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Superfast Jeddah Primed

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Posted on March 16, 2023

Aston Martin a genuine front runner?

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

JEDDAH IS THE FASTEST street circuit of the year. And it will be fascinating to see if Aston Martin can carry its scintillating form from Bahrain, 1400kms across the desert to the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

What Aston Martin achieved at Sakhir was simply extraordinary. Spaniard Fernando Alonso, 40+ at his absolute best in his glittering green AMR23 to clean up Mercedes and Ferrari and to snaffle a podium.  

And his young Canadian teammate Lance Stroll, below, unbelievably came home sixth despite nursing two broken wrists and a broken foot.

“We’ve gone from 400 to 740 people.”

“Someone said how lucky we look in testing and I said, [in] many instances in my life, the harder I work, the luckier I get,” said Lawrence Stroll after his team’s amazing breakthrough at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

“I said a couple of years back we’re on a five-year journey to be fighting for World Championships.

“I think there were a lot of doubters when I said that and I can understand [in] the position we were sitting – still taking over from what was Force India, a bit of a conversion to Racing Point and then becoming Aston Martin.

“But I’ve made – we’ve made – significant changes. We’ve gone from 400 to 740 people.

“We’re building the greatest new state-of-the-art Formula [1] facility that we don’t move into until May 1, so the success of this year cannot be contributed to the facility.

“We’re going to win. There’s a mission…”

Jeddah GP

“But I believe it’s a lot to do with my passion and vision to excite and stimulate everybody in the business.

I’ve got Martin [Whitmarsh], got Dan [Fallows] got Eric [Blandin], got a lot of people to join, and we have a vision.

“We’re going to win. There’s a mission and we’re following what I said two years ago.

“This is the first indication, the first step we’ve taken. [It’s] early days – it’s the first race of the year – but it’s the first step we’ve taken in a journey and I couldn’t be more proud.”

Last year Aston Martin finished seventh in last year’s crucial constructors standings. On Sunday the British team will line up on the Jeddah grid still second in the constructers no matter where they finishing in qualifying.

It had been the second-quickest car on race night around sandy Sakhir.

Alonzo beat Ferrari and Mercedes on his own, while McLaren couldn’t even get either of its cars across the finish line, leaving Aussie rookie Oscar Piastri stranded.

And team boss Zak Brown struggling to make excuses.

Toto simply too smart to bite

It’s blindingly obvious Mercedes had huge performance problems at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

As is the knowledge that Lewis Hamilton desperately wants to finish his stellar career with a record eighth drivers’ crown.

That’s certainly no given for the seven-time world champion, who is out of contract at the end of the year and yet to sign a new deal with Mercedes.

The Brit even criticised his team for not listening to him over the development of their 2023 car, which Toto Wolff duly acknowledged, although he’s much too smart to publicly rebuke Lewis.

Well done, Daniel

And the more I think about it, the more I believe Daniel Ricciardo made an incredibly fortuitous call by stepping aside in 2023!

This year, there are some new rumble strips on the escape roads at F1’s fastest street circuit, while some of the kerbs have been smoothed.

A number of the walls have been repositioned, with Turns 8 and 10 (to improve visibility on entry) and Turn 23 (to slow the corner down).

Car setup is very different to Bahrain. For the Saudi Arabian GP, it’s important to have good stability throughout the fast corners that characterise the track.

Right setup vital for Jeddah

“It’s vital to find the right setup and be ready for anything at Jeddah: a track that’s very different to Bahrain, according to Pirelli’s affable head honcho.

“For the rapid Jeddah track, we have confirmed the same compound choices as last year as they showed very good consistency throughout the race weekend. 

“In the two races held up to now, the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix has been quite unpredictable because of the frequent safety cars and neutralisations, being a typical street circuit.

“A one-stopper was the fastest option in 2022, when a safety car led to an early pit stop for most of the drivers, who went on to finish the race on the hard tyre.

“Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc fought hard on this strategy thanks also to the durability of the tyres, with the Red Bull driver winning by less than a second at the end of a great race.

“The teams will also have to work hard on car setup because they will only have free practice to fine-tune the balance on this track with the latest tyres.

“The first race in Bahrain was all about traction and braking but Jeddah instead focuses on lateral forces, with completely different characteristics to Sakhir.”


The Pirellis for Jeddah


For the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, C2 is the P Zero White hard, C3 is the P Zero Yellow medium, and C4 is the P Zero Red soft.   

The circuit offers a medium level of grip but the sand blown onto the surface can influence this on the low-abrasion asphalt.

The track, which overlooks the Red Sea, is not especially demanding in terms of traction and braking, with lateral forces predominantly affecting the tyres.

Jeddah, Makkah, Saudi Arabia

The weather this time of the year in Jeddah is not dissimilar to Perth.

As was the case in Bahrain, this is another night race – but the start takes place two hours later, at 20:00 local time. This is the same time that qualifying and FP2 is also run.

Temperatures are expected to remain largely consistent throughout each of these sessions as well as the race. The other free practice sessions are scheduled for late afternoon, in asphalt temperatures that can easily be 10 degrees hotter.

Théo Pourchaire (ART Grand Prix), who won the opening Feature Race at Sakhir, currently leads the F2 drivers’ championship.

Campos Racing’s Ralph Boschung, first in the Sprint Race and runner-up in Sunday’s Feature Race, is just four points behind.

The Gold Coast’s Jack Doohan was 14th in the main race, but he’s much better than that and has a penchant for getting back on top.

The second round of the championship supports the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah this weekend, with the P Zero Yellow medium and P Zero Purple supersoft compounds nominated.

Drag Racing

Christmas Trees Galore!

Images courtesy Phil Luyer, High Octane Photos

FOUR NEW NATIONAL RECORDS were set across the 1320ft distance at the  ANDRA Grand Finals, held as part of the 52nd Westernationals at the Perth Motorplex across March 4-5.

•             Michael Buckley – RR/SM – 6.892 seconds

•             Michael Buckley – RR/SM – 201.01 miles per hour

•             Troy Thompson – CC/AB – 186.03 miles per hour

•             Steve Norman – A/MPA – 8.117 seconds

These three record-setting racers each also went all the way to the finals in their respective brackets at the event, with Buckley taking out the Competition victory while Norman and Thompson were the runners-up in the Super Stock and Competition Bike brackets respectively.

Nürburgring Endurance Series

Perth’s Jordan Love is competing n the famed Nürburgring Endurance Series this weekend with Haupt Racing Team in the Mercedes-AMG GT3 #6 alongside team owner Hubert Haupt and Indian ace Arjun Maini.

Taking turns in the green-white-black Mercedes-AMG the trio, who also competed together in the 2022 season, will compete in the SP9/ProAm category.

The event is Jordan’s third HRT outing in the NLS – with last year’s sixth-place finish at the six-hour ADAC Ruhr-Pokal Race marking the young gun’s best result at the legendary Nürburgring-Nordschleife.

“I’m really excited to be racing with HRT at the Nordschleife again.

“Last season with the team left me wanting more, and I can’t wait to gain even more experience on such a legendary track.

“The Nürburgring is comparatively new to me, but already one of my favorite places to race the Mercedes-AMG GT3 and continue to improve.”

– Jordan Love, Haupt Racing Team #6

The 68th ADAC Westfalenfahrt is the opening round of the 2023 NLS and primarily serves the team as a test event for the ADAC TotalEnergies 24h Nürburgring, scheduled for May 18-21.

This weekend’s race can be followed live on the official website of the organiser or on their YouTube channel. Intermediate standings and final results are also available in the live timing.

Super2s rookie finishes 2nd in Newcastle

YOUNGER BROTHER AARON LOVE is well along the way on the Supercars pathway, signing a four-year contract with BRT, running first in Super2s.

“First weekend in Supercar school ✅.

“Bit of a rough start just making a couple misjudgments and getting a little unlucky with some situations, but I’m happy that we could punch through to P2 on Sunday.

“There’s no lie in that it’s been a big task for everyone involved to get us ready and set up for what’s ahead and after this weekend we know it’s going to be a fun year with the whole crew.”

Aaron Love, BRT Racing #78

He debuted last weekend in Newcastle on a tricky street circuit he had not previously experienced. Unfortunately taken out during race one, Aaron bounced back with an impressive P2 in race two.

Aaron’s contract with BRT includes a co-drive in the long-distance races at Sandown and Bathurst.

Rally News

Two Rallysprints for Targa South West

THIRTY COMPETITORS have committed to Saturday’s 14th Make Smoking History Targa South West, held in and around Pemberton, about 3.5 hours south of Perth.

During the pandemic, the event was compacted into a one-day event, so popular that the format has remained.

This year, to comply with Motorsports Australia regulations, the event runs as two rallysprints with eight short stages in the morning, racing the clock over 31 competitive kilometres, and another eight afternoon short stages  – for  a combined total of 41 competitive kilometres.

MEANWHILE DOWN IN TASSIE, a bumper field has been confirmed for the Bosch MA Rally Championship season opener with 31 entries to contest next weekend’s Buckby ŠKODA Rally Launceston.

In what will be the biggest national field to make the journey to the island in recent times, 25 ARC crews will compete in the event out in the forests near the Apple Isle’s second largest city.

World Rally Championship

RALLY MEXICO, the third round of this year’s Pirelli-equipped WRC takes place during the same weekend as the Jeddah race. Pirelli’s Scorpion rally tyres will make their season debut in Mexico at the first gravel round of the championship.

European Rally Championship

IN THE OPENING ROUND of the ERC with the Serras de Fafe Rally, Pirelli made it a trio by winning in all categories, bringing Kiwi Hayden Paddon and his navigator John Kennard to the top of the overall podium with a Hyundai i20 N Rally2.

The former Pirelli Star Driver clinched victory on the all-gravel event last weekend, recording his debut ERC win. Pirelli drivers also triumphed in the RC3 and RC4 categories, with Jon Armstrong (Ford Fiesta) and Roberto Daprà (Peugeot 208).

All the Pirelli crews used tyres from the Scorpion range for gravel on the three different rally cars.

Intercontinental GT Challenge

IT WAS A BMW ONE-TWO at the recent Kyalami 9 Hours, round two of the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli.

The winning margin was just 1.7 seconds after a full day of racing at the South African track, which last hosted Formula 1 in 1993 as the season-opener.


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