I’m Watching… 19/20 May 2018

These are some of the things that I’ve been watching.

  • IndyCar:  Indy 500 Qualifying
  • MotoGP:  Jerez and Le Mans
  • Formula E:  Berlin

IndyCar:  Indy 500 Qualifications

Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

What a shocker! James Hinchcliffe, title contender, 5th in points, fails to qualify for one of the biggest races in the world. As he said, they can’t blame other teams. First they got caught out as the first to run after the rain. They screwed up the next run with a wheel weight problem, then screwed up again by thinking the session ended at 6pm rather than 5:50pm.

I am torn. On the one hand, big stars should be in the show. There’s no safety aspect here, he’s James Hinchcliffe. On the other hand, he failed to qualify! Qualifying for the Indy 500 means something, it is supposed to be a big deal that you don’t make it, so I’m glad they won’t buy out another entry.

More understandably, Pippa Mann was the other non-qualifier, but that’s no reflection on her. The highly-rated Conor Daly, would’ve been in the same position had Hinchliffe got a clear run. Daly and Mann had the slowest cars in the entry list, the two backup cars for Dale Coyne Racing. Teams spend countless hours on the tinest details, sanding the cars, smoothing the joins, on and on, which wouldn’t have happened so much with those two cars as with the full-time cars.

It would be easy to pick on Mann, but this was her best-funded effort yet and as detailed in this excellent podcast a tremendous amount of work goes into it, despite seriously lacking staff. All the cars have a lot of work, of course they do, but that (long!) interview really opened my eyes into what it takes for any one-off entry at Indy. As it turns out in Mann’s blog, they found the problem later. At the time they only had an hour to figure it out, so would’ve had a shot at getting in on Sunday if those rules still applied.

Up front, the next day the qualifiers ran again. Positions 33 to 10 went first and the order was shuffled a little, particularly by Zachary Claman de Melo who set a great early time to move himself a long way forward – and conversely Alexander Rossi and Ed Jones who each had one terrible lap among their four laps and dropped to the back.

Ed Carpenter was cheered to a popular Pole Position in dominant style, besting the four Penske runners and even getting his own two team-mates up there as well. Danica Patrick 7th in her final ‘500’ I’m sure proved many doubters wrong! The top 9 position awarded points.

And congratulations to Carlin Racing for qualifying both cars into the top 20 in their first year.

1st  Ed Carpenter (Carpenter Chevy) 9 points;
2nd  Simon Pagenaud (Penske Chevy) 8;
3rd  Will Power (Penske Chevy) 7;

184  Josef Newgarden (Team Penske / Chevrolet);
176  Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport / Honda);
157  Sebastian Bourdais (Dale Coyne / Honda);
148  Scott Dixon (Ganassi / Honda);
144  James Hinchcliffe (Schmidt Peterson / Honda);

Rahal 6th on 142. Power up to 7th with 135, with Wickens 2 points back.

Next round:  Indianapolis 500, 27th May

MotoGP:  Jerez and Le Mans

Jerez, Spain and Le Mans, France

Two races this week as I get caught up.

Jerez:  Crutchlow on pole, though Lorenzo took the lead at T1 with Cal dropping to 5th. Pedrosa was the man giving chase until Marquez muscled his way through. Zarco was up there until he wasn’t!

18 laps to go Crutchlow hits the gravel, the bike fell away from under him. Later the same lap Marquez took Lorenzo for the lead and edged a lead. Dovizioso on harder tyres caught Lorenzo and Pedrosa quickly but struggled to get through.

Out! Lorenzo, Dovizioso and Pedrosa had been fighting for lap after lap – and they take each other out! Unreal. Just a racing incident, the Ducatis went out wide and the middle one clipped Pedrosa. Marquez was left to take a distant win.

Result:  Marquez, Zarco, Iannone, Petrucci, Rossi, Miller

Le Mans: Zarco on pole at home but dropped to 5th by the Dunlop chicane – yet at turn 3 he dove past them to reclaim 2nd! While Iannone crashed out. Lorenzo led.

Dovizioso took the lead and two corners later crashed out! A couple of laps later, Zarco – battling Marquez for 2nd, fell off as well, crushingly so as a home podium was definitely on.

The rider who impressed me was Petrucci. He was already up there early on, so when Marquez passed Lorenzo he went through not long after. Marquez yet again cruised away to a distant win. Petrucci claimed 2nd, Rossi worked his way up to 3rd from 8th. Lorenzo dropped a way back after losing his early speed.

Crutchlow crashed badly in qualifying, stayed overnight in hospital and was somehow allowed to start – thankfully he took it relatively easily this race and rode around in 14th or so, since if he crashed again he’d be in a world of hurt. He got faster in the end, picked a few off and with others falling out he wound up 8th, so it was worth doing it!

Result:  Marquez, Petrucci, Rossi, Miller, Pedrosa, Lorenzo.

95  Marc Marquez (Honda)   3 wins
59  Maverick Vinales (Yamaha)
58  Johann Zarco (Tech 3 Yamaha)
56  Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)
54  Danilo Petrucci (Pramac Ducati)

Three wins in a row for Marc, is this championship over already?

Formula E:  Berlin ePrix

Flughafen Berlin-Tempelhof

Daniel Abt on pole at home alongside Oliver Turvey. At the start from a few rows back Rosenqvist came from miles back and went very wide, dropping near to the back.

Despite my expectations some good passing early on. Nick Heidfeld doing a particularly good job. Good battles all through the race – di Grassi and Buemi both got ahead of Vergne by lap 12, Lucas also taking Turvey for 2nd.

The cars definitely seem to be faster on the main straight – is the lift-and-coast happening later?

After the pit stops the Audi pair had a clear lead from Turvey who’d pitted slightly earlier, but Vergne and Buemi despatched him in the second stint. Slightly less fun second half, apart from some tense racing 8th to 14th and the final point. Andre Lotterer impressively, from last and with a pit time penalty, fought up to 9th!

Result:  Abt, di Grassi, Vergne, Buemi, Turvey

162  Jean-Eric Vergne  3 wins
122  Sam Bird  2 wins
86  Felix Rosenqvist  2 wins
85  Daniel Abt  2 wins
82  Sebastien Buemi

With just Zurich and the double-header in New York to go, the race now is for 2nd. JEV hasn’t wrapped it up just yet. It is more open in the teams race with Audi Sport Abt on a real roll they could catch up – but with Lotterer now up to speed for Techeetah they may not!

205  Techeetah
161  Audi Sport Abt
139  DS Virgin

Coming Up

Motorsport Christmas!

  • Monaco Grand Prix;
  • Indianapolis 500;
  • NASCAR Charlotte;
  • F2 Monaco;
  • Indy Lights Indianapolis (Friday);
  • World Superbike Donington Park;
  • Super Formula Sugo;
  • World RallyCross Silverstone;
  • British GT Snetterton;
  • PWC Lime Rock;
  • 24H Series 12H Imola;

A bigger preview to follow Thursday/Friday.

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