Jeff Gordon and Juan Pablo Montoya.
Tony Stewart and Lewis Hamilton.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Graham Rahal?
NASCAR’s most popular driver and one of IndyCar’s most prominent Americans appear to be getting in position to become the latest stock car/open-wheel combo to perform a high-profile ride swap.
Rahal (as well as girlfriend and NHRA racer Courtney Force and her father, 16-time Funny Car champ John) was in attendance for today’s Auto Club 400 one week before he begins the new Verizon IndyCar Series season in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Afterwards, he reached out to his fellow National Guard-sponsored driver about the possibility of swapping rides – and it seems that Earnhardt was open to the idea.
Naturally, Indianapolis Motor Speedway gave its blessing to the idea, with track president J. Douglas Boles declaring that the Brickyard would be open for such an occasion.
IMS was the site of the Gordon-Montoya ride swap back in 2003, when Montoya was racing in Formula One. The event saw Gordon take Montoya’s Williams-BMW FW24 for laps, while Montoya did the same in Gordon’s No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
The NASCAR and F1 worlds came together again at a rainy Watkins Glen in 2011, when Hamilton got to sample Stewart’s No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevy and Stewart drove the McLaren MP4-23 that took Hamilton to the 2008 World Championship.
You figure there will be some hurdles to jump in order for Earnhardt and Rahal to do a swap of their own, but it’s certainly an exciting prospect for NASCAR and IndyCar fans alike. We’ll keep an eye on this…
Ferrari has released a short video of the first fire-up of its new power unit for the 2016 Formula 1 season at Maranello in Italy.
Although there is nothing to suggest what the new car will look like thanks to some cannily-terrible camera work, it is nevertheless an interesting snippet ahead of the new season.
Ferrari is yet to confirm when it will launch its 2016 runner, but is likely to do so online in the days leading up to the first pre-season test in Barcelona on February 22.
There has been much speculation about the new car as Ferrari bids to overhaul Mercedes at the head of the field and secure its first championship in eight years.
Sebastian Vettel will be hoping to build on an impressive maiden campaign with Ferrari in 2015 that yielded three race wins, while Kimi Raikkonen remains keen to pick up more silverware in what may be his last season in F1.
Along with new Chevrolet aerodynamic components being tried out at the “it’s green in February and it’s never this green the later into the year we get” Sonoma Raceway, the other interesting storyline out of Wednesday’s six-car Verizon IndyCar Series test was that it marked Max Chilton’s testing debut with Chip Ganassi Racing in the No. 8 Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. Chevrolet.
Chilton’s made the announcement, addressed the media and had his sponsor confirmed within the last week-plus.
But it was on Wednesday that the talking stopped and the driving restarted, for what was not only the 24-year-old Brit’s first time in an IndyCar but also his first time at Sonoma.
“It’s a bit of a shock today,” Chilton said, via a track-issued release. “I haven’t been in a racing car in six months and that was an Indy Lights car, so I’ve got to learn the track today and the car.
“But I think the morning went swimmingly well. I was quicker than I thought I would be. It’s a really nice kit and I can’t wait to explore it throughout the season.”
Here’s a few photos on social media, either ones he or the track shared, of his maiden day in an IndyCar.
Chilton’s next test comes later this week, still in California, at Auto Club Speedway for his first oval run in an IndyCar.
Chilton joined his three Chip Ganassi Racing teammates, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball, for the test. Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud also tested on Wednesday.
Pabst Racing has added a third driver to its Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda lineup, in the form of talented 19-year-old Australian driver Jordan Lloyd.
Lloyd raced the first two weekends of last year’s USF2000 season with John Cummiskey Racing before being sidelined due to financial woes, but he showed quite a bit of promise in those two weekends at St. Petersburg and NOLA Motorsports Park. He finished second in one of the NOLA races.
For 2016, Lloyd returns to the U.S. after winning the CAMS Jayco Australian Formula 4 championship last year, and was thus awarded with the ‘Road to the World’ scholarship.
“I only touched the tip of the iceberg when I was here in 2015, so on a personal level there is a lot of unfinished business that needs to be tended to,” Lloyd said in a team release. “I am looking forward to a strong season.”
Lloyd, who will drive the No. 21 car, joins the previously announced pairing of Garth Rickards and Yufeng Luo at Pabst, the Oconomowoc, Wisconsin-based team, as the USF2000 field for 2016 continues to grow both in terms of size and talent.
Luca Ghiotto will step up to the GP2 Series with Trident in 2016 after an impressive season in GP3 last year that saw him finish second in the championship standings.
Ghiotto made his GP3 debut at the end of 2014 with a four-race run-out for Trident before remaining with the Italian team for 2015.
It proved to be a memorable year as he won five races – more than any other driver – but fell eight points short of the title as Mercedes junior Esteban Ocon was crowed champion in Abu Dhabi.
Ghiotto will remain with Trident for 2016, stepping up to its GP2 operation after a successful test in Abu Dhabi at the end of last year.
“I can’t wait to line-up for this new adventure,” Ghiotto said. “Last year, it was tough for me to fight so hard and not winning the title. However, it has been an extremely useful experience with the help of the excellent teamwork among the whole Trident stable.
“I want to thank once again Maurizio Salvadori and Giacomo Ricci for their support, and the Italian Federation for believing so much in me. I really look forward to be back on-track.”