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Nissan’s Tommaso Volpe: “Diriyah will be a completely different challenge to Mexico”

Tommaso Volpe, Team Principal of the Nissan Formula E Team, is expecting a “completely different challenge” this weekend at the Diriyah E-Prix than the team faced at the season opener in Mexico City, with the Riyadh Street Circuit being known as one of the toughest on the calendar.

Volpe will be hoping for better luck in Diriyah this weekend, with it also being the first double-header of the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship. Mexico City was an unfortunate weekend for the Japanese manufacturer, with Norman Nato having retired on the first lap after being hit by Robin Frijns, and with rookie Sacha Fenestraz having fallen out of the points late on following an issue.

The team’s Gen3 challenger, though, did show some “good pace”, giving Volpe the belief that they’ll score some solid points this weekend. The circuit is notoriously difficult, something which could see Fenestraz build into the weekend, given that he is a rookie.

Volpe recognises that “it’s easy to make mistakes” at the Saudi Arabian venue, putting an emphasis on precision, and smoothness.

“I feel we grew as a team following the season opener in Mexico. Norman and Sacha already have a good connection with the engineers, and the technical team is also gaining a lot of knowledge on how to run the car in qualifying and the race. We’re still learning about the power unit and energy management, but that’s the same across the grid, so we’ll look to continue developing on that side.

Red Bull Scramble set for inaugural national championship

After a successful “trial”, the Red Bull Scramble will begin its first year as a fully organised, national championship this weekend when the UTV series kicks off the 2023 season at Parks Marina on Lake Okoboji in Iowa.

The Red Bull Scramble was introduced in 2021 with a three-race mini-season ending at the Imperial Sand Dunes in Glamis, California. It proved to be such a hit that it returned in 2022 before expanding into an entire league for 2023.

All UTVs must be production vehicles with certain modifications allowed like aftermarket suspension. Drivers can also compete with a co-driver, though are not required to do so.

The series is split into Pro and Sportsman classes for professional and amateur racers, respectively. The categories have mostly the same vehicle regulations though differences include the Polaris Pro R being restricted to Pro while four-seat UTVs can only race in Sportsman.

The Pro class championship will be determined by a driver’s best four finishes while the Sportsman champion is set by their top three performances. If no drivers run at least four or three events, the standings will be based on total points earned. In the event of a tie, the average margin of victory will be used to break it.

Reaume Brothers Racing aligns with Ford, signs Mason Massey

After spending their history bouncing between Chevrolet and Toyota, Reaume Brothers Racing will permanently switch to Ford beginning with the 2023 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season as part of a new alliance with Ford Performance. The start of a new era also came with the introduction of the team’s first full-time driver as Mason Massey will run the entire schedule.

“My vision for my race team over the next few years is to not just benefit from the resources of Ford Performance, but to be able to build internally and to be able to provide the manufacturer with resources developed through our race team,” said team owner Josh Reaume. “I am confident that over the next six months to a year, we will be able to utilise our internal resources to elevate our on-track performance to the next level. This growth and success will take some time, but I am confident that we will have the right foundation to progress forward.

“Having Mason come back to us on a full-time basis brings things full circle between everyone involved. We are excited about the experience he has gathered since the last time he drove for us. We look forward to this year being a breakout organisation.”

The seeds for a Ford partnership were sown during the 2022 season when RBR partnered with new Cup Series outfit Team Hezeberg, who fielded the #27 Ford for Jacques Villeneuve and Loris Hezemans in six races. Hezeberg also fielded the #26 Toyota for Daniil Kvyat with Reaume still providing assistance (coincidentally meaning Kvyat has raced for an RBR in both NASCAR and Formula One).

RBR is the fourth confirmed Truck team to race in 2023 with Ford alongside AM Racing, Front Row Motorsports, and ThorSport Racing. All but FRM arrive after racing with different makes in 2022.

2023 Race of Champions: Draw sets brackets for individual, Nations Cup

As the 2023 Race of Champions looms, Tuesday saw a random draw to set the brackets for both the Nations Cup on Saturday and the individual tournament the next day. The draw was conducted by Pite Havsbad Group executives Tobias Lindfors and Kristoffer Lundström.

Like the first edition in Sweden in 2022, the group stage format was dropped since the weather can easily manipulate a snow/ice course, which would result in scoring confusion.

The first round (a preliminary) and the Round of 16 will be determined via two heats, with the winner being whomever wins both or with the better faster time in the event of a tie. The Nations Cup will have four heats for said rounds to account for there being twice as many drivers.

Team Nordic’s Petter and Oliver Solberg will begin their Nations Cup defence against Team Sweden‘s Johan Kristoffersson and Mattias Ekström. Sébastien Loeb, winner of the 2022 ROC individual tourney, takes on Thierry Neuville in his first race in that bracket.

Credit: Race of Champions

Lucas Blakeley, Jarno Opmeer, Martin Palm, and Michael Romanidis will battle on Friday to earn the two slots on Team eROC, who will then open the Nations Cup against Finland’s Valtteri Bottas and Mika Häkkinen. Opmeer and Blakeley comprised the sim racer team in 2022.

Sacha Fenestraz: “Diriyah is one of the toughest tracks on the calendar”

Rookie Sacha Fenestraz is feeling “really excited” about this weekend’s Diriyah E-Prix, with the Frenchman having worked hard in the simulator to prepare for “one of the toughest tracks on the calendar”, the Riyadh Street Circuit.

Diriyah plays host to rounds two and three of the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, with this weekend set to see Gen3 feature in the Middle East for the first time. Fenestraz goes into the weekend feeling “really upbeat”, with the Nissan Formula E Team driver having featured in the points for the vast majority of the race in Mexico City, before an issue saw him tumble down the order.

The Frenchman clearly has the pace to feature in the points; however, he will also need to be impeccably tidy to claim a top-ten finish this weekend, with a mistake typically resulting in a trip into a wall.

Fenestraz is ready for the first double-header of the year with the circuit looking “like a lot of fun”.

“I’m really excited for Diriyah and the next event in this amazing championship. Even though we had some issues in Mexico and didn’t score points, we still showed what we are capable of in qualifying and in the race. Diriyah is one of the toughest tracks on the calendar – I’ve been working hard on the simulator and it’s a proper street track with tight walls and fast changes of direction.

McLaren’s Ian James Expecting a ‘Tough Fight’ at NEOM’s Home E-Prix

NEOM McLaren Formula E Team boss Ian James is thrilled to be returning to the Riyadh Street Circuit this weekend for the Diriyah E-Prix, which is hosting rounds two and three of the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.

The season started strongly for McLaren in Mexico City, with rookie Jake Hughes having shown strong pace throughout the opening weekend of the season. The British driver qualified third and went on to finish fifth, highlighting his and the team’s potential. For René Rast, it was a trickier weekend, with the German having retired from the race late on following a collision with Oliver Rowland.

The whole team, though, is excited for the upcoming weekend in Saudi Arabia, with the venue being one that Rast rates as one of the best of the season. Hughes, too, can’t wait to race at what is one of the hardest tracks on the calendar, with the smallest of errors resulting in a collision with a wall.

Hughes and Rast will be hoping to avoid any unnecessary collisions, given that this weekend is a double-header. If that wasn’t enough for the team to deal with, it is also their title partner’s home race, meaning it’s a crucial weekend for NEOM and the Woking-based team.

James expects a “tough fight” this weekend as well as “some thrilling racing”, at the circuit which is “loved by many”.

Jake Hughes: ‘Working together’ set to be ‘crucial’ for McLaren in Diriyah

Jake Hughes “can’t wait” for this weekend’s Diriyah E-Prix double-header, with the Riyadh Street Circuit set to host rounds two and three of the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, where the NEOM McLaren Formula E Team driver will be keen to repeat his Mexico City performance.

The rookie was sensational at the season opener, after claiming third on the grid before finishing fifth in the race, proving that he is a driver not to sleep on this season. Hughes showed consistent pace in Mexico City, something which would massively benefit him this weekend, at one of the most challenging circuits of the season. This weekend will be a huge test for both the Brit and for McLaren, with “working together” being key to mastering the tight and twisty track.

Any driver error will be punished, with there being absolutely no room to correct a mistake. Despite the challenging nature of the track, Hughes believes it is “one of the best” of the season, suggesting that the twenty-eight year-old is full of confidence ahead of the weekend.

“I can’t wait to race in Diriyah this weekend. I had a very positive first race in Mexico City, qualifying P3, finishing P5. It was my first Formula E race as a rookie, my first points and a good foundation to build on this season. I’ve been really impressed with how the team have adapted to Gen3 and we’re working together really well.

“That will be crucial in Diriyah this weekend as we head into the first double header of the season. I think the track is one of the best on the calendar, so I’m really looking forward to it and hopefully with the same work ethic and same preparation we had in Mexico City, we can achieve similar results.” 

Maserati’s James Rossiter ‘confident’ Edoardo Mortara’s 2022 Diriyah success can be replicated

Maserati MSG Racing Team Principal James Rossiter is hopeful that the team can make the most of the two races at this weekend’s Diriyah E-Prix, which hosts rounds two and three of the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.

This weekend’s double-header at the Riyadh Street Circuit represents two great chances for the Monte-Carlo-based team to score their first points of the season, after enduring a challenging start to the year in Mexico City. Despite having looked incredibly strong in the official pre-season test, Maximilian Günther and Edoardo Mortara failed to finish in the top ten at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, with the latter having crashed out of the race.

Despite the disappointment, the team still learnt a lot from the first race of the Gen3 era, with the hope being that they can implement their discoveries into this weekend. On paper, Diriyah should be a strong venue for Maserati, given that Mortara claimed the most recent victory at the circuit.

Rossiter knows that his side have the “knowledge and experience” to deal with whatever challenges they face this weekend at what is one of the most challenging circuits on the calendar, with Mortara’s win perhaps to be used as inspiration for a similar performance.

“It was good to get Season 9 underway in Mexico City, and although the weekend didn’t go as we hoped, it highlighted some key areas where we can improve our performance. Since the race, we’ve been working hard to optimise our pace and day by day, our understanding of Formula E’s new Gen3 package is continuing to improve.

Edoardo Mortara: Diriyah “tests almost every aspect of a driver’s skill”

Edoardo Mortara has labelled this weekend’s Diriyah E-Prix as “one of the most challenging races of the season”, as the Riyadh Street Circuit prepares to host rounds two and three of the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.

This weekend’s double header in Diriyah is likely to be one of the biggest challenges for the Gen3 cars, given that there is absolutely no room for error. A mistake will likely result in a heavy collision with a barrier, unlike at the Mexico City E-Prix where there was plenty of run-off. With that in mind, Mortara believes the circuit “tests almost every aspect of a driver’s skill”, with the teams also set to be up against it this weekend.

The double header will put the reliability of the cars to the test, something Mortara might be concerned about given that he endured technical issues during the opening round. The Maserati MSG Racing driver will be keen to get his season truly underway in Diriyah, after crashing at Turn One in Mexico City. Mortara is typically very strong at this weekend’s venue, with the Swiss driver having won the most recent race there.

Looking ahead to the weekend, Mortara has “confidence” that a good result is possible, with the driver having “full faith” in the Monte-Carlo-based outfit.

“Diriyah is one of the most challenging races of the season, and with a mixture of different corner types, it tests almost every aspect of a driver’s skill. The circuit is fast and extremely technical, and this means that it’s quite important to build up to doing a strong lap.

ABT Cupra’s Thomas Biermaier has ‘full confidence’ despite ‘additional challenge’ of losing Robin Frijns

Thomas Biermaier, Team Principal of the ABT CUPRA Formula E Team, is expecting this weekend’s second and third round of the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship in Diriyah to be “spectacular for the spectators”, with it being the only night race on the calendar.

The Diriyah E-Prix at the Riyadh Street Circuit is certainly an incredible spectacle, with the lights shining off the chassis of the all-electric single-seaters. As well as being “spectacular”, it is also an immense challenge. The Riyadh Street Circuit is notoriously difficult, with there being absolutely no room for error. A small mistake by any of the drivers will likely result in a shunt with a wall, something the team can’t avoid after repairing Robin Frijns‘ car for rookie Kelvin van der Linde.

ABT DTM driver van der Linde is replacing Frijns this weekend after the Dutchman underwent surgery following an opening lap crash in Mexico City, with the expectation being that his absence could be lengthy. Given the nature of the circuit, it is likely to be an accident-filled weekend, which could present ABT with some interesting opportunities should van der Linde and Nico Mueller avoid the barriers.

Given that it is a double header, the reliability of the Gen3 cars will also be put to the test, something that perhaps might concern the German outfit. Overall, though, Biermaier has “full confidence” in his side that they can enjoy a solid weekend, despite being without the “extremely experienced” Frijns.

“Diriyah in the dark will definitely be spectacular for the spectators at the track and on the TV, also with the illuminated lettering on our cars. In Diriyah, we want to take the next step in this process, we worked hard for this at home last week. The fact that we have to do without the extremely experienced Robin (Frijns) is of course an additional challenge. Nevertheless, I have full confidence in our team that we will present ourselves well.”

Kelvin van der Linde: “I’ve tried to prepare myself in the best way possible”

ABT CUPRA Formula E Team stand-in driver Kelvin van der Linde is incredibly excited to make his ABB FIA Formula E World Championship debut this weekend at the Diriyah E-Prix, with the South African having been called-up to replace the injured Robin Frijns.

Van der Linde will likely feature for several rounds following Frijns’ injury, with the Dutchman having undergone surgery on his wrist and hand following a crash at the season-opening race in Mexico City. Full responsibility then, has been put on the South African’s shoulders, with van der Linde actually set to become the first ever Formula E driver from his nation.

The Diriyah E-Prix is an incredibly challenging place to make your debut, with the track being one of the most unforgiving on the calendar. The South African believes he has prepared for the double header “in the best possible way”, having gone over all the data gathered at the season opener. Most importantly, though, he’s looking forward to driving the “very special” Gen3 cars, a privilege he is yet to have.

“I have never driven the new car and have only heard that it is supposed to be very special. I’ve tried to prepare myself in the best possible way: physically, by analysing all the data and, of course, in the simulator. The engineers and Nico (Müller) are giving me great support in this. I want to finish and help the team to push the development of our project further forward.”

“We found some good approaches” in Mexico City – Nico Mueller

On the other side of the ABT Cupra garage, Nico Mueller will be hoping for a better couple of races at the Riyadh Street Circuit than he had at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, where he crossed the line in fourteenth.

Brad Perez rejoins Emerling-Gase for 2023 Xfinity

Brad Pérez will return to Emerling-Gase Motorsports for the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series season, running a part-time slate beginning at Circuit of the Americas on 25 March. He announced the news via video posted on social media in which he approaches EGM owners Patrick Emerling and Joey Gase about a 2023 seat before being ordered to find sponsorship, leading to a series of comedic calls to secure funding.

A subsequent graphic confirms the COTA entry, though other starts were not immediately revealed as he hints by listing later dates as “idk yet”, “we will figure it out”, and “yeah”. One of the phone calls in his video is to sponsor Weiss Sand & Clay, LP who requests he enter the Chicago Street Race (1 July), to which he responds, “We’ll see about that.”

Pérez made his NASCAR début in 2022 as a road course ringer with a pair of Truck Series starts for Reaume Brothers Racing, scoring a top twenty in his maiden start at COTA. He later entered the Xfinity race at Indianapolis for MBM Motorsports but failed to qualify, before racing Watkins Glen and the Charlotte Roval for EGM with another twentieth at the former. Due to his background as a Spec Miata racer, all of his starts have come on road courses. Assuming he continues to race on such tracks in 2023, other Xfinity road races besides COTA include Portland International Raceway (3 June), Sonoma Raceway (10 June), Road America (29 July), Indianapolis (12 August), Watkins Glen (19 August), and the Roval (7 October).

A popular name in the garage and online, he also works as a mechanic and tyre specialist along with odd jobs to support his career.

He is the first confirmed driver for EGM in 2023 as the team plans to run the #35 and #53 full-time for multiple drivers. The #35 was the team’s primary car during their first year in 2022 and finished thirtieth in owner points, while the #53 only ran the season opener at Daytona and Talladega.

Brad Keselowski to sport Ken Block Projekt E livery at NASCAR Phoenix test

To say that Ken Block‘s impact on racing was huge would be an understatement. His passing in early January sent shockwaves throughout the motorsport world, and many entities have mourned and paid tribute to the late icon through means like the World Rally Championship and Nitro Rallycross retiring his #43, while his longtime partner Ford will place special decals on their vehicles across all disciplines for the 2023 racing season.

For NASCAR Cup Series testing at Phoenix Raceway on 24/25, RFK Racing will implement a special livery onto the #6 Ford Mustang of Brad Keselowski. The design is based on Block’s Ford Fiesta ERX that he raced in Projekt E in 2020, consisting a black-and-white base and blue, yellow, and red striping running from the A-pillar down the doors. The rear window also features the rally-style identification marker with Block’s name, the American flag, and #43.

“Ken Block had a tremendous amount of respect in industry and outside of industry in motorsports,” said Keselowski, who co-owns RFK. “Outside of industry, he did really cool things. Whether it was his videos or just unique style, he brought people into motorsports that knew nothing about it. He was just so well known and respected because of that. Inside the industry, he was the daredevil. He was the cool guy that did all the things that, quite frankly, nobody else had the guts to do sometimes. He’s really irreplaceable.

“I’m honoured to be able to have this opportunity to make the most of his heritage and legacy by honouring Ken back with this paint scheme on our car for our Phoenix test. Through his foundation or other different initiatives that his family has, we want to support them and honour him in any way we can. In some small way, we think this paint scheme does that.”

Credit: RFK Racing

Block’s legendary rally career was highlighted by his cars’ flashy liveries. At this past weekend’s Nitro Rallycross event, close friend Travis Pastrana adopted a snow-camo scheme on his car as a nod to Block’s Subaru that he raced in 2005.

Signing Long Term Contract with Williams ‘One of the Best Feelings’ – Alexander Albon

Alexander Albon says signing a long-term contract to race for Williams Racing was one of the ‘best feelings’, particularly after the uncertainty from the previous two years of his FIA Formula 1 World Championship career.

Albon was left without a race seat after a relatively underwhelming 2020 season with Red Bull Racing, with 2021 seeing him drop down to a reserve driver role as well as competing sparingly in the DTM Series.

But he made his competitive return to Formula 1 in 2022 with Williams, with the Thai driver quickly signing an additional multi-year contract to give him some much needed long-time security within the sport.

“I guess the last two years, one of those years was very stressful, and the other one being nervous, and I guess I was gearing up for the year and didn’t know what to expect,” said Albon to Motorsport.com.

“I’ve signed a contract which is maybe one of the best feelings, long term. It’s a privilege in Formula 1, if I’m honest. I’m feeling very good, feeling proud, just proud of how things have turned out.

Aston Martin Development has ‘Come a long way’ since Racing Point Days – Lance Stroll

Lance Stroll reckons the Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula 1 Team would not have improved their car as much as they did in 2022 had they not changed the way they work behind the scenes.

The Canadian believes the team would not have been able to put as much resource or money into a development programme in their previous guises, including the Racing Point Formula 1 Team, with the AMR22 from 2022 showing significant improvements amid a number of upgrades.

Aston Martin started the year towards the back of the field but ended it with performances good enough for the top six, and Stroll says it is testament to the way they were able to develop their car that they showed moments of strong pace.

“I think the team has evolved a lot,” said Stroll to Motorsport.com.  “At the factory, with the way that things are done, and how the car’s developed, I think a couple of years ago, we would have been in a much more difficult position to dig ourselves out of the hole that we were in at the beginning of the year.

“Now, I think big changes were made. We had a fully different car in Barcelona, and then upgrades from there. Then, all of a sudden, we find ourselves in some races in a much better position than before.


RaceScene.com