ThePitCrewOnline Exclusive: Bia Figueiredo for International Women’s Day 2019

Bia Figueiredo has had a glittering career in motorsports that spans from Indy Lights to Brazilian Stock Cars. As the first woman to win an Indy Lights series race and the first woman to win at a race car event at the Iowa Speedway, she defined motorsport history and inspired women around the world with her positive attitude and impressive racing. For this International Women’s Day, Bia answered a few of our questions on her career and what it’s like to kick the trend in motorsports. Because this girl can!

 

Jade du Preez: How did you get into karting when you were young?
Bia Figueiredo: Since 3 years old I’ve shown passion for cars and speed. I would stay in my dad’s car turning the wheel for hours. I would ask for mini cars together with dolls. My parents decided to take me to a go-kart track and I loved it. I was lucky enough that they had an open mind by that time and supported me in the sport.

JdP: When did you start to think that you could make a career out of racing?
BF: When you are a kid you are sure you will make it easily to the top. Growing up I’ve realized that it wouldn’t be that easy. Because of that I started to focus on racing and left to the side my teen life with friends, boyfriends and parties. So, by 16 I decided to do that and put all my energy into racing and finishing school.

JdP: How do you think motorsports has changed for women since your breakthrough season in 2009?
BF: Actually I believe 2008 was THE year for women in Racing as I won in Indy Lights, Simona da Silvestro won in Atlantic and Danica Patrick won in IndyCar. On 2010 I made it to Indy 500 with the record of 5 women. So I believe it brought attention to other female drivers working hard to get to a top series.

JdP: You’ve had a few issues with funding over the years, and as a result had to miss races, do you think this would be an issue if you were a man? 
BF: Funding is the biggest problem in racing for male or female racers. At the beginning of my career in karting people wouldn’t support me because they thought a girl would never reach Indy Car. But after winning so many races it has changed a lot.

JdP: And how do you think the issue of female drivers struggling to get funding can be solved?
BF: There are not many women around the globe that are passionate for racing and speed. And not all of them have the support to move up. I believe if you start winning, things will start to change. Funding was always a problem when I struggled to get good results. So I started to work harder to do things different from guys like working better with social media , TV and others. And kept working hard to win races.

JdP: You’ve had such an incredible career, what is the highlight for you?
BF: The highlight is to be able to live from racing. I had support from so many people that believed in me and it is good to know that winning so many races, reaching the top and live from what I love to do make them all proud.

JP: And looking forward, what goals do you still want to reach?
BF: I moved from open wheel to V8 Cars in 2014 and feel that adapting wasn’t  easy. In Brazilian Stock Car where 30 cars can be in the same second I was able to reach a top 5 and many top 10. But for me the target still is a podium and a win. The same in IMSA where I should run a few races with Heinricher Racing/ Michael Shank with amazing drivers like Katherine Legge and Christina Nielsen. I can’t thank Jackie Heinricher and Michael Shank enough for giving me a new chance in the USA.

Interview: Can Oncu on his 2018 win and what his plans for 2019

Can Oncu, Moto3. Photo curtesy of Red Bull KTM Ajo

 

After a whirlwind last Moto3 race of 2018 in Valencia, Can Oncu solidified his place on the grid with an impressive debut and a record-breaking win. The 15-year-old Turk became the youngest GP winner and the first Turkish winner of a GP, smashing many more records along the way. Winner of the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup (with his twin brother Deniz securing second place) and finishing 24th(out of 36) in the Moto3 standings after only one race – the trophy cabinet will be well stocked in the Oncu household after this year. Oncu’s 2018 might have ended in spectacular style, but his 2019 season will continue with Red Bull KTM Ajo as he races for the Finnish team in Moto3 and chases down even more podium finishes. A new flurry of Moto3 riders will be filling the grid in 2019, as Jorge Martin, Fabio di Giannantonio, Marco Bezzecchi, Nicolo Bulega and Enea Bastianini all head for debut Moto2 seasons. However, the Turk will have competition from Aron Canet, Gabriel Rodrigo and Lorenzo Dalla Porta, as well as newer riders like Celestino Vietti. Jade du Preez put some questions to the youngster, to find out how you celebrate such a historic win, and what’s next for the rookie to accomplish.

 

Jade du Preez: How do you feel after your first win?

Can Oncu: I really wanted race with Jorge Martin and Marco Bezzecchi before they went to Moto2. I was lucky and my wish was fulfilled. Martin was my favourite all year long. That I can get involved in the front I spotted FP2 and FP3 and after qualification it was clear. Martin and Bezzecchi brought a very good performance all year. I was very surprised that I won. When I heard after the race that I had broken some records I could not believe it – the youngest Moto3 rider of all time, the youngest Moto3 rider to win a race, and more. Everyone from the paddock congratulated me. Except from the north pole and south pole, congratulations were sent to me from all over the world. The feeling of happiness is really indescribable. I thank everyone who supports me.

 

JdP: What are your goals for 2019 since you’ve already won a race?

CO: I know that I am not perfect, that I still have much to learn and I try hard to do so. Aki Ajo and my race team help me and my brother. I will try to be in the top 10 at the end of the year.

 

JdP: How did you celebrate your win in Valencia? Did you cheat on your diet, hangout with friends, etc.?

CO: I was celebrating with my entire team and eating delicious food in Valencia. I do not like alcohol, I like fruit juices. When I arrived at home in Alanya I was immediately visited by many friends and suddenly we had a party.

Moto3 Report: Youngest Race Winner Romps To Final Victory

It was a whirlwind end to the 2018 season, and it definitely wasn’t predictable – Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) was reserved and measured, John McPhee (CIP – Green Power) managed to step onto the podium and a relatively unknown 15-year-old won the race. Not your run of the mill race!

Can Oncu, Moto3, Valencia MotoGP 2018. Photo curtesy of Red Bull KTM Ajo

This race belonged to one man, and his fight for first place didn’t involve the usual competitors either – his name is Can Oncu (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and he left a rather big impression on Moto3 today. Starting as a wildcard rider, the youngster only managed to secure his place in the race because he won the Red Bull Rookies’ Cup and after qualifying fourth, it’s safe to say he dominated from very early on before taking Turkey’s first ever podium.

However, the race wasn’t as simple as Oncu romping to victory – Marco Bezzecchi (Redox PrustelGP) crashed out of second place and Tony Arbolino (Marinelli Snipers Team) had a mini high side which ripped first place from him.

The weather played a big part in the race, with 98 crashes taking place before the Moto3 race had even started and it’s safe to say many dashed hopes during the race too. Bezzecchi crashed twice (on the second crash both Redox PrustelGP bikes slide into the gravel trap), ending any chance of beating Fabio di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) to second place in the Championship, but that didn’t stop him trying. Rather foolishly, the Italian carried on riding even though his livery was badly damaged and scraping along the track – he pitted but his team only clipped the bodywork back in and he re-joined the race. But his misfortune didn’t end there, Oncu actually lapped him as the youngest rode away with what could have been his podium finish.

Marco Bezzecchi. Photo curtesy of Redox PrustelGP

Oncu didn’t just lap Bezzecchi though, he also lapped Darryn Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo), his teammate for the race who had slide out of the race and re-joined too. Spectacular racing came from Arbolino who held his lead very well and is arguably the only person who could have stopped Oncu’s hunt for first place. McPhee also seemed to find something in himself and didn’t cecum to the wet weather condition, which due to a considerable ack of right-hand corners and cold tyres meant that many fell prey to it.

Di Giannantonio’s securing of second place in the Championship made it a Gresini 1-2 but you’d be forgiven for not noticing that due to the fanfare of Oncu’s race win. Arguably, the likes of Martin and di Giannantonio will be glad that they don’t have to race against such a talented and capable rider. Oncu, who snatched the record for youngest race winner away from Scott Redding on his final race weekend in MotoGP, and Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46) who finished in a respectable tenth in his first really wet race in Moto3, will be dominant next year and they’ve arrived just in time for the changing of the guards.

Moto3 Preview: The rain in Spain disrupts riding again

Can Marco Bezzecchi secure 2nd place in the Moto3 world championship?

Although the Championship might be all wrapped up for Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3), the fight still rages on for his teammate Fabio di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3). He will need to produce a stellar ride in Valencia this weekend to close the nine point gap between him and fellow Italian Marco Bezzecchi (Redox PrustelGP) – 6th or better will clinch second place in the Championship for him (that is if Bezzecchi doesn’t place better than him).

That would make a Gresini top two as the team with the most dominant rider look too grow their 2018 season bragging rights. It was Martin who won in Valencia last year (his first career win), but whether the Spaniard can keep up with two hungry Italians remains to be seen as the weather grows progressively worse in Spain.

The torrential rain that has been hampering Free Practice One will throw a spanner in the works for some riders – why would Martin risk injuring himself (again this season) when he’s already won the Championship? He can take it slightly easier on Sunday but the Spanish crowd might stop him from doing that when the racing begins.

But there are riders out there with a lot to prove still. With parts of the Championship still open and several riders leaving Moto3 for Moto2 in 2019 including Martin, Bezzecchi, di Giannantonio, Nicolo Bulega (SKY Racing Team VR46) and Enea Bastianini (Leopard Racing), chances are we might see some elbows out racing. Looking to put one final effort in before they have to say goodbye to their bikes, and factoring in the miserable weather, this Sunday’s race could be a chaotic one, depending on who wants it most and who braves the rain better.

The track itself though doesn’t necessarily favour the Honda. In fact, the Japanese manufacturer has only won at Circuit Ricardo Tormo once, and that was last year with Martin. Up until that point the KTMs had dominated since 2012 when the 125 cc category turned into Moto3.

Martin is still with Honda, but KTMs that could stand in his way are Bezzecchi who has a lead to maintain in the Championship for second, Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46) who has widely impressed as he stands in for the injured Bulega (how he’ll fair in the wet conditions will be interesting to see) and Gabriel Rodrigo (RBA BOE Racing Team) currently sits in seventh position in the Championship.

Although fortune favours the bold, the rain tends to strike down those who are too bold in wet conditions. It might be less a game of speed on Sunday, and more a race of tactics (and just a little luck).

Moto3 Report: Martin clinches the Moto3 title as Bezzecchi struggles

It was a dreamy race weekend for Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) who started from pole position, won the race and clinched the Championship with one race to go. But it was commiserations for Marco Bezzecchi (Redox PrustelGP) who saw his Championship chances slip away as he settled for second position in the title fight and fifth in the race.

Ultimately, this sealed his position in the Championship, as even if his closest rival Fabio di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) did win the final race of the season in Valencia, he would be one point shy of second place in the Championship. di Giannantonio managed to come back from 13th in qualifying to finish just behind his compatriot, Bezzecchi.

There seemed to be a flash of nerves from Bezzecchi, who had to scores better than fifth if he wanted to keep his Championship hopes alive until the next race. However, he just didn’t seem able to pick off one extra rider before the finishing line. Martin though managed to run away with his lead as soon as he got to the final few laps, whether that was tyre conservation or nerves too, he seemed to handle it better than his rival.

However, things could have been very different had Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) not slid out of first place. Could the Spaniard have thrown a spanner in the works and forced the Championship fight onto Valencia? It just wasn’t his race.

It was a good weekend for Leopard Racing who got a double podium – Lorenzo Dalla Porta in second and Enea Bastianini in third. Very impressive for Dalla Porta who has had some solid results in the later half of the season, and Bastianini who would have been fighting for every point to catch up to di Giannantonio in the Championship. Their rivalry can continue though as they both move up to Moto2 in 2019, as well as Bezzecchi and Martin.

It was an Italian heavy top 10 with only four riders coming from different countries. But both of the SIC58 Squarda Corse riders (Italy’s Niccolò Antonelli and Japan’s Tatsuki Suzuki) managed to score tenth and ninth places respectively. This is of particular significance as the late MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli passed away after an accident at the 2011 Malaysian GP. The team, started by Paolo Simoncelli, haven’t had a joint top 10 effort this season, so for both bikes to make it over the finishing line like they did was a special moment for them.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t the case for home favourite Adam Norrodin (Petronas Sprinta Racing) who finished last after he crashed out at the Sepang International Circuit having had an impressive run to 12th.

With the Championship done and dusted, Valencia will be an interesting race because all riders can relax and race for fun – could that mean that some new faces grace the last podium of the 2018 season? Or will Martin want to extend his record for pole positions achieved in a season?

MotoGP Report: Marquez secures victory after Rossi crashes out

The Malaysian Grand Prix certainly felt like a throwback race to about ten years ago; Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) was leading until four laps to go and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) was riding better than he has almost all season.

The only thing missing was Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati) – who withdrew from the weekend following Friday practice, still very much struggling with injury.

It was a race that most dream of seeing, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) was chasing down Rossi who had a great start and managed to thunder past Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) but the gap between the two was lengthening. It felt like Rossi had the race in the bag until he slid out with four laps to go and then Marquez romped to the finishing line. Zarco was over taken by a keen Alex Rins (Suzuki), and Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) rather predictably had late race pace so only really performed near the end of the race.

It was a long race for most, there were no huge jumps like in Moto3, so instead it felt like riders would pick off a rider with each lap and slowly climb the leader board. It wasn’t fast paced, even though Marquez did set a new circuit record. Even though the Championship is all tied up for Marquez, Rossi would need to win in Valencia to secure second in the Championship, while Vinales could beat his team mate to third if he scores 3 points or more than Rossi does in the final round. So, there is still a lot to play for as the MotoGP class rolls into Spain one last time in 2018.

An area of great concern during the race however, was that Marquez had really abused his back tyre to gain on Rossi, so had Rossi finished the race – would Marquez be able to keep up or would his tyre have lasted at all until the end? Exploding tyres is not totally unheard of, but for someone as light as Marquez, it is rather surprising that the wear and tear was so evident. Repsol Honda probably would have looked into this but they’re most likely too busy celebrating their Constructor’s Championship title and Rider’s Championship.

Although, it was Hafizh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) who put in a stellar performance in front of his home crowd. The Tech 3 rider is the first Malaysian rider in MotoGP to race at the Sepang International Circuit, and to be in the top ten and the best Rookie is a feat in itself. He was probably hoping to secure more points again Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) who is ten points ahead of him in the Rookie standings.

All in all, it was a memorable race for Marquez and Rossi fans alike, albeit for very different reasons but the Malaysian fans got something truly special out of their home favourite. But if you felt like this race lacked anything, it was a good old fashioned fight for the podium, unfortunately it just wasn’t meant to be this time around.

Moto3 Preview: Will Vietti or Bezzecchi ruin Martin’s title chances?

As the 2018 season starts to come to an end, Moto3 rolls into town for the last of the fly-aways in Malaysia. With the Championship battle still well underway, the next race is vital to see if Marco Bezzecchi (Redox PrustelGP) will close the narrow gap between himself and front runner, Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3), or see if the Gresini rider will get one step closer to clinching the title.

But it’s not just down to those two, as Fabio di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) could creep into first place if he has two stellar runs and Bezzecchi’s unfortunate luck continues.

With all to play for it will be an interesting weekend, but rather predictably Martin will be starting from pole position after clinching his record breaking 11thpole. Bezzecchi is right on his tail in 2ndthough, so no one will be playing catch-up like in Phillip Island.

The Italian Tony Arbolino (Marinelli Snipers Team) and Scotland’s John McPhee (CIP – Green Power) round out the top four, with last weekend’s breakthrough talent Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46) qualifying in an impressive 12thplace. Could we see another top 10 finish, or even another podium? It would definitely spice up the Championship, if Martin and Bezzecchi weren’t enough.

Martin does have good form at the Sepang International Circuit, finishing 2ndlast year, behind Moto2’s Joan Mir (formerly Leopard Racing) and in front of Enea Bastianini (Leopard Racing). However, Bezzecchi finished in 19th, and he’ll be looking to improve on that if he wants to stand any chance of pipping Martin to the title – and his good qualifying will help with that.

Qualifying didn’t show any particular bike benefiting from the two long straights that the Sepang International Circuit is know for, with a results almost splitting perfectly between the Honda and KTM bikes – but all year long the KTM has had incredible speed in a straight line. So, this particular feature might help Bezzecchi but only if his fortunes change.

All riders will be looking to get some last-minute points in to improve their chances when they all descend upon Valencia for the last race of the season, but after riding three weekends in a row, they’ll be feeling a little delicate, especially the guys who’ve suffered some nasty crashes. Jaume Masia (Bester Capital Dubai), Gabriel Rodrigo (RBA BOE Racing Team) and Nicolo Bulega (SKY Racing Team VR46) will not be racing this weekend, but Bulega’s replacement could be the cat amongst the pigeons in terms of the Championship.

Moto3 Report: Phillip Island delivers but Bezzecchi falls foul

It was a breath taking race that saw more than half the grid eligible for a podium finish – but it was Albert Arenas (Angel Nieto Team), Fabio di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini) and Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) who relished in the moment and the champagne. Except for 17-year-old Vietti, who isn’t old enough to spray champagne, but then again, a podium on your second ever Moto3 race probably tastes sweeter than any bubbles ever could, and he raced hard for it.

For di Giannantonio it was a necessary podium. The Italian has been battered and bruised on just about every race weekend for the last 3 weeks, making this a much deserved second place finish. And the man of the moment, Arenas, took his second win of the season and this time around he truly earned it – whether you think his Le Mans victory was really di Giannantonio’s, or not.

This entire race was important for the Championship, two very important crashes happened, and a few near misses, have changed the course of this season. Firstly, Lorenzo Dalla Porta’s (Leopard Racing) crash meant that his team mate Enea Bastianini (Leopard Racing) could keep his fourth place in the Championship.

Then it was Gabriel Rodrigo’s (RBA BOE Racing Team) unfortunate collision with Championship contender Marco Bezzecchi that paved the way for Martin to extend his lead in the Championship beyond the one point that he started this weekend with. However, this wasn’t really the case, as there is only 12 points between the Italian and the Spaniard now, but it could have remained at just one point because luck seemed to be firmly on Martin’s side. He narrowly avoided two crashes/contact which could have seen both of their weekends reduced to null and avoid effectively.

However, it does beg the question – had di Giannantonio not had his Le Mans victory taken away from him, could he be leading the Championship right now? With 20 points between the Championship leaders, he definitely could have made life difficult for Martin and Bezzecchi after this week’s results.

The race itself saw real talent shining through from all riders as, the top 15 stayed particularly tight and positions were traded so often that the leader board couldn’t keep up with them. It was Tony Arbolino (Marinelli Snipers Team) and Denis Foggia (Sky Racing Team VR46) though showed potential for a podium finish, that was before they took each other out whilst vying for the top spot behind Martin.

But ultimately due to a constantly changing lineups, whether to do with crashes or overtaking, you found yourself rooting for half the grid at least once. This race has left the Championship wide open for the top three riders still, but it might have invigorated the rest of the grid as the majority of them got a taste of leading a race. With only two races to go, who could clinch the title between Martin, Bezzecchi or di Giannantonio?

Moto3 Preview: What does the Island have in store for Moto3?

Combining one of the most thrilling tracks and the most unpredictable classes, makes for very entertaining viewing. Moto3 is descending upon Phillip Island in Australia and it looks to be a promising one with defending champion Joan Mir no longer in Moto3, the win could be anyone’s.

As has been the case for the majority of this season, it’s Jorge Martin (Gresini) and Marco Bezzecchi (Prustel) who need to score big points as the 2018 season draws to a close soon. With just one point between them, Martin will be looking to extend his lead and Bezzecchi will be doing all he can to overtake Martin and clinch a possible Championship title.

The three Italians who make up 3rd-5thshouldn’t be overlooked as Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini) looks to come back from his awful Motegi high side (his participation at Phillip Island was hit or miss for a second). Enea Bastianini (Leopard Racing) is in 4thand will want to secure some much needed points (33 to draw level with Di Giannantonio) to make it to the top 3 in time for the season ending, and Lorenzo Della Porta (Leopard Racing) will want to continue to fine form he’s had and maybe step onto the podium once again.

However, the Island is formidable and when the weather is wreaking havoc with races, the wildlife can get in the way too. And both of these things can play a huge part in how makes it to the end of a race, let alone scores points. The possible wet weather will mean that the likes of Martin, who ride well in rainy conditions, have the chance to do well but T1 is arguable the fastest corner on the racing calendar so when all the riders pile into this corner first time round – it could catch a few riders out. It’s also been very cold the last few days, meaning that cold tyres will be something all riders need to be aware of.

There are 7 left hand corners (to 5 right hand corners) so the tyres should warm on all side relatively evenly but this could still catch riders out in the opening laps before their tyres are properly heated. And of course, it wouldn’t be a Phillip Island preview if the wildlife isn’t brought up. The main culprits are seagulls but other wildlife has wondered on track in the past, and it’s hard enough racing but dodging animals makes the AusGP a unique experience.

With 2018 bringing in the 29th Phillip Island GP, only Sunday will reveal whether it was the weather, wildlife or the own fault of the riders that messes up someone’s Grand Prix weekend.

War of Attrition as Weather Brings Havoc in Race 2

Leon Haslam marked his first race as British champion with his 15th win of the season, in treacherous conditions at Brands Hatch.

It’s almost become an expected part of British racing that the sun will not be shining but unfortunately with the rain brought many crashes. Only 14 riders finished Race 2 with 12 crashing out, including Danny Kent (Halsall Racing Suzuki), Jake Dixon (Kawasaki) and Andrew Irwin (BeWiser Ducati).

Not the end to the season that most riders would be hoping for but, it was a very good weekend for Haslam (JG-Speedfit Kawasaki) who won the Championship and secured his 15th race win in a contained manner. Only romping away with first position when the end was in sight – almost like he learned from Dixon’s mistake who’s race ended with only a quarter of the race left when he finally obtained the lead.

It was an unfortunate race for Dixon on a whole who started on pole but he fell down to third after Irwin took his chance and clinched first position. Then chaos ensued as riders started falling left, right and centre due to the wet weather conditions and the camber of the track.

It wasn’t long before Irwin wasn’t leading and neither was Dixon as the race ultimately became a race between Haslam and Jason O’Halloran (Honda Racing) who fought long and hard for first position. When riding in the wet, being out front gives riders an advantage due to better visibility – no spray from the bike in front of them and a better view of the track means that they can judge their next move better. As the pair fought back and forth for this advantage, it was fishtailing that bothered O’Halloran.

It wasn’t to be for future Moto2 rider Dixon who would have hoped for a better finish to the season, but he would ultimately finish 70 points behind Haslam in the Championship in second place. His progression to Moto2 will be interesting to watch as he copes without having experience on the Moto3 machine before jumping aboard the Angel Nieto Team bike with a Triumph engine.

But after a stellar season, it was Haslam who clinched the Championship before he too departs from BSB to rejoin the Superbike World Championship with the Kawasaki Racing Team in 2019. And for 12 riders at Brands Hatch, it was not a race to remember, but with the weather conditions being what they were it’s not totally surprising that almost half the grid didn’t finish the race.