IndyCar Phoenix Report: Newgarden finally breaks his Phoenix curse

IndyCar got its first oval of the season done at Phoenix and, while Josef Newgarden was the one to take the win, it was rookie Robert Wickens who was once more grabbing headlines and stealing the show with a remarkable second place finish. Alexander Rossi was the big mover of the day, completing over 50 overtakes while Sebastien Bourdais’ race fell apart at the first hurdle.

After qualifying on pole, Bourdais’ race started with trouble after the Frenchman’s Dale Coyne was kept in the pits for the first formation lap to give the team time to restart his car. He joined the track in time to take the start on pole but his team soon reported that they’d lost all telemetry on his car however, that problem was soon negated when he came into the pits and hit one of his pit crew, giving him a drive-thru penalty and dropping him to last. Thankfully, the pit member involved was unharmed.

Another one to be compromised by the first round of pit stops was Rossi who, like Bourdais, hit his pit crew and landed himself a drive-thru penalty, Again, the crew members involved were fine. Rossi didn’t come back into significance until he assisted Will Power into the wall, ending the Penske driver’s race, before fully un-lapping himself under green flag conditions. When Ed Jones hit the wall with 21 laps to go, all the field pitted other than Wickens, James Hinchcliffe and Rossi; this gave the three track position over the fresh tyre runners but high degradation in the latter stages of the race cost all of them at least some positions.

Wickens was leading the race up until those final stops but was unable to defend from Newgarden who was flying on his new Firestones. Before then, Wickens had come to the front after pitting early at the second round of stops and passing teammate Hinchcliffe who’d gotten caught up in traffic. The Canadian dropped to third after the third stops but was propelled into first after Jones crashed out of second and leader Newgarden pitted; the win was not to be for Wickens but second place on his first ever oval race is outstanding achievement.

Josef Newgarden. courtesy of media.gm.com

Newgarden himself was relieved to break his unlucky streak under lights at Phoenix after failing to finish on the podium at any of his previous races here. The reigning champion worked out second after the first round of pit stops, something he attributed to team owner Roger Penske insisting that the team clean the pit boxes thoroughly. The second pit stops didn’t work out in the American’s favour but, with Power out, Newgarden was the first to pit at the next round, allowing him to take the lead. He took the risk to pit again when Jones hit the wall but that paid off when he was able to blast past Hinchcliffe and Rossi on the restart before getting Wickens with just four laps remaining to take his first win of his title defence.

A surprisingly low amount of cautions, despite numerous incidents, meant that once cars were lapped, that was pretty much it for them. This was the case for all the new teams, Carlin, Harding and Juncos, who all struggled for pace at their first oval and all ended up at least a lap behind the leaders. It wasn’t just the rookie teams who struggled, all the rookie drivers, other than the incredible Wickens, were off the pace, with some even ending in the wall. Pietro Fittipaldi and Kyle Kaiser both got too close to the wall while Matheus Leist’s race was ruined when he left the pit box with one wheel not attached.

This race was a large improvement on Phoenix last year for Honda who took positions two through to sixth however, it was still a Chevrolet that took the win, meaning that Penske’s Newgarden now leads the championship, five points ahead of Rossi.

Phoenix marked the first of three races in a row with IndyCar now heading to the streets of Long Beach before going to Barber Motorsports Park in two weeks’ time. IndyCar will not return to an oval until the 102nd running of the Indy 500 at the end of May so it’s street courses all the way until then.

 

Full race results:

1.      Josef Newgarden

2.      Robert Wickens (R)

3.      Alexander Rossi

4.      Scott Dixon

5.      Ryan Hunter-Reay

6.      James Hinchcliffe

7.      Ed Carpenter

8.      Tony Kanaan

9.      Graham Rahal

10.  Simon Pagenaud

11.  Takuma Sato

12.  Marco Andretti

13.  Sebastien Bourdais

14.  Spencer Pigot

15.  Gabby Chaves

16.  Zach Veach (R)

17.  Charlie Kimball

18.  Max Chilton

19.  Matheus Leist (R)

DNF – Ed Jones, Kyle Kasier (R), Will Power, Pietro Fittipaldi (R)

Project CARS 2 Review

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 Slightly Mad, Beautifully Authentic
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Project CARS 2 is a sequel to the original game released in May 2015. Once more developed and published by Slightly Mad Studios, the game doubles in car size, now boasting 182 cars from 38 different manufacturers with additions from Ferrari and Porsche. Electronic Arts lost their exclusive contract with Porsche recently, the manufacturer now appearing on all new driving releases, Slightly Mad used RUF in 2015.
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It now holds the record, taking it from the first edition for most tracks, 46 locations and 121 different formats, Knockhill in Scotland, Long Beach in America and historic tracks such as the high speed Hockenheim in Germany which you can see above.
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It is the first game in recent years to have secured a contract with Verizon who own Indycar, boasting the full 2016 car roster and liveries with the Indy 500 as an official event. This is a tier 1 category in career mode. All cars and tracks are available on single player and online from the start so no need to do any unlocking if you are a casual gamer.
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The weather/physics system they use, Livetrack, is in its third form a truly dynamic approach to rain, and especially to dirt and snow taking a leaf from Codemasters’ critically acclaimed DiRT series with Rallycross entering the fray.
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Because of such unique situations, where puddles form and dry out individually, the track never seems static, always evolving in the process throughout the race. A true challenge especially in the lower categories. As you can see below the spray in the Formula rookie series around Watkins Glen. You can also see from this the lovely graphics the game has and graphical interface of position on track, track map and speedometer.
The career mode which was such a success on the first game is just polished further, having the tiers of category, starting low down in tier 6 with Go-Karts or Formula Rookie, heading towards the heights of Indycar and the World Endurance series.
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Depending on your success, you will be invited to a series of invitationals, so much so you might do a Nico Hulkenburg or Fernando Alonso and attempt the historic events of the Le Mans 24 Hours and Indy 500, of which if you fancy can be the full duration, but shortened down to a smaller time if you wish.
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The most fine tuned cars on the gaming market. The noise and handing of them are so realistic, the way you could tune the setups for the cars is amazing. There are probably thousands of different setups, where a 0.1psi change on a tyre makes a huge difference.
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They have also got eSport interest and will be streaming events on the internet. Qualification for these events will begin shortly. For all you gamer nerds the achievements on Xbox and trophies on Playstation are a slight challenge, but doing these give you the full appreciation of the game.
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Project CARS 2 is everything you wish for a sequel to be, bigger, better and amazing. One of, if not the best driving simulator I have ever driven on! Further DLC is announced, so more tracks and cars to get aswell! Gaming at its highest level.
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Chris Lord
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Pictures are captures on a Playstation 4, from @C_Lordy91 twitter.  This game is out on PC, PS4 and Xbox One from 22/09/2017.

Why Fernando Alonso could end up in Indycar in 2018

Fernando Alonso in IndyCar for 2018?  What was impossible to think a few weeks ago, is getting pretty serious after the Belgian GP.  Now it seems to be, that a year out in the indycar series could be the last chance for the two time world champion to get a competitive car in F1.

Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary. .
Sunday 30 July 2017.
Fernando Alonso, McLaren.
Photo: Steven Tee/McLaren
ref: Digital Image _R3I4275

Currently these are not just serious weeks for McLaren (article is incoming in the next two days) – but also their star driver is facing a tough few weeks of decisions, probably on the destiny of his career.

After a solid performance for McLaren-Honda in the Hungarian GP back at the end of July, everyone was sure that a extension of the McLaren-contract was only few weeks away.  But now, after the Belgian GP everything looks different.

After more engine problems in Saturday’s Qualifying, everyone thought about points when the Spaniard was running P7 after a tremendously strong start. But again, a few laps into the race the Honda Powerunit showed the poor performance on the long straight.

Alonso got passed car by car on every lap and his radio messages were angrier then ever before. In the end he pulled the car into the garage, after he told the team that he had some engine problems.

The media reported after the race, that he pulled the car into the garage on purpose. Honda said on Monday, that they didn’t find any problems on the power unit. The suspicion gets stronger when you listen to the team radio, before he reported the engine problems – In that team radio Alonso asked engineer Mark Temple if there was any rain coming. After receiving a negation of his question, the Spaniard told the box “engine problem, engine problem”.

Options for Alonso look slim, after Ferrari extended the contracts of both drivers into 2018 for Räikkonen and until 2020 for Vettel, and the extension of Bottas’ Mercedes contract looks as good as safe. Renault’s team boss Cyris Abiteboul indicates that the french team, isn’t currently the right location for the two time world champion. “There is one thing, i don’t want: A frustrating Fernando in a Renault.”

Next to stay with McLaren, who are probably getting forced to hold the Honda engine in 2018, the spanish driver doesn’t have many options. “My market value was never higher”, he told the media after the race on sunday. “I will win next year, no matter where i am”, he told the media before the summer break.”

But what does he mean with that?

Sabbaticalyear from F1 – Going to Indycar?

If we piece the puzzle together, there is one realistic option that is available for Alonso. And this is the Indycar series. Why? Here are some points:

 

Winning car with Andretti

If Alonso will go to the indycar series, he will get the spare place on the Andretti team for sure – the team that he competed alongside McLaren in the indy500 with in May. Andretti is one of the best teams in the series and with Takuma  Sato they have also the current Indy500 winner in the team. Honda also resolved the engine problems that stopped Alonso at this maiden race a few laps before the end – and differently to F1, they have the best engine.

 

Popularity in the USA

In the whole month of May, starting with his first test with the indycar, Alonso was getting more popular on every event. Hundreds of autographs and fans stood there cheering for the McLaren-Honda-Andretti team from the grandstands. The Spaniard admitted a few days after the race, that he enjoyed the warm welcome to the world of the Indycar series, because he got respect from every side, from the other teams, drivers, fans and media. “Thats different in F1” he said.

New try at the Indy500

With a full season of Indycar, Alonso could attend the Indy500 directly, and with a high chance again with McLaren. He could give the whole story another go – Something he could only try in some years again, if he stays in F1, because the Monaco GP will again collide with the Indy500 in 2018.

Most competitive driver

The Indy500 showed that Alonso is not only able to impress with an F1 car. The Spaniard in his current form in F1, could possibly let his driving skills shine, in a series where the drivers are most of the time more important than the cars.

The best option for McLaren

For McLaren this scenario would be also a good one providing that they are forced to stick with Honda in 2018. It would be much easier to look at 2018 and give Honda a last chance of building a stronger engine package, without the pressure of staying with Alonso.  A driver replacement for one year could be Jenson Button, for example. Alonso stays with Andretti in the Honda family and could stay in touch with the woking based team.

F1-Comeback in 2019

The most important point is, that Alonso also has the opportunity to come back into F1, probably stronger than he is now. In 2018 he could also wait and see if Honda (if they will stay with McLaren) get their problems solved – if now, he could use other options. The contract from Lewis Hamilton expires at the end of 2018 and also Renaults goal is, to be fighting for victories and the championship in 2019. The two time world champion could see the whole evolution of the driver market from a relaxed point of view from the USA and decide than what he wants, without risking another year of driving in the midfield.

It will be another cracking decision at McLaren in the weeks to come. We will have to wait and see!

 

 

 

 

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