The date is set for the FIA and Red Bull – but who will win out in Paris?

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There have been many court-room tussles in Formula 1 over the past ten years or so. 2005 saw the FIA appeal against its own stewards in order to disqualify BAR from the San Marino Grand Prix; ‘Spygate’ in 2007 saw McLaren chucked out of the constructors’ and fined $100m; the diffuser debate in 2009 soon defused itself; 2013’s ‘testgate’ was more annoying than anything. The sport rarely gets through a season without at least one visit to Paris for a hearing.

However, 2014 has wasted little time. Just one race into the year, and we have our first court date set. Following Daniel Ricciardo’s disqualification from the Australian Grand Prix last weekend, Red Bull appealed against the result and triggered the first case of the season as the team looks to get its driver re-instated in second place.

The Australian driver was disqualified after the team was deemed to have exceeded the maximum fuel flow of 100kg/h on his car during the race, according to the FIA’s measurements. Red Bull on the other hand has its own measurements that the management opted to follow, and the team insists that this was under the limit, making the car legal.

The fall-out of this debacle has led to a few questions being asked and plenty of finger pointing. Essentially, it comes down to a yes or no question: did Red Bull exceed the fuel flow limit of 100kg/h on car #3?

One of the facts that might be working in Red Bull’s favor is that the FIA made a change to the frequency level used to measure the fuel flow on the Saturday night following qualifying. This might suggest that the initial measure was not entirely accurate, and perhaps the change will not have successfully fixed this problem.

Red Bull was not the only team to have reservations about the FIA measure, either. All of the other teams did raise concerns about it.

However – and here’s the kicker – the other teams kept to the FIA measure to ensure that their cars were legal.

The measurement system is also interactive. Teams can see in real time what their ‘figure’ is, and race control (led by Charlie Whiting) issued warnings when they were exceeding the limit of 100kg/h. Red Bull were warned on three occasions that Ricciardo’s car was above the limit, yet the team still ignored the orders.

A big question also comes in Malaysia. The FIA has reinforced its faith in the measurement sensor supplier, but with the hearing set for April 14, a lot can still happen.

In Malaysia, if there is a similar situation, what will Red Bull do? By flouting the limit once again, the team risks getting both of its cars disqualified again (although it would show unbelievable and perhaps misplaced self-confidence). By adhering to the limit, though, would the team not be admitting guilt? That the FIA measurements are the right way to go? That Ricciardo’s car ran illegally in Australia after all?

With two races between now and the hearing, a lot can still happen. The odds are stacked against Red Bull, though, and they have few allies that will come and help.

Cooper solidifies PWC GT presence with Callaway Corvette

Callaway, Cooper, Gill. Photo: PWC
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Pirelli World Challenge could use a “face” of the series from a driving standpoint, and American Michael Cooper is a good candidate to fill that role for 2018.

Cooper, 27, has won PWC Touring Car, GTS and, most recently the SprintX GT titles within the series and has quickly blossomed into one of the series’ top GT stars.

It’s been a rapid rise for the Syosset, N.Y. native, entering into a world filled with series stars and champions such as Johnny O’Connell, Patrick Long, Alvaro Parente and a host of others.

But under O’Connell’s tutelage, Cooper admirably filled the rather gaping shoes vacated by Andy Pilgrim at Cadillac Racing, steering the Cadillac ATS-V.R to multiple race wins in the last two years – including a sweep of this year’s season finale weekend at Sonoma.

Cooper and Jordan Taylor were the model of consistency in SprintX this year, winning once at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and surviving contact at Circuit of The Americas to take that title.

With Cadillac withdrawing its ATS-V.R program at the end of the year though, Cooper was left a free agent for 2018. Fortunately with one door closed another opened, in the form of the GM-blessed but full Callaway Competition USA effort with its Callaway Corvette C7 GT3-R that will come Stateside next year. Cooper and Daniel Keilwitz will be in the team’s two cars for the full season; the car was fully unveiled last week at the PRI Show in Indianapolis.

The Callaway is a proven commodity in Europe but couldn’t run in the U.S. unless the path was cleared by one of GM’s factory programs to end a direct, potential head-to-head competition.

Moving from the Cadillac to the Callaway Corvette should be a natural transition, Cooper said last week.

“It worked out incredibly well that GM decided to allow Calloway to run the car in the United States and it created an opportunity for me that wouldn’t have been there otherwise,” he told NBC Sports. “I talked to a lot of other GT teams and at the end of the day, I felt like this was the best direction for me to be competitive next year and to also continue furthering my career with General Motors.”

Indeed Cooper has graduated from the Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R in GTS to the Cadillac and now to the Callaway Corvette. Cooper hailed the Cadillac team for what they did for his career growth.

“Working with Cadillac Racing has been instrumental in developing my abilities both on and off the track,” he said. “So I’m definitely a much more well-rounded driver now and have a lot of experience in the World Challenge GT field, so I kind of know what to expect going into that first race and going into that first corner in St. Pete.”

As noted, the car’s success in Europe means it’s a well-oiled machine by the time Reeves Callaway has worked with PWC to bring it Stateside next year. And as Cooper explained, discussions had been underway for a bit of time to ensure his presence in this car and team.

“I think the car is going to be extremely capable. It’s already won championships and races in Europe. I think, in bringing it over here, we’re going to hit the ground running straight away,” he said.

“Calloway had wanted me to come drive for them in July or August. We always kept in touch since then, and there was a lot of work trying to put together a program before they decided that they were going to do a fully fledged factory program. So once they made that decision, I think the pieces were kind of in place already, and the conversations had been had to be able to say ‘You’re going to be our guy.’”

December is late for IMSA programs to get finalized, but it’s relatively early for PWC, with the season not starting until mid-March in St. Petersburg. An extensive testing program should follow, as Callaway establishes its U.S. base and infrastructure.

“It’s definitely early for a Pirelli World Challenge program to be announced in December when we start racing in March. So that’s very good,” he said. “But, the team has a lot of work ahead of them in terms of getting infrastructure set up here in the United States, because a lot of their racing program has been in Europe. So, there will be a testing program, but they have to get the infrastructure in place first. But, we’ll be well prepared for St. Pete, I’m certain of it.

“Last year was the first year when I could sit back, kick my feet up, and know what I was doing next year. So, to be able to have everything done and be able to announce it this early on makes my life less stressful and now I can just focus on preparing myself and my team for next year.”