Chevrolet’s Bowtie Brigade in IndyCar gets bigger with Ganassi


Chip Ganassi Racing took advantage of this afternoon’s track repair delay at the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston to announce that Tony Kanaan would join the team in a fourth car sponsored by NTT Data next season.

But we all knew it was only a matter of time before that particular announcement went official. However, Chevrolet still made sure there would be a surprise by announcing that the Ganassi camp would defect from Honda and take on Bowtie power in 2014.

It’s a major development for Chevy. If it retains Andretti Autosport, that would see Chevrolet supply all three of the IZOD IndyCar Series’ “Big Three” teams. Ganassi and Team Penske and Andretti, which would be 12 cars.

Chevrolet’s Jim Campbell said the manufacturer could go above its 40 percent of the field threshold, a number set by IndyCar as a part of its contract.

Meanwhile, Honda is now set to lose its top American open-wheel franchise.

“This decision makes a lot of sense for us for a number of reasons,” Ganassi said in a statement. “We feel Chevrolet has done a great job in their return to the IndyCar Series and because of our existing relationship with them in NASCAR.

“There are a lot of synergies that we will be able to realize in working with the same manufacturer across the two series. We are thrilled.”

With the Ganassi NASCAR and IndyCar programs soon to both be under the Chevy banner (the NASCAR program having been with Chevy since the 2009 season), the obvious question is whether or not Ganassi’s sports car side will do the same.

That group currently runs with BMW power in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series, which is soon to merge with the American Le Mans Series into the TUDOR United SportsCar Series.

However, both Ganassi team managing director Mike Hull and Chevrolet’s Campbell didn’t quite point in that direction during this afternoon’s press conference.

“I don’t know about that,” Hull said about the possibility of consolidating all of Ganassi’s programs with Chevy. “The opportunity has come to be able to do this and we’re excited.”

Campbell would only say that he’s been pleased with his company’s sports car efforts thus far.

“If you look at how we’re structured…With our Corvette program in ALMS, we’ve run with Pratt & Miller and won seven of 14 24 Hours of Le Mans,” he said. “We have a terrific lineup on the Daytona Prototype side – this year, Wayne Taylor Racing won the championship with Jordan Taylor and Max Angelelli.

“I like our sports car lineup, and as I look forward, our opportunity to partner with Chip is stock car racing and open wheel.”

Chevrolet and Honda are currently tied for the 2013 manufacturer’s championship, with Honda having won five of the last six races to close their early season gap. But it appears that Chevy has gained the early edge for 2014.

F1 Preview: 2018 Australian Grand Prix

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Save for two occasions, in 2006, and 2010, the Australian Grand Prix has served as the season-opening event for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since 1996, and this weekend’s event will be the 21st time that the city of Melbourne has kicked off the Formula 1 campaign.

The 2018 season is the fifth one of the current hybrid power unit era, the second season of the current aero regulations, and the second under Liberty Media’s guidance.

Last year saw titans Mercedes AMG Petronas and Scuderia Ferrari duel for supremacy for most of the season before Mercedes distanced Ferrari late in the season to take the constructor’s title and the driver’s title, with Lewis Hamilton, who is now tied with Sebastian Vettel on four world championships apiece.

Four drivers on the grid have Formula 1 world championships to their name: Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, and Fernando Alonso. Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley also has a world championship to his name as a two-time titlist in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

So, what can viewers expect from the 2018 curtain-raiser in Australia? A handful of things to watch are below?

2018 Australian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Does Anyone Have Anything for Mercedes?

Only on one day during pre-season testing did a Mercedes driver lead the way – Lewis Hamilton was fastest on the final day of Week 1 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

However, all indications were that was by design, with the team focusing the majority of the second week, if not the entire second week, on long runs with their W09 EQ Power+ chassis.

Such a decision is an ominous one, in that it indicates the team is very comfortable with the amount of speed in the car and did not see a need, or desire, to show their hand during testing.

With that in mind, the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas may yet again have the best and fastest cars, and the team looks poised to potentially make it five constructor’s and driver’s championships in a row.

Ferrari and Red Bull Look to End Mercedes Reign

The biggest threats to Mercedes are undoubtedly Ferrari and Red Bull, the only other teams to win in 2017.

And both teams displayed a lot of pace during testing, particularly in the “one-lap speed” category. Ricciardo set a lap record around the Catalunya circuit during the second week, only for Vettel to supplant that mark later in the week. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen led the way during the final day of testing.

It is unknown how that pace will translate over the course of a race distance. Mercedes appeared to have an edge on both Ferrari and Red Bull over long runs and race simulations, but there is also a theory that neither Ferrari nor Red Bull had their true long-run form on display.

Still, if a team is going to knock off Mercedes, it will likely be either Ferrari or Red Bull.

McLaren on the Rebound?

Put simply, the previous three seasons for McLaren F1 Team were a bit of a disaster. Their partnership with Honda yielded point totals of 27 (2015), 76 (2016), and 30 (2017) in a three-year venture that was defined by poor reliability and underwhelming power.

The relationship hit a boiling point last year and both entities parted ways ahead of the 2018 season, with McLaren signing a new power unit deal with Renault.

Testing went better than in previous years, though the team continued to battle reliability problems. However, all issues appeared to be minor, needling issues rather than more significant, foundational problems, as the other Renault teams (Red Bull and Renault Sport F1 Team) had solid runs with few reliability issues.

The car does appear to have speed in it, so if the reliability problems are behind them, McLaren could be in for a rebound season.

Stuck in the Midfield Again

Formula 1’s battle amongst the midfield is set to be as fierce as ever as a host of a several teams have a chance at being “best of the rest.”

Sahara Force India has been the frontrunner from the the midfield teams each of the last two years, finishing fourth in the constructor’s title in both 2016 and 2017, though if the steady conflict between drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez continues through 2018, it could hamper their efforts significantly.

Renault Sport F1 Team and Haas F1 Team look to improve on their 2017 form, while Toro Rosso is in a new partnership with Honda power units…and has experienced a surprisingly smooth pre-season as Honda’s 2018 platform looks significantly better, with the team enjoying a solid run of testing with few, if any, reliability problems.

Williams Martini Racing and Alfa Romeo Sauber appear to be at the back of the pack entering the season, but both could battle for points finishes if those ahead of them falter.