AutoMatters & More: Nerve-wracking British MotoGP & IndyCar Season Finale

While there is nothing quite like the excitement and suspense of watching thrilling motorsports events in person, watching them on TV lets you see and hear what you would otherwise miss. Ideally do both, but this was a TV-only weekend for me.

2015 MotoGP Grand Prix of Great Britain

Ninety-five mph, in driving rain, on a motorcycle: That is what Italy’s Valentino Rossi overcame to win Sunday’s grueling, 20-lap race at the legendary Silverstone race circuit. Consider this: Only two thin contact patches where the tires meet the road keep riders from sliding across the hard track and beyond.

The next MotoGP race on Fox Sports 1 will be the Grand Prix of San Marino on Sept. 13.

GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma

Race fans were treated to a cliffhanger at the IndyCar season finale, in what has been one of the most exciting IndyCar seasons ever.

Prior to the race, the mood was somber because, as reported here last week, IndyCar driver Justin Wilson lost his life in the previous weekend’s race. A humble, kind and talented driver, Justin was liked by all. If you would like to make a donation to help support his wife and two young daughters, bid for a driver’s helmet or leave words of encouragement, please visit WilsonChildrensFund.com.

A universal fact of motor racing is that it requires total and absolute concentration, to the exclusion of all else. When the green flag dropped at Sonoma Raceway, the focus shifted to the race at hand — and what a race it was, with so much at stake.

Going into the race, Juan Pablo Montoya — a seasoned veteran of Formula 1, NASCAR and IndyCar — seemed to be comfortably in the championship lead, a position that he had held all season long.

Graham Rahal was second in the championship in what was really a David versus Goliath battle. That played a factor in the race, as teammates in the two much larger and better-funded multicar teams (Penske and Ganassi) worked hard to make sure that one of their cars took the checkered flag first. Even less than a race win might have meant the season championship for one of several drivers, depending on how the others in the championship battle finished.

At first it looked like a lock for Team Penske. Will Power took an early lead, and Montoya was doing well. Rahal, on the other hand, was fighting an ill-handling car. But then, midway through the race, the Penske freight train got derailed.

In a relatively minor incident, Montoya tapped the back of Power’s IndyCar, spinning Power out and damaging his own front wing. By the time Power resumed racing he was at the rear of the pack, as was Montoya after he came in for a new nose.

Lap after lap, the championship points battle kept changing, as cars pitted and were passed. Ever so slowly but surely, Montoya worked his way towards the front of the field — but the laps were winding down.

Seemingly out of nowhere, the third-place Chevrolet-powered car going into the championship finale — masterfully driven by veteran three-time series champion Scott Dixon — had moved into first place, both on the track and in the championship. The ultimate outcome, though, was not completely under his control. It also depended upon how well Montoya and Rahal each finished.

The answer came for Rahal when he was punted off the track by a hard-charging Sebastien Bourdais — an errant move for which Bourdais would soon be penalized. It cost Rahal much more, though, falling from second to fourth in the championship.

For Montoya, it literally came down to the last turn on the last lap. It was Team Penske versus Target Team Ganassi. If he could just pass the car of Ryan Briscoe, which he had been gaining on for several laps, he would win the championship; but that was not meant to be.

Incredibly, after an entire season of racing, Montoya and Dixon finished with a points tie. But by securing the race win, Dixon had four race wins to Montoya’s three. That was the tie-breaker that decided the championship in Scott’s favor.

Montoya and Penske will have many months to ponder the what-ifs, and how one more point would have changed the outcome in their favor.

For us, what an exciting season of IndyCar racing this was! I can hardly wait until next year.

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Copyright © 2015 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #400r1

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