McNISH, ROCKENFELLER SURVIVE MASSIVE ACCIDENTS AT 24 HOURS OF LE MANS
Sebastian Vettel has won the pole for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Canada, his sixth pole in seven races so far this Formula One season, and he broke the track record in the process.
The German driver put his Red Bull Racing-Renault on the inside of the front row this afternoon with a lap around the 4.361-kilometre Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal of one minute, 13.014 seconds.
The defending world champion just pipped two-time world champion Fernando Alonso of Ferrari, who turned a lap of 1:13:199.
Alonso’s teammate, Felipe Massa, was third in 1:13:217.
The rest of the top ten: Mark Webber (Red Bull), Lewis Hamilton (McLaren-Mercedes), Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), Jenson Button (McLaren), Michael Schumacher (Mercedes), Nick Heidfeld (Renault) and Vitaly Petrov (Renault).
The qualifying session was conducted under cloudy skies. The forecast for Sunday’s Grand Prix is for rain.
When informed that he had won yet another pole, Vettel said: "Yes! Yes! Thank you! Thank you! I stuffed it in the wall."
English is not Vettel’s first language. European reporters suggested he meant to say that he’d "stuck it on the pole," although he did crash into the wall during first practice on Friday.
There were other reports that quoted him as saying, "thanks for fixing the car on Friday after I stuffed it into the wall," but people who heard the radio transmission doubted he'd had time to say all that.
Vettel's time beat the official track record of 1:13.622 set in 2004 by Rubens Barrichello, then with Ferrari.
The qualifying session was strangely lacking in drama. Often, qualifying is the highlight of a Grand Prix weekend, with the race itself – usually – a bit of an anti-climax with the top three or four cars starting and finishing the same way.
Vettel’s domination of all things F1 this season – all except one pole and all except one race – meant spectators were left to either appreciate the brilliant talent of the young man (he’s only 23) or else hope for a mistake that might let another driver through.
The man who many thought would be his chief rival in Montreal, McLaren's Hamilton, who won the Canadian GP in 2007 and again last year, was a surprising fifth.
His teammate, Button, had his poorest qualifying session of the year – seventh.
Observers suggested that McLaren gambled by sending Hamilton and Button out to qualify on a wet setup, as forecasts suggest rain for the race tomorrow.
But anybody in Canada who believes a weather forecast a day in advance is playing with fire because it could just as easily turn out to be beautiful.
Said Christian Horder, Red Bull's team principal: ""We've gone for a set-up which covers both eventualities (rain or shine). We didn't expect to get pole here, so it's a surprise to get it at one of our weakest circuits. A fantastic performance from Seb."
One of the drivers who surprised today was Scotland’s Paul Di Resta, who just missed making the top ten.
In Q2, Di Resta ripped off his fastest lap of the weekend but fell short of the top ten by three tenths of a second.
Marussia Virgin Racing's Jerome D'Ambrosio is in danger of missing the race because his time was short of the 107 per cent (of the pole time) racing rule. If the stewards - who are allowed to make exceptions - decide not to let him race, it would be the first time this year both Virgin cars didn't start a Grand Prix.
It would also mean a 23-car grid.
Huge accidents at Le Mans
Moments after Scotland’s Allan McNish was featured today in a video demonstration on Speed Channel showing what driving a high-speed racing car can do to the human body, he was involved in one of the most spectacular accidents in recent memory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
McNish wasn’t hurt, beyond a severe shaking up, and nobody else was reported injured after his Audi clipped a slower Ferrari about an hour into the iconic event and very nearly went into the crowd.
The car flew threw a gravel trap (intended to slow down any out-of-control car) and slammed sideways into a guardrail, just missing going over and flying into a spectator area.
As it was, pieces of the race car and tires went flying and bouncing all directions. It’s a miracle that marshals and photographers who were standing right behind the guardrail, weren’t hit by anything.
The worst accident in motor racing history took place at Le Mans in 1955 when a car, or pieces of the car, went into the crowd and killed 84 people and injured 120.
It's clear that the accident was McNish's fault. Anthony Beltoise, the driver of the GT class Ferrari that McNish hit while attempting the pass, said that he had looked into his mirrors before concentrating on steering his own car around the right-hand corner and had not seen either Audi.
He suggested that there is a closing speed of between 40 and 50 km/h between the prototypes and the GT cars and that likely contributed to the accident.
Several hours later, a second massive accident saw another Audi driver, Mike Rockenfeller, also survive.
"Rocky" was passing a GT car at high speed on the Mulsanne Straight when the GT car inexplicably moved over and clipped the passing Audi, turning it sharp left and head-on into a guardrail.
Rockenfeller reportedly managed to get out of his wrecked car by himself and was taken to hospital.
Another pole for Tagliani
Late-night update: Dario Franchitti wns first race; Will Power wins second
Alex Tagliani of Montreal won his second straight pole in the IZOD IndyCar Series – the first being for last month’s Indianapolis 500 – for tonight’s double-header races at Texas.
Tagliani had a two-lap average speed of 215.186 mph on the 1.5-mile, high-banked track, to take pole for the Firestone Twin 275s.
It was a sweet run for the Canadian driver after his Sam Schmidt Motorsports engineer, Allen McDonald, quit earlier this week to go work for Michael Andretti’s team. The best an Andretti car could do was Danica Patrick’s run for tenth place.
Tag is being engineered for this race by Canadian Todd Malloy, who engineered Dan Wheldon’s win at Indianapolis.
Ganassi Racing star Dario Franchitti will start beside Tagliani on the front row, followed by Penske driver Will Power alongside KV Racing’s Takuma Sato.
James Hinchcliffe of Oakville will start his Newman-Haas team car in 15th place, one spot behind teammate Oriol Servia. Paul Tracy of Scarborough will go off in 21st place in the 30-car field.
The surprise star in qualifying was Wade Cunningham, who will start eighth. Cunningham is a multi-time winner in Indy Lights and a former series champion who – for one reason or another – has never been given a shot in the big time.
This is the first of three races Cunningham will drive for Sam Schmidt and was the first time the New Zealander was in an Indy car. To finish eighth in qualifying after only one hour of practice is almost overwhelming.
And Davey Hamilton, who nearly lost both feet in a grinding crash at Texas 10 years ago, will be making his first start at the track since the accident.
Hamilton, a short-track supermodified star who only runs ovals in the big leagues, qualified 18th. He admitted before the weekend that he had some apprehension about going back to Texas but figured to be right back into at after a few laps at speed.
Arpin shows good form in Texas
Fort Frances, Ont., speedster Steve Arpin, driving his first Camping World Truck Series race with support from Vancouver’s Mike’s Hard Lemonade, finished 23rd at Texas Motor Speedway Friday night after starting the race fourth.
That he qualified as well as he did shows the Canadian has got the Right Stuff for big-time NASCAR competition.
Arpin ran in the top ten for most of the race but a spin on the high-speed Texas track saw him slide down into the infield grass and his progress was hampered from then on. That he fought back to finish only a lap down from the leaders is commendable.
Ron Hornaday won the race after Johnny Sauter, who took the lead on a late-race restart by moving down a lane instead of holding position, was black-flagged.