Some of F1’s greats have acted as an emergency replacement

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Following Kimi Raikkonen’s decision to undergo back surgery and subsequently miss the final two rounds of the 2013 Formula One season, a somewhat unexpected race has been sparked to claim the vacant seat at Lotus. The team’s reserve driver, Davide Valsecchi, is widely expected to deputize for the Finn and make his Formula One debut. Although it may be an unconventional way of getting into the sport, many other legends of the sport have come in through the same route – accidental, but incredibly impressive – as well as acting as a replacement in the twilight of their careers.

Mario Andretti – Italy 1982

Andretti’s role as a stand-in is slightly different, as it came at the end of his career. Having won the drivers’ championship in 1978, he  failed to successfully defend his title and entered the 1982 season without a drive. Andretti took part in one race for Williams as a replacement for Carlos Reutemann, but following a career-ending accident for Didier Pironi, He enjoyed one final hurrah with Ferrari. On debut for the Italian team, Andretti scored pole position before going on to finish in third place at Monza in an emotional result for the Italian-American. However, he could not repeat this feat in the season finale at Caesar’s Palace thanks to a suspension failure. Nevertheless, it was a fitting end to an illustrious F1 career.

Michael Schumacher – Belgium 1991

Statistically, Michael Schumacher is the greatest driver in the history of Formula One. However, his debut came under rather strange circumstances. The German driver was drafted in by enigmatic team owner Eddie Jordan after full-time driver Betrand Gachot was jailed for two months. At the tender age of twenty-two, Schumacher immediately impressed to qualify seventh ahead of teammate Andrea de Cesaris. Despite retiring on the first lap of the race due to a clutch problem, Schumacher had done enough to secure himself a drive with Benetton for the rest of the season, with whom he would go on to win his first two championships in 1994 and 1995.

Sebastian Vettel – USA 2007

In the final United States Grand Prix at The Brickyard back in 2007, a young German driver by the name of Sebastian Vettel made his debut. BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica had a huge crash at the Canadian Grand Prix that he was lucky to escape from, but under advice from his doctor, the Pole opted not to race at Indianapolis. Therefore, the team drafted in Vettel – just six days shy of his twentieth birthday – and he immediately proved his credentials as a star for the future. After qualifying in seventh place, Vettel went on to finish the race in eighth just behind future teammate Mark Webber. Four races later, Vettel was given a full-time drive with Toro Rosso after Scott Speed’s exit; six years later, he’s a four time world champion.

Michael Schumacher (almost) – Europe 2009

Eighteen years after standing in to make his debut, the then-retired Schumacher was on the verge of a shock comeback with Ferrari. Felipe Massa had suffered a severe head injury at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix and was unable to take part in the rest of the season. Therefore, Ferrari had to find a replacement, and who better than the most successful driver in the history of the team? Schumacher, who had last raced in 2006, was all set to step in. However, a neck injury that he had suffered on a motorbike flared up and meant that he could not represent the Italian team. Luca Badoer was eventually promoted from his test driver role, but he lasted two races before being replaced by Giancarlo Fisichella.

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.