Will Power's fuel risk pays off at Long Beach
Queensland's Will Power has won his second straight IZOD Indy Car race of 2012, taking the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on fumes and landing him on top of the point standings.
Following practice and qualifying, Chevrolet directed precautionary engine changes to its teams due to a possible fuel mapping problem in its motors.
The penalty for an engine change is 10 grid spots which saw Power drop from 2nd to 12th.
During the first half of the race he was driving to a fuel strategy which allowed him to complete the trace on two stops while all others took three stops. He skillfully made his way towards the front and with a handful of laps remaining, and still conserving fuel, he finally passed Simon Pagenaud (Honda) to take the lead.
However Power was almost out of fuel and slowed further with two laps to run, winning by a well-calculated two seconds. James Hinchcliffe (Chevrolet) claimed the final podium place.
Following his “nail-biting” win, the former Toowoomba Formula Ford racer said, “I thought it would be very tough to win this race (from 12th). We ran hard when we had to and at the end there we had to save so much fuel. To win this race after four years of trying makes this one of my best wins.”
Power’s Penske teammates did not fare well with fellow Aussie Ryan Briscoe 7th and Helio Castroneves 10th.
Reigning champion Dario Franchitti (Ganassi Honda), struggled to finish 14th, two laps down, after a pole start.
Former F1 driver Rubens Barichello (KV Racing Chevrolet) has taken to Indy Cars “like a duck to water”, finishing inside the top 10 in ninth place. A crowd of 500,000 is expected to be on hand at the next round on the streets of Sao Paulo, Barichello’s home city.
Power now leads the Championship with 127 points ahead of teammate Helio Castroneves (103), with Pagenaud, as a result of his fine performance, now up to third on 100 points.
Spectacular form in China GP
In what was one of the most exciting and spectacular F1 races for a long time, the Chinese GP was contested in difficult conditions due to bad weather. With many of the top teams starting back in the field, passes were numerous.
Australia’s Mark Webber, renowned for his courageous outside passes, in particular on the Eau Rouge curve at Spa in Belgium, was only one of several who made such passes.
Second-generation racer Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), son of former F1 world champion Keke, mastered the conditions to win. Timely pit stops saw Rosberg, after qualifying second beside his teammate Michael Schumacher, win by more than 20 seconds, ahead of McLaren Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jensen Button who took the minors.
After finishing 12th and 13th in the first two races of the season, a delighted Rosberg said, “Unbelievable. It’s been a long time coming for the team also. It’s finally there.”
Schumacher, who looked to be a winner from the pole, had his chances to claim his first win since his coming out of retirement thwarted by a pit stop error when a rear wheel was not tightened. This saw the seven-time world champion come to a heart-breaking halt out on the circuit.
Australia’s Mark Webber (Red Bull Renault), after qualifying sixth and being back as far as 14th, drove faultlessly to finish just off the podium in fourth. His teammate and reigning champion, Sebastian Vettel, qualified a lowly 11th and battled gamely to finish behind Webber in fifth. After a tough day in the “office”, Webber had this to say, “Trying to get the balance (front and rear grip) right for the whole race was very tricky. In the end it was not too bad.”
Going into tomorrow’s round in politically troubled Bahrain, drivers and team feelings are mixed. Following a Bahrain F1 GP Exhibition protest, security forces fired stun grenades at protesters. Demonstrators were shouting; “Down, down, F1” and demanding the release of activist Abdullah al-Khawaja who is on a hunger strike in prison.
In reply, the government’s Sheikh Khaled Bin Abdullah al Khalifa said, “F1 is an opportunity for your economy and we will show the people who are visiting us an open country and a centre for such a lovely sport.” Time will tell.
Hamilton finale in Supercars
V8 Supercars venture across the pond this weekend for the Hamilton 400 in New Zealand. Unfortunately this will be the last Hamilton 400 with heavy financial losses leading to the local council allowing organisers to end the iconic event.
NZ’s favourite racing son Greg Murphy, who has been injured, is competing tomorrow. Last year’s winner, Kiwi Shane Van Gisbergen (SBR Falcon) is one of the race favourites. Garth Tander (HRT Commodore) won in 2008, Jamie Whincup (888 Commodore) 2009/10.
Weather is often a big factor in NZ.
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On top: Will Power (centre) is joined by James Hinchcliffe of Canada (left) and Simon Pagenaud of France. Power took first, Pagenaud second and Hinchcliffe third.