Round 12 WorldSBK Argentina Race 2

After making it two for two, with the win in race one yesterday and the Superpole race today, Toprak (Pata Yamaha) was looking in scintillating form in San Juan, and was looking to make it a clean sweep of wins.

WorldSBK Agentina 17.10.2021 Picture courtesy of Aruba.it Ducati

Lights out and again Razgatlioglu gets the hole shot. Rea (KRT Kawasaki) second, Redding (Aruba.it Ducati) third, Bassani (motocorsa Ducati) fourth, vd Mark (BMW Motorrad) fifth and Locatelli (Pata Yamaha) sixth.

Rea was keen not to allow Toprak to escape as he had in race one, and was putting the pressure on in search of a way up the inside of the Yamaha, but was unable to make a move stick. Bassani swooped by on Redding to take third. Toprak went wide out of the straight and allowed Rea to take over the lead.

With 19 laps to go, Rea had put the hammer down setting a new fastest lap of 1:38.256; the front four of Rea, Razgatlioglu, Bassani and Redding were pulling away from the rest. Toprak didn’t stay behind Rea long, before diving up the inside of the Irishman to retake the lead.

With 18 laps to go, Rea now found himself in third after Redding got by. The Ducatis were looking good and Bassani was all over the back of Rea now.

With 17 laps to go, Redding uses the Ducati power to get past Razgatlioglu down the back straight but subsequently goes wide into the next corner, allowing both Toprak and Rea through.

With 15 laps to go, it was Razgatlioglu leading, followed by Rea, Redding, vd Mark and Rinaldi. As they had all season, both Razgatlioglu and Rea were going faring to faring, and the lead swapped several times.

With 14 laps to go Razgatlioglu puts in a fastest lap of 1:37.968, but he can’t break Rea or Redding behind as he had in race one. Meanwhile further back, Davies (GoEleven Ducati) was sat in eigth, chased by Haslam (Honda HRC) and Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team).

With 12 laps to go Redding takes the lead, getting up the inside of Toprak having previously gone through on Rea. Would he be able to get away?

With 10 laps to go, Redding puts in a fastest lap of 1:37.716, steadily pulling away from both Razgatlioglu and Rea behind. Bassani fought back, and is now right on the back of Rea.

With six to go, Rea outbrakes Razgatlioglu into turn one to take 2nd. Meanwhile Redding was looking comfortable in the lead, and held a gap of over two seconds to Rea.

Last lap and Redding denies Razgatlioglu a clean sweep of wins, claiming his first win in Argentina. Rea came across the line for second, ahead of Razgatlioglu, Bassani, Rinaldi, vd Mark, Locatelli and Gerloff.

Top Five Classification:

  1. Redding (Aruba.it Ducati)
  2. Rea (KRT Kawasaki)
  3. Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha)
  4. Bassani (motocorsa Ducati)
  5. Rinaldi (Aruba.it Ducati)

Top Three Championship Classification:

  1. Razgatlioglu – 531 pts
  2. Rea – 501
  3. Redding 465

Let’s talk about Carlos Sainz’s season

Carlos Sainz has been the best, most consistent Ferrari driver and he does not get the credit he deserves.

When they say that a driver is underrated, I tend to believe that he is not – simply because we talk about him, we mention his achievements and, by definition, he is not underrated.

Carlos Sainz claimed his first Ferrari podium in Monaco – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari press Office

In Carlos Sainz’s case, things are different.

He is truly underrated, and without a doubt the most consistent driver in the midfield during this season.

Firstly, it must be noted that this is not the first year in which Sainz is consistent or his performance is going under the radar. His tenure in McLaren was full of races where he did everything correctly and got to the points or even the podium. He was a focal point of McLaren’s ascent to the top of the midfield, with their 3rd position in the contructors’ standings last year being the ultimate proof of Sainz’s contribution to the team.

And all this starts with his brave decision to leave the Red Bull ‘family’ and go to Renault at first, and then to McLaren. He chose to leave the Austrians, because he felt he could achieve more outside their Verstappen-focused system.

This was a decision that paid off. He found himself as a person and a driver in McLaren, and he’s more mature than ever coming to Ferrari.

Driving for the Maranello squad is -without saying- the most challenging experience for any driver – even the very best of them have crumbled under the pressure this position puts to you.

The Ferrari pair of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz brought the cars home in fifth and seventh respectively – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Media

It must be said though, that every modern driver’s first year at Ferrari is a good one, generally speaking. Kimi Raikkonen won his one and only title in 2007, Fernando Alonso was the favourite for the championship in 2010, Sebastian Vettel returned to his winning ways in 2015 and Charles Leclerc took 2 wins and 7 pole positions in 2019.

It’s the second year, and what comes after it, that gets into the nerves of most drivers in that team.

Nevertheless, even with that ‘caveat’ (if you can call it like that), Sainz is impressive in terms of his speed and consistency.

This is a rundown of the Spaniard’s results this year, both in qualifying and in the race. Bear in mind that he has received a penalty only once in terms of qualifying position, in last week’s Turkish GP:

Race Q position R position
Bahrain 8 8
Emilia-Romagna 11 5
Portugal 5 11
Spain 6 7
Monaco 4 2
Azerbaijan 5 8
France 5 11
Styria 12 6
Austria 10 5
Britain 10 6
Hungary 15 3
Belgium 11 10
Netherlands 6 7
Italy 6 6
Russia 2 3
Turkey 19 8

You will notice that his qualifying performance is not his strongest point. That’s not a bad thing at all, because he is extremely good in race pace.

He has that kind of race craft that allows him to gain places in the race, even when the car is not the most competitive in the midfield.

What I find the most impressive result of them all (up until this point) is the one in Istanbul. He started P19 due to the new engine Ferrari fitted to his car, and he absolutely drove the wheels out of it. In a damp track, with intermediates and no DRS use, he seemed to be able to pass drivers left and right.

Sainz has shown some early positive signs of promise do far for Ferrari – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Media

On top of that, Sainz has managed to out qualify Charles Leclerc 3 times and finish ahead of him in the race on 5 occasions – and this comes from a driver who came to the team to serve an unofficial no. 2 role.

This goes to show that he entered this year’s campaign with a lot of confidence, which derives from his meticulous preparation before the season, his deep understanding of a car he didn’t help develop and set up, and his tendency to maximise what the car’s limit is, even in difficult situations.

An example of this latter argument is his ability to preserve his tires and do the opposite strategy from other drivers in the midfield. This is a trait that is handy when your team is in a tight battle with McLaren, and you have to get every point you can to help them win.

Carlos Sainz’s podium was not enough to close the gap to McLaren, but it was an impressive performance nonetheless – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Media

Carlos Sainz is an asset for Ferrari at this point, and this makes their partnership ahead of the big regulation changes of 2022 even more interesting.

Main image courtesy of Ferrari Media

 

More twists and turns in Moto2 at the Circuit of the Americas

There’s definitely one thing the 2021 Moto2 season has not been, and that is predictable.  Last weekend’s outing at the Red Bull Ring of the Americas was no exception, creating yet more twists and turns in a fascinating and entertaining season.

Moto2 Americas Augusto Fernandez. Picture courtesy of marcvds.com

Over the last few rounds the championship has evolved into a two-horse race between the Ajo KTM teammates Remy Gardner and Raul Fernandez, with Gardner holding onto the top spot with a seemingly comfortable lead.  Going into the weekend, Gardner, on 271 points, was 34 points ahead of Fernandez on 237 with Marco Bezzecchi in third place on 190.

Team Ajo KTM yet again dominated the front row with Raul Fernandez starting on pole (the sixth of his rookie season in Moto2), Gardner second and Fabio Di Giannantonio third. Behind them, Marco Bezzecchi started in fourth place, alongside American Cameron Beaubier in fifth, his best start of the season, and Augusto Fernandez in sixth.

Britain’s Jake Dixon started on row 5 in 13th place and Sam Lowes on row 6 in 16th.

Into turn 1 the local rider Cameron Beaubier slots through to take the lead, but only briefly as he runs wide, allowing both Ajo KTM riders through, with Raul taking the lead.

Beaubier drops back to fourth and then fifth as he is passed by Di Giannantonio and Bezzecchi, but comes back at Bezzecchi to regain fourth.

Gardner passes his teammate, but is unable to make it stick, and on lap 2 Gardner is passed by Di Giannantonio, then Beaubier passes both of them to edge back up into second. The ensuing battle allows Fernandez to stretch out a lead of almost 2 seconds at the front.

Lap 3, and Gardner is back up into second place, Beaubier is pushing hard and passes him on lap 4, but is unable to make it stick.

Everything changes on lap 6 as Gardner crashes out, losing the front end in the tight left hander of Turn 15. He tries desperately to restart his stalled machine, but eventually returns to his garage to watch the remainder of the race.

Raul Fernandez now leads by 2.2 seconds from Di Giannantonio, with Bezecchi, Beaubier and Italy’s Tony Arbolino battling for third.

Digiannantonio starts to make inroads into Fernandez’s lead, bringing it down to 1.7 seconds by lap 9.

Sam Lowes, who dropped back several places in the early stages of the race, suffered mechanical issues and limped his Elf Marc VDS machine back to the pitlane.

Moto2 Americas Sam Lowes. Picture courtesy of marcvds.com

By lap 14 Raul Fernandez has again stretched out a 2 second lead over Di Giannantonio, who is in turn 2.7 seconds ahead of 3rd place Bezzecchi, with Augusto Fernandez in 4th, Beaubier in 5th and Arbolino in 6th. These positions remained the same for the final few laps.

After an eventful weekend, Gardner’s championship lead is reduced to nine points, but with Raul Fernandez on a roll can he keep his place at the top as we return to Misano?

First fifteen riders:

1              Raul Fernandez SPA – Red Bull KTM Ajo – 25 points

2              Fabio Di Giannantonio ITA – Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 – 20

3              Marco Bezzecchi ITA – SKY Racing Team VR46 – 16

4              Augusto Fernandez SPA – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – 13

5              Cameron Beaubier USA – American Racing – 11

6              Tony Arbolino ITA – Liqui Moly Intact GP                – 10

7              Ai Ogura JPN – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 9

8              Xavi Vierge SPA – Petronas Sprinta Racing – 8

9              Marcos Ramirez                SPA – American Racing – 7

10           Jake Dixon GBR – Petronas Sprinta Racing – 6

11           Aron Canet – SPA Inde Aspar Team – 5

12           Jorge Navarro SPA – MB Conveyors Speed Up – 4

13           Simone Corsi ITA – MV Agusta Forward Racing – 3

14           Somkiat Chantra THA – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 2

15           Bo Bendsneyder NED – Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team – 1

Round 11 WorldSBK Portimao, Portugal Race 2

The Superpole race saw vd Mark (BMW Motorrad) claim the win followed by Redding (aruba.it Ducati) in 2nd and Baz (go eleven Ducati) 3rd.

WorldSBK Portimao 03.10.21 Race 2 Razgalioglu Picture courtest of Pata Yamaha Racing

Lights out for race 2 and its Redding with the hole shot into turn 1, followed by the Pata Yamaha team mates of Locatelli and Razgatlioglu. Rea (Kawasaki KRT) was a man on a mission, already up to 3rd, from a grid position of 10th. It was Redding, followed by Locatelli 2nd, Rea 3rd, Razgatlioglu 4th, Bassani (motocorsa Ducati) 5th and vd Mark 6th.

With 18 laps to go, Rea blasts past Locatelli down the straight to take 2nd, then cuts up on Redding down the sweeping left hander to take over the lead for the first time.

Next lap, and Rea subsequently loses his lead to both Redding and Razgatlioglu down the straight. Rea now in 3rd. Further back it was Locatelli 4th, Rinaldi (aruba.it Ducati) 5th, Bautista (HRC Honda) 6th, Baz 7th and vd Mark who had a terrible start, was now languishing in 8th.

WorldSBK Portimao 03.10.21 Race 2 Rinaldi Picture courtesy of Honda Racing Corporation

With 16 laps to go, Razgatlioglu tries to out brake Redding into turn 1 but locks up the front, which allows Rea space to pass. Following corner, and this time Redding runs wide, again Jonny capitalises and retakes the lead for the 2nd time.

With 15 laps to go, Rea puts in a fastest lap of 1:41.942. Again as in race 1, it is this group of title contenders pulling away from the rest. Razgatlioglu finally does make his move on Redding, moving up to 2nd and is now 0.3 behind Rea.

With 13 laps to go, Razgatlioglu passes Rea down the straight, the Kawasaki suffering from a lack of top end speed in comparison to the Yamaha R1. Toprak is next to post a fastest lap of 1:41.522, but Rea is able to stay right on his wheel. Meanwhile Bautista has moved up to 5th.

With 9 laps to go, Razgatlioglu loses the front end of his Yamaha into the high speed turn 15, nearly an identical crash to Rea in race 1. The Yamaha flying into the gravel. The Turkish rider is able to get onto his feet, but his race is over. Redding meanwhile, is starting to lose touch with Rea, the gap now 1.1.

With 7 laps to go there was a three way battle for 3rd between Locatelli, Bautista and Baz. Both of them subsequently passing the Italian. It was Baz 3rd, Bautista 4th and Locatelli 5th.

WorldSBK Portimao 03.10.21 Race 2 Bautista Picture courtesy of Aruba.it Ducati

Last 2 laps remaining, and Rea has increased his lead over Redding to 2.6 and looking comfortable at the front. Meanwhile Bautista makes a lunge from along way back into turn 5 on Baz, who then makes contact with Bautista and subsequently punts him off the track.

Rea crosses the line for his 13th win at Portimao, followed by Redding 2nd, Baz 3rd, Locatelli 4th, Gerloff 5th and vd Mark 6th.

Result top 5:

  1. Rea (Kawasaki KRT)
  2. Redding (aruba.it Ducati)
  3. Baz (go Eleven Ducati)
  4. Locatelli (Pata Yamaha)
  5. Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team)

Out: Bautista, Razgatlioglu, Rabat, Epis, Ruiu

Championship top 3:

  1. Razgatlioglu – 478 pts
  2. Rea – 454
  3. Redding 424

 

Round 9 WorldSBK Catalunya, Spain, Race 2

Thankfully we had blue skies and the sun was out for dry racing conditions on Sunday. For the Superpole race, Rea (Kawasaki KRT) decided on the harder Sc0 tyre, while most of the other riders went for the softer ScX rear tyre. After a restarted race due to a crash and subsequent red flag, Rea went on to take his first win of the weekend followed by Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha) in 2nd and Bautista (Honda HRC) in 3rd, who takes his first podium of the season.

WorldSBK Race 2 Catalunya 19.09.2021 Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team Provec Racing

For race 2, the riders were barely off before a big incident at turn 1 involving Sykes (BMW Motorrad) and Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) saw the race red flagged for the second time today. It was decided the restarted race would be brought down to 19 laps.

Lights out for the shortened race and its Razgatlioglu with the hole shot down into turn 1, followed by Rea in 2nd, Rinaldi (aruba.it Ducati) 3rd, Bautista 4th and Locatelli (Pata Yamaha) in 5th. Redding, as in race 1, was down in 10th.

Track temperature was around 40 degrees Celcius and the riders knew the second half of the race would be crucial in terms of managing tyre wear. Only the Ducati team mates of Rinaldi and Redding had gone with the harder Sc0 rear tyre, while everyone else went with a softer option.

With 17 laps to go, it was Rinaldi who set a new fastest lap of 1:42.566 and he was breathing down the neck of the Turkish rider in front after powering past Rea down the straight.

Next lap and Redding was now up to 6th and, as he had in race 1, he was now finding his groove and looking ready for a fight. Bautista was in front of Redding and feeling more confident on his Honda after his podium in the Superpole race. Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) was in 7th and trying to hang onto the group in front of him.

Lap 6 of 19 now, and Rinaldi finds a way past Razgatlioglu and holds a lead of 0.4. Rea was in 3rd and Locatelli was in 4th, followed by the group of Bautista, Redding and Gerloff who was starting to slip backwards.

WorldSBK Race 2 Catalunya 19.09.2021 Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team Provec Racing

Redding was desperate to get past Bautista and tried several times to dive up the inside of the Honda rider although every time he tried, he was way too hot into the corner going wide which allowed Alvaro to respond and retake the position back.

With 11 laps to go Rea was dropping back to Locatelli, no doubt suffering tyre wear issues. Both Bautista and Redding were doing faster lap times and would soon catch him. Meanwhile further back it was Bassani (motocorsa racing Ducati) in 8th, Nozane (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) 9th and vd Mark (BMW Motorrad) in 10th.

With 9 laps to go, Redding takes both Bautista and Rea, the latter who had himself been passed by Locatelli and was dropping back like a stone now really struggling with grip.

With 8 laps to go, Razgatlioglu fights back and dives up the inside of Rinaldi into turn 6 to retake the lead. If he was also suffering with tyre wear, the Yamaha rider was definitely handling it better. However the harder tyre choice seemed to be working very well for both of the Ducati riders.

With 5 laps to go, Rinaldi out brakes Razgatlioglu down the long straight and into turn 1 to retake the lead. The two holding a gap of 3 seconds to Locatelli in 3rd.

Three laps to go and Rinaldi was pulling away from Razgatlioglu and now held a  gap of 1.5 to the Turkish rider. Meanwhile Redding moves up the inside of Locatelli down into turn 1 and was now hunting down the Yamaha rider in 2nd.

Onto the last lap now and Redding was within a second of Razgatlioglu. Further back Rea was still holding onto 6th, with Gerloff in 7th. Toprak was definitely falling back but would there be enough time for Redding to catch him?

Rinaldi crosses the line to take the win followed by Razgatlioglu who holds on for 2nd, Redding 3rd, Bautista 4th, Locatelli 5th, Rea 6th, Gerloff 7th and Bassani 8th.

WorldSBK Race 2 Catalunya 19.09.2021 Picture courtesy of Yamaha Racing

And the result means Razgatlioglu retakes the top spot of the championship yet again, this time by a single point. This season is going down to the wire and is still too hard to call.

Result top 5:

  1. Rinaldi (aruba.it Ducati)
  2. Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha)
  3. Redding (aruba.it Ducati)
  4. Bautista (Honda HRC)
  5. Locatelli (Pata Yamaha)

Rider out: Sykes (BMW Motorrad), Lowes (Kawasaki KRT), Epis (Pedercini Kawasaki), Cresson (Pedercini Kawasaki), Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing)

Championship top 3:

  1. Razgatlioglu –  399 pts
  2. Rea 398
  3. Redding 339

 

Round 7 WorldSBK Navarra, Spain, Race 2

The earlier Superpole race finished an exact copy of race 1 with Redding (Aruba.it Ducati) taking the win, followed by 2nd Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team)., and 3rd Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha).

wsbk
WSBK Navarra 22.08.2021
Picture courtesy of Ducati Racing

Race 2 saw track temperatures rising to nearly 50 degrees celsius., with riders deciding on a wide range of tyre options. Redding choosing a softer front tyre, while Rea and Razgatlioglu opted for a harder tyre. Could Redding make it a clean sweep of wins at Navarra?

After a delayed start, it was lights out and Redding with another quick fire blast off the line, again got the hole shot, great start. The same couldn’t be said for Rea who slipped back to 5th from his 2nd on grid.

The gloves were definitely off with Locatelli (Pata Yamaha) slicing his way from nowhere briefly taking the lead from a stunned Redding before then going wide into a corner to concede the lead back to Redding.

Starting lap 2 and it stood: 1st Redding, 2nd Locatelli, 3rd Razgatlioglu, 4th Rea, 5th Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team), 6th Sykes (BMW Motorrad).

Then more drama for Davies (GoEleven Ducati) who was having a miserable weekend. He lost the front end of his bike into turn 9, subsequently sending it ploughing into the back of Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) who found himself helplessly sliding into the gravel. Both riders were out of the race.

wsbk
WSBK Navarra 22.08.2021
Picture courtesy of Ducati Racing

Onto lap 3 and Razgatlioglu, showing impressive speed, gets through on Redding to take the lead. Then it’s the turn of Rea, who cuts under Redding into the hairpin corner to take 2nd. As in race 1 this trio was again pulling clear of the rest.

The northern Irishman had his sights on the Turk, and wasn’t letting him escape, setting a new fastest lap of 1:37.609. Meanwhile Redding was looking like he was struggling to match the pace and was slipping further back.

Further down the field it was the BMW team mates of Sykes and Vd Mark in 5th and 6th respectively, with Lowes in 7th and Bautista (Honda HRC) further back in 10th.

With 15 laps to go, Lowes comes through on Vd Mark into turn 15 to take 6th.

Rea was closing in on Razgatlioglu, but looked like he was really struggling with front end chatter, the bike visibly bouncing into some corners. Rea held a gap of 0.5 to Redding in 3rd.

With 11 laps to go, Razgatlioglu had a gap of 0.5 to Rea in 2nd. Meanwhile Redding had found something, and was now right within striking distance of Rea.

Nine laps to go and Razgatlioglu found a second wind and was pulling clear of Rea, pushing the gap out to 1.0. Meanwhile Honda continued their poor weekend, with Haslam (Honda HRC) sending his bike sliding in a shower of sparks into the gravel. He cut a dejected figure trudging back.

Rea was really under pressure from Redding now and only had a gap 0.3 to the Ducati. The pressure was telling with Rea losing the front end, but as he had in race 1, he somehow managed to save it. Rea was fighting the Kawasaki into the corners and subsequently went wide, letting Redding through.

Redding now had his sights firmly on the Yamaha but with only 3 laps left could he catch Razgatlioglu who was looking comfortable, and held a 1.0 advantage.

Last lap and Razgatlioglu was holding his nerve keeping Redding at bay. He crosses the line to deny Redding a hat trick of wins, Redding getting 2nd while Rea crossed further down in 3rd.

wsbk
WSBK Navarra 22.08.2021
Picture courtesy of Ducati Racing

Amazingly enough, the result means there is a two way tie for the lead of the championship between Rea and Razgatlioglu. Surely this season will come down to the wire. Expect more fireworks!

Result top 5:

  1. Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha)
  2. Redding (Aruba.it Ducati)
  3. Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team)
  4. Locatelli (Pata Yamaha)
  5. Sykes (BMW Motorrad)

Riders out: Davies (GoEleven Ducati), Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team), Nozane (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team), Uramoto (Suzuki), Haslam (Honda HRC).

Championship top 3:

  1. Rea 311 pts
  2. Razgatlioglu 311
  3. Redding 273

 

 

Is Experience the Best Teacher?

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix was definitely a race that was missed during 2020. A street circuit which often produces some exciting racing, testing overall straight line speed but allows for overtaking whilst testing the driver’s abilities to be calculated and precise enough to thread the car through the high walls of the circuit.

image courtesy of Getty images/ Red Bull content pool

Experience in an Formula 1 car is often key at tricky circuits like this, which shone through during this race, which did not disappoint. This week it seemed to be all about the older drivers putting in some epic performances which we know they are very capable of. They did give the young guns a run for their money, but it didn’t work out for all of them. Most drivers had solid races at Baku, but the skill of some of the experienced drivers was evident during the race, meaning they were able to maximise on what was a crazy race.

Perez is well known for his experience in an F1 car. Racing since 2011 in F1, he has learned a few things to keep in the mix when it counts, and this race was a clear example of that. In the early stages of the race he was able to keep up with Verstappen whilst keeping the 7 time world champion behind him under constant pressure. He managed his tyres well, showing pace in them during the pitstops, and had it not been for a slow pitstop he may have come out in front of his teammate. During the red flag restart, it would have been easy to get caught up with Hamilton going straight on down into turn 1 if he hadn’t backed out of the move. Even though in his F1 career he has very rarely been at the front, he handled the pressure absolutely perfectly to come out on top with a very deserved win.

Clearly full of confidence after a fantastic performance in Monaco, Sebastian Vettel had an incredible race and a solid weekend all round. Had it not been for the red flag at the end of Q2, he was looking at an almost certain top 10 qualifying, adding to the excellent qualifying from the previous race. After qualifying P11, finishing in P2 was absolutely deserved, and he showed his pace in the Aston Martin early on. During the first round of pitstops he gained the lead by default as the front runners changed their tyres earlier than expected. Vettel was able to manage the soft tyres whilst still pulling a gap on his rivals to then come out P7 after his pitstop. On the safety car restart he showed his experience again, navigating his way past Leclerc without contact despite getting very close. Vettel has gotten used to the new car very quickly, showing he has enough trust to make moves during both the restarts. A resurgence from him is definitely what the fans wanted after a not so great year with Ferrari in 2020.

Alonso had a highly anticipated return to F1 at the beginning of the season, however so far he hasn’t been so successful, being out qualified and finishing behind his teammate Ocon on Sunday. This could be down to getting used to F1 again after his time away from the series, along with getting used to a new car with a relatively new team under new management. Watching his on board camera from the restart after the red flag, he clearly showed why he is a double world champion. Starting on the grid in P10, he made up for places to finish P6 by the end of the 2 lap sprint. What is striking about his on board though, is the skill involved. He had the inside line into turn 1 but was being squeezed by Sainz, who also had Ricciardo on the outside. Alonso did not make contact with the wall or the other cars during any of this. He then demonstrated his race craft by waiting for the right moment on the same lap to overtake Tsunoda. This created an epic finish for him, the likes of which we were used to seeing before.

The oldest man on the grid did not want to miss out on the action, as is normal for Kimi Raikkonen. For him the highlight of the day was a skillful move on Bottas into turn 7, the slowest on the track, during the safety car restart. Raikkonen has shown throughout his time at Alfa Romeo that he still has plenty of talent to keep him in F1 and finishing in the points with moves like this are often the reason for this.

When talking about the experienced drivers on the grid, Lewis Hamilton is part of this conversation being extremely consistent and changing his style over time. However, the incident after the red flag restart was a rare mistake from him, the team revealing afterwards that he had flicked on the magic brake button whilst changing gears. This changed the brake bypass to mostly front end, meaning the car couldn’t stop before the turn. This admittedly makes the error an odd one because this has never happened before, despite the buttons position never really moving. They say it’s best to learn from your mistakes and Hamilton says they will grow as a team.

Overall, Mercedes had a terrible weekend. This is where the team experience came in, allowing them to try different set ups, strategy’s, and tactics to get the most out of a seemingly lacklustre performance from the car all weekend. By the end of Q3, the changes made to Hamilton’s car were successful with him managing to secure P2. Bottas on the other hand was arguably hampered by the red flag at the end of the session but suffered massively during the race. The Mercedes is not known for its great ability to pass other cars in the midfield, but with what appeared to be the quickest straight line speed and the power of the slipstream, a few DRS based moves into turn 1 were expected. Instead Bottas made his way backwards at the restarts and didn’t perform well. However, he did have a different rear wing to Hamilton, which the team confirmed as driver preference, this may have ultimately hampered him when trying to overtake.

Looking forward to the next couple of weeks, Mercedes will need to win in France to make up the points in the constructor’s championship after having lost more to the RedBulls this week. The outcome of the race could also have a huge impact on the Driver championship, with the front runners not gaining any points this week, it is massively important they maximise each race, as cancellations become more frequent and look to threaten the 23 race calendar. France is not known for amazing action over the last few years, but with the 2021 season we are having it could be unpredictable.

Valentino Rossi: Damaging The Legend?

Let’s make one thing clear. There is no joy in seeing one of the all time greats of this sport struggle in the twilight of their career. 

It doesn’t matter which sport – be it Michael Schumacher being increasingly error-strewn in his years with Mercedes in Formula 1, Chris Froome being regularly ‘spat out the back’ of the peloton up a mountain pass or Alastair Cook being haplessly bowled out again. There is no joy seeing any top level sportsman struggle, especially when we know what they had been in their prime. 

Valentino Rossi is no exception. The raw statistics read as follows: Rossi last stepped onto the podium at the American Grand Prix in 2019. His most recent win was at the Dutch TT in 2017. You have to go way back to 2009 for the last of his 9 world championships.

It is these raw stats which critics of Rossi – and increasingly a number of his fans – are pointing to as justification for him to retire. Furthermore, they claim that by continuing to race, Rossi is at risk of damaging his legacy. At face value, they have a point.

Nobody, not even the Doctor himself, would deny that his prime years as a racer are well and truly behind him. Perhaps no clearer example of this simple yet sad fact can be found than at the Circuito de Jerez-Angel Nieto:

Five years ago, in 2016, Rossi produced a racing masterclass on a scorching afternoon leaving his most bitter rival Jorge Lorenzo, and heir to his throne Marc Marquez to eat the dust. In truth the whole weekend had been a true demonstration of what Rossi could do. Fast throughout Friday practice and pole position duly followed on Saturday. As other riders struggled with the old worn-out tarmac causing havoc with tyre grip, Rossi simply glided away from the field with startling ease. Even the most hardcore Lorenzo fans were applauding Rossi by the time the chequered flag waved. On his day, very few – quite often no one – could touch him.    

Rossi produced a masterful display to win the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix / Credit: Yamaha Racing

Fast forward to last weekend at the same venue, and it is a very different picture. Struggling for any kind of pace throughout practice and qualifying, Rossi spent the entirety of Sunday’s race floundering outside the points scoring places.

Lacking in engine power and tyre grip, it was truly a disastrous weekend. Painful for us to watch – undeniably much more so for Valentino himself. Painful enough for the Dorna cameras to largely ignore Rossi during the race. When was the last time that happened? 

Everyone knew that 2021 would be challenging, having moved to a satellite team and without full-factory support. However, nobody envisaged what an ordeal the opening four rounds of the season would be. Perhaps we should have all taken his pre-season statement of “As long as I’m enjoying myself, I’ll continue to race” as a cautionary warning for what was coming.

His results tally from the opening four rounds make for grim reading: P12, P16, DNF and P17. Of the many words Rossi may use to describe his season so far, it’s a safe bet to assume ‘enjoyable’ is not one of them.  

Rossi has only managed one points scoring finish so far this season / Credit: Petronas Yamaha SRT

So with that in mind, why not just call it a day? After all, a man with 115 grand prix victories has nothing left to prove or gain surely?

It is very easy to sit here some 1600 miles away from Jerez and say things along the lines of: “He’s tarnishing his own legacy” or “He’s blocking a seat for a more deserving rider” etc. We can all see the struggle Rossi is facing. To that extent, it doesn’t matter a jot whether you would class yourself as among his legions of fans or in the ‘anyone but Rossi’ camp. Everyone who follows MotoGP is to-an-extent living this struggle with him.

Rossi will not add to his tally of 9 world championship titles. It is also increasingly unlikely that he will taste the victory champagne again. He is not the force he once was – yet still this doesn’t diminish his legacy. How? Simply, look up and down the starting grids of the premier class, Moto2 and Moto3.

The world championships are full of young, fast and extremely capable Italian riders who have all come through the VR|46 academy. The fruits of a decade-long project are clear to see. Rossi has always known this day would come. Dismayed at the time by a distinct lack of Italian talent, Rossi commissioned his famous ‘ranch’ flat track circuit, and recruited a dozen of the best young Italian riders. His objective: Develop the next generation of Italian grand prix winners – has not faltered. Roman Fenati, Niccolo Bulega, Francesco Bagnaia, Franco Morbidelli, Enea Bastianini, Lorenzo Baldassarri, Luca Marini, Marco Bezzecchi etc have all become grand prix winners because of the academy. 

So whilst Rossi’s own star may be fading now, he has ensured the way has been paved for the next Italian champion. Bagnaia is already on a full factory Ducati machine, and it seems likely that Morbidelli will move up to the factory Yamaha team sooner rather than later. The latter’s stock is already rocketing by showing how competitive he is when effectively handicapped on a two-year old bike. 

The aim of the VR|46 Academy is to produce a premier class champion. Francesco Bagnaia now leads the championship / Credit: Ducati Corse

Rossi has earned the right to decide by himself when it will be time to draw the curtain on his racing career. The academy is doing everything it was founded to do. Morbidelli has already secured himself a world title in Moto2, and Bagnaia currently holds the lead in the MotoGP championship. 

With each season bringing new riders through the doors, Rossi and his team develop yet more would-be world champions and grand prix winners – To that end, his current race results do not really matter. 

Rest assured that the legacy of Valentino Rossi will endure.

International Women’s Day 2021 – The interview with Kirsten Landman, South Africa’s top female Enduro Racer

Kirsten Landman, Dakar 2020

I had the absolute privilege of speaking with Kirsten and was able to ask some questions which she very kindly took the time to answer.

Kirsten is South Africa’s top female enduro racer and has been riding since the age of 8 years old when she started riding dirt bikes for fun with her uncle and cousin round their garden and then her dad started to take her to the track on a Sunday which quickly progressed to both Saturdays and Sundays. Kirsten started riding professionally at the age of 22 and has now truly made a name for herself worldwide in the hard enduro racing scene.

Indeed Kirsten has been the first female rider to finish races such as Redbull Romaniacs silver class, Redbull Sea to Sky, Redbull Megawatt 111, Redbull Braveman & the Roof of Africa. Whilst competing at the top level of her sport all over the world, and most times being the only lady to do do, Kirsten has achieved her South African Springbok colours!

As a tomboy growing up and wanting to keep up with the boys, Kirsten loves the challenge of being a female rider competing against the boys on rough terrain and describes herself as very competitive even off the track – she will race to the front door and even race the dogs to the swimming pool! To say Kirsten excels in her sport is an understatement and the list of achievements is pretty impressive!

2018:

X-Race Namibia, Expert Class : 2nd overall, 1st lady

Redbull Romaniacs, Bronze Class : 15th overall, 1st lady

Sea to Sky, Turkey : 31st overall, only lady competitor in the Gold Class

WildWood Rock : 6th overall, 1st lady

Roof of Africa Gold class Finisher : 25th overall, 1st lady

2017:

IMPI Gold class finisher : 25th overall & highest placed female finisher

Powasol Timberland Extreme Enduro : 14th overall in gold class, first lady finisher

Redbull Romaniacs Silver Class : 45th overall, first lady finisher

South African Overall Silver Class National Champion in a male dominated class

Roof of Africa Gold class : 33rd overall

2016:

King of the Hill : 28th overall in expert class; made history being the first lady to ever finish expert class

FIM Super Enduro World Series, Prague: 4th in world championship

Alfie Cox Redbull Invitational Extreme Enduro:Kirsten was the only female to compete, making it into the semi- final and ranked 15th amongst the best male extreme enduro riders in South Africa

Redbull Romaniacs : 48th overall; the first Female in history to finish the race in silver Class

Redbull Braveman : 2nd in Silver class; only female to finish

Redbull 111 Megawatt Poland : 30th overall out of over 1000 entries, only female to qualify and finish

Redbull Sea to Sky : 24th overall in Gold class, reaching the top of Mount Olympus, bettering her previous years position by over 30 positions

South African National Enduro Championship:Kirsten raced a consistent season finishing on the podium at all rounds, but finished 2nd overall. This is the best Kirsten has done in all her years racing the National Enduros.

Roof Of Africa : This was Kirsten’s first attempt at Gold class, going out on a whim & no expectations, Kirsten made history again and became the first ever woman in the 49 year history of the Roof Of Africa and finished the Gold class, completely unassisted

2015

Redbull Romaniacs : Kirsten attempted silver for the first time but due to complications, she didn’t manage to finish.

Redbull Sea to Sky : 56th overall, becoming the only woman in history to ever finish a gold class at any extreme hard enduro event

Redbull Braveman : 1st overall in silver class (only riding against men)

Roof of Africa : 32nd overall in the silver class, first lady finisher

National Enduro Series : 3rd overall in the mens silver class

2014

Redbull Romaniacs : 47th place in bronze class out of 160 bronze riders and first lady home

Roof of Africa : 23rd in silver class, first placed female finisher unassisted

National Enduro Championship : 4th place in silver class

Kirsten Landman

In 2020 Kirsten competed in the Dakar and finished 55th overall and was the 3rd female finisher. What is the Dakar, I hear you ask?

The Dakar Rally, or “The Dakar” was formerly known as the “Paris–Dakar Rally” and is an annual rally raid organised by the Amaury Sport Organisation. Most events since the inception in 1978 were staged from Paris, France, to Dakar, Senegal, but due to security threats in Mauritania, which led to the cancellation of the 2008 rally, events from 2009 to 2019 were held in South America. Since 2020, the race has been entirely in Saudi Arabia. The rally is open to amateur and professional entries, amateurs typically making up about eighty percent of the participants.

The rally is an off-road endurance event and the terrain is much tougher than that used in conventional rallying. The vehicles used are typically true off-road vehicles and motorcycles, rather than modified on-road vehicles. Most of the competitive special sections are off-road, crossing dunes, mud, camel grass and rocks. The distances of each stage covered vary from short distances up to 800–900 kilometres per day.

In the Dakar 2021 there were 108 bike entries, only 63 of which finished the event. Just to finish the event is an achievement in its self.

Kirsten was considering taking part in Dakar 2021 but was unsure about doing the Dakar back to back and then due to the Covid pandemic the economy in South Africa took a downturn and Kirsten was unable to get the funding she needed to take part. As it turned out Kirsten may have been unable to take part had she got the funding as whilst training on the bike one session, Kirsten took a nasty fall and dislocated her shoulder which put her out of action for four months.

Kirsten Landman

Kirsten’s next challenge is to compete in the Dakar 2022 in the Malle Moto class. What is that, I hear you say!

Malle Moto, which is French for ‘Trunk Motorbike’, is a category in the Dakar which riders of motorcycles and quads are almost completely unassisted. There are very few riders who take on this added challenge and it is considered to be the toughest category you can possibly compete in.

Competitors are allowed to pack one Malle (trunk) (there are restrictions on the maximum dimensions) which the organisers will transport to each bivouac. The trunk should contain their spare parts, tools, equipment and any necessary personal belongings. The organisers will also transport one spare headlight, one set of wheels and tyres, a tent and a travel bag.

Every day, the riders must prep their bike for the next stage without any outside assistance which may take a few hours, depending on the condition of the bike. They must also prepare their own road books before every stage and there is a common canteen to eat from. This all has to be done by the rider after each stage, which can run for many gruelling hours. After the rider has done all this, they then need to get enough sleep to be ready for the next stage. It is not uncommon for competitors to survive on just two or three hours of sleep everyday, for two weeks!

Kirsten Landman

Although Kirsten can do a lot of her own bike maintenance already, she is unable to take apart an engine and fix it or work on anything electrical so preparation is already underway with Kirsten learning these new skills in preparation for Malle Moto.

Kirsten knows that time management will play an important role in this. I asked if she was worried about taking part in such an arduos event by herself with no assistance – Kirsten is not really worried about doing it by herself as knows the route having taken part in Dakar 2020 and she is really looking forward to the challenge of doing the event by herself. New challenges excite Kirsten, the harder the challenge is, the better it is.

I asked Kirsten who her inspiration was and she said it was Laia Sanz who is known as The Queen of the Desert. Laia is the best female motorcycle rally racer in history, has won the title of best Dakar racer five years in a row and was the only woman to finish the race at all in two separate years. She is also the three-time Women’s World Enduro Champion. WoW!

Surprisingly, well to me anyway, Kirsten does not ride her motorbike on the road, she finds road bikes uncomfortable and feels that riding on the roads local to her to be somewhat dangerous. Kirsten is far more at home on her dirt bike riding through the mud. Although Kirsten lives in a beautiful place, her two most favourite places to ride are Romania, where she has competed five times and went back again just for some casual riding and La Sutu, which is a country within her country with beautiful mountain ranges and extreme riding.

Kirsten’s best feeling about being on a motorbike is the feeling of accomplishment, knowing that she has achieved the end of the race and got to the finish line. It is the sense of adventure she loves, the fact that she is outdoors, loving the nature around her and being lucky to have such great roads to ride on and travelled the world in the process. Kirsten has made some very passionate lifelong friends through her love of riding with that unspoken rule that as you ride a motorbike, you just get along, the people are just so cool.

Kirsten Landman

So Kirsten, what is the one thing people would never know about you just by looking at you? Baking. Kirsten loves to bake cakes, muffins and cooking in general, she is a big foodie and finds that when she is baking she can switch off from her riding and relax. I, myself can totally relate to that but unfortunately I like to eat my baking too!

Kirsten’s most embarrassing moment on a motorbike came when she was competing in an event and was absolutely desperate for a wee so she pulled over, popped the bike on the stand and walked round to a bush. Just as she was mid flow, another competitor stopped to see if she was okay and walked round and caught her peeing! Ooops!!!

As a youngster Kirsten was a tomboy and used to live in a big smallholding which had a massive garden. When she was around 8 or 9 years she was running around the garden with a friend pretending they were characters from the Jungle Book, they got hold of some matches and decided to make a fire like their characters. When they finished playing they thought they had put the fire out but during the night the wind caught up and the whole garden ended up on fire nearly spreading to the next door property. The fire brigade came and put the fire out thankfully but that is probably the worst thing Kirsten’s mum caught her doing as a kid!

I asked Kirsten if she has a lucky thing/ritual before the start of a race as it seems a lot of racers do. Kirsten is no exception, she always puts her left knee brace on first and then her right one and then puts her right boot on first and then her left one. Kirsten will then sit on the bike, put her head on the handlebars and say a prayer.

Kirsten Landman

The first motorbike Kirsten owned was a Yamaha PW80 which was a limited edition bike. Unfortunately the bike was sold many years ago and has now become a collectors item. Kirsten has been looking for one for a while now with the idea of restoring it and then putting it in her house on display. I definitely like that idea, how cool would that be to have your bike on display in your house.

If Kirsten hadn’t been a racer, she would have liked to become a vet. Kirsten is an animal lover and has five rescue dogs that live with her and has re-homed so many more animals. Kirsten is part of the Saving Animals Movement (SAM) and raises money to help animals who are malnourished, overbred or in dire need of help and helps provide them with medical assistance and finding them new forever homes.

Would Kirsten ride pillion? Even if Valentino Rossi offered to take her out pillion on the road, she would say no! She is absolutely terrified of going out on the road! Now if you were to offer Kirsten a pillion ride on the track, she would happily go with you as long as you were an experienced rider on track.

I asked Kirsten what her friends and family would assume she had done if she got arrested and there was no hesitation in saying that it would be because she had got into an argument with someone over an animal. If Kirsten sees an animal being treated unfairly, she does get very emotional which may have led to one or two arguments in the past ……..

Kirsten Landman

You can check out Kirsten’s website at Kirsten Landman and follow her progress with her preparations for the Malle Moto 2021. You can also follow Kirsten on Facebook and Instagram at : Kirsten Landman.

Thank you Kirsten for taking the time to speak with me, I really appreciate it and wish you good luck for the Dakar next year.

BK

Grosjean joins Dale Coyne Racing for the 2021 IndyCar season

Romain Grosjean is to join Dale Coyne Racing for the 2021 IndyCar season. The French driver will make his debut with the Rick Ware entry and will race in all 13 road and street races.

This heralds a remarkable comeback narrative after being dropped from the Haas F1 team alongside teammate Kevin Magnussen. There were question marks looming as to whether Grosjean may altogether retire from racing after a near-fatal high-speed accident at the Bahrain Grand Prix left him with multiple degree burns, broken ribs and a dented confidence.

“It was never an option,” Grosjean said, concerning any doubts following the Bahrain accident. “I felt like I wanted to go back racing.”

The soon-to-be rookie has no qualms about returning to top tier racing, excited about the prospect of a return to competitiveness.

“What I want is to be happy and enjoy my time in racing,” Grosjean said during his Twitch stream, suggesting there is a pathway to longevity in the American single seater series: “And if I do, I would stay longer for sure. And if things don’t go to plan, I would come back to Europe but I think its going to be great.”

During Dale Coyne Racing’s official press conference Romain stated he had been in early contact with the American outfit: “I got in touch with Dale last year before Imola and I really felt that they were enthusiastic about getting me on board. I’ve been watching the races, the series looks super competitive, the cars look fun to drive.”

Romain Grosjean, Haas (Joao Filipe, DPPI / Haas F1 Media)

Santino Ferrucci, who drove the #18 Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda, left the series for the NASCAR Xfinity Series to compete for Sam Hunt Racing, and Alex Palou, who drove the #55 Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh Honda, left the team to replace Felix Rosenqvist at Chip Ganassi Racing. Grosjean will be teammates with Ed Jones who will replace Ferrucci in the #18 Vasser-Sullivan Honda.

Grosjean will join Alexander Rossi, Marcus Ericsson, Takuma Sato and Sebastien Bourdais as the ex-Formula 1 drivers on the 2021 grid.

Achieving a respectable 10 podiums, 391 career points and a fastest lap in his time in F1, he will be looking to add to his list of achievements, aiming to get up to speed as soon as possible.

On the subject of his injuries Grosjean was in optimistic spirits: “It’s going okay. My left hand is still quite marked but it’s uglier than it is bad I will say. It’s all working well, the left-hand ligament was pulled away so I’ve had surgery.”

He will get his first test in his new machinery on the 22nd February at Barber Motorsport Park. There are reservations whether he will be fully fit by that point but he iterated it is not long away.

“The first test is the 22nd of February. I may not be 100% but [I will be] good enough to do well. By race one I am going to be ready and I’m not going to worry about it. I have been in the gym. It was a difficult call for the doctor but we knew there were more risks of delaying the healing. With the season postponed a little bit it all played into my hand, if I can use the play on words.”

French racing drivers have had a good open wheel record in the United States. Sebastien Bourdais holds the most consecutive IndyCar championships 2004-2007 (4) while Simon Pagenaud is the last European to win the championship in 2016.

With a sporting comeback story such as this, this will hopefully give fans who were still reluctant to follow the IndyCar series more reason than not.