Monday Motor Sport Report

F1: Alonso hospitalised after test crash in McLaren-Honda

McLAREN’S pre-season testing woes have continued with Fernando Alonso crashing and suffering concussion in a high-speed crash just before lunch on Sunday at the Catalunya circuit in Barcelona.

The Spaniard was airlifted to hospital and, though cleared of any serious injury, held overnight for precautionary monitoring.

Alonso slammed the inside wall at turn three. No reason has been offered for the shunt.

McLaren’s race director Eric Boullier said the crash “was just one of those things that happens in testing”.

The incident is the latest in a lengthy list of troubles besetting McLaren and engine supplier Honda in the lead-up to the new season.

Pre-season testing is not regarded as a true indicator of form in F1, which again expected to be dominated by Mercedes-Benz in 2015.

However, Ferrari dominated the first four-day test at Jerez while Lotus was fastest on three of the four days of testing this week in Barcelona. Daniel Ricciardo was fastest on the other day.

The final four-day test before the teams head to Melbourne for the AGP on March 15 begins at Barcelona on Thursday.

AWARDS: Ricciardo heads list of CAMS gongs

UNDERSCORING his stunning season in which he won three grands prix, Daniel Ricciardo has been honoured with the Jack Brabham Award, which recognises outstanding achievement and success by an Australian motor sport competitor at the international level.

The Confederation of Australian Motor Sport recognised standouts among competitors, officials and media in Australian motor sport at the 2014 CAMS Motor Sport Awards held in Sydney.

Jim Richards received the CAMS Peter Brock Medal awarded annually to a driver who has shown similar characteristics to the late Peter Brock. Previous winners include Neal Bates, Craig Lowndes and the late Jason Richards.

The Queensland cyclone sadly prevented Ryan McLeod from travelling to Sydney to personally pick up his Donald Thomson Award, given to acknowledge his bravery in efforts to extricate a fellow race driver from a burning car at Sydney Motorsport Park.

Another popular winner was V8 Supercars gun Scott McLaughlin, who was judged the Motor Sport Personality of the Year.

CAMS also recognised a brace of 2014 CAMS National Champions and those in the motor sporting community whose service and contributions have made a significant difference to the sport.

CAMS President Andrew Papadopoulos reflected on a 2014 that saw the number of CAMS licences jump by an impressive 1800 and the number of CAMS-affiliated clubs increase from 450 to 500.

He also pointed out to the audience, which included two MPs, that motor sport delivers $2.7 billion to the Australian economy annually, and that it employs 16,000 people.

CAMS also made a major announcement of the establishment of the Australian Motor Sport Hall of Fame, which is dedicated to honouring those who have contributed most as administrator, driver, owner, developer or engineer. This will kick off next year.

Phil Irving Award – the late Ivan Tighe
Australian Motor Sport Official of the Year – Belinda Taylor
Motor Sport Personality of the Year Award – Scott McLaughlin
Donald Thomson Award – Ryan McLeod
Member of Honour – Ron Tauranac
Life Membership – Bob Watson, Fred Gibson, John Paterson
Peter Brock Medallist – Jim Richards
CAMS Young Driver of the Year Award – Anton De Pasquale
Jack Brabham Award – Daniel Ricciardo
2014 FIA Official of the Year – Adrian Stafford

Motor Sport Story of the Year – Gordon Lomas – Speedcafe (tribute stories – Sir Jack Brabham)
Motor Sport Journalist of the Year – Mark Fogarty
Motor Sport Photograph of the Year – Robert Cianflone
Motor Sport Photographer of the Year – John Morris
Motor Sport Story of the Year (Radio/Television) – AirTime Media (Shannon’s Legends Series)

RALLY: Molly Taylor set for dual campaign in 2015

AUSTRALIAN international rally driver Molly Taylor will accumulate a bunch of frequent flyer points this year as she chases a championship in her home country and selected events in Europe.

Taylor, who has spent the past five years competing exclusively in Europe, has been offered a chance in Australia she could not refuse.

She will contest the Australian Rally Championship in the car that won last year’s title for Scott Pedder and Dale Moscatt, a 2012 Renault Clio G2.

“I’m so excited to have this opportunity and am very grateful to Scott and Pedders for giving it to me,” said Taylor. “I look forward to taking care of his ‘baby’ in the ARC while he’s away.”

Pedder said putting Taylor into his car was his way of repaying her for her assistance in helping him secure a deal to compete in the WRC2 division of the 2015 World Rally Championship.

“I’m passionate about the ARC and two-wheel-drive cars and it’s terrific to be able to help a leading competitor into our car,” said Pedder.

“It’s a great thing for the series to have someone with Molly’s profile, work ethic and experience competing in Australia. Given her experience in this type of car, and rallying at the level she has been, I think she could be a genuine championship contender this year.”

Taylor will continue to work on new opportunities in Europe, including some WRC events, but said she wasn’t prepared to ignore the chance to tackle the ARC.

The ARC calendar includes the Quit Forest Rally in WA (March 27-29), National Capital Rally in Canberra (May 15-17), International Rally of Queensland (June 19-21) and Scouts Rally SA (October 23-25). Taylor will also contest the local WRC round, Coates Hire Rally Australia (September 10-13), but under ARC rules rather than the international regulations.

Taylor moved to Europe in 2009 to build her rally career after winning several junior class championships locally. In 2011, she was one of six young drivers to win a scholarship in an international shootout between 18 drivers from around the world.

That gave her a fully funded drive in the WRC Academy, a junior category of the World Rally Championship. Since then, she has contested selected rounds of the European championship and the WRC, posting several class victories along the way.

During that period, she was named British Ladies Champion two years in succession, won the inaugural European Rally Championship Ladies Trophy and was officially recognised as the fastest female rally driver in the world (2013).

WRC: World champ pinged for speeding… seven times!

WORLD rally champion Sebastien Ogier was caught speeding seven times while practicing for Rally Sweden earlier this month and faces a two-minute time penalty added to his competition time should he offend again anytime soon.

This penalty is suspended for 12 months and the Volkswagen driver concedes he’ll need to be more careful than ever in recces for World Rally Championship rounds this season.

The speed limit on the Sweden recce was 10km/h lower than normal, due to local road laws.

Ogier believes he was stiffed by the system.

“Something changed in the interpretation of the regulation and I feel really bad that they come to me and tell me how bad I have been,” he said.

“I never got caught before and we have no warning…just this.”

The WRC drivers have a GPS tracking system that beeps when they are speeding, giving them three seconds to slow to the limit. Maybe Ogier needs to improve on his reaction time.

While it wasn’t a good look for the world champ to exceed the limit on seven occasions, Ogier was nowhere near the worst offender, Yuriy Protasov, who accumulated 18 tickets on the two-day recce. He was also given a suspended two-minute penalty.

GT: Aussie Davison to race Nissan in US

AUSTRALIAN open-wheel and GT racer James Davison (of the prominent Victorian racing family) has scored a plum drive aboard a Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 in the US Pirelli World Challenge series.

Davison, 28, moved to the US when he was 18 to seek opportunities in open-wheel racing. His career highlights include a 2005 victory in Formula BMW at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a runner-up finish in the 2007 Star Mazda Championship, and second spot in the 2009 Indy Lights Championship.

Davison also made an appearance in the 2014 Indianapolis 500, finishing 16th.

In limited time in sports cars he has always been at the front, driving for the TRG-Aston Martin team in IMSA competition and recording five consecutive class poles, including last month’s prestigious Daytona 24 Hour.

The new team is based around a partnership between Nissan and a Los Angeles-based company called Always Evolving (AE), a media and technology company.

Canada’s AIM Autosport will handle much of the car preparation and on-track support during the season. AIM won the 2012 IMSA GTD team, driver and manufacturer championships, as well as the 2013 manufacturer title.

Nissan GT Academy North America 2011 winner Bryan Heitkotter will drive the team’s second GT-R.

The first Pirelli World Challenge race for 2015 will be at Circuit of the Americas in Texas on March 6-8.

SUPERBIKES: Brits hold sway as Bayliss comeback blisters

BRITISH riders dominated the opening round of the 2015 Superbike World Championship at Phillip Island at the weekend, with Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam sharing the top places in the two races, pushed all the way by Chaz Davies.

Australian Troy Bayliss, making a surprise return to world superbike action after almost seven years away, had a day that left him well short of satisfied.

Co-opted onto a factory Ducati on Monday after regular rider Davide Giugliano was injured, 45-year-old Bayliss qualified mid-field and began both races aggressively, but lack of familiarity with the bike and tyres left him with blistered rubber in both outings.

He ran as high as seventh in each leg, but faded to finish 13th in the opener – just ahead of fellow Aussie Jed Metcher – and had to visit the pits in race two to change a blistered rear tyre, finishing out of the points in 16th.

The triple world champion said he felt like a "boxer coming out of retirement".

"It's been a strange one to come back after so many years. I did this comeback for a lot of reasons, and in the end I made some really good progress – but still I am actually a little bit pissed off, which proves that I am still a racer!

"To run with the guys, I felt really good, but we had some problems with the tyre; Phillip Island can really do that.”

However, Bayliss dismissed suggestions he might consider riding the Ducati again at the next round in Thailand.

Bayliss’s fastest lap of 1m32.117s after only three days on the Panigale R was only 0.4sec slower than the fastest lap of the day set by Ducati teammate Davies.

Northern Ireland's Rea (who this year jumped to Kawasaki) was the first rider to get a win on the board in 2015 when he won race one, holding off Haslam (Aprilia) by just 0.039sec after a pulsating 22 laps.

It was Rea's maiden victory at Phillip Island, his second 'home' track; he is married to a Phillip Island girl, Tatia Weston, and spends Australian summers with the penguins.

In race two, Haslam turned the tables on his former Honda teammate with a stirring come-from-behind 0.010sec victory.

Ducati's Chaz Davies finished third in both races.

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