Impressive weekend for ex-F1 drivers across the board

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Formula One’s cut-throat nature means that in recent years many capable drivers have fallen by the wayside and been forced out of the sport due to a lack of finance or for simply being too old. However, this weekend has proven that there is life after F1 as a number of drivers have thrived in other series.

On Saturday, former Sauber, Williams and Lotus driver Nick Heidfeld claimed his first win at Petit Le Mans as a curtain was drawn over the American Le Mans Series at Road Atlanta. Driving for Rebellion Racing, the German driver was part of the victorious three man team that also comprised of Nicolas Prost (son of F1 legend Alain) and Neel Jani, both of whom claimed their second successive Petit Le Mans win. Heidfeld raced in 183 grands prix, finishing on the podium thirteen times without managing to win a race.

An early start on Sunday saw a number of former Formula One drivers racing in the latest round of the World Endurance Championship at the 6 Hours of Fuji in Japan. However, just sixteen laps were completed due to torrential rain and the race was eventually red flagged with over three hours left on the clock. This handed Toyota their first win of the season with former Williams drivers Alexander Wurz and Kazuki Nakajima piloting the winning car and three-time Le Mans winner and former Toyota driver Allan McNish finishing in second place. Gianmaria Bruni and Giancarlo Fisichella finished second in the GTE Pro class whilst Bruno Senna was victorious with Aston Martin Racing in the GTE Am race.

Finally, former Toyota and Virgin (now Marussia) driver Timo Glock claimed his first win in the German touring car championship, DTM. The German driver took advantage of the wet conditions at Hockenheim to win the final race of the season and cap off a memorable debut year in the championship.

The Callaway Corvette GT3 is coming to America, in PWC

Photo: Callaway Competition USA
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Pirelli World Challenge has been in need of some good news from a car count standpoint early into this offseason, and receives it Monday with confirmation Callaway Competition will bring its GT3-spec homologated Corvette C7 GT3-R Stateside next season.

The withdrawal of the factory Cadillac Racing program after PWC’s season finale in Sonoma in September has opened the door for the factory-blessed Corvette C7 GT3-R to run in North America, because Cadillac’s ATS-V.R has been the lone GT3-spec car under the General Motors awning for the last three seasons, while the Callaway Corvette has raced only internationally.

Reeves Callaway has been on site at the tail end of the PWC season to survey the opportunity and now a deal has been struck for a factory effort to run next year, before the Callaway Corvette program becomes a customer effort in 2019. This follows the same timeline as Acura did with its new NSX GT3 this year to run it as a factory program in 2017 before shifting to customer efforts in 2018.

“Joining the Pirelli World Challenge has been a long term objective for Callaway Competition,” Callaway said in a release. “Now the field is a roll-call of the most capable sports cars from every country. To do well here, you must beat the best in the world. What better way to showcase our iconic American car?

“For 2018, we will run a Callaway factory team to give us the best chance of continuing the championship record the Corvette has achieved in international competition. For 2019, we will not race against our customers, but provide high-quality support to them in the tradition of other manufacturer customer racing support programs.”

“For several years fans have asked when they would see the Callaway Corvette GT3 run in the Pirelli World Challenge,” added Greg Gill, President and CEO of Pirelli World Challenge. “The wait is over and we are very pleased to announce the arrival of the Callaway Corvette GT3 for the 2018 season.”

The Callaway Competition USA Corvette C7 GT3-R will be unveiled and both full season drivers announced at the Performance Racing Industry show in Indianapolis on December 7 at the Pirelli World Challenge booth. Following the unveiling event, the car will be on display for the remainder of the trade show. Details of the presentation will be announced in the coming weeks.

Callaway’s confirmation comes amidst the likely drawdown of potentially nine or 10 cars that raced in PWC’s GT and GTA ranks either all season or most of it in 2017, among at least five manufacturers. That’s not to say those losses can’t be recouped elsewhere on the grid, over the next several months before the St. Petersburg season opener in March.

PWC will hold its annual state of the series and competitor meeting to finalize the next year’s plans at the PRI show as well.