Power returns to take Indy GP
Following a disappointing seventh place after qualifying on the pole in the opening race of the 2012 Indy Car Championship at St Petersburg last month, Queensland's Will Power (Penske Chevrolet) came from ninth on the grid to win the Indy GP of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham.
Power found himself in the lead after his Penske teammate Helio Castroneves pitted on lap 68 of 90.
He then had to survey a restart on lap 74 when Ganassi Team driver Scott Dixon pulled alongside.
However, Toowoomba’s favourite sporting son stayed “cool, calm and collected”, taking the 16th win of his Indy Car career.
“Tim Cindric (Power’s race strategist) kept putting me in such a good position so we could use our speed,” Power said.
“That last restart was kind of hairy. I knew Scott was going to be really quick and (he) hounded me for a couple of laps there.”
Kiwi Dixon has finished second in all three events conducted at Barber Motorsports Park and this is his best season start in the IRL Championship since winning in 2008.
Castroneves held out against fast finishing second-generation racer Graham Rahal, son of Indy 500 and IRL Championship winner Bobby Rahal, to claim the final spot on the podium.
Formula 1 convert, Brazilian Rubens Barichello showed he will be a future championship contender when he finished a fine eighth in only his second IRL race. Power’s teammate and fellow Aussie Ryan Briscoe struggled with excessive rear tyre wear, finishing a disappointing 14th.
Castroneves leads the championship, two points ahead of Dixon, with Power a further seven points adrift in third, going into this weekend’s third round on a road course at Long Beach in California.
Reigning champion Dario Franchitti (Ganassi Honda) is wallowing back in 11th place behind Barichello in 10th.
Under the pump
Reigning MotoGP Champion Casey Stoner had a disappointing opening round of the 2012 Championship in Qatar a few weeks ago, when he finished third behind his Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa and Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo who took the checkered flag.
Stoner had the race in the bag, however arm cramps saw him struggle with braking on his Honda.
During the final six laps he slipped back with Lorenzo taking his race-winning lead. Pedrosa passed Stoner a lap later.
“We were by far the fastest out there but after four laps I started to get real ‘arm pump’ with my arms shaking off the bars and I was holding on with two fingers. I couldn’t grip and I couldn’t use the brakes. I’ve got two weeks to go and train and we can come back again,” Stoner said.
Focus on China
F1 attention was focused on the Chinese GP to be raced April 14 on the Shanghai International Circuit, which was built on swamp land in the Jiading District.
Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes) won in 2011 ahead of Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Renault) with Vettel’s teammate, Australia’s Mark Webber, after recording the fastest lap of the race, finishing third.
The high-speed 5.4km circuit is one of the fastest in the championship with accelerators wide open for 70 per cent of each lap.
This would suit the Red Bull Renaults which are almost unbeatable in high-speed corners.
Webber likes the circuit’s long straights and has pleasant memories of Shanghai when, after starting 18th on the grid last year, finished on the podium in a Red Bull “two-three” behind Hamilton.
Going into the April 14 race, Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) led with 35 points ahead of Hamilton (30), with his teammate Jensen Button (25), ahead of Webber with 24.
Vettel was sixth with 18 points.
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On top: Power found himself in the lead after his Penske teammate Helio Castroneves pitted on lap 68 of 90.