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Archive for October, 2009

Will BrattGP2 Asia Series debutant Will Bratt produced a solid drive during the FIA Formula One World Championship-supporting opening round of the season in Abu Dhabi this morning, Saturday, 31st October, to secure a creditable top 12 finish.

Having encountered problems in qualifying, which meant the 21-year-old from Banbury would start from an uncharacteristic 23rd on the grid for his maiden GP2 race, he dealt with the demands of the stunning Yas Marina Circuit well – along with two Safety Car periods – to finish just six seconds shy of experienced Party Poker Racing.com Scuderia Coloni team-mate Roldan Rodriguez.

Not only did today’s 33-lap Feature Race mark Will’s first in GP2, it also included his maiden taste of pit-stop action with the opening encounter on any given GP2 weekend including a mandatory tyre change for each driver.

Lapping more competitively than he was able to in qualifying, the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star posted a fastest race lap of 1m55.861 seconds which was just eight 10ths of a second outside the pace of top six finisher Christian Vietoris.

“Finishing 12th today is a pretty good result, especially considering where we started”, said Will, “I was happier with our pace today but there is still a lot to find so I’ll be working hard with the team to see where I can improve and get closer to the guys ahead.

“We put together a solid race which was pleasing after problems in qualifying. It was fantastic to be involved in a GP2 race for the first time, especially at such an incredible new track like Abu Dhabi, and the pit-stop was a new experience for me too. It all went well but now we’re focused on trying to unlock more pace for tomorrow.”

By virtue of the round one result the 2009 Euroseries 3000 Champion will line-up on the sixth row of the grid for the Sprint Race tomorrow, Sunday, 1st November, which will be beamed live across the UK on digital satellite and cable channel British Eurosport.

Round two of the 2009 GP2 Asia Series is timetabled to begin at 13.30 local time, 09.30 GMT, with coverage carried on Sky Digital channel 410, Virgin Media channel 521 and also through the Top Up TV service. Please check listings for more information.

Photo by GP2 Asia Media Service.

Carlo van DamDutchman Carlo van Dam today impressed during his first outing in the Asian Le Mans Series. At the Okayama-circuit in Japan, where he had yesterday claimed pole position in the Saleen S7R entered by the French team Larbre Competition, he drove the car into winning position in the GT1-class during the first 500 KM-race of the weekend. Shortly after Carlo handed over the Saleen to his Belgian team mate Lemeret, however, the car’s front suspension broke, ending what looked like a run to victory in the GT1-class.

“It went really well”, says Carlo, who was satisfied with his race despite the car not making it to the finish. “Berville, my other team mate, did the start and although we knew he might have some difficulty maintaining first position, he managed to not lose too much time. It was my turn then, and from very the first lap it just went great.

At the end of my stint I had taken the car back into winning position and it looked like we were indeed going to win this race, but then, unfortunately, the front suspension broke.” The press release issued by the organisers after the race, wrongly stated that Carlo was behind the wheel when the Larbre-Saleen retired. “In fact, I had already handed the car over to Lemeret by then”, Carlo explains. “After he had done some three laps, the suspension failed.”

Despite this spoiling what looked like a certain class-win, Carlo still had a good feeling about the race. “I had a good race, got the best out of the car and took it into winning position. The team was happy with my performance, so all in all this wasn’t a bad day, although I would rather had seen us finishing and winning the race of course!” Tomorrow (Sunday), the second 500 KM-race of the Asian Le Mans Series-weekend at Okayama will be held, in which the Larbre-Saleen S73 will again start from pole position.

Photo by Moriyama.

Menasheh IdafarFormula Renault UK racer Menasheh Idafar produced the drive of his career during the opening weekend of Winter Championship action at Snetterton in Norfolk today, Saturday, 31st October, to secure his maiden category podium finish with a superb second place in round two of the series.

In atrocious conditions at the 1.95-mile track, the 18-year-old Manor Competition driver was in outstanding form. Having been in the top four during official testing on Friday, Menasheh carried that pace forward into qualifying this morning where he secured two front row starts for rounds one and two of the winter series – by far his best ever performance in a full UK-specification Formula Renault.

The first race was abandoned and postponed until the end of the day’s action due to a couple of incidents in very wet conditions and at the time of the cessation, the British-born Bahraini was in second place. When the encounter was re-started, Menasheh wasn’t able to get away from the grid as well as he had previously and slipped to fifth place on the opening lap.

Mounting a spirited fightback, he took fourth position from Dino Zamparelli at the Esses on lap two and remained there to the chequered flag on lap 15 a mere seven 10ths of a second behind Dutch team-mate Thomas Hylkema.

Podium and fastest lap lead to second in standings
Round two proved to be the major highlight of the weekend for the Gulf Computer Services and Ortolan supported driver though. Making a good getaway from second on the grid to hold his place behind pole-sitter Harry Tincknell, Menasheh pulled well clear of Hylkema as the race progressed and actually started to catch the race leader during the closing stages.

At the finish on lap 15 he was just over 4.5 seconds shy of Tincknell but almost 10 seconds ahead of his Manor team-mate. Furthermore, Menasheh’s charge as track conditions marginally improved towards the end meant he secured the fastest lap of the race – and with it two bonus points in the championship – with a time of 1m15.946 seconds (92.52mph).

Taking 22 points for fourth place in round one and 30 points in total for second position and the fastest lap in round two, Menasheh is a thoroughly deserved second overall in the winter series standings ahead of next weekend’s third and fourth rounds at Rockingham in Northamptonshire.

“I’m really happy to have finished on the podium today, my first ever in Formula Renault UK”, said the delighted teenager, “Everything has been going really well with Manor, we were strong here yesterday in the timed test and then in qualifying it was great to get two front row starts. In the races the car was great, to get the fastest lap as well as a podium is a fantastic feeling.”

Rounds three and four of the 2009 Formula Renault UK Winter Championship will take place next Saturday, 7th November, at Rockingham’s International Super Sports Car Circuit. Before then, Menasheh will be back in action for unofficial testing at the Corby track this Thursday, 5th November, with an officially timed series of sessions following on Friday, 6th November.

Provisional 2009 Formula Renault UK Winter Championship Standings (after Rd2):
1st Harry Tincknell, 66pts; 2nd Menasheh Idafar, 52pts; 3rd Thomas Hylkema, 50pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

MeezerToday, Friday the 30th of November, will be the first day of the new season of the Chevrolet V8 Supercars Middle East, supporting the first Formula One Grand Prix in the new venue, Abu Dhabi Yas Marina Circuit.

Meezer Team will run car number 11, driven by Bahraini Raed Raffii, sponsored by Tamooz from Saudi Arabia and Batelco from Bahrain. Raed is supported by his coach Malcolm Edeson from the United Kingdom, to offer race coaching and data analysis.

During the pre-season test, held at Bahrain International Circuit on the 6th of October, Raed managed to set the fastest lap of the whole day. He was working closely with his coach and team to prepare for the coming race and the season.

Sessions schedule for the weekend is as follow: Abu Dhabi time

Qualifying: 15:45
1st Race: 9:40
2nd Race:12:00

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Menasheh Idafar - SnettertonMenasheh Idafar underlined his burgeoning potential during officially timed Formula Renault UK Winter Championship testing at Snetterton in Norfolk today, Friday, 30th October, by concluding the outing an excellent fourth fastest on combined times.

In the last of today’s 40-minute sessions this afternoon, the 18-year-old produced a quickest lap of 1m04.631 seconds (108.72mph) on his final run to go second overall and the fastest of the Manor Competition drivers with around three minutes to go.

With team-mate David McDonald and fellow front-runner Harry Tincknell – 2009 Formula Renault UK Graduate Cup Winner – just edging ahead by fractions of a second at the finish though, Menasheh slipped to fourth fastest but the end result was still extremely impressive, just 0.270 seconds shy of the outright pace.

During this morning’s opening session, the Gulf Computer Services and Ortolan-backed driver was seventh on the timesheets with a time of 1m07.765 seconds (103.69mph). Then, in the second period, he improved to a superb third quickest, having been at the head of the times with just a few minutes remaining thanks to a lap of 1m05.151 seconds (107.85mph).

Happy with his performance today, Menasheh commented: “My fastest lap in the last session could have been better as I made a small mistake but I’m very happy to be in the top four, especially as we only used one set of new tyres at the end. The car is good and I’m really enjoying it, now I’m looking forward to the start of the Winter Championship tomorrow.”

Qualifying for the opening two races of the 2009 Formula Renault UK Winter Championship will take place at 09.30 tomorrow, Saturday, 31st October, at Snetterton with round one scheduled to get underway at approximately 10.50. The second 15-lap encounter will follow at around 13.30.

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Adrian Quaife-HobbsFormula Renault Eurocup and NEC front-runner Adrian Quaife-Hobbs has successfully completed his first World Series by Renault test, the 18 year-old completing around 75 laps of the Motorland Aragon circuit. Last weekend the BRDC Rising Star brought his 2009 race season to a close in Spain, but stayed on to test a Comtec Racing Car in the first official WSR tests.

Adrian joined many of his Formula Renault rivals as well as several drivers who have previously contested the series, with Adrian only venturing out on track on the second of the two days. In Wednesday’s opening session of two, the Tonbridge teenager adapted quickly to the increased horsepower of the 3.5 litre car and he wound up a very impressive sixth quickest on his first ever time in the car.

The second session allowed Adrian to improve his lap times considerably and close down the gap to the quickest time, the former double T-Cars champion ending up fourth fastest, a little over three tenths off. In the session, he was beaten only by two drivers from the 2009 WSR championship and another driver, in his second full day in the car.

“It was a fantastic experience driving a World Series by Renault car and I’m very happy with how quickly I adapted,” said Adrian. “Comtec Racing was an excellent team and I think we worked together very well.

“To end the session fourth quickest, behind two drivers who have competed in the championship this season and another who had the benefit of another day under his belt, I feel is a good result. With more time in the car, I’m sure I could have gone even quicker.

“Now we have to consider our options for 2010. We tested British F3 last week with T-Sport and now this week in WSR and both the championships, teams and cars have their advantages. There are however lots of things to take into consideration before we decide, but hopefully it’s a decision we can make quite quickly.”

Adrian Quaife-Hobbs brought his 2009 racing campaign to a close in the final rounds of the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 Championship at Motorland Aragon at the weekend. The 18 year-old, fresh from a successful F3 test last week, went straight to Spain for the double-header event with the intention of taking fourth in the standings.

On arrival at the new circuit Adrian went straight into two free practice sessions in which the BRDC Rising was left disappointed by the pace. Despite winding up fourth quickest in the first session, his times were set on new tyres with his rivals on old, leaving the Motopark Academy team work to do before qualifying.

This they did to good effect however, the Tonbridge teenager bouncing back to form with the fourth fastest time in his group just over a tenth off pole. In the combined Superpole shootout to determine the grid for race one, Adrian against set the fourth fastest lap, two places ahead of his chief rival Miki Monras.

Saturday’s opening race proved largely uneventful for Adrian. A good start allowed him to hold position but by the end of the opening lap he’d dropped to seventh. With one eye on the whereabouts of Monras behind, Adrian drove a steady mid-part of the race concentrating on keeping a solid sixth place but as the race neared the end, the former double T-Cars champion upped his pace to stretch the gap to Monras.

In Sunday’s race two, Adrian again started from fourth, and the fraught race proved nail-biting right to the flag. With the championship title still very much at stake between three drivers, including Adrian’s team-mate Antonio Felix da Costa, team tactics were much in evidence over the course of the race.

But for Adrian, the battle for fourth was very much his target, entering the race on equal points with Monras. At the start, he had the advantage with a car in between them as the race progressed.

The battle for the race lead was fought out by six drivers, with the lead changing hands several times over the race distance. Throughout Adrian enjoyed a battle with Jean Eric Vergne, the pair swapping places several times.

On the penultimate lap, with his championship position secured, Adrian upped his pace to pass Kevin Magnussen and cross the line fourth, to give him that position in the points standings.

Adrian will now stay in Spain to take part in the official World Series by Renault tests which take place on Wednesday, when he will drive a Comtec Racing car.

Formula Renault Eurocup front-runner Adrian Quaife-Hobbs tested a T-Sport Dallara VW Formula 3 car at Pembrey this week as the 18 year-old evaluates his options for 2010. The former double T-Cars champion and FBMW racer successfully completed 90 laps around the Welsh track and was very happy with the opportunity.

“It was a great experience to run in a British F3 car with T-Sport and it has certainly given us an option for next season,” said Adrian. “The car was good to drive, and I felt confident very early on and was able to set some quick times for the wet conditions.

“We haven’t yet decided on our plans for next season, we still have another round remaining of the Formula Renault Eurocup this weekend in Spain, but as first tests with a new team go, I was very pleased with the way the T-Sport team operates and happy with the results.”

T-Sport boss Russell Eacott was equally delighted with the performance of the BRDC Rising Star, who after two years racing in Europe, may well be set to return to race in the UK.

“Adrian acclimatised very well to the car and we were very impressed with his performance after just ten laps,” said Russell. “The weather conditions were far from deal but Adrian was immediately on the pace and we would love the opportunity to work with him in British Formula 3 next season.

“There is no question that his time in Formula Renault has helped him tremendously, his feedback was terrific and he showed great ability and discipline in working with the team at this level. We very much hope we can work with him in the future as I feel he could be a serious contender.”

Adrian concludes his 2009 racing season with the final rounds of the Formula Renault Eurocup at Motorland Aragon in Spain this weekend after which the Tonbridge racer will continue a test programme before finalising plans for the 2010 season.

Alexander RossiEighteen year old American, Alexander Rossi, showed his abilities this week at Circuito de Jerez, Spain for the first collective GP2 winter test. Rossi wasted no time transitioning to the 600 horsepower V8 Renault as the lone American returning to GP2 series since 2005.

Rossi, using the experience of the GP2 car as preparation for his BMW Sauber F1 test at Jerez taking place, December 1st – 3rd. Finishing his first day with Piquet GP, Alexander posted the 12th quickest lap of 25 drivers. The top 12 drivers were separated by only 1 second with many having much more GP2 experience than young Rossi.

On Thursday, Rossi drove for DAMS, the 2008 GP2 Asia Championship winners. Alexander finished a strong 9th overall, 7/10ths off the quickest time. In the morning session, Rossi was quickest in wet conditions until a hydraulic pump failure ruined the American’s chances to hold the top spot.

“Considering his very low racing experience, Alexander did a really great job”, Eric Boullier, DAMS – Team Principal. “He impressively outpaced the whole field in the morning in the wet conditions and show everybody a very strong speed during all the day. His car control is remarkable and he adapted very well to the 600hp-GP2 car driving. Last but not the least, he fitted nicely within the Dams team.”

“On Tuesday with Piquet GP, I learned so much about the complex Bridgestone tire and carbon brakes, which gave me a lot of confidence heading into my second opportunity to drive the car,” Rossi commented. “As I prepared for my F1 test, my goal over the two days was to learn as much as possible about the car and the circuit, which I feel I accomplished. On Thursday, I believe DAMS had the pace to be P1, however extrenuating circumstances prevented it from happening.”

“Getting a clean lap was very difficult at times due to repeated red flags and slower traffic, but this is a part of racing which everyone has to deal with,” Rossi added. “It was an honor and privilidge to drive for two highly respected teams and I believe we developed some strong relationships for the future. I am pleased with the results and found the GP2 car quite comfortable to drive.”

“Alexander learned the GP2 car very quickly”, commented Andrea Bergamini – Piquet GP – Managing Director. “In Jerez this past week, our team was impressed with Alexander’s ability. He is quick, precise and proved he’s ready for the transition to GP2. We would be delighted to run him in 2010.”

Team Rossi is currently in the midst of sponsorship acquisition and fall testing plans for Alexander. For 2010, many options have been presented and are now being assessed very carefully. It is the goal for Rossi to gain more experience in a GP2 car, before his BMW Sauber F1 test. If the opportunity becomes available, he will participate in the GP2 test at Paul Ricard, France – November 10 -12th.

Rossi has meetings the next couple of weeks in the United States, but will continue to reside and train in Pietrasanta, Italy while preparing for 2010.

Photo by Dawn Rossi – Team Rossi Motorsports

Vici Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSRAt a dry, sunny but quite cool Laguna Seca Raceway this afternoon Richard Westbrook safely put the #18 T-Mobile® VICI Racing™ Porsche 911 GT3 RSR onto the sixth row of the grid for tomorrow’s American Le Mans Series (ALMS) season-closing 4-hour Monterey Sports Car Championships. The team was somewhat on the back foot going into qualifying after sensor problems reared their head during the last practice session, but Richard made the best of the situation to ensure that the car he will share tomorrow with Johannes Stuck will be well placed for the tough season closer in California.

VICI Racing™ is a long-established German/US racing team competing in the prestigious ALMS series. T-Mobile USA is a leading innovator and provider of mobile communications. At the end of 2008, T-Mobile USA served more than 32.8 million customers. T-Mobile USA is the U.S. operation of Deutsche Telekom AG’s Mobile Communications Business, and a wholly-owned subsidiary of T-Mobile International, one of the world’s leading companies in mobile communications. T-Mobile is a federally registered trademark of Deutsche Telekom AG. Michelin is a technical partner of the team.

The day got underway with an hour long practice session from 9:45-10:45AM and with this being the first time the team would get on track this week coupled with limited practice running time before the race, every second of green flag conditions would count. With all three drivers having never raced here before Technical Director Roland Wall would have to factor in squeezing the maximum track time for each of them in without compromising his pursuit of optimised qualifying and race setups. The morning saw the #18 Porsche’s regular duo, Richard and Johannes, given half an hour each to get used to the 2.238-mile circuit complete with its famous “corkscrew”, while a new engine fitted last night and other strategic components needed to be bedded in. During the session the two drivers ran 27 laps with the fastest being in 1:25.568 (94.157 mph) set by the experienced English sports car racer.

“The track is really interesting, I enjoyed it out there,” said Johannes, the 22-year-old son of sports car legend Hans-Joachim Stuck, and the latest product of a generational racing dynasty. “I think I did quite well, I have looked at the data and I seem to be doing everything correctly. The track is quite demanding as there are a lot of blind corners and there aren’t many long straights, so no time to relax, it will be a tough stint out there. I have to work on a few areas and my braking zones, but I’m happy here, it is a great track.”

The afternoon kicked off with an hour-long practice session at 2:00PM which would lead into the usual 20 minute qualifying session after a quick 10 minute breather. Richard was first in the cockpit to work on setup changes but when he came in a third of the way through the session to hand over to Lance problems occurred. The German youngster had only been in the #18 magenta-and-white car for a lap when a faulty sensor sent him back pitwards and replacing the component cost the Miami, Florida-based team the rest of the session. For the record the car turned in 13 laps during the session with the quickest of those, posted by Richard, being in 1:25.680 (94.034 mph) on the seventh time round.

It all added up to leave the team on the back foot for the qualifying session but with set-up looking good, Richard did the job to put the car onto the grid with a quickest lap in 1:24.307 (95.565 mph). “We’ve had a few things thrown against us today that we have had to deal with,” says Roland, “but the car looks pretty good and I am confident the set-up is going the right way for the race, so we now have to do some work tonight and evolve our race strategy to our starting position. I would have liked to see the drivers get more cockpit time, but they look solid already, and the crew have done a great job as usual.”

Tomorrow (Saturday, October 10) will see the final round of the 2009 American Le Mans Series, the four-hour Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. The green flag is scheduled for 2:45PM (PT). The race will air on SPEED from 2:30 to 6:30PM (ET) on Sunday, October 11. Live coverage will be available on American Le Mans Radio presented by Porsche via americanlemans.com, which also will feature Living Timing & Scoring on Racehub. Live coverage also can be heard on Sirius 126 and XM 242. You can follow the Series on Twitter and on the series’ Facebook page. The race will also mark the 10th and final round of the 2009 MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge.