INDYCAR SERIES

FLORIDA FRESH. FIRESTONE GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG.

BOURDAIS AND COYNE RACING ARE HOT ON A COOL BREEZY DAY.

The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series got off to a great start with the opening round won by Sébastien Bourdais over French countryman and 2016 IndyCar champion Simon Pagenaud. Scott Dixon was third, the Kiwi still not successful here after 13 attempts.

Penske-star Will Power started from his seventh St. Pete pole position, next to him was Dixon, the Ganassi team now powered by Honda. Josef Newgarden, the man from Tennessee, qualified on the second row in his first drive for Penske. Sato-san was fifth, having jumped from Foyt’s stable to Andretti Autosports.

Setback & Comeback

Sébastien Bourdais crashed his Coyne operated car in qualifying and was relegated to the back of the grid. Compadre Pagenaud also did not fare well, qualifying only 14th.

Power led the first few laps before the Mayor, James Hinchcliffe, laid down the law and took the lead. This was just the beginning of Power’s problems; a puncture, running over air hose and fuel-feed issues led to his retirement.

Bourdais avoided tangle with other competitors and on lap 37 passed Pagenaud for the lead. The Penske driver started his charge in the closing stages of the race but the ex-Toro Rosso F1 racer kept his cool and gave Coyne racing team a well deserved win, a very happy reunion not only for the two and but also for the driver and crew chief Craig Hampson – the last time they worked together was in their glory days at Newman-Haas.

Behind Dixon in third, Florida native Ryan Hunter-Reay and Takuma Sato completed the top five.

Victory for Le Mans-native & St. Pete-based Bourdais was 36th of his stellar career on this side of the pond and elevates him to 6th on the all time wins list.

Look back

Paul Tracy was the winner of the inaugural St. Petersburg event in 2003, then held under the CART umbrella. Helio Castro Neves is the only three-time winner of the event, 2006/7 & ‘12. And, surprisingly, Graham Rahal is the only American winner.

Penske has been the dominant team here with eight wins, but their winner from the past two years, Juan Pablo Montoya, was missing in action but will be activated by the Captain and self ‘percolated’ during the merry month of May.

American heavy weights in Indy Lights

The future of IndyCar racing is bright as two young Americans won their first race in the series in dominating fashion. The season opening race was led from start to finish from pole position by Wisconsin native Aaron Telitz. Last season he won the Pro Mazda (formerly Star Mazda) championship.

F1Weekly will feature an exclusive interview with this young talent in an upcoming podcast.

On Sunday, second generation and 16-year-old driver Colton Herta took victory after a race long duel with Santiago Urrutia, the Uruguayan driver is in his second year in the series. Colton made papa Bryan proud by becoming the youngest ever winner in Indy Lights history.

— Nasir Hameed

Photo: IndyCar.com

WRC

A MAIDEN WIN AND HIGH HOPES

Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle emerged victorious in Mexico to claim the Citroën C3 WRC’s first win. Secured on gravel – the surface on which the majority of the World Championship is contested – this result confirms the potential of the car developed by Yves Matton’s troops. The season is now really up and running for Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, which will be entering three cars at the forthcoming Tour de Corse.

THE STORY OF THE RACE: BREATHTAKING RIGHT TO THE FINISH!

From the very outset, it seemed that this year’s Rally Mexico would be like no other. To begin with, the organisers managed to pull off something of a feat in holding a super special stage right in the middle of Mexico City, on the famous Zócalo square. Despite the rain, this new experience gave fans in the huge city an exclusive opportunity to witness the WRCs up close.

Unfortunately, the journey back to the service park in León, 400km from the capital, ended in disarray. A road traffic accident unrelated to the rally led to the road being closed, leaving the convoy transporting the cars stranded for several hours overnight. Their late arrival back in León resulted in the first two stages on Friday morning being cancelled.

The race therefore only really began with the rally’s 55km-long marathon stage, El Chocolate. Making the most of his tyre choice and a good starting position, Kris Meeke grabbed the stage win to move into the overall lead. The Briton also won one of the evening’s super special stages to end the first full day as leader, having already established a healthy 20.9s lead over Sébastien Ogier.

Meanwhile, in the other Citroën C3 WRC, Stéphane Lefebvre also made a good start to the race. He ended the day sixth overall, following the plan drawn up for him by the team to the letter on his first appearance at Rally Mexico in a WRC. However, the young Frenchman was then forced to retire in somewhat unfortunate circumstances on day three. Following a minor error, the no.8 C3 ended up stuck on a slope just off the road on a corner on SS10. The car was undamaged in the incident, so he was able to rejoin the next day under Rally2 rules.

Meanwhile, Kris Meeke continued his dominant display, tying for first place on El Brinco (SS11) and setting the fastest aggregate time over the morning’s stages. On the second pass, he claimed a stage win on Lajas de Oro (SS13) and extended his lead over Sébastien Ogier to 30.9s.

On Sunday, there “only” remained two stages to complete in order to see out this maiden win for the Citroën C3 WRC. On El Calera, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT drivers scored an impressive team result, with Meeke taking the stage win and Lefebvre finishing third.
On the Derramadero Power Stage, Kris Meeke looked like he was on course to seal the victory… when he went off the road just a few corners from the finishing line! The Northern Irishman ran wide after a big compression, through the hedge and into the middle of spectator car park! He nonetheless stayed calm, managed to find a way back onto the road within a few seconds and made it across the finishing line to win the rally by 13.8s!

After such an incredibly dramatic, stressful finish to the race, there were scenes of joy and excitement in the Citroën Racing team and they celebrated with Meeke and Nagle at a very noisy, passionate podium ceremony in León.