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Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Villeneuve hails Alonso’s Indy 500 entry as ‘amazing’

Jacques Villeneuve has called two-time Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso’s decision to enter the 101st Indianapolis 500 “amazing”, but doubts he stands much chance of winning on debut.

Alonso shocked the motorsport world last week by announcing that he would miss the Monaco Grand Prix in May so he could Titanfall 1 Ps4 as part of a joint effort between McLaren, Honda and Andretti Autosport.

The news has divided opinion in racing circles, but 1995 Indy 500 winner Villeneuve was delighted by it, himself having also raced in both F1 and Indy cars before.

“He will go for it, and that’s what’s great. That’s what makes it exciting. It’s typical gladiators and that’s what built the sport, made it what it is today,” xbox one gamestop.

“So it’s good that there’s someone going back to its roots like this, it’s amazing.” Villeneuve did, however, add that Alonso’s chances of a rookie victory were “tiny”.

Villeneuve is one of just a handful of drivers in racing history to attempt all three races that make up motorsport’s ‘Triple Crown’: the Indy 500 (1994, 1995, 2014), the Monaco Grand Prix (1996-2006) and the 24 Hours of Le Mans (2007, 2008).

In his bid to become one of the greatest drivers of all-time, Alonso has set his sights on winning the Triple Crown, and Villeneuve is disappointed that more F1 drivers are not similarly-driven.

“What I find disappointing is how many drivers say ‘why bother, it’s only an oval race, it’s dangerous, why would I race there?’ Well, you’re a racer,” Villeneuve said.

“If you are a pure race fan and are passionate and a racer at heart, you have to be interested in Le Mans and Indy 500 as well as F1. It’s the three main things in racing.

“For drivers, it was always important. I finished second in Le Mans which is a shame, that really kills me. That hurts.”

Despite entering all three races, Villeneuve has completed just one leg of the Triple Crown – his Indy win in 1995 – with his best Monaco finish being P4 in 2001 with BAR.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Smith: Was Jacques Villeneuve’s Formula E departure inevitable?

When Jacques Villeneuve announced back in August that he would be entering Formula E from the beginning fen season two with Venturi, the reaction was mixed.

The more idealist fans and observers saw it as one of the biggest coups scored by the infant series to date. Regardless of his reputation and somewhat backwards career path, Villeneuve is a former champion in both Formula 1 and CART – and that alone lends a great deal of credence to the series.
The cynics immediately scoffed at his arrival. Given his abrupt and failed foray into NASCAR and the nature of his departure from F1 midway through the 2006 season, few believed that Villeneuve would last long.

I personally belonged in the first camp. My love for F1 and motorsport was encouraged by my mother, who told me stories of seeing her hero, Gilles Villeneuve, race back in the 1970s and 1980s. Reading about the Canadian only increased my amazement.

So this idealist fool put a post up on Facebook on the day that Jacques confirmed his arrival into Formula E, cooing at the fact I would see a Villeneuve out on track the very next week at Donington Park for the first pre-season test.

Naturally, the cynics hit back. The responses read like a bad song list on a new album, fitting since Villeneuve also tried – and struggled – to venture into the music world post-his F1 career.

“You’re looking for the wrong Villeneuve,” one colleague said. “How long until the mid-season walk-out?” quipped another. “Every race needs a 14th place finisher,” added a third.

Villeneuve had long expressed an interest in Formula E as a concept, though. He did try and set up his own team upon the formation of the series, but was unsuccessful. As a result, his arrival at Venturi couldn’t be considered that surprising.

“I got in the car and immediately enjoyed it,” Villeneuve said of a test that helped him make up his mind. “It drove like a proper single seater and I was happily surprised by the feeling in the car and the team atmosphere was great.

“So it was an easy decision to do the full season. It’s a series that will keep getting faster and if you look at the rest of the racing world they try to make them slower, so that’s definitely a positive.”

There were early teething problems, though. The rule change for season two that allowed teams to develop their own powertrains, a task that some managed more successfully than others. Venturi was by no means the worst offender when it came to stoppages, but Villeneuve did suffer a number of issues during his test running, with one leaving him to help push the car back to the garage after grinding to a halt at the end of the pit lane.

Nevertheless, Villeneuve appeared happy. Sporting his famed baggy overalls, he caught up with Jarno Trulli, a driver with whom he raced against the majority of his F1 career. There was a certain nostalgia to it all; the old boys giving it a go against the up-and-comers.

And yet the enormity of the task facing Villeneuve became clear when Formula E hit Beijing for the first race of season two. The Canadian had a nightmarish first race that was interrupted by a tangle with Antonio Felix da Costa when battling over 14th place. He eventually came home in P14, finishing one lap down on race winner Sebastien Buemi.

Putrajaya went little better. Villeneuve came close to scoring a breakthrough point by finishing 11th, yet this was out of just 13 finishers. At the end of a race full of carnage, the opportunity was there for the midfield runners to step up to the plate and pick up some points. Villeneuve missed out here.

He didn’t even make the start in Punta del Este, though. A crash in qualifying left his Venturi car beyond repair, bringing the curtain down on his time in Formula E – unbeknownst to us at the time, of course.

Earlier this week, the team confirmed that Villeneuve had left by mutual consent after “a disagreement over the future direction of the team.” Clearly, Villeneuve wasn’t expecting to fit into the ‘employee’ role that most drivers do; he was always expecting an increased position.

Was his exit from the series inevitable? The aforementioned cynics should in fact be called ‘realists.’ If Villeneuve couldn’t stick it out in a midfield running BMW Sauber back in 2006, what were the chances of him doing so in Formula E? Surely one of F1’s most vocal critics would be unable to find joy in such a young series that, while moving rapidly, still has teething problems?

Perhaps it depended on how he started. Had Villeneuve been battling towards the front early on, it’s unlikely he would have left Venturi. The ins and outs of his departure are not known, but at the age of 44, why would he want to be trundling around at the back?

The level of belief Villeneuve had (and still has) in Formula E is another key factor in his departure. Perhaps he had higher hopes for the championship, only to be disappointed when he arrived in it. Or maybe he felt Venturi weren’t meeting the potential that Formula E offered teams. Maybe he thought it better to go it alone.

So who knows – perhaps this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Jacques Villeneuve in Formula E. The likelihood of him starting his own team anytime soon is low given the grid is at its maximum capacity as of season three with the arrival of Jaguar. All of the other teams appear committed, making a takeover unlikely.

Time will tell on this one. But regardless, Villeneuve may have brought his reputation to Formula E, but the series has proven that no driver – even an ex-F1 and CART champion – is bigger than it as an entity. And that surely is a major victory while it remains at such an early stage.

Jacques Villeneuve Q&A: The ex-World Champion on the big talking points for 2014

Starting with Sebastian Vettel, if his Red Bull car proves to be significantly less competitive in 2014 how do you think he is going to do in the new season?

Jacques Villeneuve:
"We don't know how competitive it is, they just can't do laps. So that's worse than not being competitive. They really need to fix it because if not they won't even be able to finish qualifying, for example. 

"So they need to work on that car and once they get driving we will really know how competitive they are or not."

What about Ferrari? Can Kimi Raikkonen outscore Fernando Alonso?

"It is possible because last year Alonso wasn't the golden boy of Ferrari anymore, the energy wasn't good anymore. They were all fighting internally and that's why they put Kimi in there.
"But if we remember a few years ago it ended in tears with Kimi as well, so who knows what will happen. It's a very difficult team to be part of. It's very political, there are a lot of demands and when things don't go right they become very difficult to bear.

"But with the new rules, where basically the drivers won't have to drive on the edge the whole time, it won't be too physical, it could suit Kimi."

Do you think the drivers will radically have to adapt their styles with the new powertrains and fuel limitations?

"They will probably have to adapt their style but the issue with fuel limitation is the fuel economy won't be done by the driver, it will all be done by software, and at some point of the straight the engine will start cutting and giving less power. So the driver has very little to do with it."

A lot of the headlines building up to the season having been about the double points in Abu Dhabi. Do you think this is a good idea?

"I think it's a terrible idea. It's showing that Formula 1 right now there's no way to invent anymore to try and create some interest. It's overly artificial, just the way the rules are in general with the DRS and everything.

"But at least that one with the points is the same for everyone. Everyone knows before the start of the season that at the end of the season there will be a double-point race. I'm not sure what the purpose is apart from keeping the Abu Dhabi organisers, who spend millions to have a race, trying to keep the interest until their own race."

What do you think of the sound of the new turbo engines?

"They don't sound as beefy or aggressive. Ultimately all the fans want to see is good racing. Good, exciting, fun racing."

Why have you been attracted to the World Rallycross Championship?

"First of all it's exciting - and challenging. I've seen a few images and it's rough and tough, it's fast and a lot of horsepower. It's become a World Championship with the FIA tag, there's a race in Canada and so there's a lot of things going for it. I was keen to get back in a full championship as well."

Michael Schumacher was your great rival when you won your world title in 1997, how has his accident and situation affected you?

"I was really shocked. The effect is more on his family, that's where it is really, really hard because they are waiting and they have no idea what will happen. That's a terrible position to be in.
"It can happen to any of us, in any situation. We all live on the edge and Michael certainly did. That's how he won his championships. He went motorbike racing. He needed that adrenaline to kick in and he needed to always overcome himself basically."

The Sky Sports F1 Online team will be providing live commentary of all three winter tests with live updates from trackside also on Sky Sports News. The next test, in Bahrain, begins on Wednesday February 19.

Monday Morning Roundup: What is Jacques Villeneuve up to now? Lewis Hamilton comes to Toronto – again. And more.

Wheels Editor Norris McDonald reports on more off-season racing news, starting with CART and F1 driving champion Jacques Villeneuve and including Lewis Hamilton hanging out with the NBA’s Raptors.

Jacques Villeneuve was in Toronto several years ago to help promote the Indianapoilis 500 and, by extension, the Hondea Indy Toronto. (Toronto Star File Photo)

Years ago, I read a fascinating story in Sports Illustrated about a “couldn’t miss” baseball pitcher who suddenly lost his ability to throw the ball.

Written by the young man himself, the story traced his progress through Little League and high school and then college. He’d been signed by a major league team, cashed a sizeable bonus, and been sent to a Double A team in the Carolinas to learn how to pitch in the pros.

One day, he went to the park and went out to warm up and couldn’t throw the ball. When I say he couldn’t throw the ball, I mean he couldn’t get it anywhere near the plate. He still had the arm and the speed but he had absolutely no control. He eventually got most of it back but he never got good enough again to get out of Double A.

I tell you this because every time I hear the name Jacques Villeneuve, I think of this story.

Jacques had his father’s talent early on. He got into CART and was soon a star. In 1995, he won the Indianapolis 500 after being behind two laps at one point. He also won the CART championship that season. He went to Formula One with Williams-Renault and nearly won his first race. He finished second in the standings his first year and in 1997 became champion of the world.

It’s been pretty much downhill ever since. Every team or series or form of racing he’s attempted has ended in failure.

Now comes news that he’s signed to drive in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for a new outfit called Wing Nut Racing (no jokes please, and I am not making this up).

Wing Nut Racing – or WNR – says it’s a startup that plans to run in a “wide variety” of racing classes, from off-road to stock cars. Its primary sponsor is a Canadian company called Alsco (textile services worldwide), which plans to be the main sponsor in one race and an associate sponsor in five more.

Okay, although I think that Jacques lost the ability years ago to be a top-of-the-mountain racer he once was (like that baseball pitcher I told you about), if he still wants to race, then race. Take whatever money he has left and make a deal with one of the big NASCAR or IndyCar teams to give him a first-rate car and crew and then go to it. Quit teaming up with those never-wills or fly-by-night outfits that will never do anything but further tarnish whatever he has left of a once-stirling reputation.

Maybe this new team is serious (although, with a name like that, I doubt it). Perhaps Jacques is too. But if he falls flat on his face again, as he has a lot lately, he’ll be a joke instead of the hero he so obviously wants to be.

World driving champion Lewis Hamilton seems enamored with North America and, in particular, the Beautiful People and the top athletes you find here.

I reported several weeks ago that he was at the Air Canada Centre for a Raptors-Lakers game but after talking to a few people, the consensus was that he’d flown into Toronto from L.A. mainly to see Kobe Bryant play and there wasn’t anything more to it than that.

I was also assured by Mercedes-Benz Canada – the people you have to go through if you want to talk to anybody connected to the Mercedes F1 team, including the drivers – that he wasn’t in Toronto on company business.

But then a few days ago, here’s Lewis at it again. He tweets out photos of himself at the Raptors practice facility over at Exhibition Place. You can bet that somebody like Drake lined that up for him.

Lewis can probably wander around Toronto and not be bothered. Even if he’s recognized, people here give celebrities their space. It’s why the Toronto International Film Festival is so popular with the Hollywood crowd. They can go out and be left alone.

And, as we know, Prince lived here for many years. Not as well known is the fact that Mick Jagger keeps a place in Toronto and spends lots of time here in the summers.

What’s this got to do with racing? This.

Ever since Lewis showed up in November at Homestead-Miami Speedway for Jeff Gordon’s last race, there has been speculation that he wants to race in NASCAR someday. I would agree that a one-off in the Daytona 500 or the Brickyard or one of the two Sprint Cup road races could be in the cards sometime in the future. But a full season? Or seasons? Not on your life.

Monaco or Montreal are places where Beyonce and that crowd might show up to hang out with him. But Martinsville? Rural Michigan? Forget it.

Moving right along, the way FOX Sports and NASCAR itself are promoting Jeff Gordon’s gig in the play-by-play booth makes you wonder whether Gordon might turn out to be NASCAR’s biggest star even though he’s no longer racing.

I wouldn’t be surprised, you know. NASCAR became NASCAR when Gordon turned his back on CART Indy car racing in 1991 (they didn’t know who he was and weren’t interested in finding out) and “went south” to race in NASCAR. All sorts of things happened as a result of CART’s arrogance. NASCAR began its ascent to become the most popular form of racing in North America and a disgusted Tony George served notice that he was going to start the Indy Racing League.

Now, Gordon is retired. But the bloom is off the NASCAR rose and attendance and TV numbers have been declining. NASCAR still needs Jeff Gordon and that’s why he’s getting such an incredible buildup.

He pretty much propelled NASCAR on its way when he was on the race track. Maybe he can turn things around for them now that he’s taken on another role.

Meantime, two of FOX’s other booth personalities, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds, had thoughts about Tony Stewart’s latest injury and the fact that he’ll likely miss the Daytona 500:

Said Waltrip: “I’m looking for Tony’s story to go just like Kyle Busch’s did last year. Everyone said Kyle would be out six months, but they didn’t understand the resolve of an athlete like Kyle. Tony wants to get back in the car and finish his career strong. He will surprise you. He’s probably lying in that hospital bed right now thinking, ‘I’m going to be just like Kyle.’ Just watch.”

Then, reflecting on Stewart’s career, Waltrip said: “Tony has had an exceptional career. He has also had some exceptionally bad times during that career. But his passion for everything he does – whether racing Cup cars, sprint cars, Indy cars or owning race tracks – is the true picture of a racer; a throw-back to the racers of old. They don’t make them like Tony anymore, and they probably never will again.”

McReynolds talked about Stewart’s generosity:

“Tony Stewart’s legacy can’t be defined with one category. If there was a blue-collar racer Hall of Fame, he’d be at the top of the list because he embodies what a true racer is. The other thing that gets lost in the shuffle is how good of a person he is. Tony’s heart is as big as his race car. We don’t read press releases about him donating money to a particular charity or helping a family out, but for every time we don’t, rest assured there were probably four or five times he did it.”

Speaking of people named Waltrip, Michael Waltrip will attempt to qualify for his 29th Daytona 500 next weekend in the No. 83 Toyota for BK Racing. For a guy who didn’t win many races when he was driving, he was golden at Daytona, which he won twice.

Okay, here’s what else is going on.

- Ken Roczen won the Monster Energy AMA Supercross race before 53,000 fans at University of Phoenix Stadium Saturday night. Ryan Dingey was second and Eli Tomac finished third. Superstar James Stewart is suffering from concussion issues and didn’t race. The Supercross tour will make a stop at Toronto’s Rogers Centre next month.

- Shane Van Gisbergen, Alvaro Parente and Jonathon Webb drove a Tekno Autosports McLaren to victory at the Bathurst, Australia, Bathurst 12 Hour, the opening round in the new Intercontinental GT Challenge.

- Quebec driver Maxime Labrie and co-driver Robert Labrie won the first round of the 2016 Eastern Canadian Rally Championship at the weekend. Driving a Subaru WRX STI, the due finished first in the Rallye Perce-Neige, which was held in Maniwaki, Qué. This season, the Eastern Canadian Rally Championship will consist of nine rounds this season, spread out between Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritime provinces. The next round, the Lanark Highlands Forest Rally, will take place in Ontario on May 7th.

- Hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps as another American driver to make it to the Verizon IndyCar Series the “traditional” way (midget, sprint and supermodified oval-track racing), Davey Hamilton Jr., son of veteran Indy car competitor Davey Hamilton and grandson of Ken Hamilton who led the way into Indy cars, will drive for Jack McCormack and McCormack Racing in the 2016 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires Series.

- The Lucas Oil Canadian Vintage Modifieds will celebrate their 50th anniversary season this year and Lucas Oil Products will return for its 12th consecutive year as the title sponsor for the club. According to series president Dave Trendell, the club will travel to five race tracks across Ontario over a 15-race schedule. The season kicks off with the club’s lone date at Sunset Speedway near Innisfil on May 14. The series will visit Flamboro Speedway nine times in 2016, including the championship finale on Sept. 24. Delaware Speedway hosts the CVM on June 10 and then again on July 15 for the Mid-Season championship. Sauble Speedway will also play host twice, including a Canada Day special on July 1. The modifieds will race at Full Throttle Motor Speedway, near Durham, Ont., on June 4.

- Finally Cameron Hayley of Calgary will return to ThorSport Racing and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) in 2016, piloting the No. 13 Cabinets by Hayley Toyota Tundra. Hayley, who competed for Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in 2015, finished sixth in the championship point standings, amassing four top-five and 13 top-10 finishes.

Hayley will complete the roster for the Sandusky, Ohio-based team. Rounding out ThorSport Racing's stable of drivers will be Ben Rhodes, driver of the No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions Toyota Tundra. Two-time NCWTS champion, Matt Crafton, who will pilot the No. 88 Menards Toyota Tundra and Rico Abreu will pilot the No. 98 CURB Records Toyota Tundra.

The Camping World Series season will kick off on Fri., Feb. 19, at the Daytona Speedway, two days before the 500. All the action will be televised live in Canada on the FOX Sports Racing channel.

Jacques Villeneuve set to make NASCAR comeback

Former IndyCar Series and Formula 1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve is set to make a comeback in the NASCAR Xfinity series this season.

A few weeks ago, Villeneuve and Venturi suddenly put an end to their partnership in the FIA Formula E Championship.

However, a press release issued last weekend said that Jacques Villeneuve would be racing for a new team, Wingnut Racing, in 2016.
This newly formed organisation will enter a K1 Speed-sponsored Wingnut Racing Nissan GT-R in this year’s Pirelli World Challenge.

The team also mentioned that Villeneuve would race the No. 27 Wingnut Racing car in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Wingnut Racing has also signed sponsorship deals with Alsco, K1 Speed and SpeedForSale.

“We will partner with Wingnut for one race in the 2016 Xfinity series as a primary sponsor and will be an associate partner with them for an additional five races this year,” said Jim Divers, Director of Sales and Marketing at Alsco.

“Jacques Villeneuve is a proven winner in motorsports and we look forward to being with him in Victory Lane.”

SpeedForSale Motorsports builds and dyno tunes R35 GT-R’s at their shop in Atlanta, GA, and also has the world’s largest selection of GT-R performance parts on their webstore with daily international shipments.

K1 Speed was founded in 2003 and is the nation’s largest indoor kart racing chain.

Villeneuve himself was unavailable for comment.

Jacques Villeneuve Canadian race-car driver

Jacques Villeneuve, (born April 9, 1971, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, Can.) Canadian race-car driver who in 1995 became the first Canadian to win the Indianapolis 500 and the youngest winner of the IndyCar championship.

Villeneuve was the son of Gilles Villeneuve and the nephew of Jacques Villeneuve, both Canadian race-car drivers. He spent much of his early childhood traveling on the racing circuit with his parents, first in North America and then in Europe. His father became successful in Formula One (F1) Grand Prix racing and moved the family from Quebec to Monaco in 1978; four years later, however, Gilles was killed in a racing accident. Villeneuve attended boarding school in Switzerland for six years and then decided to become a race-car driver.

He began his racing career at the age of 17. From 1989 to 1991 he drove on the Italian Formula Three (F3) racing circuit, and then in the 1992 season he raced F3 cars in Japan. There he won three races and finished second in the overall points standing. He spent the 1993 season driving on the Formula Atlantic racing circuit in North America, winning 5 of his 15 races there and gaining Rookie of the Year honours. In 1994 he joined the IndyCar racing circuit, placing second in the Indianapolis 500 race and finishing the season in sixth place in the overall points standing. He was also named Rookie of the Year. In 1995, after winning the Indianapolis 500, he went on to win the IndyCar championship.

Villeneuve’s success resulted in his moving to F1 racing in 1996, when he joined the Williams team. He was the fastest qualifier in his first F1 race, and his first victory came four races into the season. He finished the season second in the series championship. In 1997 he won 7 of the season’s 17 races and secured the championship only after avoiding an attempt by Michael Schumacher, with whom Villeneuve was competing for the title, to wreck Villeneuve out of the final race of the season.

In 1998 Villeneuve had a lacklustre season with Williams, finishing fifth in the championship with no wins. From 1999 through 2003, he drove for the noncompetitive British American Racing team. In 2005, after a year as a substitute driver, he drove a full season for the Swiss-based Sauber team, and in 2006 he completed a half-season before being replaced. He retired from F1 racing that year.

Villeneuve subsequently turned to stock-car racing in the United States and sports-car racing in Europe. In 2008 he won an endurance event in Belgium—his first major race win in more than 10 years—and finished second overall in the Le Mans 24-Hour Race.