • While Santi Urrutia is 40 points behind O’Ward, he is only 22 behind Herta, whose injury opens the door for Urrutia to close even more in the battle for second. And, 40 points is still within range for Urrutia if gets on a hot streak in the final races of the year. He won two of the final four races last year, beginning at Mid-Ohio, and he finished second in the other two. A repeat performance could sneak him back into title contention.
  • Victor Franzoni looks to rebound after a troublesome Toronto outing saw him crash in Race 1 and then retire from Race 2 to conserve finances and resources.

Pro Mazda

Parker Thompson only leads Rinus VeeKay by seven points entering Mid-Ohio. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • Parker Thompson’s weekend to forget on the streets of Toronto has essentially reset the championship picture. He leads Rinus VeeKay by only seven points entering the weekend, and the two title combatants are now poised for a duel to the finish after Thompson was on the verge of running away with it. Thompson scored a victory in USF2000 Race 2 last year at Mid-Ohio, and finished third in Race 1, while VeeKay had finishes of third and second. In short, they enter Mid-Ohio very evenly matched, so it’s anybody’s guess as to who is favored among them.
  • Carlos Cunha ranks third in the Pro Mazda championship, and still with a shot at the title. He has been knocking on the door of winning for most of the year, and it’s only a matter of time before he knocks it down.
  • David Malukas and Oliver Askew rank fourth and fifth. Malukas has been fast and has two wins this year, but his season has been blighted by some inconsistency. Meanwhile, Askew has struggled mightily with Cape Motorsports. Both will look for strong results at Mid-Ohio.

USF2000

Kyle Kirkwood is poised to clinch the USF2000 title at Mid-Ohio this weekend. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • In USF2000, the championship revolves exclusively around Kyle Kirkwood. The 19-year-old from Florida leads Kaylen Frederick by 131 points entering the weekend. If he scores 34 points by the end of the weekend, the championship is his. Anything is certainly possible, but given that he has won six races in a row – and seven in total this year – it would take an enormous amount of misfortune for him to fail to clinch this weekend.
  • Behind Kirkwood, seven points separate Frederick, Igor Fraga, and Rasmus Lindh in the battle for second. All three have been quick in recent races, and any Kirkwood misfortune could see any one of these three end up in victory lane.
  • Of note: Alex Baron and Swan-RJB Motorsports, two-time race winners this year, are again absent from the entry list this weekend.

A full weekend schedule can be viewed here.

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Dakar Stage 8 Highlights: Ricky Brabec blows engine, retires

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The motorcycle class of the Dakar Rally has been a seesaw affair through seven stages, but Ricky Brabec seemed poised to win the class for the USA. Until he blew an engine in Stage 8 that is – and gave up a more-than seven second lead. He was the second rider to retire after starting the stage as the leader. Joan Barreda retired in Stage 3.

Brabec was looking to become the first American rider to win in 27 years, but his fate was eerily similar to last year. Three days from the end of the stage, he retired about 50 kilometers into the stage, which is precisely when and where he retired in 2018.

With Brabec’s trouble, Toby Price leapfrogged from third to second in class despite riding with a metal pin in his wrist. In the world’s most grueling endurance event, it has never been more obvious that it isn’t over till it’s over.

Meanwhile, Nasser Al-Attiyah continues to run a consistent rally. With a 46 minute advantage over Nani Roma and Sebastien Loeb, all he needs to do is stay error free for the final two stages to win his third Dakar.

Here are some of the other highlights:

In the cars class, Sebastien Loeb scored his fifth stage win of the Rally by seven minutes over Nasser Al-Attiyah, but problems in Stage 3 have kept him from being competitive for the overall lead. … Jakub Przygonski earned his third podium of the Rally. All of these have been third-place finishes.

Class Leaders: Al-Attiyah holds an advantage of 46:29 over Roma and 46:45 over Loeb.

In motorcycles, Ricky Brabec’s blown engine opened up the class once more. … Matthias Walkner narrowly edged Pablo Quintanilla by 45 seconds. … But it was Toby Price’s third-place finish that helped elevate him to the class lead. … Sam Sunderland was supposed to blaze the path for the riders, but a malfunctioning navigation system kept him from rolling off first. Blazing the trail is a disadvantage and officials adjudged him to have tampered with his system to avoid that fate. Sunderland was penalized an hour to finish 35th on the stage. He dropped to ninth in class.

Class Leaders: Price inherited the lead over Quintanilla by 1:03 and 6:35 over Walkner

In side by sides, Francisco Lopez Contardo scored the victory over Cristian Baumgart by 4:47. … Gerard Farres Guell rounded out the top three.

Class Leaders: Contardo holds an advantage 0f 54:10 over Rodrigo Piazolli and one hour, 08:09 over Guell

In quads, there was no surprise in Nicolas Cavigliasso winning his seventh stage of the season. … He padded his overall advantage over Gustavo Gallego by more than nine minutes. … Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli finished third.

Class Leaders: Cavigliasso holds and advantage of one hour, 24:52 over Ferioli and one hour, 44:04 over Gallego

In trucks, Dmitry Sotnikov won the stage to take over the class lead. He beat Ton Van Genugten by 22:01. … Siarhei Viazovich rounded out the top three. … Eduard Nikolaev lost the class lead by finishing eighth – nearly one hour behind Sotnikov.

Class Leaders: Sotnikov holds an advantage of 26:49 over and one hour, 7:43 over Gerard de Rooy

Stage Wins

Motorcycles
Sam Sunderland [2] (Stage 5 and 7), Matthias Walkner [2] (Stage 2 and 8), Joan Barreda [1] (Stage 1), Xavier de Soultrait [1] (Stage 3), Ricky Brabec [1] (Stage 4) and Pablo Quintanilla [1] (Stage 6)

Quads
Nicolas Cavigliasso [7] (Stage 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8) and Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli [1] (Stage 3)

Cars
Sebastien Loeb [4] (Stage 2, 5, 6 and 8), Nasser Al-Attiyah [2] (Stage 1 and 4) and Stephane Peterhansel [2] (Stage 3 and 7)

Side-by-sides
Francisco Lopez Contardo [4] (Stage 2, 6, 7 and 8), Reinaldo Varela [1] (Stage 1), Gerard Farres Guell [1] (Stage 3), Sergei Kariakin [1] (Stage 4) and Rodrigo Piazzoli [1] (Stage 5)

Trucks
Eduard Nikolaev [3] (Stage 1, 2 and 5), Andrey Karginov [2] (Stage 3 and 4), Dmitry Sotnikov [2] (Stage 6 and 8) and Gerard de Rooy [1] (Stage 7)

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