Kansas Speedway

Prototype testing canceled today after pair of airborne accidents Tuesday


Scary news is emerging out of Daytona, site of the second two-day test for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, as during Tuesday’s first day of testing there were two airborne accidents.

The first involved Spirit of Daytona Racing’s Richard Westbrook, the Englishman driving a Corvette Daytona Prototype (shown right in 2013 configuration at Kansas). Speaking to Sportscar365’s John Dagys, Westbrook told him he had a right-rear tire failure at 195mph on exit to the tri-oval, with that proving the launching pad to a series of rolls after getting airborne.

Westbrook took to Twitter on Wednesday to offer thanks for all the well wishes after emerging, mercifully, unscathed.

The aforementioned “man hug” is mentioned thanks to a photo, shot by M. Stahlschmidt/Sideline Sports Photography, that has gone viral since being posted. The shattered DP sits restless with Westbrook and Darren Turner of Aston Martin Racing embracing to the side.

A less severe accident occurred later in the afternoon when Joao Barbosa had another reported right-rear puncture to his Corvette DP, the Action Express entry. Both cars were running in the updated aero configuration with more downforce from the rear wing, new diffuser and tunnels. Both drivers, fortunately, were uninjured.

As a result, IMSA took the decision on Wednesday to cancel the day’s testing for cars in the Prototype (DPs and P2s) and Prototype Challenge (PC) classes on safety grounds.

The DeltaWing LM13 Coupe, however, continued as its unique nature doesn’t directly align it with any prototype regulations. GTLM (American Le Mans Series GT) and GTD (Rolex Series GT, ALMS GTC) testing continued as scheduled.

The release from IMSA reads as follows:

Officials from the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) and Continental Tire have jointly decided to suspend on-track testing of TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Prototype (P)  and Prototype Challenge (PC) race cars after issues were discovered during testing at Daytona International Speedway on Tuesday.

IMSA and Continental Tire are analyzing the situation and working toward a solution. On-track testing will continue at Daytona on Wednesday for the GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) classes. On-track testing of the DeltaWing DWC13 prototype – which utilizes a unique tire and technical package – will also continue as scheduled.

With time ticking until the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Jan. 25-26, this test will have been a major eye-opener for series officials. It’s also a blessing that we aren’t writing about something worse, thanks to the structural integrity of the DP monocoque.

Formula E: Team Aguri confirms da Costa for second season

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Antonio Felix da Costa has been confirmed for a second season with Team Aguri for the 2015-2016 FIA Formula E Championship, which begins later this month in Beijing.

He won once this past year at Buenos Aires and finished eighth in the points despite missing both the season opener and season finale due to clashes with his DTM schedule.

Said the 24-year-old Portuguese driver, “I am really happy to continue with Team Aguri and Formula E for season two. This championship is earning its respect in the world of motorsport and I am honoured to be involved. Regarding the season, I am really looking forward to getting started.”

Team Aguri team principal Mark Preston added, “It is a great pleasure to have Antonio continuing with the team for season two of Formula E. Antonio brought us our maiden win in Buenos Aires and helped to develop the team from scratch, he will continue to build on that success for season two and beyond.”

The team that bares the name of ex-Formula 1 driver and team owner Aguri Suzuki has not yet confirmed its second driver, which is the last outstanding seat to be filled on the Formula E grid.

Amlin, which had partnered with Aguri last year, is now present with the Andretti Formula E team and its drivers, Robin Frijns and Simona de Silvestro.

Hulkenberg leads shorter than normal FP1 in Russia

Nico Hulkenberg
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Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg posted a 1:44.355 lap of the of the Sochi Autodrom to lead a fairly abnormal, and shorter than usual, first free practice for the Russian Grand Prix.

Hulkenberg posted the time to conclude the usual 90-minute session, to pip Nico Rosberg at 1:44.407 on his final lap. The usual 90-minute session was shortened due to a track delay for cleanup of diesel fuel on course.

Sebastian Vettel, Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo completed the top five.

While the clock started on time for the full 90-minute session, track activity was halted for the opening 30 minutes to clean up diesel spillage on the track at Turn 8.

It left teams and drivers with just a 60-minute first free practice to tackle the Sochi Autodrom, but did not push the session later or affect the timetable for the rest of the day. However, with a damp if not entirely wet track, it made things difficult in FP1.

The delay also meant that teams weren’t able to use an extra set of Pirellis handed out at the start of FP1. Supersofts can be used for the first time in FP2.

During the delay, it did offer a chance for sarcasm, and Manor seized the opportunity following a comment from McLaren Honda’s Fernando Alonso noting that even with Mercedes engines next year, Manor wouldn’t move ahead of them.

NBC’s Will Buxton explained the track surface dilemma drivers would face in this session.

With just under one hour to go in the session, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson was the first to head out on course, leading several others. Ericsson made the first laps of the weekend at the track where he made his final start for Caterham a year ago.

Both Williams drivers went on course on Pirelli’s wet weather tires for their installation laps. Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg tried the intermediates, and Alonso was first on course in slicks.

No official times were registered until there were less than 40 minutes remaining in the session, with Alonso registering a 2:00.736 time, while putting down a bevy of sparks. He quickly lowered the mark to 1:56.327, and 1:53.854 after that. Ericsson was next in at a 1:58.926, although dropped into the 1:54 range not long after.

Alonso’s teammate Jenson Button clocked in at 1:50.920 with just under 20 minutes remaining and for the first time this year, we could say we had a McLaren Honda 1-2 on track, albeit under abnormal circumstances.

The trsck got busy in the final 15 minutes, with Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen posting a 1:50.870 to lead before Alonso clocked in a 1:49.240.

A 1:47.959 from Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, then a 1:45.987 from Hulkenberg followed in the final 10 minutes as times firmly began to drop. Vettel got down to a 1:45.491 shortly thereafter, and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton came up two tenths shy of the mark at a 1:45.691.

Ericsson reported a power cut near the end of the session down at Sauber but otherwise there were no issues through the field, other than a handful of spins, including one from Hamilton on his final flier at the second-to-last corner.

FP2 begins from 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.