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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.

Yamaha launches Tenere Spirit Experience

Yamaha had competed at the Dakar Rally for over four decades from the race’s inception in 1979 to 2022. Although the manufacturer shuttered its Dakar motorcycle programme after the 2022 edition, Yamaha Moto Europe has maintained its presence in the sport via the Ténéré World Raid Team, a stable of riders competing on the Ténéré 700. For 2023, Yamaha will introduce the Ténéré Spirit Experience to allow owners of said bike to take part in four rally raids throughout the year with factory assistance. Up to twenty riders can participate.

Named after a desert in the Sahara that the Dakar Rally formerly ran through, the Ténéré 700 was introduced in 2019 as an adventure bike. The World Raid and Rally models were released three years later, the latter of which features dual fuel tanks capable of 500 kilometres.

The Ténéré Spirit Experience is overseen by former Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team manager Marc Bourgeois and his company MBSM, who will provide gear like special wheels, navigation equipment, and even an additional fuel can if necessary. MBSM has also opened training centres in France and Morocco tailored for Ténéré riders, though some countries also have more generic Yamaha off-road schools like the Yamaha Off-Road Experience in Wales.

Andréa Peterhansel, the wife of Dakar legend Stéphane Peterhansel, will also be involved as a spokesperson. Ténéré World Raid Team racers Alessandro Botturi and Pol Tarrès will take part in the four races and serve as team-mates for Experience riders.

The Experience’s first round will be the Morocco Desert Challenge on 21–30 April, which Botturi won in 2022. Experience riders will compete in a “Raid category” that is intended to give participants the rally experience in a non-competitive environment; race sporting director Jean-Claude Kaket has also designed a separate route from the main event for them to follow. The Hellas Rally in Greece on 21–28 May will be the second leg, followed by the Transanatolia in Turkey on 2–9 September and the Tunisia Desert Challenge on 20–29 October.

Juan Puga plans Dakar Rally return, Malle Moto entry in 2024

In 2022, Juan José Puga and his father Juan Carlos Puga Davila raced the Dakar Rally together in Rally2. Two years later, the younger Puga intends to return to the Rally to compete the Malle Moto class on his own, a two-pronged statement as his father will not take part and the category does not allow outside assistance. He revealed his plans in an interview with Ecuadorian radio programme FM Mundo.

Puga made his Dakar début in 2019, when the Rally took place in South America, and became the first rider from Ecuador to complete the race. He and his father Juan raced together in 2022; although Puga Jr. experienced early bike trouble and hurt his shoulder, the duo reached the finish as part of the Dakar Experience for entries who were eliminated from overall contention but could complete the Rally.

“The idea is to return to the times of before, where the competitor went through many
tests of survival, in a category where you are not allowed to be helped by anyone,” Puga explained. “You don’t have the mechanics do it. You build your own vehicle, you put together your tent, you participate in the motorcycle, navigation, everything, it is called the Original category without assistance.

“This is how it really was forty years ago, the Paris–Dakar Rally was for twenty days and the pilots were just going to survive. They spent many hours on the motorcycle carrying all kinds of inputs, tools, spare parts in case the bike was damaged. They put together their tents, they were practically used, they were not other times, and what we want to capture is the essence. If you like it, then I tell you, we are going to try to win the incredible Original category.”

While his father will not compete in the Rally again, the family will accompany him in a cheerleader role.

Charan Moore to enter 2024 Dakar Rally, won’t defend Malle Moto title

Charan Moore will return to the Dakar Rally for a third time in 2024, though it will not be for a second straight win in the Malle Moto class. In an interview with Adrian Scholtz, the CEO of South Africa’s FIA/FIM-affiliated racing body Motorsport South Africa, he explained that he intends to race at Dakar again but did not specify which categoryhe will run.

“I won’t be defending my Original by Motul title but I will be on the start line of the 2024 Dakar Rally competing for a new crown,” said Moore. “I will be back on that start line proudly representing South Africa, my federation Motorsport South Africa and each and ever supporter of the journey. Hopefully with the backing of some great partners.”

Malle Moto, officially known as Original by Motul, is the most difficult class as riders—both on bikes like Moore and quads—are not allowed to have outside assistance like crews and must make repairs on their own or relying on their fellow competitors. More barely missed the Malle Moto podium in his Dakar début in 2022 when he finished fourth.

He won the opening stage but faced fierce resistance from Javi Vega and Mário Patrão. The challenges grew when he lost the overall lead to Vega after suffering from gearbox and radiator problems in the tenth and eleventh stages, but won the final three days to seal the victory by over twenty-one minutes; he ended with nine total leg wins. Moore was also twelfth overall among Rally2 bikes.

“In 2022, I was slightly disappointed about the difficulty of the event,” Moore told Scholtz. “Everyone put Dakar on this pedestal as the hardest event on the planet and I found it quite easily achievable. However, 2023 was a completely different story. By far the hardest race of my life. A combination of longer stages, more difficult stages and intense weather conditions created an incredibly challenging Dakar. But I loved every second of it.”

2023 Race of Champions: FC1-X returns for second dance

Nitro Rallycross‘ FC1-X is regarded as one of the most powerful rallycross vehicles to date. A year after making its driving début at the 2022 Race of Champions, the FC1-X will be among the vehicles that competitors can use in the 2023 edition this weekend.

After appearing at ROC 2022, the FC1-X has been used for the new Group E category. The seventh round of the 2022/23 season last weekend took place in the snow at Circuit Trois-Rivières, which series founder and Team USA member Travis Pastrana competed in.

The electric-powered FC1-X is faster than even ICE rallycross cars with over 1,000 horsepower that enables it to hit 100 km/h in just 1.5 seconds. It was developed by QEV Technologies and Olsbergs MSE via the First Corner joint venture. As such, the car maximises both performance and energy efficiency.

It will not be the only rallycross vehicle at ROC as QEV’s ZEROID X1 and Supercar Lites are also involved. The ZEROID X1 is also an electric car used in the FIA World Rallycross Championship’s RX2e class, while the Supercar Lites has run on fossil-free biofuel since the 2022 ROC. Also involved are the CUPRA UrbanRebel Racing Concept and Polaris RZR, the former of which is also an electric car.

The 2023 Race of Champions will take place on 28/29 January.

Jake Dennis targeting to ‘keep the momentum going forwards’

On the back of winning the season-opening Mexico City E-Prix, Jake Dennis is hoping to “keep the momentum going forwards” this weekend at the Diriyah E-Prix, which plays host to rounds two and three of the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.

Dennis was sensational in Mexico City, with the British driver having claimed one of the most dominant victories in the history of the all-electric series. The Avalanche Andretti Formula E driver incredibly won by almost eight seconds, with nobody having had the pace to match the Brit. Had he claimed pole, then Mexico City would’ve been the perfect weekend; however, he’ll have two chances to rectify that this weekend at the Riyadh Street Circuit.

This weekend is, of course, the first double-header of the season, meaning that two “big results” could see Dennis leave Saudi Arabia with a healthy lead in the Drivers’ Championship. For the time being, Dennis is hoping to “keep scoring podiums”, something he did at the venue last season.

“I couldn’t be happier off the back of Mexico. The team were straight back to work after the race as we get prepared for rounds two and three in Saudi Arabia. We’re all determined to continue the form we’ve had and repeat the likes of our results from Mexico City. Last season we had a really good result in Saudi, finishing P3 in the opening race, so I’m hopeful we can keep scoring podiums, delivering big results and keep the momentum going forwards.”

“The layout is one of the most challenging” – André Lotterer

On the other side of the Andretti garage, André Lotterer put on a great show in his first race for the American team, with the German driver having claimed fourth at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez. Lotterer showed strong pace in the season opener and made it all the way to the Semi-Final in the duels, before losing to Lucas di Grassi.

Porsche’s Florian Modlinger: “Fractions of seconds can again make all the difference in Diriyah”

It was an impressive start to the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship and the Gen3 era for the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team, with Pascal Wehrlein having claimed second place in Mexico City; however, Team Principal Florian Modlinger has warned that it’s “still early days”.

Second for Wehrlein and seventh for António Félix da Costa on his Porsche debut was a very strong start to the season for the German manufacturer, who look set to have finally woken up in all-electric series. Porsche’s powertrain looked very impressive, with three Porsche-powered cars having finished in the top four. Modlinger is certain, though, that the car “still has a lot of potential”, which he wants to see unlocked by the team.

“The team and the Porsche 99X Electric Gen3 experienced a strong start to the season. We secured our first podium result and both cars earned points. The implementation and execution of the race weekend went very smoothly. Our processes worked well. It was a shame that Antonio missed out on the duel stage by just two-thousandths of a second. It’s still early days with the Gen3, so the car still has a lot of potential. We now need to tap this step by step.”

This weekend’s Diriyah E-Prix presents Porsche with a very different challenge, with the Riyadh Street Circuit being one of the toughest on the calendar. The track is typically dusty and cold, and that’s without even taking into consideration how tight and twisty it is. Should Porsche replicate their Mexico City performance in Diriyah this weekend, then they may find themselves labelled as title favourites.

Modlinger is aware that “fractions of seconds” will “make all the difference” this weekend, with the team boss having emphasised on not making “any mistakes”.

Pascal Wehrlein: “We need to make sure that we maintain our top ranking”

Pascal Wehrlein goes into this weekend’s second and third round of the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship full of confidence after a podium in Mexico City, with the German hoping he can replicate his performance at the Diriyah E-Prix.

The TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team driver started the season and the Gen3 era in fine fashion, after storming through the top five late on to claim a second-place finish. Porsche’s powertrain looked exceptional, with three of the top four having been powered by the German manufacturer. It should fill Wehrlein with confidence that he can have a solid weekend at the Riyadh Street Circuit, where the cars will be pushed to their limit.

Reflecting on the opening round in Mexico City, Wehrlein believes the car was “virtually perfect”, with only a “few tweaks” having been made between Free Practice and the race.

“The entire race weekend in Mexico ran flawlessly. As a result, the starting setup for our new car was virtually perfect. We just had to make a few tweaks and so were fully competitive from the first free practice. One can also find room for improvement and even more performance in a new car. We learn something every day and I’m sure we’ll succeed in this.” 

Looking ahead to this weekend, Wehrlein will be looking for another top result to really present an early title challenge; however, the German has never finished higher than fifth at the Saudi Arabian venue. With Mexico City having been a “fantastic start”, the Porsche driver is hopeful that his team can “maintain our top ranking” in Diriyah.

Norris Wishes he was Involved in Fight for Wins: “I feel like I deserve to be in that battle”

Lando Norris wishes he could be involved in the battles with the likes of George Russell and Carlos Sainz Jr. at the front of the field, but he has not been in a position to do so yet in his FIA Formula 1 World Championship career.

Norris has yet to be with a team able to fight regularly for race victories in Formula 1, with the McLaren F1 Team attempting to fight back to return to their glory days. 

Since Norris joined McLaren in 2019, the team has scored only one victory thanks to Daniel Ricciardo in the 2021 Italian Grand Prix, while the British driver himself has scored half a dozen podium finishes, the last of which came in the 2022 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Norris’ impressive and consistent performances have seen him be linked with possible future moves to the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team and even Scuderia Ferrari, but the twenty-three-year-old has committed his future to McLaren until at least the end of the 2025 season.

He has seen those drivers he fought against and beat in junior formulae, including Russell and Sainz join front running teams and become race winners, and Norris wishes he could find himself involved in the battles for race wins, feeling he deserves to be in those battles.

Steiner Still Wants American Racer to Join Haas in F1, Links Sargeant with Future Move

Guenther Steiner insists the MoneyGram Haas F1 Team would like to see an American driver join the team in the future, and he has hinted that Logan Sargeant could be that driver once he earns experience within the FIA Formula 1 World Championship.

However, the fact there are currently no drivers from the United States with Formula 1experience meant they went with Nico Hülkenberg alongside Kevin Magnussen for 2023.

With Formula 1 becoming ever more popular in the United States and Haas being the only American team on the grid, they have always been linked with American drivers since they joined the grid in 2015.  This link has been increased in 2023 with American sponsors MoneyGram joining Haas, while there will also be three races in the country in Miami, Austin and Las Vegas.

However, they have yet to field an American in Formula 1, with the team so far fielding Romain Grosjean, Esteban Gutierrez, Magnussen, Pietro Fittipaldi, Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin across their seven seasons in the sport.  Hülkenberg will replace Schumacher for 2023 to become the seventh different driver to compete for Haas.

“Of course I would like to see an American driver with us,” Haas Team Principal Steiner said to American broadcaster KVUE. “I think what we need to see is the development of an American driver, which is very difficult.

Russell took ‘Some Time to understand’ the High Level Mercedes Works at in Early 2022

George Russell admitted he felt like a rookie at times during his first season with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team, with the Briton taking time to adapt to his new team.

Russell joined Mercedes in place of the Alfa Romeo F1 Team ORLEN bound Valtteri Bottas after three years with Williams Racing having spent that time primarily towards the back of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship field in underdeveloped cars.

It was a different story at Mercedes, a team familiar to racing at the front of the field and a team that had taken the previous eight consecutive World Constructors’ Championships.  And joining a front-running team meant Russell was forced to adapt and understand things he had not encountered before at Williams.

“In some regards, I almost feel like a bit of a rookie this season because the level at which this team works – we’re talking about things that I’ve never even spoken about before in Formula 1 before,” Russell is quoted as saying by Motorsport.com.

“So, that’s taken me some time to understand – what the team’s processes are during a race weekend, how I can make the car faster in terms of set-up, and that’s why I’ve felt a bit of a rookie at the start of this season.”

Pietro Fittipaldi Confirmed as Haas Reserve Driver for 2023 Formula 1 Season

Pietro Fittipaldi has been confirmed as the official Test Driver for the MoneyGram Haas F1 Team for the 2023 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season, the Brazilian continuing the partnership that began back in 2019.

Fittipaldi, the grandson of two-time Formula 1 World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi, will play back-up to full-time drivers Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hülkenberg in 2023 whilst combining the role with an attack on the LMP2 title in the FIA World Endurance Championship as well as select outings in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

The twenty-six-year-old, who raced in two races for Haas in 2020 as a replacement for the injured Romain Grosjean in the Sakhir and Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, participated in two free practice sessions with the team in 2022 in Mexico City and Abu Dhabi, and could be in line for similar outings in 2023.

“I’m very happy to be continuing with MoneyGram Haas F1 Team, a team that I consider family,” said Fittipaldi. “It will be my fifth season in Formula 1 as the Official Reserve & Test Driver for Haas and I’m super excited to be going into 2023 coming off the back of a very competitive season.

“Last year I did two free practice sessions, tested at the beginning of the year and at the end of season test so we’ve already been able to try some stuff for the new season.

Jamie Chadwick Continues with Williams Driver Academy into 2023 Despite Indy NXT Move

Jamie Chadwick will continue within the Williams Driver Academy in 2023 despite switching her racing activities from W Series to Indy NXT.

The twenty-four-year-old British racer is a three-time W Series champion having added the 2022 title to the ones she earned back in 2019 and 2021, but a planned move into either the FIA Formula 2 or FIA Formula 3 championships failed to materialise due to a lack of financial backing.

Chadwick, however, has picked up a prime drive in Indy NXT, formerly known as Indy Lights, with Andretti Autosport, and will race in 2023 in the #28 DHL entry. 

However, remaining with the Williams Driver Academy keeps open her dreams of one day reaching and racing in the FIA Formula 1 World Championship.

“To be continuing my relationship with Williams is amazing; I’ve had their support since 2019,” said Chadwick.  “Having the opportunity to immerse myself within the team and keep that Formula 1 dream alive is very important.


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