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TUSC: Rolex 24 P class preview

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The TUDOR United SportsCar Championship premieres this weekend with the Rolex 24 at Daytona. We’ll have sporadic posts and updates for the season opener of the unified series, which brings together the GRAND-AM Rolex Series and American Le Mans Series.

First up in our list of class previews, the P class.

P CLASS

WHAT IT IS: The headlining class. No driver ranking limitations. Open chassis and engine combinations, spec Continental Tires. This combines the P2 cars from ALMS, the Daytona Prototypes from GRAND-AM and the DeltaWing, which ran in ALMS but isn’t homologated to any set of technical regulations as a developmental prototype.

WHO THEY ARE: 18 cars strong. It includes 11 DPs, 6 P2s, and the DeltaWing. The field includes a number of sports car veterans and some IndyCar and NASCAR interlopers.

A QUICK BREAKDOWN: The 11 DPs include two cars apiece from Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (No. 01/02 Ford EcoBoost Rileys), Action Express Racing (No. 5/9 Corvette DPs), and one car apiece from Wayne Taylor Racing (No. 10 Corvette DP), Marsh Racing (No. 31 Corvette DP), Highway to Help (No. 50 Dinan Riley), Michael Shank Racing (No. 60 Ford EcoBoost Riley), Starworks Motorsport (No. 78 Dinan Riley), Spirit of Daytona (No. 90 Corvette DP) and GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing (No. 99 Corvette DP).

Ganassi has won five of the last eight overall Rolex 24s, and a win for Scott Pruett in the No. 01 would be a record sixth overall title. But the team had engine problems at the Roar Before the Rolex 24, and left a day early. Shank (2012), Action Express (2010) and Taylor (2005) also have prior overall wins in the above batch. It feels like a year where a first-timer could break through, and all of the above bar the Marsh (P class debut) and Highway to Help (four gentlemen drivers) could pull it off.

The P2s are two two-car operations, Extreme Speed Motorsports (No. 1/2 HPD ARX-03b) and SpeedSource (No. 70/07 Mazda SKYACTIV-D Coupe) with Muscle Milk Pickett Racing (No. 6 ORECA 03 Nissan) and OAK Racing (No. 42 Morgan Nissan) completing the six open-top P class cars in the field. Reliability may be an issue; pace certainly will for the Mazdas, which are brand new and simply hoping to finish; and the other three teams don’t have the same level of Daytona experience as the DPs. I think a P2 car could score an overall podium – perhaps Muscle Milk – but I doubt one will win overall.

The DeltaWing is a beast unto itself, and in a decently good position compared to its at-times fragmented 2013. There’s a solid driver lineup that includes Caterham F1 reserve Alexander Rossi, Indy Lights runner-up Gabby Chaves and 2013 drivers Andy Meyrick and Katherine Legge. Reliability will be the issue, as the team’s Élan powerplant hasn’t lasted anywhere close to a 24-hour race distance. But the pace was very good from testing. Finishing is goal one, and if it’s still running, it could sneak a surprise result with the DWC13 coupe.

WHO TO WATCH: As outlined above, it’s hard to go against a DP, which have the edge on P2 cars in terms of overall lap time and outright speed on the ovals. And of the DPs, the Corvettes have the reliability compared to the premiering Fords and privateer Dinans. But realistically there’s about 10-12 of the 18 cars entered in class that should be battling for the podium at the end of 24 hours.

The drivers of note? Sports car veterans such as Pruett, Ryan Dalziel, Joao Barbosa, the Klaus Graf/Lucas Luhr pairing, the Taylor brothers, and the trio in the Spirit of Daytona Corvette. IndyCar’s Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Simon Pagenaud, Justin Wilson, and James Hinchcliffe. NASCAR’s Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson and AJ Allmendinger.

Sebastien Buemi: Renault e.dams’ Formula E advantage is clear

2016/2017 FIA Formula E Championship.
Buenos Aires ePrix, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Saturday 18 February 2017.

Photo: Sam Bloxham/LAT/Formula E
ref: Digital Image _SLA8482
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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Sebastien Buemi says that Renault e.dams’ current advantage over the Formula E field is clear for all to see after taking his third straight victory on Saturday in Buenos Aires.

Buemi followed his victories in Hong Kong and Marrakesh with a dominant display at the Puerto Madero street course in Argentina, taking the lead on lap six and never looking likely to lose the race from there.

The Swiss driver now stands 29 points clear at the top of the Formula E drivers’ championship after just three races, and is already the strong favorite to take a second crown in 2017.

“I think it’s clear that we have right now the best car, the best package. That obviously helps but it’s not everything,” Buemi said.

“You need to be doing good races, a good car and be a good team. I think as a package we’ve come out a bit better than the rest.

“We know that’s not going to last forever. If we can get as many points as possible as long as it lasts, that would be good.”

Buemi’s victory may have seemed straightforward, but the ex-Formula 1 driver revealed that the second stint of the race saw a number of problems arise that kept him on his toes.

“Today with the heat, there were many other things we had to manage, particularly the temperature of the battery,” Buemi said.

“We had some small issues on the brakes. It was quite difficult to actually drive the car.

“The car was not braking straight.”

To have finally won in Buenos Aires was also an important landmark for Buemi, having come close twice before.

“I’m quite happy because the first race here two years ago, I had pole and I did a mistake and ended up in the wall,” Buemi said.

“The second year I started last and finished second. In the end to get a win here is a great achievement. This race has never really gone our way but today it did.

“We’ll try to enjoy that a little bit and then look to Mexico.”

Sebastien Buemi dominates in Buenos Aires for third straight Formula E win

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Sebastien Buemi continued his winning streak in Formula E by dominating Saturday’s Buenos Aires ePrix for Renault e.dams.

Buemi started his Formula E title defence in impressive fashion by claiming victory in the first two races of the season in Hong Kong and Marrakesh, and became the series’ first three-peat victor after an emphatic display in Argentina.

Buemi started the race third, and was forced to hold position off the line despite making a rocket start as pole-sitter Lucas di Grassi and second-placed Jean-Eric Vergne defended well.

Di Grassi was powerless to stop Vergne from passing for the lead on lap three, with Buemi following through on the very same tour of the track, leaving the two Renault-powered racers at the front.

Vergne may have been using the same powertrain as Buemi, but he was unable to keep the Swiss driver back as he slipped into the lead on lap six.

From there, Buemi never looked back. A succession of fastest laps gave him some breathing room to Vergne behind, ensuring he got to the car swaps with a buffer of five seconds.

Buemi was careful to manage his energy through the second half of the race, allowing Vergne to cut his lead to around two seconds, but was never in danger of losing the win.

The result gives Buemi a championship lead of 29 points over di Grassi, who fought his way back to third after losing a number of places through the first stint.

Besides Buemi and Vergne, Oliver Turvey and Nicolas Prost were also able to pass the Brazilian, leaving him in danger of missing a podium finish.

Di Grassi looked more comfortable through the second half of the race after changing cars, allowing him to pass Prost on-track having already disposed of Turvey during the pit stops. However, the stewards are set to investigate him after a possible unsafe release, putting his third-place finish at risk.

Vergne was left to settle for second, scoring his fifth podium finish in Formula E. The result also marked Techeetah’s first top-three finish since the rebrand of Team Aguri at the end of last year.

Prost ended the race fourth ahead of season one champion Nelson Piquet Jr., who with fifth scored his best result since the first London race in 2015.

Loic Duval took sixth for Dragon Racing after a spirited battle with teammate Jerome d’Ambrosio in the closing stages, the pair going wheel-to-wheel. Daniel Abt went on a late charge to split the duo in the end, taking seventh for the ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport team.

Oliver Tuvey lost positions late on after pitting one lap earlier than his rivals and being short on energy, while Jose Maria Lopez went on a charge from P20 to P10 to delight his home fans and take a point for DS Virgin Racing.

Lewis Hamilton calls for city F1 races, more U.S. grands prix

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 21: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo on track during practice for the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 21, 2016 in Austin, United States.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Three-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton believes the sport needs more races in city centres and additional events in the United States.

The future of F1’s calendar is currently a hot topic following Liberty Media’s takeover of the sport, with a possible change in approach to finding host cities being expected.

Liberty is expected to focus on strengthening F1’s identity in key markets such as the United States, as well as going to new continents and countries.

Speaking in a Facebook Live video, Hamilton said that many of the events near cities in F1 at the moment are too far out for people to easily get to.

“I’m not necessarily a big fan of some of the new tracks we have. Some of them are so far outside of a city, people have to commute so far,” Hamilton said.

“When we go to China for example, such a great city, so many people, it’s such a big commute to get there.

“It’s a great track, I don’t know why they’ve built it so far away. So less people can get access, to go there and stay.”

Hamilton believes that circuits made on the city streets are the future for F1, saying that he would like to see an event in New York as part of an expansion in the United States.

“I think the future is city circuits, that’s my belief. I hope they introduce more city circuits,” Hamilton said.

“New York would be amazing. The States is such a big part of the world and we only have one grand prix there. I think we need to have more.

“There’s these single races in these countries, so fans have to wait a whole year to have that experience again.”

F1 currently has just one race in the United States, being held in October at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas.

Lopez to prioritize ‘dream’ Toyota LMP1 commitments over Formula E

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA - FEBRUARY 6:  In this handout image supplied by Formula E, Jose Maria Lopez (WTCC Champion - Citreon) during the Buenos Aires Formula E race at Puerto Madero Street Circuit on February 6, 2016 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Photo by Sam Bloxham/LAT/Formula E via Getty Images)
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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Jose Maria Lopez is set to miss July’s Formula E double header in New York after prioritizing his new role with Toyota in the FIA World Endurance Championship over other commitments.

Lopez won three straight WTCC titles between 2014 and 2016 with Citroen before moving into Formula E with the French manufacturer’s sub-brand DS and the Virgin Racing team.

Toyota confirmed at the beginning of February that Lopez would be joining its full-season WEC line-up for 2017, replacing Stephane Sarrazin in the No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid for 2017.

Lopez spoke warmly of the opportunity with Toyota, saying that he wants to learn as much as possible during his maiden WEC season, and confirmed that it will be put before all other duties in 2017.

As a result, Lopez is poised to miss the two Formula E races in New York on July 16 while he is at the Nürburgring for the WEC six hour race.

“The only race we’re going to have some problems where there is going to be a clash for the moment if they don’t find a solution is New York and Nürburgring,” Lopez told NBC Sports.

“My priority is Toyota LMP1 this year. I’m going to be racing for sure in the Nürburgring if there is a clash.

“It’s been a dream for me to become an LMP1 driver and race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans especially and the WEC. I’m really looking forward to the first race and first testing.

“My idea is to learn as much as I can and get on a good level with my teammates and get a good season.”