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The Year in Motors, Part 1: F1, IndyCar, Sports Cars

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Over the last two months roughly, since the IndyCar season ended in Fontana, Calif., we’ve had a look back at the racing seasons here on MotorSportsTalk. But in case you missed any of it, here are some brief recaps of the open-wheel and sports car seasons:

Formula One

Sebastian Vettel won his fourth straight World Championship, and Red Bull its fourth straight Constructor’s Championship, after the pair’s most dominant season yet. Vettel won a record-tying 13 wins in the 19 races, including the last nine in a row.

Elsewhere Mark Webber departed for the FIA World Endurance Championship at year’s end, Fernando Alonso overachieved at Ferrari, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton raised Mercedes’ profile, Kimi Raikkonen bailed early from Lotus after allegedly not being paid, Nico Hulkenberg led the midfield contingent, Pirelli’s tires were in the headlines way too frequently and the manufacturer eventually changed its construction midseason, a raft of regulation changes were announced for 2014, and Max Chilton finished all 19 races for Marussia.

What was far from a classic season on track took a worse turn just yesterday with the news Michael Schumacher has been injured in a skiing accident, and is in critical condition. Frankly, his recovery is the most important story and item going forward for F1, if not for the racing world in its entirety.

IndyCar

Scott Dixon completed a comeback from more than 90 points back at the midseason point of the 2013 IndyCar season, with four second half race wins to clinch his third championship. All have come in periods of five years (2003, 2008, 2013), and this one left Helio Castroneves still waiting for his elusive first title. The Brazilian did well but a disastrous Houston weekend and a lack of “big” results proved his ultimate undoing.

It was a very competitive season as a whole with 10 different race winners, including four first-timers, and 20 different podium finishers in the 19 races. Tony Kanaan won his elusive first Indianapolis 500, easily the moment of the year, while James Hinchcliffe and Takuma Sato engaged in a thrilling battle for the Brazil win. Doubleheader weekends proved popular to fans if not great for the crews.

Off-track, “Turbo’s” release brought the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCar Series into the mainstream, public sphere for the first time in years, generated more than $250 million worldwide and spawned a Netflix cartoon, which can’t be a bad thing. Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles made his first moves in the organizational structure, and the paddock mostly seems pleased with Derrick Walker now in the role of leading competition and operations.

Sports Cars

The GRAND-AM Rolex Series and American Le Mans Series concluded their last years as independent entities before merging into the unified TUDOR United SportsCar Championship for 2014. There’s still a number of rules and regulations that need to shake out from the combination, but the merged series does have a decent schedule on tap and a good car count, north of 60 cars projected for next year.

Elsewhere the Pirelli World Challenge and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge continued to put on great shows for their races; PWC operates in a sprint-race format while Continental runs two-plus hour events.

The FIA World Endurance Championship’s second year produced a similarly strong car count and a few standout performances.

Further recaps of each of the five series’ seasons are below:

‘McLaren’ documentary to honor a true pioneer of the sport (VIDEO)

Bruce McLaren drives the #11 McLaren BRM M4B during the Daily Mail Race of Champions on 12 March 1967 at the Brands Hatch circuit in Fawkham, Great Britain. (Photo by Getty Images)
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“To do something well is so worthwhile that to die trying to do it better cannot be foolhardy. It would be a waste of life to do nothing with one’s ability, for I feel that life is measured in achievement, not in years alone.”

The above quote came from racing driver and car designer Bruce McLaren, and if a life is measured in accomplishments and impact rather than length, very few have have ever done more than the man originally from New Zealand.

His driving statistics would be enough to stand on their own. He is one of only a few drivers to have won both the Monaco Grand Prix and the 24 Hours of Le Mans before achieving a string of victories in Can-Am during the 1960s.

However, perhaps his lasting legacy is as a designer. The founder of Bruce McLaren Motor Racing, now known as McLaren Racing Limited, he did more than hold his own while piloting his machinery in Formula 1, even winning the 1968 Belgian Grand Prix. But, his team’s stardom skyrocketing after entering Can-Am in the late 1960s. The group won five of their six races in 1967 and four of six races in 1968.

But those results pale in comparison to 1969, when his team won all 11 races in Can-Am with he, countryman Denny Hulme, Chris Amon and Dan Gurney as the drivers. They even finished an astounding 1-2-3 on three occasions that season, cementing McLaren’s status as one of the greatest drivers and designers who ever lived. In the decades since, the McLaren name has become synonymous with excellence, both in its racing cars and road cars.

Bruce McLaren’s life, sadly cut short at the age of 32 following a testing crash at Goodwood Circuit, is the focus of the upcoming documentary ‘McLaren.’ If the trailer is any indication, the film will serve as an epic tribute to a true pioneer, one who left an indelible mark on the entire racing community.

 

Penske, Detroit both announce new partnerships

DETROIT, MI - JUNE 01:  Helio Castroneves of Brazil, driver of the #3 Team Penske Dallara Chevrolet, crosses the finish line to win the Verizon IndyCar Series Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit - Dual II race at Belle Isle Park on June 1, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
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Team Penske and the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, which operates under Penske’s ownership, both revealed new partnerships earlier today.

The Penske team announced a multi-year agreement with 3D printing and additive manufacturing solutions company Stratasys Ltd., which will provide equipment and support to assist the organization’s engineering and manufacturing efforts in both the NASCAR and IndyCar programs.

image001“Our strategic partnership with Stratasys should keep our manufacturing and engineering processes at the front of the pack,” Team Penske President Tim Cindric said of the new partnership. “Stratasys is on the cutting edge of additive manufacturing technology for automotive applications. Utilizing their equipment and technical support will provide us with another means to put our ideas on the race track first.”

For the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, scheduled  for June 2-4, Lear Corporation will join as the presenting sponsor. The supplier of automotive seating and electrical systems maintains an active presence in the Detroit area. Quicken Loans had been the prior presenting sponsor.

800x50031“The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix is so proud to welcome Lear Corporation as our presenting sponsor in 2017,” said Bud Denker, chairman of the newly dubbed Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear. “Lear and Matt Simoncini are great supporters of Detroit and our community. We could not ask for a better partner to team with Chevrolet and help us host world-class racing and a weekend full of fun and excitement in the Motor City.”

The event will continues its status the week following the Indianapolis 500 and remains the only double-header on the schedule.

F1 Paddock Pass: Renault R.S.17 Launch (VIDEO)

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It’s a special edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series, “Paddock Pass,” kicking off the 2017 Formula 1 season following today’s launch of the new Renault R.S.17 in London.

F1 pit reporter and insider Will Buxton and producer Jason Swales were on site for the launch of the challenger whose base is split between Enstone and Viry-Châtillon, and whose lineup features Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer.

Check in above for the first edition of Paddock Pass for the new year.

Stay tuned for more on NBCSports.com from the week of launches and leading into the first test next week at Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona.

Al Unser to return to the cockpit at the SVRA Brickyard Invitational

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Photo: IMS Museum
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Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser will return to the cockpit this summer to compete in the SVRA’s “Indy Legends” Charity Pro-Am, scheduled for June 17 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“Big Al” will join son Al Unser Jr., which will be their first competitive race together since 1993. It will also be the first time any member of Unser family has raced at the Speedway since 2008, when Al Unser III contested the Indy Lights Freedom 100 for the now defunct Playa Del Racing.

“I guess I got tired of watching the kids have all the fun,” quipped the elder Unser, who previously served as the grand marshal of the 2015 event. He later explained that expressed gratitude toward organizer Tony Parella, president and CEO of the SVRA (Sportscar Vintage Racing Association) for creating the event and extending an invitation to compete. “Seriously, Tony Parella and his SVRA team have created a first-class event and that’s why the entire Unser family has gotten behind it. We believe in what he is doing and I personally enjoy reconnecting with the great fans of the Indianapolis 500.”

Parella’s enthusiasm mirrored Unser’s.”There have been a lot of great legends in the history of auto racing, but in my book Big Al is right at the top of the mountain,” he asserted. “I am honored beyond words. This is such a validation of what all of us at the SVRA have been working so hard to build. To be able to say that this great champion believes in what we are doing enough to strap in and race with us means everything to me personally and professionally.”

The Unsers will join 31 other Indianapolis 500 veterans to compete in vintage Corvettes, Camaros and Mustangs, with model years of 1963 to 1972, in the SVRA’s “Group 6” A and B Production. Each veteran will be paired an amateur driver to split time behind the wheel. Other events slated to highlight the weekend include a Motostalgia car auction, the Hagerty Insurance “shine and show” car corral, vintage motorcycle racing and displays, and hundreds of vintage racers celebrating a century’s worth of auto racing.