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IndyCar flavor in the ‘Land Down Under’

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In Australia, it’s simply known as “The Great Race.”

One of the world’s great road races, the Bathurst 1000 in New South Wales, Australia, will take place this weekend and the NTT IndyCar Series is well represented.

Famed team owner Roger Penske is there with his regular Virgin Australia DJR Team Penske Supercars team that includes has two cars driven by Fabian Coulthard and Tony D’Alberto in the No. 12 Mustang with Scott McLaughlin and Alex Premat in the No. 17.

McLaughlin has won an incredible 17 races and 14 pole positions in the 24 races held so far in 2019. But he has never won the Bathurst 1000, that goes up Mount Panorama and back.

“Winning the Bathurst 1000 is the Australian version of winning the Indianapolis 500 or the Daytona 500,” McLaughlin said. “It has always been a dream of mine to stand on the top step at Bathurst with the Peter Brock Trophy. Finishing in third place last year was bittersweet as Alex (Premat) and I were so close to take it out. We’ll head to the mountain this year, hungrier than ever to take the win.”

McLaughlin holds a whopping 598-point lead over his nearest competitor for the season championship. He conceivably could crash out of the remaining two races on the schedule and still win the championship.

McLaughlin set a new lap record on an incident-packed opening day of practice for the Bathurst 1000 when he lapped the 23-turn, 3.859-mile course in 2 minutes, 03.77 seconds on Thursday – 0.06 seconds faster than his old 2017 mark.

The race will begin Saturday at 8:30 p.m. ET and covers 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) with an elevation change of 570 feet. The Mountain Straight is .690-of-a-mile, the Conrod Straight is 1.191-miles and the steepest grade is 1 in 6.13.


Alexander Rossi, the 100th Indianapolis 500 winner in 2016 and a perennial contender for the NTT IndyCar Series championship, and Arrow McLaren Racing SP driver James Hinchcliffe will be participating in their first Bathurst 1000 for Walkinshaw Andretti United. IndyCar team owner Michael Andretti is an ownership partner in the team along with McLaren’s Zak Brown and Australia’s Tom Walkinshaw.

Hinchcliffe and Rossi will co-drive the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Holden Commodore as they attempt to etch their names into Supercars history. It’ll be a new adventure and a challenge in a Holden Commodore that features a V8 engine producing 650 horsepower. The car weighs 3,086 pounds and has a top speed of 190 mph. It can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 3.4 seconds and has a right-hand drive, 6-speed sequential shift transmission.

“I think once people who are fans of IndyCar tune into this race, see the competitiveness of it, the uniqueness of the track and just how cool the series is and great the drivers are, there will be a lot more eyeballs paying attention,” Rossi said. “And we’re here to help all of those things – and to have some fun and be competitive.

“Hopefully, with NAPA AUTO PARTS being a U.S. name coming on board to support us for this event and their expansion into the Australian market, it opens a lot of doors for us all. “We got to do some testing in the No. 27 Holden Commodore at Winton last week and had our first live look at the track today; it’s going to be a wild weekend. The track is every bit as impressive – and even more so – in person as it’s been on TV and simulators. We’re looking forward to getting the NAPA car out there and seeing what we can do.”

Hinchcliffe has also become a popular addition to this year’s race as Australian race fans have discovered his engaging personality.

“The Bathurst 1000 is the Indy 500 of Supercars racing, I certainly hope that we do well enough that it opens doors for other guys to come over and have this opportunity,” Hinchcliffe said. “And, hopefully enough people back in the States and Canada are watching and it brings a little extra attention.

“Obviously we want to do well and show well for the team. It’s a long race, 1000km, a lot can happen. If you just stay out of trouble and hit your marks throughout the course of the afternoon, it’d be great to come home with a top 10.”


The Virgin Australia Supercars Championship (formally Australian Touring Car Championship / V8 Supercars Championship) is the premier motorsport category in Australia and one of Australia’s biggest sports. Globally, it is recognized as the best touring car category in the world and a leader in motorsport entertainment.

An endurance race, the Bathurst 1000 sees two drivers share the seat, with everyone in the team playing a part, especially in pit lane. There are seven mandatory pit stops during the race that are all crucial in a result.

Additionally, each car is required to complete a front brake rotor change during one of the stops, on top of the mandatory front brake pad change. The brake rotor and caliper will be swapped out for a new set, adding a new dimension into the race strategy.

The first turn, Hell Corner, is a 90-degree left-hander. Mountain Straight, a gentle climb where the cars reach speeds in excess of 150 mph, leads into Griffin’s Bend, an off-camber, right-hander that leads into The Cutting, a sharp left-hander with a steep incline.

Reid Park follows, a complex corner where a number of drivers have spun after not short shifting at the apex. The course continues down to Sulman Park and McPhillamy Park. Drivers are unable to see the descending road and enter Skyline and the first of The Esses at approximately 140 mph before The Dipper, one of the most famous corners in Australian motorsport.

Cars then negotiate Forrest’s Elbow before powering down Conrod Straight, the fastest section of the track where cars can reach nearly 200 mph. The Chaseis a long sweeping chicane where cars are on the rev limiter turning at 300 km/h before a large braking zone slowing exit speeds into the 80s. Murray’s is the 23rd and final turn and also the slowest part of the circuit, before cars return to the start-finish straight.

“The biggest difference is the car,” Hinchcliffe said. “The V8 Supercar, you have a roof, you have twice the weight of an Indy car. Similar horsepower, a lot less grip. For us, it’s getting used to the different driving style of the different cars. Our cars are very nimble, very light, a lot of downforce. The Supercars are the complete opposite. It’s a big adjustment for Alex and I to get into these things and up to speed as quickly as possible.

“The drivers in the V8 Supercars Series are massively talented. We have about one to three days each in the car. We have never seen the track. We are under no illusion. It’s going to be a very tough fight. It’s going to be difficult.

“At the same time, we are competitive. We are going to go out there and do the best we can. A top 10 for us realistically feels like a win. In a field this competitive with this type of competition, it would feel like a win.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

Alexander Rossi hopes to dodge oncoming traffic in second Baja 1000

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One of the great viral videos of last year’s offseason was the sight of Alexander Rossi’s Honda Ridgeline off-road vehicle and its near head-on collision with a passenger SUV coming in the wrong direction of last year’s Baja 1000.

The video of the incident overshadowed an outstanding debut for Rossi in the SCORE OFF Road Desert race.

Rossi (pictured above on the right along with fellow driver Jeff Proctor) told NBCSports.com that driving down the same roads still used by passenger traffic is one of the unique challenges of the Baja 1000.

“The most demanding form of racing is IndyCar racing,” Rossi told NBC Sports.com. “But the big thing for me in the Baja 1000 is mentally being able to understand the terrain that is coming at you at 120 miles an hour in the dust and pedestrians and other cars, people and cattle that come along with this race.”

Rossi is becoming a modern-day Parnelli Jones, A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti. He wants to race anything on wheels and win.

Since the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season concluded with the Sept. 22 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, Rossi competed in the Bathurst 1000 in Australia on Oct. 13. Earlier this year, Rossi drove for Acura Team Penske in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.

This weekend, the winner of the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016 and a perennial contender for the NTT IndyCar Series championship will compete in the Baja 1000 for the second straight year.

Rossi will be driving for the Honda Ridgeline Racing team and is the sixth Indy 500 winner to compete in the Baja 1000.

Other Indy 500 winners who have raced in the SCORE Baja 1000 include Jones, the 1963 Indianapolis winner and a two-time Baja 1000 race winner (1971 72); fellow Honda IndyCar Series driver and Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, the Indy winner in 2014; Rick Mears, who won the Indianapolis 500 four times, 1985 Indy 500 champion Danny Sullivan and 2004 Indy winner Buddy Rice.

NTT IndyCar season champions who have raced in the Baja 1000 include Mears, Hunter-Reay, Sebastien Bourdais, Jimmy Vasser and Paul Tracy.

Rossi has a better understanding of what to expect in this year’s Baja 1000 after last year’s rookie experience.

How valuable was last years’ experience?

“It’s hugely valuable,” Rossi said. “The course changes each year. There will be some elements that are the same, but it’s a new route from start to finish this year. That is why we go down a week early. We do pre-running in a similar type of vehicle and take course notes and analyze each individual section of the course, find the danger areas and what you need to do come race day.

“Ultimately, the biggest thing is having the knowledge of how to prepare for the race and what to expect once you roll off the starting line. That is something I will have going for me this year that I didn’t have last year.”

As an off-road rookie, Rossi acclimated to the demands of desert racing as the Jeff Proctor-led Honda Off-Road Racing Team finished second in Class 7. It was the fourth consecutive time the team finished first or second in the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck at the Baja 1000.

“I don’t know that I can pinpoint any highlights other than just the whole experience,” Rossi said of last years’ experience. “The whole week and a half I had down there in 2018 was phenomenal. The team made me feel part of the family from Day One. I just love driving a desert truck through Baja California. It’s an experience unlike any other.

“The entire event was a highlight more than one specific moment.”

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Driving an off-road Honda Ridgeline through the desert of Baja California in Mexico is vastly different than Rossi’s regular ride in the No. 27 NAPA Honda in the NTT IndyCar Series. But Rossi believes there are many similarities, also.

“It’s very different, for obvious reasons, but ultimately, a race car is a race car,” Rossi said. “It has four wheels, and you are trying to get it from Point A to Point B quicker than other people. The general underlying techniques of getting a car through the corner efficiently is all the same; it’s just a different style.

“Everyone here is very talented at what they do and very good so in order to win this race, you have to be at the top of your game.”

The Baja 1000, like most forms of off-road racing, is more against the clock than a wheel-to-wheel competition such as IndyCar. Rossi believes it is a different form of endurance racing, similar to IMSA in many ways.

“You have to compare it like an endurance race,” Rossi said. “It’s a race where the first part of it, you are trying to get through and not take chances and stay in touch with the people you are trying to stay in touch with.

“When you get down to the final 20 to 30 percent, that is when you try to either close the lead of extend the lead of whatever position you are in. That is similar to the Rolex 24 at Daytona. It comes down to the last three or four hours, and we take a mentality closer to that.

“The only difference is if you get it wrong at Daytona, you spin in the grass. Here, it can be more dramatic than that.”

As an off-road rookie in 2018, Rossi acclimated to the demands of desert racing as the Jeff Proctor-led Honda Off-Road Racing Team finished second in Class 7. It was the fourth consecutive time the team finished first or second in the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck at the Baja 1000.

“The Honda off-road guys and my co-driver/navigator Evan Weller make it so easy for me to just jump right in and go to work,” Rossi said. “I can’t wait to share the seat with Jeff [Proctor] and Pat [Dailey] once again, and hopefully, bring home a win.”

The Honda Off-Road Racing Team has had an outstanding 2019 season, including class wins for the Baja Ridgeline Race Truck at the Parker 425, the Mint 400 and the Baja 500; where the team successfully debuted the second-generation “TSCO” chassis; and a second-place Class 7 finish at the Vegas-to-Reno event.

Proctor won his class in the Baja 1000 in both 2015 and 2016 with the Ridgeline, finished second in class in 2017 and 2018; and won the companion SCORE Baja 500 race both in 2016, 2018 and again earlier this year. The Ridgeline competes in Class 7, for unlimited six-cylinder production-appearing trucks and SUVs.

“We are stoked to have Alexander back racing with us in Mexico for his sophomore attempt at this iconic off-road race,” Proctor said. “This year’s 52nd annual Baja 1000 course covers ALL of the toughest terrain and areas in Baja Norte….as always, it will be tough.

“Alex is one of the brightest motorsports minds I’ve worked with, and he is a great asset to our team.”

The Baja 1000 begins Friday and runs through the weekend along the Baja Peninsula of Mexico.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500