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”.

Mercedes clinch Constructors Championship in Russia

Mercedes have secured their second Constructors Championship in as many years with Lewis Hamilton winning last weekend’s Russian Grand Prix.

Needing to outscore Ferrari by three points the team were initially denied the opportunity to celebrate following Nico Rosberg’s retirement and Hamilton’s 25 points not enough to beat Ferrari’s 28 for second and fifth place. The overall end result was decided by the stewards, however, when a banzai move by Kimi Raikkonen on Valtteri Bottas resulted in a 30 second post race penalty for the Ferrari driver. He came from a long way back in an attempt to steal the final podium position from his fellow Finn on the last lap, but there was not enough space for both cars. Bottas retired from the race but Raikkonen limped across the line with a damaged car to finish in fifth. He was later demoted to eighth by his penalty meaning Mercedes had outscored Ferrari by enough points.

“That was a day with every possible emotion: a bittersweet day on track, then a tense wait – and finally a confirmation that we have won a second world championship,” Toto Wolff said after the event. “Wow, there are never any simple days in this sport! But what a feeling it is to win a second title and a privilege to be part of this team.”

With just 100 points up for grabs from the last four races, Hamilton could win his third world championship as early as the next round. The next race is the US Grand Prix in Austin and Hamilton needs to outscore Sebastian Vettel by just nine points. Rosberg was unfortunate to retire in Russia due to a throttle issue meaning he is now seven points behind Vettel and in turn 73 behind his team-mate.

From the 15 races in 2015, Mercedes have started on pole for 14 of them – all but Singapore. They have won at 12 races, with Vettel securing victory in Malaysia, Hungary, and Singapore. Hamilton has 13 podiums while Rosberg has 11 while on only three occasions has one of the drivers failed to pick up points.

Adrian Sutil revealed as new Williams reserve driver

Williams Martini Racing has announced that Adrian Sutil will be their reserve driver for the 2015 season.

Sutil returned to Formula One in 2013 following a year away and has raced for Force India (previously Spyker) and Sauber since his debut in 2007. He will spend time in the team’s simulator to ensure he is fully accustomed to the FW37’s controls and procedures if he is required to step into the cockpit. The announcement comes following Valtteri Bottas’ withdrawal from the Australian Grand Prix. While it was too late to bring in a replacement then, the team’s Technical Director Pat Symonds confirmed that Susie Wolff was the team’s test driver and not their reserve driver.

“I’m very proud to be a part of such a famous and great F1 team,” Sutil said of the announcement. “To work for Sir Frank Williams and his team means a lot to me. I would like to thank everyone at WIlliams for their belief in my qualities and the opportunity to work with such a successful and competitive outfit.”

“I’m delighted to have Adrian join our stable of drivers for the 2015 season,” Team Principal Sir Frank Williams said. “Adrian brings extensive racing experience, having competed in 128 Formula One races during his career. Having most recently raced during the 2014 season also gives him excellent knowledge of the current generation of race car and new Hybrid power units. The fight for a top Constructors’s Championship position will be intense this season, therefore we have selected a driver with recent race experience and are confident that if the need arose, he would be a solid pair of hands to race the FW37 and assist our 2015 campaign.”

Bottas has been cleared to race this weekend but has been informed that if the problem reappears he is to stop.

Fernando Alonso and Valtteri Bottas cleared to race by FIA

Both Fernando Alonso and Valtteri Bottas will return to action for their respective teams at this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix.

Alonso was forced to sit out the entire Australian Grand Prix weekend due to the concussion he sustained during testing. Bottas pulled out on the morning of the race due to back problems but both drivers will return to their cockpits this weekend.

Statements put out by the FIA read as follows:

In accordance with normal procedures, McLaren-Honda [Williams-Martini] driver Fernando Alonso [Valtteri Bottas] was this morning examined by the FIA Medical Delegate and Chief Medical Officer at the Sepang Circuit Medical Centre. During the examination the driver passed all mandatory fitness tests and has thus been declared fit to race in this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix.

An addition to Bottas’ statement said:

The driver has been informed that in case of a recurrence of pain or any abnormal feeling he must stop at the earliest opportunity.

Alonso also took part in the Drivers’ Press Conference where he faced a number of questions about his accident. He rebuked rumours that he had woken up in 1995 speaking Italian after the incident. He also explained that his steering locked just before the accident. The Malaysian Grand Prix has been good for Alonso in the past – he took his first ever pole position back in 2003 and has won the race three times. He won it for Renault in 2005 before going on to lead home a McLaren 1-2 in 2007. He won the race for Ferrari in 2012. It was a difficult start to the 2015 campaign for McLaren, however, as they qualified on the back row of the grid and Kevin Magnussen’s engine let go on his way to the grid for the start of the race. There is rain forecast for the weekend which could help McLaren get closer than they might be otherwise.

William Dunlop and Guy Martin to race at Cookstown 100

William Dunlop and Guy Martin will both race at the Cookstown 100 in April it has been confirmed.

The Tyco BMW team’s new bikes will make their Irish road racing debut at the Orritor circuit on the 24th and 25th April. Dunlop raced their last year, impressing in both Superbike races and only missing out on a victory in the Cookstown 100 feature race by corrected time. Martin missed the event due to endurance racing commitments.

“Supporting our local event is always of paramount importance when the calendar allows,” Team Manager Philip Neill said. “We are always very aware of our local supporters and how little they get to see us race at home these days, due to our British championship commitments. Taking that into consideration and with Cookstown being right on our doorstep, it’s always a pleasure to turn out at the event, which is well organised and has a great atmosphere being the opening Irish national event of the season.”

Having missed the event last year, Martin is making a return to the race. “Cookstown is always a great way to blow off the winter cobwebs and having already tested the BMW in Spain, I’m really looking forward to it now,” he explained. “I missed last year and quite a bit of good racing from what I hear, so it’ll be a good way to roll out the big BMW for the first time. It’ll be mint and I’m sure a few of the other top boys will turn up for a decent bit of racing.” Martin will also race in the Spring Cup event at Oliver’s Mount in Scarborough on April 10th and 11th.

Dunlop will be appearing at the Cookstown 100 for a second time with Tyco, albeit on a different bike this time round. “Although we did have some success [last year], I was disappointed to lose out on the big bike win last year on corrected time,” he said. “It’s a great incentive to go back to Cookstown next month – it is a great little circuit and the Club put on a top event, so I’ll be doing my best to try and notch up my first win for Tyco BMW.”

“We had a great test in Spain recently and I really enjoyed riding the S1000RR, so it’s time to add in a few lumps and bumps at a national road race,” he concluded. “I’m sure we can put  on a decent show and the fans turn out in force to see us.”

Adderly Fong joins Lotus as Development Driver

The Lotus F1 Team has added Adderly Fong to its development driver line-up.

He will undertake a driver development programme as well as completing simulator work for the team. He will balance his duties with racing in GP3 and GT Asia this season.

The Hong Kong born racer has previously tested in Formula One when he drove the Sauber last year. His racing history includes winning the Audi R8 LMS Cup China in 2013 and third in the British Formula Three International Series in 2012. He has also taken part in Le Mans, raced at Macau, and Formula Renault.

“This is a great opportunity to further my racing career,” Fong said of the news. “I’ll be able to learn how an F1 team operates during race weekends as an integral part of the team and these invaluable experiences are going to lay the foundations of my future development as an F1 driver. I am happy but I am not going to get carried away, for this is only the first of many steps.”

Fong hopes to become the first Chinese driver to compete in a Formula 1 Grand Prix. “There is great potential for me with Lotus F1 Team so I can’t wait to get underway in my new role.”

He will join Lotus’ recent recruit Carmen Jorda in the development driver line-up. GP2 champion Jolyon Palmer is their test driver. “It’s great to have Adderly join the team,” CEO Matthew Carter said. “We have an aggressive development programme with the E23 so he will be able to both learn from our engineers and race drivers as well as contribute to our car through the course of the season. We have a very strong driver line-up which Adderly will join so he has a great opportunity to learn ahead of him. We are committed to moving back up the competitive order and Adderly’s work behind the scenes will be invaluable in assisting us to achieve this.”

Dan Kneen secures Padgetts Racing ride for 2015

After his deal with Millsport Suzuki fell through last month, talented rider Dan Kneen was faced with the prospect of not having a ride for the 2015 road racing season.

As the Isle of Man TT held its press launch on the island last night it was announced that Kneen would be joining Bruce Anstey and Cameron Donald at Padgetts Racing. “I’ve gone from having nothing to securing a ride with one of the best teams in the paddock in a short space of time,” Kneen said of the news. “I can’t thank Clive [Padgett] enough for giving me this opportunity and I am really excited about getting the chance to work with him and his crew. It’s one of those teams that you always look at when you are coming through the ranks, hoping that one day you might get the chance to ride for them, and my chance has come and I intend to take it with both hands.”

Kneen appeared on stage with new team-mate Anstey at the TT launch last night. The duo will be joined at the TT by Aussie rider Donald in the Supersport class. “We are delighted to be working with Dan Kneen in 2015. He is a rider we have long admired and who we feel has shown great potential, often without the chance to really show what he is capable of,” Team Owner Clive Padgett said. “We see this as the start of what will hopefully turn into a long relationship and we want to be part of Dan realising his potential over the next few years.”

Kneen convincingly won the Irish Road Race Superbike Championship last year and he also took his first International road race victory when he narrowly beat Dean Harrison – by 0.001s! – in the Superstock race at the Ulster Grand Prix. He placed in the top five in both the Irish Road Race Supersport and Supertwin championships as well. “Last year I had a brilliant year,” he said at last night’s launch. “I was riding well and now I’ve got this equipment and the back-up and everything – it’s just going to be easier for me.”

Kneen will also race for Padgetts at the North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix.