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Hinchcliffe remains in hospital, but in stable condition

It was a week of crashes and rule changes heading into the qualifying session of the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 that saw three Chevrolet cars flipped over during practice. Qualifying went on without any incident, seeing Target Chip Ganassi's Scott Dixon take the pole for the second time in his illustrious career.

But as practice resumed the following day, it was Canada's James Hinchcliffe, a Honda driver for the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team that would have the ugliest and most violent crash on the 2.5-mile oval track. The incident took place rounding turn three, when Hinchcliffe's car had a right-front suspension failure and at top speed connected with the barrier. The No. 5 Arrow Dallara-Honda flipped over for a second, eventually landing upright before coming to a stop. Hinchcliffe was unable to leave the car as sheetmetal pinned him in before the Holmatro safety team could arrive.  

According to Racer.com, Hinchcliffe's injuries were severe to his right leg and upper left thigh, leading to surgery later that Monday. From that same source, it appears that a steel wishbone from the race car entered and exited his right leg and upper left thigh causing massive blood loss. The safety team and doctors were quickly on hand to cut parts of the car off to get Hinchcliffe out, and rush him by ground transportation to the IU Health Methodist Hospital, while stopping the bleeding in the process.



Hinchcliffe is currently in stable condition and undergoing further evaluation at the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital.

It doesn't look promising for Hinchcliffe to get back into the cockpit in the short future with an IndyCar announcement that he's been ruled out of competition “for the foreseeable future.” This undoubtedly means no Indianapolis 500, nor Honda Indy Toronto. For now, let's hope for a safe recovery for the Oakville, Ontario native and best wishes to him and his family and close friends.

Rosberg gets first win in Spain

GRANOLLERS, Spain (AP) — Nico Rosberg finally got his championship campaign going on Sunday with a commanding win from pole position at the Spanish Grand Prix.

Now the German hopes he can gain further ground on Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton at his favorite Monaco track in two weeks.

Rosberg beat Hamilton for the first time this season, with Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel placing third.

The morale-boosting win was Rosberg's first since the Brazilian GP — the penultimate race of the last season — which the German driver also won from pole. It also gives him a sense of momentum heading into Monaco, where Rosberg, the son of former world champion Keke Rosberg, grew up. He won the showcase race from pole last year, and then went on to win in Austria and Germany.

A third straight win at Monaco would dent Hamilton's 20-point lead.

"I was able to control the pace and I never felt in danger throughout the whole race," Rosberg said. "It's still early days in the season so it's good to close the gap to Lewis. I will continue to push hard, starting with a home race for me in Monaco."

Hamilton, the defending F1 champion, has won three of five races this season, with Vettel taking the Malaysian GP in March.

"I had a good start, getting past Lewis," Vettel said. "But unfortunately Mercedes were just too quick."

McLaren's poor season continued as two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso retired just short of halfway with faulty brakes — on the same track where he last won a race two years ago with Ferrari.

Hamilton has finished in the top two for 12 straight races since retiring at last season's Belgium GP in August. Dominant Mercedes has finished 1-2 in three of five races this campaign.

"Everyone brought upgrades here and we're still much faster," Rosberg said.



As Rosberg milked the applause after the race, Hamilton walked up to him, patted him on the back and then shook his hand firmly.

There was no Spanish driver in genuine contention and little suspense, either.

With 19 of the past 25 winners here starting from pole, the circuit is arguably the hardest to overtake on in F1. Rosberg finished 17.5 seconds clear of Hamilton and some 45.3 ahead of Vettel.

"I think I'm in the fight," Vettel said. "I'm pretty confident we will get closer again pretty soon. I'm quite confident that in the next couple of races we should be stepping up our game."

Although the 730-meter straight to the first turn offered Hamilton the chance to apply instant pressure, Rosberg got away well. Hamilton stuttered as Vettel overtook him and he only just held off the Williams of Valtteri Bottas heading into the first corner. Bottas finished fourth and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was fifth.

"It's been a long time since I had such a bad start," Hamilton said. "I tried my best to recover."

It wasn't Hamilton's day, as his first pit stop on lap 14 for a new set of medium tires took 5.3 seconds because a mechanic appeared not to get the left rear wheel on cleanly. Vettel's first stop was an extremely fast 2.3 seconds.

"I had a long pit stop and I had to do it all again," Hamilton said. "But fortunately at the end it was enough (to catch Vettel)."

Rosberg came in for his first tire change on lap 16 — at a marginally slower 2.5 seconds — while Raikkonen stayed out in front.



Hamilton was urged by his race engineer to push more strongly to overtake Vettel, to which Hamilton replied: "I can assure you that's pretty much impossible to do, you're going to have to come up with another plan."

The plan chosen was a three-stop strategy.

Alonso overshot his stop as he entered the pits, sending a front jack flying which missed the mechanic nearby.

Nothing was troubling Rosberg as he extended his lead over Vettel to 10 seconds by halfway. Hamilton switched to hard tires after 33 of 66 laps.

Vettel made his second stop on lap 40 while Rosberg made his second with 20 laps remaining, coming out just behind Hamilton as the British driver led for the first time.

Nearing the end of lap 51, Hamilton came in for his final change, getting back onto medium tires, but Rosberg moved ahead and was too far away to catch.

Chudleigh to go full-time in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0

Canada’s Luke Chudleigh starts his first full-time season in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 series this weekend as the opening round triple-header event commences at Spain’s Motorland Aragon Circuit, 24th-26th April, the championship forming part of the prestigious World Series by Renault platform.
 
The 20-year-old from Milton, who races for the British-based Fortec Motorsports outfit, is no stranger to Eurocup action having undertaken a handful of races in the premier Formula Renault 2.0 class in 2014 while competing full-time in the ALPS division.  The Canadian made his Eurocup debut at the corresponding opening round in Spain last April.On that occaison Luke scored a pair of top twenty finishes but armed with more experience and already with a top ten finish to his credit from this year’s Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup (NEC) first round, Chudleigh heads into this weekend determined for a strong start to his full-time Eurocup campaign.


 
“We’ve put in a lot of hard work to get ready for our Eurocup start in Spain,” enthused Chudleigh.  “This is probably the most prepared I’ve felt for a race, boosted with a couple of good days on Fortec’s simulator.  It’s important that we’re quick straight away this weekend.  Not just because of the quality of competition but primarily due to the lack of practice time.  We only have two twenty five minute sessions before we head into qualifying, our track time is really quite minimal.  We then have three races to show what we can do.
 
“My goal is to be strong in qualifying.  If I deliver there then it’s easier to make things happen in the race.  I know the track and I know how competitive Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 is but that’s why I want to be here.  I enjoyed the races I was in last year and to be here full-time now, especially with Fortec Motorsports, is tremendous. I had a good run at Monza a couple of weeks ago in NEC and I’m comfortable with the base we’ve established together.  Every point counts in this series though, there’s really no mileage to play with but I’m confident we can enjoy a solid start to our Eurocup season.”  
 
This weekend’s schedule at the Spanish 5.3km track consists of two races on Saturday 24th April, each lasting 25 minutes plus one lap, scheduled for 12:40pm (6:40am EST) and 4:20pm (10:20am EST) respectively.  The third race on Sunday, 25th April, is set to start at 12:15pm (6:15am EST).
 
This season’s Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 comprises 17 races held across seven events at tracks as famous as Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps, Great Britain’s Silverstone, Germany’s Nurburgring and France’s Le Mans Circuit.

F1 battle rages on track and off

The only thing that could keep Mercedes from running away with the Formula One title again this year lies off the track, not on it.

Last weekend's season-opening race in Australia showed what everyone had suspected; Mercedes' dominance from 2014 has not been eroded and may even have increased.

Even before Lewis Hamilton led Nico Rosberg to the checkered flag in yet another one-two finish, the critics were out, denouncing the race as boring and the season ahead a fait accompli.

The complaints were loudest from the Red Bull team, which had a disappointing weekend in which its Renault engines had a slew of problems and local favorite Daniel Ricciardo finished sixth, unable to even catch the modest Sauber ahead of him.

With no chance of catching up to Mercedes on the track this season — even allowing for engine upgrades which have been re-introduced to the sport — Red Bull sought to peg its rival back politically, urging immediate but unspecified changes to the rules to inhibit Mercedes.

Red Bull even invoked the option of withdrawing from the sport altogether.

"If we are totally dissatisfied we could contemplate an F1 exit," said Helmut Marko, the on-track point-man for Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz. "The danger is there that Mr. Mateschitz loses his passion for F1."

It was a self-serving argument, promoting precisely the kind of ad-hoc regulatory change that Red Bull decried when it was the clear leader in the sport during the time Sebastian Vettel won four straight drivers' championships.

However, it is also an argument that must be taken seriously, given F1's intensely political nature. Red Bull was even given the backing of the sport's commercial leader, Bernie Ecclestone, who publicly sympathized with the team's complaints.

Ecclestone does not control the rules of the sport — that role is controlled by governing body FIA — and that is arguably a good thing considering some of his past advocacy for ideas like artificial rain and short-cut lanes.

However, Ecclestone still has a lot of pull to get things going his way, so Mercedes team leader Toto Wolff will be aware he will have a fight on his hands for months to come to prevent the rules from being changed in the middle of the season.



It looms as a straight fight between the power and influence of Horner and Mateschitz on one side, and Mercedes on the other. The latter may have the edge given that Ferrari — the tiebreaker in all such disputes in F1 — has little appetite for a political fight at this stage. With Vettel finishing third in his team debut and showing more promise this season, rocking the boat seems to make little sense.

"Our job is to attack Mercedes on the track," Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene said, "not to change the rules."

While few regarded Red Bull's post-race complaints as anything other than trying to advance its own cause, there is validity in the need to take steps to prevent the now-established pattern of one team utterly dominating a season.

From the Schumacher-era of Ferrari, to the Vettel-era of Red Bull and now to the Hamilton-era of Mercedes, the template is of a single team cruising to the championship and sucking all the suspense out of the season.

Meanwhile, there may not be a German Grand Prix this season because plummeting attendances are making it difficult for the owners of both the Hockenheim and Nurburgring circuits.

There are serious problems that need addressing when the country that produced Schumacher, Vettel and Mercedes — with Red Bull just across the border in Austria — cannot generate enough fan interest to put on a race.

While the hierarchy of F1 considers that predicament, the next round of the championship will be in Malaysia on March 29, and few will be expecting anything other than another Mercedes win.

Chip Ganassi Racing victorious at Rolex 24 at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Chip Ganassi bristles when his No. 02 team is called the "star car."

Truth is, the moniker couldn't be more appropriate right now.

Ganassi's all-star driver lineup of three-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon, Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray, Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan and NASCAR's reigning top rookie Kyle Larson won the prestigious Rolex 24 at Daytona on Sunday to give the team owner his record-setting sixth victory in 12 attempts.

Ganassi made it clear he doesn't endorse the "star car" nickname, and he and team manager could pick their eight drivers names out of a hat to set the vaunted two-car lineup.

"I don't know who named it, but I don't approve of that name," he said. "That's like any other car on our team."

It didn't look like any other, team, though as Dixon drove a gritty and lengthy final leg Sunday as his three teammates confidently believed he'd pull out the win.



Dixon relieved Larson with 3 hours, 32 minutes remaining in the twice-round-the-clock endurance race, and set out to conserve fuel, make no mistakes and follow the Ganassi strategy down to the checkered flag.

The Iceman delivered, and made it look easy, too.

He totaled more than seven hours behind the wheel of the Target/Ford EcoBoost Riley Prototype and carried the heaviest load on the team.

"We had such a good group of guys driving, an awesome team," McMurray said. "It's about Scott Dixon to me. It's really hard to appreciate the talent that guys have from other series until you race with them, and it's crazy the pace that Scott is able to have in the car. It's so much fun to sit up there and watch it."

It was the second win for Dixon, who was part of the 2006 victory with Casey Mears and Dan Wheldon.

After picking up his second watch, the New Zealander downplayed his role.

"The car was very consistent, and I think we had good speed, but everybody pulled their weight," he said. "Everybody did what they needed to do, and that's what gets you through this 24 hours. Everybody kept the car in one piece.

"I can't emphasize how big of a team effort it is. It's not one person that ever wins this race. It's everybody involved, and this weekend everybody on the 02 team did their best job, and that was obviously enough to get the victory."

It was the first Rolex win for McMurray, Kanaan and Larson, who felt he was so underwhelming in his debut last season that he let his team down and never wanted to return to the sports car race. Instead, he drove his own impressive three-plus hour stint in the middle of the night, then put together a brief but error-free run Sunday morning to get the team into the time window to turn the car over to Dixon.

"It's crazy how much a year can do. I hated this race last year. I was terrible," Larson said.

McMurray joined AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti as the only drivers to win the Daytona 500 and the Rolex, while Kanaan joined a limited list of drivers to win both Indy and the 24 Hours.

"It's awesome, man. I love watches," Kanaan said. "I always bought them, so I've finally got one for free today."



Ganassi beat defending race winner Action Express Racing, which was driven by Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastien Bourdais, by 1.33 seconds.

Wayne Taylor Racing, runner-up the last two years, lost a shot to challenge Dixon when it realized under a caution with 20 minutes remaining that Jordan Taylor had exceeded his allotted time allowed in the car. He was forced to pit from second to let older brother Ricky Taylor close out the final 9 minutes of the race.

"It's a bit disappointing, but we win and lose as a team," said Taylor.

Ganassi's other entry, the No. 01 led by five-time winner Scott Pruett, was in the mix for the victory until the clutch broke and the team was forced to retire with under two hours remaining.

Corvette Racing won the GT Le Mans class with drivers Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Ryan Briscoe.

PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports won the Prototype Challenge class with drivers Mike Guasch, Andrew Novich, Andrew Palmer and Tom Kimber-Smith. It appeared that CORE Autosport had that win locked up until Colin Braun's fiery crash with roughly 20 minutes remaining brought out the final caution and ended what seemed an easy victory.

CORE Autosports owner Jon Bennett could only shrug.

"We did 23 hours and 46 minutes very successfully," he said. "I think we had small contact with another car, which caused Colin to have a tire going down. We were trying to get back, we didn't a splash of gas, anyway. That's how racing is, I love it."



The GT Daytona class was won by Riley Motorsports and drivers Ben Keating, Dominik Fambacher, Al Carter, Kuno Wittmer and Cameron Lawrence. Keating, who is a Dodge Viper car dealer and driver for the SRT team, choked back tears after the win.

Mazda adds James Hinchcliffe to Rolex 24 at Daytona lineup

Mazda has added James Hinchcliffe to the SKYACTIV Prototype driver line-up for the 2015 Rolex 24 at Daytona. Hinchcliffe, a three-time IndyCar race winner and native of Oakville, Ontario, Canada, will drive for the Mazda factory team for the fourth consecutive year at the 24-hour race. Hinchcliffe, also known as the Mayor of Hinchtown, has driven in the Prototype, GT and GX categories at the Rolex 24. On his way to the IndyCar ranks, Hinchliffe competed in the Mazda Road to Indy ladder system that helps young drivers climb to the top level of their sport.

Mazda has powered 23 class victories at the Rolex 24 at Daytona since 1975, and the 2015 driver lineup for the Mazda SKYACTIV Prototypes will be:

No. 70 car:
    Tristan Nunez, Jonathan Bomarito, Sylvain Tremblay and Hinchcliffe

No. 07 car:
    Tom Long, Joel Miller, Ben Devlin and Tremblay

James Hinchcliffe:
“This will be my fourth year in a row with Mazda, so I think that shows how I feel about them and the level of professionalism that they show. It is a privilege and joy to get to drive for them and it’s a partnership I hope we can keep going for many more years.”

“Coming up through the Mazda Road to Indy, I have had a lot of experience driving different Mazda-powered machines. To see what they’ve done with that program and how they support the ladder system, not only in open-wheel racing but sports car racing and motorsports overall, it’s really really cool to see.

“(Director of Mazda Motorsports) John Doonan has been a big supporter of mine and a good friend for many years, so to get a chance to continue that relationship - personally and professionally - is great. With SpeedSource and Sylvain (Tremblay, team owner) and all the guys, John’s put together a real crack organization. It goes hand-in-hand with how they do it at every level of the sport.”

John Doonan, Director, Mazda Motorsports North America:
 “James is a great example of what the Mazda driver development programs are all about. I’ve known him for many years throughout his climb up the Mazda Road to Indy ladder to become a winning driver in IndyCar. He is a great young man who brings value to Mazda Motorsports on and off the track. We’re thrilled to have him with us again.”

L'Estage and Ockwell join Subaru Rally Team Canada

Subaru Canada is excited to announce that seasoned veterans Antoine L'Estage and Alan Ockwell will join Subaru Rally Team Canada (SRTC) in their quest for their 11th Canadian Rally Championship for Marques during the 2015 Canadian Rally Championship (CRC) season.

Hot off the heels of a highly successful 2014 CRC season, L'Estage created history by becoming the first driver to win every CRC event in one year and capture the driver's championship, while Alan Ockwell, who co-drove with L'Estage from the second CRC event forward, won the co-driver title for 2014. The extremely experienced pairing will be behind the wheel of the SRTC 2015 Subaru WRX STI with anticipation of being the quickest car, driver and team to ever compete in the CRC.



Subaru was awarded the North American Rally Cup for Marques in 2014 from the combined results of SRTC in CRC events and Subaru Rally Team USA in the Rally America Championship. L'Estage is a 7-time CRC driver champion, while Ockwell is a 3-time CRC co-driver champion. L'Estage is also a 7-time winner of the North American Rally Cup. Ockwell has won two other CRC co-driver titles with SRTC in 2008 and 2009, making his return to SRTC reminiscent of that success.

"I'm delighted to be given such an opportunity," said Antoine L'Estage. "I cannot wait to start working with Subaru Rally Team Canada and Rocket Rally Racing."

Subaru Rally Team Canada will continue to be managed in cooperation with Rocket Rally Racing (RRR) and Patrick Richard, based out of Squamish, BC, for the 2015 season. The SRTC 2015 Subaru WRX STI was developed from the ground up at the RRR facility using state of the art equipment and materials.



"Rocket Rally is proud to have enjoyed so much success with Subaru Rally Team Canada over the years and I am happy that Antoine and Alan will join us to go after another manufacturer championship this season," said Patrick Richard. "Between Antoine and myself, we have won 11 of the last 12 driver championships in Canada. With this strong car, driver and team combination for 2015 we have set ambitious goals for ourselves - we hope to be breaking stage records everywhere we go."

The 2015 CRC season kicks off on February 6th at the Rallye Perce-Neige Maniwaki, in Maniwaki, QC, marking the 50th anniversary of the event.

Canadian Open-Wheel Racer to Contest Kart Series

Like many Canadian’s before him, Luke Chudleigh is opting to head south to sunnier climates to keep sharp over the winter, the 19-year-old today confirming he will participate in the first two rounds of the 2015 Florida Winter Tour, one of the premier kart series in North America.
 
Chudleigh, with two seasons of European open-wheel racing competition under his belt in the Formula Renault 2.0 ALPS Series, will contest the Homestead and Orlando rounds of the Florida Winter Tour in January and February respectively. 
 
The Milton standout is set to race in the Rotax DD2 category for Maranello North America, the team owned and operated by his manager, Trevor Wickens.  Luke, in addition to racing, will be on-hand to offer his support and experience to the younger karters on the team.
 
While Luke continues to work on his full-time 2015 plans, with options to compete on either side of the Atlantic, the opportunity for some competition in a discipline he loves was too good to pass up.
 
“Trevor offered me a kart and winning package to race in the Florida Winter Tour while I work on my 2015 campaign,” stated Chudleigh.  “I couldn’t say no as I love karting and especially this series.  I spent a lot of time karting in Florida earlier in my career and I’m absolutely pumped to go back. 
 
“The opportunity allows me allow me to keep active, stay sharp and have some fun along the way.  The team has some new faces in it for next year and I’m looking forward to working with all the other drivers and sharing some of my own experience with them.  Make no mistake though I’m there to compete!”
 
Luke’s first on-track action of 2015 will come in the opening round of the Florida Winter Tour at Homestead Karting at the Miami Homestead Speedway, 23rd-25th January.  He’ll follow that up in Round 2 at the Orlando Kart Centre, 27th February – 1st March.

Lewis Hamilton wins second championship

The Formula One season has finally come to a close and we have a new champion – Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton. The domination of Mercedes concluded with a 16th win out of 19 races at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – 11 of those coming from Hamilton.

Hamilton and teammate Nico Rosberg battled until the end with Hamilton holding a 17-point lead heading into the final race. With a new Formula One rule creating a double-point race – Rosberg still had a decent shot to win.

After Rosberg captured pole ahead of Hamilton (who started in second), Hamilton only needed to finish second in order to capture the world championship. But it was Hamilton who took the race into his own hands by catapulting ahead of Rosberg before the first corner and holding a comfortable lead throughout the entire race.

 

Rosberg would later suffer some car trouble and cruise to a finish outside of the points in 14th place. With two laps to go, the Mercedes team advised Rosberg to retire the car, but Rosberg chugged on to finish the Grand Prix like a true sportsman.

"Nico put up an incredible fight throughout the year,” said Hamilton. “We said way back in 1997 that it would be amazing if we were fighting for the title one day. He just came into the room just now, he was very professional.”

In the end, Hamilton won the 2014 championship with 384 points to Rosberg's 317. It might seem like a large gap now, but Formula One fans finally got to see a competitive championship race that went all the way to the final race. Last year, Red Bull Racing's Sebastian Vettel won the title by 155 points over his closest rival, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.

This year, Vettel and Alonso took a step back and up came Vettel's Red Bull Racing teammate Daniel Ricciardo and Williams' driver Valtteri Bottas who finished third and fourth respectively in the championship. Ricciardo won the other three races (his first three of his career) when Mercedes was not triumphant.

Hamilton's first title also came on the last race of the 2008 campaign, when he barely bested Felipe Massa by one point at the Brazilian Grand Prix. Hamilton is now the fourth British driver to capture two championships along with Jim Clark, Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart.

The debut of Formula E finishes with spectacular crash

We've heard a lot of talk leading up to the FIA Formula E Championship, better known as just Formula E. The racing series is centred around electrically-powered racing cars with the hope of promoting the use of electric cars, as well as providing accelerated research and development in the process. In its first season, all teams are using the same Spark-Renault SRT_01E car for an even platform.

This past weekend, Formula E finally kicked off its inaugural race at the Beijing ePrix. The race was filled with many passes and the odd technical glitch, but it all ended in dramatic fashion with a crash on the last corner of the race.


It was Nicolas Prost, son of Formula One great Alain Prost in the lead for a long stretch in his e.dams-Reanault team car until former Formula One and current Venturi team driver Nick Heidfeld made his move on the outside approaching the last corner. Unfortunately, for Heidfeld, Prost never saw him and turned into his regular racing line, bumping Heidfeld and launching him air-born after hitting a chicane.

Luckily, Heidfeld was medically cleared and without injury, but the incident ruined both their incredible races and allowed Brazilian Lucas Di Grassi of the Audi Sport ABT team to capture the checkered flag.


Franck Montagny of Andretti Autosport would end up in second with Sam Bird of Virgin Racing finishing third.

Not that anyone wants to see a car flipped over, but the crash brought a lot of attention to Formula E, after $100 million have been pumped into the sport. It's a who's who of team owners with Sir Richard Branson, Lenoardo DiCaprio, Michael Andretti and Alain Prost holding a stake in their respective teams.

If it's not the owners that capture your attention, it would be the drivers. On the grid were a selection of former and current Formula One and IndyCar stars including the aforementioned Heidfeld and Montagny, as well as Jarno Trulli, Bruno Senna, Takuma Sato, Oriol Servia and Charles Pic, just to name a few.


A racing series debut would naturally see its highest rating of attention and viewers. What will be interesting to see is whether Formula E can keep this attention at a high level for the future races to come.

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