TUSC: Saturday Roar News and Notes

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There have been more driver confirmations on a much warmer Saturday in Daytona for the Roar Before the Rolex 24. Here’s Friday’s morning news and notes, then end-of-day wrap. Meanwhile, here’s the latest round of updates:

  • Mazda has confirmed the same four full season drivers as were in its GX class Mazda6s last year. Sylvain Tremblay and Tom Long (No. 70) and youngsters Tristan Nunez and Joel Miller (No. 07) will be in the manufacturer’s two SKYACTIV-D P2 prototypes this year. The SpeedSource-run team is yet to confirm additional drivers for the endurance races.
  • Michael Shank Racing, unsurprisingly, has confirmed AJ Allmendinger and Justin Wilson alongside its usual pairing of Ozz Negri and John Pew in the team’s No. 60 Ford EcoBoost Riley Daytona Prototype for the Rolex 24. ‘Dinger and Wilson, former Champ Car teammates at RuSPORT, have driven together at Shank four times previously (2006, 2011-‘13), and the quartet won overall in 2012. Additionally, the team has confirmed commercial partnerships with Roberts Service Group and CRC Industries.
  • The above prototype signings mean that only four teams: Marsh Racing (No. 31 Corvette DP), OAK Racing (No. 42 Morgan Nissan P2), Highway to Help (No. 50 Riley DP) and SpeedSource (Nos. 07/70 Mazda SKYACTIV-D P2s) are yet to announce their full, finalized lineups. The DeltaWing team may add a fourth driver as well.
  • Dempsey Racing confirmed Porsche factory pilot Marc Lieb as its fourth and final driver for the Rolex 24, in the team’s No. 27 Porsche 911 GT America in the GT Daytona class.

Updates will follow with any further news or notes.

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.