Alexander Rossi to become latest IndyCar driver to tackle Baja 1000

IndyCar
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Being a one-race teammate with Fernando Alonso in the 2017 Indianapolis 500 has apparently inspired IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi in a unique way.

Here’s the explanation:

Alonso not only is a two-time Formula One champion, he also has prestigious wins in the Monaco Grand Prix and the 24 Hours of Le Mans on his racing resume.

He may give Indy another run in 2019 in hopes of essentially becoming only the second driver to win motorsports’ “triple crown” (Graham Hill is the only driver to do so to date).

As for Rossi, he won the 2016 Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. While Monaco and Le Mans may one day be in his future, Rossi now wants to add another prestigious win to his own resume.

Rossi, who finished second in the 2018 IndyCar Series standings, will step out of his Honda-powered Andretti Autosport comfort zone next month and into a Honda of another kind: a Honda Unlimited Ridgeline in the SCORE Baja 1000 off-road race in Baja, Mexico.

For the record, if he completes the entire race, Rossi will travel nearly 807 miles — over 300 miles longer than what he drove in his Indy 500 victory.

Rossi will have a great teammate in the Nov. 16-17 race: two-time Baja 1000 class winner Jeff Proctor. The 1000 is considered one of the most trying tests of man and machine.

“It’s just one of those iconic races,” Rossi recently told IndyCar.com. “There’s a Honda connection, so I just figured why not?”

Rossi, 27, has already completed a few days of testing, but will have another week-plus of testing on the full Baja course as the race weekend draws closer.

“You’ll kind of drive your section of the course multiple times for a couple days with your co-driver and navigator, and make close to 800 notes for 200 miles.

Could Rossi be asking tips from former Baja 1000 competitors Sebastien Bourdais, left, and Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay? (Photo: IndyCar)

“You’ll have a good idea of where you’re going, then once the race starts, you kind of just go by the seat of your pants a little bit.”

Once the green flag falls to start the race, Rossi will join a select fraternity of current and former IndyCar drivers who’ve battled the treacherous Baja course, including Parnelli Jones, Rick Mears, Danny Sullivan, Buddy Rice, Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, Sebastien Bourdais, Robby Gordon, NBC Sports IndyCar analyst Paul Tracy and Jimmy Vasser.

“I’m pretty excited about it,” Rossi told IndyCar.com. “(It’s) something new, something different. Looking forward to the experience.”

Click here to read the full IndyCar.com story on Rossi’s pending great adventure.

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Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.