On This Day: 26 April Edition

The COVID-19 pandemic may have wiped out the sporting calendar but on Sunday 26 April in years gone by there has been racing action, with just three examples below.

1998 Formula 1 San Marino Grand Prix

The 1998 edition of the San Marino Grand Prix was the fourth round of the Formula 1 season.

Heading into the weekend, McLaren’s Mika Hakkinen led the championship by 12 points from the Ferrari of Michael Schumacher. Hakkinen’s teammate, David Coulthard, was a further point behind in third while the other Ferrari of Eddie Irvine was fourth in the championship, 7 points ahead of Williams driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen.

Coulthard claimed pole position with Hakkinen alongside, the two Ferrari’s were behind with Frentzen starting down in eighth.

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Coulthard led at the start followed by Hakkinen and Michael Schumacher. Slotting into fourth was Frentzen’s teammate, and reigning world champion, Jacques Villeneuve who had started sixth. Irvine and Frentzen completed the top six at the start.

Half the grid would retire from the race, the list of retirements including Hakkinen who had slowed on track and eventually came into the pits with gearbox problems.

In the race Irvine would manage to jump Villeneuve in the pits. At the front Coulthard would hold out to claim victory ahead of the two Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Irvine. It was also a double points finish for Williams as Villeneuve claimed fourth and Frentzen finished fifth. The Sauber of Jean Alesi took the final point scoring position.

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With the fourth round of the 1998 season completed the Drivers’ Championship was still headed by Hakkinen, his lead cut down to just three points with Coulthard assuming the role of his nearest challenger. Michael Schumacher dropped down to third, three points behind Coulthard while Irvine remained fourth, now on 11 points with Frentzen still fifth on 8 points.

2009 MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix

The second round of the 2009 MotoGP season was held at Motegi in Japan.

Ducati’s Casey Stoner had taken an early lead in the championship after winning the season opener in Qatar. Valentino Rossi was five points behind Stoner going into the weekend after finishing second at Losail. Third was Jorge Lorenzo, four points behind Rossi and nine behind Stoner with Colin Edwards, on a satellite Yamaha, and Andrea Dovizioso completing the top five in the championship.

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Qualifying was cancelled for the event due to heavy rain on Saturday which meant that the grid was decided on practice times. This saw Rossi take pole position, sharing the front row with Stoner and Lorenzo. Edwards started the race in fifth and Dovizioso started in seventh.

It was dry for raceday, Rossi led from the start followed by the Suzuki of Chris Vermeulen, who had started fourth, and the Honda of Dani Pedrosa who had started down in eleventh. The other two front row starters of Stoner and Lorenzo dropped down to fourth and fifth respectively at the start.

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Edwards had dropped down to seventh on the first lap and would drop even further before the completion of the opening lap after the incorrect engine mapping had been selected on his bike. He would continue and eventually finish down in twelfth.

Vermeulen would eventually drop down the order and finish in tenth being passed by, amongst others, Dovizioso who gradually moved up the order. Dovizioso for a time challenged his teammate, Pedrosa, over a podium place before finishing in fifth. The Italian had been fourth for a long time but was overtaken on the penultimate lap by a recovering Stoner who had initially dropped down the field during the early part of the Grand Prix before slowly moving up to claim fourth off Dovizioso.

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Lorenzo eventually recovered to win the Grand Prix ahead of Rossi, having to have two attempts at passing the Italian before taking the lead. Pedrosa joined the two Yamaha riders on the podium.

For the championship, it meant that Lorenzo had now taken the lead by one point from Rossi. Stoner had dropped down to third and was three points behind Lorenzo. Dovizioso was now fourth on 22 points with Pedrosa moving up to fifth, one point behind his teammate.

2015 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama

The Grand Prix of Alabama was the fourth event of the 2015 IndyCar season.

Juan Pablo Montoya led the championship by three points from Helio Castroneves with Tony Kanaan third on 93 points, six ahead of Scott Dixon in fourth while James Hinchcliffe occupied fifth in the championship, four points behind Dixon.

Castroneves took pole position ahead of Will Power. Montoya started down in fifteenth with Kanaan starting sixth, Dixon in fourth and Hinchcliffe in tenth.

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It would be an eventful race for the three Penske drivers of Montoya, Castroneves and Power. Montoya struggled during the race which included colliding into Charlie Kimball, the Colombian losing a fragment of his front wing, to make matters worse he ended up pushing Kimball wide onto the grass. Montoya would go on to finish the race down in fourteenth. Castroneves for the most part did well in the race, challenging Josef Newgarden at the front for the lead of the race. Castroneves was passed by Newgarden in the pits, although he would get revenge of sorts as he would end up doing the same to Newgarden in a second pit stop. Despite this Castroneves eventually ran out of fuel on the last lap, meaning he was ultimately classified down in fifteenth. Lastly there is Power, whose prospects for the race were put in jeopardy when he collided with Takuma Sato when rejoining the track after making a pit stop. This collision saw Power be handed a drive through penalty although the Australian recovered to finish fourth.

It was a somewhat eventful race for Kanaan as well as he eventually finished down in thirteenth. During the race the Brazilian was also involved in a collision, with Jake Hawksworth. Dixon fared better finishing in third after being unable to resist a late charge from Graham Rahal.

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Hinchcliffe finished the race in seventh and was for a time battling with Rahal at the front before battling with Sebastien Bourdais and Rodolfo Gonzalez over eleventh.

It would be Newgarden who would claim victory, his first in the series, ahead of a late charging Rahal as drivers ended up on varying strategies. This led to some having to save fuel and tyres, such as Newgarden, at the end of the race. Others were free to go on a late charge through the field, such as was the case for Rahal who transformed turn 5 into an overtaking hotspot.

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Ryan Hunter-Reay was the first driver finishing behind the quartet of Newgarden, Rahal, Dixon and Power. The American had made use of an alternative strategy after starting down in eighteenth. Carlos Munoz finished ahead of Hinchcliffe with Bourdais, Simon Pagenaud and Marco Andretti completing the top ten.

In the championship Montoya still led by three points from Castroneves as Dixon moved up to third, 10 points behind Castroneves. Newgarden’s win saw him move into fourth in the championship, seven points ahead of Power who had recovered to fifth in the championship, having been second earlier in the season.

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