Monday, July 22, 2013

The first proper 24 Hour Race of 2013 is the Spa 24? You bet your a**!

 Some blanks need to be filled for drivers in the Pro class but just check out the entry list and tell me that isn't impressive?

 The best endurance race of the year was the GT battle at the Daytona 24 which came down to the final minutes has gaps narrowed and fuel mileage was a concern. Who got their sums right and who got it wrong?

 The DP's are unexciting largely, but the focus always returns back to the leader of the race... Thank goodness the GT battle was too close and hard fought to ignore.

 Alex Job got it right and won, a thrilling race and impressive result for a car that didn't even make it out of the first hour of racing last season. Though it must be said the Grand Am version  of the Audi R8 LMS is quite a bit different from its FIA spec counterpart.

 The Le Mans race was ruined not only by the passing of Allan Simonsen but that caution/safety car period broke up which was to be an excellent GT-Pro race and gave Porsche and Aston more than half a lap over the chasing Ferraris, Vipers and Corvettes.

 This weekend's Spa 24 will have NO fatalities (I hope) but no 3 car safety car/caution periods!

 No safety car rants this weekend!

 You'll get a hard fought, knocked down, dragged out fight.

 Audi has stacked the deck again with 4 cars (6 in Pro total) DTM driver Ekstrom and WEC/Le Mans regulars Fassler, Lotterer. 

 BMW via Marc VDS as added a third car with the famous TBA drivers. With DTM off this week, you may see DTM regular and ALMS part-timer Joey Hand, one of the Mullers, either Jorg or Dirk and maybe Claudia Hurtgen who was victorious recently at Spa in a Z4 (ADAC GT series).

 When Lance David Arnold was signed by Mercedes Benz Customer Sports at the start of this season, I was hoping MBZ would finally take the Spa 24 seriously. They have two strong teams in the form of HTP-Gravity Charouz from the ADAC/FIA GT series and Rowe from VLN/N24.

 Rowe features the aforementioned Arnold and he'll be teamed with quick Jan Sayfarth (who's been fast in FIA GT Series this season) and ALMS regular/N24 regular Klaus Graf.

 The HTP Gravity Charouz team features ADAC drivers Max Buhk (reigning European GT3 Champion) and recent winner in the FIA GT Series, his ADAC GT co-driver Max Gotz and add  Benz DTM legend Bernd Schneider, who won at the shorten N24 race back in May but also the Dubai 24 in Jan, so he's going for the GT Endurance Sweep.

 Not to be left out are Kessel Racing with Ferrari, who lead the Blancpain series Pro Cup driver's and teams championship going into this race which is apart of the Blancpain series officially. They will also add a second Pro car to this event which thus far features Giacomo Petrobelli.

 There will be challengers from McLaren (ART GP, Hexis and Gulf Racing), Aston Martin (Darren Turner) and Lamborghini, but I personally think the winners are going to come from either the German manufactures or Ferrari. 

 The Ferrari F458 has proven to be very effective around Spa given all its high speed corners, especially when its dry. The car seems to struggle in wet/dry/intermediate conditions. I noticed this at Le Mans as well. At first I thought it was the Pirelli tires they run in all SRO series, but it seems to be a problem on Michelins as well (drivers complained about the balance of the car). I am not sure about Dunlops because only one team runs Dunlops and they were still competitive in mixed conditions at Silverstone at the LMS season opener.

 In any case, if it stays dry, I expect the Ferraris to be near the front most of the time. Cesar Ramos has proven to be especially fast. He's put in stellar middle stints in Blancpain this season which has lead to the points lead as I mentioned and podium finishes in two of three races thus far.

 One team to look out for that isn't in the Pro class is the RJN Nissan GTR's. These are the cars that feature the GT Academy winners (who were not allowed to return to the Brit GT series after old rich farts complained, especially after they won a race.).

 The car that is considered the fastest and most experienced is the #35 with Lucas Ordonez, Peter Pyzera, Wolfgang Reip and 2013 Le Mans P2 sensation Jan Mardenborough. I fully expect these guys to qualify near the sharp end of the Pro class and challenge for a podium this weekend. Spa sweeping turns and long straights play to the strengths of this car, it should be very effective.

 Speaking of Nissan GTR's, don't discount the one JRM Pro Class GTR with ALMS regular Lucas Luhr, Steven Kane and Peter Dumbreck, who finished on the podium in the last Blancpain race.

 Thus far there isn't much information about the TV package for this year. Motors TV will have it in the UK with 4 and half hours of coverage on Saturday and 6 hours on Sunday including an hour for podiums and post-race interviews.

 I am going to assume it will be streamed on the internet like in years past and have a similar break in the late evening.

Update #1 -

 There have been changes to the entry list, you can follow it here. The only one that impacts my favorites is Jorg Muller will be replaced by Dirk Muller in the #14 Marc DVS BMW Z4 GT3.

 I have official streaming information that is also available on the pdf file above.

 Super Pole will be shown from 6:15pm to 6:35pm local time on Friday, July 27th

 Saturday Race Start + The First Four Hours will be shown from 4pm to 8pm local time. There will be a break one hour and then 9pm to 11pm local time

 On Sunday the stream will start up again at 8am local time till Noon, break for lunch and then the run to the flag from 1:30pm to 5pm (checkered flag at 4pm) which includes post race interviews and podiums for all classes.

 The English broadcast will be available at the Blancpain Endurance Series web site.

 Once its confirmed Audi TV will have the stream, will update again.

  Update #2

 As RJN and Nismo prepare for the Spa 24 race; The GT Academy "athletes" prepare to defend their point lead and possibly when this race overall.

 Nismo's YouTube channel will also feature the English stream of the race this weekend, including qualifying for the Super Pole on Friday.

 Check out this video of what it takes to prepare the Nissan GTR GT3 for its race twice around the clock.

 Still waiting for confirmation (press release) on if Audi TV will also host the stream. If you have a smart TV then accessing the race, unblocked on YouTube should be easy for you. Don't have a smart TV?

 Stay tuned, I may have an 11 Hour solution for you.

 Update # 3

 Thank You to Nissan and Dailysportscar here's the Spotters Guide

 Finally my 11th Hour Solution for those of you with limited means & limited "talent". Go to your local Best Buy (for those of you in America, maybe Future Shop if you're in Canada) and get a Chromecast, its $35.

 As long as your TV has an HDMI input (1.2 and higher), this will work. You can follow the directions and in minutes have stuff you normally watch from your laptop (or smartphone) on your TV.

 Here's an unboxing -

 Still waiting confirmation for Audi TV, but Radio Le Mans will give you live Flag To Flag coverage of the race, even when they turn the cameras off.

Friday, July 12, 2013

In the dept of overlooked stories in the media: USRC GTC/Rolex GT unaddressed thus far in the media

 Be sure to catch International GT Open on YouTube this weekend. If you can't catch it live, give it about an hour and watch the reply. Its not Geo Blocked so anybody can watch it.

 DTM will be making their annual appearance at the Norisring street circuit. Its also live and unblocked on YouTube as well.

 Anyway I was unaware of this, but driver Mike Hedlund apparently has a blog on called Maximum Attack. He's made in my mind an insightful post about the "other" GT class in the upcoming merged series (USCR). It also appears on's web site.

 He supports moving the entire class to FIA spec GT3 cars.

 I also support this move, it makes sense, but of course as with lots of things in America today, it might not happen. 

 That is unless YOU the fan get involved.

 I have made it my personal mission to make USCR accept changing the Rolex GT/ALMS GTC class to FIA GT3 spec. It offers close racing via BoP and spec tire regulations. Some call these unregulated regulations are a cause of concern in media circles (Radio Le Mans) that I believe are largely unfounded.

 The base technological regulations are spec across the board. All the cars have mandated and restricted aero devices such as the size of splitters and rear wing dimensions. All the cars have ABS, Traction Control and Sequential/Paddle Shift.

 Balance of Performance which is controversial with some fans of Sports Car/Road Racing, it makes for close and competitive racing (the show) so I really don't have a problem with it as long as its fair.

 The results and popularity can not be argued.

 The only arguments against a change would be based on Grand Am's founding principals of close competitions and affordability. The results you see are a DP class slower than P2's in ACO spec at are the same price and a Rolex GT class slower than ACO GT and FIA GT3 yet cost no less.

 It will add the diversity that the ALMS fan base love. Some of these cars are already in the United States -

Black Swan (Tim Pappas) racing in SCCA World Challenge.

James Sofronas' of GMG also runs a GT3 spec Audi R8. I know these are not brand new cars (LMS Ultra) and seem to be 2009-2010 spec. The cars they run have open side windows like Grand Am Rolex GT spec cars.

 The real issue with having a Grand Am spec car is that technology that is allowed by rules in Europe are removed in a bid to reduce cost. But they don't reduce cost! These cars cost $450K + or the same prices as an FIA GT3 spec car. 

 It doesn't have to be this way, there are minor differences between FIA GT4 cars and Continental Tire Sports Car Championship. The biggest differences is fuel cell size since refueling is common in America, diameter of the rollcage (larger in America) and as of 2011 an FIA spec rear wing and splitter.

 I am unsure why Grand Am runs open side windows other than I think again to reduce cost, but again they don't. Audi had to use wind tunnel time to reposition the rear wing as the open side windows impacted the effectiveness of the rear wing. They run closed side window in FIA GT3 and I believe have air cond like ACO GT cars.

 Also removed from the Audi's especially are the front dive planes and the updated aero of the LMS Ultra.

 USRC is a reboot of two series merged, there is no reason to continue this foolish notion of cost savings for the sake of cost.

 This is our chance as fans to shape the series we pay to watch, please join me, Mike Hedlund and others who I know share this vision.

 Update: Elkins "
I think what we need to do is do things that are more inviting to manufacturers to come play with us and not things that hold them up,” Elkins said. “By building a car to a single specification, where it can only race in one place, puts us in a difficult path. 

“I'm not being critical on how things were done in the past but I think we need to be more open-minded on how we approach realizing that people are going to want to come and race with us because there's only one series. So we have to look at things differently."

 Ding Dong the witch is dead! Its only a matter of time (I'd say ONE season) for Prep 2 cars to be phased out completely and the entire paddock switching to GT3 for loads of reasons.

 First: It would allow an American based team to ship a car to Dubai to run a 24 race in preparation for the Daytona 24 about a month later.

 Second: It would allow an American team to run Blancpain, ADAC GT, British GT, FIA GT Series, Blancpain/Spa 24 or VLN/N24. No changes needed, put the car on a ship or a plane and run those events.

 Third: It would give GTD (Rolex GT, GX, GTC) some badly needed diversity

 Fourth: Teams and the new series would be getting out ahead of any potential merger between SRO/FIA GT3 regulations (or lack thereof in somes cases) and ACO/Le Mans GT (LMGT) regulations that are likely to happen by 2016 since the manufacturers are pushing this.

 John Dagys has the full interview here

 Update # 1

 SRT has just announced 2-Time Viper Club Champing Ben Keating is the first customer for the recently released Viper GT3 that's eligible for the various GT3 based championships including GTD in next year merged USRC series.

 Check out the story by John Dagys here



Thursday, July 11, 2013

More foolishness from the paddock

If you venture around the net some you'll find fans, insiders and even some media types simply don't get it...

 From the top, the ALMS despite being bought out by Grand Am/NASCAR which I thought was a possibility all the way back in 2007 has won the fan's hearts and minds. Grand Am supporters always want to look at the P1 and P2 class and say "its not successful". 

 What are you kidding me? So many ALMS fans are desperate to get Audi back into the fold, they are okay with them running a DP... So the rigidness of a few Grand Am teams (Spirit of Daytona, Action Express and Gainsco) *I should mention this is the FIRST AND LAST TIME you'll see me link these ridiculous Grand Am teams on my web site.* that  are reluctant to upgrade their cars to match P2 pace in the new merged series is unfounded and not easily explained.

 But I will attempt too! :)

 There is a CLEAR conflict of interest in who is paying the bills and it seems pretty obvious to me. Notice that all three teams mentioned run the GM designed, Pratt-Miller built DP body panels. I know for a fact and its been mention by Peter Keane on Racing Insiders that they would not like to upgrade their DP because it defeats the purpose of DP's cost control measures in Grand Am.

 Maybe that's because GM pays the bills? That has been confirmed by Starworks owner Peter Baron.

 He makes the comment @ 1:30 into the interview.

 That line of thinking is consistent with "The victor get all the spoils". But as the IRL paddock soon learned when it merged with CCWS (CART); ALMS has the fans Grand Am covets, but knows they alienated them with the first and second gen DP cars and yet some teams want to protect that which we (myself included) fans don't like at all?

 I would say I can't believe my eyes/ears but I'm not surprised at all actually.

 In the end, CCWS/CART fans got what they wanted, New Cars, Turbocharged Engines, Diversity and great racing;. The IRL brain trust had to yield.

 Two of the poorest (relative term) teams in the DP paddock are in support of allowing more technology into DP's and it would actually save money. Ryan Dalziel explained on Radio Leman's Midweek Motorsports that for example moving to carbon fiber brakes on the cars would actually save money and this was taken directly from their experience in running a cost controlled program with a P2 car in WEC. In fact Ryan discussed at length the differences between the DP and P2 since Starworks owns both and recently tested them at Sebring in April (2013).

 In the end the Grand Am brain trust and TEAMS will have to yield.

 The fans want P1 if they can keep it (won't happen) but will pretty much get the rest of the ALMS untouched, while the Rolex GT field will get pared down by attrition. Attrition you say? Yes I said it, the question is who?

 Right now if you cornered me, I would say Turner Motorsports is unlikely to continue in Rolex GT but may continue in Continental Tire. In fact I think all the Prep 2 tube frame cars will disappear, this includes the GX class Mazda 6's in a one and done for Mazda. I think that engine will be moved to Dyson's Lola LMP2 car, its always been an P2 car for those paying attention.

 If that wasn't enough, now comes more news about DTM being licensed in America without any domestic involvement.

 How can they push forward with this nonsense while trying to sort out Sports Car racing? I am not sure who believes this, but in some circles there is a belief that to capture the fan base that watches plays Gran Turismo (okay Forza too), Japanese Super GT and DTM online but actually goes to Drifting events will be interested in DTM America.

 Really? Is there any proof????

 Since DTM and Super GT regulations have merged, starting in 2014, except for the body panels and powertrains, the cars under the skin will be the same. Since GT500 in Super GT have a tire war, all things equal the GT500 cars will be faster over a lap.

 Anyway, IMHO you can't have an American DTM series without involvement from at least one US manufacturer. It has to be a coupe body style, so that leaves out Chrysler/Fiat. 

 Ford should and I believe would have some interest since they spent very little money outside of NASCAR and NHRA. It also allows them to race the Mustang body shell without the limitations of its current suspension. Though mules of the new Mustang coming in 2015 have been seen with Independent Rear Suspension . They are also moving away from retro body styling which means they may be finally be able to race the car in ACO GT spec.

 Without a clearly identified fan base and without any clear involvement from an American car company, I think correctly can hope for DTM races in the United States. But honestly if you're the type of racing fan I am, you knew this was coming anyway, especially since European car sales are slipping.

 An update on the podcast -

 It looks like August is the debut for the podcast and an update of blog visuals. It will also start using the domain name I purchased back in Feb.

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