Sunday, 7 April 2013

Hunter-Reay Victorious In Alabama

R H-R off the mark for 2013
2012 IZOD Indy Car Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay claimed his first win of the season in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at the Barber Motorsports Park. The Andretti Autosports driver led much of the race at the demanding Birmingham circuit, fending off Scott Dixon to secure his team's second win of the season.

Hunter-Reay led from pole
In an exciting first lap, Charlie Kimball started well, as did Marco Andretti, launching from seventh to third. Many people's championship favourite Will Power dropped back six positions. Reigning champion Ryan Hunter-Reay led from pole with rookie Tristan Vautier not too far behind. Towards the back of the field, Graham Rahal and Oriol Servia collided resulting in visits to the pits for both drivers.

On lap four, winner of the opening round two weeks ago, James Hinchcliffe stopped on track with apparent left rear damage. The Canadian reported a lack of drive. The incident briefly brought out the safety car. 

Hunter-Reay continued to lead when the safety car went in on lap eight and by lap 24 the Texan had built up a lead of over ten seconds as pit stops began. Sebastian Bourdais meanwhile had climbed from a lowly 23rd place grid spot to run in the top ten by the time he pitted.
There were more woes for Franchitti

On lap 43, four-time champion Dario Franchitti's dreadful start to the season continued as his Ganassi car suffered from engine problems in the pits. A lap later, fellow Honda engined runner Takuma Sato also faced problems in the pits as he failed to get away immediately.

Just past the half-way point, Will Power held the lead although he was yet to pit for a second time. His team mate, a charging Helio Castroneves relieved the Australian of first place on lap 51. Hunter-Reay continued to run in third whilst Castroneves began to build a lead.

With 30 laps to go, Power pitted allowing Hunter-Reay to go after Castroneves and with 15 to go Hunter-Reay re-gained the lead. Scott Dixon then began to challenge Castroneves for second place. Dixon took the position a lap later, using his Push-To-Pass to breeze past the Brazilian. Power meanwhile emerged from the pits in fourth.
Kimball put on an strong display

Charlie Kimball took fourth place on lap 78 with a brave move up the inside of Will Power, continuing an impressive run all day which rarely saw him out of the top five and leading for the second time in his Indy Car career.

In the closing stages, the battle for the final top-ten position was a fight between two Frenchmen with four-time Champ Car champion Sebastian Bourdais battling with the impressive Tristan Vautier. Vautier prevailed and with five to go, Bourdais left the track, dropping down to 13th initially, eventually finishing in 16th.

A charging Scott Dixon couldn't do enough to take the lead from Ryan Hunter-Reay, who eventually took the victory. It wasn't easy for the defending champion who after the race said "I was driving my tail off trying to stay in front of Dixon". Helio Castroneves finished a distant third with Kimball fourth. Will Power rounded out the top five. It was Scott Dixon's fourth second place at Barber Motorsports Park in as many years whilst as well as being Ryan Hunter-Reay's first win, it was also his first top at the Alabama circuit.

Allmendinger impressed
Despite impressively running in the top ten early on, open-wheel returnee AJ Allmendinger finished in 19th, one lap down after loosing time when he stalled in the pits.The Californian was pretty downbeat with his finishing position stating "I'm going to go beat myself up about this". "I felt like we were going to finish 10th or 11th" he continued, although he was able to take the positives from his performance, declaring "Physically I feel good about it", after there were doubts he wouldn't be up to the demands of open wheel racing after being away for some time.

Castroneves leads the points standings
Helio Castroneves' podium finish moves him into the championship lead, with Scott Dixon second and race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay in third. The next IZOD Indy Car series is the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach,which takes place on the legendary street circuit in the Pacific Coast city. Will Power will be looking to get his first win of the season a track where he's won twice before, including last season.

Pictures - Indy Car Media

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