Motorsport Wrap: Dixon, Hartley, Stanaway, Lester all take wins
What a weekend to be a New Zealand motorsport fan?
Forget the bad-luck stories and what ifs, this outgoing weekend was an incredible one for Kiwi motorsport — four of our most talented racers all winning away from home.
In fact the only circuit racer to not bring home the bacon was Mitch Evans. There is emerging talk that the former GP3 Series champion may leave the GP2 Series next season to join Formula E; potentially the most divisive racing series in the world right now. And while the category has its doubters, it's worth noting that the caliber of stars that populate its grids is rather good. As is the racing.
Food for thought.
Brendon Hartley and Richie Stanaway unstoppable in Mexico
Photos / Aston Martin Racing
After a mixed start to the season, momentum is building for Brendon Hartley's #1 Porsche 919 Hybrid squad. After winning round four of the World Endurance Championship at the Nürburgring, Hartley and teammates Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard won the LMP1 class again at the 6 Hours of Mexico.
Starting from fourth, the leading Porsche didn't take long to make inroads. With Hartley starting, they marched to second place before taking the lead from Audi's #7 during the first wave of pit stops. By the race's half-way mark they had cemented their hold on first place. With rain staying away and the #8 Audi crashing out, the Hartley Porsche held onto the lead for the remainder of the race.
Meanwhile Richie Stanaway broke his winning drought in GTE-Pro; he and Darren Turner dragging their factory Aston Martin V8 Vantage to its first win of the season. The pair's greatest threat came, naturally, from AF Corse Ferrari 488 of Gianmaria Bruni and James Calado. Their pair of cars engaged in a lengthy dice, with the Aston eventually taking the honours.
Scott Dixon dominates Watkins Glen from start to finish
Photo / Watkins Glen International
Now, when we say that Dixon dominated from start to finish, we don't just mean the race.
Dixon set the tone for the IndyCar Series weekend at Watkins Glen by decimating the field in every practice session leading into qualifying. He then took pole, and then cruised to his second race win of the year by 16 seconds. The win is the 40th of his career, and makes him the fourth most successful driver in series history.
"I think this was actually a Chevy Volt, we were running on electric or something. But we got amazing fuel mileage," said Dixon.
"This car, you coud just roll through the corners. I felt like I hardly had to downshift sometimes, but I can't thank Target and Chevy enough for this weekend. It's been almost a sweep this weekend and you don't get these too often especially with the competition level we have in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
"I'll definitely remember this one.”
The race eventually came down to fuel consumption. Dixon, always strong with fuel consumption, was never in doubt to take the chequered flag without an extra stop. But other cars weren't so lucky; series leader Simon Pagenaud and James Hinchcliffe two driver to face its wrath. In their place, Josef Newgarden and Helio Castroneves completed the podium.
The saving grace for Pagenaud, who has been leaking points to Australian Will Power for the last few events, was that Power wouldn't get any points after crashing out. With just one race left in the season, Dixon is now officially incapable of taking another title. It's just down to Pagenaud and Power.
Jono Lester takes winning ways to China GT Championship
Photo / China GT Championship
Three Kiwi GT aces competed over the weekend at the notoriously bumpy Chengdu Goldenport Circuit in the latest round of the China GT Championship; Will Bamber, Chris van der Drift, and Jono Lester.
All three drivers had been brought in by the local JRM race team, with the trio taking on a driver training role within the team with their respective co-driver. It was Lester who tasted success, winning the GTC class in race two of the weekend — he and co-driver Pan Chao finishing an impressive third overall among much more fancied GT3 machinery. Van der Drift also tasted success, also cracking the GTC podium in the same race.
“The goal was certainly to win our class and I knew with Chris [van der Drift] and Willy [Bamber] in the fold it wouldn't be easy,” said Lester.
“The three of us have been close all weekend and the results came down to how fast and consistent we were each able to make our co-drivers. We each had our own methods and all visited the podium this weekend, which was great.
“Chinese motorsport is still in its infancy, but there's a lot of money, interest, and enthusiasm — hence the launch of the China GT Championship. Willy and Chris do a lot of coaching but for me it was a first and I took a slightly different approach to the norm, which paid off in the end.”
Mitch Evans can't continue Monza streak
Photo / Campos Racing
Sadly for Mitch Evans, he couldn't keep the combo going — claiming and eighth and a DNF at the historic Monza circuit in Italy at the latest round of the 2016 GP2 Series.
Evans has a strong link to Monza, as the setting for his GP3 championship triumph, as well as multiple GP2 Series victories. He started the weekend by qualifying fourth for the feature race; his best qualifying performance since Monaco in May.
But a poor start saw him drop to eighth in race one. He was in the prime position to recover in race two, starting from the reverse-grid pole, but results wouldn't be forthcoming after he was taken out on the opening lap.
While Evans and Campos Racing continue to chip away, the championship battle between Pierre Gasly and Antonio Giovinazzi continues to get tighter and tighter. Giovinazzi got one back on Gasly by winning race one, though Gasly did manage to beat him in race two as the pair filled out the podium placings behind race winner Norman Nato.
Read more about the World Endurance Championship in Mexico: qualifying / race
Read more about Scott Dixon's Watkins Glen dominance: qualifying / race
Read more about Jono Lester's successful China GT debut
Read more about Mitch Evans' fight at Monza: qualifying / race 1 / race 2