Hinchcliffe wins his first IndyCar race in St. Petersburg

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Andretti Autosport’s James Hinchcliffe scored his, and sponsor GoDaddy’s, first victory in the IZOD IndyCar Series Sunday at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

On the final restart of the race at Lap 85, Hinchcliffe slid past leader Helio Castroneves on the inside of Turn 1, and held off Castroneves the remainder of the extended 110-lap race. The Canadian ran his last stint on Firestone’s black primary tires, Castroneves on the red alternates that tend to go off a little quicker.

“I was really excited for this race,” Hinchcliffe told NBC Sports Network in victory lane. “My engineer Craig Hampson asked for better restarts, be more aggressive, and save fuel when we need to. GoDaddy is in victory lane. Grabbed the first win in St. Pete. I am throwing out to Dan (Wheldon), with his face, this car, and my name to go on that memorial is so special.”

Hinchcliffe is the first Canadian to win in IndyCar since Paul Tracy won the Champ Car race in Cleveland in June, 2007.

Marco Andretti rallied to score a podium in third place, ahead of Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon in the top five. It’s Andretti’s first top-three effort on a road/street circuit since finishing third on the Twin Ring Motegi road course in 2011.

Dixon led a three-way photo finish across the line ahead of Simona de Silvestro and EJ Viso. De Silvestro drove an excellent race for KV Racing Technology in her first race with Chevrolet power, and ran third until the final two laps, but her Firestone reds went off in the final laps that caused her to lose positions.

Polesitter Will Power had poor luck when he got hit by JR Hildebrand under a caution; the American flew over Power’s rear wheel guard into the wall at Turn 9. Power finished 16th, while Ryan Hunter-Reay (18th), Simon Pagenaud (24th) and Dario Franchitti (25th) were also big name retirements.

Rookie Tristan Vautier also starred for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, but retired with an exhaust issue after running in the top five most of his debut race.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Results Sunday of the Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg IZOD IndyCar Series event on the 1.8-mile St Petersburg Street Circuit, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):
1. (4) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Chevrolet, 110, Running
2. (5) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevrolet, 110, Running
3. (7) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Chevrolet, 110, Running
4. (11) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevrolet, 110, Running
5. (20) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
6. (3) Simona de Silvestro, Dallara-Chevrolet, 110, Running
7. (22) EJ Viso, Dallara-Chevrolet, 110, Running
8. (2) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
9. (13) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
10. (17) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
11. (21) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevrolet, 110, Running
12. (14) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
13. (15) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
14. (23) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevrolet, 110, Running
15. (18) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
16. (1) Will Power, Dallara-Chevrolet, 107, Running
17. (12) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Chevrolet, 104, Running
18. (8) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Chevrolet, 79, Mechanical
19. (24) JR Hildebrand, Dallara-Chevrolet, 78, Contact
20. (9) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevrolet, 72, Contact
21. (6) Tristan Vautier, Dallara-Honda, 69, Mechanical
22. (25) Ana Beatriz, Dallara-Honda, 55, Mechanical
23. (16) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 50, Mechanical
24. (19) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 26, Mechanical
25. (10) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 18, Contact

Magnus brings in ‘hired gun’ Spencer Pumpelly for Mid-Ohio

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With Mansfield, Ohio the home of the prison in The Shawshank Redemption in the Ohio State Reformatory (also known as the Mansfield Reformatory) and with Magnus Racing PR ace and “Dinner with Racers” co-creator Sean Heckman one of two who’ve coined the inside joke that Spencer Pumpelly allegedly tried to kill a guy, it was only natural that Pumpelly will play the role of Magnus Racing’s “hired gun” near the prison at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for Pirelli World Challenge competition this weekend.

The joke stems from the first season of “DWR” and was a running joke throughout the season. The “hired gun” play-on-words riffs on the fact Pumpelly will be substituting for Pierre Kaffer in the team’s No. 4 Audi R8 LMS this weekend, with Kaffer on duty at the Total 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps for Audi Sport.

Pumpelly has raced alongside Kaffer and Dane Cameron in PWC SprintX competition this season – Pumpelly and Cameron actually won the second race of the weekend at Lime Rock Park – and now the veteran sports car driver and Atlanta native will make his first PWC Sprint starts of the year, and first since his similar fill-in role with Heckman’s “DWR” co-creator, Ryan Eversley, at RealTime Racing last year… which also started at Mid-Ohio.

“It’s great to have Spencer back in the team,” stated Magnus Racing team owner and driver John Potter, who is in the team’s No. 44 Audi in GTA. “Spencer has always fit right in with us, but driving the team to our first series victory of course sealed a very special place for his legacy with us. We’re hoping Mid-Ohio suits both Spencer and the No. 4, and hopefully we can repeat the same feat.”

“It’s great to return to the team,” stated Pumpelly. “Obviously our last race together went extraordinarily well, and we’re hoping that same momentum can continue in to Mid Ohio. It’s always tough to say what to expect, especially in these very frantic sprint races, but we’re optimistic that the circuit should suit us. The entire team at Magnus has done a great job putting this effort together, and we look forward to pushing for additional results.”

Jay Frye expresses positive outlook on 2018 car

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In a teleconference with members of the media on Monday, the prevailing mindset of INDYCAR President of Competition and Operations Jay Frye, who helped oversee the design of the 2018 universal aero kit (pictured above in a Chevrolet livery), was one of positivity following it’s official unveiling, in speedway trim, earlier today.

First and foremost, though he helped head the effort, he was vocal about the input he got from a number of different entities during the process of creating the design.

“This has been a year and a half in the making, and the process has finally come to a point where we can get the car on the track, so we’re quite excited about that,” he revealed. “We certainly appreciate everyone’s help, from Dallara to the teams who have helped to the manufacturers who have helped and certainly the fans. Over the last few months we kept putting out some different things to get reactions from fans to see what they thought of the project. It helped us a lot, because it made us feel like we were going in the right direction, which is great.”

The 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series chassis in a Honda livery. Photo: IndyCar

The overall timeline of the project dates back to last year, particularly at tests at Phoenix International Raceway and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where the experimentation process began. It was after those tests, as Frye explained, that the 2018 car began to take shape. “From that point (after tests at Phoenix and Mid-Ohio), we took what we thought the car should look like, and that’s where we talked about reverse engineering the car and to aesthetically make it have a historical feel, but in a very forward car, and I think we’ve done that.”

And with the project now open for the public to see, Frye appears confident that people will like how it performs. “The numbers have come back very strong, which we’re quite excited about. And here we are coming up to tomorrow, where we’re going to have our first on-track test. It’s been a long process, but it’s been very methodical,” he added.

Specific to those numbers, two obvious areas stand out the most: cost and downforce. First, as Frye explained, the operating cost of the 2018 aero kit is expected to be considerably less in comparison to the current aero kits from Chevrolet and Honda. Further, the conversion costs, the money the teams will spend in switching their chassis over to the new kits, is less than expected, making the package significantly more economical. As Frye explained, this is a result of negotiations in which it was agreed that this package will be in use for at least three years.

“From a total cost perspective, one of the things we looked at is called a conversion cost. What would it cost to convert the cars now? It’s not as much as we first thought it would be,” Frye detailed. “The annual cost will be 30-40 percent less than what the current car is. One of the things with having a universal car is we were able to negotiate the term, which is for three years, so the teams can plan for it. That was something that was very important: what the conversion cost was going to be and what the annual cost was going to be over this term.”

And, in terms of downforce, there will be reductions in aerodynamic downforce as well as overall downforce. First, most of the car’s grip will be generated from the bottom of the car, whereas currently most of the grip is produced by airflow over the top of the car. As Frye explained, this not only is significant to the overall performance of the car and how it will race, but it also reduces the chance for large debris fields after an accident.

“Sixty to seventy percent of the downforce is generated from the bottom of the car, where as before it was 40-45 percent, so there’s been a big gain in that. Also, another piece to the puzzle, there are less parts and pieces on top of the car, which creates less debris opportunities,” said Frye.

Further, the overall package is expected to produce 20-25 percent less downforce, that estimation even accounting for teams’ ability to develop the chassis to find areas where downforce could be added.

Frye added that this was a key element in the design of the car. “What we tried to do is create a window, so the total potential window of the car’s downforce level has shifted down. Obviously, as the teams start running the car, they’ll get better and better and better, so we wanted to make sure to move it a different direction that, once downforce comes back to a degree, we haven’t exceeded this window we’re looking at,” he revealed.

And, of course, enhanced safety was a big factor as well. Frye discussed a particular emphasis on side impacts, especially in the wake of accidents involving James Hinchcliffe (2015) and Sebastien Bourdais (2017), in which they suffered serious injuries following side-on impacts with the wall.

“The side-impact piece that’s in this car is moved forward, the radiator is moved forward, so it’s also a much more robust protection piece for the side-impact of the drivers,” Frye described.

And, of particular note in the wake of the F1 Strategy Group revealing that a halo will be introduced in 2018, Frye added that cockpit protection remains at the forefront, and while nothing is set in stone at the moment, the new chassis has room for cockpit protection to be added.

“The cars are built and designed around having some sort of application like that,” Frye said of cockpit protections. “At some point, we’ll test something, whatever application we can come up with. We’re definitely conscious of it, we’re conscious of how it will affect aesthetically, we’re conscious of the safety piece.”

The Verizon IndyCar series will test the 2018 car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway tomorrow, with Juan Pablo Montoya and Oriol Servia doing the driving, with additional tests scheduled for Iowa Speedway, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and Sebring International Raceway later this year.

Soon after series testing is complete, Honda and Chevrolet will begin receiving chassis for their respective teams to test, with all IndyCar teams scheduled to receive their cars beginning in November. Individual team testing will then begin in January of 2018.

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IndyCar takes wraps off 2018 universal aero kit

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After months of renderings, INDYCAR has today revealed in full the new 2018 Dallara universal aero kit.

This replaces the manufacturer aero kits that have been in use from Honda and Chevrolet since 2015.

Dallara was selected to build the kit, which comes on top of the existing base Dallara DW12 chassis that has run in the Verizon IndyCar Series since 2012.

Testing begins tomorrow at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Juan Pablo Montoya in the Chevrolet powered car, run by Team Penske and with Oriol Servia in the Honda powered car, run by Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

More to follow.

Mercedes to enter Formula E from season six, quit DTM after 2018

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Mercedes will join the FIA Formula E championship from the start of its sixth season in 2019 after taking up its option on an entry.

Mercedes announced last October that it had secured an option to join the grid as a manufacturer from season five (2018/19), but was still evaluating an entry as of last month.

Despite having until October to make a final decision on taking up the entry, Mercedes announced on Monday that it would be going ahead with plans to join Formula E, starting from season six (2019/20).

As part of a realignment of its motorsport interests, Mercedes also confirmed that it would be quitting DTM, Germany’s leading touring car series, at the end of 2018.

“Mercedes Benz has announced a strategic repositioning of its motorsport activities: the company will conclude its participation in DTM at the end of 2018 and enter Formula E in the 2019/20 season,” a statement reads.

“This new approach will see Mercedes-Benz competing at both ends of the motorsport spectrum: in Formula 1, the pinnacle of motorsport combining high technology and the most demanding competitive challenge; and in Formula E, which embodies the transformation that is underway in the automotive industry.”

“Mercedes-Benz will market future battery powered electric vehicles using the EQ label,” said Dr. Jens Thiemer, Vice President Marketing Mercedes-Benz.

“Formula E is a significant step in order to demonstrate the performance of our attractive battery powered electric vehicles, as well as giving an emotional spin to our EQ technology brand through motorsport and marketing.”

Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff added: “In motorsport like in every other area, we want to be the benchmark in the premium segment and to explore innovative new projects.

“The combination of Formula 1 and Formula E delivers that. Formula E is like an exciting start-up venture: it offers a brand new format, combining racing with a strong event character, in order to promote current and future technologies.

“Electrification is happening in the road car world and Formula E offers manufacturers an interesting platform to bring this technology to a new audience – and to do so with a completely new kind of racing, different to any other series.

“I am pleased that we were able to extend our entry option for one year to the 2019/20 season. This gives us time to properly understand the series and to prepare for our entry in the right way.”

“Today is a great day as we welcome Mercedes to the Formula E family – adding to the increasing number of manufacturers joining the electric revolution,” Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag said.

“This step shows how much the world is changing, not only in motorsport, but the whole automotive industry. We’re witnessing a transformation that will first change our cities, and then our roads.

“Formula E is the championship that embodies that change, and together with all our teams and manufacturers we’ll keep pushing for technologies to have better and more affordable electric cars.”