International And South African News Round Up

Tribute To Nicky Hayden

MotoAmerica has issued the following statement following the tragic death of former MotoGP champion Nicky Hayden following a bicycle training accident in Italy:

‘MotoAmerica would like to express its deepest sympathies to the Hayden family following the tragic passing of Nicky Hayden this morning.

‘It goes without saying that Nicky was America’s biggest road racing icon of his generation, accomplishing the sport’s highest levels of achievement. We were privileged to watch him hone his talents on dirt tracks across the country before his next step of becoming an AMA Supersport Champion and then the youngest AMA Superbike Champion in history.

‘In 2005, we watched him win his first MotoGP at Laguna Seca and a year later he won the U.S. Grand Prix again, this time en route to winning the World Championship after a battle to the final round with Valentino Rossi.

‘Hayden’s and his family’s contributions to the sport of motorcycle racing, particularly in the U.S., will forever be remembered and cherished. Nicky and the Hayden family will always hold a special place in the hearts of racing fans around the world and MotoAmerica will honor his legacy throughout the 2017 season.

“I’ve known Nicky and his family since they started taking road racing seriously,” MotoAmerica President Wayne Rainey said. “His natural dirt tracking talent made his transition to road racing seamless. Nicky worked hard, but his passion and desire to be the best was as strong as his work ethic.

Rossi Feels Cheated
Valentino Rossi feels Yamaha MotoGP team-mate Maverick Vinales “cheated him a little bit” by cutting the track on the penultimate lap of their French Grand Prix battle.

The fight for victory at Le Mans boiled down to a straight fight between the two works Yamaha riders in the closing stages, with Rossi passing long-time leader Vinales with three laps remaining. Rossi was unable to shake off Vinales, and ran wide at Garage Vert on the final lap of the race to let the Spaniard through before crashing out at Turn 11.

Valentino Rossi Movistar Yamaha MotoGP
photo: MICHELIN

A lap prior, Vinales had cut the Chemin aux Boeufs chicane while chasing Rossi, rejoining the track seemingly without sacrificing much time.

Rossi believes he could have avoided the error that ended up costing him the race had he been further in the clear.

“I did not see it, but he cheated me a little bit by cutting the track,” said Rossi, who was handed a 0.5-second time penalty at Austin for cutting the track while battling Johann Zarco.

“I did a very fast lap – I think 1m32.3s – but he cut the track in sector three and caught back up to me when I had a little bit of advantage.

“If I passed the finish line four tenths ahead, maybe I would not have made the mistake.

Alonso 5th on Indy Grid
Scott Dixon set Indy’s fastest four-lap qualifying average since Arie Luyendyk’s record pole in 1996, to claim the third IMS pole position of his career, as Fernando Alonso performed very strongly on his IndyCar debut to grab fifth.

The 2008 Indy 500 winner Dixon three times sent his Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda around the 2.5-mile oval at over 232mph to set an average of 232.164mph. His opening lap of 232.595 was the fastest qualifying lap seen at Indianapolis Motor Speedway since Luyendyk’s one-lap stunner of 237mph, also in 1996.

Dixon’s four-lap average was precisely 0.5mph faster than two-times Indy polesitter Ed Carpenter, who claimed second and pushed the defending Indy 500 champion Alexander Rossi to the outside of the front row.

McLaren Honda Andretti entrant Alonso was told to hold the gearbox in fifth on his second lap, having used sixth on his opening lap. Afterward he reported that the car was too loose, too.

“Today the car was better than yesterday,” said Alonso, “more a better balance and I felt more confident, but we had an overboost problem in the last corner, so the engine was hitting the ‘brakes’ out of the corner, so I think I lost a little bit of speed into the main straight. Nothing we can change now.

“The guys did an amazing job this morning, they changed the engine in an hour and a half – a record time. The car performed perfectly.”

Asked if he had had any moments at Turn 2, he replied: “Every single lap – so I had four moments

Signature Debut Win

Bradley Liebenberg gave the Signature Motorsport MINI John Cooper Works its debut win in the GTC2 Championship held at East London circuit. The Ferodo MINI not only qualified on pole position by a slender 0.076 seconds over its nearest rival, but led the first heat at the ultra-fast Eastern Cape circuit to win by two seconds.

Picture: David Ledbitter

It was a hard-fought victory for Liebenberg, for he was passed by Kosie Wyers (Chevrolet Cruze) under braking for Turn Three. Liebenberg let the gap to the leader grow as he found his rhythm and pounced on lap four and pulled away. With two laps to go, Liebenberg braked late and ran wide which allowed Wyers to close up to the MINI’s rear bumper in a tense race to the flag.

Bradley Liebenberg said “The team has done so much work and these wins are for them. Qualifying on pole gave me a huge confidence boost as I knew we had the car and the speed to compete. ”.

Robertson Extends His Lead

Devin Robertson powered his Payen Volkswagen Polo to a comfortable victory in the second race of the closely-fought Volkswagen Cup which visited the East London Grand Prix Circuit for round three. In a cruel twist of fate, Devin led the first race for nine of the ten laps, plummeting to 14th across the line after a coil wire broke on the final lap.

His second heat race was a masterful drive, picking off his rivals by the lap, benefiting when two of them both missed a gear at the same time, easing his fight to the front of the field.

Picture: David Ledbitter

The Payen-backed Polo was fast all weekend, taking pole position and retaining that position during the super-pole shootout, which determines grid slots for the first heat. The former champion extended his championship lead as his main rival, while finishing nine places ahead in race one was forced to retire from race two. In addition, Devin banked the point for setting the fastest race lap in heat two.

Speaking afterwards Robertson said: “Race two was great: I picked the guys off one per lap and had a good chuckle when Jeffrey (Kruger) and Matt missed a gear at the same time. Thereafter it was pretty much plain sailing”.

Hyundai Land WRC Podium Double

Hyundai Motorsport has claimed its second double podium of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) on Sunday 22 May with Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo completing Rally de Portugal in second and third positions respectively.

It is Hyundai’s first-ever Portuguese podium finish and the sixth time in the team’s history where it has had two crews on the podium. It also continues Hyundai’s run of top-three finishes this year after a third in Mexico, a first and third place in Corsica, and victory at the previous round in Argentina.

Picture: quickpic.co.za

All three Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team crews scored stage wins over the past weekend with Hayden Paddon and Neuville notching up four apiece, and Sordo also taking one. It is the first rally this season where all crews have achieved the feat and represents one of the team’s most successful rallies to date in terms of stage wins, with nine in total.

With the weekend’s result, Hyundai Motorsport maintains second place in the manufacturer’s championship on 173 points, and keeps up the pressure on leaders M-Sport, who are 26 points ahead on 199. Neuville has moved into second place in the drivers’ championship, with a total of 106 after 6 rounds of the season.

Toyota Gazoo Have Car Will Travel

The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Rally Challenge drivers and co-drivers were competing at opposite ends of Europe last weekend, on the FIA World Rally Championship round in Portugal and the latest event on the Finnish Rally Championship at the Riihimäki Rally in southern Finland.
Japanese drivers Takamoto Katsuta and Hiroki Arai contested Rally Portugal, each at the wheel of a Ford Fiesta R5, co-driven by Marko Salminen and Glenn Macneall respectively. Katsuta eventually finished 12th in the WRC2 category, while Arai retired. In Finland, Japanese co-driver Sayaka Adachi competed alongside Jarkko Nikara in a Subaru Impreza R4, finishing sixth overall. Consequently, they maintain third place in the championship.

Katsuta and Arai came to Rally Portugal fresh from the Amarante Rally: a small event in Portugal held just a week earlier, which Arai won from Katsuta following a very tight battle where they were separated by just tenths of a second, ahead of all the local experts. But they did not enjoy similar good luck on the WRC round.

On Friday morning, both cars hit trouble. Katsuta was forced into retirement from the day with a broken steering rack: due to the constant impacts from the rough gravel surface. Arai was also in difficulty, when he had a puncture and broke a wheel. The broken wheel then proved to be nearly impossible to remove, costing a total of 15 minutes. On top of that, he was hampered by a consistent problem with the pop-off valve, which meant that the car could not deliver full power and he had to turn down the turbo boost pressure. Much worse was to come for Arai: on Saturday afternoon he went off and his car caught fire, burning out completely before the crew had a chance to extinguish the blaze. In the meantime, Katsuta had returned under the Rally 2 regulations on Saturday morning and was able to set some promising times, although he also had no chance of sealing a representative result because of his earlier problems. Having completed the majority of the stages, he ended up 12th in class at the rally finish.

Nikara and Adachi also had their fair share of adventures, although thankfully their rally was not quite as eventful of that of their colleagues in Portugal. The Riihimäki Rally consisted of eight stages packed into one hectic day on Saturday. During the second stage they had an overshoot, and on stage six they had a puncture, although with just three kilometres to go until the stage finish they were able to continue. In the end they finished sixth overall. As usual on the Finnish Rally Championship, the margins were extremely close. With a rapid succession of corners and junctions, the series provides a tough learning ground for co-drivers in particular.

Julian Heads Formula 1600

The race weekend in East London for the Formula 1600 field started with the championship leader, Julian van der Watt (42 – Race Driver SA), at the top of the timesheets in every practice. Then during the qualifying session Brad Beningfield (46 – General Energy Systems) suddenly stepped into the picture.

Beningfield had been progressing through the practice sessions from fourth place to second and then during qualifying went 0.006 of a second quicker than the series leader to take pole position for race one.

Another competitor to suddenly rise through the ranks was Cameron O’Connor (93 – Repro Supplies / Racing Factors) when it was time for qualifying. O’Connor had been floating between fifth and 10th place during the practices and then suddenly shot up the leaderboard to claim third place on the starting grid.

Picture: Quickpic.co.za

The first race was 10 laps and the Investchem Formula 1600 field spent those laps fighting for position and trying to get past the racer ahead, while defending their spot against any challengers. It was Van der Watt that claimed the first chequered flag, having found his way past Beningfield who slipped to second.

Alex Gillespie (50 – ERP Trucking Components) made his presence known in this first race as well, overtaking O’Connor to take third place for his podium for the day. In race two, O’Connor wasn’t having any more of this overtaking business and finished in second spot, behind Van der Watt, with Beningfield in third place across the finish line.

Liam Pienaar (67 – Phoenix Jewellers) stuck his nose into the mix as well, taking fourth place ahead of Gillespie.

Gillespie had a big moment in the second race while he and O’Connor were challenging for position from the last corner up the long East London straight. They made contact while racing past the pits and Gillespie had his hands full keeping his car under control. This saw him drop down the order and he had to work his way back to a fifth place finish.

This mixed set of results is going to make the championship that little bit more interesting in the run-up to round four at Zwartkops Raceway. With Stuart White (8 – Fantastic Racing) competing in France during the East London weekend where he finished fourth in the Saturday race, this allows the rest of the field to inch that little bit closer.

The category for drivers Over 50 and Ladies has recently been changed to drivers Over 40 and Ladies (Class B). Here a new name dominated the weekend. Claudio Piazza-Musso (11 – Fantastic Racing) went to the front of the leaderboard in this category – and stayed there for the weekend.

Piazza-Musso won both races in this category, finishing ahead of the Class B leader, Ian Schofield (10 – Investchem). This won’t have much impact on Schofield’s year though, but it will make things a little easier for his competition as the points gap they need to manage will be just a little smaller thanks to Piazza-Musso’s victories.

Schofield’s main competition comes in the form of the Flippen Fast Females, Paige Lindenberg (23 – Investchem / First Race) and Donny Lamola (24 – Investchem / First Race). This weekend though, it seems the boys were pushing back and they had to watch as Allen Meyer (15 – Investchem) claimed both third place finishes.

The next race meeting for the Investchem Formula 1600 championship is at Zwartkops Raceway on June 16, with the running of the fourth round of the Extreme Festival.