Monday Motor Sport Report

FORMULA ONE: Title to be decided in Abu Dhabi

THE Formula One World Championship for 2014 will be decided at the final double-points round in Abu Dhabi after Nico Rosberg defied Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton’s challenge to win the Brazilian Grand Prix this morning.

The German’s win from pole cut the points margin to Hamilton to 17, but the Briton retains the upper hand going to the decider – he can seal his second world title with another second-place finish.

The dominant pace of the Mercedes cars this year suggests this is more than possible.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo’s consistent 15-race pointscoring run ended in Brazil when he retired his Red Bull Renault with suspension failure after 40 laps. 

“When I went into Turn One, the car went to the right and I knew there was a problem,” Ricciardo said afterwards. “I came into the pits and the team told me it was suspension failure and we retired.

“It had been a bit of a boring race We were close to everyone but not close enough to have many fights; I would have liked to have had a bit more fun, but it didn’t really happen.

“It’s a shame, but I had a pretty good run until now, so I can’t be too greedy. It would be good to finish on the podium at the final race of the season.”

In front of his home crowd, Felipe Massa took his Williams to third, ahead of world champions Jenson Button (McLaren) and Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull).

MOTO3: Miller wins battle; loses war

SO NEAR, yet so far. That was the story for Queensland’s Jack Miller in the Moto3 championship decider at Valencia at the weekend.

Miller had the huge task of pulling back an 11-point deficit to title leader Alex Marquez; in essence, he needed to win on his KTM with Honda rider Marquez off the podium.

He very nearly pulled it off.

On Saturday afternoon Niccolo Antonelli took pole, with Miller and Marquez joining him on the front row.

At the start, Miller took off, with Marquez more cautious, moving between fourth and third and then, later, up to second.

What became obvious was that Miller was fighting a lone hand, his KTM colleagues not really in the mix, while Marquez had help from his Honda team-mate Alex Rins, who was slicing and dicing throughout a race that had no shortage of fairing bashing and cut-throat overtaking, mainly from Miller.

Into the last lap, Miller held sway from Isaac Vinales, with Danny Kent closing on third-placed Marquez. For a few seconds there was hope, but Kent made a mistake and with it went Miller’s chances of the world title.

Just two points made the difference, leaving Miller to rue a couple of poor races in the second half of the season.

Marquez won three GPs to Miller’s six, but the Spaniard was more consistent.

So history was made, with Alex joining Marc as the first brothers to win world championships in motorcycle racing.

In other news over the weekend, Wayne Gardner’s teenage son Remy has secured a full-time seat in Moto3 next season after signing with the CIP Mahindra squad.

Remy, 16, will join the French-based team alongside Japanese rider Tatsuki Suzuki.

The second-generation rider made three Moto3 starts this year, scoring a world championship point for 15th spot in Malaysia. 

Jack Miller departs to MotoGP next year, but Gardner’s new gig means a continuation of Australian representation and another good reason to keep watching an always-exciting series.

GT CHAMPIONSHIP: Muscat bags Aussie GT title

EREBUS Motorsport driver Richard Muscat won the 2014 Australian GT Championship in style on Saturday, beating V8 Supercars gun Garth Tander to win both races of the final round at Highlands Motorsport Park in New Zealand.

It’s the glamour track ironically owned by his championship rival Tony Quinn, the title runner-up in an Aston Martin.

The leader of the championship since round one in March, Muscat was consistent throughout the year in the Erebus Motorsport #36 SLS AMG GT3, finishing the championship 53 points ahead of Quinn.

Muscat finished on the podium in all but one race this year, collecting seven race wins over the six rounds.

“It’s been a fantastic year of racing,” said Muscat, “and this weekend we’ve had a great time at Highlands. To have the title go down to the last race of the year, it was a fairy tale ending.”

With a 30-point lead at the start of the day but with 50 points up for grabs in each 40-minute heat, the championship was far from resolved, especially when Tander, Quinn’s co-driver, took pole.

But Muscat fought hard in both races to collect the maximum 100 points on offer and seal the title.

Quinn and Tander took a remarkable victory in Sunday’s Highlands 101 feature enduro after Muscat’s Merc ran out of fuel on the final lap while leading.

Sharing the SLS by Craig Baird, Muscat was heading for a weekend clean sweep when he slowed in the closing stages to conserve fuel.

As the Mercedes crawled and then stopped, Tander flew by to take the win.

Rod Salmon/Nathan Antunes (Audi) and Justin McMillan/Steven Richards (Lamborghini) took the other podium places.

WORLD RALLY:  Molly set for Wales Rally GB

AUSTRALIAN rally driver Molly Taylor is intent on finishing a roller-coaster 2014 season with a flourish next weekend at the final round of the World Rally Championship, Wales Rally GB.

One of her favourite events of the elite 13-round WRC series, it’s the 2014 grand final for the world’s top rally drivers, including in the junior category of the WRC.

Taylor has been running a Citroen DS3 R3T through D-Max Racing in selected rounds, after winning the inaugural Ladies Trophy in last year’s European Rally Championship.

The 26-year-old Sydneysider, daughter of multiple Australian champion navigator Coral, has been door-knocking in both Australia and Europe for the last two months, chasing a budget to fund her drive.

Now over the disappointment of being forced to miss her home event, Rally Australia, she’s fired up to do well in North Wales, where conditions vary alarmingly and are very different from NSW.

Her goal is to win a stage at Rally GB.

“We have been close in previous events and finished on the podium at Rally Finland earlier this year, so it is within my reach,” she said.

Taylor, who is now officially ranked as the world’s number one female rally driver, moved to Europe in 2009 to build her rally career after winning several class championships in Australia.

In 2011, she was one of six young drivers to win a scholarship in an international shootout between 18 drivers from around the world.

SPEEDWAY: Another iconic track to go

IT’S where the great names had capacity crowds in their thrall.  Bob Tattersall, Satan Brewer, Merle Bettenhausen, Sleepy Tripp, Barry Butterworth, Larry Rice, George Tatnell, Steve Kinser, Rich Vogler, AJ Foyt, Mel Kenyon…

After protracted battle for survival, Auckland’s suburban Western Springs Speedway – scene of so many wonderful international motorcycle, midget car and sprintcar races for decades – will soon become just another part of dirt-track history.

Writing in the NZ Herald, Bernard Orsman reports that Auckland Council has voted for a $12 million upgrade to the stadium to create a new test cricket and concert venue.

The upgrade of Western Springs is part of a broader stadium strategy that involves relocating speedway racing to Mt Smart Stadium, the Warriors rugby league side moving from Mt Smart to QBE Stadium at Albany, and international cricket being played at Eden Park for one-day and 20/20 matches and at Western Springs for tests.

Critics have slammed the decision, suggesting that Auckland has two other international cricket grounds and that cricket attracts poor crowds anyway.

Western Springs Speedway was built in the depression and opened in 1929. By the start of World War 2, it was a massive attraction, Aucklanders drawn to the heady mix of bikes and midgets, with big stars from the US and Australia making it to the stadium every summer.

Watch a video history of Western Springs on YouTube: Part 1 & Part 2.

SPEEDWAY: Sydney track salutes its founder

SYDNEY sprintcar racer Sam Walsh stormed to his first career victory at Valvoline Raceway on Saturday, taking out the Sid Hopping Shootout 30-lap main event named after the track founder.

Walsh led home Trevor Green, birthday boy Danny Reidy, Marty Perovich and Max Dumesny.

Watching on at Valvoline Raceway (the former Parramatta City Raceway) was Sid Hopping, the special guest on the night and rightly honoured as the man who designed and built the venue in the late 1970s.

Sid’s vision, energy and unwavering desire to create a permanent home for sprintcars in Sydney led to the transformation from the old Granville showground into an enduring clay-track speed Mecca known around the country as the ‘speedway by the freeway’.

The efforts of Hopping and his equally committed family were recalled on Saturday, with some pointing out that his legacy extends beyond the construction of the purpose-built home for sprintcars. Many family members remain actively involved as competitors, administrators and officials.

On Saturday night, the contributions of Sid and his original business partner, the late Bert Wilder, were acknowledged with a large turnout of sprintcar teams from Northern Territory, South Australia, the ACT and Queensland in addition to the usual local members of the “Parramatta Posse”.

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