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Motorsport Monday: brain explosions, flying Kiwis, and more
By Matthew Hansen • 02/11/2015
Dodgy moves, Ferrari failures, and Kiwi success — here's your weekend in motorsport
With much of the nation’s attention focused upon a certain game played with an egg-shaped ball, it could be easy to forget that a massive serving of motorsport also took place over the weekend — the Formula 1, World Endurance Championship (WEC), World Touring Car Championship (WTCC), Nascar, Asia Porsche Carrera Cup, and Targa NZ all jostling for four-wheeled supremacy.
Thankfully, we’re here to break it all down for you piece by piece. Enjoy!
It was a great weekend for Kiwis racing Porsches
The number 17 Porsche navigating challenging conditions, on its way to winning its fourth straight WEC race. Photo / Porsche
It’s a great time to be a motorsport fan in New Zealand, and that was proven once more overnight in Shanghai as Brendon Hartley — along with teammates Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard — won the penultimate round of the WEC.
The win helped Porsche secure the 2015 constructor’s title, and now positions Hartley and his co-drivers in a favourable position to win the driver’s title when the series heads to its 2015 decider in Bahrain.
But it wasn’t just Hartley earning silverware. Fellow Kiwi Chris van der Drift was able to seal the 2015 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia title, leading home (you guessed it, another Kiwi) Craig Baird.
van der Drift’s win is the third time on the trot a New Zealander has won the series, following 2015 Le Mans champion Earl Bamber’s back-to-back successes in 2013 and 2014. It’s the 11th time a Kiwi has won an overseas Carrera Cup championship crown, not including expat Steve Richards’ Australian series win in 2014.
The other Mercedes wins in Spain, terrible day for Ferrari
Lewis may be champion, but Nico gets this fantastic hat. Photo / AP
Nico Rosberg was able to pin a win back from his teammate Lewis Hamilton earlier this morning in Mexico, although once again internal tensions could be seen in the championship-winning super squad.
With Rosberg pitting out of the lead on lap 47, Hamilton’s race engineer Pete Bonnington radioed Hamilton to follow suit on lap 48. But the three-time champion thought that it was “the wrong call,” ignoring the message for an extra lap before eventually resisting to his team to pit on lap 49.
From there he would follow Rosberg across the line, the German claiming his fourth win of the season in the process.
Over the fence, Ferrari had one of its worst days of 2015, with neither Sebastian Vettel nor Kimi Raikkonen making it to the chequered flag. Raikkonen was the first to go after an aggressive clash with Williams pilot Valtteri Bottas. Vettel awkwardly found the wall on lap 57 at turn seven, all by himself. It’s the first time since the 2006 Australian Grand Prix that Ferrari have had both of their cars fail to finish.
Bottas went on to take up the third slot on the podium, behind the the chummy Mercedes men.
Tempers explode in Nascar chase, fairytale win for retiring legend
"Just crash here," says Matt Kenseth, after allegedly knocking rival Joey Logano into the corner pocket on purpose at Martinsville
While this season of Nascar hasn’t been one of the most enthralling, it has been one of the most dramatic and emotional — particularly as the chase (think play-offs, but with race cars) draws to a close. And with less than 50 laps to go in today’s Martinsville event, Matt Kenseth appeared to decide that he’d had enough of series leader Joey Logano.
As the pair approached turn one — Logano leading the race, Kenseth being lapped — Kenseth’s Camry piledrove the Penske Ford into the wall, to the screams, shouts, and fist pumps of the crowd on the other side.
The incident has been labelled by many an act of retribution for a crash the pair had recently in Kansas, where it was Kenseth being spun around and Logano driving away.
"I think what happened at Kansas is a completely different deal. [...] Here was a complete coward move, especially for a championship-calibre driver and race team. Complete coward. I don't have anything else to say," a restrained Logano told cameras. The Penske driver's chances of a maiden Sprint Cup crown look under threat, with only two more races left to solidify a spot in the top four.
Kenseth and his crew chief Jason Ratcliffe were quick to blame the incident over radio on a right-front tyre going down, but that didn’t stop Kenseth’s entry from being disqualified, or "parked", on the spot by officialdom.
Jeff Gordon celebrates gaining a spot in the final set of the 2015 Nascar chase, after beating Jamie McMurray to the chequered flag. Photo / Nascar
After the passive-aggressive 'not guilty, your honour' interviews had taken place, and footage of fuming family members had been beamed around the world, Jeff Gordon was able to take his ninth Martinsville win — in turn securing himself a spot in the final round of the chase at Homestead, Miami, where he will be trying to win his fifth Nascar title in his final year before retiring from the sport.
Citroën first, daylight second. José María López successfully defends WTCC crown
María López celebrates his second WTCC crown with his Citroën teammates and crew in Thailand. Photo / WTCC
Citroën’s monopoly on the WTCC has continued, as Argentina’s José María López clinched back-to-back titles over the weekend in Thailand, with one round to spare, after winning the opening race of the weekend.
The French marque have been close to unbeatable in 2015, having won an incredible 19 races so far out of a possible 22 across their four drivers; López, Yvan Muller, Ma Qing Hua, and World Rally Championship legend Sébastian Loeb.
“I want to congratulate everybody and thank all the people who have been around me in my career for 23 years, starting with my family, my father especially, my brothers who gave up a lot of things to help me race in Europe, my girlfriend Victoire who has stopped me from being very alone in Europe, everybody in Argentina, and the team. I wouldn’t be here without them,” said an emotional López.
The series will now travel to Qatar for their 2015 finale.
Inkster completes 2015 three-peat after winning Targa NZ marathon
The combination of Inkster and Winn proved that their 2014 Targa NZ win was no fluke, repeating the performance in 2015. Photo / ProShotz
Glenn Inkster, co-driver Spencer Winn, and their almighty Mitsubishi Evo sealed a comfortable nine-minute victory over the weekend in the 2015 Targa NZ — complimenting the Metalman Sprint and Targa Bambina wins the pairing were able to score earlier in the year.
Finishing in second was Tony Quinn and co-driver Naomi Tillett in their Nissan R35 GT-R. The five-time Targa NZ winner was gracious in defeat, quick to congratulate Inkster on his hard work.
"I'm proud of Glenn, that he has got to the point where he is a true challenge. I always knew he would be the one to beat, and I didn’t want to go out too early myself because this year it was a 1000-kilometre rally, and, not only did I think a lot of people would not finish, I thought that if I kept enough pressure on [Inkster] something would happen. But it didn’t," said Quinn.