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.

Williams confirms Kubica and Sirotkin for Abu Dhabi F1 test

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Williams has confirmed that Robert Kubica will enjoy his third Formula 1 test outing with the team at the end-of-season running in Abu Dhabi next week as rumors grow regarding a possible race seat for 2018.

Almost seven years after his last F1 start, Kubica’s remarkable return from severe injuries sustained in a rally accident saw him enjoy two private tests with Renault before completing running with the team in a 2017-spec car in Hungary over the summer.

Reservations over Kubica’s capabilities prompted Renault to pass on giving him a seat, instead opting to hire Carlos Sainz Jr. for next year, only for Williams to become an alternative for the Pole.

Kubica tested a 2014-spec Williams at both Silverstone and the Hungaroring in recent months, and will now sample a 2017 car when he tests at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit next Tuesday and Wednesday.

Kubica will share track time with regular Williams racer Lance Stroll and Russian youngster Sergey Sirotkin, who has worked with Renault over the past two years but also missed out on a 2018 seat.

“Williams Martini Racing is pleased to confirm it will run Robert Kubica and Sergey Sirotkin for the Abu Dhabi Pirelli tire test, alongside current race driver Lance Stroll,” a statement from the team reads.

“The Pirelli tire test will take place over two days at the Yas Marina circuit during the week following the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“On day one Robert Kubica will drive the FW40 in the morning session, before Lance Stroll takes over in the afternoon.

“On day two Sergey Sirotkin will drive in the morning and afternoon sessions before handing over to Robert in the late afternoon.

“The test is aimed at evaluating 2018 candidate tires on behalf of the Formula 1 tire supplier Pirelli.

“Williams is excited to have this opportunity to assess the new tyres across such an interesting range of drivers: Lance, as confirmed race driver for 2018, Robert with his huge experience, and Sergey as a very promising young talent in Formula 1.”

Williams denied earlier this week it has signed Kubica to partner Stroll for 2018, but indications are the deal looks very likely to go ahead, subject to the relevant paperwork and contracts being finalized.