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Martins tops F3 Practice from early title rival Leclerc

Victor Martins went quickest around the reprofiled Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Free Practice as the FIA Formula 3 Championship arrived at the circuit for the first time since in-season testing in April.

Most of the optimal running came later in the day; Zak O’Sullivan‘s early 1:35.420 placed him in the lower reaches of the midfield by the time the flag fell.

Reece Ushijima was the first driver to go into the 1:34s, with David Vidales setting a 1:33.932 despite increasing temperatures as the 45-minute session progressed.

Oliver Rasmussen, Zane Maloney and Roman Stanek moved their Tridents to the top later on, occupying the top three at times as Stanek held top spot with a 1:33.304.

Joint-Championship leader Leclerc pipped Martins as the pair did battle on the timing sheets, going just 0.076s faster on what will be a quicker circuit than in previous visits, due to the re-designed, more open Turn 10-11 section.

INTERVIEW: SODA President Willie Freshour shakes the can

The Short-course Off-road Drivers Association (SODA) was a household name from the 1970s to 1990s as the premier location for short course competition. Despite its history, it disappeared for three decades before the brand was revived in 2021 by Willie Freshour, a stock truck racer who serves as its president. Ahead of the second race of the 2022 season on Saturday at Gravity Park USA, The Checkered Flag received the opportunity to speak to Freshour about the series.

Freshour was initially not keen on organising races since being a driver, father, and owner of a welding company in Wisconsin was already more than enough on his plate. A phone call to Gravity Park owner Bob Schneider about races at the track turned on him when Schneider suggested he hold one himself: “Anytime anybody puts a race on, an off-road race, if it’s not more than a day’s drive, I always try to make it and support the track and the race. When I called him, he’s like, ‘Well, whatever you want to do,’ and I said, ‘No, I don’t want to put on races,’ and he’s like, ‘I know you’d be good at it.’ I said, ‘Well, maybe, but I’m a racer and I already own technically two businesses.’ I’m like, ‘I’m a busy guy and I have a young family,’ and he’s like, ‘Why don’t you just throw a special?’

“I told him I would if two of my friends that were very experienced would help me, and I called them up, they said they would. So I told Bob I would, and within like a week, they both quit, and I ended up restoring SODA.”

The opportunity to bring back the SODA identity came after Freshour noticed the rights to the long dormant name, complete with its archives and some equipment, were available.

“We made all the phone calls and found out we could acquire the name for our short series and then late in the series, we found out the tech trailer still existed and it was at a farm for twenty-three years,” he recalled. “It had all the tech equipment in it and plenty of mice. So our blue tech trailer is actually the original SODA tech trailer from the eighties and nineties with all the equipment and tools in it.

Boschung Forced to Withdraw from Barcelona Due to Neck Pain

In an official statement posted to the Campos Racing social media channels, the Spanish racing outfit have announced that Ralph Boschung has been withdrawn from the Barcelona race weekend due to “significant neck pain” which he sustained during round three in Imola.

Boschung was able to take part in Free Practice on Friday morning which was where the injury seemed to flare up again, ruling him out for the rest of the weekend.

Campos Racing’s official statement reads:

“Unfortunately, our driver Ralph Boschung will not be able to participate in thus weekend’s round in Barcelona.”

“The Swiss driver begain to have significant neck pain after Round 3 in Imola. However, he was confident he would be able to race this weekend, but after today’s free practice he realised that he could not drive at the best of his abilities and has decided to withdraw from the event and focus on his recover to try to be 100% for the next round in Monaco.”

2022 GMR Grand Prix: The Rookie Report

The GMR Grand Prix was one of the most chaotic IndyCar Series races in recent memory, and the changeable conditions created a fantastic opportunities for this year’s rookie class. Four of the six finished the top fifteen, with three of those results being career-best finishes. Who shined bright through the storms at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course? Let’s break it all down in this week’s IndyCar Series Rookie Report.



(Photo Credit: Joe Skibinski / Penske Entertainment / Courtesy of IndyCar)

After the heartbreaking end to his Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, Ilott finally has a race finish to match the pace he has shown in recent weeks. He reached his second straight fast twelve in qualifying, narrowly missing out on the top six but still delivering the best qualifying performance to date in his own career and the teams.

On race day Ilott was very competitive, battling for position on track all race long. He had to claw back some positions after a late call to move to wet tyres, but came home with an eighth place result. Like qualifying, this was the best career finish for both himself and the team. During the final, rain-soaked laps of the race, Ilott said visibility was minimal.

“I couldn’t see anything at the end. It was more about survival and hanging on at that point,” he said. “There was so much water and spray everywhere.

Aside from the visibility, Ilott was very pleased with the result and momentum this team is carrying.

Evans retakes Portugal rally lead as Loeb crashes out on SS5

The nine-time world champion and 2022 Rallye Monte-Carlo winner Sébastien Loeb has retired from the rally for the day as the Frenchman crashed out on the first stage of the afternoon loop at Rally de Portugal.

Loeb lost the control of his M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1 about 20 metres from the start line on the Special Stage 5 – Lousã 2 and crashed in to a brick wall on the very fast left-hander.

The car picked up damage on the rear-right corner and unfortunately couldn’t continue, both Loeb and his co-driver Isabelle Galmice are okay as the impact was on very low speed.

Before the accident, Loeb was leading the rally with just 0.5 second over Toyota’s Elfyn Evans who has retaken the lead at the moment; The Welshman had led the rally after the two morning stages before Loeb passed him on special stage 4 – Arganil 1. Evans is now leading the rally with 2.1 seconds over Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville who was the fastest on the Super Special Stage – Coimbra yesterday evening.

Firle Beacon adds NASCAR flavour for inaugural edition

A quintet of NASCAR stock cars are among the vehicles set to display at the inaugural Firle Beacon. The motorsport festival will take place at the Firle Place manor in East Sussex on 30/31 July.

As NASCAR progresses through generations of cars, older vehicles are typically sold off and used in lower series or vintage race. Others restore them for non-competitive events like track days or demonstrations. The five cars that will be driven at Firle Beacon are restorations of those that competed in the Cup and now-Xfinity Series in the late 2000s. All five have also participated in other European demos, particularly the American SpeedFest at Brands Hatch that also hosts the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.

Perhaps the most notable car is Carl Edwards‘ #99 Aflac Ford Fusion that he drove for now-RFK Racing, which Simon Chalkly will pilot at Firle. The only Ford of the five, #99 won four Cup races with Edwards behind the wheel.

Three Chevrolet Impalas will appear in the form of Mark Martin‘s #8 Steak-umm, Danica Patrick‘s #7 GoDaddy, and Ward Burton‘s #4 State Water Heaters machine. Each will be respectively driven by Robin Stephens, Phillip Sherwin, and Paul Yorkshire. During his stint with Dale Earnhardt, Inc., the #8 appeared on Martin’s car for two races in 2008 and he scored top tens in both. Patrick’s #7 saw Xfinity Series action from 2010 to 2012 for JR Motorsports (owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose family ran DEI) with a tenth-place points finish in its lone full schedule in 2012. Burton attempted the entire 2007 Cup Series for Morgan-McClure Motorsports in the #4 but the team struggled to make races and recorded a best finish of fourteenth.

Ross Pannell‘s #43 Cheerios Dodge Avenger was driven by Bobby Labonte as the Cup Series transitioned to the Car of Tomorrow. Labonte was with Petty Enterprises in the legendary #43 from 2006 to 2008, scoring a best points finish of eighteenth in his final year.

PREVIEW: 2022 FIA Formula 2 Round 4 – Barcelona

Next up on the calendar for the FIA Formula 2 championship is the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya where the grid will battle it out in the fourth round of the 2022 season.

The F2 circus convened at the track no less than five weeks ago for a series of in-season testing where the teams managed to gain some valuable data across a weather-disrupted three days.

The Story So Far

Théo Pourchaire heads into the weekend as championship leader following his victory in the Imola Feature Race in the previous round. He became the first double-winner of the season after his first Feature Race victory in the opening round at Bahrain International Circuit.

The Imola weekend started off with Jüri Vips proving to be the fastest in tricky conditions as he took pole position on a rainy Friday evening, ahead of the two rookies in Ayumu Iwasa and Jack Doohan.

Vips’ Hitech Grand Prix team-mate, Marcus Armstrong was the first man of the weekend on the top spot of the podium, taking the lead on lap one of the Sprint Race and leading all the way to the chequered flag.

PREVIEW: 2022 FIA European Rallycross Championship – Nyirád, Hungary

The 2022 FIA European Rallycross Championship gets underway this weekend (21/22 May) at Nyriád in Hungary. Featuring a wide range of talent from returning champions to rising stars, and in a setting as spectacular as Nyriád, it promises to be a blockbuster start to the season.

Known affectionately as the “Red Cauldron” due to its distinctive surface colour, Nyriád is making a welcome return to the highest level of rallycross, having last hosted a Euro RX event in 2013. With its combination of loose gravel, technical corners, and a whole host of overtaking opportunities, it comes as no surprise that the drivers are relishing the prospect of racing here again.

SET Promotion‘s driver Anton Marklund said of the track “You can really send the car on the loose gravel and drive full attack, which I love. You need a lot of commitment but also a lot of precision to make sure you get it exactly right – that’s very challenging, but huge fun. I will really enjoy taking part in the first round of the year on a proper rallycross track.”

Sweden’s Anton Marklund will be one of the favourites, having teamed up with SET Promotion for this year’s campaign. Credit: SET Promotion

The 29 year old Swedish driver will be among the favourites this weekend. Having won the title twice before, he has now teamed up with SET Promotion, who have a whopping nine titles under their belts. However, if experience is the mark of success, then Marklund will be facing stiff competition.

Jānis Baumanis, last year’s third-place finisher and highest-returning driver, will be racing with #YellowSquad, part of Hansen Motorsport, the team led by rallycross legend Kenneth Hansen and who scored 20 championship victories between 1989 and 2016.

Evans fastest through the morning Shakedown in Portugal

The Toyota Gazoo Racing driver Elfyn Evans who won last year’s Rally de Portugal gets the fastest time through the runs at the Paredes Shakedown this morning just ahead of Craig Breen and Ott Tänak which were in similar pace.

Evans set the benchmark time of 2:56.1 followed up by the M-Sport Ford driver Breen and Hyundai’s Tänak just within 0.7 second behind.

Tänak’s teammate Thierry Neuville posted the fourth fastest time just a tenth of a second behind Tänak and Pierre-Louis Loubet impressed all with a fifth fastest time, the Frenchman is only doing his second outting in the M-Sport’s Ford Puma Rally1 car.

Hyundai’s Dani Sordo has never competed in the new Hyundai i20 N Rally1 until now this weekend, the Spaniard posted the fastest time on the first run but after the shakedown was completed he had the sixth fastest time, just a tenth after Loubet.

Credit: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

The regining world champion Sébastien Ogier who returns this weekend in the Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 was seventh fastest while the nine-time champion and Rallye Monte-Carlo winner Sébastien Loeb only managed a tenth fastest time, 2.4 seconds down on Evans.

Solberg confirmed for Hyundai’s line-up at Safari Rally Kenya

Oliver Solberg is confirmed to be in the Hyundai Motorsport line-up for the 2022 Safari Rally Kenya in late June.

Solberg drove for the team at the three opening rounds of the season and had to retire from two of them, at the season-opener in Rallye Monte-Carlo and at Rally Croatia last time out. At his home rally of Rally Sweden he managed to bring the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 car to the end and finished in a well deserved sixth place.

The young Swede will be sharing Hyundai’s third factory Rally1 car this season with Spaniard Dani Sordo. Sordo is entered in the third car at this week’s Rally de Portugal as well as in early June at Rally Italia Sardegna.

However, this weekend Solberg will be entering the support category of WRC2 in a private entered Hyundai i20 Rally2 fielded by Racing 4 You but misses out Sardinia completely.

#WRC 🗓 At the end of June we're going to answer @wrcsafarirally 's call. With this line-up.

1️⃣1️⃣ @thierryneuville / @MWydaeghe 🇧🇪
8️⃣ @OttTanak / Martin #Jarveoja 🇪🇪
6️⃣ @OliverSolberg01 / @EAERallying 🇸🇪🇬🇧#HMSGOfficial #SafariRallyKenya

PREVIEW: FIA Formula 3 Championship – Barcelona

The FIA Formula 3 Championship returns to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this weekend (20-22 May) for the third round of the season.

The field have already experienced the circuit in mid-season testing in April, but head back to Spain with the title contenders tied at the top.

Victor Martins and Arthur Leclerc are level on 36 points after four races, with the Prema Racing driver pulling himself up the order and outscoring Martins at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari.

Franco Colapinto and Roman Stanek won their first FIA F3 races at Imola, Stanek catapulting himself up the order after a nightmare opening round at the Bahrain International Circuit which brought two punctures.

Those results mean four drivers and four separate teams have won the first four races, with Isack Hadjar and Martins taking the Sprint and Feature races in Bahrain.

Jüri Vips to Run First Practice Session in Spain with Red Bull Racing

Jüri Vips will make his first appearance in a FIA Formula 1 World Championship weekend as he joins the field for the opening free practice session at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for Oracle Red Bull Racing.

The Estonian, who will also compete in the FIA Formula 2 championship this weekend for Hitech Grand Prix, will take over the car usually driven by Sergio Pérez for the session, with Red Bull using one of their two mandatory sessions for young drivers in Spain.

The regulation introduced in 2022 means every team on the grid will need to run a young or rookie driver in two free practice sessions, with a maximum of two race starts to their name.

Vips, who has been a Red Bull junior since 2018, has tested for Red Bull before and has acted as their reserve driver on occasion having earned a Superlicence, but this weekend will be a much different challenge for him as he joins an official weekend session for the first time.

Vips will be one of three test and reserve drivers to take to the track this weekend, with Williams Racing already having announced that Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team driver Nyck de Vries will run with them in place of Alexander Albon, while Robert Kubica will make his first appearance of the season with Alfa Romeo F1 Team ORLEN in place of Zhou Guanyu.

Max Verstappen: “Hopefully we can keep the momentum going” in Spain

Max Verstappen will look to continue his remarkable 2022 run of winning every time he finishes in this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

The Oracle Red Bull Racing driver has won three of the opening five races – as well as the sprint race at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix – but retired in the other two races in Bahrain and Australia.  He currently sits second in the Drivers’ Championship behind Scuderia Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

After an ‘incredible’ week racing in Miami last time out, Verstappen is heading to Barcelona, the scene of his maiden Formula 1 victory back in 2016, with a lot of confidence, and he hopes the momentum Red Bull has had in recent races can continue.

“We had an incredible week in Miami, I’ve had some time to rest with my family since and now I’m looking forward to driving in Barcelona again,” said Verstappen.  “I have a lot of good memories at the track from my first win in Formula One back in 2016 when I was 18.

“Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is a track that we all know very well as a Team due to amount of testing we have done there over the years, so unlike Miami, we have a substantial amount of data to use ahead of the race.

Sébastien Loeb: “The first feeling in the Puma on gravel at our test was quite good”

The nine-time world champion Sébastien Loeb will be back at the wheel of the Ford Puma Rally1 this weekend for the second time this season after his successful rally comeback at Rallye Monte-Carlo last time out.

Loeb took a record setting 80th victory at the opening-round in Monte-Carlo, which also was the first-ever win in the new Rally1 hybrid era. He was battling with his fellow compatriot Sébastien Ogier for the overall victory but at the penultimate stage of the rally Ogier was caught with a puncture which handed the Ford Puma Rally1 driver the win and wrote a new chapter in the rally history books.

Now the Frenchman will return for another go in Rally de Portugal, where he will be joined by French female co-driver Isabelle Galmiche and they will also face Ogier one more time.

Loeb says he is happy with the setup and the feeling in the Puma on the pre-event test. He also hopes he can find the rhythm quite early in the rally and fight at the front.

“The first feeling in the Puma on gravel at our test was quite good, I was quite happy with the feeling I had as we worked on the suspension and the differential setups. Only one day of testing isn’t a lot when it’s the first time you are driving a car on gravel, but at the end I was happy with the feeling I had.

Midfield to be “close, intense, thrilling fight” – Alfa Romeo’s Frédéric Vasseur

The Alfa Romeo F1 Team ORLEN have started 2022 brilliantly, something which was further proven at the recent Miami Grand Prix after Valtteri Bottas finished seventh. Rookie Guanyu Zhou unfortunately retired from Miami due to a technical fault, however, the Chinese driver has shown promise so far this season.

Bottas has been a consistent points finisher so far this year, and has been a frontrunner in the incredibly close midfield. The Finnish driver has been able to battle with the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula 1 Team at most rounds this season, as the German side continue to struggle in 2022.

The running order may mix up at this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, as a number of teams will introduce their first set of substantial upgrades this season. It means the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya will be an interesting host, especially as the circuit held the official shakedown test back in February.

Alfa Romeo Team Principal Frédéric Vasseur, is hoping his team can continue their “positive streak” despite what upgrades teams may introduce.

“We head to Barcelona with the aim of extending our positive streak at the start of the season: I feel we are now in a situation in which our objectives will be similar for each round going forward, and not too different from what we have had so far this season – both cars in Q2, one in Q3 and points on Sunday.