Photos courtesy John Force Racing

NHRA: Brittany Force to assume her sister’s Advance Auto Parts sponsorship

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One day after Courtney Force announced she was stepping away from drag racing, John Force Racing revealed Friday morning that Courtney’s primary sponsor for the past two seasons, Advance Auto Parts, will move to the Top Fuel dragster of her older sister, Brittany Force, for the 2019 NHRA season.

Thursday’s news that Courtney Force, the youngest of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force, was walking away from active driving competition after seven years in a Funny Car rocked the NHRA world. Courtney is one of the most popular drivers on the NHRA circuit.

Brittany Force, who won the 2017 NHRA Top Fuel championship, had previously been sponsored by Monster Energy, but that relationship ended at the conclusion of the 2018 season.

Brittany Force will be sporting her new Advance Auto Parts colors both at next week’s NHRA annual three-day preseason test at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, and officially for the first time in active competition at the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals, February 7-10, at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California.

“I’m really excited to start this season teaming up with Advance Auto Parts,” Brittany Force said in a media release. “They’ve been such a great partner to John Force Racing the past two years. They exceeded expectations when working with Courtney, building her as their brand ambassador, and I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together.

Brittany Force

“I’m looking forward to getting them their first win in a dragster and ultimately going after a championship. Off track, I look forward to creating new relationships and being involved with everything this great company has to offer.”

Brittany Force became only the second female to ever win a Top Fuel championship in NHRA history in 2017, and the first woman to do so in 35 years since Shirley Muldowney captured her third and final Top Fuel crown in 1982.

The third of four daughters for John Force, Brittany Force struggled at times during the 2018 campaign, including a wild crash in last year’s season-opening Winternationals. Brittany was uninjured in the incident.

She would go on to finish fifth in the Top Fuel standings and won the NHRA Springnationals, her only victory of 2018 after capturing four wins in her championship season.

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F1 tests: Mercedes innovates with wheel adjustment system

Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images
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MONTMELÓ, Spain — Veteran Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time on the second day of Formula One preseason testing on Thursday, but Mercedes still garnered more attention by introducing an innovative wheel adjustment system.

On-board footage showed defending champion Lewis Hamilton pulling the steering wheel back and forth on the front straight to apparently change the angle of the front wheels on his Mercedes car.

The team stayed tight-lipped about the car’s new feature but guaranteed it was “safe” and “legal.”

“I probably won’t shed a great deal more light than what you saw on the TV but yeah we have a system in the car, it’s a novel idea,” team technical director James Allison told F1 TV. ”We’ve got a name for it, it’s called DAS, if you’re interested, and it just introduces an extra dimension for the steering, for the driver, which we hope will be useful during the year. But precisely how we use it and why we use it, that’s something we will keep to ourselves.”

Allison said governing body FIA knew in advance that the team was introducing the new system.

“It’s something we’ve been talking to them (about) for some time,” he said. “The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems and we’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements. I’m pleased we got it on the car, it seems to be useful, and we’ll see over the coming days how it benefits us.”

Hamilton said he was still trying to get used to the system, but praised the team for coming up with the innovation.

“I’ve only had one morning on (it, so) I don’t really have a lot to talk about with it. We’re trying to get on top of it, understand it, but safety-wise no problem today and the FIA are OK with the project.

“For me it’s really encouraging to see that my team is continuing to innovate and stay ahead of the game, and I think that’s down to the great minds in the team and so hopefully that’ll work to our benefit.”

Hamilton led the time charts on Wednesday but was only ninth-fastest on Thursday.

MORE: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas fastest in Day 1 of F1 practice
MORE: Sergio Perez fastest early on Day 2 of F1 Practice

The 40-year-old Raikkonen, who has a chance this season to break the record for most race starts in F1, was fastest with a time of 1 minute, 17.091 seconds in his Alfa Romea. He was 0.2 seconds quicker than Sergio Pérez with Racing Point. Daniel Ricciardo of Renault was third.

Raikkonen caused a red flag near the end of the afternoon session when his car stopped on the track with an apparent mechanical issue. The Finnish driver had spun earlier in the session, as did Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, Romain Grosjean of Haas and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, formerly known as Toro Rosso.

Grosjean had the most laps among the 13 drivers who went to the track on Thursday, with 158.

Bottas was the slowest driver of the day, while Sebastian Vettel was sixth-fastest with Ferrari.

Pérez had set the quickest time in the morning session. The Mexican driver had been third fastest on Wednesday, behind Hamilton and Bottas.

Drivers will be back on the track on Friday to close out the first week of testing. Teams will have another three days to test next week.

Preseason testing has been reduced from eight to six days to help compensate for the record 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam Grand Prix and the return of the Dutch GP. Midseason testing also has been eliminated.

The season opens on March 15 at the Australian GP.

The Barcelona-Catalunya track will host the Spanish GP on May 10.