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GRAND-AM Rolex Series 2013 Season Review

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This year’s GRAND-AM Rolex Series season had its highlights and unlike the ALMS, didn’t really have a sense of “finality” to it given the fact that its parent company, NASCAR, was the one doing the purchasing of ALMS as sports car racing headed toward the merged TUDOR United SportsCar Championship in 2014. What it did have, in spades, was the emergence of new breakout stars…

DP

No one will accuse Jordan Taylor of lacking for personality. The 22-year-old Floridian took his quirky, off the wall style to another level in 2013 with a series of music videos, Vines and Instagram posts that regularly defied logic or belief. In fact, one of the most common questions asked during 2013 in the sports car world was, “Did Jordan Taylor really just do that?

But, while Taylor is doing his best to promote his brand off-track, his brand on-track grew to another level as well in 2013 in his first full season in Daytona Prototypes. Once the awkward bit of replacing his older brother Ricky in father Wayne’s No. 10 Corvette DP was past, the younger Taylor grew by leaps and bounds working with co-driver Max Angelelli. They won twice in the first half of the season but it was when the team switched up its rotation, with Angelelli starting and Taylor finishing, the team hit its stride. Taylor delivered three of the most clutch performances in a row with wins in Kansas over Scott Pruett, Monterey over the Ganassi teammates, and Lime Rock over the field to capture the championship for he and “Max the Axe.. It was an effort well beyond his years.

The other real breakout stars, even if their results didn’t show it, were Brendon Hartley (Starworks Ford/BMW Riley) and Dane Cameron (Sahlen’s BMW Riley). Hartley nearly won in Austin and did break through at Road America; the latter seemed a race for Cameron’s taking before mechanical woes struck late in the day. Both punched above their weight with gentlemen co-drivers alongside.

The regular DP star teams elsewhere – Ganassi, GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, Action Express Racing and Michael Shank Racing – didn’t have their best years. Ganassi’s No. 01 car dominated the Rolex 24 and GAINSCO followed with a win in Austin, while Action Express took two midseason wins. Shank’s team spent more time repairing cars in seemingly Herculean efforts after a run of accidents, but unfortunately failed to reach the winner’s circle at any point in 2013. Also of note, Enzo Potolicchio branched off on his own from Starworks to create 8Star Motorsports and made a few waves in his first season with a Corvette DP.

GT/GX

Ferrari captured its second straight Rolex GT class title with its GRAND-AM-spec 458, which is modified slightly from the full FIA GT3-spec car. The Scuderia Corsa team, in its first full season, wrapped its hands around the car best and Alessandro Balzan took the GT class driver’s title. Balzan meshed well with a variety of co-drivers, Jeff Westphal then Leh Keen mainly, throughout the year. The No. 63 won only once (Kansas) but was a model of consistency en route to the title.

Hard luck runners-up were Magnus Racing, who also only won once but propelled themselves into the points lead entering the last race of the year. The John Potter/Andy Lally pairing was excellent and it was only when the car was hit by a wayward Aston Martin at the Lime Rock season finale that the title went begging. This is a team that has a Rolex 24 and North American Endurance Championship in its bag already, and will come out more determined than ever to win a class title in 2014. They already have the unofficial “racing press release championship” secured.

Elsewhere in class the Stevenson Camaro and Turner BMW M3 teams, with the old but reliable Prep 2 model cars, won seven of the 12 races in class. John Edwards and Robin Liddell spearheaded the Stevenson effort, which struggled for consistency despite four wins. Turner’s pair of Bill Auberlen and Paul Dalla Lana lacked the outright pace but often parlayed good strategic moves into success on race day.

The three remaining wins went to Audi (Rolex 24 with Alex Job Racing), Corvette (Lime Rock season finale, Marsh Racing) and Ferrari (R. Ferri/AIM Motorsport at Indianapolis). The R.Ferri/AIM No. 61 saw Alex Tagliani alongside defending class champion Jeff Segal in the balance of the season after Max Papis’ NASCAR commitments took him out of action. Segal’s old car, the No. 69 with Anthony Lazzaro and Emil Assentato, stayed in title contention to the end but lacked the speed to contend regularly for wins.

In the new GX class, Dr. Jim Norman emerged as driver’s champion after running a Porsche Cayman all year. Norman was part of the Napleton Racing team’s win at Daytona, then switched to a BGB-run effort the rest of the year. The class was more or less created to provide a home to Mazda’s SKYACTIV-D Mazda6 Diesel, which won the last nine races after it got inevitable teething issues sorted. But missing points in the opening rounds provided the path for Norman to take the driver’s crown.

Ed Carpenter Racing reveals Preferred Freezer liveries for May

driver of the XXX during the Phoenix Grand Prix at Phoenix International Raceway on April 2, 2016 in Avondale, Arizona.
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With the calendar shifted over to May, Ed Carpenter Racing has taken the wraps off its pair of Preferred Freezer Services Chevrolets for the pair of Verizon IndyCar Series races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Josef Newgarden’s No. 21 car shifts from the 100th anniversary special commemorative livery for Fuzzy’s Vodka to a primarily blue with white trim PFS entry.

Meanwhile JR Hildebrand, who has had the PFS colors each of the last two years at Indy, will continue in the standard white with blue trim No. 6 car. Hildebrand will run at both the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

Ocon set for Spanish GP practice run-out with Renault

Esteban Ocon (FRA) Renault Sport F1 Team Test Driver.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Tuesday 1st March 2016. Barcelona, Spain.
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Defending GP3 Series champion Esteban Ocon will take part in practice for the Spanish Grand Prix next month for Renault.

Ocon, 19, rose to attention in 2014 when he won the FIA F3 European Championship ahead of current Toro Rosso driver Max Verstappen.

The Frenchman took part in practice for Lotus in Abu Dhabi that year, and became a member of Mercedes’ development programme in 2015 en route to winning the GP3 title.

Ocon has been loaned to Renault for the 2016 season, with whom he works as reserve driver, and he will now take part in first practice for the Spanish Grand Prix on May 13.

McLaren now targeting regular points after double score in Sochi

SOCHI, RUSSIA - MAY 01: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team McLaren MP4-31 Honda RA616H Hybrid turbo on track during the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on May 1, 2016 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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McLaren drivers Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button are now targeting regular top-10 finishes after scoring their first points of the season in Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix.

McLaren arrived in Sochi with just a single point to its name so far in 2016 courtesy of Stoffel Vandoorne, who deputized for the injured Alonso in Bahrain.

Alonso and Button missed out on a place in Q3 on Saturday, but both ran trouble-free races en route to sixth and tenth place respectively.

The result marked not only the first points of the year for both drivers, but just the second time that McLaren had got both of its cars to the line inside the top 10 since it rekindled its partnership with Honda at the start of the 2015 Formula 1 season.

“We were lucky in Turns 2 and 3 on the opening lap – due to those accidents, we were able to gain some places for free,” Alonso said.

“But, as we saw last year, we can make a good start but then not be able to maintain those strong starting positions. This year, it’s different, we have the pace. To finish sixth, and set the fifth-fastest lap, shows that our car is still gaining pace.”

Alonso was left to run quite a lonely race to P6, but did take one lap late on to turn the engine up to full power and have some fun by stretching the legs of the McLaren MP4-31.

“The car felt good all race. Obviously, we were saving fuel at some points of the afternoon, but, on one lap, I just decided to go for it – to wake myself up a little bit! – and the lap-time showed the potential is there,” Alonso said.

“Finishing in the points should be our regular target from now on.”

Button managed to take P10 from Carlos Sainz Jr. late on to complete an impressive fightback and score his first point since last year’s United States Grand Prix.

“To get both cars home in the points, and at a track which we didn’t feel would really suit our package, is a fantastic result for the whole team,” Button said.

“As the pack dived into Turn 2, I had to back off because it was mayhem. The bollard at Turn 2 is the problem at the start because people are trying to fight through Turns 2 and 3. I think that needs some looking at.

“From there, I was disadvantaged, but the pace was in the car. After that, it was just a case of fighting my way back – which I really enjoyed. It’s difficult to overtake around here, but I was able to make a few moves and enjoy myself.

“I think the next race in Barcelona will be reasonably difficult for us, but there’s no reason not to look forward to targeting another points haul in Monaco.”

Magnussen scores breakthrough points for Renault in Russia

during the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on May 1, 2016 in Sochi, Russia.
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Kevin Magnussen believes that his charge to seventh place in Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix was no less than Renault deserved as he score its first points since its return to Formula 1 as a constructor in 2016.

Renault last raced in F1 with its own team back in 2010 before taking over the Lotus operation at the end of last year.

The French manufacturer has said that 2016 is very much a year of rebuilding, yet the chiefs were known to be disappointed with its point-less start to the season.

Magnussen made the most of a messy start to charge from 17th on the grid to eventually finish the race seventh, marking Renault’s first F1 points as a constructor since the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The result was also Magnussen’s first top 10 finish since the 2014 Brazilian Grand Prix when he finished ninth for McLaren.

“Feels good. It’s nice to finally get points on the board, and not even just one,” Magnussen told NBCSN after the race.

“I’m really happy. I think the whole team deserves it after the hard work and tough races. We have points on the board now, so it gives us a bit of a boost.”

Magnussen made up a number of positions on the first lap when a number of drivers got caught up in incidents before maintaining his placing throughout the race.

“First lap was really messy, we knew it would be difficult with something like that,” Magnussen said.

“Everyone was spinning and hitting the wall. I went outside all the front wings. But we made it up just before Turn 1 and 2, and gained it back into Turn 3. The guys in front didn’t finish.

“In the end of the day, a bit lucky but we made the best of it and we deserved.”