Chris Dyson

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.

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.