Monday Motor Sport Report

Ricciardo struggles in Austria after poor start

THERE was to be no repeat triumph for Daniel Ricciardo when the Formula One world championship moved on from Canada, where the Western Australian scored his first-ever grand prix win, to the Red Bull Ring in Austria.

Another gripping race produced a return to what this year has been normal service, Mercedes dominance, with Nico Rosberg winning ahead of a fast-finishing Lewis Hamilton with Williams driver Valtteri Bottas scoring his first F1 podium in third.

At the venue (then called Österreichring) where countryman Alan Jones scored his first F1 victory back in 1977, there would be no sniff of success for Ricciardo, not this time.

He qualified fifth, again ahead of four-time world champion team-mate Sebastian Vettel.  But after a good jump, Ricciardo was shuffled backwards, which compromised his race.

“It was frustrating today,” he said later. “It’s never nice going backwards on the first lap.

“Off the line, it was actually one of our better starts this year, although I think Kevin (Magnussen) on the inside got a better one. I tried to hang around on the outside, which was the wrong thing to do, because you basically lose too much on the exit. So I then got swamped on the long straight. We already struggle on the long straights as it is, but even more when you get a poor exit. So I was frustrated with myself and I will have to look if maybe I could have cut to the inside and done anything better.”

Like always, the happy Aussie charger pressed on, but it was a race of small rewards. Though not allowed to use his “overtake” button, Ricciardo pulled off a stunning last-lap move on Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg to take eighth.

“The last lap move put a little smile on my face, but other than that it wasn’t a great race for us – we’ve got a bit of work to do," Ricciardo summed up.

Despite his tough day, the Red Bull Racing goer remains third in the points, but is now under threat from Fernando Alonso.

Audi wins another 24-hour race

AUDI has scored yet another 24-hour race conquest, backing up the previous weekend’s stunning achievement at Le Mans with another win, this time at the annual 24 Hours of Nurburgring, around the world’s most demanding racing circuit.

A team that has raced in the Bathurst 12 hour, Phoenix Racing, came out on top with its Audi R8 LMS Ultra, beating a Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 to the line by just under three minutes in another enthralling contest.

Friendly weather throughout helped the winning car set a new race record of 159 laps at the  25.4km circuit, which includes the GP track and the storied Nordschleife.

A well-known face in this part of the world, former Erebus V8 Supercar driver Maro Engel, was part of the third-placed driver line-up, in another SLS.

Nine Australians, some serious and others there for the adventure, were among the 165 entries in the punishing enduro.

Best performed was ’Ring rookie Liam Talbot, 43rd outright and second in class in an Aston Martin V12 Vantage.

Richard Gartner shared the drive of a Porsche Cayman that finished 46th outright.

One place further back was the Porsche 997 driven by an international crew including Rob Thomson.

Ric Shaw and Stephen Borness took 58th in their Porsche 997 Cup car, while a similar car driven by Paul Stubber was 59th.

Long-time Nurburgring competitor Mal Rose, sharing an Aston Martin Vantage V8 with fellow Aussie Peter Leemhuis and Aston Martin CEO Ulrich Bez finished 94th outright.

Ambrose gamble comes up short

MARCOS Ambrose rolled the dice with an alternate tyre strategy, led the NASCAR Sprint Cup round at the Sonoma road course, but didn’t have the grip to defend his position as the laps ran out.

Ambrose, winless this year, qualified his Richard Petty Motorsports Ford back only 23rd, but charged into the top 10 before the first round of stops.

He continued to push forward, opportunistically grabbing the lead at a restart with 30 laps to run.

Struggling with worn tyres, he drifted back to finish eighth in a race won by Carl Edwards. Valiant and bold, but no cigar.

Sixteen races into the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, it’s getting tense for Ambrose and other drivers yet to do enough to get a start in The Chase, aka the playoffs.

A drastic new (complicated) system is in place this year with more of an emphasis on winning races to advance into The Chase. I’ll get a headache trying to explain how it all works.

Essentially, Sprint Cup race winners in the 26-race regular season automatically make the field for The Chase, this year expanded to 16 drivers (from 12).  Amassing a shedload of points through the lead-in races is not enough to proceed to The Chase, with the sole exception of the overall points leader.

If there are fewer than 15 different race winners, the drivers without a win but highest in the points standings would advance to the 10 races that comprise The Chase.  The 16 drivers who advance will have their points reset after the regular season.

Under the new system, the Chase field will also be reset and drivers eliminated after Chase races three, six and nine, leaving four drivers with an equal chance to win the Sprint Cup title in the season’s final race.

Aussies take a bath at Spa

TWO of Australia’s young open-wheel hopefuls endured a character-building time in the fifth round of the FIA European F3 Championship held at Belgium’s Spa Francorchamps circuit at the weekend.

Mitch Gilbert and Richard ‘Spike’ Goddard contested three races comprising round five of the 11-round series.

Fortec Motorsport’s Gilbert started badly with a 20th in the opening race. He followed this with a 14th in the second and 18th in the third. He sits 14th in the Euro F3 standings.

US-born Australian Goddard, who is with the ThreeBond with T-Sport team, landed 12th, 15th and 22nd placings. The 21-year-old is now 23rd in the championship.

But it hasn’t been all bad news for the British-based Malaysian-born Gilbert because he has landed a drive with Fortec for the Macau GP – the unofficial world F3 championship.

Gilbert is delighted with his bonus drive at the high-profile one-off Asian street race, where so many single-seater racers have launched careers that took them to lofty places in international motor sport. Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher, David Coulthard and David Brabham are among those who have starred in Macau.

The 2014 Macau GP (November 13-16) will mark Gilbert’s second start at the fabled street circuit, having finished 20th there two years ago.

Sign up here to receive the latest round-up of Wheels news, reviews and video highlights straight to your inbox each week.

Want free access to 5 years of Wheels archive content? Sign up now!