IMSA: Corvettes have first chance to double up at Long Beach

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The Corvette brand has its first chance to sweep the two categories of racing in the third round of the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, as the Prototype and GT Le Mans classes take to the streets of Long Beach for the 100-minute Patron Showcase this weekend.

A Corvette Daytona Prototype took the season opener, the Rolex 24 at Daytona, with Action Express Racing’s trio of Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastien Bourdais behind the wheel of the team’s No. 5 entry.

The trio currently lead the P class points standings with 67 points, 9 clear of the next full-season lineup of Jordan and Ricky Taylor, as well as Max Angelelli.

Those two Corvette DP teams drop their third drivers for the first time this season; for Ricky and Jordan in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing entry, it’s the first time just the two brothers have shared a car since 2009 in Homestead. The team will have a new sponsorship announcement later this week.

Spirit of Daytona and Marsh Racing round out the four Corvette DPs in the projected 11-car P class field, as DPs return to the track for the first time since 2006. The American Le Mans Series ran at Long Beach from 2007 through 2013.

“There are many unique challenges to racing around Long Beach,” Jim Lutz, Chevrolet’s Program Manager for Corvette DPs, said in a pre-race release. “As DPs have not raced there in some time, there are many unknowns – things like suspension and aero setup, and gearing ratios will be best estimates based on our simulations at Chevrolet. The length of the race and minimum drive times bring a new element of strategy into play as well. More than ever, the teams that are best prepared ahead of Friday’s first practice will have distinct advantages. We’re confident our Corvette DP teams will be chief among those.”

The factory Corvette GT program, meanwhile, is no stranger to Long Beach success. Between the C6.R GT1 and GT2 programs in ALMS, the team has four prior class wins on the legendary street circuit, most recently with Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner in 2012.

As the new C7.R takes to the track this weekend, the pair of GTLM entries seek to end a string of bad luck that plagued them in the two endurance races. The No. 4 Corvette led a majority of Sebring before a fuel pressure issue took the car out of contention; the sister No. 3 suffered an opening lap collision and a punctured tire.

“A street circuit can make a little difference to a driver but at the same time you have to say to that you can only drive around in the car you’re given,” Gavin explained in a manufacturer pre-race release. “Sometimes little tweaks and little things in just the right spots can make the difference in having a car on the front row and winning or losing the race. Pace is very, very important there because it’s a short race. You need to qualify well and on top of everything.”

The No. 4 sees these two again at the wheel, with the No. 3 bolstering the solid duo of Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen, 2013 ALMS driver’s champions in GT.

A two-hour practice kicks things off Friday with qualifying later that afternoon, and the 100-minute race Sunday just after 3 p.m. PDT/local time.

Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”