Formula 1: Bahrain Grand Prix
A very eventful race weekend in Bahrain kicked off the 2006 F1 season, and if this race is anything to go by, it should be an interesting year. Qualifying produced a made-for-TV comeback for Ferrari, with Schumacher and Massa nailing down the front row, although the race would show that their speed was due in part to a light fuel load. Last year's reliability drama continued for the luckless Kimi Raikkonen, who was forced to start in the 22nd and last position on the grid after a suspension failure early in qualifying.
The race produced plenty of action, and even more fuel for the championship crystal-ball gazing of motorsports journalists worldwide, as there appear to be at least 4 teams with legitimate aspirations to appear on the top step of the podium on any given weekend this year. [More weekend racing highlights after the jump...] Race winner Fernando Alonso ( Renault) was no surprise, but it wasn't an easy victory, as Alonso and Schumacher traded the lead until the last round of pit stops saw Alonso just barely squeeze ahead of the Ferrari as he re-entered the track heading into Turn 1. Raikkonen, who after all got plenty of come-from-behind practice last year, charged from 22nd to finish third, behind Schumacher. Moving up to 13th on the first lap and running on a maximum fuel load, Raikkonen marched through the field without difficulty, although he ran out of time to challenge the leaders. Fourth was Jenson Button ( Honda), who qualified well and might well have finished on the podium if not for a botched start.
The remainder of the eight points-paying positions went (in order) to Juan Pablo Montoya ( McLaren), Mark Webber (Williams), Nico Rosberg (Williams) and Christian Klien ( Red Bull).
Perhaps the surprise of the weekend was underdog privateer WilliamsF1, which not only finished both cars in the points, but saw rookie driver Nico Rosberg set the fastest lap of the race. At the other end of the surprise spectrum was Toyota, who were off the pace all weekend and ended a dismal race in 14th and 16th, behind American rookie Scott Speed, who brought his Scuderia Toro Rosso entry home in 13th.
An excellent race summary, with photos, can be seen at www.grandprix.com
A1GP: Laguna Seca
Team France made the best of a soggy California weekend, locking up the inaugural World Cup of Motorsport with a second place finish in the sprint race.
The weekend was owned by Mexico, with driver Salvador Duran coming out on top in both the sprint race and the feature race. Duran was joined on the feature race podium by Timo Scheider (Team Germany) in second, and Robbie Kerr (Team Great Britain) in third.
More info and a video replay of the weekend's action at www.a1gp.com
NASCAR: Las Vegas
Yet another green-white-checker finish gave Jimmie Johnson a shot at leader Matt Kenseth, and he made the most of it, with a last corner pass giving Johnson's Chevy the win over Kenseth's Ford. Home town favorite Kyle Busch brought his Chevy across the line in third, ahead of Kasey Kahne's Dodge and Jeff Gordon's Chevy. Full results at www.nascar.com.
This will be the last race for the current version of Las Vegas Motor Speedway, with a major renovation scheduled for later this year, including a luxury condominium complex at Turn 1, and repaving of the race track ( rumored to include steeper banking).
AMA: Daytona 200
The 65th running of the Daytona 200 capped the 2006 edition of Daytona Bike Week this weekend, with the first Formula Xtreme win of the year going to Honda factory rider Jake Zemke. Zemke's teammate Miguel Duhamel looked to have the race well in hand, until he lost it going into Turn 1 and highsided his Honda. Remarkably, Duhamel remounted his crashed bike and ended the day in fifth, salvaging some important points for his 2006 title campaign.
Erion Honda's Josh Hayes finished second, followed by the Yamahas of Jason DiSalvo and Eric Bostrom in third and fourth, respectively. Full results here.