Sunday, December 8, 2013

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.

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