Road America site to Rolex, ALMS, Continental tripleheader

Leave a comment

For the first and only time before they come together as United SportsCar Racing in 2014, the GRAND-AM Rolex Series and American Le Mans Series will run at the same track on the same weekend.

Elkhart Lake’s Road America is the locale for a pair of two hour, 45-minute races. GRAND-AM’s runs Saturday (5 p.m. ET, check local listings) and ALMS is Sunday (3 p.m. ET, check local listings). The Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge is also on the docket with a two-and-a-half hour race Saturday at 1:30 p.m. ET.

In GRAND-AM, the top five driver combinations are separated by 25 points for the DP standings lead with Ryan Dalziel and Alex Popow currently on top by 10 points over Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney. That same gap of 25 points covers the top five in GT; Andy Lally and John Potter currently lead Robin Liddell and John Edwards by just 4.

Of the five classes in ALMS, the GTC points lead is tied at 77 (Jeroen Bleekemolen/Cooper MacNeil and Spencer Pumpelly/Nelson Canache Jr.), the P2 lead is just three by Marino Franchitti over Level 5 team boss Scott Tucker, and the GT lead is five by Dirk Mueller (BMW) over Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin (Corvette).

There’s a handful of IndyCar drivers expected to race in the two events. Sebastien Bourdais (8Star) and Justin Wilson (Shank) will race in DPs in the Rolex race, while Simon Pagenaud will make a last-minute cameo replacing the injured Ryan Briscoe at Level 5, per a Thursday report from SPEED’s John Dagys.

Eight drivers are pulling at least double duty: Bill Auberlen, John Edwards, Spencer Pumpelly, Leh Keen, Patrick Long, Andy Lally, Maxime Martin and Tristan Nunez.  The first three, Auberlen, Edwards and Pumpelly, are running all three races and will have almost no down time. While the other seven are bouncing between GT cars, 17-year-old Nunez will alternate between a PC prototype in ALMS and a GX class Mazda6 SKYACTIV-D diesel in Rolex.

More announcements regarding the 2014 USCR championship are possible for the weekend. The latest detail to emerge there was Continental Tire’s role as exclusive supplier for three of the four 2014 classes.

Plans for Alonso sports car debut in Rolex 24 gathering speed

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Plans for McLaren Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso to appear in next year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona are gathering speed as the two-time World Champion angles for a drive at Le Mans in 2018.

Alonso announced on Thursday he had signed a new, multi-year deal to remain with McLaren in F1, but has left the door open to continue his pursuit of the Triple Crown of Motorsport and become just the second driver in history to complete it.

Alonso has won the Monaco Grand Prix twice and made his Indianapolis 500 debut this year, retiring with an engine issue, and has made no secret of his ambition to race at Le Mans one day.

With no date clashes, the possibility exists for Alonso to race at Le Mans in 2018, potentially with Toyota in the LMP1 class following McLaren’s split with Honda.

However, Alonso could make his 24-hour race debut five months earlier, with reports emerging on Thursday that he could be in line to appear in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

First reported by Sportscar365, Alonso could be set to race for McLaren executive director Zak Brown’s team, United Autosports, at Daytona in January, with no clashes existing with his F1 commitments.

Alonso remained coy when asked about the chances of him appearing at Daytona, but admitted additional preparation for a possible Le Mans appearance would be of interest.

“For the Indy 500 it was a nice experience, I felt very competitive but it was a big challenge that I took from zero, from no testing, not any similar race before it,” Alonso said, as quoted by Reuters.

“If I want to prepare Le Mans, maybe there are other possibilities to prepare Le Mans a little bit better than I prepared the Indy 500.”

He added more about his other race program in Thursday’s pre-race Paddock Pass episode, speaking to NBCSN. “To be the best driver in the world you have to win in different series at different times. It’s possible I can compete in different races next year,” he said.

Brown said he would be happy to field Alonso at Daytona, and confirmed their pair had already loosely discussed it.

“If Fernando wants to do Daytona and we have a seat available, we would put his name on it happily,” Brown said.

“We’ve started joking around about it, and we saw where jokes got us last time,” he added, referencing the eventual entry to the Indy 500.

United Autosports will field two JS P217 cars at Daytona in January, and has already confirmed ex-F1 racer Paul di Resta, McLaren junior Lando Norris, American endurance racer Will Owen and Danish youngster Philip Hanson in seats.

McLaren reserve and 2009 F1 world champion Jenson Button had been linked with a drive for United Autosports at Daytona, but Brown confirmed to Sportscar365 this was no longer an option.

“Jenson won’t be driving for us. I don’t know what he’s going to be doing,” Brown said.

“I thought he was going to be in the Penske car. Not sure what happened there.”