Local motor notes: Grass Valley’s Rossi signs with Marussia F-1 team

Published: Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014 - 6:09 pm

With his Caterham Formula One team in shambles and his GP2 team floundering as well, the time was right for Grass Valley’s Alexander Rossi to move to another team and restart his chances of competing behind the wheel of an F-1 race car.

Rossi, 22, joined the Marussia F-1 team last month as its reserve driver, the same title he had with Caterham. But with his new team, Rossi said he’ll have a better chance of moving up, especially since his mentor from Caterham, Tony Fernandes, sold the team and left the day-to-day operations of both the F-1 and GP2 efforts. Rossi was the 2013 GP2 Rookie of the Year but will not compete in GP2 for Marussia this season, he said.

“(Tony) Fernandes had supported me since 2011, and when there’s a change in ownership, you never know,” Rossi said by phone as he prepared to join his new team at its Banbury, England, headquarters. “But this move is a positive fit for a number of reasons. The team is progressing and is not just content on scoring.”

Rossi is particularly excited about one possible scenario. He said Jules Bianchi, one of the team’s two drivers, may soon sign with Ferrari as the historic race car designer continues to struggle this season. Bianchi’s departure would open up a seat for Rossi.

“I don’t want to be a reserve driver forever,” Rossi said. “I’ll be in the F-1 car a lot more with Marussia than I was with Caterham. I’ll certainly have the chance to drive the F-1 cars during practice sessions.”

That likely will include the Oct. 31 practice session at the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.

“We are very pleased to welcome Alexander to the Marussia F1 team,” Marussia’s John Booth said in a news release. “He is a proven talent whom we have observed in GP2 and we have also been impressed by his performances during Friday morning free practice sessions over the past two seasons. The (United States) is an exciting market for the sport, and Alexander has a great deal of support there, so it is nice to develop new links to that audience. Alexander will be an integral part of the team, immersing himself in our engineering activity so that he is fully prepared should he ever be required to (replace) one of the race drivers.”

Huge car counts in Placerville

Alan Handy was wondering where all the race cars and haulers would fit near his Placerville Speedway track on Saturday.

Saturday car counts at the venerable quarter-mile clay oval average 60, the track promoter said, but with five divisions of racing, plus some vintage cars in an exhibition race, the car count was 109, a record, Handy said.

“We had a (Bay Cities Racing Association) race ... and that brought at least 40 cars on top of our regulars,” Handy said. “Plus, since we had the July 28 races canceled because of the Sand fire, I think people just wanted to go racing that night.”

The featured race this Saturday is the Mark Forni Classic, part of the Civil War Sprint Car Series that pays $5,000 to the winner. Placerville’s Andy Gregg won the Classic last year, but he will be at the Knoxville (Iowa) Nationals this weekend. Auburn’s Andy Forsberg and Roseville’s Sean Becker will look for their third event wins.

For more information, go to www.placervillespeedway.com.

NHRA success for Freidenfelt brothers

Mark Freidenfelt has been part of Courtney Force’s NHRA Funny Car team for two seasons and helped get his younger brother, Trevor, a job with John Force Racing as a mechanic on Brittany Force’s Top Fuel car.

At the Sonoma Nationals last month, Courtney Force won the Funny Car title and Brittany Force qualified No. 1 in Top Fuel but was eliminated in a first-round upset in the finals.

Mark Freidenfelt, 26, is in charge of the cylinder heads of Courtney’s 8,000-horsepower machine and Trevor, 22, works on the clutch for Brittany’s dragster.

Mark Billingsley covers local motor sports for The Bee. Reach him at editorwriter@att.net.

Read more articles by Mark Billingsley

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