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2016Reunion MarshallPruett 19 145

2016Reunion MarshallPruett 19 145A record announced four-day total of 70,525 spectators joined in a celebration of motorsports history at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca last weekend for the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. Featured marque BMW was celebrating its 100th anniversary at the event, and a rich variety of BMW racing machinery contributed to the visual and auditory overload experience for fans. Here's a gallery of some of the BMW cars on hand.

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 V2I7155 editedFormula 1 cars could feel like they are "on rails" for drivers in 2017, claims Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery.

With the introduction of wider front and rear wings and tires next season, it is anticipated the cars will be three to six seconds per lap quicker, dependent on the circuit. The bulk of that time will be made up through the corners as straightline speed will initially be compromised by the drag of the new aerodynamics. But Pirelli's Hembery feels the additional downforce will make cars incredibly stable in the corners.

"If you are cornering with that much grip, and if it's to be believed up to five or six seconds a lap quicker, that clearly is going to be felt by the drivers in a dramatic fashion," Hembery said. "It could be driving on rails at that point. It could be so high the feeling is the car has such grip that it's more driving on rails rather than driving on the limit.

"We won't know until they get to the limits on track to understand where those limits actually are. But with that improvement in performance it's like going into another category of racing.

"It will be like jumping from GP2 into Formula 1, so it'll be almost like a Formula 1-plus compared to where we are now."

Such a difference is likely to mean some drivers could need time to acclimatize.

"It's going to take a while anyway, but I'm sure they will have been driving in the simulator before they get in the car for the first time, so they will already have an idea of what the real impact is going to be," said Hembery. "Sometimes something like this can bring out differences in drivers. I'm sure the top guys will say it is what they want - that they want to be challenged more."

ADDING TO F1'S PERCEPTION PROBLEM?

Like much of modern motorsport, Formula 1 suffers from a perception problem. It is unbelievably challenging, yet it looks easy from the outside.

Enhanced aerodynamics, bigger and better tires, plus continued engine development unfettered by token limitations, should make F1 faster than ever before in 2017. But the cars will, as Hembery puts it, look like they are "on rails" – which means they will look easier to drive than ever before, too.

The problem is a general confusion of spectacle. Conventional wisdom equates cars moving around underneath the drivers with difficulty, but in actual fact greater potential grip and increased speeds reduces the margin for error.

We will see less moving around from the cars, but the drivers will pay a bigger penalty if and when they overstep the limit, because they will be travelling much faster when they do.

Arguably the current generation of V6 hybrid turbo cars looked most spectacular in their 2014 infancy, before engine mapping, suspension setup and recovered downforce tamed the unwanted wheelspin produced by extreme engine torque.

When the cars first tested in Bahrain in 2014 the drivers couldn't take the right-hand kink at Turn 3 at full throttle. Now they don't even think about it.

So, you have to look more closely to see the differences. Watching the cars skim the barriers trackside in Monaco, or bounce from curb to curb in Canada, is still visually arresting. But of course not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to see them at such close proximity.

Engineers say the current specification of sensitive Pirelli tire, coupled with heavier cars, means the drivers spend longer in the corners than they used to and so you see the differences between them more clearly. Yet F1's stars complain the cars are not challenging enough to drive, because they are too slow.

This is F1's paradox. To become more difficult it must make itself look easier.

F1 2017 could be the toughest iteration of F1 ever, yet it will most probably look little more than a Sunday drive to the untrained eye.

Originally on Autosport.com

Will Power isoHaving spent seven years under Rick Mears' wing, Will Power is starting to drive like his mentor at Team Penske.

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In Sunday's ABC Supply 500 at Pocono, Power plucked a page right out of the four-time Indy 500 winner's book on success: not that quick in the beginning, steady progress as the race wore on and then a bullet finish – à la Mr. Mears.

"The older you get the more you let the race come to you," Power said after scoring his fourth win of 2016 and slicing teammate Simon Pagenaud's lead to 20 points with three races remaining. "You either have a car that can win or you won't, but you let things happen and you know when to take a risk and when not to.

"Rick has taught me to be patient, hang out, work with the car and then get it right for the finish. That's how we finished second at Iowa and today was another good example."

Power, who started eighth, fell back to 12th and was a half-lap behind leader Mikhail Aleshin at the halfway point.

"Understeer going into the corners and loose off, I just wasn't very fast," said Power, who took the lead for good on lap 165 and scored the 29th win of his IndyCar career. "But we just kept working with the car, added some downforce and then it took off.

Power train Pocono LAT"I was running wide open that last stint, except for a couple of laps, and I think we were the fastest car on the track."

After so losing a couple of championships to Dario Franchitti with late fades, Power finally claimed his first and only IndyCar title in 2014. Now he's trying to turn the tables and hunt down Pagenaud in similar fashion.

"It frustrated me because I was fast and winning races and Dario kept beating me because he was methodical and good," Power said. "I can see it now. He let the race unfold and didn't force things.

"I respected Dario a lot when we were racing and I respect him even more now because I see how he worked."

And this new style is working for the measured Aussie, who is suddenly making things very uncomfortable for the fast Frenchman.

Lewis Hamilton says the 2016 season has been his most challenging yet and so winning this Formula 1 world championship will mean more to him than his previous three.

Of the two Mercedes drivers, Hamilton has suffered the brunt of unreliability problems this year, contributing to his 43-point deficit to title rival and teammate Nico Rosberg after the Spanish Grand Prix in May.

He then went on a run of six wins in seven races, converting that gap into a 19-point lead before the summer break. However, he has resigned himself to having to take a double penalty at a grand prix to build a pool of engines to get him through the rest of the season, having reached his maximum tally of five turbochargers and MGU-Hs in Austria.

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"I've had ups and downs [in other years] but I think this has definitely been harder because it hasn't felt so much like fault from me not being focused, or me not training or taking the time," he said. "It's more other things, outside things.

"It's been a really good experience and I honestly feel stronger today and able to handle whatever it is that is going to be thrown at me."

When asked the problems he has faced this season would make a 2016 title feel more valuable than the others, he said: "I think it will. All race wins feel different for a different reason. Sometimes it's been easier and sometimes it's been harder, sometimes you've felt more stress, sometimes you've felt fitter, all these different things.

"Every championship I've won, I seem to enjoy it more and more and more. Winning those championships has always been a different journey. If I get to where I want to be at the end of this journey then it's going to feel as good if not greater than ever before."

Hamilton said his priority for the summer break, which ends with this weekend's Belgian GP, was to balance downtime and focus.

"There have been breaks where I've just been exhausted after the break because I've done a lot and done the training and just done too much," he said. "But [2015] was just amazing because I was around good people, I got the training in but it wasn't my priority and it was just enjoying wherever I was.

"I was buzzing when I came back. You want to see the world and do different things without losing focus on the ultimate goal, which is winning the championship."

 

Originally on Autosport.com

McLaren racing director Eric Boullier believes he has turned the Formula 1 team into a much leaner organization, stripping away the politics and ensuring there is "no bulls**t."

Boullier has spent the last two and a half years at McLaren attempting to transform the team behind the scenes, and to establish a more streamlined way of working in a bid to revitalise its fortunes. Progress has been relatively slow, but Boullier is convinced the right working practices are in place, even if he concedes he "can't be happy" at the fact the team has still to return to the top step of the F1 podium.

"I'm racing to win, but obviously we don't yet have a package that allows us to fight for wins, so as long as I don't have this then I will never ever be happy," Boullier said. "Nevertheless, where I am happy is how the team – which I have obviously drastically changed – has evolved.

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"The team of people I have around me – technically leading the team – from Pete Prodromou, to Tim Goss, Matt Morris, and others, are working very well together. I'm sure you've noticed how quiet we are – there are no stories around us, and generally when there are no stories it is because things are going well.

"We have a very co-operative and collaborative way of working, which was new to McLaren, but without changing the DNA of McLaren we moved to this new model, which was my wish, and it's good. I'm happy with that.

"We simply changed the way McLaren was working, compared with before. We kept the best, improved the weaknesses. From what could have been a very political model, we have no politics, no bulls**t."

Boullier feels some of the problems taking place behind the scenes at Ferrari resemble those he has managed to remove from McLaren.

"My philosophy is the same as I had at Enstone [with Lotus], or with DAMS," added Boullier. "Once you make people comfortable to work, and take that comfort forward, for what they are paid for it's brilliant.

"But you need to avoid too many bypasses, up and down, because this is what kills a team, and this is what's happening with the red [Ferrari]. But it takes time. Look at Ross Brawn. It took him a few years to make Ferrari winners, a few years to take Mercedes to where it is, and it's the same for Red Bull."

Boullier feels the approach McLaren has adopted bodes for well for 2017 and beyond.

"The team now is lean – not lean in a way of being smaller, but lean in a way of less weight to carry," added Boullier. "The team is good, flexible and creative, and I trust them, and everything is looking positive for next year. You can see our path over the last two years, from a very hectic time, and now we are closing."

 

Originally on Autosport.com

16BMS2jh 07930Is it possible that we've somehow overlooked Kevin Harvick?

The status of a championship leader isn't as prestigious as it used to be in the Sprint Cup Series, given that wins are now the ultimate signifier of success in the NASCAR playoff era. And yet, by traditional measures, Harvick has actually been the most consistent driver on the tour based on his 27-point advantage over Brad Keselowski.

But somehow, he's been forced under the shadows of a dominant Joe Gibbs Racing effort with their 10 combined victories. Harvick won the Bristol "night" (actually afternoon) race on Sunday but that was only the second time he's broken through in 23 starts.

Granted, much of that obscurity is their own fault, given that countless pit road mistakes have cost them win-after-win during the course of the regular season. They've led 964 laps this season, third-most behind Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. but just haven't capitalized until recently.

harvick pitThe team spent much of the summer tinkering with their much-maligned pit crew and now Harvick feels like his team is prepared to make a run at two championships in three seasons.

"You know, it's us against us," Harvick said. "That's how we're going to treat it and if that's not good enough, then we'll go back to the drawing board. We have a good plan. I think we have great cars, and we've made a lot of adjustments.

"We've had to make a lot of adjustments as the year has worn on ... and I think this win and getting everything ready to run the Chase is going to put all the pieces together."

With all due respect to the five Toyota teams, Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers are still the biggest threat to anyone else hoping to hoist the Sprint Cup come November at Homestead Miami Speedway – and they wear that confidence, too.

"It's really not a competition between us and Toyota," Harvick said. "For us, it's about not beating ourselves. Today we didn't beat ourselves and that's what we've been talking about. The performance of our racecars will be there."

harvick BuschBut it's shaping up to be the No. 4 versus Toyota over the final 10 weeks. Busch just narrowly defeated Harvick in the championship race last season while Truex and Furniture Row Racing were also involved in their final season with Chevrolet. Toss in a Penske Ford and that's probably the safest forecast for the 2016 showdown as well.

For his part, Childers said he doesn't have a chip on his shoulder about the attention Toyota has received but believes they can compete with anyone now that they've cleaned up their mistakes.

"Those guys (at TRD) do a good job, of course," Childers said. "They've got good drivers, they've got good cars, and they work well together. But like Kevin said, this is about not beating ourselves. We have great cars too. We've been right there with them. So hopefully we have things ready for the Chase and we're going to be there when it counts."

The current championship format has been a bit of a crapshoot compared to its predecessor but Harvick is the lone common denominator throughout both years. The championship runs through him and there's no reason to think this year won't be any different.

It doesn't mean much anymore, but Harvick is the championship leader, and maybe he should start getting more consideration for overall championship favorite as well.

"It finally all just came together tonight," Harvick said. "We're three weeks away from the end of the regular season, and I don't think this could have come together at a better time...

"Confidence and momentum go a long ways in racing, baseball, football, basketball, whatever it is, and you just want to ride the wave. That's what we're here to do."

Aleshin leads Pocono IMSHe's not exactly sure when it happened, but Mikhail Aleshin has fallen in love with oval-track racing.

"I don't want to say I have a feel for the ovals or it will turn around and bite me, but I just love it,"  Aleshin after leading a race-high 87 laps and finishing a career-best second in the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway.

"I like the speed and the intensity and I just think it's proper racing. I love [racing] at the Indianapolis 500 and I really like this Pocono track too. I feel very lucky to be able to drive in them."

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The 30-year-old native of Moscow won his initial pole on Saturday, and his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda was the class of the field for the first half of the 200-lap race.

"It was a great day, but it could have been greater if I was on that top step," he said after losing by 1.1 seconds to Will Power. "I wanted it so bad and my team did such a great job, but I just couldn't catch Will at the end.

"And, to be fair, he deserved it more than me because his car was faster."

But that didn't mean Aleshin wasn't trying during those last 15 laps when he charged from fourth to draw a bead on Power.

"I've gotten better and better as this season has progressed and my confidence is good," he continued. "And I needed it a few times at the end because I was really on the edge trying to run Will down.

"Turn 3 was very tough because of the wind and it changed almost every lap so it wasn't easy, but I like that."

The Madder Russian nearly died during practice for the 2014 season finale at Fontana and credits the Holmatro Safety Team with saving his life on the track. Despite having to overcome serious injuries, it obviously hasn't slowed him down.

"Big credit to Mikhail for withstanding those injuries; it's tough on ovals because those walls are always smiling at you," said Ryan Hunter-Reay, who charged from last to third place in Monday's race. "He's done a helluva job."

Aleshin leaned over and said: "Ryan, I am Russian."

To which Hunter-Reay smiled and replied: "The assassin always comes back."

power pocono win LATWill Power triumphed in a hard-fought battle with Mikhail Aleshin to win Monday's rain-delayed IndyCar race at Pocono.

The Team Penske driver eased into contention during the second half of the race and took the lead shortly before the final round of stops. Although he never relinquished the top spot from that point on, the Australian weathered a sustained attack from Aleshin late in the race before the SPM driver faded over the final couple of laps.

"It was so hard top follow traffic because we started very light on downforce," said Power. "We just kept adding and adding and [the car] was just awesome at the end. It's a very good comeback; I'm very happy to win here."

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It was Power's fourth victory from the last six races, and came on a day when his main championship rival and teammate Simon Pagenaud ended his race in the Turn 1 wall on lap 159. In an instant, what had been a 58 point championship lead at the start of the weekend shrank to just 20.

"The car bottomed and I went into the wall," Pagenaud said. "Really weird, because I had bottoming but not to that extent. Just lost control of the steering."

Aleshin's drive to second was one of several standout performances from the day. He was a contender right through the race, and might have pushed Power even harder at the finish had his final stop been a fraction shorter.

"The team did an amazing job," he said. "We did some changes to the car that weren't very good and that's why I dropped [back], but later we made it better again. Unfortunately at the end I couldn't get Will; he was just too fast. I was on the edge."

Behind him, Ryan Hunter-Reay had an even more eventful run to third. After starting from the back of the field in a spare car following a crash in practice, he'd passed most of the field in the opening few laps and was fighting amongst the leaders when his car suddenly lost power just after a restart on lap 164.

He dove into pitlane, power-cycled his car's electrical system and rejoined just in time to see Power fly past and put him a lap down. Barely 10 laps later though, salvation came in the form of a caution for debris (triggered by Tony Kanaan losing one of his rear pod winglets). Hunter-Reay stayed out when everyone else pitted, got his lap back, and charged through the pack again to claim the final place on the podium.

His third came at the expense of Josef Newgarden, who had also been among the frontrunners all day before Hunter-Reay reeled him in at the end. Just behind the ECR Chevy was Sebastien Bourdais, who gained five places in the final stops by taking on fuel only and finished the race on a cooked set of Firestones, and Scott Dixon, who'd been forced off-sequence at the start when he suffered a puncture. Carlos Munoz, Juan Pablo Montoya, Tony Kanaan and James Hinchcliffe completed the top 10.

Aside from Pagenaud, four cars failed to make it to the finish, and two of those were eliminated in a bizarre accident in pitlane. Alexander Rossi had just been released from his stop when he drove into Charlie Kimball, launching the Andretti car into the air and onto the unlucky Helio Castroneves. Only Kimball was able to continue the race, albeit a lap down.

Elsewhere, Ed Carpenter dropped out with a mechanical problem, and Takuma Sato made a very early exit when he found the Turn 3 wall on the first green lap.

"It was pretty hard but thanks for the safety of the Indycar and Pocono I was able to walk away," said the Foyt driver. "I'm not sure [what happened]. We thought we needed more downforce because of the wind, the conditions were pretty tricky and I'm not sure what happened. I just lost the back end."

Results (box score can be found here):

Pocono results

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