Welcome to week 40 – three races this weekend. F1 is in the U.S. at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA); MotoGP is down-under on Phillip Island in Australia; and NASCAR has their last race of their “Contender” round, at the big restrictor plate track of Talladega, after which four more drivers will no longer be in the Chase for the Cup. Picks can be made at: http://www.roadracetracks.com/motorracinggame.shtml.
Scores from week 39:
WRC Spain, Moto GP Japan, NASCAR Kansas City, WEC Japan:
At the WRC mixed surface event of rally Spain, treacherous conditions in heavy rain and mud on the opening day, followed by high-speed and mostly wide asphalt roads on days 2 and 3, meant mixed results for the teams. Falling victim to the changing conditions were Kris Meeke who suffered a puncture, rolled, and on the final day had the engine of his Citroen fail, to leave him a non-finisher and no points for picking him. Andreas Mikkelsen crashed out in spectacular fashion on the last day leaving him out of the rally. Jari-Matti Latvala damaged his suspension in a minor incident that put him out on day 1, but he returned under Rally 2 rules to finish the event 14th. No such problems for the two front runners though, with local Spanish hero Dani Sordo leading the rally after day 1, but unable to keep Sebastien Ogier behind him on the following days. For Ogier it was a measured race, and his victory sealed the world championship for him for the fourth time.
At the Moto GP at Motegi in Japan, victory for Marc Marquez came with the bonus of sealing the world championship. It wasn’t expected, but came about when both his nearest contenders crashed. Valentino Rossi was first down, crashing out while in second. Jorge Lorenzo was probably suffering from a fall earlier in the weekend, and after he was handed second (when Rossi went down), he started losing ground to Marquez, and started coming under pressure from Andrea Dovizioso in third. Maybe it was all too much, and he too crashed, with five laps to go. And so with both challengers down, it gave Marquez not only the race win, but the championship too. Behind Dovizioso, Maverick Vinales took third place ahead of his teammate Aleix Espargaro. Dani Pedrosa had a massive crash in practice on Friday in which he broke his collarbone in four places and fractured his fibula. He was substituted by his team with Hiroshi Aoyama who finished 15th, so picking Pedrosa will garner Aoyama’s 15th place points under rule 5k of TMRG.
In the NASCAR race at Kansas Speedway, it was race 2 of the “Contender” round, and five drivers needed good results after disasters last week. Needing to make up the most was Kevin Harvick, who finished 38th last week after an engine failure. Job done this week, with a complete turn-around and victory at Kansas to seal his position in the next round. Joey Logano also did himself a favor by finishing third behind contender Carl Edwards. Austin Dillon’s problems last week were also put aside with a 6th place finish behind last week’s winner Jimmie Johnson in 4th, and contender Kyle Busch in 5th. No such good news for Denny Hamlin, who finished 15th, and more importantly finished behind Matt Kenseth in 9th, Martin Truex Jr. in 11th, and Kurt Busch in 13th. It means that Hamlin has a lot to do next week to get into the next round. Brad Keselowski, who had a 7th place finish last week, was in trouble this week with a crash that put him out of the race and a 38th place finish, so he too needs a very strong result next week to stay in the Chase. Final contender, Chase Elliot had a bad day last week, and another this week when he finished 31st, so he basically needs to win at Talladega to stay in.
In the WEC event at the Mt. Fuji circuit in Japan, it was a great battle between Toyota, Audi, and Porsche in the final hour of the six-hour event. And it was the #6 Toyota that took the win by a mere 1.4s over the #8 Audi. The #1 Porsche wasn’t too far behind – in third place only 16s behind the Audi. The lead #5 Toyota also finished on the lead lap, in fourth place. And the #2 Porsche wasn’t too far behind, a lap down, in fifth place. Among the top teams it was only the #7 Audi that suffered, when an engine failure put them out of the race in the first hour, and a 32nd place finish.
Congratulations to Sebastian and his 19th win of the year with one tie. And it was a good sized win – a 24 point margin after disastrous picks of Kris Meeke in WRC and Brad Keselowski in NASCAR for iomracer. No changes in positions in the season-long standings, but things have closed up quite a bit …