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Archive for November, 2013

Heikki KovalainenFinnish driver Heikki Kovalainen [32] will join Lotus F1 Team for the final two races of the 2013 season as a stand-in for regular race driver Kimi Räikkönen, who is currently undergoing back surgery.

Heikki – a veteran of 109 Grand Prix starts – has previously driven for Renault F1 Team, McLaren, and Caterham F1 Team. Over the course of his six seasons in Formula 1 to date, Heikki has scored 105 World Championship points. He has qualified on the front row five times, taken one pole position at the 2008 British Grand Prix, achieved two fastest laps and finished on the podium four times; including victory at the 2008 Hungarian Grand Prix.

Prior to racing for Lotus F1 Team in its former guise of Renault F1 Team in 2007, Heikki performed various test duties for the squad between 2004 – 2006. He completed his seat fitting at Enstone on Wednesday 13th November, before proceeding directly to Austin to join up with the race team.

Eric Boullier, Team Principal, Lotus F1 Team
“Obviously we had to move quickly following the news of Kimi’s non-participation in the final two races of this season, and we found ourselves facing a difficult decision in terms of who should take the wheel in Austin and São Paulo. On the one hand we had our reserve driver Davide Valsecchi – who is a talented young driver that has shown a great deal of promise – and on the other we had the opportunity to bring in a seasoned Formula 1 competitor in Heikki. Whilst we have every faith in Davide’s abilities, we are obviously involved in a tight Constructors’ Championship battle, so it was decided that the experience Heikki could bring to the team would be invaluable as we aim to finish the year in the best position possible. We must thank Tony Fernandes and Caterham F1 Team for their professional conduct in allowing Heikki to join us for the final races of this season.”

Heikki Kovalainen, Race Driver, Lotus F1 Team
“It is a fantastic opportunity for me to join Lotus F1 Team for the final two races of 2013. We’ve seen this year that the E21 is a car which can win races and finish on the podium, so I will be pushing hard for the best results possible. Jumping into a car so late in the year when you have not been competing in the races all season will be a challenge, but I know the team at Enstone well so I have no concerns about getting up to speed. This is a great opportunity for me, so I would like to thank Tony Fernandes and Caterham F1 Team for allowing me to take advantage of it.”

Richard GondaAfter an exciting and demanding season Drivex and their driver Richard Gonda ended up being the great winners in the European F3 Open, clinching the title in Copa classification this year. It was a well deserved win for team and driver, after winning seven races during the season.

The top-priority for Drivex was to secure the title with Richard, a promising talent from Slovakia, but it was not an easy task as Cameron Twynham, his strongest rival for the title, wasn´t far away in the overall rankings. Test sessions on Thursday proved to be valuable for preparing the weekend, and Gonda was already among fastest drivers at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. On Friday three free practice sessions came into action, and Gonda was 3rd fastest at the end of the day setting a best lap of 1:44.575, right behind Twynham.

First qualifying session, on Saturday, saw Gonda continuing doing a solid work and he was 4th and Twynham 3rd, a good place on the grid to approach race one. Gonda was almost the entire race behind Twynham, and that result was good enough to clinch the title. But, after a thrilling overtaking maneuver, he took third from Twynham. This third place was another podium and, most important of all, the title. For Sunday, without pressure, Gonda enchanted everyone posting another pole position time in Q2. Later, in race two, he led from lights to flag finishing on the highest step of the podium once again.

After 16 races, Gonda finished the championship first, scoring 100 points, 19 ahead of Twynham. An extremely positive season for Gonda and Drivex already focused on 2014 with new challenges ahead.

Sandy StuvikA dramatic weekend in Barcelona for the European Formula 3 Open Championship decider, saw Sandy Kraokaew Stuvik struggling with car problems during the Friday practice, missing out the first free practice session due to an oil pressure problem.

Then in the Saturday morning qualifying session, Stuvik was fighting a huge over steer in the car and could only manage a season worst P8 starting position for the race. Without enough time to change the ride height of the car, he would have to work around the over steer problem for the race.

The race started late in the afternoon at Barcelona Circuit and Stuvik went from P7 on the grid back to 8th on the first lap, before he again starting clawing his way up the field. In the end he took the checkered flag in fifth position, with his championship rival Jones, winning the taking over the championship lead.

In the meantime it emerged that Jones had raced at the Barcelona Circuit only 2 weeks ago, in direct contradiction with F3 rules, which prohibits testing on championship circuits. A protest was subsequently filed and accepted for hearing by the organizer committee at a later date.

For Sundays race Stuvik’s car set up was modified for a lower rear ride height before qualifying and finally the young Thai driver again had a car he could race with and managed P2 position in the qualification, just one tenth behind Jones in P1.

For the final race of the season the Thai driver had an unusual slow getaway from the grid and dropped to 5th position, before quickly getting past the drivers in front and up to 3rd position. Jones was out in the lead, but pushed his tires hard in the opening part of the race, too hard as it would soon emerge and with graining tires he started dropping backwards, first getting overtaken by Alex Cougnaud and soon after by Stuvik. By the end of the race the Thai driver was in second place and Jones had dropped to 5th place. Frenchman Alex Cougnaud, also from RP Motorsport, won the race.

The summary of the season is that the Thai racer Sandy Kraokaew Stuvik has the most points, 267 vs Jones 256 points, but the championship will be decided on only 14 of the 16 races and since the Thai driver has finished every single race in 5th place or higher, he has to drop valuable points. On the net points list Jones leads with 256 vs Stuvik 247 points. The championship therefore remains undecided until after the protest hearing against Jones, by the Formula 3 tribunal, in the end of November.

Sandy Kraokaew Stuvik races for Thailand and is sponsored by The Pizza Company, Singha Corporation, Dacon Inspection Services, the Royal Automobile Association of Thailand and Sports Authority of Thailand.

Cameron TwynhamUp and coming British racing driver Cameron Twynham ended his European F3 Open campaign as Copa Class championship runner-up last weekend thanks to a ninth podium of the year at the Barcelona season finale.

The 17-year-old went into the event with only an outside chance of overturning the 13-point deficit that would have landed him the title, and was ultimately forced to settle for second in the standings after the opening race on Saturday.

Twynham had put himself in contention to fight for a much-needed victory during morning qualifying by going third fastest. But unlike his rivals, the Team West-Tec driver had used just one set of tyres during the session, ensuring he would start the afternoon’s race on completely fresh rubber.

Initially that bold decision looked like paying off, with Twynham setting fastest lap of the race in his pursuit of the leaders. However, the newer tyres soon began to fall away – inexplicably far quicker than those used by others during qualifying – leaving the MSA Academy driver powerless to finish any higher than fourth in class.

With the championship mathematically out of reach, the Market Harborough racer focused on securing second place in the standings, which was now under threat from race one winner Tommaso Menchini whose team frequently use Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for testing. Sensing the danger, Twynham again qualified strongly in third directly behind the Italian, before pulling off an exceptional passing manoeuvre around the outside of the final hairpin on the opening lap of Sunday’s race.

Despite the high rate of tyre degradation, which produced lap times some five seconds slower than qualifying, Twynham was still shadowing the leader at half-distance when he was hit from behind by Menchini, forcing him wide at one of the final corners. While his Dallara F308 was fortunate not to sustain terminal damage, the compromised exit saw Cameron lose crucial momentum and second position.

Thereafter Twynham was more than content to protect his third place and the six points that would secure his runner-up position in the standings.

“We all really struggled with the tyres this weekend,” explained Twynham. “Considering we’d used the same set throughout qualifying I was very confident of making up the difference on fresher rubber in Saturday’s race, but the grip levels just fell away after five or six laps. The car lost its balance and I was really struggling towards the end to just stay on track. It wasn’t a great way to concede the title but the tyres were gone.

“On Sunday we essentially had nothing to lose, and I was going along very well in second when I was hit from behind. The contact was enough to break the rear wing and part of the floor, and forced me to run wide, lose momentum out of the corner and get passed along the main straight. After that it was important to sit tight and make sure of third, especially as the tyres were again getting past their best.”

Despite just falling short of the Copa Class title, Twynham was nevertheless pleased with his season’s work.

“It was always going to be tough this weekend as, even if I’d won both races, the championship leader was probably going to need a non-score,” he added. “He’s raced here several times before so that was unlikely, and in any case that’s not the way I’d like to have won it. Finishing second is still a fantastic achievement, especially considering the difference in experience between the champion and me, not to mention the rest of the field. I’ve learnt a lot and will be taking that, as well as all the positives, into next season.

“Congratulations to Richard [Gonda] though: he’s had an excellent year. I’d also like to thank Team West-Tec and my coach Ollie Millroy, as well as my commercial partners and family for their hard work throughout the season.”

An excellent record of 16 podium finishes and two victories from 23 races* in his first year of F3 competition has proven Twynham’s credentials as a star of the future. Now, with the help of his family and partners, he will spend the next couple of months assessing his options for the 2014 season.

*Full season of European F3 Open and selected British F3 rounds.

Photo by www.fotospeedy.it

Jono LesterKiwi endurance driver Jono Lester has narrowly missed out on winning the 2013 Super Taikyu Series by just 6.5 points, after a podium finish at the final round of the Championship at Autopolis, Japan.

Needing a race win to secure his maiden title victory, 23-year old Takapuna resident Lester was confident of his chances alongside Super GT Champion Tatsuya Kataoka (JAP) and Fariqe Hairuman (MAL) in the PETRONAS Syntium Team Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 #28.

Practice and qualifying were held in beautiful autumn conditions at the mountainous Fukuoka circuit, which is situated high above sea level on Kyushu Island.

Securing third on the grid in qualifying, it was clear of the strength of the Nissan GT-R contingent who locked out the front row of the grid.

Alongside Lester in fourth were his title rivals and team mates Dominic Ang and Melvin Moh in the sister Team PST machine, with strong performances also from Audi, Porsche and BMW close in behind.

In a case of déjà vu, the team awoke to heavy rain and thick, low hanging fog on Sunday, much like in 2012 where the final round of the championship was abandoned due to dangerous weather.

Despite delays, the race was reduced to two hours and eventually got underway behind the safety car. Strategy saw Kataoka and Hairuman both pit immediately, meaning Lester would complete the race ‘solo’ in the horrid conditions.

When green flag running commenced, it became clear of the strength of the Nissan GT-Rs who galloped away at the head of the field. Lester was left to hold down the final podium spot, and finished in third position.

With car #1 finishing in fifth, the title was secured by just 6.5 points over the #28 of Lester, Kataoka and Hairuman.

“It hurts to come this close and fall short, but we didn’t deserve to win the race today,” Lester admitted.

“The Nissans didn’t put a foot wrong. Their pace was incredible and they were deserved victors. I’m proud of what we’ve achieved this season despite a few hiccups at Motegi and Fuji. In hindsight, those two mechanical incidents cost us dearly.”

In an impressive record in Japan’s Super Taikyu Series, the PETRONAS Syntium Team wrapped up their sixth consecutive championship at Autopolis and another 1-2 for good measure.

“It really is an impressive feat for the team to have achieved such a run of success, and every member of the team can be proud of playing a part in it.

“Dato’ David Wong has been a visionary of Asian motor racing with an unparalleled record and he in particular should be proud. I thank him for the opportunities he’s presented me and look forward to many more successful seasons together.”

Jono Lester would like to extend a special thank you to his key partners for their support in 2013, including Vortex Racewear, Lero Global, R Redpath Limited, OPTI-Flex, Fastway Couriers, Robbie Bird Wines, CRC MotorNews.co.nz, Mako Networks, iSign it, Sony New Zealand, Sony Xplod, ThrillPledge and Webdesign.

With the 2013 season now drawing to a close, Lester is looking ahead to next year with an exciting calendar of motor racing planned.

More details about Jono and his career can be found at www.jonolester.com, or by following ‘Jono Lester’ on Facebook, @jonolester on Twitter and @jono_lester on Instagram. Join the conversation using the hashtag #flyingkiwi on social media platforms.

Follow the action from your smartphone by downloading the free Jono Lester app, simply by visiting http://jonolester.appguppy.com from your iPhone or Android device.

Photo by PETRONAS Syntium Team.

Jono LesterKiwi endurance driver Jono Lester travels to Japan this week for the final round of the 2013 Super Taikyu Series at Autopolis, where he will fight with the PETRONAS Syntium Team’s sister car for the Championship title.

Following a season of impressive speed, numerous wins but also numerous mechanical failures, Lester’s Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 (#28) currently sits second overall in the points standings, just 6.5 points behind the leaders with 21 points available at the final round.

The consistency of the Team PST cars during 2013 has extended the pair beyond reach of the chasing pack, and the Championship is guaranteed to be won by the PETRONAS Syntium Team for a sixth consecutive season.

The question is, which car will be victorious?

“The math is pretty simple,” Lester explains.

“It’s a must-win event for us. If we achieve this and the #1 car finishes third or worse, we will secure the title.

“I am confident of our ability to run at the front and challenge for another race win to end the season. The race will play out how it plays out – that is out of our control – but for the first time this season I’m hoping for a strong challenge from our GT3 class rivals to ‘mix it up’ and help us achieve #28’s first Championship title.”

The Autopolis 3-hour race is set in a mountainous Southern region of Japan and is regularly hampered by inclement weather.

At the 2012 Super Taikyu final, the race was abandoned due to heavy rain and fog. Similarly, the recent Super GT race at Autopolis last month saw qualifying cancelled due to track flooding.

“Rain we can put up with, but we don’t need another anticlimax like last year. We want a hard, fair fight with all of those around us, and the best men to win on the day.”

Lester is supported throughout the 2013 season by key partners including Vortex Racewear, Lero Global, R Redpath Limited, OPTI-Flex, Fastway Couriers, Robbie Bird Wines, CRC MotorNews.co.nz, Mako Networks, iSign it, Sony New Zealand, Sony Xplod, ThrillPledge and Webdesign.

More details about Jono and his season can be found at www.jonolester.com, or by following ‘Jono Lester’ on Facebook, @jonolester on Twitter and @jono_lester on Instagram. Join the conversation using the hashtag #flyingkiwi on social media platforms.

Follow the action from your smartphone by downloading the free Jono Lester app, simply by visiting http://jonolester.appguppy.com from your iPhone or Android device.

Photo by PETRONAS Syntium Team.

Cameron TwynhamCameron Twynham’s hopes of clinching the European F3 Open Copa Class crown received a boost late last week when the 17-year-old Briton was confirmed as an MSA Academy driver.

The Market Harborough resident, who retains a chance of winning the title at this weekend’s season finale in Barcelona, has already sought advice from the scheme designed to aid rising stars, which was established by the UK’s officially sanctioned motorsport body in 2008.

A stellar first season racing Formula 3 machinery has helped Twynham catch the eye of MSA bosses, whose Academy programme is a development pathway designed to foster Britain’s most promising young drivers.

Academy candidates are assessed on the basis of talent, potential and their willingness to work with the MSA in order to improve all aspects of their performance, both on and off track. Having met all three criteria, Twynham will now spend time attending workshops that focus on a broad range of topics, from lifestyle and fitness to the tactical nous and situation analysis a modern racing driver requires. There will also be support available from a dedicated Performance Management structure and qualified coaches.

Twynham is confident that the Academy’s facilities and programmes will help him improve still further next year.

“Being selected as an MSA Academy driver is a fantastic achievement and one that I’m sure will help me to take the next step in 2014,” he said. “The MSA Academy does a great job helping to prepare and improve young drivers, so I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in and learning as much as I can. The fact that selection is based on performance and potential is very important to me as I’ve worked incredibly hard over the last 12 months or so to put myself in this position. By recognising that, the MSA Academy has provided me with even greater motivation and means to succeed.”

MSA Academy Coordinator Greg Symes explained that a combination of factors played their part in Twynham’s selection.

“Cameron is one of those drivers who has stood out since graduating to cars in 2012. He was first identified as a potential candidate when racing in the InterSteps series last year after the MSA ran a performance master class programme for its drivers. That, coupled with his excellent results this year, as well as a personal recommendation from Team UK driver Jack Harvey, guaranteed his place on the Academy. It’s there to offer advise where the drivers feel they most need assistance, so that ranges from having someone acting as a sounding board on the phone right through to us putting a bespoke programme of workshops in place. Whatever Cam feels is relevant we’ll try to provide.”

The final round of this season’s European F3 Open campaign is live on Motors TV this weekend, with coverage of Saturday’s race airing at 13:50 and Sunday’s starting at 12:05 GMT.

Sandy StuvikThe European Formula 3 Open is on eve of its 2013 title decider, taking place in Barcelona next 9-10 November. There are two racers left who can take the title this season, Thailand’s Sandy Stuvik and UAE’s Ed Jones. For Thailand´s driver, after his three wins this season – his last triumph at Monza being an epic race, Barcelona could mean a new milestone for his racing career.

“Having raced at Barcelona track before, I know the circuit quite well and I can say it is one of the best circuits on the calendar and it will be great to drive there with a Formula 3 car. The championship battle is very close now, and I need strong finishes at Barcelona to walk away as the champion. I know Jones will be a challenge as he has always been this season but I am confident that we can make it an exciting finale”, Stuvik explains, pointing out that “I’m still training very hard at Shape Driver in Italy as I have been doing the whole year, and it has made a huge difference not just physically, but mentally. I feel strong and fully ready for the final push, and I will do whatever it takes to be the champion”.

At the moment Stuvik sits first with 239 points, with Jones second and 219 points. Sandy Kraokaew Stuvik races for Thailand and is sponsored by The Pizza Company, Singha Corporation, Dacon Inspection Services, the Royal Automobile Association of Thailand and Sports Authority of Thailand. Please cheer Sandy for another podium and flying of the Thai flag in the coming final round at Catalunya Circuit on 9-10 November 2013 via live web streaming www.live.f3open.net

Adrian Quaife-HobbsAdrian Quaife-Hobbs brought his GP2 Series campaign to a close with two strong drives through the field in the final rounds in Abu Dhabi this weekend. Storming through from a pit lane start to finish 11th in race one, a return to race pace in race two netted the sixth fastest lap, but broken rear suspension brought his charge to an end just three laps from home.

Undertaking an intensive simulator programme in the six-week break since the last round in Singapore, Quaife-Hobbs arrived at the track for the first time on Monday and was optimistic of rounding out his first GP2 season with a repeat of the form that secured podium finishes in Monaco and Spa, and a maiden series win in Monza.

A brake issue on his 600bhp, four-litre V8 Mecachrome Dallara in free practice on Friday failed to dampen his enthusiasm and confidence ahead of qualifying later that evening, and with new brakes fitted to his Hilmer Motorsport car he headed into the session aiming for a good result. On his second run on new tyres, he flew through the first and second sectors, and was on for a strong grid position until a red flag on the final sector slowed his progress and dropped him down the order.

Despite that the 22 year-old took to the grid for the weekend’s opening race in 17th, determined to put his qualifying disappointment behind him. At the lights a rare mistake from the Briton left him stranded on the grid, and with a second formation lap required was forced to start from the pit lane.

A tremendous charge through the field over the course of the 29 laps, allowed the 2012 AutoGP World Series Champion to carve his way through, and salvage 11th at the flag, to set him up for a potential top ten finish in Sunday morning’s final race of the season.

A superb getaway saw the GP2 rookie gain five places on the run into turn one, entering the corner in sixth place. However the stricken car of Johnny Cecotto ahead required quick-thinking avoidance techniques by the BRDC Superstar, but in the process Quaife-Hobbs hit another car, damaging his front wing and steering.

By mid distance, Quaife-Hobbs has recovered several places and was embroiled in a battle for 15th with Rio Haryanto, his former GP3 rival proving somewhat difficult to pass despite Quaife-Hobbs’ determined efforts. Eventually finding a way past the slower car, Quaife-Hobbs set off after the cars ahead, catching and passing Jake Rozenzweig for 11th on lap 17.

With just three laps remaining Quaife-Hobbs suddenly suffered rear suspension failure, a display of superb car control allowed him to safely pull off the track and into retirement, but brought his hopes of a top ten finish firmly to an end.

“It was a rather frustrating weekend in Abu Dhabi, we had a small brake issue in practice, and in qualifying my fastest lap was destroyed by the red flag, however the car was fast all weekend and I’ve had great fun with Hilmer Motorsport this year,” said Quaife-Hobbs.

“I stalled on the grid in race one, but fought my way back to 11th, and in the second, I had a great start and was up to sixth but had to take avoiding action into turn one, hitting another car which broke my front wing and bent the steering and dropped me to 16th.

“I managed to get back up to 11th but my rear upright broke three laps from home, race over! It’s not the way I wanted to end my first season in GP2, as we had some really solid results during the year, and it would have been nice to finish on a high.”

For more information visit www.quaifehobbs.com and follow the latest news and live timings on www.gp2series.com.

Laura TillettAspiring professional racing driver Laura Tillett is delighted to confirm she will fly the flag for the UK for the remainder of the 2013/2014 MRF Challenge season, having secured vital sponsorship off the back of a strong debut in the FIA-sanctioned single-seater category in India just over a week ago.

Having been on the car racing sidelines for 12 months since concluding her maiden season in ‘slicks and wings’ in the 2012 Protyre Formula Renault Championship, the 22-year-old from West Malling is thrilled to be back in action and determined to shine over the course of the MRF season.

“I’m very excited to be competing in the MRF championship and to be able to visit the fantastic circuits which are on the calendar”, said Laura, “I feel very privileged to be able to race in such a great class, I wasn’t expecting anything like this to happen to my racing career this year. I am really grateful to my sponsors for the opportunity, we’re aiming to make good progress.”

Although the chance to debut in the opening event of the MRF Challenge at Buddh International Circuit, which ran as support to the FIA Formula One World Championship’s Indian Grand Prix on 26th/27th October, came at the eleventh hour, Laura grasped the chance with both hands.

Despite gearbox issues with her Renault-powered Dallara, which impacted her pace during practice, qualifying and the first race, the Kent starlet secured a 13th place finish in the second encounter even though she had to serve a drive-through penalty after slightly rolling on the grid at the start. Off the track, her profile was boosted after being interviewed live on the Sky Sports F1 Channel.

As well as support from new sponsor Kinesio, Laura is backed by TILLETT Racing Seats, ET Fashions, Puma Motorsport and Point Racing. She is also an ambassador for Caterham Motorsport, with links to the Caterham F1 Team.

Her next outing in the MRF Challenge will come at Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir four weeks from now, on Friday, 29th November, and Saturday, 30th November, where rounds three and four of the new season will take place as support to the FIA World Endurance Championship.

From there the MRF Challenge will return to Bahrain on Friday, 20th December, and Saturday, 21st December, for rounds five and six with the season finale scheduled for 15th/16th February next year in Chennai, India.

“I am really looking forward to racing at Bahrain”, added Laura, “I watched the Bahrain F1 race on TV last year and thought it would be a great place to drive – I never expected I would be driving it a year later! After racing at Buddh [in India] and seeing what a great track that was, I can’t wait to get back on track as soon as possible in Bahrain.

“Racing on the same circuit, on the same weekend, as Formula One in India was the best moment of my racing career. There was a great atmosphere, it really focused my commitment and I wanted to achieve more than ever. I would love to be able to race at that level again and hopefully racing in MRF will open the door for me to do it again next year.”

Prior to making her car racing debut last year in Protyre Formula Renault, Laura competed at the highest level in karts in the CIK-FIA World Super KF Karting Championship. In 2009, she made history by becoming the first female to ever race in the premier class.