USCC: Extreme Speed signs up Ryan Dalziel for 2014 season

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Just days after closing their American Le Mans Series run with a second-place finish in the P2 team and driver’s championships, Extreme Speed Motorsports has revealed its plans for next year’s inaugural Tudor United SportsCar Championship season.

The Scott Sharp-led squad has signed former 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Ryan Dalziel (pictured), who drove full-time this past year with Starworks Motorsport in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series. There, he and co-driver Alex Popow were part of a thrilling championship battle in the Daytona Prototype category before eventually finishing fifth in the standings.

Dalziel also competed in the ALMS this year for SRT Motorsports at Sebring, Le Mans and last weekend at the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. In 2012, he helped Starworks claim the GRAND-AM North American Endurance Championship and took three ALMS wins for CORE Autosport in a Prototype Challenge machine.

“I could not be happier or any more excited about joining ESM in 2014,” Dalziel said in a team release. “I have been a huge admirer of the team over the past few seasons. I was really impressed with 2013, at how quickly they adapted to the P2 class.

“ESM and [sponsor] Patrón are really stepping things up for 2014 and I think that as a team we will be very strong. I know many of the key people within the team and am really proud to be part of their driver lineup. I think together, we can accomplish many wins.”

In his own thoughts, Sharp said he was “extremely excited” to have a talent like Dalziel on board.

“I truly feel he is the perfect fit – super fast in everything he drives, technically committed, a team player, and a really great guy,” the former IndyCar pilot said. “I think he will fit into exactly what we and the rest of the team have been building for the last four years.”

Dalziel will team up with Sharp in the No. 01 ESM Honda Performance Development ARX-03b as the team transitions from the ALMS’ P2 category to the Prototype category in the new United series.

As for ESM’s sister car, the No. 02 HPD ARX-03b, its driving duo of Johannes van Overbeek and Ed Brown will remain intact for a second straight season. This past year, the JVO/Brown combo notched three podium finishes at Long Beach, Baltimore and Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

F1 Preview: 2018 Australian Grand Prix

Photo: Getty Images
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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.