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!”

F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on NBCSN, NBC Sports App this week

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After five years and 98 Grands Prix broadcast since 2013, NBC Sports Group’s coverage of Formula 1 concludes with the 2017 season finale from Abu Dhabi at the Yas Marina Circuit this week.

The lights come on for the day-into-night Grand Prix of the year as the sun sets on five years of broadcasts, original content and additional digital specific features such as Paddock Pass.

For Abu Dhabi this week, all of the race, qualifying and second free practice will be live on NBCSN with first and third free practice live on the NBC Sports App. The race returns is back in the usual morning a.m. time slots after three mid-day races in Austin, Mexico City and Sao Paulo, and a pair of overnight affairs in Kuala Lumpur and Suzuka. Formula 2 coverage of its season finale from Abu Dhabi also airs both on NBCSN and online.

With this the final race of the season before F1’s winter break, there’s still a handful of things to get sorted even though Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have wrapped their respective championships.

Sebastian Vettel (Brazil) and Max Verstappen (Mexico) have won the last two races, with Hamilton’s most recent win coming at Circuit of the Americas. Will it be any of these three that wrap the year on a high or could any of their teammates – Kimi Raikkonen, Daniel Ricciardo or Valtteri Bottas – upend the script?

Mercedes has won the last three races in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton winning in 2014 and 2016 with Nico Rosberg taking the 2015 crown.

Vettel and Hamilton have three wins apiece in Abu Dhabi, Vettel having taken all of his with Red Bull in 2009, 2010 and 2013, and Hamilton adding a 2011 McLaren triumph to his last two with Mercedes. Raikkonen (2012, Lotus) and Rosberg are the other Abu Dhabi winners, and while both Vettel and Raikkonen have won in Abu Dhabi, Ferrari never has in the first eight races here.

The last place up for grabs in the constructor’s battle is for sixth, with Toro Rosso (53 points), Renault (49) and Haas (47) separated by only six total points. Toro Rosso and Renault got into a nasty war of words in Brazil, and will part ways after the weekend.

Felipe Massa signs off his career in F1 for the second and expected final time at Williams, and with Toro Rosso having confirmed Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley last week, his seat is one of only three left to fill for 2018, and the most attractive.

McLaren and Honda also bring to an end their partnership after three troubled seasons, but on the bright side will look to score points for a third straight race together, which hasn’t happened since the Hungarian, German and Belgian Grands Prix of 2016.

As ever, and perhaps for the final time as a collective unit, Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett will be on the call with Will Buxton reporting from the pits and paddock.

Here’s the F1 schedule, with stream links and TV network if applicable:

  • Practice 1: Friday, Nov. 24, 4 a.m.-5:30 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Practice 2: Friday, Nov. 24, 8 a.m.-9:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 3: Saturday, Nov. 25, 5 a.m.-6 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Qualifying: Saturday, Nov. 25, 8 a.m.-9:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Pre-Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 7 a.m.-8 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 8 a.m.-10 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Post-Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 10 a.m.-10:55 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race (Replay): Sunday, Nov. 26, 7 p.m.-9 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • F2 Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 6 a.m.-7 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • F2 Race (Replay): Sunday, Nov. 26, 9 p.m.-10 p.m. ET (NBCSN)