Manor Racing confirm Pascal Wehrlein for 2016

The 2016 Formula One grid is nearly complete. Manor Racing has confirmed that Pascal Wehrlein will make his debut this season, leaving just one seat available.

Wehrlein is the reigning DTM champion and has tested for the Mercedes F1 Team. With Mercedes providing the newly named Manor Racing with engines for the 2016 season the signing of one of their junior drivers comes as no surprise.

“Manor Racing is a great place for me to start my Formula One career – I’m very pleased to be here,” Wehrlein said of the news. “It’s a small and totally focused team and I soon hope to know everyone. Though it’s my first F1 season my aim is to help Stephen [Fitzpatrick, team owner] and the guys achieve their goals.”

The German driver also explained he had high hopes for the season ahead. “It will be a tough challenge but I think we should be able to challenge for points along the way,” he revealed. “It’s going to be good fun. A word for my racing family at Mercedes-Benz, and particularly for Toto, who have guided my career this far and made this opportunity possible. Thanks for the incredible support to help me achieve my dream; now it’s down to me to grab the moment and perform on track”. 

Team owner Stephen Fitzpatrick revealed the reasons for Wehrlein’s signing. “Pascal is a sharp driver with a very promising future; Manor Racing is excited to have him aboard. We’re a small team up for a big challenge this season, so we’ve chosen a driver with the talent and hunger to match our own on track ambitions. Pascal has impressed in testing for Mercedes and Force India, together with commanding performances in DTM culminating in the championship win last year. Manor Racing is perfectly placed to help Pascal make a big impact in his first season. We’re looking forward to it!”

In the past Wehrlein has raced in the ADAC Formel Masters, Formula 3, and DTM championships – winning the latter in 2015. He has also tested for Force India as well as Mercedes. 

His signing means there is just one seat left on the grid as his team-mate. Names linked to it include 2015 race drivers Will Stevens, Roberto Merhi, and Alexander Rossi along with GP2 racer Rio Haryanto.

Renault reveal new livery and driver line-up

 

Jonathan Rea named Irish Motorcyclist of the Year

World Superbike Champion Jonathan Rea was last night named Irish Motorcyclist of the Year. He was presented with the Joey Dunlop Trophy for the third time at the annual Cornmarket Enkalon Motorbike Awards, having previously taken the honours at the 2007 and 2008 events.

The annual award ceremony took place at the Ramada Plaza in Belfast and brought together many high profile names in the world of motorcycle racing.

While Rea took the main award other Northern Irish riders were also successful. William Dunlop – who was unbeaten in the Supersport class in last year’s National road races – was named National Road Racer of the Year while Lee Johnston picked up an Outstanding Achievement Award for his work with F13k Cancer. British Superstock champion Josh Ellott was named Best Rider on UK and Irish Circuits with Andy Reid collecting the award for Race of the Year.

There were posthumous awards for Owen McNally – who was inducted into the Hall of Fame – and Dr John Hinds. Injured rider Jamie Hamilton presented an award to Dr Janet Acheson for the late Dr Hinds for his services to motorbike racing. Kevin Keyes was named Young Rider of the Year.

Elsewhere Sidecarcross duo Neil Campbell and Ross Graham received the UK Off Road Award while Motocross team Hitachi KTM UK won Team of the Year. Ian Hutchinson was awarded Internatonal Road Racer of the Year following his return to form this season, including three wins at the Isle of Man TT.

Peter Hickman wins Macau Motorcycle GP

Peter Hickman has won the Macau Grand Prix on only his second visit to the circuit.

He had a disappointing visit in 2014 when an accident in the first qualifying session meant he was not able to take part in the remainder of the event. His bike was too badly damaged and despite the team and rider’s best efforts, it could not be repaired in time.

Last year’s third place finisher Martin Jessopp qualified on pole position for the 49th edition of the Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix.  He was joined on the all BMW front row by eight time winner Michael Rutter and Hickman.

Rutter made the best start, taking the early lead before losing out to Jessopp and Hickman before the end of the first lap. Behind the leading trio Ian Hutchinson crossed the line fourth at the end of the first lap, followed by Gary Johnson, John McGuinness, Conor Cummins, Stuart Easton and Horst Saiger.

Jessopp started to build up a comfortable lead ahead of Hickman as the race progressed. Fighting for the third place spot was close with a train of riders in close succession. By the fifth lap Hickman had closed the gap to just over a second and a half.

Davy Morgan, who had made a good start to the race progressing through the field, retired on the fifth lap after sliding off his bike at the slow speed Melco Hairpin. Easton was another retirement as he pulled into the pits.

Hickman took the lead on lap nine and never looked back. Behind the leading duo the group for third were still close. Johnson and Rutter both passed Hutchinson at the same time, but the latter soon took the podium spot back. With two laps remaining it was still all to play for. McGuinness picked up the pace on the last couple of laps and stole fourth from Johnson with a move around the outside on the final lap.

The advantage for the race winner as he crossed the line was just over six seconds as Jessopp secured second. Rutter took third ahead of McGuinness, Johnson, Hutchinson, Cummins, Saiger, Lee Johnston, and David Johnson.

Outside the top ten Dan Cooper came home in 11th ahead of Jimmy Storrar and Mark Miller. Steve Heneghan was 14th with AJ Venter 15th, Brian McCormack 16th, Sam West 17th and Ivan Lintin 18th. Rounding out the top twenty were Ben Wylie and Andre Pires.

William Dunlop confirms 2016 plans

William Dunlop has confirmed his plans for the 2016 road racing season.

Following his split from Tyco BMW, Dunlop will further his partnership with Chris Dowd’s CD/IC Racing for the year ahead. He was a dominant force on the R6 Yamaha in the Supersport class this year, taking nine wins from nine races at the National road races. This included victories at Armoy, Cookstown, and Kells. He was the clear winner of the Irish and Ulster Supersport Championships as well as winning the Superbike class.

In a post on his website Dunlop said that 2015 had been a “difficult year” which featured accidents at the North West 200 and Isle of Man TT which compromised his running. “I had success nationally winning the Irish Championships on the Supersport and Superbike,” Dunlop wrote. “At the International road races there was a combination of bad luck and my own fault with a couple of crashes. One at the North West 200 where I fractured a handful of vertebrae in my back, [and] another a couple of weeks later on the last day of practice at the Isle of Man TT which ended that event for me. I was lucky just to break one rib and now I’m glad to see the winter time to get myself all good again for 2016.”

Dunlop will race in all classes for CD/IC Racing. “We are keeping the R6 built by Marcus [Eschenbacher] and his guys,” the Ballymoney man continued. “Chris has everything in place for them to build us a brand new R1. I can’t say how excited I am to be part of this and to have their involvement with the Superbike along with Graham Irvine for my suspension. If anyone has a chance to make this bike work on the roads it is this team. I’m looking forward to the challenge ahead in 2016 and also to enjoy my racing. I get on with everyone here and it feels like a second family to me.”

The team will reveal plans for the Superstock class  in “due course”.

Dean Harrison signs two year deal with Silicone Engineering Racing

Following the news that he had parted company with Mar-Train ahead of the 2016 road racing season, Dean Harrison has put pen to paper and signed a two year deal with Silicone Engineering Racing.

He will compete at the Isle of Man TT, North West 200, and the Ulster Grand Prix as well as at selected British Superbike rounds.

“We’re absolutely delighted to have Dean come on board and join us for the next two years,” Team Manager Paul Iddon revealed. “It is a massive opportunity for Silicone Engineering Racing to take the step to another level and push the team to new heights. We’re a relatively new team to road racing and with Dean’s success and stature within the sport we can really grow our brand name and achieve big things in the next couple of years.”

Harrison has tasted international victory before, winning the 2014 Lightweight race at the Isle of Man TT with RC Express Racing. He raced for Mar-Train in 2015 and endured a difficult year with the new R1, although enjoyed a number of podiums and wins most notably at the Gold Cup at Oliver’s Mount in Scarborough. “As soon as I met Paul and the rest of the team and saw the set-up from the bike preparation to the calibre of the other riders and their knowledge, I knew it was a great opportunity to join a team on the up,” Harrison revealed. “The flexibility of how the team is run was another plus for me as I can really have an influence on key decisions on the bike, which I believe will take me to greater levels and hopefully bring success to the team.”

The team are still considering their options as to which bikes they will run in 2016. Russ Mountford rode Kawasakis for them this season.

Mar-Train Racing confirm Dean Harrison split

The Mar-Train Racing team has confirmed that they will part company with Dean Harrison ahead of the 2016 season.

A statement posted on the team’s website revealed that team boss Tim Martin had agreed to release Harrison from his contract early, to allow the rider to “take up an alternative offer”. Harrison has been one of the stars on the roads in recent years with wins at the Isle of Man TT, Southern 100, and Cock O’the North to his name, along with many other impressive results.

At the end of last year he parted company with RC Express – a team with which he had had an association with since 2012 – to join Mar-Train full time. The team became the official Yamaha UK road racing team for 2015 and endured a tricky year as they developed the new YZF-R1M. Team boss Tim Martin credited Harrison with the work he has carried out in developing the bike over the course of the 2015 season. “Dean has been instrumental in getting the new R1M to where it is now,” he explained. “[He] has been a pleasure to work with over the past two years. He is a talented young rider and needs to follow his own aspirations, I wish him all the best and would have no hesitation in working with him again in the future.”

The team hope to confirm their plans for next year in the coming week. “Our commitment to Yamaha UK and the YZF-R1M project remains intact,” he concluded. “We made a lot of progress throughout 2015 and are looking forward to reaping the benefits with a successful 2016.”