Monday Motor Sport Report

Who are the villians?

SOCIAL media is abuzz with many and varied views debating who the bad guys are in the unfortunate saga of a potential clash of dates involving V8 Supercars and the annual Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.

It has emerged that V8 Supercars Australia wants to hold its pre-season test day (or days) on the same weekend locked in months ago by the organisers of next year’s 12-hour enduro.

V8 Supercars says it wants to move forward to February 7-8 to accommodate its new telecaster, Fox Sports, because the cable network is showing the cricket World Cup from February 14.

Under the new deal with V8 Supercars, Fox’s Speed channel gets to telecast the whole banquet, including practice, qualifying and the races.  And even pre-season testing.

V8 Supercars won’t settle on its 2015 calendar until September. Meanwhile, there is no shortage of aggro out there in petrolhead land with many believing V8 Supercars and Fox are playing hardball to disadvantage the Bathurst 12 Hour, a rival race gathering plenty of momentum and to be telecast free-to-air in its entirety by the Seven Network.

The fans are miffed (potentially) because many would like to check out the testing at Sydney Motorsport Park and get to the Mountain for the Bathurst 12 Hour and its growing grid of exotic GT cars and prominent foreign drivers.

Some of the gun V8 Supercars drivers who were planning to compete in the 12 Hour are more than peeved, too. 

Not only have they (potentially) lost the chance of an extra earn, but more importantly they’ll miss out on the chance of showcasing their abilities in front of influential Euro team bosses. Those who may be affected include Craig Lowndes, Rick Kelly, Will Davison and Shane van Gisbergen.

Among others decidedly unhappy, count Nissan Australia, who had committed to a global motorsports exchange deal for its drivers, and VIP Petfoods boss Tony Quinn, who sponsors Van Gis in the V8 series and owns a brace of Bathurst 12-Hour cars.  Chances are he would like to use the young Kiwi in the 12-hour and will not be pleased if he can’t. Likewise, Betty Klimenko might want to tap her Erebus V8 Supercar drivers for B12 duty in her Mercedes SLS GT3 fleet.

More than anyone, you’d expect the event director of the Bathurst 12 Hour to be howling.  But if James O’Brien is angry, he’s keeping it within. 

"It would be disappointing that we might miss out on having some of the V8 drivers compete the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, however V8 Supercars have the right to schedule their test day when they like,” said O’Brien, a gent who could find his calling in the diplomatic corps.

"We are a stand-alone event with an international focus and our priority is building that aspect further, so if the test day occurs on the same weekend, it will not change our plans.

“If this is the outcome, it may open up available seats to more high-profile international drivers who have been vocal about competing in the race already.” O’Brien added calmly.

O’Brien was highly visible at the Nurburgring 24 Hours in Germany last week and at the Blancpain Endurance Series round at Paul Ricard in France over the last three days chatting to potential entrants and drivers.

Ambrose climbs in Kentucky

FORD’S Brad Keselowski dominated NASCAR’s  Quaker State 400 Sprint Cup race at the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway, the Penske driver converting pole into victory, with Kyle Bush’s Toyota the best of the rest.

Following his spirited top 10 result last week on the Sonoma road course,  Australia’s lone NASCAR regular Marcos Ambrose put in another solid effort in his Richard Petty Ford, finishing 13th after starting 27th.

This jumped the Tasmanian a place in the points to 20th, but he still needs a win this year to assure a start in the Chase end-of-season playoffs.

Mid-season, Hendrick Motorsports teammates dominate the title table with Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr holding the first three places.

Next up for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is the Coke Zero 400 from Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, 5 July.

Houston, problem for Aussies

WHEN the first of the weekend’s two IndyCar Championship races on the bumpy streets of Houston ended with a caution , three Colombians were conveniently running up front – Carlos Huertas, Juan Pablo Montoya and Carlos Munoz. 

It was Huertas’ first IndyCar win and the best result for Montoya since his return. And a slice of history with Colombians owning the podium.

Australians Ryan Briscoe and Will Power finished 12th and 14th respectively.

Things were not much better for the Aussies in race two, where teammates Simon Pagenaud and Mikhail Aleshin finished one-two after an exhausting 90-lap battle.

Power, who never leaves much in the tank, clouted a tyre barrier on the last lap to fall from running third to finish 11th, but still takes a 39-point title lead into next weekend’s race at Pocono.

Briscoe fared a little better, posting an 8th place finish.

Molly Taylor has tough WRC in Poland

AUSTRALIAN rally driver Molly Taylor was back into World Rally Championship competition at the weekend driving in Rally Poland, dominated by Volkswagen’s twin assault weapons Sebastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen.

World champ Ogier won the rugged four-day event  from Mikkelsen by 1min 07.7sec,  with Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville third.

The high-speed gravel Polish event was round seven of the 13-round WRC series for 2014 and the second event of the year for Taylor, driving a Citroën DS3 R3T.

Rated the world’s number one female rally driver after winning the inaugural Ladies Trophy in last year’s European Rally Championship, Taylor got away to a promising start on Thursday.

But some hydraulic issues and a puncture on Friday hampered progress on the deeply rutted stages.

Taylor was unwell on Friday into Saturday, but fought on to finish 41st overall and eighth in the Junior WRC class.

The Polish event was based in Mikolajki, three hours north of Warsaw, but included stages in Lithuania.

Taylor has a six-round WRC program on her plate this year, with Rally Finland (July 31-August 3), Rallye Deutschland (August 22-24), Rallye de France-Alsace (October 3-5) and Wales Rally GB (November 14-16) ahead.

Budget constraints are likely to rule her out of her home WRC event, Rally Australia, in September.

West reigns in the Assen rain

BOY genius Marc Marquez may have made it eight straight wins in the MotoGP world championship, but Aussie interest was also focussed on a gripping Moto2 grand prix at Assen on Saturday.

Australian motorcycle warrior Ant West turned back the clock to win the Moto2 world championship race in a heart-stopper ahead of Maverick Vinales and Mika Kallio, charging through from 23rd on the grid on a treacherous rain-affected track.

In qualifying, West gave no indication of race-winning potential. But the race-day rain played into the hands of a rider recognised as a master of wet conditions.

It was the slow-talking West’s first grand prix win since the 250cc Dutch TT in 2003 – which until Saturday was his lone GP victory.

Earlier, countryman and Moto3 pole winner Jack Miller crashed out on the opening lap of an incident-packed Moto3 race.

Alex Marquez (Galicia), brother of you-know-who, took the Moto3 victory, with Alex Rins (Galicia) and Miguel Oliveira (Mahindra) joining him on the podium.

Miller (Red Bull KTM) still leads the Moto3 championship – by seven points.

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