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Mercedes reflect on results of pre-season testing in Barcelona as day three comes to a close

Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team rounded out their week of pre-season testing today with a 1-2 on the timesheets, as Lewis Hamilton took the lead with a 1:19.138 and George Russell followed behind with a 1:19.233.

Hamilton and Russell were two of only three drivers today to set their best lap on C5 tyres, which are typically the fastest compound around one lap. In response to the competitive result, Russell emphasised that times aren’t a reliable indicator of performance. 

“The three days in Barcelona have been incredibly intriguing. I don’t think the lap times are very representative at all, we were top of the timesheets today on the C5 compound which is incredibly strong around Barcelona, but I wouldn’t read much into it.”

Russell gave his insight as to where future improvements lie based on the experimentation done throughout the week, adding that McLaren and Ferrari– each having topped the timesheet on Wednesday and Thursday respectively– appear to be performing at a high level.

“The Ferrari and McLaren look strong and I think we’ve got lots of improvements to make, we’re not fully happy with the balance of the car and the other limitations we have currently. But it is only testing, we’re here to learn and we have made some important experiments this week and have a good idea of the direction we need to go in.”

Harry Foster returns to Porsche Sprint Challenge GB for full season entry

Following on from his final round appearance in the 2021 Porsche Sprint Challenge GB, Harry Foster will be back on the grid for a full programme in 2022 with Team Parker Racing.

The son of BTCC racing driver Nick Foster scored a third-place finish on his series debut last season at Donington Park in challenging conditions. He followed up the impressive performance with a fifth-place finish in the second race, despite having limited experience in the car.

Foster followed the traditional route in to sports cars, starting in karting when he was six and continuing until the age of 13. After turning 14, Foster was set to make his mark in the Ginetta Junior championship before stepping away to focus on his education.

2021 saw him return to the sport and get his first taste of Porsche one-make action. The season ahead will see Foster join Matt Armstrong, who returns for his second season, and newcomer Will Newnham.

“I’m happy to be racing in the Porsche Sprint Challenge GB this season as doing the races last year gave me a confidence boost,” said Foster. “I feel like there’s still a bit to improve on, so I’m looking forward to progressing throughout the season and seeing what kind of results I can get.

NWES cancels Hockenheim, Vallelunga All-Star becomes points race

The 2022 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series season will begin a month later than planned. Due to unexplained circumstances, the first round at Hockenheimring on 9/10 April has been cancelled, meaning the second race at Circuit Ricardo Tormo on 14/15 May is now the opener. In order to keep the schedule at twelve races, the all-star exhibition race at Autodromo di Vallelunga on 9/10 July has become a standard points-paying event.

Hockenheim began hosting the NASCAR GP Germany annually in 2017, but has disappeared from the NWES schedule since 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Series officials cited “ongoing difficult circumstances” for the cancellation but did not specify a reason, though the previous two years mean one can assume the pandemic is once again a contributing factor. The series intends to return in 2023 should matters be resolved, with CEO Jérôme Galpin proclaiming his group will “start immediately to investigate every possible opportunity to come back racing in Germany in 2023”.

Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia becomes the first race of the season due to unfortunate circumstance, but it is not unfamiliar with such a slot. Outside of the pandemic-plagued 2020 season, the Spanish track hosted the season opener every year from 2014 to 2021.

Autodromo di Vallelunga in Italy was originally to hold an all-star race, a concept that is similar to the exhibition conducted by the NASCAR Cup Series in America. NWES moved the NASCAR GP Italy from Autodromo di Franciacorta to Vallelunga in 2020, and it became that year’s first race after the pandemic pushed Valencia to the final round.

“We are very excited to continue working with the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series and we look forward to this new development,” commented Vallelunga CEO Alfredo Scala. “The event we will host in July will become even more important and we are sure that fans, from Italy and beyond, will flock to the Vallelunga circuit for an event that will combine the excitement of EuroNASCAR racing with plenty of family-friendly attractions at the track, all at a time of the year when Rome and Italy offer unique beauty and incomparable weather.”

MDK Motorsports set for Porsche Carrera Cup North America and Sprint Challenge seasons

There will be a new name on the grid for the start of the 2022 Porsche Carrera Cup North America and Porsche Sprint Challenge North America seasons as MDK Motorsports joins the series’.

The team will run out of the former Meyer Shank Racing workshop in Central Ohio by team owner and racing driver, Mark Kvamme alongside his wife and team CEO, Megan Kvamme.

Mark Kvamme will bring his experience from running a successful KTM Supercross factory team for five seasons before he switched to sports cars, taking part in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge and Lamborghini Super Trofeo, in addition to the top-tier IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, including a podium finish at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2017.

“After pursuing my passion for off-road motorcycles into the KTM Factory Supercross and Motorcross race team, I decided to pursue my own racing career in 2014,” said Mark Kvamme.

“I have had the pleasure to race in almost every sports car category in the United States, and after seeing multiple teams on and off track, I have decided to take the best attributes of each team that I have raced with and create a factory level race experience for the amateur driver.”

Hamilton Returns to the Top as Pre-Season Testing Day 3 Comes to a Close

The third and final day of pre-season testing in Barcelona has come to an end, following multiple red flags and a truck dumping water all over the track in order for teams to simulate wet weather conditions on a crucial day of data collection.

Today saw Lewis Hamilton and George Russell top the time sheets today for Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team. It was a strong day for the seven-time world champion, who clocked 94 laps in the afternoon session and set the fastest time of 1:19.138 – just under a tenth quicker than his teammate in the morning session.

Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen would set the third and fourth fastest times of the day respectively, with a collective 133 laps added to Oracle Red Bull Racing’s total. They found themselves around half a second behind the fastest time that Hamilton set in the afternoon.

Sebastian Vettel found himself in fifth place at the end of the day, though an issue with his Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team in the morning session saw him pull over and bring out the red flag. Aston Martin claimed the issue turned out to be an oil leak, which caused a fire in the German’s car; this saw the British team halt running for the rest of the day.

UPDATE: The team has determined that it was an oil leak that caused #SV5 to stop on track shortly before lunch.

The oil leak caused a small fire but with the car now back in the garage, we are investigating where the issue came from.#F1Testing

Grosjean fastest in opening practice of 2022 IndyCar season

Romain Grosjean led an Andretti Autosport one-two in the opening practice session of the 2022 IndyCar season as the series got their year underway in St. Petersburg, Florida.

It only took 14 laps for the Frenchman to set a time of 1:01.053 to finish one-tenth in front of team-mate Colton Herta as one-second covered the top twenty-one drivers.

Devlin DeFrancesco set the early pace, becoming the first driver to dip below the 1 minute 2 second barrier, with a time of 1:01.826; The time would stand strong for some time before Kyle Kirkwood surpassed the Canadian.

Fresh from his 24 hours of Daytona victory, Helio Castroneves set a time of 1:01.608 until Grosjean and Herta hit the track, with the Frenchman leading the way. Herta would close the gap to 0.104 on his next lap while Graham Rahal and Jack Harvey moved in to fourth and sixth places, split by another Andretti car of Alexander Rossi.

Simon Pagenaud was starting to get in to the groove as he set the fourth fastest time in his first session with Meyer Shank, his run was curtailed as Jimmie Johnson overshot Turn 10 and ended up in the run-off area.

1950s Legends of Laguna Seca

In celebration of the 65th racing season at the now-famous WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, the track has been issuing a series of legends and tales from the raceway’s history. The February edition of these legends focused on the 1950s. The stories included talk about the creation of the track, Pete Lovely’s inaugural win, and how turn four became known as “Leslie’s Leap”.

The decision to build a new circuit in Monterey came from the rising concern for driver safety amid the growing power and speed of the cars. Following Ernie McAfee’s death during a 1956 race during the Pebble Beach Roads Races, a group of businessmen decided to pool funds together to keep the racing going in Monterey by building a bigger, safer track. They formed the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP) and set to work.

Ariel view of the original Laguna Seca Credit: WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Newsroom

After the U.S. Army signed a lease on Fort Ord on 7 Aug. 1957, they got to work and built the nine turn track in just 60 days. Architect, Wallace Holm, drew a rough diagram in the dirt and then sent the bulldozers to work. The famous “Corkscrew” is said to be created by pure accident. As the story goes, a foreman told a bulldozer driver to “get down the hill any way you can”.

Pete Lovely would win the inaugural race at Laguna Seca against some big names such as Carroll Shelby, Jack McAfee, Richie Ginter, and Johnny Von Neumann. Lovely would pass Von Neumann into turn nine on the last lap after patiently planning his attack to take first place and the chequered flag at Laguna Seca. In the following years, Lovely would remark, “I’ll always remember that race because it was the first race run at Laguna Seca and because it attracted a who’s who of West Coast sports car racing.”

Ed Leslie (98) and Lew Spencer (145) in 1959 Credit: WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Newsroom

Two years later in 1959, Ed Leslie would be leading the race in his Austin Healey 100 with double spoked wheels. What happened later can best be described through Leslie’s own words, “With the Healey wheels, when you went around a corner at speed you could hear the spokes letting go. At Laguna Seca, I went into Turn 4 flat out and the wheel buckled up under the front of my car and sent me off the end of the road. Fortunately, there was no barricade there and I went down into the oak trees without getting hurt. After that escapade, the turn became known as ‘Leslie’s Leap.’”

F1 Releases Statement Claiming it is ‘Impossible to Hold Russian Grand Prix in Current Circumstances’

Formula 1 has released a statement regarding the status of the 2022 Russian Grand Prix amid the current situation between Russia and Ukraine.

The statement is not very long, but suggests that the 2022 Grand Prix held in Sochi is going to be going ahead later this year.

“The FIA Formula 1 World Championship visits countries all over the world with a positive vision to unite people, bringing nations together. We are watching the developments in Ukraine with sadness and shock and hope for a swift and peaceful resolution to the present situation.

“On Thursday evening Formula 1, the FIA, and the teams discussed the position of our sport, and the conclusion is, including the view of all relevant stakeholders, that it is impossible to hold the Russian Grand Prix in the current circumstances.“

The current development in Ukraine has created several headlines in the last couple of days, as pre-season testing for the 2022 season is well and truly underway. Sebastian Vettel claimed that he will not be going to the 2022 Russian Grand Prix, whether it is going to go ahead or not; while Haas have been working overnight to remove the Uralkali sponsoring from the cars and other sponsored objects.

JWRC Starts 2022 Season With Snow and Ice in Sweden

The 2022 FIA Junior World Rally Championship will be kicking-off their campaign in the snowy landscapes of Rally Sweden this weekend and brings a hugely competitive entry list with it.

For the first time in the history of the championship, it will be using four-wheel-drive rally cars as they’re switching from the front-wheel-drive Ford Fiesta Rally4 to the all-new entry-level Ford Fiesta Rally3, prepared by M-Sport Poland.

Rally Sweden also marks first time in two years the championship is competing on snow and ice, where the local talent Tom Kristensson won last time out.

Credit: M-Sport Ford World Rally Team

Maciek Woda, JWRC Manager is delighted to start the new era with a full-snow rally in Sweden: “It is so good to be back in Sweden to kick off another season of FIA Junior WRC. It’s very important for us to feature every surface that is part of the WRC calendar and starting in Sweden is quite special. We have a very big year ahead of us in Junior WRC, we are now using the Fiesta Rally3 which is homologated to Rally3, the FIA’s entry-level category for four-wheel-drive cars.”

“We have seen some very exciting performances from this car in various championships in the last year, but I am really excited to see what the fastest youngsters in the world can do with it.”

Sami Pajari: “It’s a new season starting with new things going on”

The reigning FIA Junior World Rally Champion Sami Pajari is returning to the championship as the 2022 season-opener starts in Rally Sweden this weekend with a new era when the championship switches to four-wheel-drive.

Having won the title last season in Rally Spain, Pajari choosed after a long-time of thinking to stay in the championship even if he won a WRC3 seat, marks the third driver to do so in 15 years – earlier were the two Swedes of Per-Gunnar Andersson and Patrik Sandell.

Heading into 2022 with co-driver Enni Malkonen, Pajari has already contested a first rally in the new entry-level Ford Fiesta Rally3, when he won the season-opener in Rallye Monte-Carlo and he also won the local Arctic Lapland Rally in the RC4 class – which hosted the snow and ice round in WRC last year.

Pajari is confident heading to Sweden after two wins on snow and ice already this year: It’s a new season starting with new things going on, being the reigning champion could give me some extra confidence, but it’s still a new year and a new championship. Monte Carlo was a really nice start to the season, we have also done a rally in Finland so at least I have some feeling on the snow. I think it will be a good challenge this year, we have Jon, Lauri and Robert who are strong, it won’t be easy but it’s nice to have good competition.”

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Hyundai’s Julien Moncet: “We look forward to show a better performance at Rally Sweden”

After a difficult start for the Hyundai Motorsport team in the new Rally1 hybrid era in FIA World Rally Championship at Rallye Monte-Carlo last month, the team is hoping for a better result this weekend as they have prepared for Rally Sweden.

Rally Sweden, which have been a regular addition to the WRC schedule since the start in 1973, will be moved further north for this season and onwards to Umeå after the old Torsby location couldn’t provide enough snow. Last season the rally was replaced by the Finnish Arctic Lapland Rally.

Hyundai Motorsport moved their test location from Germany over to Finland, they have run tests using similar roads and conditions as in Sweden.

Deputy Team Director Julien Moncet hopes the new improved package for Sweden will bring home a better result: “Since Rallye Monte-Carlo, the entire team has been working incredibly hard to make improvements to our package, and we look forward to show a better performance at Rally Sweden. We are still finding our feet with the new hybrid regulations, and our pre-event test has helped prepare for the wintry roads of Umeå.”

Credit: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

The team’s drivers of Thierry Neuville, Ott Tänak and Oliver Solberg will be chasing down the first podium finish of the season after missing out with two did not finish results in Monte-Carlo as they are looking to extract the full performance of the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 over the gruelling event.

Thierry Neuville: “With the all-new itinerary, it’s very difficult to know what is waiting for us”

Hyundai Motorsport’s Thierry Neuville and co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe are targeting a strong and improved result this weekend as the second round of the 2022 FIA World Rally Championship takes place in Sweden.

Having previously won the Rally Sweden back in 2018, the snow and ice is not an unfamiliar territory for Neuville but for this year’s edition there’s a complete new itinerary as the rally moves to Umeå.

Neuville alongside the other crews from the team have run successful pre-event tests in Finland using similar roads, so for Sweden he do hope for improvements after the difficult first outting in the all-new Hyundai i20 N Rally1 hybrid machinery in Rallye Monte-Carlo.

Credit: Dufour Fabien / Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Neuville knows for sure the rally will not be the easiest with a new car but believes the driving style will remain the same: “With the all-new itinerary, it’s very difficult to know what is waiting for us at Rally Sweden, but it will definitely be interesting. While we don’t have a lot of experience with the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 in these conditions – it is a proper full-snow rally –I think our driving style will be pretty similar to the previous cars we’ve competed with at Rally Sweden.“

“Rallying is always a bit more spectacular on snow with the studded tyres. Usually, the stages are quite fast, you have to lean into the snowbanks and drive sideways a bit more. You have to be slightly more brutal to get the studs to grip into the ground. Everybody has worked so hard over the last couple of months and we hope that we will see a good return for that effort next weekend.“

Ott Tänak: “We have the inner drive to come back fighting”

Snow and ice have always been perfect for Ott Tänak, as he and his co-driver Martin Järveoja are looking to chase down a first podium of the 2022 campaign in Rally Sweden this weekend.

Driving for Hyundai Motorsport, the Estonian have record with three back-to-back podium finishes on snow over the last couple of seasons, Tänak is looking strong as they are heading to the new rally in Umeå, Sweden, having previously won the rally back in 2019 and a second place finish in 2020, and also winning the Arctic Lapland Rally which replaced the round last year – he will be the one to look out for.

The season-opener did not start in the right way he hoped for, after picking up two punctures on the Saturday afternoon leg and only bringing one spare wheel with him, he had to retire from the event.

Credit: Dufour Fabien / Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Now with a terrain he has been successful on many times, Tänak hopes to replicate the result from previous outtings on snow and get his rhythm turned around for the season remainder: “Rally Sweden will be an all-new event as we are moving more north than we have in previous years. I really don’t know what to expect but snow is always something I’ve really enjoyed competing on. Sweden was the location of our first podium with Hyundai Motorsport, and it would mean a lot to be able to replicate that result next weekend.”

“We have the inner drive to come back fighting from our difficult first round of the season; we want to turn that into positive momentum that will carry us throughout the year ahead. Last season we were victorious in the snow in Arctic Rally Finland, so we know we are fast and competitive on this surface. The target will be to hit the ground running and find a good rhythm with the Hyundai i20 N Rally1.”

Oliver Solberg: “Snow and ice is also my favourite surface as well so it will be a very special rally”

Local talent Oliver Solberg will fly the Swedish flag on the home soil in Rally Sweden this weekend as the fan favourite alongside co-driver Elliott Edmondson will be looking to claim their maiden FIA World Rally Championship podium after a difficult start to the 2022 campaign.

Making a successful WRC debut in a Hyundai i20 WRC last year in the Arctic Lapland Rally in Finland, Solberg will be one of the drivers that could potentially win the rally this weekend but don’t count out the non-Scandinavians which have also been fast on the snow – It will be a hard new rally and a challenge to take on for the son of the 2003 champion Petter Solberg.

For 2022 Solberg have become a full manufacturer driver in the Hyundai Motorsport outfit, last season he did a couple of outtings for the Hyundai backed 2C Compétition team in WRC, where he made his debut in the top category, as well as campaigned a WRC2 program for Hyundai Motorsport team with a Hyundai i20 N Rally2.

Credit: Dufour Fabien / Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

As he was forced to retire after an error in Rallye Monte-Carlo, the young Swede have completed some pre-event tests in Finland and is now prepared for the upcoming four-days rally in Umeå, which have been moved from Solberg’s hometown of Torsby.

Solberg admits he is emotional to drive for the first time on home soil in the new Rally1 category – a dream which have become true: First of all, it is going to be very emotional to compete in my first home event as a factory driver. It is something I have dreamed about my whole life. I think the new location is an important step, as it is what the rally needs to secure fantastic conditions, even if it is sad to move away from my hometown. Snow and ice is also my favourite surface as well so it will be a very special rally.”

Toyota’s Jari-Matti Latvala: “It has been a successful event for us in the past”

After a promising but difficult start to the 2022 FIA World Rally Championship at the season-opener Rallye Monte-Carlo, the Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT will be aiming for a more successful second round at the Rally Sweden this weekend in the new Rally1 hybrid era.

The new Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 car showed a lot of potential with great results in Monte-Carlo, as they were denied the win the rally on the penultimate stage, where M-Sport’s Sébastien Loeb won over his compatriot Sébastien Ogier with just a small margin, as Ogier received a time penalty.

Heading to the new rally will be the regular driver line-up of Elfyn Evans and Kalle Rovanperä, as Rally Sweden is not part of Ogier’s part-time program, the returning Esapekka Lappi will take his seat – driving for the team for first time since 2018, albeit renting a Toyota Yaris WRC with support from the team last year in Rally Finland.

Toyota have previously had success on snow and ice, the current Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala claimed the first win for the team on it’s WRC comeback in 2017, in 2019 the Estonian Ott Tänak won the rally and last time out in Sweden in 2020 it was Evans who won.

Credit: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

For this year and onwards the rally have changed its location more north to the city of Umeå to secure more snow as the old location of Torsby have lacked snow over the past. The Toyota team have run some pre-event tests on similar conditions in Finland and are now fully prepared to tackle the new stages.