Rally of Germany

Meeke, so close

Kris Meeke lead ADAC Rally Deutschland three stages from arrival when he ran off, trapped by the demanding asphalt on Rhine-Palatinate and Saarland. The Citroen driver doing so handed victory to Thierry Neuville.

The facts

A Sunday that the rallying can gift to motorsport world, this is how the 9th of the 13 rounds of 2014 ended in Trier. Trailing by one minute on Sunday morning, ahead of the last four special stages (74.6

km) from 18, Neuville first took advantage of leader Jari-Matti Latvala uncontrolled visit in the Moselle vineyards in the times sector.

Meeke found himself on top with a reasonable lead. Alas, the Ulsterman was off no later than the first corner to the following stage.

Neuville learnt the two lessons and managed to edge team-mate Dani Sordo, his Hyundai team mate and Germany holder with Citroen. Andreas Mikkelsen parked his Volkswagen on the third step of the podium.

Championship leader Sébastien Ogier was off since Friday, crashing from the lead.

Figures

5 – The number of points missing on Sunday night to Volkswagen to be crowned at home.

12 – Citroën let the title go in Germany after retaining it for 11 years.

The quote

“I had a pace note that was a little bit too optimistic at the start of the stage. We hit something with the front wheel. I felt a big vibration and we went off on the next corner and crashed into a wall.

I’m really disappointed for everyone in the team, who have been working so hard to get results. But we showed that we were on the pace.” Meeke explains how things panned for him.

The anecdote

Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul enjoyed an amazing Sunday all the more than on Thursday night, at shakedown, Belgian team rolled six times. It took all night of work to Hyundai mechanics to rebuild the car. It paid off.

Next up

Australia (September 11-14)

GP of Belgium

Ricciardo to the power of 3

Daniel Ricciardo has carried off his third victory in Formula 1, the second in a row in this 2014 season for the Red Bull driver, who controlled his race to perfection in Belgium, much as he did in Canada and Hungary, to be welcomed by the chequered flag, ahead of Nico Rosberg and Valteri Bottas.

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The facts

At the start, on a dry track, following qualifiers under pouring rain, Rosberg (Mercedes), on pole, immediately lost his advantage to the benefit of Lewis Hamilton, who moved into the lead ahead of Sebastian Vettel, who veered off the track a few yards further on, leaving the W05s in front at the end of the first lap.

Perhaps upset at having had a poor start, Rosberg then tried to overtake on the outside and clipped his team mate, who suffered a puncture. This ruined the race for Hamilton, who was obliged to stop for fresh rubber. The German, too, made a stop a few laps later in the Mercedes garage, for a new front wing.

Meanwhile, Ricciardo, this season’s revelation, was building his third two-stop victory. Having taken the lead before mid-race, the Australian managed his tyres and romped home the victor. Vettel finished fifth.

The figure

50 – Ricciardo’s win was the 50th for Red Bull in Formula One. Vettel had won the first in China in 2009, the tenth (European GP 2010 in Valencia), 20th (Monaco 2011) and 40th (Italy 2013). The 30th was chalked by Mark Webber (Great Britian 2012).

The quote

“We were at the exit to La Source, with Jules (Bianchi) and Nico (Hülkenberg). My aerofoil was damaged and that prevented me from fighting for the last points with the Force Indias and the Toro Rossos.” Romain Grosjean, speaking after he retired his Lotus before the end of the race. In the other Lotus, Pastor Maldonado dropped out shortly after the race began.

The anecdote

The Ice Bucket Challenge, which involves pouring a filled bucket (or having it poured) over oneself, launched on the social networks, swept through Spa this weekend. Ricciardo was the first to rise to the challenge, on Friday evening, before inviting the team’s management (Christian Horner and Adrian Newey) to meet it, which they did in a good-humoured spirit of fun.

Next up

Italy (Monza, 5th-7th September).

Czech Republic Grand Prix

Rabat Regains Lead

2014 11 GP Brno 04314In the race between the two Marc VDS Racing riders for the Moto2 World Championship title, Tito Rabat regained the lead in Brno by stopping his teammate from gaining ground.

The Races

Since his win in Barcelona, Tito Rabat has never been back on the podium. After being beaten in the last three races by Mika Kallio, the championship leader took over control of the standings once again in the Czech Republic, winning with class and panache. Having qualified for pole position, Rabat led from the first to the last lap to chalk up his fifth win of the season and a new lap record. Despite tuning problems during the practice test sessions, Kallio limited the damage by finishing second, allowing the Marc VDS team celebrate another twin-win.

2014 11 GP Brno 06130In MotoGP, Stefan Bradl also set things right again. After two races without scoring any points, the LCR Honda rider crossed the finish line in seventh position. In Moto3, Miguel Oliveira scored an honorable seventh place ahead of the Hondas ridden by Efren Vazquez and Alex Rins. Arthur Sissis finished in twenty-sixth position whereas Jorge Navarro fell after his bike was hit by John McPhee during the second lap.

The Championship

With his new win, Rabat increased his lead over Kallio by five points, leaving the two Marc VDS riders separated by twelve points. In the MotoGP class, Bradl has moved back to ninth place, level on points with Bradley Smith. In Moto3, Miguel Oliveira is now ninth on equal points with Enea Bastiannini. There is no change in the standings for Sisis and Navarro, in 25th and 27th place respectively.

The Background

With two riders in the lead of the Moto2 World Championship as the season moves into its second half, Michael Bartholemy knows he will have his work cut out to manage the rivalry between Tito Rabat and Mika Kallio. “I’m not worried, everything is going well in the team,” says the head of Marc VDS Racing Team. “Each side of the garage is doing its own work. The rivalry and the struggle for the world championship title should be a source of emulation, not an in-house fight. We’ve just asked Tito and Mika not to do anything untoward each other. We have a chance of winning the title, and we don’t want to waste it. I don’t want their rivalry to degenerate into a fistfight, and I’m not worried it will. They are both adult men. The goal is to try to score forty-five points in each Grand Prix. Bartholemy knows better than anyone that it’s never over until it’s over and the finish line has been crossed. Last year, Scott Redding was leading the championship when he was injured in Australia. Everyone has to stay focused on their work,” says Bartholemy. “If they do, we’ll reach our aim.”

Indianapolis Grand Prix

Kallio is King

With a stunning victory on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Mika Kallio has climbed up to only seven points behind Tito Rabat in the overall standings in the Moto2 world championship. The battle for the title between the two Marc VDS Racing riders promises to be thrilling.
mika_kallio

The Races

Despite a difficult first day of free practice sessions on a circuit that until now he had never really found to his taste, Mika Kallio totally reversed the trend during the weekend by winning hands down after taking pole position. Despite the interruption in the race after four riders crashed and with a two-second lead he had already clocked up over his followers, the Finn continued unperturbed by the incident. Taking the lead once again, the Marc VDS rider managed the race perfectly to chalk up his third win of the season. Plagued by grip problems, Tito Rabat had to settle for fourth place. Showing little verve on the Indianapolis track, Bradl fell while he was in ninth place in the MotoGP race. In Moto3, Jorge Navarro got off to a very good start as the stand-in for Livio Loi. In his first race in the United States, with a new bike and a new team, the Spaniard scored two points after qualifying in sixth position. Miguel Oliveira slid his Mahindra into seventh place while Arthur Sissis finished 21st.

 The Championship

Taking advantage of his win and Tito Rabat fourth place on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Mika Kallio is now only seven points behind the Moto2 championship leader. In MotoGP Bradl has slipped back to tenth position but has consolidated his eighth place in the Moto3 category. For his debut Grand Prix, Navarro has entered the overall standings in 27th position, one point behind Sissis, 25th in the championship.

The Background

After racing for three seasons flying the Honda LCR flag, Stefan Bradl has decided to switch teams for the 2015 season. “We’re preparing for the future and negotiating contracts for the next championship, so it took us a little longer to get our budget together,” explains Lucio Cecchinello. It all depended on the German Grand Prix. Just when I was able to make Stefan an offer to extend our association, he had already signed elsewhere. With the agreement of the HRC, we’ve decided to offer his place to Cal Crutchlow.” The British rider did not take long to agree. “Cal is one of the riders who are capable of competing with the “Fantastic 4” of Marquez, Rossi, Lorenzo and Pedrosa,” agreed Christophe Bourguignon, the technical director of the LCR team. This year has been more difficult for him because he has not managed to adapt to the Ducati, but he’s a rider who always gives 100% and we are really excited about the prospect of working with him next year. Cal also brakes hard and we know that is the main advantage of the Honda. With Ohlins suspensions and Brembo brakes, but also the support of the HRC, we should have a really competitive team.” But before that, obviously the remaining objective of the Honda LCR team is to finish the championship in 2014 with Stefan Bradl in the best position possible.

Race of Argentina

Pechito takes home comfort

At the place he splashed out on the global scene one year ago, in Termas de Rio Hondo in his native Argentina, Jose Maria Lopez crushed opposition by winning both races in the ninth of thirteen events this season.

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The facts

Acclaimed by home fans, Pechito has made light work of team mates and French legends, title holder Yvan Muller and nine times WRC champion Sebastien Loeb. His dominance would not end since he took the pole position on Saturday, heading the two other Citroën C-Elysées.

By 32°C in the north of Argentina, the Rio Tercero native spiced up the atmosphere on Sunday. After leading the first race from start to finish, Lopez, 31, delivered a stunning come-back in the second, with the reverted grid, to unseat Rob Huff after nine of the 13 laps. He also set the fastest lap in race two.

The figure

40000 -. The number of fans who turned up to the circuit on Sunday at Termas of Rio Hondo to support Pechito. A year ago, while unnoticed in Europe, he had won the second race, which prompted Citroen to sign him as a permanent driver.

The story

After this brief stay in South America, the Championship now heads for Asia for the final four rounds. Two will take place in China (Beijing and Shanghai), one in Japan (Suzuka) and the final in Macau.

The sentence

“I’m now focusing first and foremost on 2015. I’m nearly 100 points adrift of Pechito, so I consider myself out of the running for the title.” Sebastien Loeb acknowledged Lopez was better on Sunday evening. Müller therefore seems to be his last opponent, 60 points adrift.

Next up

Beijing (October 4-5)

Rally of Finland

Meeke jumps on Finland podium

At reasonable distance from winner Jari-Matti Latvala and runner up Sébastien Ogier’s dogfight for the victory, Kris Meeke and his Citroen DS3 earned themselves their third podium in eight races in Finland.

The facts

After Monaco and Argentina, the Ulsterman is again the best of the rest adrift the Polos R following four days of a tense battle. He even held the second place ahead of Ogier on Friday night. Although he lead from the off on home soil, Latvala remained under threat until the final day, winning to Championship leader for less than 4 seconds!

On Saturday, having build a 30 second margin over Ogier, Latvala damaged his brakes on a hole in the SS20, making the uncertain until the end. In the meantime, Meeke and Paul Nagle fared on minute ahead Volkswagen Andreas Mikkelsen.

The figure

1 -. Given the overwhelming dominance of VW, Meeke still stole one special stage win, at the 7th from 26 special. For the rest, he could only stand and valiantly fight.

The quote

“I was on the podium in Monte Carlo and in Argentina, but this one feels more special – it feels like I’ve earned it.” Kris Meeke summed up his weekend and feeling in a few words.

The story

On 26 July, Citroen driver Mads Ostberg won “Helsinki battle”, a friendly contest held in Helsinki harbour ahead of 20,000 fans. In the event, current drivers face a bunch of legends and Ostberg had to defeat 2000 and 2002 World champion Marcus Grönholm in the final. The following days were a bit less successful for the Norwegian who was fighting for fourth place on Saturday before damaging his roll cage at the landing of one of the famous jumps of the Finland rally.

Next up

Germany (21-24 August)