NASIR CONTINUES TO TAUNT THE HOST WITH ALONSOISMS AS HE PREPARES TO ATTEND THE DAYTONA 24 HOURS HAVING SECURED A FEW MOMENTS WITH JUAN PABLO MONTOYA!
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 21, 2020) – The 58th running of the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA sports car endurance classic is five days away. The rhetorical clock is ticking, leading up to Saturday afternoon when the real clock comes into play.
The Rolex 24, the season-opening race for the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, starts at 1:40 p.m. Saturday at Daytona International Speedway. Competitors will then face one of motorsports’ most challenging events, a twice-around-the-clock excursion on the 3.56-mile DIS road course. Four WeatherTech Championship classes – Daytona Prototype international (DPi), Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2), GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) – will vie simultaneously for the overall and the separate class titles.
Beneath that overview of one of motorsports premier races lies a plethora of storylines supporting the undeniable resurgence of the Rolex 24 in recent years. That resurgence has coincided with a reimagined IMSA, which has made the 2014 merger of GRAND-AM Road Racing and the American Le Mans Series a sparkling triumph, to the benefit of North American sports car racing fans.
Each season, it all starts amid the consummate backdrop: the “World Center of Racing” in the city where IMSA was founded in 1969.
Every year at the Rolex 24, the buzz inevitably begins with the entry list. This race is renowned for attracting an all-star field featuring drivers from other racing disciplines such as NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula 1. This year fits the mold as two-time and reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch heads the must-see list, co-driving the No. 14 AIM VASSER SULLIVAN Lexus in the production-based GTD class, making his Rolex 24 debut.
Almost a year has past since BMW i Andretti Motorsport driver Max Guenther failed to finish the 2019 Santiago E-Prix driving for his former team Geox Dragon. But what a difference a year can make. This time around, the BMW driver stormed to victory in a perfectly executed race, moving up from second place before clinching his maiden win after a daring ‘now or never’ move on the final lap.
Today is a dream come true,” said Guenther, visibly relieved after a fraught battle on track which saw him emerge from the fight in first place – his maiden win in the ABB FIA Formula E Championship.
Just less than a year ago, the 22 year old driver was racing with American outfit Geox Dragon, where he failed to finish the Santiago race along with seven other drivers. With record temperatures across the city, the 2019 Santiago race was one of the hottest and challenging on record. But this time around was a very different story.
“For all of us it was about managing the race in hot conditions and it was a straight fight for the win.
“Having not made a great start on the dirty side of the track, which cost me a position, we used the ATTACK MODES very cleverly. That allowed me to take the lead.”
Despite an aggressive drive from DS Techeetah’s Antonio Felix da Costa, which saw him gain the lead temporarily, the young German remained calm and composed pulling off a perfectly executed overtake with seconds to spare.
“In that heat, it was also important to keep an eye on the temperature of the batteries. We did that really well.
“On the final lap, Antonio had to coast a little earlier than me on the straight. I thought to myself ‘now or never’ and went for the overtake. Fortunately, it came off!” said the German driver with a smile.
Now with 25 points to his name, Guenther sits just outside the top three in the championship standings – 13 points off leader Stoffel Vandoorne. Could the youngest driver in the championship claim the title? Time will tell.
CLARK AND NASIR SHARE F1 MEMORIES, WE PREPARE FOR DAYTONA 24 HOURS, ANOTHER GREAT MOTORSPORTS MONDIAL FEATURING THE 1973 F1 SEASON AND HERE IS THE 2020 RENAULT F1 DRIVER ESTEBAN OCON INTERVIEW…
F1Weekly’s exclusive interview with Esteban Ocon at the 2019 Abu Dhabi GP.
“Future is so bright I need some shades.” Things are going great for the young Frenchman. With a little help from Toto and Renault he is back on the track in 2020.
Q. First of all, welcome back to the world of Formula 1. On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you or do we need a bigger scale?
A. “Bigger scale, I think. Thank you for the welcome back but I never really left this F1 world. I was always here as soon as there was an engine firing up. I was here waiting and ready to jump.”
Q. In your brief Formula 1 career so far you were already king of consistency. Moving forward what is the game plan, maximum attack on Daniel Ricciardo or keep calm and carry-on to score many points?
A. “Well, it will be to score as many points as possible. You know that is important in the championship. There are sometimes when you need to take a bit of risk. But you need to think about what you are going to win and what you’re going to lose from that. So, there is always a thought going behind risk-taking.”
Q. Sounds like you are learning from Sebastian and Leclerc?
A. “Why? No, I always thought myself about this, no, no, no. I’ve been driving since a lot of times so I take the experience in obviously.”
Q. We all know Formula 1 is serious dog eat dog world, in terms of driving style are there many similarities between you and Danny, and do you expect any help from him in terms of set up and data sharing?
A. “I don’t know his driving style yet. But for sure I think we will work together with all the engineers, data sharing and all those things will be, of course, normal things. And I hope we can make the team move forward from that.”
Q. Renault won the very first Grand Prix in this world. Are you extra happy to be with a French team?
A. “Yes, yes, more than happy. It’s the team where I grew up with in Enstone since 2010, I was part of the program till 2014 so I really grew up in the factory there and it felt like a story which should not have ended, so I am pretty happy to continue it now.”
Sparks fly when young guns clash. The famous Sao Paulo Samba between Esteban and “force of nature” Max during the 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix.
Q. You and Max were in the news after the 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix. Will there be exchange of Christmas cards in December so we, the race fans, know that everything is cool between the two of you?
A. “We actually had a cool race with the road car on the Pirelli hot laps yesterday. We had two laps of racing, we had good fun and then we had a good laugh when we came out of the car. So, no problem between us.”
Q. Success has been part and parcel of your racing life. From Karting to F3 and GP3, was there a particular season or series where you felt you improved the most?
A. “I think every year has been useful for me to develop myself, of course, some years have been more difficult than others. All in all, I think the more categories you do, the more things you see the more useful it is before coming to F1 because it’s more experience. I don’t think one year is less useful than another, I think they all have been useful.”
Q. Among all the drivers you have raced against from Karting to Formula 1, who stand out as real tough competitors?
A. “I think Max and Charles really. They were the ones where we raced the whole time together. Of course, quick competitors but tough ones also on the track. I think we pushed ourselves forward all our career, basically that helps bring the level up when we arrive into Formula 1. It’s been quite a few years with them.”
Q. From your Karting days what events stand out?
A. “I have been three times French champion. I finished second in the World Series Karting which is like the world championship and those are my main wins.”
Q. When you moved from Karting to single seaters how challenging was the adjustment or did it come naturally to you?
A. “No, it took some time. it took a year to really get very, very comfortable. Of course, I was against a very quick teammate, who was Daniil Kvyat who had three years of racing in single seaters (experience). As soon as I was in my second year I was fighting for the title. From there on it was good.”
Q. Before you got picked up by Gravity management who was guiding your career?
A. “My parents. Then it’s always been Eric Boullier and Gwen, who still works for Mercedes now, still manage the junior program. So, we’ve come a long way since that time.”
Q. In 2020, you remain under Mercedes management. How did this deal happen? Did Toto call you or did you send him a case of French wine?
A. “No, it’s a bit more complicated than that. In 2014, I won the Formula 3 championship and the program got lost a bit, and they ran out of money so I had no program for 2015.
“So, I called Toto and said look, because I met him in that year, I don’t have any possibilities for next year at the moment can you find me something? He said if Lotus can’t do anything for you, I take you under the Mercedes star.
“I waited couple of months and that’s what he did. Definitely thankful for Toto and everything he has been helping on since 2015.”
Q. How was your time in DTM?
A. “I choose back in the day to do that. I wanted to be a professional driver straight away coming from, you know my background. Of course, there was no secure thing if I was going to go to F1. or not and I wanted to be professional straight away.
“In the end it was a fantastic step up because it has good preparation for Formula 1. Back in the days they had tire blankets, full on engineers, cars they were very complicated. Yeah, I went from there to Formula 1 and felt more or less I was doing the same. So, it has been good to do that.”
Q. For 2020, has Renault set any goals for you to achieve?
A. “I think you can probably ask Cyril on what the objective are? In my opinion what we want to achieve is improving from where they are this year and just do better than what they have done. That’s the target, of course, I want to score podiums, that would be fantastic but we will see. Let’s start first and see later.”
Q. Your favorite tracks? I’m guessing Spa is there?
A. “No, Spa is not. I am a bit different than any other driver on that; Suzuka, Budapest, Monaco.”
Q. Do you enjoy racing in the wet?
A. “Yes, very much, very much. Enjoy? Yes and no. But you know when I’m on it I feel at ease really. It’s a condition I like.”
Q. Sadly, grid girls are gone from F1, in your time in F1 which Grand Prix had the best looking chicas de pista?
A. “That was before my time so I don’t know. I can’t really tell you. We still have some kind of grid girls sometimes. It’s good that we also have kids that can have the chance to meet us and all that. I think we probably could have both all in all.”
Q. Do you enjoy meeting fans?
A. “I don’t mind. It’s awesome to see the support. A lot of fans give gifts to me.”
Alonso could only wait and watch as Mathieu Serradori beat him to the win on Stage 8 of the Dakar Rally.
The double World Champion was two minutes ahead of the chasing pack from Wadi Al Dawasir to Wadi Al Dawasir only for Serradori to come through four minutes faster.
Neither the bikes nor quads ran on Monday following the death of Paulo Gonçalves.
Racing from Wadi Al Dawasir to Wadi Al Dawasir over 477ms of dunes and canyons, double F1 World Champion Alonso, competing in his first-ever Dakar, set the pace.
The Spaniard, driving a Toyota Hilux, was sitting top of the pile at the end of the stage with only Serradori still in the hunt.
The Frenchman took 3h48m to complete the stage, beating Alonso by 4m04.
“I’m absolutely delighted,” said Serradori. “It’s a wonderful story. Yesterday’s stage was very complicated – we made a mistake and paid a heavy price. This morning, we pulled our socks up and left everyone behind us.
“I’d like to dedicate this victory to Paulo because I’m a former biker. It’s not easy to get motivated after a day like that and my co-pilot Fabien was there as well. But there are two fighters in the car and I’m very happy with this result.”
Giniel de Villiers was fourth quickest in his Toyota Hilux while Dakar leader Carlos Sainz opened the stage on Monday and almost immediately began to lose time.
He was overhauled on the stage by Nasser Al-Attiyah and Stéphane Peterhansel with defending champion reducing Sainz’s overall to 6m40.
South Africa’s De Villiers remains sixth overall, his deficit to Sainz reduced to 53m12.
Yasir Seaidan lost time when he got his Mini stuck in the sand.
CLARK AND NASIR ARE STUNED BY THE CARLOS GHOSN ESCAPE STORY AND, THIS WEEKS PODCAST BRINGS YOU A GREAT INTERVIEW WITH AUDI SPORT FACTORY DRIVER LOIC DUVAL
NEWS ON DAKAR RALLY STAGE 4…PETERHANSEL WINS STAGE, ALONSO UP TO 20TH
Stephane Peterhansel, known as Mr.Dakar for his 13 wins over the years, overcame the challenges of taking English instructions from Portuguese notes man Paulo Fiuza and a tough couple of days in the office, to move his Mini buggy into the lead midway through the day’s stage.
He then stormed to a powerful Day 4 win over 2019 Dakar winner Nasser Al Attiyah’s Gazoo Toyota Hilux and double world Dakar champion Carlos Sainz in another Mini buggy.
The rally legend emerged unscathed from the dangerous fourth stage, conceding a mere seven minutes to stage winner Peterhansel despite having to open the special. The Spaniard still leads the general classification by three minutes over Al-Attiyah.
Sainz said of his day, “The last 100 kilometres were the toughest sector I’ve ever faced in the Dakar. It was insane. There were rocks all over the place and I could not see the tracks, it was devilish. At times like these, making it to the finish without running into trouble already feels like a win.
SAINZ TAKES THE LEAD ALONSO IMPRESSES IN STAGE THREE
Two-time winner Carlos Sainz became the third new leader of the Dakar Rally after winning the third stage ahead of defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah on Tuesday. Sainz and Al-Attiyah vied for the lead throughout the 427-kilometer loop out from and back to Neom near Saudi Arabia’s northern border with Jordan.
Sainz prevailed after nearly four hours, beating Al-Attiyah by 3 1/2 minutes on a course with a fast first half and mountainous second.
Jakub Przygonski, who endured six hours of mechanical problems on the first stage, was third. Former Formula One driver Fernando Alonso was fifth.
Overnight leader Orlando Terranova was nearly 13 minutes behind Sainz on the stage and dropped to third overall, eight minutes back.
Sainz led Al-Attiyah by nearly five minutes overall.
The motorbike standings had to be modified because of GPS problems. Organisers used the times after 389 kilometres.
That reduced Ricky Brabec’s commanding victory from 10 minutes to six over Honda teammates Jose Ignacio Cornejo and Kevin Benavides.
The change also benefited defending champion Toby Price and Xavier de Soultrait. They were originally 35 and 48 minutes off the pace, but that was reduced to 8 1/2 and nearly 14 and they stayed in the top eight.
Brabec took over the lead in the general standings, nearly five minutes ahead of Benavides. Matthias Walkner was third.
Price was less than 12 minutes back. Ross Branch, the winner of stage two, slammed his back wheel into a rock while taking a corner too wide after 88 kilometres and fell and hurt his shoulder.
He finished, though, unlike others who crashed and had to withdraw, including Guillaume Cholet, Adrien van Beveren, Olaf Harmsen, and Martien Jimmink.
De Soultrait also fell but finished with a tourniquet on his bleeding right arm.