Massa fastest for Williams on day 3 in Bahrain

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Felipe Massa has finished quickest on the penultimate day of winter testing in Bahrain by setting the fastest time across the course of the pre-season period at Sakhir.

Massa’s lap of 1:33.258 saw him finish ahead of Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg as the two drivers traded fastest times in the final hour of the session. The German driver eventually fell two-tenths short of the Brazilian’s time and was forced to settle for second place.

However, Rosberg was a full 1.9 seconds ahead of third placed Kimi Raikkonen as the Ferrari driver focused on a race simulation in the afternoon.

The talking point from today’s running in Bahrain was Red Bull’s continued problems. The team appeared to be on the verge of an improvement after a good day of testing for Daniel Ricciardo yesterday, but defending world champion Sebastian Vettel struggled greatly. Upon starting his first run, Vettel managed just half a lap before the Red Bull RB10 ground to a halt.

It was soon recovered and returned to the pits, but when Red Bull sent the car out for a second run, it lasted but a few seconds as Vettel stopped at the end of the pit lane. With just half a lap on the board and one day of pre-season testing left, Red Bull appear to be in trouble.

Besides Vettel’s stoppages, there were also red flags for French duo Jules Bianchi and Romain Grosjean on Saturday in Bahrain. Bianchi finished the day in seventh place for Marussia ahead of closest rivals Caterham, whilst Grosjean was the last classified driver to post a time down in ninth position. Adrian Sutil also hit trouble as a fire on his Sauber C33 early in the morning session meant that he failed to post a time.

Although the Mercedes-powered teams dominated once again, occupying four of the top six positions, Renault showed signs of improved reliability. Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat finished the day in fifth position with 81 laps under his belt, whilst Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson completed the most mileage with 117 laps. Despite Red Bull’s disastrous day, these are good signs for the French engine supplier.

With just one day to go in pre-season testing, the teams will get a final shot tomorrow to understand their cars and perfect their procedure ahead of the first round of the season in Australia (live on NBCSN on March 16).

Bahrain Day 3 – Times

1. Felipe Massa Williams 1:33.258 (99 laps)
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:33.484 +0.226 (103)
3. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:35.426 +2.168 (87)
4. Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1:35.894 +2.636 (88)
5. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:36.113 +2.855 (81)
6. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:36.205 +2.947 (115)
7. Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:37.087 +3.829 (78)
8. Marcus Ericsson Caterham 1:38.083 +4.825 (117)
9. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:42.166 +8.908 (33)
10. Adrian Sutil Sauber no time (1)
11. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull no time (0)

The Callaway Corvette GT3 is coming to America, in PWC

Photo: Callaway Competition USA
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Pirelli World Challenge has been in need of some good news from a car count standpoint early into this offseason, and receives it Monday with confirmation Callaway Competition will bring its GT3-spec homologated Corvette C7 GT3-R Stateside next season.

The withdrawal of the factory Cadillac Racing program after PWC’s season finale in Sonoma in September has opened the door for the factory-blessed Corvette C7 GT3-R to run in North America, because Cadillac’s ATS-V.R has been the lone GT3-spec car under the General Motors awning for the last three seasons, while the Callaway Corvette has raced only internationally.

Reeves Callaway has been on site at the tail end of the PWC season to survey the opportunity and now a deal has been struck for a factory effort to run next year, before the Callaway Corvette program becomes a customer effort in 2019. This follows the same timeline as Acura did with its new NSX GT3 this year to run it as a factory program in 2017 before shifting to customer efforts in 2018.

“Joining the Pirelli World Challenge has been a long term objective for Callaway Competition,” Callaway said in a release. “Now the field is a roll-call of the most capable sports cars from every country. To do well here, you must beat the best in the world. What better way to showcase our iconic American car?

“For 2018, we will run a Callaway factory team to give us the best chance of continuing the championship record the Corvette has achieved in international competition. For 2019, we will not race against our customers, but provide high-quality support to them in the tradition of other manufacturer customer racing support programs.”

“For several years fans have asked when they would see the Callaway Corvette GT3 run in the Pirelli World Challenge,” added Greg Gill, President and CEO of Pirelli World Challenge. “The wait is over and we are very pleased to announce the arrival of the Callaway Corvette GT3 for the 2018 season.”

The Callaway Competition USA Corvette C7 GT3-R will be unveiled and both full season drivers announced at the Performance Racing Industry show in Indianapolis on December 7 at the Pirelli World Challenge booth. Following the unveiling event, the car will be on display for the remainder of the trade show. Details of the presentation will be announced in the coming weeks.

Callaway’s confirmation comes amidst the likely drawdown of potentially nine or 10 cars that raced in PWC’s GT and GTA ranks either all season or most of it in 2017, among at least five manufacturers. That’s not to say those losses can’t be recouped elsewhere on the grid, over the next several months before the St. Petersburg season opener in March.

PWC will hold its annual state of the series and competitor meeting to finalize the next year’s plans at the PRI show as well.