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2014 GP2 Series season preview and primer

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As Formula 1 steals the limelight and often overshadows all other motorsport events that take place at the track on a race weekend, its premier feeder series – GP2 – has a great reputation and prestige within the sport’s community. Since its inception back in 2005, the series has produced 25 F1 drivers, including 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton, race winners Nico Rosberg and Pastor Maldonado, plus the likes of Romain Grosjean, Nico Hulkenberg, Kamui Kobayashi and Heikki Kovalainen.

2014 sees the series enter its tenth season, and with a number of highly exciting drivers entering the championship, the stage is set for a classic season of GP2 racing. Who will follow in the footsteps of Fabio Leimer and clinch the title this year?

WHAT IS GP2?

GP2 emerged from the old International F3000 series back in 2005, and has since been the direct feeder series to Formula 1, although drivers have been known to graduate from Formula Renault 3.5 and GP2’s own feeder series, GP3. Many of the teams in F1 do have major interests in GP2 with junior teams and drivers, as it is the perfect training ground for them under the wing of the sport.

GP2 perfectly prepares drivers for life in Formula 1 as they are part of the grand prix weekend. Each GP2 round supports its respective grand prix, meaning that the drivers get to use the exact same facilities and circuits. The series also gets great exposure by being an integral part of the grand prix weekend, being broadcast all over the world and in front of the baying crowds that flock to some of F1’s best-attended races.

THE CAR

In order to make the racing as competitive as possible, all drivers race with identical chassis, engines and tires in GP2.

The current car, the GP2/11, was designed by Dallara and is fitted with a four litre V8 engine (larger and louder than in F1, where V6s are used), generating up to 612 BHP. It will be used until 2016 to keep costs down.

The GP2/11 can do 0-60 in 2.9 seconds and is capable of a top speed of 206mph. This may be the ‘feeder series’, but a GP2 car is no slouch. The car must also pass a Formula One crash test and be up to F1 standards in all areas of safety.

Pirelli tires are a standard for all teams racing in GP2, just as they are in Formula 1. Furthermore, teams have the same compounds that are used in F1: super-soft, soft, medium, hard, intermediate and wet.

THE DRIVERS AND TEAMS

Here is the grid for the 2014 GP2 Series season:

RT RUSSIAN TIME
Mitch Evans NZL
Artem Markelov RUS

Carlin
Felipe Nasr BRA
Julian Leal COL

Racing Engineering
Raffaele Marciello ITA
Stefano Coletti MON

DAMS
Jolyon Palmer GBR
Stephane Richelmi MON

ART Grand Prix
Stoffel Vandoorne BEL
Takuya Izawa JPN

Hilmer Motorsport
Daniel Abt GER
Facu Regalia ARG

Rapax
Adrian Quaife-Hobbs GBR
Simon Trummer SUI

Arden International
Rene Binder AUT
Andre Negrao BRA

EQ8 Caterham Racing
Rio Haryanto INO
Alexander Rossi USA

MP Motorsport
Daniel de Jong NED
Jon Lancaster GBR

Trident Racing
Axcil Jefferies ZIM
Johnny Cecotto Jr. VEN

Venezuelan GP Lazarus
Conor Daly USA
Nathanael Berthon FRA

Campos Racing
Arthur Pic FRA
Kimiya Sato JPN

THE CALENDAR

1. Bahrain 4-6 April
2. Spain 9-11 May
3. Monaco 22-24 May
4. Austria 20-22 June
5. Great Britain 4-6 July
6. Germany 18-20 July
7. Hungary 25-27 July
8. Belgium 22-24 August
9. Italy 5-7 September
10. Russia 10-12 October
11. Abu Dhabi 21-23 November

THE RACE WEEKEND

The typical GP2 race weekend fits around the proceedings of Formula 1. On the Friday of each race, there will be a free practice session lasting 45 minutes, and then a 30 minute qualifying session. The grid for the feature race is formed from these results.

On Saturday, the feature race sees drivers race over a distance of 170km (140km for Monaco) and, like in Formula 1, they must make a pit stop and use both compounds of tire. Points are awarded in the same way as Formula 1 (without double points in Abu Dhabi).

On Sunday, the top eight finishers in the feature race are reversed to form the grid for the sprint race (i.e. finishing P8 in the feature race gets you pole for the sprint race).

The sprint race is run over a reduced distance of 120km (100km for Monaco), and points are awarded on a smaller scale (15 for P1, 12 for P2, 10 for P3, right the way down to one point for P8.

Points are also awarded for pole position and the fastest lap in each race.

DRIVERS TO WATCH

Raffaele Marciello
Marciello is widely considered to be Italy’s next great racing hope, and is the leading star in Ferrari’s driver academy. Known as “Lello”, he won last year’s FIA Formula 3 European Championship and now makes the step up with the team that took Fabio Leimer to last year’s title, Racing Engineering. He also raced up against NBCSN’s very own Will Buxton in the Florida Winter Series, and is a definite star for the future.

Stoffel Vandoorne
Just as Marciello is Ferrari’s great hope, Vandoorne is at the top of McLaren’s junior programme. The Belgian youngster finished as runner-up to Kevin Magnussen in Formula Renault 3.5 last season, and he is now chasing the GP2 title at the first attempt with ART. With Jenson Button approaching the end of his career, Vandoorne could be his direct successor, and a strong rookie year in GP2 certainly would help his chances of moving into F1 soon.

Felipe Nasr
Brazilian driver Felipe Nasr enters his third year in GP2 this season, and he is certainly one of the title favorites after finishing fourth in last year’s championship despite not winning a race. He will be balancing his campaign with a test driver role at Williams.

Alexander Rossi
As the only American driver to hold an FIA superlicense, Rossi is the nation’s best hope of a home driver in the near future. Having impressed during testing with Caterham Racing, he will be keen on mounting a serious title challenge this year after finishing as top rookie last time around.

Conor Daly
After a difficult winter, Daly secured a seat with Venezuela GP Lazarus just a few days ago, but he is geared up for the new GP2 season. After racing in GP3 last year and finishing the championship in third place, Conor – alongside Alexander Rossi – will be looking to give the US fans something to shout about in GP2 this season.

Also look out for: Mitch Evans, Stefano Coletti, Takuya Izawa, Arthur Pic.

Justin Wilson honored with corner name at Snetterton

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British circuit Snetterton has renamed one of its corners in honor of Justin Wilson.

Wilson was killed last August after being struck by debris in a Verizon IndyCar Series race at Pocono, sustaining severe head injuries.

The British driver spent much of his junior career racing at tracks around the UK, including Snetterton.

Wilson won the inaugural Formula Palmer Audi title back in 1998, a series run by Snetterton owner and ex-Formula 1 driver Jonathan Palmer, the track being part of his MotorSport Vision group.

Palmer worked with Wilson to help him get onto the F1 grid, and the two maintained a close friendship.

On Monday, officials at Snetterton announced that the Montreal hairpin has now been renamed the Wilson hairpin. A special corner board will be placed on the run towards the Wilson hairpin featuring his name and his iconic helmet design.

“Justin Wilson, the champion of my inaugural Formula Palmer Audi championship, thoroughly deserved the support which that success brought him, and it was enormously satisfying to watch him make the best possible use of every opportunity he had through to F1 and IndyCar racing,” Palmer said.

“But not only was Justin an outstanding racing driver, he was also the epitome of a true sportsman, earning universal respect and admiration.

“He leaves a lasting legacy that we will cherish and perpetuate, with the naming of Wilson corner at Snetterton an important part of that.”

Justin’s younger brother, Stefan, who raced at this year’s Indianapolis 500, added: “This is such an incredible gesture by MSV and I know Justin would be very honoured and humbled to learn that he has a corner here at Snetterton named after him.

“Snetterton has a special place in our memories as our dad raced here back in the 1960s and he would tell us stories of racing down the old Norwich straight. Plus, Justin and I raced here many times in our own careers.”

The first event to take place at Snetterton using the Wilson hairpin will be this weekend’s British Touring Car Championship round. All three races will take place on Sunday – what would have been Wilson’s 38th birthday.

Tony George is back, as Hulman & Co. Chairman of the Board

7 Aug 1999: President of IRL Tony George with Mary Hullman George looks on during the Brickyard 400, part of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Mari Hulman George and Tony George in 1999. Photo: Getty Images
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Tony George’s new title was made public during Sunday’s Crown Royal presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 (for all intents and purposes, the Brickyard 400) before he gave the command to start engines.

That title is Chairman of the Board of Hulman & Co., which is the parent company of INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

He replaces Mari Hulman George, his mother, in the role. He’d been voted out of his leadership positions in 2009 before rejoining the board in 2013.

The change actually occurred in March, but wasn’t made public until Sunday – as ESPN.com’s John Oreovicz writes, it actually took a bit of attention off a less than scintillating Brickyard 400 on track.

NBCSN contributor Robin Miller spoke to Mark Miles, president and CEO of Hulman & Co., in a RACER.com post to explain what Tony George’s role will be.

“This has no effect on management, policies or strategies. The board has worked hard the past two years to have a clear strategy and that isn’t changing,” Miles told Miller, who also confirmed Mari Hulman George’s new designation of Chairman Emeritus.

Tony George has remained an ever-present presence in North American open-wheel racing for most of the last 25 years.

His dissatisfaction over the direction CART was going led, eventually, to the creation of the Indy Racing League (now IndyCar) in 1994 before its race debut in 1996. That 1994 year was the same year that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (then Winston Cup) ran its first Brickyard 400.

While IndyCar has spent the 20 years since the fractious IRL/CART split recovering (a long-form chronicle of May 26, 1996 is linked here) and is on better ground now than it was several years ago, George’s contributions and enhancements to both IMS and racing safety in general cannot be overlooked.

His work to get the first SAFER barrier installed at IMS would eventually lead that to becoming the industry standard on ovals nationwide.

George was also a team owner with Vision Racing (ran through 2009), and has remained a semi-visible presence with stepson Ed Carpenter Racing since that team first took the grid in 2012.

Kyle Busch open to Indy 500, but “wouldn’t put too good a chance” on it

during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 24, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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Following his dominant display this weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway where he swept both poles and both wins in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Xfinity Series, Kyle Busch doesn’t have much left to conquer at the hallowed “Brickyard.”

Except, maybe, we can dream, one day, of him running that 500-miler around IMS in May.

His brother, Kurt, did it to national acclaim and a heck of a lot of headlines in 2014 – Kurt Busch finished sixth and was that year’s Indianapolis 500 Rookie-of-the-Year for Andretti Autosport before jetting to Charlotte for the Coca-Cola 600.

But while Kyle Busch’s name has been brought up in rumors about running the Indianapolis 500 before, he didn’t seem entirely interested in running the ‘500 just because his brother did.

“Well, I won’t be following in his footsteps.  I’ll be doing my own footsteps,” Kyle Busch told reporters during his post-victory press conference.

“It certainly may open up some avenues.  I’m not sure.  But there’s some people out there that have expressed some interest to me, so we’ll see where things kind of go.

“But obviously my focus is on the Sprint Cup Series and what I’m doing here, and being able to win races with M&M’s and Skittles, Interstate Batteries and NOS Energy Drink on the XFINITY side, too.

“So I’m having fun with what I’m doing right now, and we’ll see if something is able to line up then there’s a possibility, but I probably wouldn’t put too good a chances on that.”

In the interim, while Busch isn’t extrapolating beyond his NASCAR dominance, he’s right in that he isn’t following in brother Kurt’s footsteps.

Kurt’s stretched his legs with runs in IndyCar, a Champ Car test, a GRAND-AM Daytona Prototype, an NHRA Pro Stock car and an Australian V8 Supercar test over his career.

In his career, Kyle Busch has stuck almost exclusively to NASCAR – and made a living of cleaning up the competition in the process.

Both are among the most talented drivers of their generation, and since Kurt Busch did so well in his maiden Indianapolis 500 bow, we can only dream how well Kyle Busch could do if the stars aligned to ever make it happen.

Off The Grid: Montreal preview (premieres 7/30 on NBCSN)

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The Canadian Grand Prix has become one of Formula 1’s favorite events over the years, playing host to a bumper crowd at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve year after year.

As a result, it made perfect sense for Off The Grid to visit Montreal for the second episode of the year, following the season premiere in Shanghai.

NBCSN’s Will Buxton and Jason Swales took some time over the Canadian Grand Prix weekend to go behind the scenes of the race and lift the lid on life inside the F1 paddock.

In this episode, OTG’s dynamic duo try their hand at ice hockey with the Montreal Canadiens, and are joined by Valtteri Bottas and Marcus Ericsson – both accomplished on the ice as well as on-track.

Will and Jason also take a river rapids boat tour with Manor drivers Rio Haryanto and Pascal Wehrlein, get a behind-the-scenes tour of McLaren with Fernando Alonso, and even catch up with Patriots QB Tom Brady who attended the race.

Off The Grid: Montreal premieres on NBCSN at 9:30am ET on Saturday 7/30 following qualifying for the German Grand Prix, and re-airs at 3:30pm ET.

Check out a full preview of the episode in the above video.