Hamilton quickest as pre-season testing ends in Bahrain

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Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has finished quickest on the final day of pre-season testing ahead of the 2014 Formula 1 season as the German marque enjoyed another fruitful day in Bahrain.

Hamilton posted the fastest time of 1:33.278 in the final hour of an interrupted day of testing at the Bahrain International Circuit that saw seven drivers cause eight red flags, resulting in the afternoon session being extended by an hour.

Having failed to complete a single lap on Saturday, Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull began in better fashion by completing some good mileage early in the morning. However, the German driver then spun into the gravel at the first corner, leaving his team with a small repair job before returning to the track in the afternoon. He ultimately finished in ninth place with 77 laps under his belt.

Hamilton’s closest challenger was Williams’ Valtteri Bottas as the British team enjoyed yet another successful day in Bahrain. The Finn was the pace-setter for large parts of the session, but finished seventh-tenths of a second down on Hamilton’s fastest time. Nevertheless, the signs are very good for Williams in 2014 as the team bounces back from a disastrous 2013 campaign.

Fernando Alonso finished in third place for Ferrari as the top non-Mercedes powered car. The Spaniard was responsible from bringing out one of the red flags after a stoppage, but he eventually rallied to finish just over one second behind Hamilton. Nico Hulkenberg finished behind the Spaniard in fourth place, whilst Jean-Eric Vergne was the fastest Renault-powered driver as he came fifth for Toro Rosso.

Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez shared driving duties for Sauber on Sunday in Bahrain, and were separated by nine-tenths of a second respectively. Max Chilton ran well for Marussia, completing 61 laps and splitting the two Saubers on the timesheets in seventh place.

Kamui Kobayashi completed a great amount of milage for Caterham on the final day, recording over 100 laps. However, he could only finish P11 on the timesheets, only ahead of the stricken Romain Grosjean. The Frenchman was limited to just 32 laps as a fire on his E22 car meant that he failed to come back out after lunch. It also means that Lotus head into the new season without having completed a full race simulation.

Like Lotus, McLaren also packed up early in Bahrain as Jenson Button suffered an engine failure. He finished down in tenth place with just 22 laps to his name (less than any other driver).

With testing now complete, the early signs suggest that it will be a battle between the Mercedes-powered teams and Ferrari at the opening round of the season in Australia.

However, it was apt that the twelfth and final day of testing finished with so many reliability problems – this will be the main theme in the opening few races. With just twelve days to go until practice in Australia, all of the teams have a lot of work to do.

Bahrain Day 4 – Times

1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:33.278 (69 laps)
2. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:33.987 +0.709 (108)
3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:34.280 +1.002 (74)
4. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:35.577 +2.299 (74)
5. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:35.701 +2.423 (74)
6. Adrian Sutil Sauber 1:36.476 +3.189 (91)
7. Max Chilton Marussia 1:36.835 +3.557 (61)
8. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:37.303 +4.025 (86)
9. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:37.468 +4.190 (77)
10. Jenson Button McLaren 1:38.111 +4.833 (22)
11. Kamui Kobayashi Caterham 1:38.391 +5.113 (106)
12. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:39.302 +6.024 (32)

IMSA: Sebring Day 2 of two-day test notebook

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Testing across several IMSA sanctioned series continued at Sebring International Raceway on Tuesday as preparations continue for next month’s events during the weekend of the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.

Below are highlights from Day 2 of testing around the 3.74-mile road course.

Eurosport Racing Continues Work with Mazda Prototype Challenge Chassis

Teams in the Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda championship completed their second day of testing on Tuesday. Among them, Eurosport Racing continued their work with the only Mazda Prototype Challenge (MPC) entries in the field, in the hands of drivers Dr. Tim George (in the No. 24 entry) and Jon Brownson (in the No. 34).

“Right now, I’m driving by myself so we’re trying to make the car comfortable enough to last an hour and 45 minutes with just me in the car,” George said of their preparation efforts. “We’re trying to set up the car where it’s quick, yet it and can last, both the car and for me to make sure we don’t tire out, get fatigued and make mistakes.”

The 1 hour 45 minute window that George referenced represents the race times for the 2018 season, up considerably from last year’s sprint format that featured a pair of 45-minute races across a race weekend.

Though that change represents a drastic shift in driving philosophy, it is one that George welcomes.

“The new rules for the endurance races are great, I enjoy it a lot,” said George. “It gives you a chance to think through things differently with strategy. It also gives you a chance if you blow it…in a sprint race if you make a mistake you don’t get a chance to come back.”

Florida Drivers in Continental Tire Challenge Eager for Hometown Race at Sebring

A strong contingent of drivers from Florida are represented in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, and next month’s 12 Hours of Sebring weekend will see them compete on home soil.

“I grew up in Tallahassee and I live in Orlando now, so Sebring has been my home track since day one,” said Paul Holton, driver of the No. 76 Compass Racing McLaren GT4, which finished 14th at the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway. “I’ve spent a lot of time down here and really enjoy the place. It’s a nice, quaint little town not far from Orlando so it’s a quick, easy drive down for me.”

Fellow Floridian Ramin Abdolvahabi, a native of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and driver of the No. 09 Automatic Racing Aston Martin Vantage, revealed that, even though Sebring is only two hours from his hometown, this week’s test was his first time at the track in two years.

“I haven’t been here for two years, so coming back is like coming home,” he said. “It’s a fantastic track and it’s one of the iconic tracks in the world so being at Sebring – a small town, my hometown, welcoming – it’s fantastic. I went on the track a couple of times yesterday and it’s just like wearing an old shoe, it just fits and it’s fantastic. Hopefully, the race will go well and the weather will hold, so anyone who’s out there, come and see us!”

Frank Raso Trades in Airplanes for Porsches at Sebring

Several IMSA drivers boast “day jobs” outside of their racing gigs. Among them, Frank Raso’s work falls outside of ordinary jobs like doctor or lawyer. Rather, Raso flies airplanes for a living.

“I’m an airline pilot for a major airline,” said Raso, who tested the No. 10 Topp Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car at Sebring. “I’ve been flying for almost 30 years, and it’s allowed me, with all my time off and things like that to do this and fall back into racing again. I messed with it a little bit when I was younger, but it was, of course, expensive, so I got away from it for a while. I decided I wanted to get back into it in kind of my last couple of years before I get too old.”

Raso explained that the skills he practices while flying planes are more than transferable to his driving duties in a Porsche GT3 Cup car.

“Flying an airliner or flying any airplane, we have checklists, but everything is kind of done in order. It’s almost in a robot fashion type of a thing where you do this, you do this, you do this and you have to make sure you hit all your marks and fly the airplane with precision.

“So, when you get in these Cup cars, with no anti-lock brakes, no traction control, and no driver assist items, you have to make sure you hit your marks, when you’re accelerating, when you’re turning in. You have to be alert. It keeps your wits about you. The car can step out at any time. They’re a very difficult car to drive, but they’re a lot of fun.”
The 54-year-old Raso posted a best finish of fourth, on four separate occasions, in a part-time schedule during the 2017 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama season as a competitor in the Gold Cup class.
Newcomers Get Taste of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge
A number of new drivers got to sample Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge cars during the two days of testing at Sebring. Among them was amateur racer Scott Welham, who got his first taste of professional racing during the two-day outing at Sebring.
And he had a strong support system backing him up in the Kelly-Moss Road and Race team, the defending Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge champions with driver Jake Eidson.
“Here, you’ve got somebody that actually does coaching, data acquisition, track management – these are all separate people – plant manager, owner, a car-setup guy, you’ve got someone that bills you – which isn’t always a good thing, but you know, you just have that huge, huge support group that enables you to focus on driving,” Welham said of the team’s influence on his development over the two days.
IMSA’s next visit to Sebring will be for the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring on March 17.