Tag Archives: Kazuki Nakajima

Mixed results for F1 drivers at 24 Hours of Le Mans

The 24 Hours of Le Mans has concluded today at the Circuit de la Sarthe, with Audi roaring away with 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th places.

There were 22 drivers there today who have previously raced in Formula 1. Some finished well up the field with consistent drives, while others were involved in terrifying crashes. Here is the report of the F1 drivers from today’s race:

Brundle & Brundle impress in LMP2

Sky F1 commentator and former F1 driver Martin Brundle, along with his son Alex, competed in the LMP2 (Le Mans Prototype 2) category.

Clocking in an impressive 340 laps overnight, the father-son pairing finished 5th in class, and 15th overall. However, during the race, they were forced to switch to right-foot braking – a first for Alex – after problems began to develop on the car.

Alternator and throttle issues prevented them from battling for a podium finish, but the elder of the two stated he was pleased with his racing return.

Davidson lucky after horrific crash

Further up the field, 2007 Super Aguri driver Anthony Davidson was competing for the overall victory with the resurgent Toyota team. He took control of the #8 car, about 80 laps into the race.

However, a horrific smash with a Ferrari 458 (GTE Pro category) sent Davidson flying into the barriers, and the Toyota out of the race. After being sent to hospital to treat him for shock and back pain, it was confirmed that Davidson had suffered two broken vertebrae in the crash.

However, from watching the replay, you could argue that he is lucky to be alive:

Teammate Sebastien Buemi, a former Toro Rosso driver, drove a fantastic stint to bring the #8 Toyota within 3 seconds of the lead beforehand. Stephane Sarrazin – a once-off driver for Minardi, also drove well in his opening stints.

McNish and Gene throw away vital positions for Audi

2002 Toyota F1 driver Allan McNish has moved on to the Audi Le Mans team, this year racing the #2 R-18 e-tron quattro, a hybrid 4-wheel drive car. He inherited the lead from the #1 car, and was in contention for the race win.

However, when lapping a backmarker, McNish spun out and hit the barriers, losing vital time with repair work:

Amazingly, just minutes beforehand, fellow Audi driver Marc Gene (former Minardi and BMW Williams driver) had clashed with another barrier, this time on one of the Mulsanne chicanes. Earlier in the race, the same car was crashed in the exact same spot by Romain Dumas.

Both cars were repaired, at the same time, by the Audi crew, and sent out within 10 minutes – an incredible performance by the team.

Wurz and Nakajima suffer bad luck at Toyota

Besides Davidson’s crash, the sister Toyota car was in the wars as well.

The #7 car was running second after a safety car restart, with former Williams driver Kazuki Nakajima at the wheel. However, he clashed with the radical Nissan Delta Wing, forcing both cars to undergo extensive repairs.

The Delta Wing was out, while the #7 Toyota never recovered. Benneton and Williams racer Alexander Wurz brought the car out of the pits, but it repeatedly stuttered to a halt.

It was a disappointing end to a promising campaign for the Toyotas, but they’ll be back even stronger next year.

Bruni and Fisichella win GTE Pro category

2004 Minardi driver Gianmaria Bruni and Jordan, Renault and Ferrari driver Giancarlo Fisichella experienced success at this year’s Le Mans.

They won the GTE Pro category in the #51 Ferrari 458. While Fisichella was the one who crashed the car on Friday, forcing the car to start at the back of the grid, he did well to move 3 laps clear of his nearest competitor.

Brabham and Chandhok impress in JRM HPD

David Brabham – son of 3 times world champion Jack Brabham – and Karun Chandhok (2010 HRT racer) finished 6th overall in the LMP1 category.

They were racing for the JRM team. Despite some stalling while Chandhok attempted to leave the pits, the #22 car was brilliantly reliable, and briefly ran ahead of some of the Audi R18s.

Heidfeld splits the Audis with Lola

Nick Heidfeld, who has had a stunted career in F1 to say the least, was driving for the Lola team, and managed to finish ahead of one of the Audi cars.

He was driving with Nicolas Prost (son of Alain Prost) and Neel Jani (Lotus test driver), both of which are aiming for drives in F1 in the future.

With excellent reliability, the trio worked their way up to 4th place overall, and ruined a 1-2-3-4 finish for the Audi team. In fact, had any major problem befallen the top 3 cars, Heidfeld and co. would have finished on the podium!

Stefan GP fires up car for first time

Zoran Stefanovich with Mike Coughlan

Zoran Stefanovich with Mike Coughlan

The Stefan GP team, who have yet to be placed on the entry list for this year’s world championship, have fired up their SF01 car for the first time.

The SF01 was actuallt designed by Toyota, which Stefan took over when Toyota dropped out of F1 last year.The engine start-up happened in Toyota’s old Cologne factory, which Stefan GP now uses, apart from two small exclusive areas.

Speaking to Autosport, Zoran Stefanovich says that everything is going according to plan, and the car will be ready for its initial test in Portimao later this month. However, they are still working on a tyre supply deal for this test. In a radio interview, he said:

“This morning, 19 February 2010, was another stepping stone for Stefan Grand Prix. This morning at 8:00, the first car – Stefan 01 – was fired up for the first time.”

“The car ran faultlessly, there was no problem whatsoever, and we could race or test on a racetrack, but we’re just waiting for tyres.”

At the moment, the Stefan GP team is compiled of 60 people, plus the former workers of Toyota, because of the two teams’ collaboration deal.

However, even if the test runs smoothly, Stefan GP still do not have a place on the entry list for 2010. It is believed that the team will only get a place if Campos or USF1 drops out, which seems likely. Stefanovich stated that he is expexting news from the FIA soon:

“We are expecting it to be clarified relatively shortly because all of us know what the situation is. In the meantime we are working very heavily on sorting out the drivers’ contracts.”

I mentioned last month that one of the drivers would be Kazuki Nakajima, and I was right, with Stefanovich confirming this today. Also, he revealed that the team are in negotiations with former F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve.

“At the moment we have to say that we are very near. We are very near to a contract with Jacques Villeneuve, and probably also with another driver as our reserve driver. But the first one which will be with us is Kazuki Nakajima.”

I’ll be honest, I really don’t trust this team. First of all, Bernie Ecclestone has been in talks with the Serbian Prime Minister regarding Stefan GP, and when Bernie gets involved, the results rarely go well. Then, of all the engineers Zoran could have got, he went for Mike Coughlan. I hope you remember him as the McLaren engineer who stole information from Ferrari in 2007, and then went straight to Honda (with Nigel Stepney) for a job application. He allegedly attempted to sell the technical information on to other teams as well. I’ve never trusted him since, and I won’t trust any team around him.

Even if Campos or USF1 do drop out, the FIA don’t hand out places on the grid that quickly. Hopefully we can wait until 2011 and see more about this team.

Stefan GP to launch on 25th, and test 2 drivers

Zoran Stefanovich with Mike Coughlan

Zoran Stefanovich with Mike Coughlan

Despite still having no entry for the 2010 world championship, Stefan GP have now announced that they are to test their new car at Portimao, Portugal, on the 25th February.

The car will be launched a few days before this test. I talked earlier today about them sending equipment to Bahrain, now they have moved forward with the news that they will spend 3 days testing in Portimao.

Stefan GP have also said that they are to test two drivers at this 3-day test. If they get a place on the 2010 grid, these two will probably become the team’s drivers. It is understood that Kazuki Nakajima will be one of the drivers.

The car, called the Stefan S01, has been developed by the team, but with technical support from Toyota, ever since Stefan GP bought their data, parts, and chassis. The engine, to be called the Stefan RG-01, has also been serviced by Toyota.

Clearly, the team are very confident, but will it pay off? It is understood that Zoran Stefanovich, the team owner, believes that two teams (probably Campos and USF1) are in trouble financially. He and the team believe that at least one of these teams will not make it to Bahrain, so Stefan will be ready to take their place. That is, if the FIA give them the place.

After all this effort, Stefan should be given a chance, but not while there’s 13 other teams on the grid. I’m getting a bit tired of all the rumours of the new teams struggling, so a stable new team would be a welcome sight.

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