Pit tim­ings prove un­do­ing

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - Front Page -

AF­TER qual­i­fy­ing on the front row of the grid at the Sepang Cir­cuit in Malaysia last Sun­day, Lewis Hamil­ton (Mclaren Mercedes) and his team­mate Jensen But­ton looked set to repli­cate their re­cent “one-two” AGP win in Melbourne.

How­ever, Mother Na­ture took con­trol with in­ter­mit­tent show­ers greet­ing the field at the green. It was Fer­nando Alonso and his Fer­rari Team who mas­tered the chang­ing con­di­tions and con­trolled the race. Fol­low­ing a 51-minute stop­page due to the rain, Alonso, who qual­i­fied ninth and had al­ready climbed to fifth, skill­fully drove into the lead which he held to the che­quered flag.

The al­most-un­known Ser­gio Perez (Sauber-fer­rari) fin­ished sec­ond and was clos­ing on Alonso. Team owner Peter Sauber was in tears af­ter the race. Af­ter qual­i­fy­ing fourth Mark Web­ber drove skill­fully and stayed on the “black stuff” to claim his sec­ond fourth plac­ing of the sea­son.

He lost track po­si­tion in ill-timed pit stops to change to in­ter­me­di­ate tyres and then “slicks” as the track dried. Daniel Ric­cia­rdo ( Red Bull Fer­rari), af­ter qual­i­fy­ing 15th, fell back to 18th be­fore re­peat­ing his ster­ling drive in Melbourne to fin­ish ninth again.

Alonso now leads the cham­pi­onship with Web­ber fourth and Ric­cia­rdo 15th. De­fend­ing cham­pion Se­bas­tian Vet­tel (Red Bull Re­nault) did not man­age the chang­ing con­di­tions, fin­ish­ing 11th.

WHEL­DON RE­MEM­BERED IN OPENER

THE open­ing round of the Indy Rac­ing League Cham­pi­onship at St Peters­burg in Florida was tinged with sad­ness, be­ing the first race since Dan Whel­don lost his life in the final round at Las Ve­gas last year.

Driv­ers and teams were un­easy and sad­ness was ap­par­ent. Dan’s sis­ter Holly Whel­don waved the green flag for the start of the race (pic­tured inset).

How­ever three-time In­di­anapo­lis 500 win­ner Brazil’s He­lio Cas­tron­eves con­trolled his emo­tions to drive through the field to a lead which he held un­til the end. Iron­i­cally, on his vic­tory lap, the car ran out of fuel near the sign mark­ing a stretch of the cir­cuit named the Dan Whel­don Way in his good friend’s hon­our. Whel­don lost his life in a fiery 350km/h, 14-car crash in the last round of 2011. Cas­tron­eves (above) climbed the fence, touched the sign sev­eral times and choked back tears. Once down, he knelt and said a prayer.

For­mer Toowoomba For­mula Ford racer Will Power, af­ter qual­i­fy­ing on the pole, looked to have the race in his grasp. How­ever, an ill-timed pit stop prior to a “yel­low” (the cau­tion flag where cars could pit and not lose touch with the slow-mov­ing field) saw him back in 15th place. De­spite this, Power drove skill­fully to fin­ish sev­enth. Reign­ing IRL Cham­pion Dario Fran­chitti also had a less than ideal day, fin­ish­ing 13th.

F1 con­vert Rubens Barichello fin­ished his first IRL race in 17th place.

Round two is on a road course in Birm­ing­ham, Alabama, this week­end where Power is ex­pected to make up for his dis­mal start to the sea­son.

Ge­off Brab­ham’s son Matthew fin­ished sec­ond in both races in the USF2000 Se­ries, a sup­port event at St Peters­burg, and sits in sec­ond in the cham­pi­onship.

DRIV­ING TIP

It goes with­out say­ing that in­ces­sant heavy rain has dam­aged many roads and caused washouts and land­slides. While the road re­pair teams are do­ing a stel­lar job in dif­fi­cult con­di­tions, mo­torists are ad­vised to ex­pect less tyre grip, less con­trol, caus­ing po­ten­tial crash sit­u­a­tions, es­pe­cially un­til re­pairs are com­pleted af­ter the

wet sea­son.

SUSUPERCARS TAKE TO TASSIE

R ROUND two of the V8 Su­per­car C Cham­pi­onship will be raced at Sym­mons Plains in Tas­ma­nia this week­end. Will D Dav­i­son (FPR Fal­con) leads from de­fend­ing c cham­pion Jamie Whin­cup (888 Com­modore) with w Garth Tan­der (HRT Com­modore) and Dav­i­son’s Dav team­mate, Mark Win­ter­bot­ton, fourth. For the first time in a long time, the Fords have taken it up to the Hold­ens. The tight lay­out of Sym­mons Plains P will no doubt en­sure “cut and thrust” rac­ing this week­end.

As Ford and Holden are look­ing to se­cure en­gines from Amer­ica for the new “Car of the Fu­ture” which will de­but next year, the Kelly Rac­ing Team’s Nis­san V8 Su­per­cars are be­gin­ning to take shape. To be sold in Australia next year, the all-new Nis­san Al­tima will be the car con­test­ing the cham­pi­onship.

The Al­tima was pre­vi­ously only sold in North Amer­ica and Ja­pan, how­ever it will be sold in Australia from next year. The en­gine will be based on the 5.6-litre V8 upon which the Nis­san GT-R GT1’S mo­tor is based. >>Read about the new Nis­san GT-R coupe on P9.

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