AUSSIE Ryan Briscoe, the super sub deputising for the injured James Hinchcliffe, emerged unhurt after going airborne entering the final lap of Saturday's frenzied IndyCar Series race in Fontana, California.
It was a rough ending to a race that promised a stellar finish for Briscoe, who was inside the top five and fighting for a podium when bunted into the air at close to 340km/h after tangling with Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Moments after his Honda-powered car pirouetted skywards and then slammed back to earth, finishing on its wheels, Briscoe gave the thumbs-up and pulled himself from the cockpit.
Earlier, Briscoe had twice hauled his car from the back to the front in a 500-miler notable for unrelenting white-knuckle four-wide pack racing and a record 80 lead changes among 14 drivers.
While the new aero packages on the 2015 cars created the tight racing and constant overtaking – meaning a great show for the fans – drivers are split on whether IndyCar should make further changes on safety grounds.
The controlling body introduced changes on aero kits for the Fontana race that gave more downforce on the cars to counter the slick surface expected in hot Californian weather.
Indianapolis 500 winner and 2015 points leader Juan Pablo Montoya – hardly a wimp – was one critic: "This is full-pack racing and sooner or later somebody is going to get hurt. We don't need to be doing this."
But AJ Foyt, now a team owner, said he loved this kind of hard racing when he was a driver…
Honda driver Graham Rahal ended a 124-race drought with victory over Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti. But Rahal may yet lose the win. He faces a post-race review because of a messy pit stop in which the gravity-fed fuel coupling was still attached to the car as Rahal was released.
Like defending champ Will Power, who was an innocent victim of the tight racing in the manic closing laps, fellow Aussie Briscoe can count himself unlucky not to post a great result.
"With a lap to go, in our position, I had some momentum coming down the front stretch," Briscoe said. "I was going to take that low line into 1 and 2 and felt like we were going to come home with a top three, for sure. Unfortunately, Hunter-Reay got turned around, I had nowhere to go and she went flying. Thankfully, I'm all right and no big deal. Now we look forward to the next one."
Montoya, who finished fourth, extended his points advantage over second-placed Power, who was more than peeved with being crashed out of the race after a strong run.
F1: Daniel can’t win but is happy to be a GP racer
DANIEL Ricciardo accepts he is no show of beating the dominant Mercedes at Silverstone next weekend. The horse (or bull) he is riding this season is a bit of a tortoise and the Ferraris and Williams are also proving tough propositions. He’s even getting regular tickle-ups from the work apprentices in the Toro Rosso outfit.
But he’s having fun doing what millions would give up testicle to do; being on the F1 grid.
“I can’t hide it! Silverstone’s awesome. I love high-speed circuits with high-speed corners – and so the run from Copse through Maggotts, Becketts, Chapel and then around Stowe... maybe the five coolest corners on the calendar and to have them coming at you one after the other, yeah, I love it.”
Some of the affection flows from the fact that Ricciardo made his F1 race debut at Silverstone with the now defunct Hispania team in 2011.
“It’s definitely a circuit where the faster the car, the better the experience – though that’s usually the case with high-speed tracks. I mean, Silverstone’s great in a Formula Renault 2.0. In an F1 car? Epic.
“If we have one of those nice hot blue-sky sunny weekends then the atmosphere’s amazing. If it’s grey, wet and windy then the atmosphere’s still amazing. I’m not sure how that’s possible – but Silverstone manages it. As for driving in those [wet] conditions, it’s still exciting – but in a very different way!”
WRC: Hyundai taking four cars to Poland
THE World Rally Championship is entering a dramatic phase with the fast and spectacular Poland and Finland events next on the calendar, beginning this week with the revamped Polish event.
Rally Poland, round seven of the WRC, has the highest average speeds of the year, faster even than the legendary Finnish event. About three-quarters of the gravel rally will cover new stages, partially negating the experience of some of the older hands.
Volkswagen’s Sebastien Ogier, Andreas Mikkelsen and Jari-Matti Latvala are currently placed first, third and fourth in the championship standings.
But they face extra challenges from Hyundai, which has added a fourth i20 to its line-up for Dutchman Kevin Abbring after the South Korean brand scored a double podium in Sardinia with Kiwi driver Hayden Paddon and Belgian Thierry Neuville finishing second and third.
Speaking of the two high-speed rallies coming up, Volkswagen Motorsport director Jost Capito said: “Only those who really put their foot down will be successful in the coming weeks. It’s time for the ‘full speed weeks’ in the WRC.”
Paddon was among the standout performers in Sardinia, leading much of the rally before clinching his maiden WRC podium. He is keeping his feet on the ground for Poland.
“Sardinia was a great result, but we won’t get carried away,” the New Zealander said. “We have to take each rally as it comes and keep focused on the job in hand.
“Poland is quite nice, similar in places to Finland – fast, flowing and with a lot of crests. It is softer and sandier, though, so can become quite rutted on the second pass.”
MOTOGP: Rossi triumphs in Assen thriller
EVERGREEN championship leader Valentino Rossi and defending champ Marc Marquez took their breathtaking duel right to the final corner in a drama-charged Assen TT, round eight of the 2015 MotoGP series, with the 36-year-old Italian superstar prevailing despite an aggressive lunge-and-bump from the Spaniard.
The scrap between the two rivals had taken them well clear of a well-beaten Jorge Lorenzo, with both taking turns up front.
Into the final lap, Rossi held what appeared to be a winning gap, but Marquez tenaciously clawed back 0.4sec to set himself up for the inevitable glory dive into the chicane. The pair banged together, with Rossi firing across a sand trap before emerging in front.
Rossi and Marquez were then called to front officials for a rider hearing and to review the video footage. It was agreed the last lap contretemps was a racing incident and no appeal has been lodged.
“I pushed, and I don‘t want to say I did a perfect race, but close,” the elated Rossi declared afterwards.
“In the last laps I pushed a lot and I arrived at the last chicane when Marc tried to overtake, but he arrived a little bit too late, I was already into the chicane and we touched a little bit and I had to cut the corner. Essentially I had no choice and I was lucky because I got on the gravel, but I stayed on the throttle even though I didn‘t know how deep it was and I thought there was a chance I could lose control. When I returned to the track I checked the position of Marc, but he had slowed down more than I did.”
Rossi’s third win of the season extended his lead over Yamaha teammate Lorenzo from one to 10 points. Marquez is out of contention but will be an influential spoiler in the races to come.
LE MANS: The rise and rise
PORSCHE will be delighted to learn that its big one-two at the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours was watched by huge television audiences around the world, along with a track attendance of 263,500 spectators, the biggest of the past 20 years.
The media coverage was also stunning, confirming the impressive renaissance of sports car racing globally.
A total of 1425 journalists covered the event and they hailed from 42 different countries.
As in 2014, 31 international television networks bought the rights to air the 2015 race. The telecast covered 190 countries. The total genuine worldwide audience is not known.
Eurosport, which provided 50 hours of coverage including practice and qualifying, says 23 million TV viewers throughout Europe watched the Le Mans 24 Hours. But not all watched for 24 hours!
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