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Motor racing: Renault F1 hoping for big step up on the engine side

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Motor racing: Renault F1 hoping for big step up on the engine side

ENSTONE, England (Reuters) – Renault aim to close the gap to Formula One’s top three teams this season, and keep the smile on new recruit Daniel Ricciardo’s face, after seeing a big step up in engine performance.

F1 – Formula One – British Grand Prix 2017 – Silverstone, Britain – July 14, 2017 Cyril Abiteboul, Renault Sport Racing Managing Director during the press conference REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff/Files

Renault Sport Racing Managing director Cyril Abiteboul said ahead of the unveiling of the 2019 car on Tuesday that the team were on the rise and needed to put the hard years of rebuilding behind them.

If long-term targets remained unchanged — podiums next year, and wins in 2021 before a championship challenge — there was quiet confidence at the former champions’ expanded Enstone factory.

Renault finished fourth last year, still a long way behind reigning champions Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, but with their engines winning four races in the back of the latter team’s cars.

Abiteboul said progress on the engine over the European winter had been ‘substantial’.

“It (the step up in performance) is the biggest we have ever done since the V6 was introduced (in 2014),” the Frenchman told reporters.

“It’s the most productive winter we have ever had in terms of engine performance.”

Renault and Red Bull split at the end of last year, leaving the French manufacturer with just two teams — their factory outfit and McLaren — while their former customers have switched to Honda.

Abiteboul said one benefit of that was Renault could now ‘fully control our communication’ after years of public criticism from Red Bull about a lack of performance and reliability.

“On the engine side, yes we’ve had some issues and one issue is too many,” he said. “We are aiming for zero DNFs (non finishes) related to either the chassis or the engine. We have no reason to believe its impossible at this stage.

“We will have to balance performance and reliability, but it’s a game everyone is playing in modern Formula One,” Abiteboul added.

Renault have grown in numbers and spent heavily on equipment, bringing in new resources including two Breton 1500 matrix dynamic machine tools at around $1 million each within the last year.

Staff levels at Enstone have reached 750, including contractors, with a further 450 in France working on power units at Viry-Chatillon.

“With the new facility, we have more in-house production capacity which allows us to be more time efficient. And therefore being able to react quicker than before,” Abiteboul said.

“We have confidence that we have a good platform.”

Retired four times world champion and team special advisor Alain Prost, addressing staff before the launch, said he was impressed by the changes and hoped to see Ricciardo or German team mate Nico Hulkenberg on the podium this year.

“We are now becoming a big team,” the Frenchman said. “We know what we want to do and where we are going.”

Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by John O’Brien

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Reports: Bears to cut K Parkey in March

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Reports: Bears to cut K Parkey in March

After a difficult season culminated by a crucial missed field goal on a potential game-winning field goal in the NFC playoffs, kicker Cody Parkey will be released by the Chicago Bears when the new league year begins in March.

FILE PHOTO: Sep 17, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears kicker Cody Parkey (1) watches his field goal during the first half against the Seattle Seahawks at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

According to multiple reports on Friday, the team intends to cut ties with Parkey once the NFL free agency period begins on March 13.

Parkey, who turned 27 on Tuesday, endured an inconsistent season in Chicago after inking a four-year, $15 million contract last winter following the team’s release of Robbie Gould, the Bears’ all-time leading scorer who moved on to the San Francisco 49ers.

Parkey, a five-year veteran, not only missed a career-high seven field-goal attempts and three extra points during the regular season, but his 43-yard attempt in the final seconds of the NFC wild-card round against the Philadelphia Eagles first hit the upright then the crossbar before bouncing back on the field.

Despite the NFL later ruling that the kick was partially blocked, Parkey took much of the public blame for the Bears’ season ending.

Parkey began his career with the Eagles in 2014 when he made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, scoring a franchise-record 150 points while making 32 of 36 field-goal tries. In two seasons with the Eagles, Parkey never missed an extra point.

Parkey later kicked for the Cleveland Browns in 2016 and Miami Dolphins in 2017.

In January, the Bears signed Tulsa product Redford Jones after conducting a workout that reportedly included multiple hopefuls. Jones made 50 of his 67 field-goal attempts at Tulsa from 2015-17, and he does have a kick on his resume where he hit both uprights. Unlike Parkey’s double-doink, though, that 2016 attempt against Cincinnati ended up going over the crossbar for three points.

“We need more production out of that position,” Bears general manager Ryan Pace said last month after signing Jones. “We know we need to get better there, and it will be an area of focus.”

—Field Level Media

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WTA roundup: Bencic upsets Svitolina to reach Dubai final

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WTA roundup: Bencic upsets Svitolina to reach Dubai final

Belinda Bencic secured a spot in the final by stunning two-time champion Elina Svitolina 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (3) on Friday at the Dubai Duty Free Championships in the United Arab Emirates.

Tennis – WTA Premier 5 – Dubai Tennis Championships – Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, Dubai, United Arab Emirates – February 22, 2019 Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic in action during the Semi Final against Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina REUTERS/Satish Kumar

Bencic trailed 5-3 in the final set before recovering to defeat the sixth-seeded Svitolina. She will face second-seeded Petra Kvitova in the championship match after the Czech Republic star defeated Taiwan’s Su-Wei Hsieh 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.

“I think I’m always the most proud of how I fight,” Bencic said after posting the victory. “Even when I lose, I learned myself to just look in the mirror and be proud of myself when I’m fighting, when I’m giving my all, when I’m trying to do what I have to do.”

Bencic won eight consecutive points after Svitolina was in position to close out the match. Then the Switzerland native carried the momentum into the tiebreaker to notch one of the biggest victories of her career by outdueling the Ukrainian.

“Basically, I stayed in the zone, even in (the) tiebreak,” Bencic said. “I was barely breathing, just playing automatic. You are not thinking any more. It’s where the instincts just guide you through it.”

Bencic will be seeking her third career title when she squares off with Kvitova, who will be shooting for her 27th.

Kvitova dropped the first set on Friday before recovering to win the last two.

“It was a tough one today, for sure,” Kvitova said. “She really didn’t give me anything for free. It was a tough first set. I’m glad that I was able to came back in the second. I didn’t play great at the end of the first.

“I think I’m pleased with my kind of mental focus after losing the first set, that I was calmer when I came back and played from the beginning of the second set. I still kind of felt that I can do that somehow. I don’t know. It was something weird.”

Kvitova overcame eight double faults to claim the victory.

Hungarian Ladies Open

Top-seeded Alison Van Uytvanck defeated Ukraine’s Kateryna Kozlova 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 to advance to the semifinals in Budapest.

Van Uytvanck, of Belgium, will face fifth-seeded Ekaterina Alexandrova in the semis. The Russian dispatched third-seeded Frenchwoman Pauline Parmentier 6-3, 6-2.

Eighth-seeded Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic will face Russian Anastasia Potapova in the other semi. Vondrousova outlasted Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu 5-7, 6-1, 6-3 while the 17-year-old Potapova fought past Romania’s Sorana Cirstea 6-4, 6-7 (5), 7-5 in 2 hours, 50 minutes.

—Field Level Media

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Patriots owner Robert Kraft facing charges of solicitation of prostitution

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Patriots owner Robert Kraft facing charges of solicitation of prostitution

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is facing charges of misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution after he was twice videotaped paying for a sex act at an illicit massage parlor, police in Florida said Friday.

The 77-year-old Kraft was one of 25 people involved in the alleged solicitation at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter.

Michael Edmondson, spokesman for the state attorney’s office in Palm Beach County, told ESPN that the nature of any charges that the 25 people face will not be released until next week.

Kraft has denied wrongdoing.

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