Monday, December 30, 2013

DTM in America??? Full House at Rolex 24, Full House at Sebring??? More Changes Coming!

 I hope most of you reading this thing are staying on top of things. I am trying to develop a regular schedule of posting and the format for the podcast.

 My series of how we fix racing in America will also continue into 2014 as we have less fragmentation but more confusion than ever????

 As a regular follower of racing since my childhood and hardy supporter of the ALMS since it started in late 1998, I can say that having one united series is a good thing, but watching how the sausage was made much how Government law is hashed out in real-time was a bit messy.

 2014 Dakar featuring Robby Gordon

 That said I am excited for 2014 to get started and it kicks off with the Dakar (in South America) Rally. If you didn't know Robby Gordon will be there, not with his Hummer (they have been sold) but with a new car based around one of the chassis he developed Short Course series. The rumor is this new SUV is based on a production SUV Robby will debut sometime in the future.

 You can check out some pictures here, the car, chase trucks and equipment was shipped with the rest of the European teams equipment, cars, etc. So for the first time Robby will have his stuff through customs hopefully with less missing parts than in previous years. This is not the first time I've heard of shady customs in Latin America but I will talk about that another time.

 This narrower, shorter wheelbase car will be much better in the early stages of the rally which runs through river beds and access roads.

 Good Luck to Robby and BJ Baldwin.

 Tudor United Sports Car Championship

  IMSA has released its entry list for the official test session for the Rolex 24 @ Daytona. This list is pretty much has the cars, teams and driver line ups not only for this race but the entire season.

 As I have said in previous post, the premium of drivers will be key to any success next season, especially in the Pro Am classes of LMPC and GT-D. GT-D as expected is oversubscribed and some teams will be turned away, even at Daytona. The Roar list has 65 entries on it (was 67) and there is (to my knowledge) only 60 spaces at Daytona, so some GT-D entries will either have to qualify to get in or won't be invited.

 Some might view that as a bad thing. I think its good, it will ensure a quality field for the race. It will be interesting to see how IMSA handles this and the PR problems it might create with the fanbase.

 While the Rolex Race might be fully subscribed, that may not be the case for the next race which is the Sebring 12 hours. Some teams focused more on their European activities will go back to Europe. That said, some teams have setup US operations, so it will be interesting to see who stays and runs the entire schedule, which is likely if they end up being highly placed in the championship after the first two races which should be double points.

 DTM in America, again????

 One would think with a merged championship, not even a complete rules package there is crazy talk about a United States version of the Pan European DTM series.

 I have nothing to say really, this subject doesn't really deserve a blog post, so tell you what, I will just let The Racing Insiders hash this out for you, ugh.

 Not sure I will be posting again before the end of the year as I am finalizing the transfer over to Wordpress for this blog and submitting content to All these changes come with a new look and a new host. The URL will be the same but the logo at the bottom of the screen will disapear.

 I will also be adding some new content not normally featured on automotive websites but its related to racing and cars in general.

 Finally I may turn this thing into a forum/blog hybrid because to really discuss the problems that threaten racing long term really need a better platform so we can share our ideas in a threaded format so its easy to keep track of.

 Until then Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

What will really happen when the two combined car in Prototype race together for the first time, I think I have an idea...

When it was first announced and later confirmed Daytona Prototypes would be upgraded to match the pace of the ACO spec P2 cars, I knew right away that a P2 car will be the one to have and here's why.

  1.  Scott Pruett in an interview with Gordon Kirby on his website confirmed what I think will happen. The upgrades to the Daytona Prototypes means these cars will enter uncharted waters with unknown impacts on reliability. With limited testing time between when the new aerodynamic parts (tunnel + rear diffuser) being delivered and all the upgrades being added to the cars (paddle shift, carbon brakes, different dampers and spring rates to deal with the added downforce, etc) means many teams will suffer at Daytona with balance problems and parts failure.
  2.  The P2 cars are fully sorted. The only changes are the mandated aero package for Daytona, Sebring and IMS which reduces overall downforce to match it closer to the DP with the changes. While teams may appear to lose a performance advantage will be able to gain some of that back. Under ACO rules, as long as a car manufacturer releases new body kit at the start of the season, updates are allowed once per season. For HPD teams, that means Wirth Engineering will go back to its computers and try to recover some of that lost downforce. Because the drivelines are pretty much bulletproof, I don't expect many failures even if these cars have never run on the Daytona banked oval before.

  By the time the checkered flag drops on the new era Rolex 24, I think you'll find a P2 in the winners circle, barring anything like accidents of course. Besides Daytona, the only other place where P2 cars have no data is IMS (Indy). If they a P2 car can finish on the podium at Daytona, again at Sebring and again at Petit; it doesn't even have to worry about finishing on the podium at IMS, the North American Endurance Title would be a P2 victory.

 This is with the on-going BoP (Balance of Adjustment) that's going to be made throughout the season. It will be a cat and mouse game, this is where having professional drivers will be important. Wirth Engineering has a simulator located at their design studio where once some data is available from this months BoP test at Daytona where Extremespeed will be attending, they will be able to upload the track data, put a driver in it say Guy Cosmo who has tons of tire testing under his belt and come up with a predictive lap time they could run to win the race with more consistent driving, better pit stops and better fuel economy than outright speed since the extra power DP's have automatically means less mileage.

 In other words the HPD's won't have to dominate qualifying or the race to win it.

 I expect by Long Beach; the first sprint race of the season, DP teams will screaming for competition adjustments. Again with tons of on-track data at Long Beach despite those adjustments I think a P2 car will win again.

 By mid-season however DP's might go on a bit of a streak at places such as Mosport and Road America where handling and horsepower are important. But again at Road America fuel mileage because of the track length and uphill front straight will come into play and could be another P2 victory.

 I think its safe to assume that a P2 will end up dominating the first season of the new series and it will be interesting to see what the deeper pocketed teams do either at the end of the year or mid-season. Both Starworks and Ganassi made engine switches just beyond the midpoint in the season last year. Its totally possible that a team like Ganassi might park his converted DP's in favor of a P2 car of some description, especially if they are in the championship hunt and need to be on equal footing with the P2 cars. They are one of the few teams with very deep pockets and might willing to make the move.

 All this does is make for an exciting and interesting season from the sharp end of the grid to the blunt end.

 I made this post originally before the testing accidents with the upgraded DP cars. Since that point however potential P2 teams like Greaves and Pecom have dropped their plans to run the Tudor Championship.

 However my original thought still stands by Petit Le Mans, I predict all Extreme speed will have to do is start the race and they'll win the title. This will be after a season of fist waving, sh*t talk and BoP.

 If anything it will be interesting won't it?

Season Entries Released: Its about as expected

 I've been tracking this since before the season ended for both Grand Am and the American Le Mans Series.

 The only surprise thus far is that Dane Cameron doesn't have a ride yet considering his performance last season.

 Andy Priaulx will be exiting DTM (as predicted by me) to join the Team BMW RLL squad while Maxime Martin (winner at Long Beach with Bill Auberlen) will move into Andy's DTM seat effectively. It's likely we'll see Maxime when schedules don't clash with with DTM because Joey Hand, who I think should be focusing just on DTM will be back as a part-time partner to Dirk Muller who just missed out on the driver's title last year. When schedules do clash, expect to see John Edwards. 

 Dirk Werner was also reassigned and it looks like he'll be on VLN duty the majority of the year but also suspect he might be doing ADAC GT, Blancpain and the Spa 24, if not the Dubai 24 and 12 hours of Bathurst.

 And that folks is just the movement within BMW! 

 I expect Porsche's drivers for both its WEC and Tudor USCC be to announced before or just after Christmas. For Tudor I wouldn't be shocked if you saw the return of familiar faces to driving the factory Porsche cars. I expect Pat Long for sure, but with Marc Lieb looking like he's going to get a shot at driving one of the Porsche LMP1 cars, that leaves a seat open, stay tuned or that.

 But I think you can pencil in a few people besides Long. Hint: Anybody with more than a full season of starts in the ALMS.

 Speaking of Porsche that is one program whose resources are being stretched to the limit. Only four official Jr drivers was recently announced, that leaves two LMP seats open, six GTLM seats open and of course any 12 GT-D Porsches entered into the series.

 This is why I think if you don't have an experienced Porsche shoe in your GT-D car (one of the reasons Potter tied up Andy Lally early) they are going to struggle for pace and will be looking high and low for experienced drivers, even if its only in the regional Porsche Cup series...

 Ferrari drivers will also be busy, as Risi will be running two cars, one the entire season (no surprise) and one with Tracy Krohn. I don't think Tracy will be driving, this is why he's recently tested an LMP2 car for WEC and I believe he'll be trying a PC car sometime soon. So who does that leave? 

 Given Olivier Beretta's struggles last season, possibly be responsible for throwing away a victory at the final Petit Le Mans for the ALMS (while in the lead) and Risi's low tolerance for mistakes (see Jaime Melo) I think Matteo Malucelli will have new teammate. I wouldn't be shocked if Robin Liddell was given the nod. For never have driven a Ferrari before, he led the race in trickey wet-dry conditions during the early stages of Petit Le Mans. As it started drying out, he was near the pace of Malucelli. Malucellli is really fast behind wheel of one of these cars and just as fast as Melo was when his confidence was at its highest (2006-2008) which puts him on par with Ferrari pilot par excellence Gimmi Bruni. 

 I have no idea how they shuffle the deck here. I think Fisichelli will be reassigned as he struggled in the middle of the season (WEC) for pace and was able to only complete single tire stints in the car several times. That is the reason why AF Corse to protect their point lead not only in the team and manufacturer standings but also the driver's title; split up Bruni/Fisichelli and paired Bruni with long time teammate Toni Vilander (former FIA GT2 Champs). 

 So with Malucelli needing a teammate and Bruni needing a teammate, who knows what will happen but I know one person that's in the mix and that's former GP2 driver Davide Rigon. Rigon helped 8Star win the GT-Am Team's title and lead the Blancpain series the majority of the season with Cesar Ramos and Daniel Zampieri even after an engine failure while battling eventually winner of the Spa 24. With a slim point lead going in the final race, a practice crash put them on the backfoot and basically they were uncompetitive all day, a shame. 

 But Rigon has gotten the call up and I doubt will be back with Kessel next season. Last time Risi had two young hot shoes it was Melo and Bruni and yes they were fast (On Pole five times) but only had three victories and DNF'ed I think four times. Melo was penalized a few times for aggressive driving and the straw that broke the camel's back was crashing the car in practice in 2011 in morning warm-up for 2011 Petit Le Mans. The car was so badly damage that it couldn't be repaired in time (ala Allan McNish) to make the race, rumor has it Melo was fired on the spot and left the racetrack before the race started.

 We haven't seen him since, his website is hardly updated regularly but I last heard he was back in Brazil driving in the Brazilian GT3 Championship.

 I don't know if Giuseppe Risi is ready for another possible roller coaster season. Thus far Rigon and Malucelli have been very safe with the car while being fast, so I am going to go out on a limb and say it will be Malucelli, Davide Rigon and Robin Liddell for the longer races.

 I've got quite a bit more to say about the possible driver lineups in light of the season entry list being announced, so stay tuned.

Friday, November 1, 2013

What the Pirelli Tire World Challenge Series got right and up to this point USCC has got wrong with GT3 cars.

 Magnus Racing has taken delivery of the new Porsche 911 GT3 America (somewhere between a Cup car and the Supercup car) and is on the entry list for the Nov test that IMSA has planned in preparation for the premier season of the Tudor United Sports Car Championship.

 He'll be there with Scuderia Corsa will also be there with their Ferrari F458 GT3 "Grand Am" spec car. 

 It will be interesting to see who shows up with a pure FIA spec GT3 car, because IMSA (Scot Elkins) will need all three cars to gauge where and how to slow down the FIA cars because they are up at least 4 seconds a lap faster than the current Grand Am spec GT3 car. The other unknown is how much faster is the 911 America than last year's Grand Am/ALMS GTC Porsche GT3 Cup cars.

 From my understanding, I don't have all the specs, but the America has ABS which the Cup cars don't have (Porsche Supercup cars do) and possibly traction control? I am unsure but Elkins said a few months ago, they would allow FIA GT3 car into GTC with minor modifications. What those "minor" changes are nobody know and not many are even speculating. One rumor has it that traction control will have to be defeated on FIA spec cars but ABS will be allowed.

 This seem plausible because the traction control system is really just a wheel sensor and programmable routine in the car's computer that's connected to the ignition system. While ABS is much more involved and changes need to be made to the brake system itself to either add or defeat it. 

 I don't know if that will be acceptable to many teams that have ordered or have already bought 2012 FIA GT3 cars from Europe.

 This is causing quite a stir among the potential drivers in the GT-D class, like the outspoken Mike Hedlund, who got involved in a twitter discussion with fellow driver Ryan Eversley about allowing pure FIA GT3 car into the series.

 Why the America was built in the first place has likely the due with the fact that current GTC/Rolex GT teams already had to pay to upgrade their current cars, especially the Porsche Cups to ABS, TCS, Single Hub Wheels and other things. 

 There was talk of the FIA cars using a spec rear wing designed by Crawford Engineering in NC. The FIA GT3 cars have tremendous downforce, much more than the Grand Am spec and GTC spec cars. This would give them an advantage at many tracks in the new series, however the reduction in rear downforce on these cars has proven fruitless.

 Example, Fall-Line Motorsport, who took over the Audi R8 LMS program run by APR a well known VW/Audi tuner. They had so much trouble with rear grip that they decided to park the cars and revaulate what needed to be changed by continuing to run one car instead of two.

 When Grand Am wrote the rules to allow FIA GT3 cars in the series, they wanted to keep their current Rolex GT teams from having to upgrade their cars (sound familiar?). So they mandated some changes be made from the European spec already highly developed by the manufacturers who built the cars (either in-house or contracted out). This meant defeating the ABS system, Traction Control, removing the rear diffuser and running open side windows. 

 At first Audi's were forced to use the production V10 clutch assembly which cause both cars to drop out within the first two hours of the race with clutch failure. They had to lobby to use the Tilton racing clutch developed for the car originally. They struggled all that season the few times they appeared. That was 2011; in 2012, Audi showed up armed with lots of German being spoken in the paddock. Alex Job Racing who was contracted to run an Audi for the Audi Customer Sports Program out of Germany for this one race ended up winning his class. 

 It seems downforce was an issue but since Daytona is a high speed track where some downforce is given up for the infield section to get a higher trap speed from the chicane to NASCAR 4, through the Tri-Oval and past Start/Finish, it didn't prevent them from winning (and finishing 3rd) but reared its ugly head at the tracks were downforce was needed and the cars were uncompetitive. A minor cure was during some wind tunnel testing Audi engineers found that running without side windows for which the Europe spec calls for vented but closed side windows disrupted air going over the rear wing. They found changing the attack angle got back some of the downforce they were looking for. Results really didn't change the car was still too loose and burning up rear tires. Brad Kettler who runs Audi Customer Sports North America asked for the R8 LMS Ultra's rear diffuser to be allowed on the car. They allowed the to add it by the Laguna Seca race, one race from the final race of the season and of Grand Am. By Lime Rock they found it helped again, but didn't have enough track time to get the balance right and suffered a bit in overall pace.

  So let me get this straight, they demanded the car be slowed down and did it by removing rear downforce mainly, only to give them back the majority of their downforce later as it proved they were not competitive without it.

 This is why I was in favor of not allowing any Cup cars, the America or any Porsche but the Porsche 911 GT3-R which is the car Porsche teams run in European GT3 championships like ADAC, British GT and of course Blancpain.

 While IMSA tries to sort out this mess or potentially end up with a grid of majority Porsche Americas and maybe only the Fall Line Audis and few Ferraris (the count of Porches is already up to about 9-11 teams with a few running more than one) and a max of 21 cars allowed at the majority of races. World Challenge has announced they will be accepting full FIA spec Porsche 911 GT3-R's into their series.

 There is no team announcements that I know of but its likely you'll see an explosion of FIA GT3 cars now and I expect major factory involvement especially with the additional annoucement that Pro-Am drivers will be given their own podium ceremony and Sportsman Cup for winning the Pro-Am class within the current GT class.

 I expect heavy involvement from Audi who has previously won in World Challenge competition, Mercedes Benz who was involved with Black Swan racing last year, likely Ferrari, McLaren, SRT Viper and others.

 Accepting pure FIA cars is how IMSA went about this. But I guess the cost of adding all the additional hours to the series was just too much for GT-D teams to swallow. The America is $269,xxx that is over $200-$250K cheaper than a brand new FIA spec GT3 car from the majority of companies that offer them. The car isn't really the issue its the cost to run it and it is more expensive to run a FIA GT3 car, very similar to the GTLM (GTE) cars actually.

 While I understand the price issue, ALMS fans have asking for FIA GT3 cars be accepted into the series and that door was always left open by the ALMS all the way until the end.

 Now it seems we're going to get some watered down version again, just to appease a few legacy teams and Porsche who I am sure isn't hurt by the sales of these new cars as it looks like about 10 have been ordered/sold.

 That seems unfair to me.....

Mike Hedlund echos what I have been saying about GTC/RolexGT/GT-D vs FIA GT3 (European Spec)

 Mike Hedlund has made a brilliant observation of the nonsense happening behind the scenes at Daytona Beach. Despite them, it looks like GT-D will hit its class limit (21), which of course makes no sense at all.

 I agree with Mike that if they were going to make the teams spend money on a new car anyway, why not FIA GT3 where the homologation is already set? All they would have to do is maybe slow the cars down a bit with an intake restrictor and rock hard tires.

 He also mention FIA GT3 cars look cooler, I agree -

 911 America (991)

The Euro spec GT3 997

 Since Porsche is a valued partner of both series before they merged, it shouldn't shocking what has transpired.

 So we have clipped Grand Am Spec GT3 cars to look forward too and half the field being Porsche Americans, fantastic! (Sarcasm).

 This month's test at Daytona should be very interesting....

 In the meantime you got Pirelli World Challenge to look forward too which will feature FIA GT3 cars next year including the current FIA GT3 Porsche GT3-R and likely the future 991 based car.

 PWC recently announced a new Pro-Am subclass in GT as its expected that factory involvement will get a major boost next season.

 If you really wanna see FIA GT3 cars in America, pay attention to the Pirelli World Challenge Championship.

 I see grid sizes in GT doubling....


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Will the Tudor United Sports Car Championship be better than the WEC? YES and here's why...

 Come 2014, the WEC will be in its 3rd season. Like the majority of the other FIA World Championships (beyond F1) however they are poorly attended affairs.

 I've made this statement a few times already that the Tudor series will be much better than the FIA World Endurance Championship and my comments have come under fire not surprisingly from Europeans.

 I am not one to wave Old Glory like my sometimes fellow Conservatives and even some Progressives/Liberals like to do but the facts are the facts.

 WEC is poorly attended, no where near capacity and mighty expensive for the limited TV coverage. I also think the standard and inflexible 6 hours or 1Km format is a bit ridiculous and not TV friendly, which explains why Eurosport only shows you the first hour and last hour of the six hour races. 

 If ESPN did that with NFL or NBA games there would be calling for scalps. You can't even do that with Indycar races and why since the races run about two hours anyway.

 My point is that WEC appeals to the hardcore endurance racing fan only. But until now, the only alternative was Pan European championships like European Le Mans Series which is also poorly attended I might add.

 So its not shocking to me at all when its rumored several teams in both the ELMS and WEC are considering full season if not partial seasons in the new series.

 The WEC paddock got the message when the ALMS race out attended the WEC race by good margin, some estimate 20-25% It impacted the WEC paddock so much that drivers like Bruno Senna announced he would like to drive more in America next season. Endurance Info is reporting that several P2 teams, Krohn Racing, Aston Martin and AF Corse are all interested in running here next year.

 Why? Because they'll be racing in front of somebody! 

 Series in Europe have the unfortunate habit of racing at circuits design to house 50-100K of rabid F1 fans. This is especially glaring at places like Silverstone and Monza. It was repeated at COTA, a place that housed 165K F1 fans last season for the first race ever there.

 Most of the tracks the ALMS goes too and that Tudor will have on its schedule next season have much smaller grandstands because the majority of fans use the surrounding topography (IE grassy areas and hills) to watch the cars as they go around.

 The only major test in terms of attendance next season will be the Six Hours of The Glen, which in the Grand Am era was not as well attended as the NASCAR race there (much worse). Even Indycar has done poorly and they dropped it from the schedule. That is an exchange of venues for the Tri-State area as the series will not be returning to Lime Rock, which is very well attended and even that's an understatement its PACKED.

 The Long Beach race is at least 40K and might increase this season, if the races before it (Daytona and Sebring) prove to be exciting as I think they will be.

 The way I see it, you can race in a new series with some momentum behind it, with familiar teams, schedule and tracks or you can do another series in a respected but poorly attended championship with contrived GT-Pro Am class and teams losing interest.

 This is especially the case when budgets are considered. Rumor has it the Tudor series with four very long races and a slew of 2:45 sprint races cost about the same as FIA WEC. According to John Hindbaugh it will cost $1.5M British Pounds more to run Tudor over WEC. I am going to assume that includes shipping the car back to Europe for Le Mans. That doesn't sound unreasonable.

 But it seems some teams don't have a problem with that. Greaves Motorsports has already announced they will enter the new series for the entire season. Others rumored to be coming are Murphy Prototypes (who raced in at Petit Le Mans last season and loved it), TDS Racing and Pecom which is run by AF Corse and I already said they are interested in running at least the long distance races next season.

 When all it said and done as the teams must commit to the Tudor series starting Nov 1st, I think the grid will be at or very close to the 60 entry threshold.

 All the races will be well attended and nothing improves a team's moral than to run in front of supportive and enthusiastic fans.

 Those are the reasons why the Tudor series in ONE season will prove to be superior to the WEC despite its world championship status, which seemingly is only important to Europeans...



Monday, October 28, 2013

This is pretty much a No-NASCAR zone, but congrats to Darrell Wallace Jr....

For doing what only Wendell Scott has been able to do up to this point, win a race.

 I pretty much ignore Nationwide (which is going away as title sponsor next season with no replacement announced yet) when not racing on a road course so I hadn't heard or seen the Black DW before.

 At least NASCAR has a diversity program which is more than I can say about Indycar or Sports Cars, despite historical figures such as Willy T. Ribbs.

 Of course there's Bill Lester who's tasted victory in often ignored and now defunct Grand Am series which is NASCAR owned.

 I will be talking much more about the lack of diversity in motorsport. As much as Supercross, NHL and Golf were last frontiers for Black Americans. Racing IS the last frontier because you're asking a community of people to spend hundreds of thousand of dollars which they don't have or spend on other things, such as BW women spending 8 Billion dollars a year on hair replacement products, such as wigs and weaves.

 Stay tuned I can guarantee that it will be very interesting and should get the conversation started that largely went dead with the moderate success of Danica Patrick.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Professional Motorsport Death Watch

 NASCAR's ratings continue to decline and empty seats is increasingly become commonplace even at popular venues like Daytona and Bristol. NASCAR's 2014 schedule doesn't offer any relief for what ails the media darling of the early 2000's.

 NASCAR is saying wait until 2015 when NBC comes aboard to replace ESPN, returning Sprint Cup series to the free HD airwaves. Oh, what's coming?

 A shorten schedule  = Unlikely
 More Road Courses = Possibly
 Road Courses in the Chase = Doubtful

 To say NASCAR followed the NFL model is an understatement and while that might be okay for the hardcore NASCAR fan, for the rest of us, it's turned into NASCAR fatigue.

  That said even if the hardcore fans don't notice or notice but choose to ignore it, is that NASCAR has reached the top and its downward slide is actually picking up speed.

 It seems attendance is back to pre-Financial Crisis levels, but the ratings are still down and while overall attendance might be back up, its hard to believe statements like that when the stands are visible emptier than just a few years ago.

 3 races at the home of NASCAR (Charlotte) was a bit much then and it's really too much now. I would highly suggest the series consider adding the All Star event to the Coke 600 schedule, technically it is, but it happens a week before the Coke 600/Indy 500 weekend or at least move it around to other tracks to make it interesting.

 That's just for starters, I'll save the rest for the 2nd in a series of YouTube videos.

 Indycar's atrocious attendance at Fontana for the season finale with the series championship on the line came and went with a resounding THUD.

 What about Indycar's schedule? How about just like NASCAR, more of the same... Just like we reward failure in Government and Big Business, I guess we'll continue to do so in Motorsports because these people are related to politicians and big business tycoons.

 The only bright spot was the ALMS finale at Petit Le Mans, but we have trouble in those waters as well. The NASCAR way is already being felt by the IMSA Safety Crews. There's a strong possibility that the people that know them best in an accident might get the ax as cost-cutting measure. 

 Fanstatic! (Sarcasm)

 Thus far, the changes coming for next season in the Tudor series is expected this one however sort of blindsided the community in road racing and drag racing who is used to having traveling safety teams.

 So is racing really in trouble? YES IT IS! To prove it too you, you'll have to come back... Thanks to Autoextremist for posting a similar rant before I did, I just happen to agree with Peter; 100% and thought I would add my 2 cents.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Oversubscribed Part 2 - The Drivers (Updated)

 Besides the good problem of lots of interest from teams here and overseas in the united series (nevermind its not that united...), it seems there is some concern over job availability next season.

 Pro classes need not worry (Prototype/GTLM), this is only a problem for the Pro-Am classes (LMPC/GT-D).

 The Silver Driver ranking has Gold value to teams serious about winning races and championships. Some people don't like driver rankings; to them it seems contrived. I will agree they are contrived but we should let teams determine how serious they are about their business model.

 Just consider what happen between Guy Cosmo, Level 5 and Extreme Speed.

 Using rankings give them (teams) the option of being serious or semi-serious (do you want more economic security or more speed?)

 Teams that don't depend on drivers bringing money to the team to purchase new cars are free to commit to a company, say Audi, get access to factory drivers and only have to pay a salary to driver that's Silver ranked. The rules say you can have two Silver drivers in the car and this is how Callaway Competition from Germany dominated the 2010 FIA GT3 Championship with Daniel Keilwitz and Christian Hohenadel both Silver drivers...

 The grey area with the rankings is experience. You could be a silver driver if you never won a major championship or race victory or over age 50. 

 What's considered a major championship or race victory?

  •  Win or Championship in CART, IRL or Indycar
  •  Win or Championship in NASCAR
  •  Driven, Win or Championship in F1
  •  Win or Championship in GP2
  •  Win or Championship in DTM
  •  Win or Podium at Le Mans

Success in any of those series will automatically get you a Gold, Platinum if you have won a F1 race.

 Any success anywhere else will get you a Silver ranking; Interesting huh?

 Here's an example:

 Elton Julian like many drivers don't lack talent but lack funding and that ended his career in British F3, but not before that he won a race and finished in the Top 5 of the championship. He was just starting his own racing team (Dragon Speed) and fielded a car in the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup when he was asked to drive with Gunnar Jeannette in his father's team LMPC car.

 He was brutally fast and almost won the LMPC Championship, his first season full time back in a racing car.

 He was ranked as a Silver driver. Gunnar himself has loads of experience in the ALMS and at Le Mans, he is also a Silver driver.

 This is how you can "Game" the system. Its intention is to pair usually painfully slow gentlemen drivers with money with young inexperienced (but fast) or older experienced drivers (coach).

 The problem with this ranking system is there are plenty of experienced drivers around the world who are very quick but ran out of money or have been injured in a crash. They are Silver ranked drivers because they haven't won any major races or championships.

 When the rankings are released it will be very interesting to see who is ranked where.

 Here's the FIA WEC Driver Rank List 

 Drivers that I think will be in high demand:

 Billy Johnson (released from Roush Racing)
 Lawson Aschenbach (2013 World Challenge GTS Champion)
 Archie Hamilton (Seen in Petit Le Mans Paddock)

 I'm sure there many more, but based on the list I left the link too, here's some others

 Rui Aguas (Extensive Ferrari experience)
 Lance Davis Arnold (Mercedes Customer Sports Driver)
 Matt Bell (Ferrari supported driver)
 Tim Bergmeister (Porsche experience + US track knowledge)
 Sebastiaan Bleekemolen (Porsche experience)

 These guys and others in Europe will get the call up for GT-D mainly. Considering how many teams (19-21) will run and despite being a Pro Am class, sliver drivers will be golden to teams serious about winning.

 Update #1

 Here is an interview Elkins gave to John Dagys of Sportscars 365 on the subject of driving rankings for the Pro-Am classes (GT-D and LMPC).

 Update #2

 Greaves Motorsports has confirmed at least one entry into TUCSS but not just the North American Endurance Championship that was rumored previously but the entire season of races! The team said it looking for partners but they are just saying that because there have been no contracts signed between the team and likely partner Chris Dyson.

 The partnership is likely only for a season, possibly two as Dyson owned AER is looking to bring an unknown badged production based (block, heads, cam location) online for P2 in the near future.

 In driver related news (not that Chris Dyson isn't a driver)

 Drivers Jonathan Hirschi, Nikki Pastorelli and a few others are deeply interested in the new series.

 Update #3

 An official announcement is said to happen later this week, but it looks like Paul Miller Racing will join Flying Lizard as full time Audi Customer Sports North America teams in GT-D.

 As I look at it, there are reasons why both teams have went with Audi. 

 For one, Flying Lizard (Seth Neiman) likely feels jilted over Porsche' selection of CORE Autosport to represent them as an official factory program in GTLM. But I also believe Porsche Motorsports thinks the stakes are too high for an owner-driver involved with a factory effort. This is unlikely to happen as CORE's owner Bennett will continue in LMPC (will be at the Sebring Test next week).

 The second the lack of resources, IE drivers. With as many as seven (possibly eight-nine at the long distance events) Porsche teams in GT-D, three in GTLM and two more in WEC next season; plus the LMP1 program, it looks obvious to me that Porsche's resources are stretched pretty thin.

 Its very likely Audi teams including GMG will have access to Audi drivers. Christopher Haase will be testing with Flying Lizard and bringing them up to speed with cars they have never run. It looks like Benoit Treluyer will be shaking down PMR's Audi R8 LMS @ Sebring.

 All these teams will be at the Sebring test.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

You were never crazy, NASCAR was paying teams and trying to crush the ALMS with Grand Am! (Updated!)

 Since was posted in a NASCAR land newspaper, I haven't seen it mentioned elsewhere. Maybe others have seen it and the general reaction is "water under the bridge" since Grand Am bought the ALMS to create the new Tudor United Sports Car Championship that begins at Daytona next year.

 However when Murphy The Bear often spoke of this truth, he was called all sorts of names including the often used "conspiracy theorist". Usually its because the lack of any real investigation leads to opinions about things, rather than facts.

 Well, we finally have the facts and Grand Am fans will need to eat quite a bit of crow.

 Its funny how a divorce often uncovers things you wouldn't expect.

 Grand Am was and never well be fondly remembered as much as the ALMS will be and that's just the truth. This sort of information puts a final nail in the Grand Am's coffin. I will be watching the new braintrust very closely.

 Thanks to Peter Delorenzo for posting this on his blog!

 Update #1

 I had to do a bit of searching on Murphy's blog which he no longer post too as he lost interest in covering the downward spiral of the ALMS. I don't blame him... The bungling at under the current management is astounding. The complete and total mismanagement of the Porsche, Audi, Acura LMP story which blew up in Acura's face when they were the only players left in 2009 after committing to LMP1 right before the financial crisis blew up in Oct of 2008.

 Here's the post from 2009 that confirmed NASCAR's payment plan to teams which included Brumos and Spirit of Daytona. Having known this since before 2009 actually; that is why I can't take anything Jim Keane says seriously. As the co-host of The Racing Insiders and employee of Spirit of Daytona when he complains about cost to upgrade the slower than dirt DP's up to LMP2 pace, it rings very hollow. The majority of his employer's bills (and his paycheck) are paid by General Motors or Government Motors as some people like to call them.

 Its this sort of bs that if the general public knew would turn them off of sports car racing.

 I'm going to continue to dig deeper because its unfortunate that we had to lose the battle when we didn't have too. In the end, we as ALMS fans have won the war, but we're forced to accept the DP's and even Michael Shank is giddy about running at Le Mans, in what I have no idea because I doubt seriously DP's in any guise will be accepted by the ACO.

TUCSS Oversubscribed? North American Endurance Championship the Alternative? Update!

That seems to be the thinking in Daytona Beach.

 Given all the information I have found, it looks like the 60 car threshold will be met. Currently Daytona has 60 pit stalls on pit lane and 74 garage spaces. 

 According to various sources including Graham Goodwin of Dailysportscar, some European P2 teams may not be extended an invite to the series opening round. The reason given is the expected capacity of GT-D to be about 20 cars, if not more. 

 Right now I count about 54 cars committed to the new series full-time, which is why they went forward with the split races at Long Beach, Detroit and VIR.

 Pickett Racing has yet to confirm but will be staying in the series at least for 2014 and already confirmed Stevenson Motorsports departure.

 That leaves only six spots.

 The only fly in the ointment is the approximate 30% increase in budget needed to run the new 12 race series (11 races for Pro Am classes and 11 races for Pro Classes actually).

 Who will fill those extra spots?

 The likely order is; season entries get priority. Then those entries for the North American Endurance Championship (NEC) and finally the one-off's.

 I mentioned before since the WEC season doesn't start until April 18th at Silverstone, both Daytona and Sebring would be excellent tune ups for the coming season. I believe some teams will skip the ELMS all together to run in the much tougher US series.

 Driver Johnny Mowlem on Mid-Week Motorsport said his team, 2013 ELMS GT Champions Ram Racing is looking very hard at the Tudor United Sports Car Championship. They would love to do it, if they can find the budget. Its likely if they don't do the entire series, they may opt for the NEC and Le Mans, which would require shipping the car over twice but overall that is cheaper than a WEC season or full TUSCC campaign.

 Paul Dalla Lana who is unhappy with the way WEC is run generally left his Aston Martin Vantage GTLM car in America after the WEC COTA event (in which the ALMS outdrew WEC much to this dismay of ACO/WEC management), is likely to also run the entire Tudor Championship. 

 AF Corse has said it would like to do the NEC as well.

 Among the Prototypes, I know Murphy, TDS and Greaves are all interested. I believe Greaves will partner with Chris Dyson for a full season, while Dyson Racing sorts out what its long range plans are. Chris has said its unlikely they will buy a new chassis since their budget called for a three year program with their Lola. IE they hadn't planned on buying a new car and don't have the budget for it. At COTA it was mentioned by Rob Dyson that its likely they will develop their own engine for P2 (via AER which they own) but its unlikely to be ready by the start of next year.

 So if you count three prototypes, two extra Ferrari's in GTLM, its likely only one spot left and who that gets that is anybody's guess, but I'll say Dalla Lana and his Aston Martin Vantage.

 *Update #1 

 It seems intentionally (or not) John Dagys has mentioned in his post-race report for the final Petit Le Mans that Scott Tucker had raced for his final victory and championship in the ALMS which we knew was ending but does that mean the 2-time P2 champ, 2-time LMPC champ is considering the world stage (FIA WEC)?

 I wouldn't blame him if he did.... I don't remember where I read it, but it seems Mr. Tucker lobbied for the new merged Prototype class to remain Pro-Am to allow Gentlemen drivers like himself and equalize the competition with that requirement.

 That will not happen in the new series because despite P2 being a Pro Am class in the European Le Mans Series (ELMS or LMS) and World Endurance championship (WEC) it will be fully professional in the US. There will be no more Trueman Award (Grand Am) for best Gentlemen racer (that I know of).

 So for people like him and Tracy Krohn for example, you have a few choices.

  •  Prototype Challenge (since he's a previous champion I doubt this, even if he ordered a new cars already)
  •  Prototype 2 in WEC/ELMS - More than likely WEC since ELMS is a much weaker series than the ALMS or what the Tudor Championship will be.

 I would mention GT series like Blancpain but I think its obvious he's not interested in running GT cars at this point in his career.

 So my money is on Tucker wanting to continue to drive will go to the WEC next season. The competition depth will be greater than it was this season, so it will be good for his team to move on.

 While I always thought Tucker for next year was a bit of a question mark, I didn't think ordering LMPC cars meant much. It could be just a business opportunity to rent out chassis to drivers since for logistical reasons, he won't using his US based transporters or shops if he races in WEC. It is likely he'll have a satellite base camp in Europe somewhere since the majority of races are in Europe (Silverstone, Spa and Le Mans including Test Day) as are most if not all the teams.

 It could very well be an arrive and drive scenario, stay tuned to see if I'm right.

 *Update #2 

 I've created an editable table to keep track of next year's entries. If you know of any information before I find out (I check around the net daily), feel free to edit the table.

 Here's the link 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

What impact will FIA GT3 cars have on World Challenge?

 When Pirelli World Challenge announced they would allow full spec FIA GT cars, I knew it would only be a matter of time before things got serious.

 As it stands now, expect for a few drivers, PWC has a very Pro-Am/Club feel to it. 

 Team Cadillac for intents and purposes should be dominating; they have previously when other teams without even close to the resources of Pratt & Miller were forced to build their own cars.

 I place before the court the Hawk Performance Nissan GTR and its generally poor performance/reliability.

 But when Global Motorsport Group, a long-time Porsche supporter moved over to Audi R8's (older FIA spec cars) it proved to be a excellent decision. This season has been very consistent for GMG; winning a few races and I think completing every lap this season. 

 James Sofronas is leading the points going into the final weekend.

 If you saw the entry list going into this weekend it looks very normal, ho-hum actually.

 But when checking for times this morning, guess who was leading the timesheets in yesterday's cancelled practice/qualifying session? 

 Audi R8 LMS factory driver and former Porsche Super Cup Champion, Rene Rast.

 For those that don't know; Rast has been winning races in ADAC GT (German GT3), Blancpain Endurance Series and FIA GT Series, driving the majority of the time for Belgian Audi Club-WRT.

 I've said before with the acceptance of full FIA GT3 cars into World Challenge; Teams that have multi-car efforts like GMG will feature at least one factory driver, who will go for the driver's and manufacturer's championships.

 This ups the ante considerably since the best drivers in the series currently are journeyman driver Randy Pobst, who is popular with the club racer/autocrosser community since that's where he comes from. Former CART/CCWS driver Alex Figge also joins Pobst in the factory supported Volvo S60R.

 While the Caddy team has become the retirement home for ALMS drivers who have lost a step. GM lifer Andy Pilgrim who left (read: forced out) the Corvette program almost a decade ago is joined by current series champion Johnny O'Connell, who was forced out of the Corvette program at the start of the 2011 season.

 Once you understand that, you can see how a Pro-Am driver like James Sofronas who is actually a very good driver for somebody that doesn't do it for a living; can lead the championship with a good reliable car like the Audi. As I said previously GMG was a Porsche team being based not very far from Porsche Motorsport North America which is located about an hour from my house in Huntington Beach.

 They were basically up against cars built by P&M that are somewhere near the overall pace to a FIA GT3 car. The Porsches they were driving were Cup cars with larger 4.0L engines. As I mentioned recently on and Sportcars 365; these cars do not have the downforce the factory Caddy or Volvo has and that impacts lap time. Now with that said, a very quick professional driver, who can get the most out of a Porsche, say Pat Long can win with those cars. But expecting Amatur drivers like Ende and Sofranas to compete with them is totally unreasonable.

 That's why I said WC has a club racer feel to it. At various times over its history World Challenge has had factory involvement, so this is nothing new. This will surely to bring up the level of professionalism the series needs to move up in popularity.

 I fully expect GMG to field at least two Audi's next season if not as many as four, but one car will have a factory Audi driver. Because I am fairly confident that TRG-Aston Martin will put Damien Faulkner in a Vantage GT3 for both World Challenge and GT-Daytona.

 I fully expect a real "Sports Car War" to break out in World Challenge...

 Here's a bit of news not everybody heard: Multi-time DTM Champion Bernd Schneider will be running the in the 25 Hours of Thunderhill in Dec. I heard this during the last Blancpain race which his team won to secure the driver's championship for Max Buk. Being a factory Mercedes driver, who do you think is on the entry list for Thunderhill?

 That would be one Tim Pappas, who owns Black Swan Racing, driving a Mercedes SLS AMG GT3.

 I don't think it takes much of a leap to put two and two together.

Fun Small Cars and The Morons Who Own Them

 While watching some NFL games this afternoon, I am always online. So while I was online and if you read my previous post you know I am looking at the '14 Ford Fiesta ST and '14 Chevy Sonic LT (the lowest cost style with the optional 1/.4L Turbo engine) to purchase as a fun daily driver.

 I am always curious on what others are doing with these cars. 

 I read a story back around 2004-2005 that more OEM's would be using small displacement turbocharged engines to replace engines larger than 2.0L for small cars (Class B think Fiesta, Class C think Focus). As of 2013/2014 model year, there are more factory turbocharged cars available than when I bought my Dodge Neon SRT-4 in late 2006.

 So as I said I am curious what others are doing, specifically with drag racing these cars. I am a fan of drag racing as a grassroots motorsport. Its affordable and as long as your car is slower than 11.50 and under 130 mph trap speed, only a helmet is required for safety equipment.

 Unlike road racing which requires a whole host of safety equipment and you'll be at a disadvantage against those that have trailered their cars. Meaning your car will have all its interior parts, likely air conditioning and other things not needed. You'll be at a weight disadvantage which is important in all forms of motorsport but maybe tractor pulls.

 Which is why I am not all that shocked at the lack of good drag strip numbers for the majority of these cars.

 I've found a Focus ST that ran 13.8 on street tires, that required an engine controller upgrade (Flash). Not bad, it could have run better though. Starting with the Dodge Caliber SRT-4, OEM's have been putting larger brake rotors on the cars. This makes sense as the cars have higher curb weights and more power. This has been challenging to get serious traction that racing slicks provide because nobody offered a slick for a wheel bigger than 15" that would fit on most small cars.

 (Actually I found some quicker cars on

 M&H Tires to the rescue!

 M&H Tires has always supported the grassroots/weekend warrior. I guess demand was there and they filled it, fantastic!

 Of course there will still be excuses by people that own cars that can use the traction but as the saying goes, you can take a horse to water, but you can't make them drink it.

 As I said drag racing is an affordable way to get started in motorsports. I would much rather autocross than goto a HPDE (High Performance Driving Event) where you can't pass people aggressively. The reason is they don't want people with expensive cars getting involved in accidents which would dissuade people from coming.

 Why not autocross and drag race? You wouldn't autocross on the stock tires (nobody competitively does), so why would you drag race on your stock wheels and tires????

 But people continue to show up at the drag strip on street tires. Now some think this is harder on the drivetrain. While the wheel hop that primarily happens on street tires, even drag radials can break things (axles, motor mounts, etc), slicks eliminate that almost completely since the soft side walls of the tire absorb much of the shock to the drivetrain. Drag radials are much better than street tires because the even if they are radial tires, the side walls do flex, which helps with overall traction.

 Its much safer to the drivetrain to drag race on slicks (a) or drag radials (b). To not cause wheel hop with regular street rubber, you cannot be overtly aggressive with the launch, since the race track is more tacky than often very slick public roads.

 Street tires are not the fastest way down a drag strip. People do it anyway, because I think there's a false belief especially those with little to no experience that if they are quick on street tires, they'll be fast street racing (I don't encourage that....).

 In my next post about this subject, I will talk more about grassroots motorsports that you can do with your street car.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

First Non-Racing Post : My Next New Car

 This site is not just about racing, so I think its about time to talk a bit about what else will be happening around here.

 Firstly I will be buying a new car soon. There's still a possibility that I may pursue a cheap used car to use as a project, but for right now I need a new ride for other reasons that I will not cover on this blog but my other one, not ready to link to that yet.

 What new cars did I have in mind? 

 Well based on my old car which was a '03 Dodge Neon SRT-4 that I had upgraded to Stage 3R (larger turbo, injectors, fuel pump, high output mode and intercooler water sprayers) but ran the best of 12.74@104.7 on the stock turbo, stage one PCM/injectors, 3" turbo-back exhaust, 16psi of boost and 23" tall slicks.

  • I wanted a car that was turbocharged, especially if it has a small engine.
  • Payment 15% of Income 
  • Cheap to insure and Cheap on Gas

 That has narrow the choice down to two cars -

 2014 Chevy Sonic LT w/optional 1.4L Turbocharged Engine

2014 Ford Fiesta ST (Standard Equipment)

 On first glance this might not seem fair or even equal. Sure the Fiesta ST is engineered (in Europe) from day one to be a performance car, some say the best performance value available. With sharp handling and 197hp, its hard to argue.

 However the Sonic presents the best balance of price and performance in a standard compact car. There is always much more in a factory turbocharged engine. The engineers at GM say the 1.4L Direct Fuel Injection Turbo engine is capable of over 200hp at the crank, which has been cracked by enthusiast already.

 An automatic Sonic has gone 14.3@96 on drag radials.


 The fastest known Sonic does 13.7@97 on drag radials (6 speed) there's a video of it on YouTube but its the 14.2@97 run and the video quality is BAD (think cellphone).

 That's impressive for a stock engine with some mild tuning (pcm flash, exhaust, suspension mods and BFG drag radials). With a price of just over $17K with MyLink radio ($200) and 1.4L Turbo engine which includes an upgraded 6 speed manual transmission for $700 it doesn't handle quite as well as the Fiesta does off the showroom floor. There are teams actively racing the Sonic 1.8L car in America and those parts can be used, however that would result in a very harsh ride for normal street use.

 The sporty model of the Sonic line up is the RS. Which has all the bells and whistles of the top of the line LTZ model but has 1" lower suspension and differently valved struts for better handling. It also comes with some nice looking 17" wheels and accordingly the price goes up to about $19K.

 Given I am the type of person that buys his own wheels and tires, there's no need to buy the larger factory wheels since they tend to be heavy and that hurts overall performance. 

 There are street coilover kits available; meaning tuned for the street and some high performance driving, its spring rates are stiffer than stock but the struts are valved for a lowered ride height and with the collars you can slam the Sonic if you want.

Credit to Boosted Snail of the Sonic Owners Forum

 The Sonic's odd wheel pattern however limits my selection of wheels. Some have chosen to have aftermarket wheel re-drilled to fit the Sonic.

 But for maybe about $2,000 in upgrades I could have a Sonic that runs 13's, handles great, rides decently overall, cheap to insure and gets 40+ mpg as long as I keep my foot out of it.

 When it comes to the Fiesta ST however, you're starting with a sorted suspension, larger engine (1.6 vs 1.4) and larger turbocharger. It also has 17" wheels and an overboost function that tops out at 240 lbs of torque for 20 seconds. 

 However with Mountune USA finally getting their website up its only a matter of time when the UK parts for the European/UK version of the car (same engine, 3 doors) are approved for 50 State use and covered under Fords standard drivetrain warranty. Using a metric converter, 215PS is 211hp SAE. In Europe the ST has dyno'ed at around 177hp at the wheels (180PS) that looks like a 35hp increase over stock with just a pcm flash, fresh air pipe and K&N panel filter.

 Most of that is the engine re-calibration, likely running higher boost levels as well. Usually OEM's leave about 20% of possible power on the table because some people don't take good care of their cars. For the rest of us, we can benefit from the power left in the car. That is likely the limit of the stock exhaust system as it seems to be about 2psi more boost over stock. I think the stock turbo runs at 16psi.

 Anyway with a tune, intake and exhaust 225-230whp is more than possible on an otherwise stock engine. Not bad, that's where a stock SRT-4 was with about 700 lbs less weight. Should easily do mid to low 13's on slicks. But because of the gearing, it will get max around 37-38 mpg, while the Sonic even modified will still get 41-43 mpg at a decent speed (under 70 mph).

So its a tough choice.

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