Monday Motor Sport Report

F1: Improved power pack for Ricciardo

DANIEL Ricciardo is heartened by news from Renault that the French engine supplier has given its Formula One hybrid power pack a substantial overhaul in time for the new season, which kicked off officially with testing in Jerez, Spain overnight.

Renault Sport boss Cyril Abiteboul has indicated it has resulted in big improvements in performance and reliability.

Though he is unsure about the gains his rivals, in particular Mercedes-Benz and Ferrari, have made in the off season, Abiteboul believes Renault has closed much of the deficit (to 2014 pacesetter Mercedes).

“We estimated there was a gap of about 60bhp with our engine compared to the Mercedes at the end of the 2014 season,” Abiteboul told Canal +. “We hope to close this gap by half from the start of the season in Melbourne.”

Renault has targeted five wins this season from the two teams it supplies – Red Bull and Toro Rosso – two more than last year, when Ricciardo posted all three Renault victories.

Engine suppliers have been given the freedom to change up to 48 percent of their power units for the 2015 championship, with the mods allowed at any time during the season.

Renault has elected to take most of the freedoms now, upgrading every system and sub-system. The ICE (internal combustion engine), turbocharger and battery have been redesigned.

Ricciardo has nominated McLaren, now powered by a Honda hybrid, as the combo everyone will be looking at in Melbourne.

The West Aussie understands his own hopes rest with any gains Renault has made, but remains bullish that he can make Merc pair Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg work hard for their points. Ricciardo also tips Williams to be strong again.

Ferrari had made a major design overhaul for its new SF15-T and technical director James Allison says its race pace will no longer be compromised by the power unit struggling to recover as much energy as its rivals.

Allison said that early last season the Ferrari drivers found it hard to get the ideal throttle response and that recoverable electrical power levels were not on par with its competition.

F1: Testing times

SEBASTIAN Vettel posted the fastest time for his new team, Ferrari, when Formula One broke out its new cars at the first official pre-season test for 2015 in Spain overnight.

Only seven teams (and drivers) took to the Jerez circuit. Force India failed to show, while Lotus was at the track but still bolting together its new E23 Hybrid.

Dan Ricciardo finished the first day fourth-quickest in the Red Bull RB11, which made an eye-catching debut in a striking black and white “dazzle” livery, similar to those used to camouflage prototype road cars.

Separating Vettel and Ricciardo were Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) and Nico Rosberg (Mercedes-Benz).

Rosberg was the busiest driver, completing 157 laps – more than twice as many as any of the other six drivers – showing the upgraded Merc is reliable.

Clearly struggling was Fernando Alonso in the new Honda-powered McLaren. He managed just six laps all day.

SPORTS CARS: Huge Bathurst 12 Hour looms

SOME of the classiest driving talent in international motor sport is heading for Mount Panorama for next Sunday’s 2015 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.

Mika Salo, Ivan Capelli, David Brabham, Andrea Montermini, Stephane Ortelli, Guy Smith, Oliver Gavin, Patrick Long and Markus Winkelhock are among the record 55-car entry (29 in the glamour GT3 category that will fight for outright honours). 

No shortage of  mechanical  glamour, either, with McLaren, Bentley, Mercedes AMG, Audi, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Porsche, Nissan and Aston Martin.

The drivers in the entry account for 246 F1 starts, three outright and 17 class victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 10 American Le Mans Series drivers titles (outright and class) and six Sebring 12-Hour class or outright victories.

International drivers hail from 15 different nations, including Great Britain, Ireland, Scotland, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, United States, Finland, Japan, Switzerland, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Belgium.

John Bowe, the most experienced driver in the field with 10 starts in the 12 Hour and two wins, is now aboard a Bentley with Le Mans winner Brabham and car owner Peter Edwards.

Craig Baird brings his bounty of 12 one-make Porsche championships to the M Motorsport Lamborghini and will team up with one of Australia’s very best, three-time Bathurst 1000 winner Steven Richards.

The winner of the very first Bathurst 12-Hour race back in 1991, Peter Fitzgerald, makes his return to the Mountain this year, one of eight former winners in the line-up.

SPORTS CARS: Lexus to join the GT3 throng

NUMBERS of homologated models in the booming international GT3 sports car category continues to grow with the imminent track debut of the Lexus RC F.

Lexus Racing is developing an RC F GT3 F for the global stage, weighing just 1250kg and with a 397kW version of the RC F's V8 engine.

Lexus Australia’s managing director Sean Hanley hopes the Lexus brand will go racing here. The annual Bathurst 12 Hour and the Australian GT Championship appear to be favoured as affordable options.

USF2000: Two Aussies racing in Indy feeder program

YOUNG Australian drivers Anthony Martin and Jordan Lloyd will race for Indiana-based John Cummiskey Racing in the 2015 US F2000 Championship, a feeder series to Indycars and the Indianapolis 500.

Martin, 19, was the 2013 West Australian Formula Ford Champion and Rookie of the Year, and 2014 championship runner-up.

Lloyd, also 19, finished second in the hotly contested Australian Formula Ford Series, scoring a season-high six wins.

Both are racing in the US thanks to the strong mentoring efforts of Mark Larkham’s Australian Motor Sport Academy.

Team owner John Cummiskey is an industry veteran with more than 25 years of top-level Indycar racing experience working with Penske, Team Green/Andretti Green, Newman Haas, Dragon Racing and Ganassi Racing.

Cummiskey said the two young Aussies impressed at a December test in New Orleans, both working well with engineer Louis D’Agostino.

“We now have two rising Australian talents on our squad, and I again want to thank Mark Larkham from the Australian Motor Sport Academy for all of his efforts in helping to put us together,” he said.

USF2000 is the first official step on the Mazda Road to Indy, a ladder system which offers scholarships to drivers at every level to assist in progression to the Pro Mazda Championship, Indy Lights and the IndyCar Series. 

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