“Meanwhile, at the Weekend: Hunter-Reay and Munoz win at Barber; Vandoorne and da Costa earn FR3.5 success”
IZOD IndyCar Series (Rd 2, Barber Motorsports Park)
Reigning IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti-Autosport) held off Ganassi rival Scott Dixon off to the flag to claim his first victory of the season at Barber Motorsports Park. Ending the race on a set of new soft tyres allowed both Hunter-Reay and Dixon to overhaul the hard-tyred Helio Castroneves in the closing stages.
Hunter-Reay had led for the first 43 tours, eventually losing the lead to Will Power (and later Castroneves) when on the Firestone hards; however as the Penske’s faded, the Andretti-Autosport racer came back into play, retaking the lead on lap 75. Dixon took 2nd a lap later following a race of slow, but steady progress; however the Kiwi could do little about Hunter-Reay. Castroneves claimed 3rd, giving the Brazilian the points lead.
Charlie Kimball took an excellent 4th, losing out on a podium position when Dixon and Power swept by in the final stops; however Kimball got back by Power with 12 laps remaining.
Power maintained 5th, but only just ahead of Simon Pagenaud (6th) and Marco Andretti (7th), while Justin Wilson finished a few seconds adrift in 8th spot. Josef Newgarden registered his first top ten finish in IndyCar with 9th for Fisher-Hartman, as did Tristan Vautier who took 10th despite running in 2nd spot early on.
St Pete victor James Hinchcliffe hit the ground early in the event, retiring on the fourth lap due to a lost of drive. Hinchcliffe had also been involved in an incident on the opening tour when he backed into Oriol Servia in the Museum section, who then clashed with Graham Rahal, resulting in the only yellow of the race. Dario Franchitti endured another nightmare when he retired with a broken header on lap 42.
Firestone Indy Lights (Rd 2, Barber Motorsports Park)
Carlos Munoz made easy work of the Indy Lights field on Sunday, when he cruised to victory at Barber Motorsports Park. In a stellar display, the Colombian led from start-to-finish, never at any stage being challenged by runner-up Jack Hawksworth.
Hawksworth himself had only scenery in his mirrors as he escaped from 3rd place man Gabby Chaves in the early tours, who jumped Sage Karam at the start.
Karam fell a long way behind the podium places, as he watched his mirrors. The Schmidt-Peterson racer fought off Zach Veach (who would drop to last with a puncture), Jorge Goncalvez (5th) and Peter Dempsey (6th). Juan-Pablo Garcia was also in the mix with Karam until he hit the American four laps from the end, earning a drive through penalty as a result. The returning Victor Carbone took 7th spot.
Formula Renault 3.5 (Rd 1, Monza)
Stoffel Vandoorne and Antonio Felix da Costa took the opening Formula Renault 3.5 spoils at Monza, but Kevin Magnussen gave both something to think about at the end of the opening round.
Vandoorne won despite badly flat-spotting his left-front tyre on lap 12; however the Belgian racer was protected by an early lead that offered plenty of breathing room. The Fortec racer drew away from the pack in the initial stages, led by Nikolay Martsenko, Will Stevens, Christopher Zanella and da Costa, only for the latter to break free and chase the Dutchman.
Vandoorne twice received a reprieve – first when Stevens punted Martsenko out on lap 7 and again when da Costa retired with a puncture on lap 13, promoting the rising Magnussen to 2nd, but the Dane could do nothing about Vandoorne lead. Just behind Magnussen was Zanella who bravely held Oliver Webb at bay for 3rd, while Nigel Melker (5th) led a train over the line that included Arthur Pic (6th), Jazeman Jaafar (7th), Mihai Marinescu (8th) and Matias Laine (9th), despite Melker having a damaged nose. Formula Renault Eurocup and ALPS graduate Norman Nato rounded out the top ten.
Da Costa returned the following day to pick up his first win, following a very tense battle with Magnussen. After a frantic opening few laps, the pair broke away from the pack, eventually spending the duration exchanging quick lap, with the gap rarely larger than one second. The Portuguese racer held on to take the full points, but Magnussen made sure da Costa knew his rival would be close throughout.
Vandoorne accepted 3rd after losing out to the leading pair early on. He held Pic at bay after the latter worked his way by Webb and Nico Müller in the opening two-thirds. Müller eventually assumed 5th, although Webb would fall to 9th on the final lap due to a left rear puncture. Webb’s issue promoted Nato, Pietro Fantin and Zanella to 6th, 7th and 8th respectively. Marinescu pipped Mikhail Aleshin on the final lap to take 10th.
[Summary of Auto GP to come shortly]