Gazelles Rally

Gazelles 2013 Ralley

AÏCHA DES GAZELLES RALLY: FOUR RENAULT EMPLOYEES FINISH IN FIRST AND SECOND PLACE

  • After 15 days of racing, six stages and 12 to 14 hours of orientation a day, the eight “Gazelles” in the [email protected] team all crossed the finish line in Essaouira on March 30 at the wheel of their Dacia Dusters.
  • In teams of two, the six employees finished in first, second and ninth place in the Crossover category. The Renault team competing in the 4×4/Truck category came fifteenth out of 127.
  • Renault’s third consecutive participation in the Aïcha des Gazelles Rally is part of the [email protected] plan aimed at promoting women in the company.

Some 300 competitors took part in the 23rd “Gazelles Rally”, an orientation race based on smarts and endurance. After 15 days of racing, the four Renault teams each drove an average 2,500 kilometers in their Dacia Dusters, which were specially adapted for the event. “We are proud of the rankings of our ‘Gazelles’. Day after day they showed tremendous commitment, courage, generosity and solidarity, in a race that was full of surprises and unexpected turnarounds,” said Claire Martin, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Renault and member of the Ethics Committee of the Aïcha des Gazelles Rally.

Crossover category

Anne-Sophie Cally and Paulina Hachoud (team 317) finished first in the Crossover category.

We are thrilled with our experience in the rally, even if we would have liked to be more daring! Sometimes you get the same feeling that you have when you’re skiing, slaloming between clumps of camel grass. Our hands were constantly in action and our eyes constantly on the lookout!”

Laetitia Rodier and Sylvie Quittot (team 316) came second out of the 12 teams in the category.

We started to feel tired as the rally went on because we didn’t have a minute’s rest. We had to keep a constant eye on the road – looking out for potholes and bumps and stones – and a firm grip on the fluttering map. We’re exhausted but delighted and proud to have completed the race! For us this rally is all about going beyond your limits.”

Saida Benhamida and Safae Challal (team 315) finished ninth.

We actually surprised ourselves in this race! When we got stuck in a wadi we worked with the other cars to push ourselves out of trouble. Duster is very impressive – it can take you places where other cars can’t! If we had been alone, we would definitely have chosen to take the track around the obstacle. But together we got past it. That’s also what the Rally des Gazelles is about!”

4X4 / Truck category

Team 118, namely Mélanie Suchet and Catherine Houlès, came 15th out of the 127 teams competing in the 4×4/Truck category.

BTCC

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ANDREW JORDAN TAKES POLE POSITION…

Honda Civic racer claims third pole position of his BTCC career

Andrew Jordan took the opening pole position of the 2013 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship amid a shower of sleet at a cold Brands Hatch.
 
Jordan fired an early warning by setting the fastest time during free practice in the morning, and he backed that up by edging out champion Gordon Shedden by less than a tenth of a second in qualifying.
 
The MG KX Momentum duo of Jason Plato and Sam Tordoff will line-up third and fifth respectively for Sunday’s opening race, with Honda Yuasa Racing’s Matt Neal sandwiched between them in fourth. David Newsham rounded out the top six in his Speedworks Motorsport Toyota Avensis.
 
The session got off to a dramatic start with a number of drivers spinning on their out-laps while trying to get some heat into the tyres. The first notable victim was Pirtek’s Jeff Smith on the run up to Druids, but real chaos followed when Colin Turkington lost control on the exit of the same hairpin. As cars dived one way and then the other to avoid the stricken BMW 125i M Sport, an unsighted Jack Goff unfortunately collected the 2009 champion. Turkington managed to hobble his damaged BMW back to the pits but the Vauxhall Insignia of Goff wasn’t so fortunate – his car was unable to continue after the contact. Liam Griffin and David Nye both endured their own lurid moments while trying to avoid Turkington, but were able to re-join later in the session.
 
After a red flag period to clear the Goff’s car and related debris, it was the turn of some of the underdogs to top the times early after the restart. Rob Austin (Audi A4) and Tom Onslow-Cole (VW Passat CC) both enjoyed spells at the top of the timesheet before eBay Motors’ Rob Collard made his own move to provisional pole.
 
The Hondas and MGs were merely waiting in the wings however, and it was Jordan that made the first move with 20 minutes of the session remaining. Shedden fought back and made his first appearance at the top of the order with a 48.483s lap time. Not to be outdone, Jordan improved again to set a time just 0.096s quicker than his Honda counterpart. 
 
With half of the session still remaining, any hope for an exciting climax diminished when light sleet and hail began to fall at the legendary Kent venue. With drivers failing to improve their times there were more off-track moments for Neal, Newsham and Jeff Smith.
 
Outside of the noted top six finishers, it was Austin who held on to seventh when the chequered flag fell, with Jeff Smith, Nick Foster and Adam Morgan completing the top ten grid order.
 
Airwaves Racing’s Mat Jackson and Aron Smith could only produce 12th and 14th respectively as the team admitted to be searching for the perfect set-up for its NGTC Ford Focus. Another to endure a problematic session was Dynojet’s Frank Wrathall after a ride height infringement saw his top ten time removed and he’ll subsequently start at the back of the grid.
 
Lea Wood dominated the S2000 runners in his Vauxhall Vectra and will have the pleasure of leading the inaugural battle for Jack Sears Trophy honours when race one gets underway tomorrow. 
 
The big winner, however, was Jordan who signalled his intention to challenge for the 2013 title by claiming the third pole position of his BTCC career. He also leads the championship after scoring the first point of the new season for taking pole.

Andrew Jordan said: “It’s nice to qualify on pole, obviously it’s the only time that everyone will have no ballast so it’s a complete level playing field. We’ve been quick in testing, and earlier today we did a race run and the pace was really good then as well. That was really the easy part though – tomorrow’s the hard part. We’ve got a lot of work still to do, but we’ve started in the right place.” 
 
Gordon Shedden said: “That’s got to be one of the strangest sessions I’ve driven in for a long time. It was definitely the first session I’ve qualified in where it snowed! We’re on the front row which is a great place to be. You’re never going to win the championship at Round 1 but you can make life really difficult for yourself. It’s great to be at the sharp end and with three Honda Civics in the top four, and I’m sure there are going to be three exciting races tomorrow so I cant wait.”
 
Jason Plato said: “I’m a bit frustrated with qualifying to be honest. There were just lots of cars out there not paying attention and I didn’t get a clear lap in. On my last lap I had purple sectors until the last corner and I got badly baulked – so I’m a bit frustrated that I didn’t reach my full potential and didn’t get the best out of the car otherwise I think we could have had a good chance at pole. Still, we’re not far off so we’ve still got a chance to win from there.”

There will be three Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship races at Brands Hatch tomorrow (31 March) with the opener taking place at 11:45. All three races will be broadcast live on ITV4 and ITV4 HD with the coverage commencing at 10:45.

 
2013 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – Brands Hatch Indy – Qualifying
 
1 Andrew Jordan (Pirtek Honda) 48.387
2 Gordon Shedden  (Honda Yuasa Racing) +0.096
3 Jason Plato (MG KX Momentum Racing) +0.184
4 Matt Neal (Honda Yuasa Racing) +0.227
5 Sam Tordoff (MG KX Momentum Racing) +0.339
6 Dave Newsham (Speedworks Motorsport) +0.440
7 Rob Austin (WIX Racing) +0.457
8 Jeff Smith (Pirtek Honda) +0.527
9 Nick Foster (eBay Motors)  +0.814
10 Adam Morgan (Ciceley Racing) +0.816

DTM

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MARCO WITTMANN ON TOP IN FINAL DAY OF TESTING –

Barcelona – Marco Wittmann made for the final fastest lap time the of the official four-day ITR tests at Barcelona. On Friday, in perfect weather conditions with temperatures of about 21.5° C, the DTM rookie hat was the quickest driver at the Circuit de Catalunya. He set his fastest time as early as in the morning session by crossing the line of the circuit’s 2.977-kilometre version with his BMW M3 DTM in 1:06.451 minutes.

Second position on the time sheets of day four was secured by Pascal Wehrlein, who is about to contest his first season on the grid of the most popular international touring-car series – just as Wittmann. With his DTM Mercedes AMG C-Coupé, 18-year old Wehrlein set a personal fastest lap time of 1:06.687 minutes and was the fastest in the afternoon session – but finished 0.235 seconds behind Wittmann, in the end. Christian Vietoris (Mercedes-Benz) came third, with his personal fastest lap time of1:06,706 minutes, followed by the best Audi driver, Timo Scheider. The fastest lap time Scheider achieved with his RS 5 DTM (1:06,844 minutes) was 0.393 seconds slower than the one of Wittmann.

Thanks to Wittmann, BMW also secured one of the fastest lap times on the Barcelona time sheets. On the previous three days, the fastest lap times were secured by the two Mercedes-Benz drivers Robert Wickens (Tuesday/1:06.735 minutes) and Gary Paffett (Wednesday/1:06.149) as well as Audi’s new signing Jamie Green (Thursday/1:07.171). So, Paffett also proved to be the quickest of the entire four days of testing. While the fastest man on Friday also was the busiest: Marco Wittmann completed 220 laps, representing a total mileage of 654.94 kilometres, on a single day of testing at Barcelona.

Prior to the season kick-off, held on 05th May at the Hockenheimring Baden-Württemberg, the teams of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz will have another four days of testing for their preparations for the coming season. From 09th to 12th April, Hockenheim will be the venue of the second and final ITR tests, with the 09th April also representing the official DTM Media Day.

On the four days of the first official ITR tests, the teams and drivers gathered a lot of – predominantly positive – experiences with two technical innovations. The one innovation were the new Hankook option tyres and the other the new Drag Reduction System, DRS, that allows the drivers to change the adjustment of the rear wing for a certain amount of time to temporarily increase their top speed.

Quotes after day four:

Timo Scheider (Audi): “Being back at the wheel of a racing car after such a long time was fantastic. First of all I had to familiarise myself with the DTM car but I succeeded in doing so very well. It may sound like a standard comment but we completed 90 percent of our scheduled programme. Nonetheless, it is extremely difficult to make reliable assessments. It was sunny at warm, at times, and then again overcast and colder. Therefore, the track conditions differed a lot. On Friday afternoon I covered my first kilometres with the option tyres – and they represented a huge positive surprise. Driving the DTM car on these tyres is truly big fun. Afterwards, you just don’t want to switch back to the standard tyres. And the DRS also makes an impact. I think it was time for making some changes. The fans want to see overtaking manoeuvres and both the DRS and the option tyres will be helpful to achieve this goal.”

Andy Priaulx (BMW): “Contesting such a test with your new team is really nice. We used the time to get to know one another better – and I quickly found a good rhythm. I definitely will leave Barcelona with a lot of positive experiences under my belt. The option tyre is quick and rather consistent. And when you go out again on the standard tyres after a stint on the options you have to re-adapt. That’s an interesting challenge.”

Christian Vietoris (Mercedes-Benz): “I had two rather positive days of testing. We had no technical problems whatsoever and consequently, we could make optimum use of the time by gaining a lot of important insights. And in this year, with the limited test time available to us, this is of particular importance. The crew also cooperated fantastically and did a great job. I’ve also got a very positive feeling regarding the DRS but at this point in time it’s difficult to say how big the advantage will be, in the end.”

Le Mans

Alpine at Paul Ricard 2013

NEW ALPINE HITS THE TRACK AT PAUL RICARD –

Less than three weeks after the announcement of Alpine’s return to motorsport by Renault’s Chief Operations Officer Carlos Tavares, the N°36 Alpine made its track debut this week. 

The programme’s three drivers – Nelson Panciatici, Pierre Ragues and Tristan Gommendy – took advantage of the official European Le Mans Series pre-season test at Circuit Paul Ricard, France, to get their first taste of the newcomer ahead of the 2013 campaign. 

The chief objectives of the session were to test the changes made to the Alpine’s chassis and optimise its set-up to function with the latest Michelin rubber. Different tyres were evaluated in daylight and after nightfall in order to prepare for the opening rounds of the European Le Mans Series, as well as for the Le Mans 24 Hours. 

In addition the technical groundwork, the three drivers used the session to find their marks in the N°36 Alpine and prepare the ground for forthcoming developments. Wednesday morning’s performance run saw Nelson Panciatici claim the fastest time of the two days. 

I am pleased with the work we were able to get in,” observed Signatech-Alpine’s Team Principal Philippe Sinault. “We tested the reliability of a high number of parts and also worked on the different new-spec tyres our partner Michelin had brought for us to evaluate. The next step will be to look at all the data before choosing the tyres we will race this year. Another important point was that all three riders were able to enjoy track time and Wednesday morning’s encouraging run allowed us to target a quick lap time. It’s all looking good for the beginning of the season.” 

Nelson Panciatici: “We made good progress with Michelin. I did a number of runs with different options and I believe we succeeded in collecting some useful information. We are working in the right direction and I hope that will pay off at Silverstone!” 

Pierre Ragues: “Every day brings us closer to Alpine’s first race. The team has worked very hard over the winter and this week’s test enabled us to make good progress with Michelin’s new tyres. It’s all feeling very positive, so let’s hope it all comes together at Silverstone!”  

Tristan Gommendy: “My aim during these two days was to familiarise myself with the N°36 Alpine. I need to find my marks with both the car and the team. We worked on typical endurance racing-type stints without any particular pressure. It’s just the start of an exciting new adventure!” 

The two-day official test also provided Alpine’s junior driver Paul-Loup Chatin with a chance to get in some track time. He forms part of Signatech-Alpine’s 2013 line-up and has been named as the reserve driver for the N°36 Alpine at Le Mans. He will also drive an LMPC car in the European Le Mans Series.

BTCC

BTCC 2013 Grid

BUMPER BTCC GRID GEARS UP FOR SEASON OPENER – UK’s premier motor racing championship roars into Brands Hatch

The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship roars into Brands Hatch, Kent, this weekend (30/31 March) for the opening round of the 2013 season.
 
Fresh from confirming a record – and capacity – 32-car grid and a new television broadcasting deal with ITV that takes live coverage up to at least 2017, the BTCC is leading a bright new era of touring car racing. Adding to the anticipation of the new campaign is the fact that there’ll be four champions on the grid, with returning 2009 victor Colin Turkington joining reigning champion Gordon Shedden and multiple title winners Matt Neal and Jason Plato.
 
In total an incredible 13 models from 11 different marques are entered, including both Honda and MG as official Manufacturer teams, with no fewer than 26 of the unprecedented number entering with the BTCC’s latest NGTC-spec machinery.
 
A further addition to the championship is the introduction of a new ‘soft’ tyre compound from Dunlop – similar to those used in Formula 1 – which will see drivers in NGTC-spec cars having one set at their disposal over the weekend. These tyres will offer a variation in performance to the standard compound tyre and must be used in one of the three races at each event. Teams must nominate, prior to Saturday’s qualifying session, which particular race they elect to use them. Drivers in the older S2000 machines will also still have plenty to play for as they contest the inaugural Jack Sears Trophy throughout the 2013 season.
 
Brands Hatch is steeped in motor sport tradition and has seen its fair share of BTCC history created over the years, none more recently than when Gordon Shedden claimed the 2012 title on the legendary Grand Prix circuit last October. The 2013 season kicks off on the Indy configuration of the circuit, however, and the statistics do not fair well for reigning champion Shedden (Honda Yuasa Racing Team), as the Scotsman has never won a BTCC race at Brands.
 
The master of the tight and twisty 1.2 miles of tarmac is Jason Plato (MG KX Momentum Racing), with the double champ having won no fewer than 12 rounds there during his career. Unsurprisingly Plato is closely followed by triple champion and title rival Matt Neal (Honda Yuasa Racing Team), on 10 wins, and Neal will be aiming to gun down Plato’s record this weekend.
 
On the subject of title contenders, the return of Colin Turkington to the BTCC created huge interest over the winter. The Irishman is reunited with West Surrey Racing – who he raced for during his 2009 championship winning campaign – but this time he’ll be driving in an all-new BMW 125i M Sport under the eBay Motors banner.
 
Independents’ Champion Andrew Jordan is another who’ll be aiming for overall honours this year in his Pirtek Racing Honda Civic, and there’ll be huge local interest, too, with Airwaves Racing also targeting the title. Mat Jackson leads the driver line-up for the Wrotham-based squad, with the 2008 BTCC runner-up looking to go one better this season. Other local teams gunning for glory this weekend are Dartford’s Team HARD. and West Thurrock outfit AmDTuning.com.
 
The event is always one of the region’s biggest sporting events of the year, with the weekend getting underway with two practice sessions and qualifying on the Saturday. A huge crowd is then expected to brave the chilly conditions currently blanketing the nation for the hugely exciting triple-header of races on Sunday. For those that cannot make the event – ITV4 HD will be broadcasting more than six hours of live coverage throughout the day from 10:45am.
 
A stellar cast will also support the BTCC over the weekend, producing no fewer than 12 further races, arguably led by the return of single-seater formula racing to the bill. The Dunlop MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain, which launched the careers of a host of top drivers including Ayrton Senna and Jenson Button, will provide three races across the weekend, as will the Michelin Ginetta GT Supercup, whilst Porsche Carrera Cup GB, Renault UK Clio Cup and Ginetta Junior Championship will all enjoy double-headers.
 
With advanced bookings now closed, Saturday is priced at £13 for adults and £10 for Senior Citizens on the gate. Sunday tickets are priced at adults £31 and Senior Citizens £20. Admission for accompanied children aged 12 and under is FREE all weekend. All admission includes access to Sunday morning’s autograph session with the BTCC drivers in the pit lane as well as free parking. Brands Hatch will also have big screens in place for fans to keep fully abreast of all the action via ITV4’s live race day broadcast.

Formula 1

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SAHARA FORCE INDIA AND MERCEDES-BENZ ANNOUNCE LONG-TERM POWERTRAIN SUPPLY AGREEMENT

Sahara Force India and Mercedes-Benz are delighted to announce the signature of a long-term agreement for the Silverstone-based team to use a full Mercedes-Benz powertrain from the 2014 season onwards.

The agreement will see Mercedes-Benz supply Sahara Force India with a complete Power Unit (Internal Combustion Engine plus Energy Recovery System), transmission and all associated ancillary systems under the new regulations for 2014.

Mercedes-Benz entered the era of customer engine supply in 2009 with the Silverstone-based team and this close working relationship is now in its fifth season. These historic links and the growing competitiveness of Sahara Force India helped pave the way for an expansion of the existing partnership to also include the supply of the gearbox and hydraulic systems.

Dr Vijay Mallya, Team Principal and Managing Director of Sahara Force India: “Our new agreement with Mercedes-Benz for the coming years is the most significant in the history of Sahara Force India. With new powertrain regulations being introduced next year, I can’t think of a better partner to work with as Formula One enters a new and exciting era. The agreement gives us the long-term stability we require and will enable us to continue our journey towards the front of the Formula One grid.=

Toto Wolff, Executive Director of MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS: “It is a significant milestone to announce our first long-term agreement for powertrain supply under the 2014 regulations. Sahara Force India was our first genuine customer in Formula One back in 2009 and we are delighted to enter an expanded, long-term relationship with them from 2014 onwards. This long-term agreement offers excellent value in terms of the balance between price and performance. We hope it will mean Mercedes-Benz and Sahara Force India working together for the entire life cycle of the new powertrain generation.”