Spares Box presents the weekly Motorsport wrap-up!
With last weekend being the quiet one that it was, it was only fitting that the last few days have perhaps been the most action-packed of the year so far. Thrills, spills, crashes, a disappointed Nico Rosberg, disgruntled McLaren drivers and historic victories were in abundance all over the world, as the Bathurst 1000 took place, the Formula 1 World Championship arrived in Sochi for the Russian GP, and Motegi Twin Ring hosted the Japanese MotoGP.
Lowndes triumphs again at Bathurst
It would be straight-up blasphemy and a deportable offence to not cover the Bathurst 1000 first, and what a weekend of racing it turned out to be. Following Chaz Mostert’s sickening crash during Friday’s practice session and the carnage that proved to be the Aussie Racing Cars warm-up race on Saturday, Mt Panorama was already making itself known as one of the world’s most unforgiving racetracks in the lead up to Sunday’s race. It was the Bottle-O Race Team’s David Reynolds who tamed it in the wet on Saturday’s top-10 shootout, qualifying in pole by over a second from his nearest rival.
On the day, however, old favourites prevailed and as is the way with every Bathurst 1000 race, the cream of the crop rose to the top. It was Red Bull Racing’s Craig Lowndes who emerged victorious, after starting in 15th place and powering through the early stages of the race. As wet weather hit the track during the mid point of the race, slippery conditions followed and Jamie Whincup took the chance to race ahead to a 35-second lead.
The track began to dry out, Mark Winterbottom and David Reynolds both took the early opportunity to switch to slick tyres and Whincup’s lead quickly vanished. By the time the number 1 Red Bull Car had fixed a fuel sensor issue, switched its tyres and rejoined the track (now under the control of Paul Dumbrell), David Reynolds had taken the lead and Lowndes was waiting, soon overtaking him.
With Reynolds now in the lead and the both the two Red Bulls AND the Prodrive Ford of Mark Winterbottom hot on his tail, Scott Pye fell victim to the mountain, crashing heavily and forcing the safety car. From there, fuel strategy was key. With all the race leaders pitting during the safety car stint, it was Lowndes who emerged with the lead after both Winterbottom and Reynolds forced to take on far more fuel than either of the Red Bulls. For a brief amount of time, a Red Bull 1-2 looked set to happen – and then Jamie Whincup came along.
In defiance of team orders, Whincup, who would have otherwise been forced to stack up behind Lowndes in the Garage as they both made their pit stops, inadvertently overtook the safety car after electing to stay out for another lap. A drive through penalty followed, however it was not issued until the race restarted, giving Whincup the chance to back up the pack for Lowndes before peeling off to serve his penalty. By the time Whincup pulled into the pits at the end of the lap, Lowndes was 3 seconds clear of the field and the fight for the podium spots began.
Squabbling between Fabian Coulthard and David Reynolds ensued, and after an ambitious move by Coulthard resulted in both cars running wide at turn two, Mark Winterbottom took full advantage to guide his ford into 2nd, where he remained until the end of the race. Coulthard and Reynold both soon found themselves in the clutches of Scott Mclaughlin and Garth Tander, but the experience of Tander reigned supreme, pulling off a spectacular piece of driving to undercut them all and take home the final podium spot for HRT. Lowndes’ victory was an immensely popular one with the Bathurst fans and a historic one, marking his sixth time conquering the mountain and the fourth time for his co-driver Steven Richards.
Hamilton on top in Russia
Turning to a sport where Red Bull is significantly less successful this year, Lewis Hamilton once again took full spoils in what turned out to be a truly enthralling Russian Grand Prix. After Mercedes Team Mate Nico Rosberg retired with throttle issues to effectively end his chances of challenging for the world title, Hamilton stormed ahead to a dominant victory. The fight for the remaining podium places was an entertaining one and came down to the very last lap, with Kimi Raikkonen taking out his compatriot Valterri Bottas in a move clearly orchestrated by Vladimir Putin to start a Finnish civil war.
Force India’s Sergio Perez emerged from the chaos to reclaim the third place spot that he had held for a large majority of the latter part of the race, and give Force India its first podium this season. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel proved his merit once again with an impressive second-place finish, and appears to clearly be enjoying his time with the Italian Stable. The result all but seals a second successive world Title for Lewis Hamilton, and also means that Mercedes have wrapped up this year’s constructor’s title with three races still to go. Further down the pack, Fernando Alonso delivered yet more entertainment amongst the staggering incompetence of the McLaren Honda F1 team, quipping, “you have a good sense of humour” after being given a radio message informing that he was racing the Williams of Felipe Massa. At least his wit is quicker than his car.
Milestone for Pedrosa
Earlier in the evening, it was two-wheelers that drew the attention of the Motorsport world as Dani Pedrosa produced a dominant display to claim his 50th career win at the Japanese MotoGP. Championship leaders and teammates Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo crossed the line in 2nd and 3rd respectively, extending Rossi’s championship lead to 18 points.