Aussie-born drivers top Indy 500 qualifying

Will Davison

INDY 500: Dixon beats Power to pole at The Brickyard

QUEENSLAND-born Scott Dixon just pipped Toowoomba’s Will Power to snatch the pole for the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 – after IndyCar officials ordered last-minute changes to cars before qualifying.

This came after yet another practice crash in which a car became loose, hit the wall and flipped at high speed

When Ed Carpenter’s car crashed and soared upside down on Saturday, IndyCar officials subsequently ordered teams to lower turbocharger boost levels to their pre-qualifying levels, a move intended to drop average lap speeds below 230mph (370km/h).

Teams also were ordered to go into the race with the same aerodynamic trim used in qualifying, forcing teams away from faster but edgier low-downforce qualifying set-ups.

Carpenter was unharmed and released from the track’s medical centre after a check by doctors and later qualified 12th.

Another Australian, James Davison, is also in the race, which will be held next Sunday (Monday morning AEST).

Davison will start 21st after 25-year-old French driver Tristan Vautier qualified his car because he had a conflicting sports car commitment in Canada on qualifying day.

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V8 SUPERCARS: Prodrive Ford clean-sweep in Ned Kelly country

PRODRIVE kept its early season momentum going around claustrophobic Winton Raceway at the weekend, young speedster Chas Mostert winning pole for all three races while also bagging the first Saturday sprint before Mark Winterbottom scored wins on both days.

Winterbottom, a contender who couldn’t quite nail it in previous seasons, has moved to the lead in the championship and is now looking ominously strong as the series heads north into warmer climes.

It was a weekend of contrasts, Saturday’s sprint races running largely to qualifying form.

Mostert’s victory was his first in V8 Supercars since he and Paul Morris won last year’s Bathurst 1000. It was also his first successful solo effort.

James Courtney’s 300th race start was auspicious only for his monumentally ambitious dive into the first corner, which ended in him drilling his HRT teammate Garth Tander and the Walkinshaw Holden of Lee Holdsworth.  Courtney spent that night in HRT’s metaphorical doghouse.

Sunday’s 62-lapper thankfully brought some spectacularly hard and fair racing at the front, firstly between Mostert and Red Bull’s Craig Lowndes, then later – after the young Ford driver spun into a tyre wall – between Lowndes, Winterbottom and Freightliner’s Fabian Coulthard. And further back, few cars escaped bent panels.

Tyres again provided the subtext, with the leading protagonists struggling on fading soft-compound tyres.

Frosty had just enough to win from Coulthard and Lowndes.

One of the weekend’s great mysteries was the pace of defending champ Jamie Whincup. While teammate Lowndes was battling for the lead, the team simply couldn’t get Whincup’s car to work, though he typically pulled reasonable results out of the fire, particularly on Sunday when he came from 22nd on the grid to 10th.

It was also a heartening day for Scott Pye and DJR Team Penske.  Eighth was the one-car squad’s best result of a tough year.

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NURBURGRING 24HR: New Audi R8 LMS wins on debut

IT DOESN’T get much better than winning one of the world’s great endurance races on debut and Audi gave its new R8 LMS racer the best possible baptism with a win in the weekend’s always tough Nurburgring 24 Hour.

Driven by Christopher Mies, Edward Sandstrom, Nico Muller and Laurens Vanthoor, the winning Audi took control of the race after others fell by the wayside during the night.

Muller had a lose in the 20th hour, but the #28 R8 spun harmlessly across the grass without damage.

The only other drama was the minor inconvenience of a flash fire during a pitstop, after which the #28 Audi R8 LMS stormed home, 40 seconds ahead of the #25 Marc VDS BMW Z4 that chased it to the chequer.

As ever, there were plenty of hard luck stories and 'what ifs' for many competitors, including three cars that crashed out having led the race.

Aston Martin farewelled its 71-year-old racing CEO Ulrich Bez in the best way, helping the V8 Vantage he shared with Aussies Mal Rose and Peter Leemhuis to class honours and 58th overall.

It was Rose’s 12th consecutive Nurburgring 24 Hour and fourth outing with Aston Martin Racing.

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ARC: Molly Taylor claims her first round victory

BACKING up her heat win at the previous round in Western Australia, Renault driver Molly Taylor exceeded even her own expectations by claiming overall victory in the National Capital Rally in Canberra at the weekend.

Taylor, co-driven by Bill Hayes, took the outright victory – the first for a female driver in the ARC – after placing second in each of the two heats.

Saturday’s heat winner, Tony Sullens, took second overall second for Citroen.

A stunning third on his ARC debut was Harry Bates, son of four-time national champion Neal.

Poppa Bates had his own success with regular co-driver Coral Taylor (Molly’s mother), the pair taking victory in the Classic division in their Toyota Celica.

Much of the excitement came on Saturday when Sullens claimed his first career heat win, holding a hard-charging Taylor at bay by just two seconds.

Sullens’ tiny margin came after Molly received 35 seconds in time penalties for departing midday service late.

Eli Evans was also in trouble, the turbo intercooler pipe blowing free on his Citroen’s engine and forcing him to limp to the end of the stage for 25 kilometres, incurring the wrath of older brother Simon, who was trapped behind the ailing car.

The fuming Simon rammed his brother’s Citroen at the finish, then pulled alongside and opened his Honda’s door into Eli’s.

To make matters worse, Simon’s engine later blew after overheating. “We’re certain the engine ingested a lot of dust trailing Eli this morning,” he said.

Eli bounced back strongly to win Sunday’s heat and maintain his championship lead with 75 points, ahead of Taylor (70) and Simon Evans (69).

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WTCC: Citroen on top at the Ring

THE FIA World Touring Car Championship’s stopover at the Nurburgring lived up to high expectations in terms of action, though ultimately saw Citroen continue its domination of the series.

The star driver line-up of Jose Maria Lopez, Sebastien Loeb and Yvan Muller scored a podium lock-out in the first of two races supporting the Nurburgring 24 Hour enduro.

And despite a reverse grid for race two, Muller and reigning champ Lopez also claimed the top two spots after toughing it out in a big and frantic pack battle for the lead on the last of three long 25-kilometre laps.

With everything to play for going into the final straight, Muller put himself out of reach, while Lopez overcame first Gabriele Tarquini and then Tiago Monteiro (both driving Honda Civics) to snatch second, Loeb claiming fifth.

FORMULA ONE:  Thanks for nothing

THE inmates are certainly in charge of the crazy house that is Formula One.

Here’s how we see it. The sport is too expensive, with not enough furious wheel-to-wheel driving, the cars sound like flatulence on wheels, they don't slide around enough, and overtaking is too hard without technical aero assistance…

F1 is a place where the rich teams get richer and the battlers have to beg for handouts. And fans can go to hell.

In a broader sense, the rules are so restrictive and complex that design geniuses exemplified by Adrian Newey want to go do other things.

Among other things, the strategy group comprising FIA President Jean Todt, F1 group CEO Bernie Ecclestone and six teams (McLaren, Mercedes, Ferrari, Force India, Red Bull and Williams), wants to see higher revving and louder engines, and more visually aggressive cars.

So it came up with these half-baked suggestions: the reintroduction of mid-race refuelling, cars lighter by 30-50kg, free choice of two rubber compounds and wider tyres, six-speed gearboxes reqiring more revs that would lead to lap times coming down by around five seconds, and a requirement for drivers to use a clutch at the start

There was no enthusiasm to change the current hybrid power pack architecture due to cost.

And for this season, the request by some teams (Red Bull!) to stretch the engine allowance from four to five was rejected.

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