IMSA notes: Action Express leads Day 1; Falken’s debut; MMPR’s third

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IMSA’s TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge are testing at Sebring International Raceway this week. A few brief news and notes to follow:

  • The biggest thing to watch coming out of this week’s test will be Prototype (P) class Balance of Performance adjustments that may come out after the tests. Restrictor amounts for for the Daytona Prototype-spec cars were yet to be determined in the pre-Sebring BoP rundown.
  • On Day 1, it was split between a P2-spec car leading the morning session (courtesy of OAK Racing) and a DP-spec car leading overall in the afternoon (Action Express Racing, the Rolex 24 at Daytona winners). The P2 cars need to be closer to the DPs, if not outright ahead, at the conclusion of this test given the P2s are expected to be running quicker at handling-type circuits, compared to a track like Daytona where outright horsepower and straight-line speed make the difference.
  • Times from Session 1 and Session 2 are linked in this bullet point.
  • Team Falken Tire’s premiere of its customer Porsche 911 RSR, the first customer chassis of the new 991-spec car, is occurring this week. Nicknamed “Valentina” by its trio of drivers, Falken factory ace Bryan Sellers will drive with Porsche factory drivers Wolf Henzler and Marco Holzer this week.
  • Muscle Milk Pickett Racing has a new third driver for the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring – it’s Nissan PlayStation GT Academy winner Jann Mardenborough joining the No. 6 ORECA 03 Nissan’s regular two drivers, Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr. If nothing else, this may set the unofficial record for “biggest gap between letters in driver last names.” But Mardenborough’s a very talented shoe, already confirmed to a GP3 deal earlier in the week, and with past P2-spec experience in a Zytek Z11SN Nissan at Le Mans last year. A video of Mardenborough made by Nissan is linked here; he’s testing with the team this week.
  • Testing from day two at Sebring continues today, with live timing available at scoring.imsa.com for both series.

Al Unser Jr. back in IndyCar after a decade away: ‘Life is very good’

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There’s been somewhat of a hole in Al Unser Jr.’s heart ever since he retired from racing in 2007.

It was a void, something was missing.

But now, after a decade away from racing, Unser has found the right medicine to fill that hole in his heart: he’s back in the racing game again.

No, he’s not driving again (although he does participate occasionally in vintage races), but the two-time Indianapolis 500 (1992 and 1994) winner is definitely back in the IndyCar world.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “Since I stepped out of the race car and retired from racing, there’s been something missing from my life, and it’s racing.”

Unser has hooked up with Harding Racing. The team competed in three races last season as a ramp-up for a full 17-race effort this season. While Unser’s official title with the team is “consultant,” he’s involved in so much more.

His main role is as a driving coach to 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves. But he’s also involved in so many other areas, including helping the team obtain sponsorships and much more.

He then added, “I’m involved in every sense of the word except actually driving the car. And I’m happy about that because I’m too old to drive the car.”

Unser, who won CART championships in 1990 and 1994, is now 55. He’s so involved with his new job that he even moved from his native New Mexico and has relocated to suburban Indianapolis.

Not only is it a new start for Unser, it also is for Chaves. After running all 16 races in 2015 for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, he competed in just seven races for Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 and only three races for Harding Racing last season.

But he definitely impressed the team, with a fifth- (Texas) and ninth-place (Indianapolis 500) finish in the first two races and 15th (Pocono) in the team’s final run of the season.

That’s why when Harding Racing decided to go fulltime in 2018, Chaves was their pick for behind the wheel. And Unser was their pick to help guide him to potential stardom in the series.

“(Team owner) Mike Harding is definitely a person that when he decides to do something, he does it right,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “The potential for this organization is through the sky. We’re all working really hard here and we see the potential.”

And as for Unser?

“Life is good, life is very good,” he told IndyCar.com. “We’re back full force, eager and better than ever.”

Click here for the full story about Unser from IndyCar.com.