Weekend winners and losers in Formula E and Daytona 24 Hours

31st January 2022
Damien Smith

The international circuit racing season really kicked into life last weekend, as season eight of Formula E took its bow with an action-packed double-header in Saudi Arabia, while a stellar cast headed to Florida for IMSA’s Daytona 24 Hours classic. Fortunes soared and plummeted in equal measure in Formula E – as usual – while Daytona threw up a typically thrilling finish after a hard day’s night of endurance racing action.


De Vries begins title defence with victory

Reigning Formula E World Champion Nyck de Vries came back from an early crash in the opening practice session on the Diriyah street track to open his title defence in the best possible fashion, with victory in the opening race on Friday night. But he needed a big error from his Mercedes EQ team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne to do it.

Belgian Vandoorne took pole position in the new-look qualifying session and dominated the early stages, as de Vries made a storming start to demote Andretti Autosport’s Jake Dennis off the line. But following a safety car interruption caused by a collision between the warring Oliver Rowland and Robin Frijns, Vandoorne dropped a clanger – and he had no one to blame but himself. The ex-McLaren Formula 1 driver failed to trigger his second mandatory dose of Attack Mode power by missing his marks through the activation zone, and that handed the decisive lead to de Vries.

Dennis scored an excellent third-place podium for Andretti Autosport in the team’s first race back running as an independent following BMW’s withdrawal. He outmuscled Andre Lotterer after an entertaining duel, the Porsche driver then falling rapidly back through the pack. Jaguar’s Sam Bird finished fourth ahead of fellow Formula E veteran Lucas di Grassi in the Brazilian’s first appearance for Susie Wolff’s Venturi team.


Mortara takes his chance as de Vries slumps

On Saturday, de Vries looked well set to score a Diriyah double only to be out-fumbled in his Mercedes. Instead, Edoardo Mortara – who finished second in the standings last year to de Vries – claimed the victory for Venturi, taking the chequered flag behind the safety car. An anti-climactic ending, for sure, but there had been plenty of entertainment all the way up to those deflating final moments.

De Vries led from pole position, but came under pressure from the Venturi pair and Virgin driver Frijns. And when di Grassi made a bid for the lead de Vries’s victory hopes slipped away. He’d tried to slam the door on the Venturi through Turn 2 but came off worse in the contact. Mortara was soon past him and the world champion eventually slumped to 10th following further contact with Jean-Eric Vergne.

Up front, Mortara passed team-mate di Grassi, with Frijns soon following him through to claim second place, before the race was neutralised when Alexander Sims slapped a wall in his Mahindra. Time ran out and with Sims’s car still stranded Mortara cruised across the line to claim a victory that has pushed him to the top of the drivers’ standings at this early stage of the new season. He heads de Vries by four points, with Vandoorne one more further back. Next up is a single round in Mexico City on 12th February.


Castroneves delivers for Meyer-Shank at Daytona

Across the Atlantic, a gripping (if cold) Daytona 24 Hours came to a thrilling conclusion on Sunday as Brazilian veteran Helio Castroneves continued his remarkable ‘Indian Summer’ run to his illustrious career by claiming a second consecutive Rolex watch at the twice-round-the-clock endurance classic. The 46-year-old, who also won his fourth Indianapolis 500 last year, held his nerve through a tense final half-hour to deliver victory in his pink and white Meyer-Shank Acura in the final Daytona 24 Hours run to the DPi rulebook.

Last year Castroneves was part of the crew that claimed a hat-trick of Daytona victories for Wayne Taylor Racing. This time he ended that team’s run to a fourth victory, as the boss’s son Ricky Taylor couldn’t quite unlock enough speed to beat his former team-mate following the final safety car interruption. Castroneves calmly threaded his Acura through the traffic – and a dramatic GTD Pro battle on the final lap – to send his team into rapture.

“Oh my God, this is incredible!” said an overjoyed Castroneves. “I knew my friend Ricky was right behind me, I knew his strengths – but I hadn’t taught him all I know!”


Jarvis finally lands a ‘major’

There was joy too for Castroneves’s team-mates: British-born Tom Blomqvist (son of rally legend Stig), IndyCar ace Simon Pagenaud and former Audi LMP1 racer Oliver Jarvis, who at 38 finally claimed a long-awaited overall win at one of the sportscar racing ‘majors’. Jarvis is a former LMP2 class winner at Le Mans and came close to victory twice at Daytona with his former Mazda team, but had always fallen just short. But not this time. In his first drive for Meyer-Shank and ahead of the new GTP LMDh era that is due to begin next year, he’s finally laid that unwanted ‘nearly-man’ tag to rest. Good timing, Oliver.

Porsches clash in final-lap drama

IMSA’s new GT3-based GTD Pro class began with a bang after the most dramatic of finishes at Daytona. Two Porsche 911 GT3Rs went head to head, with no quarter given during an amazing battle. Two laps from the finish Pfaff Motorsports’ Mathieu Jaminet grabbed the lead from Laurens Vanthoor in KCMG’s entry – only for Vanthoor to hit back at Turn 3 on the last lap. The pair hammered back out on to the banking and were side by side heading into the chicane, where Vanthoor was never going to back out as they hurtled into the first left-right flick. But he came out worse, his blue and white Porsche slewing around into a spin. That left Jaminet to claim victory for himself and his team-mates Matt Campbell and ex-F1 racer Felipe Nasr, the Brazilian finally winning a Rolex on his first Daytona start in a Porsche. The Risi Competizione Ferrari of Alessandro Pier Guidi had been shadowing the pair into that final lap and now picked up the pieces to finish second, the Italian sharing with fellow GTE Pro World Endurance Champion James Calado, Daniel Serra and Davide Rigon.


IndyCar stars claim LMP2 honours

There was further drama in the LMP2 class as rising IndyCar ace Colton Herta caught Tower Motorsport’s Louis Deletraz by surprise at the chicane to take a decisive lead in the closing stages. Herta shared his DragonSpeed ORECA with IndyCar rival Pato O’Ward, plus Eric Lux and Devin DeFrancesco, to win the class and finish a fine fifth overall.

A perfect and traditional way for drivers from all backgrounds to blow away those winter cobwebs, the Daytona classic always throws up a pleasing batch of great stories.

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images.

  • Daytona

  • Daytona 24

  • Daytona 24 2022

  • Formula E

  • Formula E 2022

  • Helio Castroneves

  • Tom Blomqvist

  • Oliver Jarvis

  • Simon Pagenaud

  • Nyck de Vries

  • Colton Herta

  • Pato O'Ward

  • Louis Deletraz

  • Edoardo Mortara

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