By: Matthew Ganibi
“Slingshot engaged!” – Ricky Bobby
With most of the major racing series set to wave the green flag within the next month or so, I figured that we get the wheels turning on a weekly article series called Motorsports Minutes, which can be found exclusively on ESPN Honolulu’s website. My name is Matthew Ganibi and I was privileged enough to work with the station on a Championship Chronicles article series recapping the 2022 NCAA Men’s Volleyball from a fan’s perspective as the University of Hawaiʻi Rainbow Warriors swept past Long Beach State to capture back-to-back National Championships. After some reflection and realizing that there isn’t a Hawaiʻi-based media outlet providing motorsports coverage, I figured – why not partner with ESPN Honolulu?
My passion for racing was sparked by my discovery of Will Farrell’s box-office hit Talladega Nights while I was a 7thgrader at Moanalua Middle School (shout out to the Mustangs). In 2007, I also came across an ABC TV series entitled NASCAR in Primetime, which reinforced my interest in NASCAR. The TV series provided my wide-eyed self a behind-the-scenes look at life as a NASCAR driver. From that point on, I began watching NASCAR races religiously (before and after church), the Indy 500 and eventually found my way to Formula 1 after stumbling upon Netflix’s Drive to Survive documentary. Now, I want to share my passion for racing by providing you with the best possible weekly recaps of everything in the world of racing. From Formula E, Formula One, IndyCar, NASCAR, International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) Weathertech Sportscar Championship to MotoGP, we will cover it all week-by-week.
This weekend saw an electric, action-packed weekend in the world of Formula E. Let’s take a lap and dive into the action from Saudi Arabia!
An electric Double Header in Diriyah – Porsche and Pascal Wehrlein do the double in Saudi Arabia!
The best things in life come in pairs, so ABB Formula E (an all-electric racing series) went green with the CORE Diriyah E-Prix not once, but twice. I must hand it to the Formula E folks for their clever play on the grand prix term, which is traditionally used to name races in other open wheel racing series such as Formula One, IndyCar races on road courses and MotoGP). This weekend saw the German pairing of TAG Heuer Porsche and Pascal Wehrlein claim back-to-back CORE Diriyah E-Prix victories. Wehrlein, a former sports car racing champion and Formula One driver, is in his third season with the German manufacturer and has already improved upon a 2022 campaign, which saw him collect a win in Mexico City. Last year’s Mexico City E-Prix victory marked the first Formula E win for both Porsche & Wehrlein.
Porsche’s double dominance started with both drivers – Pascal Wehrlein and Portuguese driver Antonio Felix Da Costa, starting in the middle of the 22-car starting grid during Friday’s E-Prix: 9th (Wehrlein) and 13th (Da Costa). Wehrlein battled his way through the pack and eventually made his race-winning pass on the 30th lap. Unfortunately, Pascal’s Porsche teammate Antonio Felix Da Costa did not crack the top 10 as he finished Friday’s race in 18th place.
British driver Jake Dennis followed up his win from two weekends prior in Mexico City (the opening E-Prix of the 2023 Formula E season) with a second-place finish in Diriyah roughly a second behind Wehrlein for the Avalanche Andretti team – a team that is powered by Porsche electric powertrains. Jake the Snake slithered his way up from an 11thplace starting position all the way up to 2nd place after slipping past Sam Bird on the 34th lap. The aforementioned Sam Bird (also a British driver) racing for the the Jaguar TCS team, started the race in third position and enjoyed a promising start after flying by Swiss pole-sitter Sebastian Buemi (Envision Racing) and led for 23 laps until Wehrlein passed him on lap 30.
Sebastian Buemi (Envision – powered by Jaguar), René Rast (McLaren – powered by Nissan), Nick Cassidy (Envision – powered by Jaguar), Jean-Éric Vergne (DS Penske), Jake Hughes (McLaren – powered by Nissan), André Lotterer (Andretti – powered by Porsche) and Mitch Evans (Jaguar) rounded out the top 10 order of the first Diriyah E-Prix.
Despite starting in 5th place, Pascal Wehrlein made quick work of the four cars starting ahead of him as he hustled his way to the top on Lap 17 of the Diriyah E-Prix encore with a left-handed lunge underneath the Neom McLaren of René Rast. Following what turned out to be a race-winning pass, Wehrlein ran away with the checkered flag to cap off a dominant Diriyah weekend.
Jake Dennis once again came home second to Wehrlein for the Avalanche Andretti team after passing René Rast on the 24th lap. Rast – who is German, marked his return to Formula E by crawling to a 3rd place finish in just his third race back after missing the entire 2022 Formula E season as his Neom McLaren ran out of battery power on the race’s final turn. Welcome back, René! Rast also secured Neom McLaren’s first podium in Formula E (yes, that McLaren – they also race in IndyCar and Formula One). McLaren is currently powered by Nissan electric powertrains while their IndyCar and Formula One outfits are supplied with engines from Chevrolet and Mercedes, respectively.
Sam Bird (Jaguar), Jake Hughes (McLaren), Sebastian Buemi (Envision – powered by Jaguar), Mitch Evans (Jaguar), Sacha Fenestraz (Nissan), Edoardo Mortara (Maserati) and Dan Ticktum (NIO) rounded out the top 10 of race number three of Formula E’s 2023 season.
5th place finisher Jake Hughes (McLaren) started in pole-position (1st position) for the second Diriyah race, which marked the first ever pole position captured by Neom McLaren. Side note, Neom is a planned futuristic city being built in northwestern Saudi Arabia.
Fun fact, Pascal Wehrlein is also Mauritian via his mother’s side of the family. Did you know that Outrigger Hotels & Resorts owns a property out in Bel Ombre called the Outrigger Mauritius Beach Resort? Small world!
Next Up: You can catch Formula E’s next race on Super Bowl weekend as they go green on the streets of Hyderabad, India (February 11th). This race will serve as the home race for Indian manufacturer Mahindra and both practice sessions can be enjoyed on the Formula E YouTube page (https://www.youtube.com/@FIAFormulaE) while details for qualifying and E-Prix broadcasts have not yet been announced.
If you’d like to learn more about this racing series, here’s a link explaining the basics of Formula E:
Helio Castronevas 3-peats in Daytona – Acura ushers in the hybrid era with a Rolex 24 win!
In addition to the Diriyah doubleheader, the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) Weathertech Sportscar Championship hosted Rolex 24 race. This race took place in the World Center of Racing: Daytona International Speedway. Unlike the famous Daytona 500, which is set to take place on Sunday February 19th, this 24-hour sportscar race utilizes the road course version of the world-famous 2.5-mile superspeedway.
Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Hélio Castroneves was part of the Meyer Shank Racing’s No. 60 Acura team that won its second straight Rolex 24 at Daytona. This also marks Castroneves’ third straight Rolex 24 victory, which makes him just the second driver to ever win this prestigious endurance race three times in a row. American legend Peter Gregg was the first to accomplish this milestone after winning in 1973, 1975 and 1976 – the race wasn’t held in 1974 due to a global oil crisis (per NBC Sports). The victorious Meyer Shank Racing Team also included Tom Blomqvist (UK), Simon Pagenaud (France) and Colin Braun (USA).
In addition to the historic victory, here is a quick list of the other winners in the other categories that competed in the Rolex 24:
- LMP2 (Le Mans): Number 55 ORECA driven by James Allen (Australlia), Gianmaria Bruni (Italy), Fred Poordad (USA) and Francesco Pizzi (Italy).
- LMP3 (Le Mans): Number 17 AWA Duqueine D08 driven by Anthony Mantella (Canada), Wayne Boyd (UK), Nico Varrone (Argentina) and Thomas Merrill (USA).
- GTD Pro (GT Daytona Pro): Number 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 driven by Cooper MacNeil (USA), Maro Engel (Germany), Jules Gounon (France) and Daniel Juncadella (Spain).
- GTD (GT Daytona): Number 27 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin driven by Marco Sorensen (Denmark), Roman De Angelis (Canada), Darren Turner (UK) and Ian James (UK).
Next Up: The Weathertech Sportscar Championship will take the month of February off and head over to Sebring International Raceway for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on March 18th. This race can be enjoyed on NBC’s Peacock streaming platform.
Here is a link explaining the basics of IMSA’s Weathertech Sportscar Championship:
Here’s what else is on deck in the world of racing:
- NASCAR’s Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum returns to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. This will serve as a home race for multiple California-born drivers: Kyle Larson, Tyler Reddick and Kevin Harvick. 2023 will mark Harvick’s final season in NASCAR while 2022 NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano will look to defend his title as series champion in the number 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford Mustang (Team Penske). Logano is also the defending race winner of the Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum.
- Formula One action is just around the corner led by the launch of each of the 10 competing teams’ paint schemes / liveries. Here is a look at the schedule:
- January 31st: Haas
- February 3rd: Red Bull
- February 6th: Williams
- February 7th: Alfa Romeo
- February 11th: Alpha Tauri
- February 13h: Aston Martin & McLaren
- February 14th: Ferrari
- February 15th: Mercedes
- February 16th: Alpine
- The award-winning docuseries Drive to Survive (the series that piqued my interest in Formula One) is set to release its 5th season on Netflix February 24, 2023. This season will recap the multiple storylines that made up the 2022 Formula One season (no spoiler alerts!)
- The NTT IndyCar Series is set for March 5th return with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in Florida. Will Power in the number 12 Verizon Chevrolet (Team Penske) will look to defend his 2022 series championship crown. The race is set to fire up around noon Eastern Standard Time and can be enjoyed live on NBC.
- MotoGP will go green on March 26th with the Grande Prémio de Portugal at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve in Algarve, Portimão, Portugal. Francesco “Pecco” Bagnaia (Italy) will look to defend his 2022 World Riders’ Champion crown this coming season.
Before we wrap this up like a Wow Lau Lau from Young’s Fish Market, I’d like to send a huge Mahalo to Chanel Tsutsuse & the ESPN Honolulu Team for green lighting this project and for all the work that each member does to keep Hawaiʻi sports enthusiasts such as myself consistently in the know. ESPN Honolulu truly is the people’s radio station. Mom & Dad – Mahalo for all of your support as well and for fueling my passion for both UH sports and motorsports. Shakas and Mahalo Nui Loa to my brother Jaymark for your support, encouragement and for helping me come up with this idea to start writing about motorsports. To my best friend Connor Buckley, thank you for encouraging me to push forward with this idea. I couldn’t have done this without everyone’s support.
That’s a wrap on lap one of Motorsports Minutes. Mahalo to you for taking the time to read this article and allowing me to share my passion for racing with you. I’m stoked to see what the world of racing has in store for us in 2023.
Have a great week, Hawaiʻi. Until next week, keep it full throttle!