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Nikita Mazepin jumps to rally raid, expected to run Silk Way Rally

According to a report from the First Place Telegram group, Nikita Mazepin is expected to make the jump from Formula One to rally raiding beginning with the Silk Way Rally on 6–16 July. Although not yet confirmed, a source close to race organisers revealed the likelihood of his entry is “close to 100 percent.” Should things work out, he will likely race in the T4 SSV category for Snag Racing Team.

Mazepin lost his Haas F1 ride after just one season following his country’s invasion of Ukraine in February. Penalties from the FIA have limited his racing plans for at least 2022; while he could compete internationally under a neutral flag, Russian nationals have faced a multitude of sanctions (Mazepin and his father have been sanctioned by the European Union) to the point where he could feasibly only race within Russia or ally Belarus.

With no other options, he turned to Sergey Karyakin for an opportunity in the desert. Karyakin, who won the 2017 Dakar Rally‘s Quad category, and Snag Racing Team have since provided coaching and testing for Mazepin. In mid-April, he proclaimed his interest in racing in the Silk Way Rally and potentially Dakar.

Snag Racing fields Can-Am UTVs in the T4 SSV division. Karyakin, who won an SSV stage in the 2019 Dakar Rally, retired from the 2022 event after seven stages.

“Of course, it will not be easy for Nikita Mazepin in this race,” commented rider Anastasia Nifontova during a Silk Way Rally press conference on Tuesday. “Moving from the two-dimensional space of circuit competitions to the three-dimensional space of rally raids rarely succeeds the first time.”

Dixon, Sato Fastest in First Day of Indy 500 Practice

The top of the scoring pylon at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway reads a lot like the 2020 Indy 500, with Scott Dixon leading the way in the early session and Takuma Sato ending the day fastest.

The first session of the day was for veterans only, and on his eleventh of twenty-five lap, Dixon set a speed of 227.119 mph. He was followed closely by Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Marcus Ericsson in second.

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing saw both of their cars in the top ten, the fastest of which was Sage Karam in third. Santino Ferrucci was sixth fastest, a fantastic way to start the month of May for the team.

Fourth fastest was Conor Daly, feeding off of the momentum of his top ten finish in the GMR Grand Prix, with Marco Andretti fifth leading the way for Andretti Autosport. Seventh was 2021 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year Scott McLaughlin, leading the way for Team Penske, with Alex Palou eighth and Pato O’Ward ninth.

Rounding out the top ten was JR Hildebrand for A.J. Foyt Enterprises, with his teammates Kyle Kirkwood eleventh (fastest of all rookies) and Dalton Kellett thirteenth in a very impressive first outing for the four-time champion’s team.

“Barcelona has traditionally been a two-stopper” – Pirelli’s Mario Isola

This weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix will present teams an opportunity to see how much progress they’ve made with this season’s car, as the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was also the host of February’s official shakedown test.

Pirelli will also get a chance to see how much progress they’ve made with the new tyres, as the Spanish venue has plenty of previous running on the new larger tyres.

The tyre manufacturer have brought the hardest range to the this weekend’s Grand Prix, consisting of the C1, C2 and C3 compounds. This decision was made with the circuit being known for putting incredible demand on the tyres, especially at Turns Three and Nine.

Track evolution won’t be an issue this weekend as the circuit is regularly used, perhaps even one of the most used in the world. The temperature though will most likely play a factor as the conditions will be considerably hotter than they were during the test in Winter.

Lewis Hamilton won last year’s race on a two-stop strategy, something which Pirelli’s Motorsport Director, Mario Isola is expecting to see again this weekend.

“I’d really like to thank Williams for the opportunity” – Nyck de Vries

Nyck de Vries will feature at the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend, as the Dutchman prepares to take Alex Albon’s spot at Williams Racing for Free Practice 1.

The reigning Formula E World Champion will be fulfilling one of the two mandated young driver sessions this season, giving the team a new insight into how they can improve their car.

De Vries is extremely grateful for the opportunity.

“Firstly, I’d really like to thank Williams for the opportunity to run in FP1. It’s great for me to get to know the team and drive the FW44, and also to get myself out on track during a Formula One weekend. Preparation for the test is going well so far and the team have been incredibly supportive of me. I’m very much looking forward to the whole experience in Spain now!”

Sven Smeets, Sporting Director at Williams is aware of just how talented De Vries is, Smeets is hoping the Dutch driver will “maximise” his session in the FW44.

“Nyck’s experience and professionalism will be crucial on Friday” – Williams’ Dave Robson

Williams Racing come into the Spanish Grand Prix on the back of a mixed Miami Grand Prix, after Alex Albon scored yet more points, whereas Nicholas Latifi continued to disappoint.

Williams have enjoyed some strong results over the recent Grand Prix’s, largely thanks to Albon. This weekend though at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, will see Nyck de Vries behind the wheel of Albon’s FW44 for Free Practice 1.

Williams Head of Vehicle Performance Dave Robson, is excited to have someone of De Vries calibre behind-the-wheel, as it gives the whole team a new insight into where they can improve. Robson also discussed how much the car has changed in just a few months.

“The contrast between the new circuit in Miami and the familiarity of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya couldn’t be starker. The drivers and engineers know the quirks and subtleties of this track very well and, whilst the car balance and tyre behaviour will be different to February, we have a good idea of what to expect and the areas that we will need to work on.

“The car has changed quite a lot since February and the much hotter track conditions will present very different problems. We showed some encouraging race pace at the last few events and our efforts are now focused on bringing the same level of performance to Qualifying. If we can do this successfully then we will be in a much stronger position going forwards.

“We’re hungry for more points” – Alex Albon

Alex Albon is aiming for more points this weekend at the Spanish Grand Prix, after finishing ninth last time out in Miami. The Williams Racing driver drove superbly at the Miami International Autodrome, to clinch another points finish.

Albon like most drivers, is interested to see the performance difference of his car this weekend at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, compared to when they visited the circuit for the official shakedown test.

This weekend’s venue is one that all the drivers have done a number of laps of, something which the Thai driver believes will “work in my favour”. Albon won’t be getting into the car until Free Practice 2 in Spain, as Nyck de Vries will be mandating one of the two young drivers sessions for this season.

“It will good to head back to Barcelona; I’m interested to see how much the car has improved since we were last there for pre-season testing. It’s a good track, and one that every driver has done countless laps around, more so than any other circuit. That familiarity will work in my favour this weekend and help me get up to speed more quickly after sitting out FP1 whilst Nyck is in the car. We’re hungry for more points after Miami, so that’s what we’ll continue to push for.”

“We all feel we’ve gained a much better understanding of the car” – Nicholas Latifi

Nicholas Latifi is in desperate need of a good result, as speculation of his future with Williams continues to grow. The Canadian driver had yet another disappointing weekend in Miami, meaning that a strong result this weekend is almost essential.

13-year-old Ben Maier to make SST debut at Mid-Ohio

Thirteen-year-old Stadium Super Trucks driver Max Gordon normally races against drivers old enough to be his father (including his own dad Robby), but 1–3 July’s Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course weekend will see the arrival of someone within his range as Ben Maier makes his début in the #67 with sponsorship from Honda Marine, Holiday Rambler, and Boe Marine & RV. He intends to run the rest of the 2022 season.

Maier, who is six months younger than Gordon, tested a stadium truck in March but had to wait two months before finalising an entry as he searched for sponsorship. He has competed in a vast array of disciplines on pavement and dirt, ranging from karting and Legends cars to single-make Spec Miata. He has won eleven racing titles, including five in the World Karting Association while others have come in SKUSA and Rotax Grand National.

While SST is a far cry from karts and short tracks, he isn’t unfamiliar with off-road vehicles as he owns a Polaris RZR SXS. A fan of off-roader-turned-NASCAR great and IndyCar driver Jimmie Johnson, Maier has received coaching from fellow Maryland native and rally star Travis Pastrana. Although all four rounds on the 2022 SST calendar are street circuits, the trucks’ off-road lineage and setup demand such a driving style regardless of surface.

In conjunction with the SST news, Maier joined the Spire Sports + Entertainment agency with representation from Vice President of Athlete Management Phillip Smalley. The company currently fields a NASCAR Cup Series team and clients include a litany of drivers like Cup race winners Ross Chastain and Justin Haley.

Credit: Ben Maier

“Ben has secured funding and support from some major sponsors to run the remaining 3 rounds of the 2022 Stadium Super Trucks series,” reads a statement from his team. “Now the fun begins, designing the livery, and working with sponsors to make the most of this opportunity. To any other young drivers out there with big dreams, keep banging on doors and don’t let those ‘No’s’ discourage you. This is a breakout moment for Ben that will have him racing in front of hundreds of thousands of fans.”

“We are bringing some upgrades” – McLaren’s Andreas Seidl

This weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix looks set to be an important weekend for the McLaren F1 Team, as Andreas Seidl announced that the team will be “bringing some upgrades” to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Upgrades is exactly what the team need following the inaugural Miami Grand Prix, where Lando Norris retired and Daniel Ricciardo finished thirteenth. Norris was hit late on by Pierre Gasly, immediately ending the British driver’s race.

McLaren do go into this weekend with some data on how the new cars will perform at the Spanish venue, as Barcelona hosted the official shakedown test back in February.

The McLaren Team Principal is hoping the upgrades will be effective, especially as Formula 1 now enters a double-header.

“Whilst the race result in Miami wasn’t what we wanted it to be, the team are fully focused on the Barcelona weekend and the European double-header ahead of us. Spain is a great all-rounder track, with a nice mixture of high and low speed corners, plus areas that are more technically difficult. We’ve had some solid results there over the last few years with good points scored, which we’re looking to continue this year.  

“I’ve put the retirement in Miami behind me” – Lando Norris

Lando Norris is hoping to bounce back this weekend, after retiring at the recent Miami Grand Prix. The McLaren F1 Team driver is a fan of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, which will as always host this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.

Norris’ inaugural race in Miami was brought to an abrupt end towards the end of the race, after colliding with Pierre Gasly. The Scuderia AlphaTauri driver hit the rear-right of Norris on the exit of Turn 7, sending the British driver spinning several times before coming to a halt alongside the tyre wall.

Going into this weekend, McLaren do already have some data which they can use, after completing the shakedown test in Barcelona.

Norris is excited to be returning to Catalunya where he “got some good running” in February.

“I’m excited to be heading back to Europe and racing in Barcelona this weekend. I like the circuit in Spain as it has some nice features, a mixture of challenges and speeds, and a great crowd. I’ve put the retirement in Miami behind me and I’m fully focused on the race ahead.  

Lamborghini Announce 2024 LMDh Program

It was today announced that Lamborghini would be joining both the FIA World Endurance Championship and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2024.

After flirting with joining the top tier of sports car racing late last year, Scuderia Corse confirmed that they would be joining both series with a single car entry. The ability to join both series comes from an agreement at the FIA World Motor Sport Council earlier this year when the LMDh regulations come into effect (compared to the LMH regulations that came into the WEC this year). This will allow entrants of the Hypercar class to take part in both race series including prestigious races such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans and 24 Hours of Daytona.

“I am absolutely delighted that Lamborghini will be taking the next step in our motorsport journey, the step into LMDh and the top level of sports car racing.” Giorgio Sanna, Lamborghini Head of Motorsport, said. “LMDh will play a special role in Lamborghini’s Motorsports strategy, giving us the unique opportunity to expand our customer racing activities to new platforms and enforce our long-term partnership with customer teams and drivers.”

The LMDh program will not affect the current GT racing commitments of the brand and they still plan to run their customer GT3 teams and Super Trofeo. The racing team have celebrated more that 40 titles since starting competitively racing in 2015 including triple GTD class wins at the Rolex 24 at Daytona (2018-20). The achievement also marked the first time a single manufacturer had won three times in a row.

“This step up into the highest echelon of sports car racing marks an important milestone for our company,” stated Stephan Winkelmann, Lamborghini Chairman and CEO. “We will be measuring ourselves against the very best, on the most demanding proving grounds.

ERX Motor Park faces local challenges, questions about future

ERX Motor Park in Elk River, Minnesota, is a popular spot in the region for snowmobile and off-road racing, the latter of which includes annual stops by Championship Off-Road and Nitro Rallycross. However, complaints have hampered hopes of expanding the facility and potentially placed its existence on the line. The Elk River City Council held a meeting on Monday to discuss whether to grant changes to the track’s conditional use permit (CUP), though debate has delayed a decision until the COR race weekend on 15/16 July.

Much of the resistance concerns noise or upgraded facilities encroaching on private property, both of which are not uncommon reasons for race tracks in populated residential areas failing to see much further development and/or the arrival of larger racing championships, a concept that is commonly dubbed NIMBYism (“Not In My Back Yard”). Perhaps the most notable example in recent American motorsport comes at the historic Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, where NASCAR‘s efforts to revitalise it for potential national series competition are hamstrung by residential opposition.

Although generally liked by the community and regarded as a boon to the local economy, ERX does not possess the benefit of extensive history like Nashville, having opened in 2008. The track began life as a snocross circuit before expanding to host short course off-road events. COR and Nitro RX held races at ERX during their inaugural seasons (track co-owner Andrew Carlson competed in both), and the latter is listed on ERX’s website as returning for the 2022/23 season on 1/2 October. Non-racing events include Day of the Dozer, which teaches families about construction safety, and concerts.

Prior to Monday, a petition circulated with calls to shut down the track. The meeting’s ERX discussion lasted approximately three hours and focused on whether a conditional use permit should be approved. As it is legally regarded as “Extreme Commercial Recreation”, a CUP is required to operate.

Track officials hoped to implement an amendment to the existing CUP which would allow for ERX to be expanded. Such renovations included a slight course modification in the northeastern area, and the construciton of new facilities like semi-permanent viewing decks, storage sheds, and a two-floor building housing announcers and concessions. A larger copy sign to complement two smaller ones was also included in the track’s proposal. If the CUP is granted, ERX needs a platted exemption in order to legally attain land for the expansion.

Pirelli debuts new asphalt tire at Rally Islas Canarias

With the third round of the 2022 FIA European Rally Championship taking place at Rally Islas Canarias this weekend, the Italian tire manufacturer Pirelli will debut a brand-new asphalt spec tire and will be on offer for the Pirelli equipped rally drivers.

The new hard compound tire P Zero RA5A is an evolution of the old RA5 model, which has been used with success for the past three years.

The tire is designed for dry and abrasive asphalt and has been modfied with a renewed tread compound and a new construction. With asphalt rallies being run on difficult conditions with sometimes high temperatures, Pirelli is aiming to prodive better performance, less wear and reliability with the new RA5A tire.

Credit: WRC

“After three years of success, the reliable P Zero RA5 is replaced by the RA5A which, thanks to the new technologies developed by our research and development team, will offer greater performance and less wear.” Terenzio Testoni, Pirelli’s rally activity manager, said.

“The experience we have also gained in the WRC has been invaluable for the evolution of our asphalt rubber, with conditions that are generally more extreme than in the European and national championships, with longer specials and more aggressive surfaces.”

Genesis extends partnership with Goodwood Festival of Speed

The Korean premium car manufacturer Genesis has now signed an extended partnership with United Kingdom’s most popular motorsport and automotive event, the Goodwood Festival of Speed with the new partnership, Genesis will continue with being the official partner for the coming three years.

The announcement follows on Genesis’ successful debut in 2021 at Goodwood Festival of Speed, where the Korean manufacturer unveiled the new Genesis G70 Shooting Brake model for the public for the first time. In 2021 it also marked the launch of the Genesis brand on the European market.

For this year’s edition of the event, which will be held between 23-26 June, the brand will debut two new models at the festival and display some cars on offering from their range of cars, including models like G70, G70 Shooting Brake, GV70 SUV, G80, GV80 SUV and the brand’s first all-electric car, the GV60. All of the cars will do demonstration runs up the hill climb throughout the four days event.

Credit: Genesis

“We are delighted to announce our ongoing official partnership at Goodwood Festival of Speed, a world renowned event with an unrivalled reputation.” Dominique Boesch, Managing Director for Genesis Motor Europe, said.

“Our electrification journey will continue at the Goodwood Festival of Speed with two exciting product debuts and we’re looking forward to sharing these moments and the continuing Genesis story with the Goodwood visitors”.

Solans reveals 2022 WRC2 Junior programme

The 2019 FIA Junior World Rally Champion Jan Solans from Spain, who is the younger brother of the FIA European Rally Championship star Nil Solans, will be starting the 2022 WRC2 campaign at Rally de Portugal this weekend.

Solans announced his plans and livery on Wednesday evening and the young rising talent will be teaming up with Rallye Team Spain for a bet in the new WRC2 Junior category. He will be doing selected rallies over this season but he hasn’t got the budget to do the whole season remainder. It’s still unknown what rounds he will be doing beside Portugal and the upcoming Rally Italia Sardegna in June.

He will be joined this year again by his fellow Spanish co-driver Rodrigo Sanjuan, the partnership started last year after the long-term co-driver Mauro Barreiro and Solans partered away at the end of 2020.

The Citroën C3 Rally2 the duo is using will be fielded by the Spanish outfit Sports & You with support from Citroën Racing.

Credit: Jan Solans / Sports & You

“I would like to fight for another Junior World title, but at the moment I don’t have enough budget to make all of the WRC2 Junior season.” Solans told The Checkered Flag.

Greensmith targeting maiden WRC podium in Portugal

The M-Sport Ford World Rally Team driver Gus Greensmith has stated he will be targeting his maiden FIA World Rally Championship podium next weekend at Rallye de Portugal.

The Briton says “I want to get on the podium,” as he will be entering his seventh Rallye de Portugal event. Greensmith has never been on the podium in the top class before but he’s determined to score a better finish this time; “For me, that’s the only goal. I’m going to give it everything and go flat out from the start.”

Greensmith’s best finish so far is a fourth place at the 2021 Safari Rally Kenya and at the two-first rounds of this season he has scored two fifth place finishes but in Croatia he faced several punctures which made him to end the rally in a disappointing way.

Credit: Jaanus Ree / Red Bull Content Pool

“Croatia was a little bit frustrating last time out. I think we had the pace to be top-five again without the punctures. But that’s behind us now and I’m looking forward to Portugal.”

However, Greensmith is not eligible to score any manufacturer points in Portugal and he is entered outside of the M-Sport team in one of the five Ford Puma Rally1 cars. Sébastien Loeb, Craig Breen and Adrien Fourmaux will be competing for points meanwhile Greensmith and Pierre-Louis Loubet are additional drivers.