We’ll be talking about the 2014 Australian GP in years to come

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The 2014 Australian Grand Prix was one of the most hotly anticipated races in years as a whole new era of the sport began on Sunday in Melbourne. And boy did it live up to the hype.

It was maybe not a classic race, but certainly an important one that was aided by a number of poignant and rather warming storylines. As the likes of Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton floundered, the new generation of young and exciting drivers came to the fore. Bear in mind that Vettel is just 26 and Hamilton is 29 – they seemed like the old boys on Sunday, though.

Instead, it was about four drivers in particular: Kevin Magnussen, Valtteri Bottas, Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo. At an average age of 22, this quartet is set to become the young upstarts pestering the older drivers and giving them grief in 2014. It sure feels good to be writing about some new names…

Although Ricciardo’s disqualification did put a dampener on his race weekend, it was a great display from the Australian driver to finish second on track. With Vettel retiring on lap five, the result saw him become alpha male at Red Bull for a few hours at least. The images of him on the podium will go down in Australian motorsport folklore, and there will be a great push for the FIA’s decision to be overturned upon appeal.

Magnussen was one of the main beneficiaries, rising up to second place as a result. In the race, the F1 rookie – making his debut on Sunday – duped Hamilton at the start and then produced a fine display to remain in the top three for the whole race. Fellow rookie Daniil Kvyat became the youngest ever points scorer in the race, finishing tenth and then being promoted to ninth following Ricciardo’s exclusion. He too ran well throughout the race, kept himself out of trouble and produced a very mature drive.

And then we have Bottas. The Finnish driver was simply spectacular on Sunday, making 19 passes for position. Having started in P15, he jumped up to sixth place before suffering a puncture after hitting the wall at turn ten. Back down to P16? No problem: he simply re-overtook the drivers he had passed earlier. Compatriot Kimi Raikkonen was one of a handful of drivers to have the ignominy of being passed twice by the Williams. It was a remarkable display, and one would imagine that without the puncture he would have been vying for a podium finish.

Of course, we cannot forget Nico Rosberg. Although they are great friends and Mercedes do run an ‘equal driver’ policy, it sometimes feels like the German driver is overshadowed by superstar teammate Lewis Hamilton. However, when he’s at his best, Rosberg is a very tough driver to beat. With so many other storylines dominating the coverage of the race, it is quite easy to forget that he won the race with relative ease.

Once again, a German driver won the race by over 20 seconds. On the face of things, that’s a continuation from 2013. In reality though, the sport is a completely new animal.

In years to come, this race will be spoken about by journalists, broadcasters and fans.

“Remember Magnussen’s first race?”

“Remember Kvyat’s debut?”

“Remember when Bottas passed everyone twice!?

Some very memorable moments indeed. Long may this continue.

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.