TUSC: BAR1, Scuderia Corsa each announce two-car programs

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BAR1 Motorsports and Scuderia Corsa will each field two entries in the Prototype Challenge and GTD categories respectively for the 2014 Tudor United SportsCar Championship.

BAR1 finished the 2013 American Le Mans Series season on a tear with three consecutive victories for its No. 8 ORECA FLM09 at Circuit of the Americas, Virginia International Raceway and the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. One of the No. 8’s drivers, Chris Cumming, narrowly missed out on the PC class driver’s championship by a single point to Mike Gausch.

“Looking back at 2013, I can’t say enough about the effort our team put forth,” said BAR1 team owner Brian Alder in a statement. “To win the final three races of the season was a huge accomplishment. We finished on the podium a total of eight times this season. We proved week in and out we are one of the premier teams in the highly competitive Prototype Challenge class.”

“Today’s announcement serves notice we’ll be back to finish the job. We want more wins and we want the championship.”

As for Corsa, they’ll field the No. 63 and No. 64 Ferrari 458 Italias for the inaugural TUSC season. The No. 63 will feature the final GRAND-AM GT champion, Alessandro Balzan, pairing up with Jeff Westphal. Dr. Rod Randall and Ken Wilden are set to drive the No. 64.

“I’m very happy to be joining such a great championship team,” Wilden said in a Corsa release. “The Ferrari 458 is an awesome car. Scuderia Corsa has done an exceptional job in the series and we look forward to the year ahead.

“Rod and I both felt this was a great opportunity after running with the team at Indy last year; it was such a great fit and an easy decision. We are looking forward to a very competitive season.”

The No. 63 Ferrari was the fastest in GTD during this past week’s test session at Daytona International Speedway.

Fernando Alonso likes NASCAR country, but he’s not leaving F1 any time soon

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Jimmie Johnson strolled into the Charlotte Convention Center and did a double-take when he saw Fernando Alonso hanging out in a hallway.

“What’s he doing here?” NASCAR’s seven-time champion wondered.

Alonso made the trip to North Carolina to make an appearance at NASCAR’s annual preseason media tour. No, a ride in NASCAR is not imminent, but the two-time Formula One champion is about to embark on his first major sports car race .

Alonso will race this weekend in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona for United Autosports, the sports car team owned by his McLaren F1 boss, Zak Brown. It was Brown who paved the way for Alonso to compete in last year’s Indianapolis 500, and he is helping the Spaniard knock prestigious races off his wish list.

Alonso spent about 10 minutes chatting with Johnson, and the duo was eventually joined by sports car aces Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, who were brought to the NASCAR event by IMSA to help promote the Rolex, and then Cup champion Kevin Harvick.

The meet-and-greet with Alonso was a thrill for Johnson. Alonso was equally impressed.

“The first time I heard his name it was probably 2003 on the NASCAR video game,” Alonso said Tuesday. “I used to choose him, not knowing him, just because of the car. I remember playing with another friend of mine, he likes a chocolate company I will not name now, and he was choosing that car and I was choosing Jimmie’s car.

“But that was the first time I heard of him, and obviously the success that he has in the years in motor racing, he became a legend of our sport, and massive respect.”

Johnson said he’s always been a fan of Alonso’s and spent some time telling Alonso how well he ran in the Indianapolis 500 last May. Alonso led 27 laps and seemed to be in contention for the win until his engine expired 21 laps from the finish.

“He handled himself so well, really did a great job, and I think brought a lot to the table,” Johnson said. “He brought worldwide attention to motorsports and it was really good for us here stateside.”

While in NASCAR country, Alonso was asked about potentially trying a stock car someday. It’s not something that could happen soon, he said, but it is something he’d like to at least attempt.

“Right now, it looks quite far. The driving technique and the experience all those guys have, it’s difficult for me to achieve that level,” Alonso said. “I will never know until I try, so I would like one day to test a car and after that, driving the car, I will know how enjoyable it will be in racing.

“Outside (watching), the races are great because they are all in a group, it is not predictable at all and until the last lap, you don’t know what is going to happen. We love watching from the outside, but I don’t know from the inside.”

Alonso has so far only had three days of testing at Daytona in the sports car to adjust to a closed cockpit, as well as driving at night and in traffic. Trying different series has been a thrill for him, and he’s still eyeing a way to get Le Mans on his schedule.

“It’s one thing that I would like to do, I would like to compete in the best races in the world, and Le Mans and is one of the top races,” he said. “If that day will be this year or not is still to be discussed, but maybe yes.”

More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org/