MotorSportsTalk’s predictions: Indian GP

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Ahead of the race today in India, the writing team on MotorSportsTalk has made its predictions for what looks set to be the scene of Sebastian Vettel’s coronation as a four time world champion. Should he finish fifth or higher and secure the title, Vettel will join some prestigious company: only Alain Prost, Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher have won four world titles. It may be the final Indian Grand Prix until 2015, but the race is poised to cement itself a place in history today.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race winner: Sebastian Vettel. Let’s see… chance for six straight wins, fourth title and a shot to three-peat leading every lap from pole in India. Again it’s a case of pick him until he gets dethroned.

Surprising finish: Jenson Button. A podium and another top-five on his Indian scorecard thus far. “Surprise” in this instance would be a top-five but I feel it’s possible for him this weekend.

Most to prove: Paul di Resta. He’s gone scoreless seven races in a row with a car that has clearly fallen off the second half of the year. F1 career in jeopardy and at his team’s home race, time to stave off the naysayers and put together a memorable weekend.

Christopher Estrada (@estradawriting)

Race winner: Sebastian Vettel. A third (final?) victory in India will have Vettel claim his fourth consecutive World Championship with a flourish. Love him or hate him, you better darn well respect him.

Surprising finish: Esteban Gutierrez. Suzuka had to be a confidence booster for Gutierrez as he finally made a contribution to Sauber’s recent surge (and, at six points, a weighty one). The question now is can he keep it going at Buddh? I’m going to say yes.

Most to prove: Force India. If this is the last Indian Grand Prix for a while, then the home team at least has a chance to leave their fans with some fond memories. But with only three points between Adrian Sutil (all his) and Paul di Resta in the last seven races, they’ll have to step it up.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race winner: Sebastian Vettel. Just as he was in Japan, his fine run of form combined with his affinity for the circuit should see him take to the top step of the podium once again and clinch a fourth world title.

Surprising finish: Jenson Button. McLaren have been running well here in India, so Button may be able to take advantage of his alternative strategy to work his way up the order and pick up some solid points.

Most to prove: Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian driver needs a good result here to prove to Red Bull that they made the right decision to hire him, and a stand-out result in his final four races for Toro Rosso would go a long way to doing this.

Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine)

Race winner: Sebastian Vettel. Yes, he might be conservatively-minded as he was when the title beckoned in Japan two years ago. But with a half-second advantage even over his team mate he can afford to drive with his fingertips and still thrash his competitors.

Surprising finish: Nico Hulkenberg. The Sauber looks very good on the medium tyres – he could be an outside bet for a podium finish.

Most to prove: Romain Grosjean. He’s come on in leaps and bounds in recent races with excellent qualifying performances which have allowed him to stay out of trouble and race at the front. From 17th on the grid he has to show he can keep a cool head and make his way up through the field.

IMSA: Sebring Day 2 of two-day test notebook

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Testing across several IMSA sanctioned series continued at Sebring International Raceway on Tuesday as preparations continue for next month’s events during the weekend of the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.

Below are highlights from Day 2 of testing around the 3.74-mile road course.

Eurosport Racing Continues Work with Mazda Prototype Challenge Chassis

Teams in the Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda championship completed their second day of testing on Tuesday. Among them, Eurosport Racing continued their work with the only Mazda Prototype Challenge (MPC) entries in the field, in the hands of drivers Dr. Tim George (in the No. 24 entry) and Jon Brownson (in the No. 34).

“Right now, I’m driving by myself so we’re trying to make the car comfortable enough to last an hour and 45 minutes with just me in the car,” George said of their preparation efforts. “We’re trying to set up the car where it’s quick, yet it and can last, both the car and for me to make sure we don’t tire out, get fatigued and make mistakes.”

The 1 hour 45 minute window that George referenced represents the race times for the 2018 season, up considerably from last year’s sprint format that featured a pair of 45-minute races across a race weekend.

Though that change represents a drastic shift in driving philosophy, it is one that George welcomes.

“The new rules for the endurance races are great, I enjoy it a lot,” said George. “It gives you a chance to think through things differently with strategy. It also gives you a chance if you blow it…in a sprint race if you make a mistake you don’t get a chance to come back.”

Florida Drivers in Continental Tire Challenge Eager for Hometown Race at Sebring

A strong contingent of drivers from Florida are represented in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, and next month’s 12 Hours of Sebring weekend will see them compete on home soil.

“I grew up in Tallahassee and I live in Orlando now, so Sebring has been my home track since day one,” said Paul Holton, driver of the No. 76 Compass Racing McLaren GT4, which finished 14th at the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway. “I’ve spent a lot of time down here and really enjoy the place. It’s a nice, quaint little town not far from Orlando so it’s a quick, easy drive down for me.”

Fellow Floridian Ramin Abdolvahabi, a native of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and driver of the No. 09 Automatic Racing Aston Martin Vantage, revealed that, even though Sebring is only two hours from his hometown, this week’s test was his first time at the track in two years.

“I haven’t been here for two years, so coming back is like coming home,” he said. “It’s a fantastic track and it’s one of the iconic tracks in the world so being at Sebring – a small town, my hometown, welcoming – it’s fantastic. I went on the track a couple of times yesterday and it’s just like wearing an old shoe, it just fits and it’s fantastic. Hopefully, the race will go well and the weather will hold, so anyone who’s out there, come and see us!”

Frank Raso Trades in Airplanes for Porsches at Sebring

Several IMSA drivers boast “day jobs” outside of their racing gigs. Among them, Frank Raso’s work falls outside of ordinary jobs like doctor or lawyer. Rather, Raso flies airplanes for a living.

“I’m an airline pilot for a major airline,” said Raso, who tested the No. 10 Topp Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car at Sebring. “I’ve been flying for almost 30 years, and it’s allowed me, with all my time off and things like that to do this and fall back into racing again. I messed with it a little bit when I was younger, but it was, of course, expensive, so I got away from it for a while. I decided I wanted to get back into it in kind of my last couple of years before I get too old.”

Raso explained that the skills he practices while flying planes are more than transferable to his driving duties in a Porsche GT3 Cup car.

“Flying an airliner or flying any airplane, we have checklists, but everything is kind of done in order. It’s almost in a robot fashion type of a thing where you do this, you do this, you do this and you have to make sure you hit all your marks and fly the airplane with precision.

“So, when you get in these Cup cars, with no anti-lock brakes, no traction control, and no driver assist items, you have to make sure you hit your marks, when you’re accelerating, when you’re turning in. You have to be alert. It keeps your wits about you. The car can step out at any time. They’re a very difficult car to drive, but they’re a lot of fun.”
The 54-year-old Raso posted a best finish of fourth, on four separate occasions, in a part-time schedule during the 2017 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama season as a competitor in the Gold Cup class.
Newcomers Get Taste of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge
A number of new drivers got to sample Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge cars during the two days of testing at Sebring. Among them was amateur racer Scott Welham, who got his first taste of professional racing during the two-day outing at Sebring.
And he had a strong support system backing him up in the Kelly-Moss Road and Race team, the defending Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge champions with driver Jake Eidson.
“Here, you’ve got somebody that actually does coaching, data acquisition, track management – these are all separate people – plant manager, owner, a car-setup guy, you’ve got someone that bills you – which isn’t always a good thing, but you know, you just have that huge, huge support group that enables you to focus on driving,” Welham said of the team’s influence on his development over the two days.
IMSA’s next visit to Sebring will be for the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring on March 17.