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TUSC: Starworks signs E.J. Viso, Sebastian Saavedra for Rolex 24

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Two more open-wheel veterans, E.J. Viso and Sebastian Saavedra, have linked up with Starworks Motorsport to contend for a win in this weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway.

Viso and Saavedra, who raced for Andretti Autosport and Dragon Racing respectively in the IndyCar Series last year, will join Starworks regulars Alex Popow, Brendon Hartley, and Scott Mayer in the team’s No. 78 Dinan-powered Riley Daytona Prototype.

“It was always our intention to race in both the P and PC classes of the new series,” team owner Peter Baron said in a statement. “It was impossible for us to make the initial entry deadline for the P class, but the team worked extremely hard over the winter to ensure we’d be ready for a place when it came up.

“We have a very strong set of drivers in the 78 car with returning race winners Scott, Alex and Brendon, who have been joined by two hungry guys in E.J. and Sebastian. I’m looking forward to seeing what this driver combo can do and I’m confident that we’ll improve on our 2013 Rolex 24 results.”

At last year’s Rolex, Starworks’ No. 2 entry finished 13 laps off the pace in sixth, while its No. 8 entry bowed out after hitting the wall on Lap 441.

In his comments, Viso appeared to indicate that he’d be open to staying with Starworks as it competes in this year’s TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

“I am very excited to start my second Daytona 24, and for a second time with Starworks,” the Venezuelan said. “I believe that the line-up we have for it is great and it’s probably one of my favorite races so far in my career.

“It is definitely one that challenges everyone; the teams, drivers and even the spectators. I am ready and really looking forward to it and, hopefully, many more races with Starworks.”

As for Saavedra, he will be making his inaugural Rolex 24 start this year. He has one GRAND-AM start to his credit, the 2012 Rolex Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“I am very excited with this last minute situation,” Saavedra said. “I would like to thank [team owner] Peter [Baron] for the invitation to join the very successful Starworks family. I am open-minded about what’s going to happen this weekend; we have a great line-up of drivers, so I am focusing on doing the best job and hopefully some watches with it.”

Popow will be pulling double-duty for Starworks during the Rolex, as he’ll also be co-driving the team’s No. 7 ORECA FLM09 Prototype Challenge car.

Last year, he and Ryan Dalziel (now driving a P2 car for Extreme Speed Motorsports) took the No. 2 Daytona Prototype to a fifth-place class finish in the Rolex Series championship. The 2013 season also saw Hartley, recently made a factory driver for Porsche, collaborate with Mayer for a Starworks win at Road America.

Wolff: Wehrlein, Ocon deserve Formula 1 roles

SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JUNE 23:  Pascal Wehrlein of Germany and Mercedes GP drives during Formula One testing at the Red Bull Ring on June 23, 2015 in Spielberg, Austria.  (Photo by Andrew Hone/Getty Images)
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Mercedes AMG Petronas team boss Toto Wolff believes that junior talents Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon have both earned their roles in Formula 1 for the 2016 season “on merit”.

Wehrlein will make his grand prix debut in 2016 with Manor Racing after winning the DTM title for Mercedes last year, becoming the youngest champion in the history of the series.

Ocon has been loaned to Renault Sport F1 Racing for its comeback season, and will work as the team’s reserve driver following his GP3 title success last year.

Wolff feels that both drivers deserve their chance in F1 this year, and also said that Mercedes will look to expand its junior program across the course of the season.

“We’re delighted that Pascal and Esteban will tackle a fresh set of challenges in 2016,” Wolff said. “Our aim is to build their experience in the best possible environment and, following positive discussions with our counterparts at Manor and Renault, it became clear that their respective Formula 1 programmes presented ideal opportunities to achieve that.

“It is very pleasing to see young drivers earning their spot in Formula 1 on merit and to see that talent is being rewarded by the system. Pascal and Esteban have proven themselves to be amongst the top young drivers out there – and both come into 2016 as champions of their respective series.

“But they still have plenty to learn and they will be staying humble, with their feet on the ground. This is an important year for them and we will be following their progress with great interest, while also looking to expand our junior program.

“Mercedes-Benz has a strong tradition of developing young racing talent and our eyes are very much open to other promising prospects for the future.”

Social roundup: When Mika Hakkinen met CJ Wilson, and other cool shots

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 15:  Former F1 World Champion Mika Hakkinen is seen during practice for the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit on April 15, 2011 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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What happens when you put a McLaren P1 owned by baseball star and CJ Wilson Racing team principal, and occasional driver, CJ Wilson, with two-time F1 World Champion Mika Hakkinen, and you turn them loose at The Thermal Club for a track day?

Pure awesomeness.

Of course there’s other cars besides the McLaren and hockey legend, Teemu Selanne, was also on site.

This really isn’t a post so much that needs words, but one that does need proper photos and noise.

The CJWR pairing of Marc Miller and Daniel Burkett, who drive the No. 33 One Capital/Motor Oil Matters Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport dubbed “Darth Cayman” in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, have been coaching and driving at an event this weekend out at The Thermal Club, a luxury race track in California.

See a mix of photos and videos below:

Ecclestone gives Monza until end of February to resolve F1 future

MONZA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 06:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates on the podium next to Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Ferrari after winning the Formula One Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 6, 2015 in Monza, Italy.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Formula 1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone has given officials at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza until the end of February to resolve the future of the Italian Grand Prix.

Monza has hosted the Italian Grand Prix for all but one year since 1950 when the F1 world championship was formed, establishing itself as one of the series’ most historic and legendary venues.

However, its future has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months following a cut in the amount of tax relief that the race receives by the Italian government.

Ecclestone said back in November that he had “no doubts” the race would remain on the calendar and extend its contract beyond the end of 2016 when it expires.

However, the 85-year-old has now cast fresh doubt on the race in an interview with Reuters, giving the circuit until the end of February to resolve its future.

“It’s Italian. A lot of conversations at the moment and not much action,” Ecclestone said.

“They said to me a few months ago: ‘Everything is sorted out, we know exactly where we are and it’s all agreed and no dramas.’

“And now I heard yesterday it’s become very political… They’ll get on with it. Or not. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Nothing we can do about it.

“The only people that can sort this out are the people that are currently involved in Italy. They can take as long as they like, provided it’s by the end of this month.”

The 2016 Italian Grand Prix is set to take place at Monza on September 4.

Here’s what a sub-4 second, 300-mph NHRA driver’s eye view looks like

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This was published earlier this week from NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series testing at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Ariz., but the timing of it being posted today is to serve as a teaser to the 2016 NHRA season at Pomona Raceway in California.

Ride on-board with Shawn Langdon of Don Schumacher Racing for a test run. This is simply nuts, as thousands of horsepower are put to the ground for a 3.77-sec, 316 mph pass in testing.