TUSC: Rolex 24 weekend recap, competition side

3 Comments

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.

Competition wise…

  • 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.

Craig Breedlove wins 2017 Justice Brothers-Shav Glick Award

Craig Breedlove (left) and Richard Noble look on during the world land speed record attempt by the Thrust SCC at Black Rock Desert, Nevada. Photo: David Taylor/Allsport
Leave a comment

Land-speed record icon Craig Breedlove has been awarded the 2017 Justice Brothers-Shav Glick Award, one of the top honors awarded on the West Coast, and in the world of motorsports. Breedlove is the award’s 18th recipient.

The award was presented prior to today’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

The full release is below:

Craig Breedlove has been selected as the 2017 recipient of the 18th Annual Justice Brothers-Shav Glick Award. For the 18th year, the Justice Brothers-Shav Glick Award recognizes motorsports personalities who have made distinguished contributions to motorsports in California.

Breedlove was selected by a judging panel, which includes national and California motorsports media, to receive the prestigious 2017 Justice Brothers-Shav Glick Award. Ed Justice, Jr. President & CEO of Justice Brothers, Inc. presented the award during the pre-race ceremonies at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 race at Auto Club Speedway.

Craig Breedlove is the first person in history to reach 500 mph and 600 mph, Craig Breedlove, is a land speed legend. Using several turbojet-powered vehicles, all named Spirit of America; he drove to five world land speed records. The Beach Boys’ song Spirit of America was inspired by Breedlove’s land speed record set in 1963. Breedlove was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of America in 1993 and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2000.

Giovinazzi impresses as Sauber sub, finishes 12th on F1 debut

Getty Images
1 Comment

Antonio Giovinazzi continued his impressive last-minute showing in the Australian Grand Prix weekend by finishing 12th for Sauber on his Formula 1 debut.

Ferrari junior and 2015 GP2 runner-up Giovinazzi was drafted in by Sauber on Saturday to replace Pascal Wehrlein, who withdrew from the race weekend due to an ongoing back injury.

Giovinazzi qualified 16th on Saturday, narrowly missing out on a place in Q2, and then enjoyed a trouble-free race en route to 12th at the checkered flag, two laps down on race winner Sebastian Vettel.

“It was a good race, and I am happy with my performance today,” Giovinazzi said.

“My objective was to gain more experience and collect mileage in the car. I will sit together with my engineers to analyze areas where I can improve.

“I want to thank the Sauber F1 Team and Scuderia Ferrari again for this opportunity. It was an amazing race weekend for me.”

Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn was full of praise for Giovinazzi: “A very impressive performance from Antonio during his first Formula 1 race. He showed his potential as well as what the car is capable of.”

Giovinazzi is now set to return to his reserve driver duties at Ferrari, with Wehrlein expected to be back at full-fitness for the Chinese Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.

Maverick Vinales wins MotoGP opener in Qatar after rain delays start

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Maverick Viñales made a flying start to life with Yamaha in MotoGP by winning on his debut with the factory team in Qatar on Sunday night.

Rain throughout the weekend had already forced qualifying to be cancelled on Saturday, with Viñales claiming pole by virtue of setting the fastest time in practice.

Officials decided early on Sunday that they would not be amending its schedule for races, with the Moto2 and Moto3 events going ahead as planned.

Just minutes before the MotoGP race was set to get underway at 11pm local time, rain started to fall once again over the Losail International Circuit, prompting the stewards to delay the race start after a number of riders went off during an installation lap.

A 45-minute delay followed as a number of officials from both MotoGP and the teams remonstrated on the grid before being asked to take their discussions inside, away from the cameras and the watching world.

With the rain easing to a light drizzle, the stewards confirmed the race would start as planned, albeit reduced to 20 laps.

On a moist track, Viñales made a tentative start from pole, dropping to fifth as Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone made the best getaway to lead into the first corner.

Iannone was quickly passed by Tech3’s Johann Zarco, who completed his first lap in MotoGP as the race leader, and soon began to forge a lead over the chasing pack.

Zarco’s hopes of a debut win were dashed when he slid off the track in the tricky conditions, allowing Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso to assume the lead ahead of Iannone.

When Iannone fell and third-placed Marc Marquez began to drop off the pace as his tires faded, Viñales and Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi began to close on Dovizioso, setting up a grandstand finish.

Viñales found a way past Dovizioso, only to lose the lead a couple of laps later, before then taking it back with two laps to go, curbing the Ducati’s straight-line speed advantage as they headed into Turn 1 for the final time.

From there, Viñales was able to keep his cool and cross the line half a second clear of Dovizioso to record his second MotoGP victory, his first coming with Suzuki last year at Silverstone.

Rossi crossed the line a close third, much to his surprise after a torrid pre-season, while Marquez was left to settle for fourth place to begin his riders’ title defence.

Dani Pedrosa finished one place behind his Honda teammate in fifth, while Aleix Espargaro was one of the unsung heroes of the race, crossing the line sixth for Aprilia.

Scott Redding wound up seventh ahead of Jack Miller and Alex Rins, while Tech3 debutant Jonas Folger rounded out the top 10.

Three-time MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo had a forgettable debut with Ducati, finishing a lowly 11th after an off-track excursion on the opening lap.

The MotoGP season continues with round two of the season in Argentina on April 9.

Ocon picks up maiden F1 point in Australia, finishes as top rookie

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Esteban Ocon picked up his first point in Formula 1 during his maiden outing for Force India in Australia on Sunday, finishing the race 10th and as the top rookie.

Ocon made his F1 debut in Belgium last year with the backmarker Manor team, completing the final nine rounds of the season before moving into a seat with Force India for 2017.

Embarking on his first full season of F1 (and therefore still a rookie) in 2017, Ocon qualified 14th in Australia on Saturday before spending much of the race battling with Fernando Alonso and Nico Hulkenberg, the trio going three-wide down the main straight at one point.

Ocon was able to come out on top, clinching the final point on offer in Melbourne by finishing P10 to complete a double-points finish for Force India after Sergio Perez ended up seventh.

“Very happy with today. It’s been a tough weekend but a great reward at the end,” Ocon told NBCSN after the race.

“Fighting with Alonso made things difficult. It was side by side. Then I had the better pace with him. It’s so much harder to overtake, but I made the pass and got the point.

“I’m learning all the time. It’s good what we’ve done here. This is good for the team. We hope we can score many more for the championship.”

Ocon emerged as the top rookie in Melbourne, with Antonio Giovinazzi and Stoffel Vandoorne finishing 12th and 13th respectively. Williams’ Lance Stroll – making his first start in F1 – retired due to a brake disc issue.