The Weekend Motorsport Digest

Marquez France

HITC Motorsport brings you up to speed with the best of the weekend's racing action, including NASCAR, BTCC and MotoGP.

By Ben Halls, David Byrom, & James Weeks

MotoGP

In an eventful Dutch MotoGP, Honda’s Marc Marquez claimed a record-equalling eighth consecutive victory, finishing 6.714 seconds ahead of Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso.

The start was delayed by 20 minutes due to adverse weather, with Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) having to set off from the pitlane after a late decision to run wet tyres. Spaniard Marquez had originally started second but took the lead off the line as poleman Aleix Espargaro (Forward-Yamaha) struggled.

Marquez was in front after the riders had switched to slick-shod bikes, but ran wide at turn 10 and allowed Dovizioso to take the lead. With the Italian extending his advantage to three seconds it looked like the 21-year-old may finally be beaten, but another spell of rain allowed him to close the gap, eventually retaking the lead with 11 laps remaining. Marquez’s compatriot and team-mate Dani Pedrosa completed the podium.

Further down the field, Rossi recovered from his early disaster to finish fifth, behind Espargaro and ahead of Pramac’s Andrea Iannone. The result leaves Marquez on 200 points, extending his lead over Rossi to 72. Next up for the riders is the German GP in two weeks’ time.

IndyCar

IndyCar held their second double-header weekend of the season with the Shell and Pennziol Grand Prix of Houston in Texas.

Saturday's race was affected by a rain storm, giving the drivers a rare chance run in the wet. Ex-Honda F1 man Takuma Sato was the early pace-setter, storming to the front before causing his own demise by carelessly crashing into rookie Mikhail Aleshin as he tried to lap the young Russian. James Hinchcliffe was next to take command on the drying track before a combination of his pit strategy and a rush of cautions knocked him down the field.

In the end rookie Dale Coyne Racing driver Carlos Huertas took a shock victory, leading home a Colombian podium sweep ahead of Juan-Pablo Montoya and Carlos Munoz. Unfortunately what was supposed to be a grandstand finish was spoiled when Graham Rahal hit Tony Kannan before the final restart, ending the race under caution.

A dry track on Sunday lead to much tighter racing. Helio Castroneves secured pole and had early control of the race before taking himself out in a carbon-copy of Sato's incident as he battled for the lead. A number of drivers rose and fell as the race unfolded, before Simon Pagenaud took victory after a late caution set up a 10-lap shootout for the win. The Frenchman lead home team-mate Aleshin for a Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports one-two.

British rookie Jack Hawksworth stole the show however, battling through from last to complete the podium. On his way, the young Bradford racer impressively got the better of four-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais, former F1 star Montoya, and current championship leader Will Power. Penske man Power still leads the standings, holding a 39-point advantage over team-mate Castroneves.

British Touring Car Championship

The BTCC had a typically wild weekend at Croft. Colin Turkington (WSR-BMW) continued his fine form by snatching pole for race one and then converting it into victory, comfortably beating Gordon Shedden (Honda) and Jason Plato (MG) to the win. There was plenty of action behind them however, with Andrew Jordan and Matt Neal getting particularly combative on the opening lap.

Turkington beat Shedden again in race two, the Honda ace fighting hard early on but ultimately unable to live with the BMW's pace. Neal was third in the sister Honda but was later disqualified for failing scrutineering, promoting Rob Collard to the podium in the second WSR-BMW.

Reigning champion Jordan grabbed the win in the weekend's final race. However it was controversial, as the Pirtek-Honda ace made contact with leader Fabrizio Giovanardi on the opening tour to seize the advantage. Jordan was subsequently hit with a 10-place grid penalty for the BTCC's trip to Snetterton, but keeps his Croft win.

Behind him Collard equalled his best finish of 2014 in second, with Shedden taking another podium finish in third. Turkington was forced out of the race with clutch problems, allowing both Jordan and Shedden to reduce his championship advantage. The WSR man now leads Shedden by seven points, with Jordan a further 21 in arrears. The series takes a break for July before resuming at Snetterton on 3 August.

DTM

Robert Wickens (HWA-Mercedes) grabbed his second career DTM win at the Norisring. The race began behind the safety car due to heavy rain, after which pole-sitter Wickens quickly disappeared into the distance. Norisring expert Jamie Green gave chase in his Audi and did close the gap, but Wickens turned it up a notch to eventually beat the Brit by almost 24 seconds.

Christian Vietoris (HWA-Mercedes) had looked a contender for P2 until a problem in the pits curtailed his efforts. The Abt-Audi of Mattias Ekstrom was third, followed by his team-mates Edoardo Mortara and Adrien Tambay.

Former F1 racer Paul di Resta (HWA-Mercedes) had a day to forget. Having missed out on pole by just 0.093s he spun behind Wickens at the start and never recovered, eventually coming home 15th.

Wickens’ win scored the Canadian his first points of the season, vaulting him to seventh in the standings. BMW’s Marco Wittmann still leads on 58 points, ahead of Mortara (39), Ekstrom (35) and reigning champ Mike Rockenfeller (35)

Max Verstappen completed his second perfect weekend in succession in the supporting FIA European F3 series. Having won all three races last time out at Spa the 16-year-old proved he’s just as lethal on street circuits, capturing another hat-trick at the German venue. Esteban Ocon still leads the standings after taking second-place finishes in races one and three, but Verstappen’s incredible form is eating into the Frenchman’s advantage.

Formula Renault 3.5

Formula Renault 3.5’s trip to Moscow Raceway produced a pair of first-time winners. Local hero Sergey Sirotkin took the opener from pole position, though he was pushed hard by Zoel Amberg - something of a surprise in itself - who eventually finished just 0.8s behind the Russian. Pietro Fantin was third ahead of Roberto Mehri, Jazeman Jaafar and Will Stevens.

Mehri took pole for race two and converted it into a comfortable maiden win. The Spaniard beat Red Bull junior Pierre Gasly by 6.7s, with series returnee Richie Stanaway taking an excellent third. Sirotkin was fourth ahead of his Fortec team-mate Oliver Rowland.

Championship leader Carlos Sainz Jr. had a rare off weekend. The Spaniard qualified 16th for the first race, then couldn’t get off the grid and had to start from the pits. He subsequently clashed with Rowland and received a grid penalty for Sunday.

He was on better form for the second race, starting 11th and finishing sixth to reduce the damage to his points advantage. The DAMS driver still enjoys a 33-point cushion over Gasly, with Rowland and Stevens a little further back. Meanwhile wins for Mehri and Sirotkin have edged both up the table into fifth and sixth respectively.

In the supporting Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup, Nyck de Vries extended his championship lead despite not finishing the first race, with chief rival Bruno Bonifacio suffering a nightmare weekend. The opening race was won by Aurelien Panis, son of former F1 star Olivier, from Andrea Pizzitola and Welshman Matt Parry. Kevin Jorg came out on top in the second contest from De Vries and Alex Albon. De Vries now holds an 18-point lead over Bonifacio.

NASCAR

Brad Keselowski won the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Motor Speedway on Saturday night. The Team Penske driver was a perpetual front-runner throughout the night, leading 199 of the 267 laps, and always found his way back to the front when pitstops pushed him back. It was the 2012 Sprint Cup Champion's second win of the season.Kyle Busch followed Keselowski home in second place, with Ryan Newman rounding out the podium. It was a relatively subdued race that featured only six cautions and four retirements.

In the second-tier Nationwide Series contest Sprint Cup drivers locked out the podium, with Kevin Harvick winning from Keselowski and Busch. Elliott Sadler finished 10th to narrowly extend his championship advantage over Chase Elliott.

World Rally Championship

Volkswagen’s Sebastien Ogier put in a commanding display to win Rally Poland and increase his WRC lead to 50 points. The victory is Ogier’s fifth of the 2014 season and came in dominant style as he finished 1m00.07s ahead of team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen.

The weekend’s stages looked set to be a showdown between the VW pair, as Mikkelsen ended Friday just 0.9 seconds behind Ogier, but mechanical problems for the Norwegian on Saturday effectively guaranteed Ogier victory a day early.

This allowed both drivers to ease through the final set of four stages on Sunday and meant the most competitive driving was from the championship’s second-placed man, Jari-Matti Latvala, who after a poor first three days was attempting to limit the amount of points lost to team-mate Ogier.

Latvala started the day in sixth but quickly took fifth from Hyundai’s Juho Hanninen. However despite some impressive driving, he was unable to catch Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) and Mikko Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) in third and fourth respectively, falling just 0.7 seconds away from gaining another spot.

Meanwhile local hero Robert Kubica suffered a trying weekend. The former F1 star suffered a roll on Friday, dropping him down to 11th. He then recovered to run sixth on Saturday, only to hit a rock and damage the suspension on his Ford Fiesta, ending his efforts early.

Elsewhere…

Kimya Sato still leads the AutoGP standings. The Japanese racer won the opening encounter at Imola, beating Kevin Giovesi and Andrea Roda to the flag. The second contest was won by the series’ only female competitor, Michela Cerruti, who beat Giovesi and former championship runner-up Pal Varhaug to top spot. Sato’s advantage is 36 points over Giovesi and Markus Pommer with three rounds remaining.

French circuit Paul Ricard witnesses a very British victory in the Blancpain Endurance Series event. Steven Kane, Guy Smith and Andy Meyrick took the PRO class spoils in their M-Sport-run Bentley, repeating their victory on home soil at Silvertsone.

Richard Westbrook and Michael Valiante won the United SportsCar contest at Watkins Glen, but the real talking point was balance of performance.

The Daytona Prototypes enjoyed a significant speed advantage over LMP2 machinery, allowing Westrbrook to cruise past the OAK Racing car of Alex Brundle after a late safety car. "He's just driven past me - this isn't racing,” Brundle bemoaned over the radio, further complicating what has been a messy unification year for the series. Corvette duo Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia took GTLM class honours.