Celebrating Motorsports and the Automotive Lifestyle.
In-depth coverage of Sport Car Racing and other Road Racing series such as IndyCar, Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, V8 Supercars, Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) and World Touring Cars.
All from a fan's perspective.
Once again Ben Evans has been gracious enough to give us his thoughts on both races the last two weeks. Ben take it away! So some thoughts from Jerez and Portimao:
- The championship is going to be awesome this year, as there are four cars all with a good chance of claiming the title. The challenge for the Ferrari squads is to get a good result in Budapest next weekend, as thereafter all the tracks suit the Corvettes a little bit more. How the teams manage the pit stop handicaps will be key. In particular don't expect either Villorba or SMP to look too glum if their cars are off the Super GT rostrum next time out.
- The transmission failure for the SRT Corvette could be a game changer for the title, to miss out on points in both races is a big blow, but I still expect them to be on pole in Hungary.
- Car balance. I think Jerez really showed how nicely the performance balances out. The Corvettes like long straights and fast corners, the Ferrari's the mid and low speed turns. A key factor in the title race this year will be compromise set-ups. Both SMP and Villorba have gone the wrong way with race set up at least once this year, particularly noticeable with the SMP car in R1 at Portimao, where it looked very twitchy.
- The weather has been kind to the Super GT runners, Jerez was a good 15C cooler than everyone expected, which meant the Dunlops lasted a lot longer. A hot weekend in Budapest will really put the cat amongst the pigeons.
- It was mega to see the Nissan on the grid in Jerez, and Craig Dolby is super-fast driver. If they decide to continue for the whole season I think they could challenge for GTS honors. Amazingly that was just the second race with the car for the Nova Race team. At this stage I don't know their plans for the rest of the year.
- I am also intrigued to see how the Novadriver Audi goes for the rest of the year. It always goes well in Jerez, but there was a notable step change in Aditya Patel this weekend, who seemed much more assured behind the wheel.
- The Autorlando Sport driver pairing is great fun, Joel and Matteo really complement each other. I would suggest they could be very strong candidates for the GTS title, where consistency is often key.
- Miguel Ramos is having a really good season, he and Nicky are making a good driver pairing and Nicky's very analytical approach suits Miguel well. Plus he seems much more relaxed out of the car. His performance at Portimao was no great shock as it is his favorite circuit.
- There are some interesting, lower profile, but high caliber drivers achieving success this year. Particularly Dennis Retera as you pointed out, and also Jose Perez-Aicart who has been rapid in each and every race. Paolo Ruberti is also a class act and a welcome addition.
- The clashes are unfortunately one of those things, especially in June where there are lots of F1 races, several WTCC rounds, and the Le Mans & N24 hours. Ultimately however GT Open is playing to a different audience and customer to the big endurance races. I think the Silverstone round will be a showpiece round for this season, with as I understand it a number of additional cars on the grid.
- The only date clash I don't understand is October 18/19 when every major series in Europe seems to be racing, with nothing on the surrounding weekends. To that end, I am also surprised that nobody has taken the plunge to schedule a couple of August races this year, given that there will be a dearth of live sport on European TV
The technology showcased at this weekend's 24 hr of Le Mans (refreshing to not see any corporate sponsorship of the race, yet) is very relevant to the road cars you will be purchasing in the future. However the presentation that Fox (Speed) does is TERRIBLE and is just as old as carburetors and bias-ply tires.
First they are too cheap to send a crew over on location. They figured if this works for F1 (they pioneered this) it will also work for sports car racing especially Le Mans and nobody will notice.
At the very least they could fly out on Test Day weekend or even up to Thurs qualifying race weekend and talk to the teams and drivers. But they don't; they don't the teams or driver's well and I get tired of Dorsey Schroeder always referring back to his limited experience with the Audi R8 when he drove it briefly in the early 2000's. Dude that was over a decade ago and the R18 has about as much in common with the R8 as it does with a A8 road car.
Brian Till is really pushing my buttons as well. A guy with middling success behind the wheel, he should be assigned to pit road or color duty, but they let him lead broadcast which he's not best suited for. I am not one to mess with a man's money, but something needs to be done here.
Bob Varsha and Calvin Fish at least know personally many of the younger drivers (and veterans) at Le Mans because they have come up through the feeder series ranks, like GP2 or F3000. In my personal opinion these should be the only two guys to lead Tudor races and lead the extended broadcast of races like the 12 hours of Sebring or the 24 hrs of Le Mans.
We don't need a 3rd person in the booth. For some series it works, for most it doesn't, especially when they have almost nothing to add of value, except to constantly refer to his belief that technology has made the race cars of day easier to drive (Dorsey Schroeder).
If you must have a 3rd wheel, Tommy Kendall's information is relevant as he was at Le Mans in 2013 with the SRT (Dodge) Viper team.
I finally had enough about mid way through the race and switched to Eurosport. That's not the complete truth. I had errands to run on Saturday and spent 8 hours getting caught up to the live coverage.
Next year I may purchase the WEC stream and use RLM for audio, I've had it. I am tried of the commercials that have to be run every 15-20 mins, cutting right away from a great GTE Pro race. Even worse is to cut away to talk to their friends at Corvette and Audi.
The coverage of major motor sport in America is TERRIBLE! If that offends hardcore fans like myself, imagine what it does the so-called casual fan?
Congratulations to AF Corse #51 of Bruni, Vilander and Fisichella for winning the GTE-Pro class without one mistake and changing the brakes further into the race than anybody else.
It was also the best race of the weekend, if you watched the race or was there, then you know what I am talking about.
I have been a fan of auto racing since I was very, very young. It has survived everything from a serious accident at Le Mans in 1955 that came close to killing the sport over safety issues; to mid 70's fuel crisis and tightening emissions/noise pollution regulations. Now I believe the greatest threat is coming from several directions - Gen Y is generally uninterested in racing and cars in general. Traditional racing such as stock cars and Indy car has sunk to all time lows. Some blame the terrible television coverage.
On this week's Mid-Week Motorsports, a good chunk of the show was devoted to talking about the mishmash that is internet streaming of racing including; horrible highlights packages, geo-blocking to protect local viewing contracts and other shenanigans. As was touched on, old media has no clue about new media. Otherwise it would be more widely used. But honestly I think they are protecting senior leadership that operates the cameras and makes the decisions in the production truck. Moving to robotic cameras and using three man crews (the call, color and pit-lane) reduces production cost significantly. For example this weekend's Tudor PC, IMSA Lite race at Kansas won't be seen anywhere, unless you go to the track. It could easily be done with two/three man crew and four cameras because its a roval.
All that said, giving access and gauging interest are basic marketing failures by all the major racing series.
There is no explanation for camera and audio problems that plague SCCA World Challenge. What the hell was the TC/TC-B race in New Jersey? One camera on top of the timing tower, really? I mean REALLY???? Since the start of this season they have eliminated post race interviews, forcing fans to watch the highlighted coverage on NBC-SN. This is 2014 there should be no excuse for this. What's hard to understand is why the fanbase is so quite about it? In Part 2 like my video -
I'll break down what all these series can do. One of them is to secure your base before pursuing the mythical casual fan. They could start by NOT REPEATING THE RULES at every single race!
Two weeks ago International GT Open kicked off it's season at the famous Nurburgring, along with its companion series Euro Formula Open.
You can watch the highlights and full races here. I was able to interview via email veteran racing TV commentator Ben Evans who has been doing the English call of the series for the past few seasons (originally known as the Spanish GT Championship).
Check it out and I hope it becomes a regular feature of the blog.
Firstly apologies, I thought this had been sent but was stuck in my inbox.
Wow lots of questions, I'll answer what I can, but there are some that I'm afraid I don't know the answer to, as the teams won't tell me everything for obvious reasons.
I noticed Scuderia Villorba Corse has entered their GT3 car. I believe this is the same car used in the Blancpain Series both sprint and endurance.
Has Villorba Corse abandon their GT2 Ferrari car ahead of the rules changes to GT cars in 2016 or was this to streamline things a bit?
I wish I could tell you more, I don't know the specific reason for the switch, but my guess is that its a range of factors - availability of GT2 spares, factor support & as you said the prevailing trend to GT3. Last weekend was the first time that Villorba ran the GT3 on Dunlop tyres, and given that Friday was a washout the team did a lot learning in the races. I would expect to see them challenging for wins in Portimao. Andrea Montermini is right at the top of his game & Niccolo Schiro is quick, learning and has the right attitude.
Do you think recent adding of GT3 cars to European Le Mans Series has had an impact on GT Open grids?
I thought the grids were very good at the weekend, 24 cars was up on the season average for last year, and more than we're seeing in Blancpain Sprint. Generally however it has been a difficult winter for all GT championships. The GT Open grid feels very different because there are so many new cars, but it still has a very healthy grid.
Has the series seen more international interest since moving to YouTube?
Yes I think so, having a live non geo-blocked HD stream is a huge plus. The series (and EuroFormula Open) have lots of global interest. For example we are back on Argentinian TV this year with the return of Juan Manuel Lopez, and also extensively across Asia with Tanart Sathienthikarul and Sandy Stuvik in EuroFormula. It's great, after most weekends I'll get emails from people all over the world who've watched the races.
I would say not, there were a couple of other factors. Firstly it was absolutely freezing at the Nurburgring over the weekend and that can always make engines vulnerable. Secondly he had a big moment at the chicane which i think knocked an oil pipe or similar loose. This is my third season with the GT Open & only the second time I can remember a mechanical issue with an Autorlando car as they are as a rule superbly prepared. I really felt for Isaac Tutumlu though as he is an excellent driver who as yet in GT Open hasn't had the luck. All things being equal I wouldn't be surprised to see an Autorlando victory in Jerez.
On that note have the Porsche teams been notified of a replacement for their GT3-R's? I know Porsche Motorsport was bleeding personal due to the work load for the LMP1 car; that has to carryover into preparing production based cars like the GT3-RS (GT2/GTLM) and GT3-R (which hasn't been announced yet).
I'm afraid I don't know & I didn't see anyone there from Porsche to talk to.
What changes are allowed to make a GT3 car competitive in Super GT versus FIA/ACO GT2 cars?
I'll get a detailed answer for you but need to ask around as don't know the full technical details.
What is the series doing about clashing weekends? Just this past week was the Tudor series at Laguna Seca and WEC at Spa. Not only that but British GT, DTM and WTCC. I managed to watch all of these but I am not the average fan. Are heavy motorsport weekends like this impacting attendance and viewers online?
Unfortunately clashing weekends are one of those things. Last weekend was a good time for all the championships you. mentioned as there was no F1 clash which is the big driver for all Europe based calendars. Planning the following year's calendar is a year round process. The starting point for GT Open is going to the tracks the drivers love & then building a calendar around when works best to visit each track.
What is your summary of both races this weekend?
It was a really intriguing weekend and I am excited about the season. The big takeaways for me were: the strength in depth is immense, all the Super GTs have race winning potential. Additionally the balance of performance works, even with such a change in cars there were close battles especially in GTS. On paper it may appear as if the Corvettes dominated, and no doubt they were strong, but at Portimao and Jerez tyre management will be an issue. It was freezing cold and that helped the big cars increase tyre longevity.
The driver talent is awesome this year, Montermini, Pastorelli and Tomas Enge could/should have become superstars, I could watch them all day. In particular Tomas Enge was just sublime on Sunday & set fastest lap after fastest lap. Daniel Zampieri is so exciting to watch, he just wrings everything from the car. He & Roman Mavlanov could be genuine title contenders. Likewise Catsburg/Soulet are both very rapid, Matt Griffin is always superb, Joel Camaithias, Stefano Gattuso, Andrea Piccini - I could go on all night.
The other big unknown is the pace of the Valsecchi/Venturini Lamborghini which ended up the wrong side of the wall after a monumental crash in Saturday qualifying & so didn't race. Once the car is repaired I'd expect it to be strong.
To hear some of the spin coming out of the media on two very marginal sports car races at Long Beach is a bit galling. I understand the desire to make this merger work, but that doesn't diminish the fact that we still have problems.
Tudor United Sports Car Series -
1) Ed Brown single-handedly ruined what could have been a good GTLM battle. The Pro-Am element rearing its ugly head. 2) Questionable BoP between Daytona Prototypes and P2 Prototypes Sigh, this is why I beat up on Pro Am drivers. When not causing accidents, they get in the way of pro drivers. Even if they are in supposedly faster prototypes, they are tentative in medium speed turns and because of the lack of downforce are actually slower at corner entry and mid corner speed compared to a GTLM car. So until GTLM teams had to change strategy to get from behind Ed Brown. In the meantime, Antonio Garcia jumped Brown at the start and put him between himself and the #55 BMW. This resulted in a 10 second lead in about 8-9 laps and as we know with the close lap times in GT, that meant game over unless their was a caution period. When we didn't need one at the end of the Sebring race, we didn't get one here and the action on the track suffered a bit. Don't get me wrong the battle for 2-4 was very good, only broken up by pit stops which also broke up much of the battling for the podium. Scott Pruett won, but didn't I say that earlier? Barbosa and Fittipaldi lead the championship by a few scant points. Lots of racing left, but if the P2's can't break through, the murmuring will continue. Marshall Pruett said something on Mid-Week Motorsports on Wed (4/16) that I think should be kept in mind when you read my rantings about USC. He said that ESM because of its current makeup is not one of the fastest teams in the paddock. It's pretty obvious that Ed Brown is a typical Gentlemen driver and Scott Sharp is in the twilight of his career. Leaving Ryan Dalziel to do all the heavy lifting in the lead #1 Honda HPD. With Pickett/Muscle Milk missing Long Beach, all P2 hopes seemed to be put on the European Oak Racing team. On Twitter somebody said he believed Olivier Pla was the fastest driver in the paddock. I don't disagree, given his single seater experience. Its Oak's lack of track data that prevents me from giving them the nod. But I expect them to factor into the podium at Laguna Seca.
Pirelli World Challenge -
This race was about as exciting as the Tudor GTLM race, ho hum... I did expect Team Cadillac to do well, they have 3 years of data here. I picked Lazzaro because I thought if he could find his way past both Cadillacs, he would pull away as his car is better through the tricky bits because of the additional downforce.
That didn't happen, so he held station and finished 3rd.
I don't think any performance balancing is needed. The teams that run GT3 cars need to step it up as Johnny O'Connell has already said, once the GT3 teams find the sweet spot, the Caddies will be toast and I don't disagree.
This begs the question however, when this crossover happens and the GT3's dominate in the hot summer months, will GM do its typical thing and pull the plug instead of developing (via Pratt-Miller) a GM Customer Racing Program where they sell not just the Cadillac CTS-V R GT3 cars but the Corvette C7R GTLM car.
That scenario is very possible, as Corvette Racing (P&M) has expressed interest in selling new cars to other teams. Previously they put last year's car up for sale where people could buy them. New cars are built for the team only and aren't available. Some people on the internet would have you believe the cars are available to anybody that wants to pay for them. That's simply untrue because many teams and individuals have expressed interest in buying new cars from GM.
With the Callaway C7 program being delayed by Callaway Competition in Germany, this leaves a window open for Pratt & Miller to generate some income.
Now that Dyson is entering the fray with Bentley's, not that Cadillac is direct competition but it certainly would like to be the high luxury brand that can compete with Bentley directly on the race track if not in the showroom.
This is also a further poke in the eye at Tudor for not accepting full GT3 cars because it wanted to appease Porsche who doesn't have a GT3 based on its new 991 platform. All of it's resources have been burned on preparing GT Cup cars for the various championships around the world, building a handful of GTLM customer cars and of course the LMP1 program which according to rumors has been bleeding personal at a furious pace do to workload.
The issue was talked about on Mid-Week Motorsports along with Marshall's previous comments about the quality of the P2 teams might be the cause of the lack of P2 success thus far.
While it seems like a slow Easter Weekend for domestic based series like Indycar and NASCAR, what else would you expect coming from a "Christian Nation"? That isn't the case in Europe as there's plenty of racing action.
Blancpain Sprint Series (Formerly FIA GT Series/FIA GT1) -
The new name brings familiar faces as not much as changed from last year. The biggest news coming into this season is the return of former CART Champion Alex Zanardi to the cockpit.
Other new drivers to the series include Jeroen Bleekemolen who should be familiar to those of us that followed the ALMS, two-time GTC Champion and winner in the P2 class at Le Man back in the Porsche Spyder era.
He'll be driving for Grasser Racing along with Hari Proczyk who is pretty quick in these Reiter Engineering Lamborghini.
If you're wondering why Nelson Piquet Jr. is missing from the NASCAR paddock its because he's returned to Europe to drive for Team Brazil-BMW.
Seems to me theres plenty of interesting reasons to tune in this weekend. You can watch the stream here.
Other series -
Like I said there's plenty going on this weekend outside of America.
As of 2am this morning Lewis Hamilton has claimed pole for the Chinese GP.
World Touring Car Championship rolls into France as well (joining Blancpain) as it runs at the Paul Ricard TT circuit for the first time in a very long time and the first time in its current iteration.
In short, there's a app for iDevices and Android devices as well. Its available on both the iTunes store and Google Play Store. The live stream is also available for laptops and desktop computers. The cost is $27.99 US for the whole season (pre/post race, practice, qualifying and races) including the 24 hrs of Le Mans. I am fairly sure Fox Sports will be carrying the 24hr race so you may opt for the next tier which is $6.20 US. If you know you'll be away from a TV over the Le Mans weekend for $13.80 US you can have full access to the race weekend on your laptop or tablet. Some are outraged over this, but frankly considering you get most of your racing either as a part of a overall pay tv package (cable/sat) for which there is no premium cost as Fox Sports (Tudor), NBC Sports Network (Indycar + F1) and ESPN (NASCAR) are all available on most system as part of a basic package. You would pay a premium for HD broadcast, but still its not that expensive. You can avoid paying this fee if you are in UK/Mainland Europe as the WEC will be shown on Motors TV. These things are connected, let me explain. There is a way you can watch this and everything I mentioned above for free. But you'll need to invest in some hardware to do it. The price of hardware has been reduced to a point that anybody can afford it. Since the WEC is the first major series to do this, others may follow if it proves successful. So its best to prepare for future as this sort of thing will become more commonplace especially for Americans wanting to watch series outside the US, which admitted has small audience of its home country (F1 being the exception). I will prepare a tutorial on how to build a internet based PVR and also two ways you can get content onto your flat screen if you don't have a connected TV or even if you do. For example if you have a LG or Samsung Smart TV, you have a YouTube app. Unfortunately you can't watch the Blancpain GT series (Sprint and Endurance) because its Geo-blocked but you can watch German DTM in English via YouTube its not blocked.
So having a smart tv is not a complete solution while mine is. More details to follow and in an effort to increase readership to my blog I may limit access to the tutorial. I can already tell you it will cost less than $100, which sounds like much more than the $28 for WEC or $37.30 for a full season of V8 Supercars but it will be less than a season of MotoGP ($137.83). I should also mention that if you want to watch WTCC or BTCC there's no more Speed2 and while Fox Sports has created another streaming website I currently don't have the URL for, I don't think they'll be carrying obscure series like the BTCC or WTCC in the States unless its planned for the off-season like they used to do on Speed/Speedvision. So the only other way you'll be able to watch this is through my tutorial if you're in the US. Keep checking back as I should have this up by the next WEC race at Spa.
Disappointed I won't be attending the Toyota Long Beach GP weekend. Its just I had a financial setback at the start of the year, plus I dropped my expensive smartphone which the screen will take $160 to repair. So in the meantime I picked up an $70 Android phone that runs Jellybean (4.1) and is dual core but memory limitations put it on par with my Samsung Infuse 4G that's doing desktop/alarm clock duty. Anyway so with that here my predictions for the weekend, enjoy.
Verizon IndyCar Series -
Hmmm, qualifying hasn't happen yet but going off practice times and previous history of strong performances, I think I'll go with Simon Pagenaud. He topped the timesheets yesterday afternoon and has many miles here in the ALMS and Indycar.
For the second race in a row Takuma Sato is in the Top 3 in practice times. Some might be surprised, but I'm not. Given Sato's lower formula results this really shouldn't be shocking. F1 is much more about being in the right place at the right time, so his F1 career shouldn't be indicative of future performance. I expect him to win (defending race winner) in this series and win often, challenging for a series titles if he can clean up his penchant for over-aggressive driving.
In fact I expect to see a Honda rebound here since Chevy sweep the podium in St. Pete.
Pirelli World Challenge -
A near FIA spec GT3 car won this race last year (James Sofronas) so I expect a GT3 car to win this race which at some point we'll see if GM starts complaining.
Mike Skeen was 3rd in practice in a car that's brand new to him and his team as they have abandoned the Nissan GTR. They had just taken delivery last weekend, but given the excellence of Audi Customer Sports (who have a busy weekend) this shouldn't be that shocking. The have fresh data from the Baku race a few months ago that ended the FIA GT series for 2013 and of course GMG's data from last year's victory.
But he won't be my pick, we'll see if given the same equipment as everybody else he finally starts challenging for victories more often. I don't question his talent, we'll see if the team itself is up to it.
My pick for the GT part of the GT/GT-A class will be Anthony Lazzaro. Its been a long time since Anthony has went to victory lane without sharing a car. In fact I think his last victory is at the 2005 Lime Rock Grand Prix in ALMS if I am not mistaken, if I am wrong correct me or I'll do a quick search later and fix it. But I don't think he's won a race alone since his Toyota Atlantic days. I think he won here in an Atlantic car, again if I am wrong let me know but I think I am right.
He was strong at St. Pete so I expect him to challenge for the victory, especially if Tomas Enge is in Europe at the Blancpain Endurance Series season opener at Monza, which I thought as next weekend, nope the race is Sunday.
I don't care much for the GTS classes so no comment on them, but I wish everybody a safe race.
Tudor United Sports Car Series -
Unfortunately, I think the DP's will have their way which will further fuel speculation amongst the fanbase. I think another round of BoP is on the way. The P2's are still not back up to 2013 specs with the fear that the DP's would suffer. Well I would say their fears were not justified. It's hard to say without Muscle Milk/Nissan Pickett Racing being here, but that car is new them and they don't have enough miles on it yet. They opted not to come here this weekend because they didn't want to potentially tear up a brand new car. That might be the given reason, but I think the real reason is they believe BoP is unfairly tilted towards the heavily modified DP's who have thus far lead the most laps and taken two straight victories.
So my pick is Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas, enough said, let's move on.
In GTLM (the only other class this weekend), its hard to say and while my favorite team Risi is a bit handicapped without it fastest driver who's on probation and one race suspension from his boneheaded return to the track after wrecking his car at Sebring (Turn 1). They have drafted in Dane Cameron who's continued to impress since being given the chance to drive a DP and put it on pole at Road America last year. He turned the GTC class fastest lap during Sebring in the Tuner BMW Z4 GT3. In the limited practice they have had he's been on pace but not the ultimate pace.
I think if they can avoid any problems, they may finish on the podium but I think any chance of winning is very slim. I just have no faith in Fisichella. I don't think he's even turned a race lap this year. Remember, Malucelli was in the car when Memo Gidley slammed into him. Gimmi Bruni started the race and was actually on the entry list at Long Beach until Risi announced Cameron was given the job.
Fisichella qualified the car and will start 7th, just behind the factory Porsches (Core) and the factory SRT Vipers who seem to be struggling this weekend.
I guess I should go ahead and pick who I think is going to win....
I am going to go with Redondo Beach native Bill Auberlen and Former WTCC Champion Andy Priaulx. He and Maxime Martin who has been drafted into a DTM seat this season for BMW pretty much replacing Priaulx who struggled; surprised last season by winning here. No reason not to pick them again and I think Priaulx has a bit of extra of incentive that the other drivers in the paddock don't quite have.
I am going to stop this post here, as the Tudor race is five hours at the time of this post and I don't have quite enough info on the other series to release my picks.
Comeback in a few hours and I should have updated this post.
There are a few storylines going into the first sprint race of the new Tudor United Sports Car Championship.
With Malucelli suspended for one race for the unsafe return to the track following his collision with the T1 tire wall at Sebring; Gimmi Bruni has been drafted into Risi to replace him. But that's not surprising.
Ultimately AF Corse was able to defend their title and repeat as champions, but they paired Bruni with his old FIA GT GT2 class championship winning teammate in Toni Vilander who was teamed with current F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi in the other AF Corse WEC entry who couldn't find a suitable F1 seat last season.
Its very possible Bruni doesn't want to be teamed with Fischi after almost losing the championship and with little track knowledge, maybe its better to bring in two hot shoes since Risi has had two straight DNF's at the two longest races with the most points on offer.
If they can get a victory here, they could be back in the Team's Championship if the Driver's titles are completely out of reach at this point.
I would look for Toni Vilander to again pair with Bruni for this race since both have track knowledge and have qualified well here before.
My picks for this race sometime should be released sometime on Friday as I will be making my annual trek down to the City of Long Beach, the LBC.
Tamiya is no longer offering completely free entry on Friday. Starting last year you now have to buy up to $10 worth of product or merchandise on their website. You haven't seen it yet on here but I am a huge Tamiya fan and have previously owned several Tamiya R/C cars/trucks. This won't be the first time I will be mentioning them here, so stay tuned.
Those of you in California looking for reasonable discount on tickets to the Tudor race or the entire weekend, go Goldstar. Since 2011, I have been purchasing my tickets for the race from them. There prices are very good, you don't pay full pop. *Saturday's Tudor Race, Toyota Celeb Race, Formula Drift and Indycar Qualifying is now sold out on Goldstar, $48 on LBGP website. You can still purchase a ticket for all three days for same general admission price for Sunday Only ($55) and $20 less than if you purchased it off the LBGP website.
DP's have won the first two races and IMSA sees no point in major BoP changes. Ganassi was helped out by one of those phantom caution periods that seem to follow NASCAR around. So in reality, maybe there doesn't need to be any adjustments since the bulk of the schedule will be high downforce tracks. The only team with previous data this weekend is Extreme Speed, since they ran their HPD chassis here last year. The DP's are completely different from how they were the last time they were here, I think that was 2005-2006. That doesn't mean simulators aren't working hard back at GM and Riley Technologies however. That said I expect the Sharp/Dalziel car to be fast right off the truck.
The entry list dropped from a possible 25 cars down to 21 since Muscle Milk won't be making the grid. In their PR they said it was because they were behind in development, but many think its because they want some further BoP adjustments.
This just in - Dane Cameron will be in the car with Fischella, here's the presser
So does that mean....
World Challenge is the better GT/Road Racing series in America after only one event?
Well according to Elton Julian, who said as much after everyone is congratulating themselves for a successful weekend, despite Race #1 being rained out the day before. Elton has driven cars in the ALMS and been an owner/team manager as well, he would be one to take his statement at face value.
IMHO, one of the biggest mistakes IMSA made was appeasing its legacy supporter Porsche who had a new version of the its 911 Grand Am GT car already on the drawing board. Porsche is little stretched for resources and hasn't built enough 991 based 911 Cup cars for customers let alone design a new FIA GT3 spec car. Everybody is running the older 997 based car in GT3 spec. There is no ETA on a new GT3 car and they barely build new tubs for CORE Autosport in time Daytona. Falken got their car too late to run at Daytona.
Its because of this seemingly small decision has benefited Pirelli World Challenge. I will be very interested in the lap times turned by the FIA GT3 cars compared to the GTLM in the Tudor series. GT3 cars because of their traction control (which is on GTLM cars) and ABS (which is not on GTLM cars) they have an advantage on slippery surfaces. A street course by nature is low grip, so I expect these cars to be just as fast if not faster around the Street of Long Beach.
If they provide a better overall show than GTLM? There will be more questions than answers over in the Tudor camp.
Blancpain Endurance and Sprint Series best seasons yet?
I will reserve my thoughts on the Sprint series when more news comes out about potential grids.
The grid for the season opener at Monza for the Endurance series however is shaping up to be a barn burner.
HTP one of AMG's partner teams has thus far signed Harold Primat fresh off being replaced by Lee Holdsworth at Erebus-Mercedes (who won race 2 this weekend at Winton). The other drivers have been signed by HTP but I would look for defending champion Maximilian Buhk to be back in the car along with Maximilian Gotz (his ADAC GT teammate).
Thus far there are no strong Ferrari teams as Kessel is focusing on ELMS and trying to get an automatic bid into the big race for 2015. Kessel will still contend in the Pro Am class, but they'll have a hard time beating defending Pro Am champs Nissan GT Academy - RJN, as they return with some of last year's drivers, Pro Am drivers champ Alex Buncombe and resent winners of the competition Nick McMillan (US winner) and Miguel Faisca (European winner). I am an ardent supporter of GT Academy and of course Gran Turismo is one of my all time favorite racing games.
These guys are very quick but lack experience so they should be classified as Sliver drivers but of course the true Captains of Industry in the UK who race in the British GT Championship (also run by SRO) didn't want to race these guys, especially after they won a race at the end of the 2012 season.
There has been some driver movement and driver pairings broken up that I hope to cover with somebody connected to the series, stay tuned.
For Indycar I will focus on who I think as the best chance at winning the overall championship.
For World Challenge I will focus only on the GT and GT-A classes.
Verzion Indycar Series -
Verizon takes over as series sponsor from Izod who basically abandoned the series after Dan Wheldon's fatal accident at Las Vegas at the end of the 2012 season. They only did what was mandated to finish out the contract.
Verizon will continue to sponsor Will Power but also will sponsor Juan Pablo Montoya's return to Indycar.
I think this will be a tight battle down to the last race. I am going to say James Hinchcliffe: The Mayor of Hinchtown will be your 2014 Indycar Title Winner. He's shown dominance on all the different tracks Indycar runs on. You could say the same about his teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay which could mean an inter-team rivalry could develop.
You can check out the Round 1@St Pete GP on your local ABC station on Sunday.
Pirelli World Challenge GT/GT-A -
Also this weekend is the Pirelli World Challenge season opener. All races will be live on http://www.world-challengetv.com/ and taped delayed by a week on NBC Sports Network.
I think my pick will come as a shock to some, but I don't think its that shocking. Look at the time sheets already in practice and it will make sense. My pick for 2014 World Challenge GT Champion is Tomas Enge. Why you might ask? He has lots of test and race miles in the Reiter Engineering built Lamborghini Gallardo. He also has direct sprint race experience in the car via the FIA GT1 Championship which is now the Blancpain Sprint Series. So this format is familiar too him. He also has standing start experience from his single seater days and finally he has track experience at many of the circuits they will be visiting this season from his days with Petersen-White Lightning Racing when the made the switch from Porsche to Ferrari.
Steven Cole Smith who's been writing about the ALMS until last year, has been reporting on the combined Tudor series. Last week he reported that it was possible for the SRT team not going to Le Mans for the 24 hr race.
Well it, its true they won't going. Of course Ralph Giles of SRT won't blame on poor Viper sales.
Speaking of Autoline Detroit, Ralph will be on Autoline Afterhours at 3pm PST or 6pm EST, I think that's 22:00 GMT but don't quote me on that. I doubt you'll get any straight answers but if you want to see if you can get a decent excuse out of him, tune-in on Thurs.
As a long-time Viper fan, sure this is disappointing but not unexpected. After all, Audi, Porsche and Toyota's LMP programs are run out of the engineer budgets. The additional money for racing comes out of increased engineering budgets, not from the adveristing size of the business like it with much of Ford's, GM and Chrysler-Fiat's operations.
If sales are poor, its best to claw back and focus on beating Corvette at home. I guess that's a decent PR answer, but Vipers are popular with fans in Europe, it would be just as beneficial to race there as it would here.
I don't know if there is much they can do about sales actually. The Viper is six-digit sport-car while if restraint is used on the Corvette's option sheet, you can get a new C7 for about $60K out the door. Performance is about equal between them -
That's the main problem, why pay more for equal performance? Americans really love a value and usually see no point in spending more when they don't have too. Especially when there's nothing overly special about the Viper other than its more rewarding to control all that power and its still a bit rough at the limit.
SRT is going to have to beat the standard Stingray into the ground to justify the higher cost or bring the cost down without making the car harder to control or reducing creature comforts.
This is a tough task and I wish them well, because of sales don't pick up, there won't be much justification for a halo car in this weak economic climate.
The qualifying stream provided by IMSA was appalling. Three fixed camera positions and tower PA only provided on the media/timing tower camera. That just smacks of cost-cutting, similar to the story that IMSA/NASCAR would not have a traveling safety crew that has became apart the ALMS family.
If this is suppose to be a destination series then ACT like it! For years the ALMS had qualifying shows, especially when it cut its deal with ESPN3. These were high quality used all the different cameras around the track along with booth talent. Why not continue this in the new series?
If you feel the same as I do about this, contact IMSA (386-310-6500). As an ardent supporter of the American Le Mans Series, I find this completely unacceptable.
Also during the Continental Tire Race (CTSC) on Friday, the Timing/Scoring feed impacted the streaming, dropping frames when it updated. If you experienced this as well, please contact IMSA to make sure the code of their website is fixed. I believe it might have been because the stream of the final nine hours of the 12 hours was excellent, accept for the last 90 mins that was plagued with buffer issues.
Seems to me if IMSA is going to offer these services to fans, maybe they shouldn't have fired much of the production company that produced the ALMS broadcast for Speed and ESPN3...
The race itself was a bit disjointed early but turned into a descent race after half way. At the time of this writing I don't believe its a record but 11 caution periods marred the event. The race never reached 300 laps as it had done in previous years. With almost as many cars as the final ALMS at Sebring last year, there we're only four cautions. Disappointed ESM was impacted by the questionable final caution when the Whelen Corvette stopped OFF COURSE. If you were watching the stream you would have found one of the rules of the new series is that corner workers are not allowed to leave their assigned post. I think its pretty obvious to see why this was done. It forced a 20 min shootout; where #02 Ganassi car that spun coming into the pits for its final stop (or was pushed by the Action Express Corvette, depending who you wanna believe) ended up with a 5-6 second victory. ESM's Ryan Dalziel had built up a 7-8 second lead over the Ganassi #02 after a restart from caution #10. Orchestrated finishes? Ganassi (a long time GA supporter) granted victory? You be the judge...
A chip off the old block
Kevin Magnussen finished 3rd on debut in his first F1 GP. Congratulations to Kevin and his father Jan who I have been a fan of for a very long time. With Ron Dennis back in control of McLaren F1, I think we may see a victory from Kevin before the year is out.
Blog change delays
I am still finalizing the look of my blog, its not super important, but I want it clean and simple so I can just add content and focus on promotion. I will be reporting from the Long Beach GP weekend. At this point I don't know if I will attend all three days or just the Tudor race which is traditional for me the last 5-6 years. If I do attend all three days, I will be focusing not just on Tudor but the Pirelli World Challenge who has seen a doubling of its grid in less than twelve months. Did IMSA/NASCAR made a mistake by not accepting full house FIA GT3 cars, instead balancing those cars against a car that was already in the design stage (Porsche GT3 America) which meant the removal of traction control and ABS from the cars but also meant a restriction in rear downforce by mandating a spec wing? We'll find out because I am eager to compare lap times between the Tudor GTLM cars and standard FIA spec GT3 cars in World Challenge GT.
Seems as though everybody wants to talk about the direct factory teams and its understandable. They have millions invested, great staffs and fast, reliable drivers. However.... It seems some in the media, okay most of the print, online and TV media is discounting Ferrari and Risi Competizione. Before the huge accident that marred the race, Bruni who started shotgun on the field was able to make it up to first place before handing the car off to Malucelli and getting hit from behind. I know some feel the Ferrari F458 is a bit fragile but its still one of the fastest cars with the fewest waviers considering its competition... I say, discount them at your own risk. Malucelli was back in the groove, showing no affects from his accident at Daytona and laid down some fast laps in the Krohn Racing Ferrari; who is partnering this year with Risi as Tracey Krohn needs to be closer to his business. They will be doing the Patron North American Endurance Championship, maybe more. V8 Supercars - Well it seems I forgot the V8 season got underway down under, I haven't seen the race and unfortunately I know who won. I will watch the race and report back in a few days. Change is coming, it is slow but it will be worth it.
I love how people like to ignore things, especially in sports. It just proves sports for many is an escape from the harsh realities in their lives. However that is no reason to suspend critical thought on issues of morality, fairness and criminal activities. It was recently reported that former team owner Greg Loles was convicted and faces 25 years in prison - http://www.nhregister.com/general-news/20140226/man-who-embezzled-21m-from-orange-church-sentenced-to-25-years which is just another in a series of White Collar Crimes that auto racing, specifically sports car racing covers up. When Greg was first arrested, it wasn't reported on the ALMS' own website. What that means of course is that as long as the bills and entry fees are paid it doesn't matter where it comes from or who is behind it. Did I mention since being arrested back in
Anybody remember "Solo Al" Al Solaroli (read all three parts) and the Porsche LMP2 that never was? What about John Field's tax issues?
The list of White Collar crimes committed by these people is astounding. Americans want to be outraged by the nefarious activities of the six largest banking institutions in the country, yet let this sort of stuff slide and keep cheering, amazing.
There's an even bigger fish in the Tudor United Sports Car Series. Ha, I was recently threaten with legal act for just mentioning this teams name and owner. For the time being I won't mention these people directly until I can get the legalese sorted out here. But I find his threat funny, much of what I am going to end up saying is already public knowledge....
These are serious issues, because people get hurt by these actives, the least of which are the members of these race teams who support families of their own.
Wouldn't you like the series you follow to be above board?
Site News - I know I keep saying changes are coming, but they are, so stay tuned its about to get really interesting around hurr.
PS - Thanks to outlets like RACER that selectively report the news makes it hard to take them seriously.