Vettel Penalized For Impeding Sainz in Austrian Grand Prix Qualifying

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel was the best non-Mercedes qualifier on Saturday ahead of this weekend's Austrian Grand Prix. The four-time world champion slotted in just behind rival Lewis Hamilton and was set to charge for prime position on Sunday, but as a result of a penalty for impeding Renault's Carlos Sainz in Q2, he will start from the sixth position on the grid at Spielberg.

The incident occurred near the end of the second qualifying round where Sainz was pushing for his fastest time of the session. As he approached Vettel on-track, Sainz was forced to maneuver around the cruising Ferrari and ran off-line to avoid contact.

"I had to take a curb to avoid him, I nearly crashed," Sainz exclaimed over team radio.

Despite the run-in, both drivers made it through to Q3. Vettel completed the day third fastest with Sainz hanging out near his Renault teammate Nico Hulkenberg in ninth.

Sainz qualified ahead of his teammate Nico Hulkenberg for Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix.

"In the end, it didn't change my quali much," Sainz said to the media after qualifying. "It made me damage a front wing, which obviously costs money and it takes work to repair and you don't know if the wing will continue to work as well as before. But it didn't affect me too much."

"I think he simply didn't see me. He didn't do it on purpose. He wasn't warned on the radio," Sainz concluded.

Vettel explained later that he had not been warned of the charging Sainz, resulting in the near-miss.

"I was turning into Turn 1, trying again [to look] because I was thinking he must be there somewhere, I don't know if he was pitting or starting his lap," Vettel said in a press conference. "But as it turned out obviously he was trying to go for a fast lap. I couldn't see him, I wasn't told on the radio, so I can only apologize to him."

"There was no intention," Vettel continued. "I was looking down the straight, I turned around Turn 1, I was done with my lap and just wanted to make sure and there was nothing [in the mirrors] after Turn 1, which was obvious because I saw in the replay that we were side-by-side."

With the penalty in play, Red Bull's Max Verstappen has been promoted to the second row and will start alongside Kimi Raikkonen. Haas' Romain Grosjean will move to fifth and start alongside Vettel while the fourth row and beyond stands unaffected by the ruling.

Formula Drift Drivers Sweep the HGK Challenge Podium

Earlier in the week, The Drive mentioned that you should probably take a look at the HGK Challenge taking place on Saturday. A trio of Formula Drift drivers was there to partake in the contest including Matt Field, Aurimas "Odi" Bakchis, and HGK Racing Team driver Kristaps Bluss, and that trio also happened to lock down the podium.

It was the first HGK Challenge that featured a full Formula Drift driver lineup on the rostrum.

Prior to the event, Bakchis wasn't even completely dedicated to competing in the HGK Challenge. He was vacationing in the area (Lithuania more specifically) and was rumored to be making an appearance at the event. He ended up pulling through and qualified seventh while only driving two warm-up laps, having never driven the track nor the car before. Bakchis would end up third overall.

Bluss, whose HGK Racing Team hosted the event, grabbed second place.

Wooooohooo! Took the win here at the @hgkracing Challenge. Took the kit car from un-driveable to the stop step on the podium. Huge thanks to the @hgkracingteam crew for doing all the crazy setup changes that I requested. ?????????

A post shared by Matt Field (@mattfield777) on Jun 30, 2018 at 9:53am PDT

Since Bluss and Bakchis grabbed second and third respectively, that left the top step to be filled by Matt Field. As we mentioned when previewing the HGK Challenge, Field was coming into the event hot off a second place podium at Formula Drift Round Four in New Jersey. This momentum assisted him in taking home the W as he hopes to carry it into the next FD contest. Field currently sits ninth in the championship standings with 190 points.

The trio of drivers will find their next round of competition in Monroe, Washington for Round Five of the 2018 Formula Drift season, July 20-21.

BMW Signs $1.16 Billion Battery Contract with Chinese Company CATL

BMW's vested stake in its expanding electric mobility offering has become even greater after it awarded a contract to a Chinese battery maker, the automaker confirmed on Thursday. Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd (CATL) will receive a reported $1.16 billion to build battery packs for BMW's upcoming line of EVs.

CATL will be replacing BMW's existing partnership with Samsung in supplying the batteries for its next-generation vehicles. The battery-maker will be relying on the use of subsidies provided by the Chinese government, specifically those which are aimed at expanding the presence of its battery manufacturers outside of Asian automotive markets, despite the physical location of the company itself.

Because of this, part of the deal with BMW allows CATL to build a factory in Europe to produce the cells. This provides a cost-benefit to BMW by allowing for a decrease in logistic costs, all while using existing technology to avoid costly research and development expenditures. According to Reuters, a location is currently being scouted in the eastern German state of Thuringia, about 250 miles north of both BMW's Munich headquarters and a near-equal distance from its Dingolfing plant where BMW manufacturers the 8-series, as well as various other components for the automaker's EV range.

The partnership between the Bavarian marque and its supplier is near-ideal considering that both China and Germany have plans to push mandated banning of the internal combustion engine in their respective countries. While many major German automakers are looking to electrify their existing lineups, Chinese-based companies have several advantages that can be offered to the Germans, including well-established battery technology, as well as state-sponsored stipends to lower the cost of manufacturing. U.S. brand Tesla has also expressed interest in building a battery plant in Germany should it expand operations to Europe.

Despite BYD Co Ltd being the largest battery-maker in China, CATL has built a significant international presence. BMW is just one of several manufacturers who have contracted with CATL thus far; Daimler and EV-startup Byton have both confirmed their use of CATL to build batteries for their vehicles. Coincidentally, Apple (who is still allegedly making a car) is also said to have reached out to the battery manufacturer to supply cells for its vehicle as well.

Colin Braun Takes Pole for CORE Autosport at Six Hours of The Glen

Colin Braun claimed overall pole for this weekend's Six Hours of The Glen in CORE Autosport's No. 54 Oreca 07 with a time of 1:32.350. The 29-year-old driver bested the efforts of United Autosports' Paul di Resta who set the provisional fastest time halfway through the session before eventually settling for second in his No. 32 Ligier JS P217.

This marks the first all-LMP2 front row of the 2018 IMSA season, bringing variety to the mainly DPi-ruled campaign thus far. Ricky Taylor was the top placing Daytona Prototype international driver in the Acura Team Penske ARX-05, beating his teammate Dean Cameron by 0.144 seconds for third place.

Other noteworthy action from the Prototype segment of qualifying included Pipo Derani coming to a halt in the No. 22 ESM Nissan Onroak DPi. While unconfirmed, a believed engine problem forced him to pull aside after setting a sixth-fastest time of 1:33.092 around the New York circuit. The team will work on the car throughout the night and is expected to field the car for Sunday's race start.

The No. 77 Mazda RT24-P was absent from qualifying after Rene Rast's incident in FP3, causing major front and rear end damage.

Westbrook Fastest in GTLM

Richard Westbrook paced the field in his No. 67 Ford GT, setting a quickest lap of 1:41.948. He completed the session just over a tenth of a second quicker than his Chip Ganassi Racing stablemate Joey Hand in the No. 66 Ford entry, marking a sweep of the top two spots in GTLM.

Corvette Racing followed in short order and will fill the second row with the No. 4 C7.R qualifying in third and the No. 3 in fourth.

Porsche's Earl Bamber placed himself and Le Mans-winner Laurens Vanthoor in P5, 0.108 seconds ahead of Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy in the No. 911 Porsche.

Finally, rounding out the class grid and sitting on the fourth row is BMW Team RLL. The crew's No. 24 BMW M8 GTE earned the best spot of the two albeit over 1.4 seconds off the pace of Westbrook. Connor De Phillippi finished quali in eighth with a time of 1:43.539.

Hawksworth Pilots No. 15 Lexus RC F GT3 to GTD Pole

Jack Hawksworth kept up 3 GT Racing's pickup in pace on Saturday by spearheading the team's charge to pole in GT Daytona. They were able to top the timesheets ahead of Land Motorsport's Christopher Mies in the No. 29 Audi R8 LMS GT3, among others. Hawksworth's teammate, Kyle Marcelli, lapped Watkins Glen third-fastest in the No. 14 Lexus.

Sunday's annual Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen will begin at 9:30 a.m. EST on Fox Sports 1.

MotoGP: Marquez, Crutchlow, Rossi Secure Front Row at Assen

Repsol Honda's Marc Marquez rode the wheels off his RC213V to claim the pole position at the Assen TT track for tomorrow's MotoGP Dutch Grand Prix. Independent Honda superstar Cal Crutchlow followed Marquez closely to land second place, while Valentino Rossi clocked the third-fastest lap of Saturday's qualifying session.

The nail-biting track excursion was largely ruled by Ducati's Jorge Lorenzo, who repeatedly lapped the 2.8-mile Dutch circuit faster than his competitors. However, the Spaniard couldn't uphold the pace into Q2 and fell down the order to an abysmal 10th place, where he will start tomorrow's race.

Valentino Rossi.

The fastest lap time was produced by Marquez with a 1:32.791, and Crutchlow with a 1:32.832, just 0.4 seconds slower than the factory Honda. Rossi's time of 1:32.850 proves that the Yamaha has the pace, but given the hot temperatures expected tomorrow, tire choice will play a huge role in outright performance.

"I'm so happy about the front row because I crashed in FP4, so I lost some feeling," said Rossi. "It wasn't easy, but I did three laps with the first tire and recovered my line and my rhythm, and after that, it was a 'waiting game'. Everybody was waiting but I was in a good position. It was exciting because it was a really hot lap!"

Cal Crutchlow.

The fourth place on the grid was conquered by factory Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso, whose 1:32.870 was only two-tenths of a second slower than Rossi's. That being said, the Italian rider struggled with balance in the early stages of qualifying, so only time will tell if the Borgo Panigale outfit will be able to sort out the gremlins on time for tomorrow's race. Suzuki's Alex Rins will follow Dovizioso in fifth place.

Further down the grid, it's Yamaha's Maverick Vinales who will start in sixth place, Aprilia's Aleix Espargaro, Yamaha Tech 3's Johann Zarco, Suzuki's Andrea Iannone, and Ducati's Jorge Lorenzo wrapping up the top ten.

Valtteri Bottas Leads All-Mercedes Front Row in Austrian Grand Prix Qualifying

Mercedes F1 had an impressive showing at Saturday's Austrian Grand Prix qualifying round with Valtteri Bottas taking pole and teammate Lewis Hamilton accompanying him on the front row. A margin of just 0.019 seconds separated the two as Hamilton's time would have set a new track lap record had it not been for Bottas' pole lap of 1:03.130.

The duo outpaced the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, both putting together their quickest times on their respective final laps. Vettel conclusively finished ahead of Raikkonen and will start from P3 with his veteran partner starting alongside in P4.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen notched a fastest time of 1:03.840 around the track that bears his team's name. This was enough for a third-row spot on the gid but, instead of being joined by fellow RBR pilot Daniel Ricciardo, he'll instead go head-to-head with Haas' Romain Grosjean in a surprisingly quick round for the Frenchman. Ricciardo fell to P7 as a result of his 1:03.996 and will sit beside the other Haas of Kevin Magnussen.

Closing out the top ten are the Renaults of Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg in that order. The respectable outing from the Enstone-based team saw a return to form as both entries made it through to Q3 once more.

Stories from Q2 include the elimination of Sauber's star rookie Charles LeClerc who achieved his first Q3 appearance in France last weekend. Although the young Monegasque driver completed the round 13th fastest, he'll be dealt a five-place grid penalty as a gearbox change was prompted after a failure in morning practice.

Additionally, McLaren's Fernando Alonso was eliminated in Q2 despite a seemingly-quick last lap in which he ran wide in the final corner. This mishap undid all of his previous work and he completed the session in P14.

The five drivers eliminated in Q1 were as follows:

P16: Stoffel Vandoorne - McLaren - 1:05.271

P17: Sergio Perez - Force India - 1:05.279

P18: Sergey Sirotkin - Williams - 1:05.322

P19: Brendon Hartley - Toro Rosso - 1:05.366

P20: Marcus Ericsson - Sauber - 1:05.479

This order is unofficial and will be changed after grid penalties have been applied.

Global Mazda MX-5 Cup: Why Racing on a Budget Truly Matters

The world is full of frustrated racers, myself included. Racing is an expensive sport, and until tires, fuel, and handmade chassis cost as much as a basketball or a golf club, motorsports will be for the wealthy and a lucky few.

The barriers to getting into racing are significant as most aspiring racing drivers have to self-fund their careers with the hopes of making it big someday. Unfortunately for most, that day never comes, which means that lots of folks are left with empty pockets, empty promises, and broken dreams. However, some less than talented drivers with bags full of cash are often given opportunities that many talented but under-funded drivers never get because, at the end of the day, engineers, mechanics, and other personnel cost money—which means that teams have to come up with cash one way or another.

Behold the Global Mazda MX-5 Cup, a racing series that promotes talent and rewards effort rather than checkbooks. No, it's not perfect—you certainly still need a considerable amount of cash to get behind the wheel of an MX-5 Cup car, but Mazda Motorsports aims to lower the sky-high barriers that aspiring young racers face. How? By leveling the playing field.

The MX-5 Cup is what's referred to as a "spec series," meaning that all cars are mechanically equal. Every car that takes the field during the twelve-race-long racing season is identical in every single way as the engine, ECU, transmission, and differentials are sealed. This not only guarantees fair racing, but it means that what Mazda develops as a manufacturer can be applied to the field for real-world testing without interference from a third party which, in this case, would be a team's engineer or mechanic.

What It Takes

I had the opportunity to sit down with the man who orchestrates all of Mazda's North American racing efforts, John Doonan, while at the third event of the Global Mazda MX-5 Cup at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

There, I was able to pick his brain on what it takes for the average person to join one of the most affordable and exciting racing series in existence. Additionally, I learned some important facts about Mazda's scholarship-based "Road to 24" program which provides aspiring racers a ladder system to follow as they go from one Mazda-powered series to another on their way to bigger championships. More importantly, I got the financial details that are required to make the magic happen—in other words—how much scratch would an average Joe need to go racin'?

John Doonan

What skillset or credentials do I need?

"Anyone can jump into the MX-5 Cup, however, my suggestion is that drivers with zero experience begin through [SCCA] Solo, which teaches about absolute momentum, turn-in, apex, etc.," Doonan told The Drive. "All of this can be done with an MX-5 or an older Miata for that matter, but the overall goal is to master car control and quick-hands before jumping into faster series."

"All too often people spend a lot of money real quick only to realize that they either don't have the talent or that when you bend things up [crash] it's quite expensive to fix things," Doonan explained. "I want to sell another Cup car tomorrow, but I don't want to sell it to someone who will simply go out there and have a bad experience and run out of money. I want everyone to be happy with their decisions."

Ashton Harrison, the only female driver of the MX-5 Cup.

Because the Mazda MX-5 Cup is sanctioned by IndyCar, racers wanting to join must first meet several experience requirements and even submit a racing resume to IndyCar officials.

"After becoming a member of SCCA and completing a drivers' school you'll get a competition license, and because we're sanctioned by IndyCar folks must submit their racing resumes. Saying, 'I raced to the grocery store and back' won't get you in. It's about proper training, and several locations around the country, such as the Monticello Motor Club in New York, have bought MX-5 Cup cars for aspiring customers to get the proper racing experience with authorized driving instructors who many times are former Mazda champions."

Selin Rollan of Sick Sideways Racing.

Team or Solo?

Racers can choose to run as a solo entry or join existing teams such as Sick Sideways Racing or Slipstream Performance. Team racers are typically more successful as teams usually share racing data and other insights among teammates, which gives them an edge over individuals.

"There are one-car efforts that have done okay in the past, but it's tough," said Doonan. "That's why when you see a team like McCumbee McAleer Racing that's running eight cars this weekend and do it properly and run up front you realize what it takes to win. With the cars being equal, the performance gains are minimal, which means a lot of data reviews, etc."

On a different conversation I had with MX-5 Cup racer and owner of Sick Sideways Racing John Dean II, I learned that he offers his teammates/customers the option to receive trackside support only with the car owners doing the hauling and storing, or to take care of the whole operation—for a cost, obviously. How much? Approximately $85,000 per season, although the costs may vary depending on specific needs.

The Money

I hate to break it to you, but even though the MX-5 Cup is considerably "cheaper" than most racing series out there, it still takes quite a bit of cash to break in. However, there are many ways to partake in the series, with some requiring less cash than others. For example, new customers coming into the sport can choose to lease a car from an existing team or buy one outright, and some may even qualify for scholarships based on their performance on lesser series.

"To have a championship-winning, front-running program it takes about $125,000 to $150,000 if you want extra test days and training. The base price would be $125,000 and then you can add up from there," added Doonan. "This figure includes entry fees, tires, fuel, etc. but doesn't include travel and other consumables."

"The car costs $58,000 to buy, so if someone buys a car outright the running costs decrease a bit compared to leasing, but then in other areas, they go up. Owning a car means you must own a truck to transport it, a pit space, tools, hire a guy or a crew to help you, etc."

Doonan didn't specify what these start-up costs could add up to, but my own research shows that these could easily surpass $100,000-$150,000. Of course, these could vary wildly depending on individual taste.

Don't have the cash? Don't worry...sorta. Mazda hosts the Road to 24 Shootout every year, where 19 racers are eligible for based on their success in SCCA, NASA, the Teen Mazda Challenge, and even iRacing. The winner of the shootout earns a $100,000 scholarship towards their first season in the MX-5 Cup.

If a driver wins the MX-5 Cup championship, they earn a $200,000 scholarship towards another MX-5 Cup season or another series within the Mazda family. In addition, first-year rookies are eligible to win a Rookie of the Year scholarship worth $75,000. While none of these (with the exception of the championship money) could cover an entire season's expenses, they provide some much-needed funding to aspiring racers.

Verdict

Is it easy to win and break into the major leagues? No, of course not. If it were, everyone would be doing it. Is Mazda offering the best program out there to promote racers who don't have massive trust funds or connections to big-dollar sponsors? Absolutely.

Acura Team Penske Fastest in Watkins Glen FP3, Rast Suffers Rollover Crash in Mazda Prototype

Acura Team Penske's Dane Cameron set the fastest time around Watkins Glen International in FP3 ahead of this weekend's IMSA Six Hours of The Glen. The American piloted his No. 6 Acura ARX-05 DPi to a 1:32.975 late in the morning session, shortly before the No. 77 Mazda RT24-P crashed majorly with Rene Rast behind the wheel, sending out a red flag and consequently ending the practice round.

After review, it's been confirmed that Rast made contact with the No. 73 Park Place GTD Porsche prior to flipping the car on its roof in the Esses. The German driver escaped seemingly unhurt from the crash and has been cleared to compete in Sunday's North American Endurance Cup round, a Mazda spokesperson confirmed to The Drive.

A pair of LMP2 cars completed the Prototype class' top three as JDC-Miller Motorsports' No. 85 Oreca went 1:33.137 in second. CORE Autosport's No. 54 entry of the same make came in third and narrowly edged out Paul di Resta in the No. 32 United Autosports Ligier.

In GTLM, the Chip Ganassi Racing tandem of Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook topped the timesheets in their No. 67 Ford GT. Shortly behind them was Joey Hand in the No. 66 Ford entry who bested Patrick Pilet's quickest time in the No. 911 Porsche RSR.

Kyle Marcelli paced the GTD field in the No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3. His 3GT Racing teammates in the No. 15 Lexus followed him in second and were trailed by Land Motorsport's No. 29 Audi R8.

F1 Drivers Wary of ‘Mario Kart’ Style DRS Zones at the Austrian Grand Prix

DRS, which stands for 'drag reduction system,' is used in Formula 1 to enable drivers to follow each other more closely and more easily overtake. In the race, a driver can open up part of the rear wing with a push of a button when he is measured to be within a second of the driver ahead at the so-called DRS detection point. It has proven a powerful if not uncontroversial tool in recent years, with critics believing it leads to artificial or 'cheap' overtakes.

The addition of a third DRS zone at the Austrian Grand Prix venue means the three main straights of the 10-turn circuit now feature DRS zones. Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel subsequently drew the comparison to Mario Kart.

"I don't know if it's a solution to put in [extra] DRS zones", he told reporters. "Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of people that maybe like the idea of Mario Kart—including myself, I played it when I was young—but then again I think it shouldn't get too artificial."

Although Vettel admits the added DRS zone could help with overtaking, he cautioned that: "If you end up [just] driving past another car it isn't very exciting either. There is more tension and excitement if the car is behind and maybe something will happen rather than just sailing past."

Vettel's Ferrari teammate Kimi Räikkönen was equally skeptical, as he explained to the press.

"Half the track is now a DRS zone, which should make overtaking fairly easy. Too easy, perhaps," the Finn suggested. "We'll have to wait and see. We all want to see overtaking, but it's kind of pointless when it gets to a point it's all artificial."

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, the championship leader, reckoned the addition of extra DRS zones, which happened at multiple tracks this year, is a consequence of several races not being exciting enough.

"This isn't the easiest track to overtake, though," he said of the Red Bull Ring. "So maybe this will make things interesting."

Whether the racing at the Red Bull Ring will be like Mario Kart or not, Formula 1 isn't the first sport to draw inspiration from the popular Nintendo game. For its 2018/2019 season, Formula E is planning to introduce special sections at each track where drivers will be able to activate a 'hyperboost' provided by special engine modes. Speaking to Autosport, Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag previously said it would be "like Mario Bros, when they get the little star and go faster."

This Paris-Dakar Porsche 959 Rally Car May Bring in $3.4 Million at Auction

This October, RM Sotheby's is hosting an auction that every Porsche fan will want to pay attention to. The Porsche 70th Anniversary Sale will feature a number of rare and iconic Stuttgart models up for grabs at the brand's North American headquarters in Atlanta, headlined by a Porsche 959 Group B rally car—the first time one has ever been sold at a public auction.

According to an RM Sotheby's press release, this Porsche 959 listed on RM Sotheby's website, chassis number 010015, is one of six rally-spec 959s built, and one of the three 959s that participated in the 1985 Paris-Dakar Rally. The car did not finish the nearly 8,700-mile race due to an oil line failure, while the other two 959s crashed. Drivers René Metge and Dominique Lemoyne went on to drive another 959 to victory the next year.

As it met a much better fate than its two other 959 companions in the 1985 rally, #0100015 has continued to participate in vintage events thanks to former owner Jacky Ickx. It won Best in Class at The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering during Monterey Car Week 2008 and was on display at Goodwood Festival of Speed from 2004-2006.

“It is fantastic to be able to offer one of the very few 959 Paris-Dakar rally cars at auction, especially at our Porsche 70th Anniversary sale,” says Alexander Weaver, car specialist at RM Sotheby’s. “Just six of these impressive machines were ever built, with five examples surviving and perhaps a mere two or three, including this car, in private hands. The Paris-Dakar presents in as-raced, highly original condition, and is being commissioned to complete running order prior to the sale in October."

The six Paris-Dakar 959s served as the prototypes for the Porsche 959 production car, one way ahead of its time. Their legacy lives on in the Safari-style 911 builds that are popular in the Porsche community, as well as in motorsport, where a 911 RSR clad in the Dakar 959's iconic blue and white Rothmans livery finished second in class at this year's Le Mans 24 Hours race, a historic one-two finish not soon forgotten.

"There has been a considerable surge in the popularity of safari-style, rally-spec 911 builds, and the 959 Paris-Dakar is essentially what sparked all of these on/off-road Porsche models," Weaver explained. "For any die-hard Porsche collector and off-roader, this is an unheard-of opportunity.”

Chassis #010015 will go under the hammer at the Porsche 70th Anniversary Sale auction, hosted by the Porsche Experience Center Atlanta on October 27, and RM Sotheby's predicts that it will sell for between $3 million and $3.4 million. The question remains: Does the 33-year-old Dakar dirt come with the purchase, or do you have to pay extra for them NOT to wash it off?