Thursday, April 17, 2014

Marginal Long Beach Races Postscript and Lots Of Action In Europe Easter Weekend (Updated!)

 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.

 You can listen to this week's podcast here.

 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.

 They are joined by the European Touring Car Championship as it starts its season.

 Also this weekend is the British Touring Car Champion @ Donington Park with its full lineup of support series.

 Finally the British GT Championship gets underway @ Oulton Park  

 World Endurance Championship (WEC) -

 The WEC season opener is already underway, you can listen to coverage of practice, qualifying and the race on radio lemans.

 Announced yesterday however is that the WEC stream will no longer be free outside of certain markets with connected TV's.

 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.  


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