Last Night at Eldora Speedway, a real treat was on offer as the World Cup roared into its third successive weekend. The weather was perfect, the track magnificent and the crowd well-behaved. It was also a good opportunity for teams to get some track time and work out any kinks in their cars. But who were the big winners? Let’s take a look at the stats.
It’s always a popular question at Eldora, and also a bit of a cop-out answer: it depends what you consider to be the fastest lap. To most people, the fastest lap is the one we just mentioned. But that’s not the case. Let’s take a look at the official lap records for this year’s World Cup.
Brett McLean holds the outright lap record for the 5.0-mile track with a speed of 203.945 mph back in April. That’s currently the fastest lap in the world this year. Behind him, Sebastian Saavedra is second with a speed of 202.933 mph, followed by Scott Pruett in third place with a speed of 202.727 mph. That’s 11th, 12th and 13th place respectively.
So in all, 15 of the 19 current World Cup qualifiers are within 10.0% of McLean’s speed. It’s pretty impressive considering it’s taken them 467 laps over three races to cover the same distance. With one round to go, expect the likes of Lietz and Andretti to be gunning for that top spot. However, for now, it’s all about Brett McLean and his quest for a fourth World Cup win. After three straight wins, he’s our guy to beat.
Most Laps Led
Another way of measuring a drivers’ performance is by looking at how many laps they lead. After three straight wins from McLean, it’s clear that he has the measure of most teams. He leads the leaderboard with 1076 laps led to date, a total of 789 more than his nearest rival. That’s a lot of green flags!
However, it’s not all about fast cars. In fact, there are a number of surprises on this list. Van Cleef is our winner here, with 407 laps led. That’s nearly 100 laps more than his nearest rival. It shows just how dominant he’s been over the course of the season. And yes, those were all due to bad luck with his car breaking down in two separate races. But still, it’s not something to sneeze at. Also on this list are Scott Pruett (402 laps), James Hetfield (386 laps) and Takuma Sato (374 laps).
It’s clear that the Honda engine has been very good to Van Cleef this year. So much so that not even the reliability of his own team mate, Stefan Johansson, has been able to touch him. With three rounds to go, it’s very likely that Van Cleef could become the first driver to win the World Cup with a different team. So, even if you were rooting against him at the start of the year, there’s no question that you should be cheering him now.
Fewest Points Scored
We all know that racing is a game of luck sometimes. Especially when you are comparing like-for-like, the performances of different cars can vary a lot. That’s how you end up with Van Cleef winning the most laps but still finishing behind Sebastiaan Crainey in the championship. It’s not that Van Cleef is bad: he’s just been very, very good this year and his bad luck has been completely out of his control. As a result, he’s finished every race, except for one, second. He’s also only lost two of his 39 races this year. That’s how you end up with a 0.066 average finish, as opposed to the 0.433 average of Crainey.
It makes for interesting reading. Crainey has less points, 66 to be precise, than Van Cleef. That’s because even though he’s had the better average, Van Cleef has the better race results. It’s also the reason why he currently sits in third place in the championship. The two-time World Champion will have to go on an absolute rampage over the final three races if he’s to have any chance of catching, let alone passing, Van Cleef.
Most Laps Led In One Race
For most of us, the appeal of the World Cup comes with the knowledge that it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the very best racing drivers in the world. To prove just how good they are, the drivers who make it to the World Cup stage are often the ones who dominate the early stages of the season. It’s only natural that fans want to see how a driver performs over a short period of time. That’s why we’ve been treated to some amazing individual races this year. But not every driver can pull off a similar performance to what we’ve seen this year, especially on a 5.0-mile circuit. It takes a special kind of driver to pull off a 450-lap performance on a single race weekend. That’s what sets Van Cleef apart from the rest of the field.
There are other standout performances this year. Jamie McMillin, driving for the Andretti Autosport team, went off on a 407-lap journey in the final race of the year. It was the fourth-longest race of the entire season and one of the greatest displays of dominance we’ve ever seen. And that’s probably because he was racing against the clock and not against any of his competitors. The fact that he went off on such a blistering rampage is a testament to how good he is and how much faster he is than the rest of the field. It also shows just how special this year’s World Cup has been. With one round to go, expect more of the same in the final race.
Fewest Laps In One Race
There have been some incredible team events this year, with five different winners emerging from what is, effectively, one long race. It’s made for a fantastic show and has given us the opportunity to see some new combinations. For example, we’ve seen Johnny Herbert, son of Formula One legend, Nigel, take on a completely different role, while still driving for the reigning world champion team, Stewart. The younger Herbert has done a fantastic job, proving to everyone that he isn’t just a supporting actor in his father’s movies. But the performance that has stood out to us was Christian Fittipaldi’s first race back after breaking his leg in a tragic crash during the Indian Grand Prix. He teamed up with Juan Pablo Montoya for the single-seater race, replacing the injured Colombian driver. That was one hell of a drive, lasting an incredible 446 laps. That’s more than any other driver managed in a single race. It’s also the perfect example of a drive that highlights how far Christian has come since that terrible accident. He was, as we’ve come to expect, absolutely brutal in his pace, never letting up for a moment. And even when he did make a pit stop, it was almost as if he had enough left to do another few laps. You could almost hear the crowd chanting his name as he crossed the line to take his first win of the year. It was an incredible display of raw power and courage that has clearly won the hearts of everyone who witnessed it. With four rounds to go, look out for Christian to become a real contender for the World Cup. And yes, we’ll be cheering for him, just as we were in 2014 when he was running a full campaign in the European series. It’ll be great to have Christian back. After such a tragic accident, it’s wonderful to see him back on the track and making up for lost time with his new team.
The World Cup is a long season and it’s often said that you can’t truly appreciate how good a driver is until you see how much mileage they can churn through. It’s been a phenomenal season for the series and it’s only fair to say that everything has been building up to this final sprint. And what a sprint it’s been! We’ve had some amazing individual performances so far, highlighted by a trio of world champions: Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton. Add that to the fact that it’s been a good year for Ferrari and you can bet that they’re going to be going all-out for the title.