TUSC: Mazda to compete in Prototypes; ESM bolsters lineup for big races

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After winning the GX class manufacturer’s title in GRAND-AM last season, Mazda will take on stronger competition in the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

The marque will field two, factory-backed entries in the TUSC’s new Prototype class. Speedsource, the team that helped Mazda claim the aforementioned GX title last year, will be tasked to develop and run the cars. Both machines will be powered by Mazda’s SkyActiv-D diesel engine.

“This is the most significant step Mazda has taken towards returning to the global racing stage since our overall victory at Le Mans in 1991,” Mazda Motorsports director John Doonan said in a statement.

“And thanks to our SkyActiv-D Mazda6 racecars winning nine of 12 Rolex GRAND-AM GX races and the GRAND-AM GX Manufacturers Championship this year, we’re confident that our two prototype cars will challenge the best North America has to offer.”

In his own statement, Speedsource owner Sylvain Tremblay indicated that it would be a challenge to get Mazda to the front in the Prototypes, but that as racers, “you always want to be in the fastest class.”

“The development of the Mazda SkyActiv-D was a great deal of work by Mazda and SpeedSource and it will be quite the task to take this to the front of the prototype class in only our second year of competition. Mazda and SpeedSource will have a busy November and December of testing as we prepare for [the Rolex 24 at] Daytona.”

Mazda’s driver line-up will be revealed at a later date. The new Mazda prototypes will make their first public appearance at the “Roar Before the Rolex 24” at Daytona International Speedway on Jan. 3-5, 2014.

IndyCar’s Simon Pagenaud is part of a group of three drivers that have been signed up to compete for Extreme Speed Motorsports in this year’s TUSC North American Endurance Championship events. Also joining in for these rounds are David Brabham and Anthony Lazzaro.

Brabham will co-drive the No. 1 entry alongside Scott Sharp and Ryan Dalziel at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, and the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.

Meanwhile, Pagenaud and Lazzaro will join the No. 2 entry of Ed Brown and Johannes van Overbeek for particular NAEC stops. Pagenaud will co-drive at Daytona, Sebring, and Petit, while Lazzaro will co-drive at Daytona and the Sahlen’s Six Hours of Watkins Glen.

“Now that I have finally had the chance to take a breath and look at our driver lineup for next season, I am hugely thrilled,” Sharp said in a statement. “To be able to add David, Simon and Anthony to our repertoire for 2014 is tremendous. All three are super-fast drivers, smart, and they all are very proficient in the HPD P2 car. I could not be more excited.

“Where we stand with our four core drivers and then to add this talent to the lineup for the endurance races should show that Patrón ESM is serious about dominating in 2014!”

NHRA: John Force-like motor explosions get contagious during Sunday’s Gatornationals

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
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John Force is rubbing off on others – but probably not the way they or he would like.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion has had spectacular motor explosions in each of the first three races of the new NHRA season, including during Friday’s qualifying for this weekend’s Gatornationals.

During Sunday’s quarterfinals of eliminations, Force’s teammate (and son-in-law and president of John Force Racing) Robert Hight squared off with fellow Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.

As the duo closed in on the finish line, both cars experienced spectacular motor explosions of their own – virtually side-by-side and nearly at the same time.

Hight’s car was the first to explode, tossing its body high in the air. A split-second later, Hagan’s car exploded, also sending the body flying.

Check out the NHRA video:

Hight wound up losing the race.

Hagan, meanwhile, and his crack pit crew rolled their backup car off the hauler, put in a new motor and went on to race through the semifinals and into the finals, losing to race winner “Fast Jack” Beckman.

“We had a pretty great race day, to be honest,” Hagan said. “I’ve never been to the finals in Gainesville.

“We obviously had a huge blow up in the second round, then to watch these guys pull the other car back out and put it together in the amount of time they had, then turn a win light on against Capps (Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the semifinals), then to be able to go to a final, it was huge and it speaks for itself.”

As for Hight, here’s his take on what happened with the motor explosion:

“I couldn’t see (Hagan) over there and it wasn’t like it was hazing the tires or anything else. As it turns out it wasn’t spinning at all. It kicked two rods out when it blacked the bearings in the crank then it hit the valves and blew up.

“The thing gave me no indication at all before that. What really scared me was once I got it under control and I look over and see his body is off his car. I am thinking ‘Oh man, he got gathered up in me.’ Then I stood up and looked and his injector was sideways so I realized he had an explosion as well. We are just lucky we didn’t get into each other.”

As for the guy who has had so much trouble in the motor department, John Force, he lost in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations to daughter Courtney Force.

John Force planned on shutting the motor off on his car at around the 700-foot mark of the 1,000-foot dragstrip, not wanting to risk another motor explosion – even though it meant a likely loss to his daughter.

Now John Force and his entire four-car team, including Courtney Force, Robert Hight and daughter and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, will be off for extensive testing to try and determine what’s been causing the motor explosions.

“We have to evaluate it and go test,” Force said. “We’ll figure it out.”

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