The new EcoBoost livery (Ford photo)

Ford EcoBoost one day out from record speed run attempt at Daytona

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Although the 2013 GRAND-AM Rolex Series season is in the books, preparations for 2014 in the merged Tudor United SportsCar Championship are well underway.

One new element of the merged series, in the Prototype class, will be the debut of Ford’s new 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost® racing engine for Daytona Prototypes. A direct-injected, twin-turbo engine may shake up the status quo in DP and Michael Shank Racing is the first team to confirm its use. Shank, a racing lifer, fielded two cars in 2013.

On Wednesday, the new engine will be put to the test from the off because the team is attempting a record speed run at Daytona International Speedway. Colin Braun will be on hand to pilot the team’s DP with the new engine and try to break the mark held by Bill Elliott, a 210.364 mph lap, in 1987. For reference, Braun wasn’t even born yet when that record was set.

“It’s really a privilege to have an opportunity to put your name in the record books like this,” Shank said in a release. “It is almost inconceivable that this record has stood for such a long time, so it’s pretty special to be involved. We worked a long time to develop our relationship with Ford to be in a position to take on projects like this. Anytime you can get in the record books, it is a great opportunity and just builds on what this company has done.”

Shank’s team won the 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2012 with Ford power, and drivers Ozz Negri, John Pew, AJ Allmendinger and Justin Wilson. The team will run at least one and possibly two DPs in the Prototype class in 2014.

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

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If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.