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!”

Sean Rayhall’s season of variety rolls on with Thunderhill drive in Radical SR3

Photo: Darkhorse Autosport
Photo: Darkhorse Autosport
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I guess at a certain point, it’s good to lose count of how many types of machinery a driver has driven in a calendar year?

Anyway, Sean Rayhall can add a Radical SR3 sports prototype to his diverse year of driving. Just off the top of my head, he’s driven a partial season in Indy Lights, where he won twice, he drove a few races in IMSA in the Prototype Challenge class, he tested an IndyCar with Chip Ganassi Racing at Sonoma, he tested the radical DeltaWing prototype last month at Daytona, and he’s had other GT and stock car machinery he’s been in.

In other words, give the 20-year-old Georgian four wheels and he’ll find a way to wheel it… quickly.

Rayhall joins John Falb, Todd Slusher and Jeff Shafer in the No. 67 ONE Motorsports Radical for this weekend’s 25 Hours of Thunderhill at the 2.86-mile, 15-turn road course. Rayhall finished on the podium in this race last year.

“I am delighted to take on the challenge of the 25 Hours of Thunderhill again this year with ONE Motorsports!” he said. “I think they will provide one of the best cars on the grid as usual, and I’m sure my teammates and I will keep it flat the entire time! Hopefully, we follow up last year’s podium with a win! That is always the target.

“This close to Thanksgiving, you have to count your blessings. Silver Arrow Technologies and Bass Egg are right towards the top of my list. They have, literally, kept the wheels on our programs this year. I’m looking forward to going out to Thunderhill and closing out the year on the best note we can for both of them.”

Rayhall is one of a number of ace sports car and open-wheel drivers set to tackle Thunderhill this weekend.

As for Rayhall’s 2016 plans, they remain a work in progress, with nothing confirmed as yet. Rayhall is targeting to do as many Indy Lights and sports car races as possible, with several team options in play.

Wehrlein, Ghiotto, Rosenqvist, Carlin trio headline new entries for GP2 testing

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Testing rolls on this week at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. However, following today’s one-day Pirelli tire test for the Formula 1 teams and drivers, action will shift to the GP2 Series for the next three days.

Mercedes reserve driver and past DTM champion Pascal Wehrlein (PREMA Racing), FIA Formula 3 European champion Felix Rosenqvist (Status Grand Prix, then PREMA), GP3 runner-up Luca Ghiotto (Trident) and Carlin’s trio of Dean Stoneman, Richie Stanaway and Antonio Giovinazzi are among the notable drivers added to the testing list this week.

Carlin team boss Trevor Carlin noted the desire for his team to improve following a mostly tough 2015:

“We’re keen to get strong preparations for 2016 underway after a somewhat disappointing season,” he said. “We know we have three very talented drivers with us this week and the aim is to work on the progress we’ve made in the last few races with Dean and continue that with the experienced feedback of Richie.

“We’re delighted to give Antonio this opportunity; he has been a great asset to the team over the last two seasons and we’re excited to see him in a GP2 car for the first time this week.”

The full list of drivers and teams testing for the first day can be found here, via the GP2 official website.

On #GivingTuesday, James Hinchcliffe asks to check out Trauma Pit Crew story

James Hinchcliffe
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The unsung heroes of this and any Verizon IndyCar Series season are, without question, the safety crews.

It’s rare to find anything within the INDYCAR paddock that enjoys near universal approval and a positive rating, but in the Holmatro Safety Team, the appreciation cannot be ignore.

The Holmatro Safety Team’s efforts on-site at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to help save James Hinchcliffe’s life after his accident in practice for this year’s Indianapolis 500 were miraculous.

Hinchcliffe posted a video message on Instagram today (linked below) that asks viewers/readers to check out the story of the Trauma Pit Crew – the staff who took care of him after the Holmatro Safety Team’s efforts.

Hinchcliffe arrived at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital, where IU Health Trauma Surgeon Tim Pohlman, MD and his team set to work – the Trauma Pit Crew site.

He didn’t remember the details of the accident (recorded at a staggering 126 G’s), which they consider a blessing.

The blog from the IU Methodist website quotes Hinchcliffe as saying, “I received world class care. But more important than that, every single person from nurses to surgeons to all other staff could not have been nicer. After my care, I considered faking an illness so I could go back to see them!”

The Trauma Pit Crew website itself, however, reveals even more details about the team.

We’d share elements of the Trauma Pit Crew page, but it’s probably going to be more powerful – and more meaningful – to read the story in full directly on that website. It’s well worth your time.

Report: Harvey seeking to get IndyCar program sorted by Christmas

Photo: Indy Lights
Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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As noted on Monday, there hasn’t been much movement in the Verizon IndyCar Series driver market for 2016, and the available seats left out there are exactly the same ones (in theory, anyway) as they were this time 12 months ago.

And if Jack Harvey can get his program sorted, arguably the most intriguing of those remaining seats – the second seat alongside James Hinchcliffe at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports – could go away itself.

Harvey, who has been working to gather the necessary budget since the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in September to graduate into IndyCar, has said he’s close for the better part of a month.

In early November, Harvey told The Linc in the U.K. there was an 80 percent chance he’d be in IndyCar next season.

He’s now expanded on those hopes in an interview with Autosport’s Marcus Simmons, renowned in U.K. circles as one of the leading journalists in discovering young open-wheel talent.

“The sooner the better,” Harvey told Simmons. “If we could be in before Christmas it would be better for me and the team, so we’re trying to work towards that.

“But we want to make the best deal, not just rush one – our foot’s in the door and it’s time to push the whole body through.”

He “graduates” from the Racing Steps Foundation this year; the RSF has been an instrumental part of Harvey’s upbringing.

Realistically, SPM makes the most sense for Harvey to graduate with. He’s been with SPM’s Indy Lights program the last two years, where he bagged seven wins, finished on the podium in 60 percent of his starts and finished second each of the last two years.

And frankly, he’s due for the opportunity. You can say “oh, he didn’t win a title” – but consider the list of Indy Lights non-champions in the current IndyCar field, a list that includes race winners Helio Castroneves, Marco Andretti, Charlie Kimball and Carlos Munoz among others – and he’d be more than fine to fit in.

Plus, with Spencer Pigot already confirmed for at least a three-race program with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, with hopes of more, it would be nice to see the two protagonists from this year’s Indy Lights battle continue their rivalry at the next level.