TUSC: Teams we’ll be missing

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With a grid of 69 confirmed cars for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, split between 29 prototypes and 40 GT cars, and a further nine cars listed as alternates, no one will suggest the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship is lacking quantity or quality of entrants in its four classes.

Still, after compiling an entry list directly by number yesterday, there are some obvious omissions of quality and legendary American teams who won’t be on the grid at Daytona (we’re excluding Audi, Toyota and Porsche LMP1 prototypes here as they have not been present or would not have been able to commit given the TUDOR Championship class structure of P, PC, GTLM and GTD).

Teams have either moved on to different categories or are still to announce their 2014 plans. A few examples:

Dyson Racing (No. 16)

The biggest prototype casualty of the lot. Rob Dyson’s team celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2013, but unfortunately the American Le Mans Series was only treated to the longtime pairing of Chris Dyson and Guy Smith for just a handful of races, with other drivers picking up the slack for a portion of the year. When the Dyson/Smith pair was together, they were exciting to watch as usual in their Lola Mazda P1 coupe. Dyson’s team has run Daytona Prototypes in the past, but has also explored the P2 route of cars over the years. Either way, this is a team that won memorable Rolex 24s in 1997 and 1999, and will be missed next month.

Brumos Racing (No. 59)

I held out some hope that after financial woes sidelined them early in 2013 that they could restructure the organization and return for 2014 with one of Porsche’s new 911 GT Americas created specifically for the TUDOR Championship. That doesn’t appear to be the case for the iconic, longtime flagship Porsche team that won Daytona overall three times in the 1970s and again in 2009 with a Riley Porsche DP. A Daytona without Hurley Haywood officially involved doesn’t seem possible.

AIM Autosport (Nos. 61/69)

AIM operated as a two-car team in the Rolex Series GT class this year with the R.Ferri/AIM Motorsport team the name for car 61, and AIM Autosport Team FXDD for car 69. Only in 2011, the No. 69 car won the class championship with Jeff Segal and Emil Assentato. Segal has shifted to the Level 5 Ferrari effort in GT Daytona while Assentato, per Sportscar365, is exploring other options as the funded driver. That leaves AIM on the sidelines for now, but hoping to appear in another format in some way, shape or form soon. Too quality of an operation to stay gone for long.

Team Sahlen (Nos. 42/43)

A longtime GRAND-AM supporter, the Sahlen’s team stepped up to Daytona Prototypes in 2013 with some success but several near misses when the team’s ace pro driver, Dane Cameron, ran into bad luck when in a position to win. The team announced it would scale back and withdraw from the TUDOR Championship in November, and has not yet revealed the next portion of its plans. Cameron is much too talented to be left on the sidelines, and will no doubt end up somewhere else soon.

Highcroft Racing (Nos. 0/1/9)

Duncan Dayton’s team last appeared to help run the radical DeltaWing open-top spyder in its first iteration in 2012, with Nissan badging and corporate support. On their own, they last raced in the 2011 12 Hours of Sebring and finished second overall in an HPD ARX-01e P1 car, a one-off chassis that never raced again. Its last full season in the ALMS, in 2010, it won the Prototype class championship with a trio of aces in David Brabham, Simon Pagenaud and Marino Franchitti. A top-flight organization based in Connecticut, Dayton and his team gave a lot to the ALMS but his official presence in the TUDOR Championship is still a question mark.

Drayson Racing (Nos. 8/88)

Another of the old ALMS prototype teams, Lord Paul Drayson moved on from American motorsport after 2010 to create an all-electric P1 car, the Lola-Drayson B12/69EV, which set four land speed records in October. Drayson’s team has also been confirmed to the new FIA Formula E Championship, which begins in 2014. An affable Englishman, Drayson and his team brought a lot to the ALMS when they raced here full-time, and would have been a nice addition to the prototype field this year.

Ferrari, Mercedes launch 2018 F1 cars

Photo: Getty Images
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The title combatants from the 2017 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season both launched their 2018 challengers earlier on Thursday, with Scuderia Ferrari revealing the SF71H and Mercedes AMG Petronas revealing the W09.

For Ferrari, the SF71H represents an evolution of last year’s SF70H, which helped produce Ferrari’s best season in several years.

They presented a strong challenge to Mercedes for the championship, even leading the way at various points, with Sebastian Vettel recording five wins along the way. But, mechanical failures and crashes hampered their efforts late in the season, and they settled for second in the driver’s championship (with Vettel) and the constructor’s championship.

Entering 2018, the team is emphasizing the importance of building momentum with every race to ultimately secure their first constructor’s crown since 2008 and their first driver’s crown since 2007.

“There are no challenges actually. There are no challenges in the plural. There is just one challenge, which is the final challenge,” asserted team principal Maurizio Arrivabene. So that’s work that you build and you don’t build that work in one or two races. We’ve seen over the last few years, in the last championships, that you work race by race, and you always try to do the best you can.”

Technical director Mattia Binotto detailed some of the updates on the 2018 car, such as an new power unit and new suspension designs in anticipation of new tire constructions.

“We worked a lot on the power unit, we worked on its reliability and performance. We worked on the packaging, on suspensions in the rear axle because there will be new tires the following season, so we also tried to design the car to accommodate the new tires,” he explained.

Binotto added, “In regards to aerodynamics, we maintained our concept of having the inlets on the radiators, and everybody’s copying that, but we tried to make an additional step forward and what we showed today is not the same element of last year, but it is something more developed.”

Mercedes, meanwhile, will look to take it’s fifth consecutive driver’s and constructor’s championships with the W09. The team even took the car to the track for its launch, conducting a filming day at Silverstone Circuit.

“It is always a very exciting time because what has been designed is coming together and coming alive,”  team principal Toto Wolff said during the launch.

Despite facing challenges with last year’s car, the W08, the team elected to follow a similar design concept with the aerodynamics to improve on the car’s strengths while simultaneously addressing its weak points.

“We like some of the character traits from our diva,” Wolf quipped. “The W08 was the fastest car on the grid, scoring the highest number of pole positions and winning the most races last year. So we were careful not to lose the car’s many strengths just to overcome the difficulties.”

Both Ferrari and Mercedes are expected to slug it out again for the 2018 driver’s and constructor’s championships.

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