Drama at Daytona
Imagine battling twice round the clock and your margin of victory over an identical machine measuring 0.034s. Well, that’s exactly what happened at Daytona yesterday when the Chevrolet Corvette C7.R of Briton Oliver Gavin crossed the line to take GTLM-class honours in the Florida enduro by a few feet from the sister car of Antonio Garcia. To rhetorical cries of ‘How close?!’, the two yellow ’Vettes staged a fantastic fight to the finish. Garcia, who shared the #3 machine with Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller, dived past Gavin to lead with two laps remaining. Crucially for 43-year-old ‘Corveteran’ Gavin, Garcia ran wide at the end of the manoeuvre, allowing Gavin, whose #4 car was also raced by Marcel Fässler and Tommy Milner, back in front. He held on to lead a one-two for the US crew, with the best of the Porsches, the 911 RSR of Earl Bamber, Michael Christensen and Fred Makowiecki, 12.8s further back.
The scrap for outright honours among the prototypes was pretty good, too. In the end the Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier-Honda of Ed Brown, Luis Derani, Johannes van Overbeek and Scott Sharp won out, securing the first victory in the great race for an LMP2 machine after they held off the Daytona Prototype Wayne Taylor Racing Dallara-Chevrolet of brothers Jordan and Ricky Taylor, Max Angelelli and ex-F1 star Rubens Barrichello. Not since 2003 has anything other than a DP-spec car won the race. Statisticians might also like to know that victory was Sharp’s second at Daytona, his first coming 20 years ago. Interestingly, back in 1996 he shared driving duties in the Riley & Scott-Oldsmobile with the owner of the team he pipped yesterday: one Wayne Taylor.
Magnussen lands F1 reprieve with Renault
While Jan Magnussen was embroiled in the build up to all the Corvette Racing action at Daytona, his son Kevin was learning that he’ll be back in Formula 1 this season, just a few months after being dropped from his reserve-driver role by McLaren.
The 23-year-old Dane, who contested a full season with the Woking team in 2014, will replace Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado at the Renault squad following a misunderstanding between the French firm and Maldonado’s primary backer, state-owned gas and oil company PDVSA.
A seat at Renault, which has taken over the Lotus team for which Maldonado raced in 2014-’15, is a career lifeline for Magnussen. He arrived at McLaren highly rated and as reigning Formula Renault 3.5 champion, upholding that early promise by finishing second on his debut in the Australian GP. Sadly, a fifth-place finish in Russia later that season was his next-best result and when Fernando Alonso became available for 2015, having fallen out with Ferrari, Magnussen found himself demoted to reserve. He was pressed into action earlier than he thought after Alonso was forced to miss the opening GP after a testing crash in Barcelona. Twelve months after that fairytale debut, Magnussen was parachuted into the recalcitrant McLaren-Honda MP4-30, which failed before he could even take up his 17th place on the grid.
Alonso was back in the car for the next round in Malaysia and we all thought that would be it for Kevin Magnussen in F1. With the Renault takeover deal and evidence of a perilous economy in Venezuela, it looks like that’s it for Pastor Maldonado. Magnussen deserves another crack at F1 – he may not be as entertaining to watch as Maldonado, but he’s a faster and more consistent option, surely?
Stoner quick on Ducati test return
Will we see gritty and outspoken double MotoGP champion Casey Stoner make a U-turn on his 2012 retirement decision anytime soon? Possibly, if his recent return to test for Ducati is anything to go by.
The 30-year-old Australian has been back in action for Ducati after ending a five-year association with Honda. A few days ago he rode the 2015 bike at Malaysian Grand Prix venue Sepang, racking up 54 laps and setting a time just 0.7s adrift of the fastest Ducati race lap from October’s GP.
Stoner’s speed should come as no surprise of course – he won 38 races in motorcycling’s top class, as well as claiming the title in his first year with Ducati in 2007 and his second in year one with Honda in 2011. It’s his desire that’s the real issue. After three seasons away does he want – or need – to come back and take on Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa at Honda and Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi at Yamaha?
His role at Ducati this time round is defined as ‘test rider and ambassador’, but speculation has gathered pace that he may make a few wildcard outings in races. Indeed, Ducati has confirmed that Stoner will ride in the official MotoGP test against a full complement of rivals at Sepang this week, so comparisons will be made. Endlessly.
I’d love to see him race again. In Stoner’s four seasons with Ducati, he was the only rider to win a race on the Italian bikes. When he moved to Honda in 2011, the great Valentino Rossi moved to Ducati but failed to get to grips with the Desmosedici racers and failed to win a single race.
In the three seasons since Stoner hung up his helmet, Ducati has struggled against Japanese powerhouses Honda and Yamaha. In fact, its most recent win at the top level came as long ago as the Australia GP in October 2010, courtesy of the local hero.
Staggeringly fast and brave on the bike, often spiky off it, he’d shake-up the MotoGP order and, I’m sure, give its current superstars a hard time. But can he really be bothered? There may just be something niggling away at him, with plenty of lire to help him decide to scratch that itch.
Images courtesy of LAT and David DeHetre licensed under CC BY 2.0