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Sébastian Buemi Claims First Pole Position Since 2019 After Sensational Diriyah Performance

Sébastian Buemi claimed an unbelievable pole position at round two of the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, with the former Formula E Champion having beaten rookie Jake Hughes in the Final of the duels at the Diriyah E-Prix, to match the record for most pole positions in the all-electric championship. It was also Buemi’s first pole position since Season Five staggeringly, with the Swiss driver now being hopeful of claiming his first victory for Envision Racing.

Group A

So as qualifying got underway at the Riyadh Street Circuit, Sacha Fenestraz, Hughes, Edoardo Mortara, António Félix da Costa, Oliver Rowland, Dan Ticktum, Norman Nato, Nick Cassidy, Jake Dennis, Maximilian Günther and Lucas di Grassi ventured out onto the circuit, as the sun slowly began to set.

As the drivers completed their initial laps, the session was suddenly red flagged following a heavy crash for Günther at Turn Seven, with the German driver having weirdly appeared to have simply gone into the corner too quickly. The front-right of his Maserati Tipo Folgore was completely destroyed, with the question now being if Maserati MSG Racing can repair his car before the race. When the session finally restarted, just over ten minutes later, Fenestraz, Hughes, Mortara and da Costa occupied the all-important top four spots; however, real respectable times were yet to be seen.

Just over six minutes remained when the session restarted, with the vast majority of the drivers having quickly gotten back out onto the circuit. With four minutes remaining, Hughes became the first driver to break into the more respectable 1:10s; however, much faster times were to come. Dennis and Di Grassi also broke just into the high 1:10s, with a tenth having separated the top three. With two minutes remaining, life suddenly became even worse for Maserati, as Mortara heavily hit the wall at Turn Sixteen, bringing his qualifying to an end after destroying the rear of his car.

At the front and it was all change as the drivers completed their final laps, with it being delight for Mahindra Racing, as Rowland and Di Grassi both made the duels. Topping the session with a strong 1:10.269 was Hughes, with Free Practice Two pacesetter Ticktum having also made the duels. It meant that Championship leader Dennis was out after only managing sixth, resulting in eleventh on the grid.

Dan Ticktum Sets Fastest Time of the Weekend in Diriyah FP2

Dan Ticktum started Friday at the Diriyah E-Prix in sublime fashion, as the British driver set the fastest time in Free Practice Two at the second round of the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, which was also the fastest time of the weekend so far. The NIO 333 Racing driver set the pace on a 1:10.099, with Sébastian Buemi two-tenths behind in second place. Rounding off the top three ahead of qualifying was Mitch Evans.

It was a beautiful afternoon in Diriyah, with the rain from the day before being nowhere to be seen, as only blissful sunshine could be seen for Free Practice Two. Given that the race takes place in the evening in Saudi Arabia, the daytime practice session is somewhat irrelevant for the race; however, it’s vitally important for qualifying which’ll take place in just over an hour.

It was Edoardo Mortara who led the cars out for the second session of the weekend, as the vast majority of the drivers quickly complained about how dusty the Riyadh Street Circuit was. Within the first five minutes of the session, the times were just over 1.5s slower than they were at the end of Free Practice One, with Sam Bird‘s 1:10.4s being the time to beat from Thursday evening. Mexico City E-Prix winner Jake Dennis was the early pacesetter on a 1:12.0; however, the times continued to tumble.

Lucas di Grassi endured a weird moment in the opening ten minutes, after his car went straight on at the end of the main straight, with both of his front-wheels having locked-up. Back at the front and it was Mortara who set the first sub 1:11.5 as the session moved into the final twenty minutes, to no shock though, Dennis quickly went faster on a 1:11.3. Whilst Dennis set the fastest-lap, things went from bad to worse for the ABT CUPRA Formula E Team, as Nico Mueller lost the rear and heavily hit the wall at Turn Seventeen, likely breaking his suspension. To no surprise, he pulled to the side of the circuit.

As the track rubbered in towards the halfway point in the sunny session, the times became much more representable, as Dennis, René Rast and Ticktum all broke into the high 1:10s, with Dennis being just three-tenths off the best time of the weekend so far. Away from the top of the timesheets, Norman Nato was investigated for speeding in the pitlane, with a fine the likely outcome. Back at the top and Buemi hit the top ahead of his one-hundredth race in Formula E, before Ticktum suddenly did the fastest lap of the weekend after sneaking into the 1:10.3s, once again showing that NIO have a seriously fast car for Gen3.

2023 Race of Champions: Lucas Blakeley wins eROC, runs it back with Opmeer in Nations Cup

In 2022, Lucas Blakeley fell to Jarno Opmeer in the eROC World Final before the two partnered up for the Race of Champions‘ Nations Cup as Team eROC. Fast forward a year and Blakeley returned the favour, and the pair will once again be team-mates as the top two in the Final.

The World Final pitted four sim racing stars against each other in both Assetto Corsa and real life around the snow/ice course. Blakeley, the reigning F1 Esports champion, and Opmeer advanced to the final round with nineteen and twenty points, respectively, ahead of Michael Romanidis‘ seventeen and Martin Palm‘s fourteen. The points were set based on a grading system that judges a driver’s awareness, car control, and pace.

Blakeley defeated Opmeer in the real-life final race with a time of 1:42.674, four seconds ahead. Although Opmeer led early in the simulator battle, Blakeley beat him again with 1:22.906 to Opmeer’s 1:25.358.

“I wasn’t sure why I was so slow,” commented Opmeer. “Maybe I wasn’t that good in jumping in the car. I think I struggled a little bit switching between the real car and the simulator. It is what it is.”

The Blakeley/Opmeer duo will hope to stun the scene a second time. Although they fell to Team Germany‘s Mick Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel in the 2022 Nations Cup, Blakeley managed to beat Vettel in one of the four races. Team eROC will begin the 2023 Nations Cup by taking on Team Finland’s Valtteri Bottas and Mika Häkkinen.

Bryan Herta open to 2024 Indy 500 run for Robert Wickens

Robert Wickens was poised to be the next big thing in the NTT IndyCar Series before his career was cut short in 2018 by a horror wreck at Pocono that resulted in spinal cord injuries. The next five years presented challenges but also a new hope when he resumed racing in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge in 2022 for Bryan Herta Autosport. With his career back on track, he and Herta are curious about if a return to IndyCar is possible.

During an IMSA press conference on Thursday, Herta and Wickens both expressed interest in having the latter race the 2024 Indianapolis 500. Herta, a two-time 500-winning owner, told the Associated Press he “know(s) [Robbie] could do that, and I think that would be a next step for him in his journey. We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the logistical side of things, hand controls, and I think we have solutions for that.”

Due to his injuries leaving him paralysed below the waist, his IMSA Hyundai Elantra N TCR features a hand control system that transfers all power from foot pedals to paddles and the steering wheel. Whenever Wickens rotates out for Mark Wilkins, the latter toggles a switch to re-enable foot controls.

Such a system might be harder to achieve in an open-wheel car due to its tighter confines, but Wickens and company are willing to try. Wickens noted the effort had been considered for the 2023 500 but was delayed a year as development continues.

If the effort goes as planned, BHA will also make their return to IndyCar after last fielding a standalone entry in 2015 for Gabby Chaves. Sponsorship troubles led to the team merging with Andretti Autosport, for whom Herta’s son Colton races, in 2016. The older Herta won the Indy 500 with Dan Wheldon in 2011 and Alexander Rossi in 2016.

ABT CUPRA retains Nasser Al-Attiyah, Klara Andersson for 2023 XE

The 2022 Extreme E season came to a magnificent close for ABT CUPRA XE when Nasser Al-Attiyah and Klara Andersson secured the team’s maiden victory at the Energy X Prixx. To little surprise, the team will hope to carry their newfound momentum into 2023 as the two will comprise the driver lineup yet again.

On the other hand, the team’s traditional blue livery will not come back as it has been replaced by a purple-and-yellow design that matches CUPRA’s UrbanRebel production and racing electric cars as well as their Formula E challenger. Their Extreme E car is nicknamed the Tavascan XE as a nod to the CUPRA Tavascan, the Spanish company’s first all-electric road car.

“Our second season saw us make serious progress in terms of understanding how we work best as a team,” said CUPRA Racing boss Xavi Serra. “We ended the season with a run of strong results, and we’re keen to build on that. Our goals are clear: We are here to fight for the titles. Adding Klara to the team provides race win experience, and I can’t wait to see both her and Nasser out competing once more.”

Al-Attiyah has been atop the off-road world since September. He and Andersson scored ABT CUPRA’s first podium of the year at that month’s Copper X Prix, which was followed by retaking the World Rally-Raid Championship T1 points lead from Sébastien Loeb at the Rallye du Maroc in October then sealing the title at the Andalucía Rally two weeks later. November then saw ABT CUPRA win the Energy X Prix to wrap up the XE season, with Loeb coincidentally winning the series championship for X44. His 2023 then got off to a flying start as he notched his second straight Dakar Rally victory ahead of Loeb.

He joined ABT CUPRA for the 2022 XE season, replacing another Dakar competitor Mattias Ekström. Al-Attiyah revealed his intent to remain in XE in an interview with Motorsport Network in October.

Benediktas Vanagas auctions off Dakar Hilux’s fender and Al-Attiyah’s cap, donates vehicles for Ukraine

Benediktas Vanagas‘ 2023 Dakar Rally abruptly ended when he crashed just four stages in, resulting in a concussion. Despite the disappointing end to his eleventh try at the race, he turned what was left of his Toyota GR DKR Hilux T1+ into a positive as he auctioned off its front fender, donating the resulting €7,500 to Ukrainian relief efforts.

Vanagas has supported Ukraine long before Russia’s full-scale invasion in February, which resonates with the general outlook in his native Lithuania; the two Eastern European nations are close allies, and Lithuania has often pledged friendship and assistance in helping Ukraine join the European Union and NATO. He is closely affiliated with Blue/Yellow, a Lithuanian non-government organisation that has provided equipment to Ukrainian forces since the Russo-Ukrainian War began in 2014. At the 2017 Dakar Rally, he carried the Ukrainian flag in his car.

Following the invasion, Vanagas grew more vocal in his condemnation of Russia’s actions and urged for aid to be supplied to Ukraine. Vanagas himself is contributing to the effort by donating off-road vehicles like SUVs and vans to the Ukrainian Army. By March, he had already helped give over thirty cars and even enduro motorcycles to the cause. A Volkswagen minivan was delivered to him on Thursday, which he will ship off to Ukraine along with another SUV and night vision equipment. The VŠĮ National Automobile Club in Vilnius works as a liaison alongside Blue/Yellow to facilitate transport.

Besides the fender, a Red Bull cap autographed by Dakar winner and fellow Toyota Hilux driver Nasser Al-Attiyah went up for auction a week prior and closed at €1,000. The winner, a man named Žydrūnas Zalieckas, picked up the hat on Thursday.

Vanagas’ sponsors Skaylink (a cloud firm), garden center Ginalas STIHL, and Toyota dealership Tokvila have each donated €2,500. Watchmaker Vostok Europe, another backer of his, sold 200 pieces of a special watch model shortly after the invasion that raised €60,000 in aid.

Dexter Stacey enters Daytona Xfinity, first start since 2016

The last time Dexter Stacey raced in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, the series was only in its second season with said name. Seven years later, he will make his first start since 2016 when he enters the season opener at Daytona International Speedway on 18 February. He will drive the #66 Chevrolet Camaro for MBM Motorsports.

“Dexter Stacey has landed an opportunity of a life time,” reads a statement from his team. “Something he’s been dreaming to achieve again, since his last time 10 years ago. Dexter Stacey will be getting behind the wheel of the 66 car owned by MBM Motorsports.

“Dexter has not always had it easy with racing, and luck is not always on his side. But Dexter’s passion for racing and his determination to never give up, helps him to land such incredible opportunities. We can not thank MBM Motorsports enough for this chance to race this year.”

Stacey first appeared in the Xfinity Series in 2012 before contesting a bulk of the 2013 calendar for his family-run team. He returned for the final three races of 2016 with Derrike Cope’s team but failed to qualify for two. In twenty-five career starts, his best finish is twenty-first at Iowa in 2013. Stacey also attempted a pair of Truck Series races in 2015, finishing twenty-ninth and twenty-fourth at Texas and Homestead for MAKE Motorsports.

Before and after his time in the United States, the Canadian has mainly stayed home to compete on the NASCAR Pinty’s Series circuit. He finished eleventh in the 2022 standings with a best finish of third at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Helio Castroneves skips 2023 Daytona 500, Conor Daly still a possibility

Hélio Castroneves had long been interested in racing in NASCAR someday, but his dreams of running the Daytona 500 have been put on hold for now. During a media availability on Thursday ahead of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, Castroneves told NBC’s Nate Ryan that attempting the 2023 500 was out of the picture.

Castroneves is one of the most iconic faces in the NTT IndyCar Series as a four-time Indianapolis 500 winner. In 2022, he won the Superstar Racing Experience season opener at Five Flags in a one-off, winning a bet with SRX CEO Don Hawk in which Hawk would promise Castroneves a NASCAR Cup Series ride if he was victorious.

Many speculated he would race the #91 Chevrolet Camaro of Trackhouse Racing Team, part of the PROJECT91 banner for international racing stars who wanted to dabble in NASCAR. Although Trackhouse owner Justin Marks filled in for Castroneves at another SRX race later that year, Marks ruled out the possibility of the #91 entering the 500.

Eventually, negotiations from Castroneves’ camp took him to The Money Team Racing, who made their début at the 2022 Daytona 500 with Kaz Grala. However, TMT’s #50 does not have a charter and would have had to make the 500 on qualifying time or Duel performance, especially with over forty entries expeted.

“I believe it would be a little bit tough throwing myself in such a short notice, and to go in a place that you’ve got to race yourself into it, so as of right now, it’s not going to happen,” Castroneves said to NBC.

Chase Briscoe signs multi-year extension with SHR

Chase Briscoe driving the #14 Ford Mustang fulfills a lifelong dream as the number is that of his idols A.J. Foyt and Tony Stewart, the latter of whom co-owns his employer Stewart-Haas Racing. After a successful 2022 season, Stewart is more than happy to keep his protégé in the #14 as the team announced on Thursday a multi-year contract extension for him.

Briscoe moved up to the NASCAR Cup Series in 2021, winning Rookie of the Year honours. Early into 2022, he scored his first career Cup win at Phoenix to lock himself into the playoffs. Despite a difficult midseason stretch, he closed out the year with top tens in six of the final seven races to finish ninth in points.

“It’s really nice to have stability, especially being a young father now. I think that’s the biggest thing for my family,” said Briscoe, who along with wife Marissa are raising one-year-old son Brooks. “That’s the nicest thing is just having that comfortability, knowing that for the next few years, I’m going to have a job. That’s really important, especially when you’re raising a little one. I think that’s the biggest thing for me. That’s most important about the whole thing is how it affects my family versus how it affects me, so that’s really nice. I’ve never had that my entire career, so that’s going be something new for me to navigate, but I’m looking forward to showing my worth, hopefully, to the organisation.”

The re-signing also provides continuity for SHR amid a changing time for the team. Kevin Harvick, who has been the team’s de facto top driver since winning the championship in his first year in 2014, is set to retire at the end of 2023. Aric Almirola had also planned to hang up his helmet after 2022 but elected to return for another year, though his initial plans suggest the tail end of his career is looming. SHR’s fourth car will have a new driver for 2023 as Ryan Preece replaces Cole Custer, the son of team president Joe Custer who has been demoted to the Xfinity Series.

“I think Stewart-Haas took a little bit more of the initiative (to offer an extension), just knowing the situation I was going to be in coming up and then the situation with Kevin, obviously, and Aric, not knowing when he’s going to be gone,” Briscoe continued. “It felt like we all obviously wanted to get something done. I’ve said it for a really long time that I’ve wanted to be at Stewart-Haas, the personal tie for me to the #14 is important, so I felt like we were both kind of pushing to get something done, but at the same time it was probably a little bit more them than me. At the same time, it was definitely me wanting to get it done, too.”

Parker Chase returns to SHR at Daytona

Since entering NASCAR’s national divisions in 2021, Parker Chase was exclusively a road course ringer due to his sports car experience. That will change in February as he will open the 2023 Xfinity Series season for Sam Hunt Racing at Daytona International Speedway, driving the #24 Toyota GR Supra. Other starts are planned but their whereabouts were not immediately revealed.

After rising through the IMSA ladder and even being a Ginetta factory driver, Chase began dabbling in stock cars in 2020 in the ARCA Menards Series. In 2021, his road racing background meant he made his Truck Series début at the Daytona Road Course followed by another start at Circuit of the Americas. This continued into 2022 when he joined SHR for the COTA and Portland Xfinity events, respectively finishing nineteenth and twenty-seventh.

Although all four of his national series starts were on road courses, he ran a mix of road races and oval tracks in ARCA. He finished second in the 2022 ARCA race at Daytona, and repeated the run at Mid-Ohio later in the year.

“2022 was a year to get comfortable in stock cars and learn more about ovals,” Chase stated. “I gained a lot of valuable experience on ovals, including a career-highest finish, that I’m excited to carry over to my GR Supra in a few weeks. I’ve had a great experience with the Sam Hunt Racing team in my past races, and it’s a place that feels like home. I’m looking forward to building on what we’ve created so far.”

He will split the #24 with Connor Mosack, who is running twenty races, and Tyler Reddick, who is also on a part-time slate starting at Atlanta. The team is also fielding the #26 for Kaz Grala.

Niece Motorsports retaining Lawless Alan for 2023

Lawless Alan will return to Niece Motorsports‘ #45 Chevrolet Silverado RST for the 2023 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season, the team announced Thursday.

“I am looking forward to using everything I learned throughout last year and applying it to this year,” said Alan. “I’m no longer coming to these tracks for the first time, so I have very high expectations for what I can achieve with Niece Motorsports and AUTOParkit.”

After a part-time schedule in 2021, Alan ran for Rookie of the Year honours and finished runner-up with a points placement of twenty-second. He was one spot shy of scoring his first top ten at Las Vegas.

“We are excited to have Lawless return to Niece Motorsports this season,” commented team manager Cody Efaw. “Lawless gained a lot of experience and got a lot of seat time last season that we really think is going to pay off this year. We are excited to see his growth this season. He’s a hard worker and is always asking questions and learning from the people around him. He definitely has the right attitude to be successful in this sport.”

Alan arrived in the Trucks after racing in the ARCA Menards Series West.

Fire injures three at Reaume Brothers Racing shop

Three members of NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series team Reaume Brothers Racing were injured after a fire hit their shop in Mooresville, North Carolina, on Thursday. The blaze was quickly put out by the local fire department.

“At approximately 11:30 am on Thursday January 26, 2023, Mooresville Fire-Rescue was dispatched to 110 Fernwood Lane, Mooresville, NC to a reported commercial structure fire. Mooresville Fire-Rescue Ladder 5 was first to arrive on scene to confirm an active fire inside the building,” reads a statement from the department. “Fire crews were able to extinguish the fire quickly. However, the building sustained significant fire damage. Three patients were treated for injuries. One patient was transported to Lake Norman Regional for smoke inhalation, the second patient was transported to Baptist Hospital for burn injuries and the third patient was treated and released. The cause of the fire is currently under investigation by the Mooresville Fire Marshal’s Office.”

The team did not publicise the identities of the injured.

“Earlier this afternoon, there was a fire at the RBR shop. An investigation into the cause is ongoing. We are in the process of determining the extent of the damages,” said RBR. “More importantly, a few of our team members did sustain injuries during the fire and are being transported for medical treatment. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.”

RBR has been preparing for the 2023 season, which begins in three weeks. The fire occurred just two days after the team announced a new partnership with Ford and Mason Massey‘s addition as full-time driver.

Sam Bird Bounces Back From Mexico City Disappointment to Top Diriyah FP1

After retiring from the Mexico City E-Prix early on, Sam Bird bounced back in fine fashion at the start of this weekend’s Diriyah E-Prix, by topping Free Practice One. Jaguar TCS Racing and DS Penske both made a strong start at the host of rounds two and three of the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, with Jean-Éric Vergne claiming second, Mitch Evans third and Stoffel Vandoorne fourth.

As the lights came on at what was a damp Riyadh Street Circuit, due to light drizzle, it was Edoardo Mortara who led some of the cars out, as many opted to remain in the pits for the start of the session. As the drivers completed their first out laps, damp patches were clearly visible on the circuit, with the track temperature having also been low due to the time of the day.

The Hankook rubber was squealing in agony, as the drivers purposefully went full-lock into the vast majority of the turns in a bid to generate some temperature into the hard tyres. Whilst several drivers took it in turns to top the session early on, René Rast came immediately back to the pits not long after venturing out onto the circuit, following a collision with Vandoorne whilst the Belgian was trying to get out of the way. The collision broke Rast’s front-wing, which almost completely dislodged down the main straight.

Unsurprisingly, the times tumbled throughout the opening ten minutes of the first session of the weekend; however, it was Sébastian Buemi who led the session as the timer ticked past the ten minute mark. Immediately, though, Jake Hughes and Vandoorne displaced the Swiss driver, highlighting how much time was still to be found.

By the time the session hit the halfway point, it was Vergne who topped the leaderboard on a 1:11.225, less than a tenth ahead of Sérgio Sette Câmara, Hughes and Buemi. Yet again, the name at the top changed as Vergne’s team-mate claimed the top spot by just 0.006s, suggesting that it’s going to be an incredibly close weekend. With just over ten minutes remaining, Dan Ticktum became the first person to break into the high 1:10s, with NIO 333 Racing once again looking really strong.

Chase Elliott joins McAnally-Hilgemann for Daytona Trucks

Jake Garcia was supposed to run the full 2023 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series schedule in the #35 Chevrolet Silverado RST for McAnally-Hilgemann Racing, but it only would have happened had he been born a month sooner. As he will only turn eighteen in March, he is not yet approved for larger tracks like the season-opening Daytona International Speedway.

All of that said, MHR has a more-than-capable fallback plan for Daytona as 2020 Cup Series champion Chase Elliott will fill in. Elliott and MHR co-owner Bill McAnally both have close partnerships with NAPA Auto Parts, though Gates Hydraulics will sponsor Elliott’s #35.

Garcia will return for the second race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, coincidentally on his eighteenth birthday on 3 March.

“This will be the first time I’ve driven a truck at Daytona, let alone a superspeedway,” said Elliott. “There’s no better team owner than Bill McAnally to do it with, as he’s been involved in racing and been associated with NAPA for a long time.”

Despite making his national series début in a truck in 2013, Elliott’s Truck Series experience is scant as he went directly into the now-Xfinity Series the following year after running just nine races. He sporadically returned to the Trucks over the next decade, with three wins in seventeen career starts. His most recent triumph came at Charlotte in 2020 as part of a “bounty hunting” programme in which a Cup driver who defeated Kyle Busch—then on a seven-Truck race win streak—in a Truck event.

Gray Gaulding rejoins SS-Green Light for 2023 Xfinity

Gray Gaulding has only run the full NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule once in his career: 2019 for SS-Green Light Racing. On Wednesday, he revealed he has rejoined the team and will make another effort at the entire slate.

Gaulding tweeted, “I’m back!!! Sponsor announcements coming soon!”, with a hashtag proclaiming #FullSeason. SSGLR responded with a “Welcome home!!”

In his lone full season with SSGLR, he finished thirteenth in points with four top tens and nearly won at Talladega where he placed second. Despite the strong year, which was statistically the best ever for an SSGLR driver by a wide margin as the only one to place in the top twenty, he was replaced by Joe Graf Jr. for 2020. Nevertheless, he returned for five races during which he scored another second-place finish at Daytona and eighth at Talladega.

He was supposed to run full-time for Jimmy Means Racing in 2021, but scaled back as the team struggled with performance and making races. Gaulding signed with Mike Harmon Racing later in the year and for three starts in 2022 but only finished once: a twenty-first at Talladega. 2022 also saw him swap rides with JD Motorsports’ Ryan Vargas at Portland, and Vargas has since joined MHR—now known as CHK Racing—as their lead driver.

SSGLR also signed Blaine Perkins for the entire 2023 calendar, hoping to provide stability after fielding a carousel of drivers the previous year. Graf departed the team at the end of 2022.