Some general weekend observations from the scene at Daytona International Speedway, site of the Rolex 24 at Daytona. The buzz, of course, was a little different this year with this being the opening round of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, new for 2014.
- Thank goodness Memo Gidley and Matteo Malucelli are beginning the recovery process after their severe accident in Hour 3. A disastrous accident to witness, but the safety elements and structural integrity of their cars did their jobs.
- Bravo, CORE autosport. PC class win and GT Le Mans class win with the Porsche 911 RSR in only its second U.S. race. Jon Bennett and Morgan Brady have developed one of the finest organizations currently competing in motorsports.
- It’s rare to hear the words “Chip Ganassi” and “Double DNF” in the same sentence. But a floor issue took the No. 02 Ford EcoBoost Riley out late, with an accident and other issues striking the defending race champion No. 01 at times.
- The phrase BoP isn’t going away anytime soon. The most common refrains? The P2 cars were grossly overmatched at Daytona given their aero and limited power meant reduced top speeds. Additionally, the GT Daytona class Ferraris and Audis were rockets, and gaining anywhere from 8 to 15+ mph on the Porsches, Viper, BMW, and Aston Martins.
- The speed gaps meant some of the talented drivers in the slower cars in GTD didn’t really get a chance to showcase themselves. Dane Cameron did a solid job to finish seventh in the GT3-spec BMW Z4 for Turner Motorsport, ahead of Alex Job’s No. 22 and NGT’s No. 30 Porsches. The latter car had IndyCar Race Director Beaux Barfield moonlighting as a race strategist…
- On the other hand, several drivers made cracks about slower drivers in good cars. Overall co-winner Sebastien Bourdais went the furthest, calling some of the amateur drivers “terrorists.”
- Muscle Milk Pickett Racing had arguably one of its best ever races as an organization this weekend. Perhaps under the radar since it wasn’t considered an outright win contender, the ALMS P1 champs stayed consistent and collected over its first 24-hour race since 2008, with a just result of fifth overall best of the P2 bunch in its ORECA 03 Nissan.
- OAK Racing ran rather well, too, with its Morgan Nissan in terms of pace. But an alternator issue cost it a better result than eighth overall, and sixth in the P class. At one point, the black-and-pink No. 42 ran as high as third overall.
- BMW had a weekend to remember, even though it had moments to forget after Friday’s Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge BMW Performance 200. In the Conti race, the overall winner and third-placed GS cars were bounced after the race… which meant only a 1-4 sweep in GS and 1-2 in ST. Meanwhile in the Rolex, the BMW Team RLL Z4s used strategy and reliability to finish second and fourth in GTLM – huge points results considering the car’s lack of top end speed meant it was not a match for Daytona.
- Tough day in GTLM for the two American bruisers, Corvette and Viper. Corvette suffered mechanical issues for both of the debuting C7.Rs at one point or another; same for Viper, but at least one of the grease-covered SRTs made it to the podium after gathering its battle scars.
- The DeltaWing and SpeedSource Mazda prototypes overachieved compared to expectations. Despite various issues, the DeltaWing pressed on for more than 1,000 miles of racing before retiring, and the Mazda SKYACTIV-D coupes were courteous when being lapped and kept running with both cars for more than 18 hours. Baby steps, perhaps, but the spirit of development and the underdog are alive with these two squads.
- Overachievers of the race? For my money, the Starworks Motorsport DP with a run from a mid-60s overall starting position into second overall with Brendon Hartley in the first hour, and a consistent presence in the top seven until retiring with a mechanical issue. A genuinely impressive effort from Peter Baron’s squad.
Helmut Marko believes that Daniil Kvyat could not cope with the pressure of battling with Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo, reasoning the decision to switch the Russian back to Toro Rosso from the Spanish Grand Prix.
Red Bull announced on Thursday that Kvyat would be returning to Toro Rosso, its B-team, in a swap deal that sees Max Verstappen join the senior operation.
The final straw for Kvyat came in Russia when he hit Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel twice in two corners, leading to crunch talks with team advisor Marko and team boss Christian Horner.
Speaking to Auto Bild, Marko said that he does not consider Kvyat returning to Toro Rosso to be a demotion, but instead a move that will allow him to race under less pressure.
“The decision was made after Russia. It has become increasingly clear that Daniil Kvyat could not withstand the pressure from Daniel Ricciardo, and he has been overdriving the car,” Marko explained.
“We wanted to take him out of the firing line and help his career, instead of harming it. Kvyat partly understands it. I don’t see this as a demotion. Toro Rosso is at a very good level this year.”
Marko said that Verstappen now has to prove himself against Ricciardo, while also hinting that there may be an opening for Toro Rosso’s second driver Carlos Sainz Jr. to move up to Red Bull at the end of the season.
“Max has to challenge Ricciardo now, which is not easy,” Marko said. “Daniel is very strong at the moment.
“At the end of the year the cards will be reshuffled. This also means that Carlos Sainz has a chance to step up.”
On the heels of last year’s successful debut of “Inside F1,” which premiered in November at the Ridgefield Playhouse in Connecticut, the NBC Formula 1 announcing team will have an encore run this June in Chicago.
“Inside F1” with the F1 on NBC booth of lead announcer Leigh Diffey along with analysts David Hobbs and Steve Matchett will be a live theater-style show at the Park West theater in Chicago, on June 15, at 8 p.m.
The show comes a few days after the NBC crew broadcasts the Canadian Grand Prix live from Montreal on June 12, before the first European Grand Prix in Baku, Azerbaijan takes place the following weekend.
“Steve, David & I really enjoy meeting the Formula 1 viewing audience,” Diffey said. “There’s a lot of passionate, knowledgeable F1 fans in America, so to get a theater full of them and discuss the sport we love, makes for a really fun night!”
Tickets are available at http://jamusa.com/events/inside-f1-racing/, or by calling 773-929-1322.
The event sold out last year in a smaller theater; Park West will be a bigger theater this go-around and offer more fans the chance to go.
It’s Cinco de Mayo and the sponsor announcements for the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil are flowing in a bit like margaritas will be later today around the country.
Get out your pen and paper, or laptop and spreadsheet, to add these names and figures to your entry list for the race. Because there’s a lot of companies and brands stepping up to the plate.
Four different teams have made sponsor announcements and here they are:
- Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM) announced today that Lucas Oil and Jahia Solutions Group will co-sponsor the No. 77 SPM with Marotti Racing entry driven by Oriol Servia in the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. Lucas Oil is a longtime SPM partner. “My number one aim was to make sure I was participating in the 100th Indy 500 with a team that could give me a car to contend for the win, and I have no doubt that Sam Schmidt and all his group at SPM will do exactly that,” Servia said in a release. “Being sponsored by Lucas Oil and Jahia are just the cherry on the cake and I couldn’t be happier to represent companies with such high standards. I can’t wait for May 29th to hopefully make them proud.”
- Royal Purple announced its sponsorship of the Ed Carpenter Racing team for the 2016 race season. The lubricant will adorn the engine cover of Carpenter’s No. 20 Chevrolet. Additionally, Royal Purple is launching the 2016 Royal Purple Indy 500 Sweepstakes, offering race fans the opportunity to win a one-of-a-kind Royal Purple racing helmet signed by Ed Carpenter. From May 5 – June 1, fans can enter the sweepstakes by completing the online entry form at http://www.RoyalPurple.com. Following the close of the sweepstakes’ entry period, one winner will be chosen at random to receive the grand prize.
- Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLL) announced today that Bandit Industries Inc., a premier global manufacturer of industrial wood chippers and wood processing equipment, will be an associate sponsor for the No. 16 Verizon IndyCar Series entry of reigning Indy Lights champion Spencer Pigot in both events at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Pigot raced the season opener at St. Petersburg and is hopeful to run further races after the pair of events during the month of May.
- The latest partner to adorn the No. 88 Dale Coyne/Jonathan Byrd’s Racing Honda driven by Bryan Clauson is Context Design, which was established in 1998 as a small, client-focused landscape architecture and land planning firm near Indianapolis, Indiana. Context’s award-winning site design studio is passionate about helping clients to create meaningful spaces and experiences that connect people to the land.
Mercedes Formula 1 chief Toto Wolff thinks that Ferrari’s lack of pace in last weekend’s Russian Grand Prix was specific to the Sochi Autodrom circuit and not a sign of things to come in 2016.
Ferrari entered 2016 hopeful of mounting a serious challenge to Mercedes after a strong showing in pre-season, only to struggle to keep up with the German marque in the first four races of the season.
The deficit was particularly worrying for Ferrari in Russia last weekend when Kimi Raikkonen finished as Ferrari’s lead driver but over 30 seconds down on race winner Nico Rosberg.
Talking to reporters after the race, Wolff refused to read too much into Ferrari’s pace, believing the deficit to be largely down to the nature of the track in Sochi.
“The track is very different with a very smooth surface, and we saw that the pace of many teams was different to the races before,” Wolff said.
“Williams was very strong, Red Bull weren’t, and Ferrari weren’t as good as expected. This is a circuit where you have to get it right in terms of mechanical grip and aerodynamic downforce – and engine power plays a role.
“I would say that the dent in the Ferrari performance is Sochi-specific. But that is only my guess.”
Mercedes’ advantage was perhaps even bigger than the 30-second gap between Rosberg and Raikkonen suggested, considering that the race winner was hindered by an issue on his power unit in the second half of the race.
Ferrari’s main problem so far this season has been with the reliability of its cars, as both Raikkonen and teammate Sebastian Vettel have hit trouble in the opening four races.