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Ty Dillon rejoins RCR for limited Xfinity slate

Ty Dillon is the grandson of Richard Childress, which makes it reasonable that he spent his early NASCAR career competing for Richard Childress Racing. However, save for a few one-offs early in his Cup Series career, he had mostly stayed away from RCR since graduating to the top level full-time, instead competing for allies and other teams even in the lower tiers.

After his last race for RCR during the 2018 Xfinity Series season, he will return to the organisation for a part-time Xfinity slate in 2023. He will drive the #3 Chevrolet Camaro, as he did when he was an Xfinity regular from 2014 to 2016 and while making sporadic starts in 2017 and 2018. Ferris Mowers will sponsor his car for the starts.

A specific schedule was not revealed other than the first race being at Darlington Raceway on 13 May. As he is a Cup full-timer, he can only run five Xfinity races at most.

“I’m excited to be partnering with Ferris once again,” said Dillon. “Ferris has supported my career since 2013 when I drove dirt late models and I’m grateful for a continuing relationship. To carry and represent their brand ten years later is an honour and I know we will accomplish great success on and off the track in 2023.”

During his three full Xfinity seasons with RCR, he scored a win at Indianapolis in his first year and a best points finish of third in 2015. After two years away, he returned to the Xfinity Series in 2021 entering occasional races for multiple teams including Big Machine Racing Team, JD Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Jordan Anderson Racing, and Our Motorsports. In four 2022, races, he recorded a sixth at Loudon for Big Machine.

Jenson Button, Jimmie Johnson, Mike Rockenfeller to pilot NASCAR Garage 56 at Le Mans

The much anticipated NASCAR Cup Series Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 entry at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, to race as a Garage 56 entry, will be piloted by a triumvirate of racing stars in Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller, who have stock car experience and raced together in IMSA, and Jenson Button. NASCAR announced the lineup on Saturday.

Johnson is an unsurprising pick as a seven-time NASCAR Cup champion and one of the greatest drivers in the sport’s history. Hendrick Motorsports, with whom he had spent his entire Cup career until his retirement from full-time NASCAR racing at the end of 2020, is preparing the Le Mans entry. The run will add to a busy year for Johnson as he returns to NASCAR as an owner/driver of Legacy Motor Club.

Rockenfeller won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2010. The longtime Audi factory driver and DTM star eventually linked up with Chevrolet and raced a Cadillac alongside Johnson at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in 2021 and 2022. The German has been testing the Garage 56 car since its announcement before making his NASCAR début at Watkins Glen in August.

“The last two years and sharing the car with him here at the Rolex 24 how much fun we’ve had, the relationship we’ve built, and honestly being around one another and both being in the Action Express car really helped us move forward with this programme and be in the early days of developing the car, and then now we’ve got the nod to participate in it together,” said Johnson. “It’s been a great couple of years. I think we’ve built a great friendship, and certainly looking forward to racing together in Le Mans.”

Button might be known for his decorated Formula One career, but the 2009 World Champion has been eyeing other adventures since his exit in 2017. He won the Super GT championship in 2018, ran that year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans but retired, and has even competed in off-road in Extreme E, Nitro Rallycross, and the Baja 1000. The lattermost means the Garage 56 lineup with have two of three drivers with Baja experience as Johnson was an off-road racer in his early career.

Double Diriyah Delight for Pascal Wehrlein Under the Saudi Arabian Night Sky

Pascal Wehrlein claimed a second consecutive victory to complete the double at the Diriyah E-Prix, with the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team driver having moved to the top of the Drivers’ Championship, after a sensational performance at rounds two and three of the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship. Jake Dennis finished second for the second race in a row, whilst René Rast completed the podium after an excellent late defensive display.

Evans Leads Early Stages

After yet another incredible drone show, all eyes were on the grid, with many wondering if Dennis and Wehrlein could once again storm through the field, or if Jake Hughes could turn his maiden pole position into a maiden victory. Only time would tell under the night sky in Diriyah.

As all twenty-two drivers made their way round to the starting grid at the Riyadh Street Circuit, the front-row saw Hughes alongside Mitch Evans, with both being eager for a win. As the lights went out, it was Evans who made the better start despite having been on the dirty side of the grid, with the New Zealander having remained on the inside of Hughes into the opening corner to gain the lead. All the drivers made it through the opening corners cleanly, unlike yesterday, with Wehrlein having already made up a place, whilst Edoardo Mortara made up two.

The drivers settled into the race incredibly quickly, with little overtaking having taken place after the opening corner on the first lap, with it appearing that all were attempting to preserve energy. There really was very little action during the opening eight laps, with the only overtake having been by André Lotterer on Oliver Rowland further down the field. Everything remained very polite at the front, with somewhat of a train having formed behind Evans.

Wehrlein Charges Once Again

On Lap Nine, Evans decided to activate his first Attack Mode, dropping him behind both NEOM McLaren Formula E Team drivers; however, a lap later Hughes opted to activate his first, demoting him back behind Evans. Evans and Hughes activating their first Attack Mode elevated Rast into the lead, with the German having quickly built himself a little gap. Rast’s gap was enough for him to activate his own Attack Mode on Lap Eleven and crucially maintain the lead, meaning he jumped both Evans and Hughes.

2023 Race of Champions: Solbergs go back-to-back for Norway

There is little surprise in a Nordic team succeeding at the Race of Champions upon its relocation to Sweden in 2022. Indeed, the delegation from neighbouring Norway was on top for the second straight year as Petter Solberg and his son Oliver Solberg secured the Nations Cup yet again.

The Solbergs defeated Team All Stars’ Felipe Drugovich and Thierry Neuville in the final with three wins to one. Neuville won the first race against Petter before Oliver avenged his father, and the two swept their runs against Drugovich.

Norway’s run to the final took began with a sweep of France, who were hampered by reigning individual champion Sébastien Loeb‘s late arrival. They then took on Sweden‘s Johan Kristoffersson and Mattias Ekström; although the latter edged out Petter by just .001 of a second, the teams finished with a tie that was broken by best overall time, aided by Oliver beating Kristoffersson by over five seconds.

“Everyone loves the Race of Champions but I was nervous today. The conditions change every run, so it was easy to make a mistake,” said Petter. “You get butterflies in your stomach and you still have to go out and do what you do. Sébastien Loeb didn’t have a fair chance because of his late arrival, but to beat him was quite enjoyable. Then the feeling got better and better.

“As for Oliver, I knew he’s fast but coming up against the Swedish drivers you really need a perfect run. That’s what he did, and the same in the final. Oliver had a fantastic day’s racing, not just for winning but his speed. He saved me today, just as he did last year.”

Rookie Sensation Jake Hughes Claims Memorable Diriyah Pole Position

Jake Hughes is the rookie sensation that just won’t stay quiet, with the British driver having claimed an incredible pole position ahead of the second race at the Diriyah E-Prix, with the NEOM McLaren Formula E Team driver having claimed his, and the team’s first pole in the series. Lining-up alongside him on the front-row of the grid at the Riyadh Street Circuit is Mitch Evans, with Jaguar TCS Racing once again looking strong. Championship leader Jake Dennis was eliminated in the Quarter-Finals, as was yesterday’s winner Pascal Wehrlein.

Group A

As qualifying got underway for the third round of the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, some of the star performers from yesterday featured in the opening group. Championship leader and second place finisher Dennis featured in the first group, as did race one’s polesitter Sébastian Buemi, third place finisher from yesterday Sam Bird, Hughes, Nick Cassidy, António Félix da Costa, reigning World Champion Stoffel Vandoorne, Norman Nato, Dan Ticktum, Sérgio Sette Câmara and Kelvin van der Linde.

After the initial lap-times, it was Hughes who topped the group on a 1:10.029, with the rookie hoping to make it three duel appearances in-a-row. Behind Hughes after the first runs were Vandoorne, Cassidy and Dennis, with the likes of Buemi and Bird having work to do in the final four minutes of the session to make the all-important top four. With two minutes remaining, Ticktum hit the front with a strong 1:09.698, putting him in a really strong position to make the top four.

In the final minute everyone was making massive improvements, with Da Costa and Cassidy having jumped into the top four. Both were almost immediately dumped out, though, as was Bird despite setting a strong 1:09.6. Hughes shot to the top on his final lap with a really impressive 1:09.36, to make his third consecutive duels appearance. Behind the British rookie was Friday polesitter Buemi, Vandoorne, who made it into the top four for the first time this season, and championship leader Dennis. It meant that both NIO 333 Racing drivers were also eliminated in the group stage.

Into the duels: Hughes, Buemi, Vandoorne, Dennis.

Mitch Evans Starts Day Two on Top With Fastest Lap of the Weekend

Mitch Evans started the second day at the Diriyah E-Prix in sublime fashion for Jaguar TCS Racing, after topping the session with a 1:09.092 – the fastest time of the weekend so far. Behind Evans, Dan Ticktum once again looked strong, whilst race winner from yesterday Pascal Wehrlein ended the session in eighteenth.

As Free Practice Three got underway to mark the start of the second race day at the Riyadh Street Circuit and round three of the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, the sky was a beautiful blue in all directions, as the sun shone high in the Diriyah sky.

It was Edoardo Mortara who led the field onto the circuit, with Maserati MSG Racing hoping for a much better day after an abysmal Friday. The Monte-Carlo-based team performed wonders to get Maximilian Günther‘s car ready, after the German missed the first race of the weekend following a heavy crash in qualifying. As to be expected, the times tumbled in the opening five minutes of the session, as the racing-line began to clear up, with it having been covered in dust at the start of the session.

It was a bad start to the day for rookie Kelvin van der Linde and the ABT CUPRA Formula E Team, with the South African having stopped on-track before managing to get going again; however, he soon pulled into the pits after complaining of the brakes not working. Fellow rookie Jake Hughes had a sublime start to the session and topped it after ten minutes, with the British driver having set a very competitive 1:10.324, one-second slower than the fastest time of the weekend so far.

As the session approached the halfway point, Sébastian Buemi became the first driver of the day to break into the 1:09s, with the Swiss driver having set the fastest time of the weekend so far in qualifying yesterday, where he set a 1:09.366. His time at the top was short-lived, as Sérgio Sette Câmara moved to the top of the timesheets, thanks to a stellar 1:09.758. Whilst the times were tumbling, Lucas di Grassi had a huge moment, with the Brazilian having hit the barrier on the outside of Turn Seventeen, after appearing to go into the corner way too fast. He returned immediately to the pits with what looked like damage to his rear-left.

After near-fatal crash, CS Santosh envisions Dakar return in 2024

The 2021 Dakar Rally nearly ended in tragedy for CS Santosh when the bike rider crashed into a rock trap in Stage #4, resulting in a diffuse axonal injury that while not fatal has forced him to indefinitely pause his racing career. As he continues his recovery, he has ambitions of challenging the race that almost killed him in 2024.

Santosh hit his head in his 2021 Rally crash, knocking him unconscious and causing his heart to stop before being resuscitated by fellow rider Paul Spierings. He had suffered such severe injuries that he was placed in a medically induced coma for a week. Besides suffering from double vision and needing to re-learn his motor functions, he lost his memory of the accident and even running the race. In addition to the mental gaps, he struggled with depression over the next year as he continued recovery.

“I felt an emptiness inside me because I felt that somebody had died. And that somebody was me,” Santosh told Vaishali Dinakaran in a special for Red Bull, whom the rider has an endorsement with. “The biggest joy was the fact that I discovered myself again after taking anti-depression pills. It was amazing to find CS Santosh again.”

In April, Santosh oversaw the Red Bull Ace of Dirt race in his home country India. The event has been going on since 2020, and evolved into a passion project for Santosh to make up for his inability to race at the time.

But despite his tribulations, he hopes to be back on a bike in time for the 2024 Dakar Rally. He has taken up physical training like cycling and working out to get back in shape. To gauge his racing capabilities post-injury, Santosh is also open to running the Andalucía Rally and Rallye du Maroc, the latter being a leg of the World Rally-Raid Championship like Dakar.

Anja van Loon set for truck debut in Morocco ahead of 2024 Dakar T5 entry

Anja van Loon‘s Dakar Rally début went swimmingly as she finished fourteenth overall in the T3 category. However, while her Can-Am Maverick did not let her down, she aspires to compete in the massive trucks of the T5 class at the 2024 edition. To prepare her for such an effort, her first rally in a truck will be the Morocco Desert Challenge on 21–30 April. She will pilot an IVECO PowerStar for Team de Rooy in both races with an all-female crew as Floor Maten and Suzanne Peek respectively serve as co-driver and mechanic.

“The programme for this year is getting more and more shape,” said van Loon. “I will drive a number of races with the Can-Am, together with Floor, and also a lot of testing in Morocco with Suzanne. I am very much looking forward to it. Three women in the truck is unique in the Dakar Rally.”

She entered the Dakar Rally alongside her husband Erik van Loon, who raced in T1 for the family-run Van Loon Racing while Anja’s Can-Am was prepared by South Racing. Erik retired in what was his final Dakar Rally after breaking his back in a Stage #7 crash while sitting twelfth overall, though he intends to run the rest of the World Rally-Raid Championship while supporting his wife. Meanwhile, Anja’s fourteenth-place run included a best leg finish of seventeenth in Stages #5 and #13.

“When Erik asked me one day what was on my bucket list, I told him I wanted to do the Dakar in a truck,” Anja explained. “He said I had to start by doing the Dakar in an SSV to learn the ropes, so I’ve done ten rallies this year and will be switching to a truck afterwards.”

Van Loon, née van de Laar, first became interested in rally raid after working on the support crew of her late father Fried van de Laar alongside her brothers Ben and Jan. The brothers shared an IVECO truck at the 2023 Rally and finished seventh in T5.

Joe Graf Jr. joins RSS Racing for 2023 Xfinity

Joe Graf Jr. will remain with Ford for the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series season. On Friday, he announced he will pilot RSS Racing‘s #38 Ford Mustang for at least twenty-eight of thirty-three races. His first start will be the season opener at Daytona International Speedway on 18 February.

“He said, ‘Jeff, listen. You’ve always been behind Joe every step of the way, and would you be interested in being partners?’ To think ever that I’d be in this position,” said sponsor Jeff Lefcourt in a video posted on social media. “Some guys have loved racing from age eight, and now here we are. Race #1, Daytona.”

Graf spent the past three seasons with SS-Green Light Racing, but departed the team at the end of 2022. He scored a pair of top tens at Talladega for the team, but only ran the full schedule in 2020 while his 2021 and 2022 seasons saw him miss races due to DNQs, being replaced for road courses, and personal matters. During his stint at SSGLR, the team also had backing from Lefcourt that led to them formally being called “SS-Green Light Racing with Jeff Lefcourt”.

“I am very appreciative to be welcomed into the RSS Racing family,” Graf stated. “I am opening a new chapter in my Xfinity Series career in 2023 and I am determined to make it my best yet.

“I’m looking forward to having Ryan (Sieg), who is not only respected in the garage as my team-mate, but also driving for a family-owned team is certainly going to bring back memories. I hope we are able to make some new memories of our own this season with all of our great marketing partners.”

Rajah Caruth returns to Alpha Prime starting at Fontana

Rajah Caruth will pursue the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Rookie of the Year in 2023 for GMS Racing, but he will also dabble in the Xfinity Series once again as he will run “select races” for Alpha Prime Racing starting at Auto Club Speedway on 25 February.

Although the Xfinity Series is the second highest tier in the NASCAR ladder above the Trucks, Caruth made his début in the former first as he ran seven races in 2022 with APR. Caruth was the first driver signed by APR after their formation. His ended the 2022 season on a strong run with three straight top-twenty finishes, including a twelfth at Martinsville.

“I’m so enthused to bolster my NASCAR schedule this year by returning to Alpha Prime Racing for some Xfinity races,” said Caruth. “Tommy (Joe Martins) and his family took a chance on me before I had even ran an ARCA race, and to represent them as well as Caesar (Bacarella), his family and every man and woman in the APR fold is a blessing. I can’t wait to build on the finishes we put together late last year and continue to show what both myself and this team is capable of.”

Caruth arrives in the Trucks after finishing runner-up in the 2022 ARCA Menards Series standings. He also has four Truck starts to his name for Spire Motorsports with a best finish of eleventh at Gateway in his first start.

A specific Xfinity schedule beyond Fontana was not immediately revealed.

Mercedes’ Toto Wolff: “I would see Lewis and George on a par in 2022”

After Lewis Hamilton and George Russell’s successful first season as team-mates, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 Team Principal Toto Wolff discussed the importance of fostering a respectful, collaborative relationship between the highly-competitive drivers. 

Wolff spoke highly of Russell’s first season with the outfit, however conceded that his transition from the “difficult to drive” Williams Racing FW43 to a likewise tricky W13 gave him an advantage over Hamilton. 

“Lewis is the best driver of all time along with Michael Schumacher in his Ferrari days,” Wolff said, as quoted by PlanetF1, “I would see Lewis and George on a par in 2022.”

“George got out of a car that was certainly difficult to drive. He got into one that was certainly difficult to drive as well. Lewis went from a perfect car to the W13. So he had to adapt a lot. We had races where George was stronger and races where Lewis was stronger.”

Hamilton wasn’t able to claim the leading spot in the standings after his early-season woes with W13, with Russell finishing the season two spots ahead of him in the championship. How the drivers compared points-wise was not top of mind for Wolff, however, who focused solely on how the team could work together to return to the top step of the podium. 

Maserati Mechanics Heroics End in Bitter Diriyah Heartbreak

Maserati MSG Racing will be starting to wonder when things will start to go their way, with the pre-season pacesetters having had the absolute worst luck in the opening two rounds of the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.

The Monte-Carlo based team came into the new season and the Gen3 era hugely optimistic, and rightly so, with the Maserati Tipo Folgore having looked exceptional at the official pre-season test. Mexico City, though, didn’t go how the team would’ve liked it to, as Edoardo Mortara crashed out and Maximilian Günther narrowly missed out on the points in eleventh.

There were hopes going into this weekend’s Diriyah E-Prix that things would be better, and initially it did look like Maserati would finally join the points party, with Mortara in particular having looked solid in the early Free Practice sessions. Unfortunately for Maserati, when it rains it pours, with Team Principal James Rossiter‘s face having said all that needed to be said after the group stage of qualifying.

Günther suffered a massive crash on the outside of Turn Seven after locking-up when attempting to brake for the corner, with the German having ploughed straight into the barrier as a result. The front-right of his car was destroyed, with the true extent of the damage having actually gone beyond the part of his car that made the collision with the wall.

Whilst the mechanics were beginning to process the immense repair job they’d have to do on Günther’s car, Mortara heavily hit the wall on the outside of Turn Sixteen, after losing the rear on the dusty part of the circuit. The rear of his car, again, collided heavily with the wall, causing severe damage to the rear of his car. Rossiter’s face went from one of despair, to disbelief, with the side simply being in need of a stroke of luck!

Sam Bird: “This is a little mini victory for us”

Sam Bird put in a stellar performance at the Diriyah E-Prix to claim his first rostrum since the 2021 New York City E-Prix, in what was incredibly his one-hundredth race in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.

The Formula E veteran has looked strong throughout the weekend so far at the Riyadh Street Circuit, with the Brit having topped Free Practice One on Thursday and his group in qualifying. Whilst he missed out on the Final duel, Bird made an excellent start from third and was almost immediately ahead of Jake Hughes, who he overtook in the opening laps of the first race of the double-header in Diriyah.

After overtaking the rookie with ease, Bird was quickly onto the back of fellow centurion Sébastian Buemi, who like Hughes, had absolutely no answer to the Jaguar TCS Racing driver. Bird flew past Buemi with relative ease, with the Envision Racing driver having put up no fight at all to retain the lead. Bird’s early race pace was extraordinary, with the eleven-time Formula E race winner having built a healthy gap to Buemi in no time at all.

As the race moved towards the final third, though, it became apparent that Buemi wasn’t the driver that Bird should be concerned about, with Pascal Wehrlein and Jake Dennis having both made rapid progress towards the front. Wehrlein was the first to catch Bird and actually overtook him at Turn Seventeen comfortably, despite having gone deep at his first attempt to overtake the Briton. Wehrlein’s and Dennis’ Porsche powertrains were just unstoppable, with the championship leader having also overtaken Bird with relative ease.

It actually ended up being a lonely drive to third for Bird, who was still absolutely delighted to be on the podium, following a “rough twelve months”. Prior to the podium, Bird was quick to thank the Coventry-based team for all their “sleepless nights” and for having remained by the thirty-six year-old’s side, with Season Eight having been particularly difficult for him as well as his retirement at the season opener in Mexico City.

Aprilia creates rally raid team

Aprilia might be known for their MotoGP and road racing teams today, but the Italian manufacturer’s first foray into motorsport came in motocross. On Friday, the company announced they will return to the off-road realm as they form a rally raid team with the goal of competing in the Dakar Rally and other major races as early as 2024.

The team will field the Aprilia Tuareg 660, an adventure bike that features a straight-twin engine. In a sense, due to their engine similarities, it is an off-road cousin to the Aprilia Tuno 660 and RS 660, both of which are sport bikes intended for pavement.

The first Tuareg was introduced in 1986 for rally raids and enduro riding. It débuted at Dakar in 1989 before returning in 2010 with Francisco López Contardo, who finished third that year with three stage wins. López has since become one of the top drivers in the T3 class, winning the category’s World Rally-Raid Championship in 2022.

“With its ‘Back to Africa’ project, Aprilia Racing is returning to the world of off-road racing, to the races that forged the division,” said Aprilia Racing CEO Massimo Rivola. “We want to keep growing in the world of Grand Prix motorcycle racing and in on-track races. We want to discover new talent through our SP 250 Championship and the RS 660 Trophy, but we are also embarking on a completely new project with the extraordinary Aprilia Tuareg. It’s an additional sign of development for a racing division that has grown significantly over the past years achieving results never before seen by Aprilia.”

The racing version of the Tuareg 660 will be built with support from GCorse. A variant prepared by GCorse currently races in the Italian Motorally Championship with Jacopo Cerutti and Francesco Montanari. The duo will also oversee the rally raid team, with Cerutti as the lead rider.

Nasser Al-Attiyah aims for 2024 Summer Olympics

It takes a lot of training and effort to be a multi-sport athlete, but Nasser Al-Attiyah has made it work as a multi-time Dakar Rally champion and Olympic medalist. Fresh off his fifth Dakar victory, the Qatari hopes to be in Paris in a year for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

“[Paris] is my second [major] goal,” Al-Attiyah told The Peninsula. “I have started preparing for Paris and will continue my preparation to get ready for the challenge.

“This will be my seventh Olympic Games appearance. It will not be easy, but this year we will have a lot of preparation. We will have a two-month training camp in Italy, and then we will take part in the Asian Games, Asian Championship and the Arab Championship to continue practice. Then next year we will focus more on shooting for the Olympic Games.”

While Al-Attiyah is obviously known for his rally exploits, he has also been a competitive skeet shooter since the 1990s, making his International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Shooting Championships début in 1994. He appeared at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and finished fifteenth in the men’s skeet competition. After nearly medalling at Athens 2004 when he finished fourth, he held off Russia’s Valeriy Shomin for the London 2012 bronze with one more hit in the third-place shoot-off. Al-Attiyah was Qatar’s first medalist in shooting.

He is one of six skeet shooters to record a perfect score of 150 (achieved by hitting all 150 targets) in an international final, which he did at the 2012 Asian Shooting Championships, one of the Olympic qualifying events. The feat came just a day after he retired from the Dakar Rally while leading; Al-Attiyah admitted in 2021 that he had intentionally exited the Rally to make it to the Championships. Al-Attiyah has three golds at the championships.


RaceScene.com