IZOD leaving IndyCar at end of 2013

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Two major, but not terribly unexpected, IndyCar pieces of news have just emerged this Friday.

The first is that series title sponsor IZOD, who assumed the role in 2010 after beginning its partnership in 2008, will leave its role at the end of the year.

“We are proud of our partnership with IZOD over the past six years and we’re grateful to PVH Corp., owner of the IZOD brand, for its support, creativity and vision,” Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., the parent company of INDYCAR, said in a statement. “But circumstances change and now we’re seeking new partnerships with brands looking to align with the fastest, most versatile form of racing. We are combining and strengthening our commercial functions at INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which will allow us to more aggressively pursue new opportunities for our sport.”

The aforementioned “circumstances change” refers to a change at the top of IZOD’s parent company, Phillips-Van Heusen. Allen Sirken, the former head, was a fan of IZOD expanding its horizons into IndyCar first via a personal services agreement with Ryan Hunter-Reay, that later blossomed into the title sponsorship.

RHR ran a partial 2009 season with Vision Racing and a full 2010 with Andretti Autosport in IZOD colors. IZOD’s activation was prevalent and obvious for 2010 and 2011.

But a two-year drawdown as Sirken exited the building and a change at the top occurred meant the new regime wasn’t keen on continuing the partnership. As it is, IZOD leaves a year early, ahead of the fifth year of its contract.

“After an exciting relationship that has been as enjoyable and fast-paced as INDYCAR itself, PVH Corp. has made the decision to not continue IZOD’s title sponsorship with IndyCar beyond the 2013 season,” said Mike Kelly, Executive Vice President, The PVH Marketing Group. “As we and our retail partners shift the IZOD brand’s product focus, we need to shift our marketing spend to complement it. We would like to thank the IndyCar community, from the amazing fans, to the incredible drivers, to the entire series, for their partnership. We wish the series all the best and we look forward to finishing out the 2013 season with much success.”

IndyCar did not have a title sponsor last in 2009; it’s likely a search will occur for a replacement, possibly with existing series partners.

SMP Racing unveils BR1 LMP1 car in Bahrain ahead of WEC entry

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SMP Racing has publicly unveiled its new BR1 LMP1 car that will enter the FIA World Endurance Championship from 2018.

SMP Racing opted to pull out of racing full-time in the WEC for 2017 in order to focus on its preparations for an LMP1 entry the following year, with the decision being taken long in advance of Porsche’s exit announcement.

Officials from the Russian-backed SMP Racing, as well as drivers including recent IndyCar racer Mikhail Aleshin (sporting a broken arm in a sling), Vitaly Petrov and Sergey Sirotkin were all on hand to unveil the car on Friday in the Bahrain International Circuit paddock ahead of this weekend’s WEC finale.

The BR Engineering BR1 features a Dallara chassis and an AER engine, and has completed over 2,000 km in private testing, with further running set to be completed in the coming weeks.

SMP Racing plans to field two cars in the WEC’s LMP1 class next year, and is keen to get as many Russian drivers as possible in the seats from its wide pool of talent.

Even with Porsche’s departure from LMP1, the class is set to feature a bigger field thanks to the increased number of privateers moving up, with Toyota set to remain the sole manufacturer in the class.