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.

F1 Paddock Pass: Abu Dhabi GP post-race (VIDEO)

xxxx during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 29, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
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The final round of the 2015 Formula 1 season in Abu Dhabi may not have had a great deal riding on it with both championships already decided, but with the foundations already being laid for the new year, there were a number of storylines running throughout an eventual race at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Nico Rosberg managed to see off a late challenge from Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to pick up his sixth win of the year and, for the first time in his F1 career, a third in a row.

The German driver controlled proceedings from start to finish, while Hamilton was forced to settle for P2 once again ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.

For the final time in 2015, Will Buxton brings you all of the news, interviews and insight following the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in the latest edition of Paddock Pass.

Grosjean delighted to sign off from Lotus with points

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 29:  Romain Grosjean of France and Lotus is pushed onto the grid by his team before the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 29, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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Romain Grosjean was delighted to end his long-running association with Lotus by picking up two points for ninth place in Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Grosjean started back in 19th place after being hit with a gearbox penalty on Sunday morning, but managed to fight his way through the order to stand on the brink of the top ten in the closing stages.

With fresher tires, the Frenchman battled past Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniil Kvyat to move up into ninth place, securing two points for Lotus in his final grand prix for the team.

The result also ensured that Grosjean finished the year 11th in the Formula 1 drivers’ championship ahead of his move to Haas F1 Team for 2016.

“It’s been an emotional journey for me and I’m so happy to be able to reward everyone at Enstone with points in my final race for the team,” Grosjean said.

“I had to push all the way and it wasn’t always plain sailing as there was a lot to manage on the car. The calls from the pit wall were great and my pit stops were fantastic.

“I owe a lot to this team and it really feels like a family to me. I hope to be back one day in the future. This has been the best season of my career.”

Teammate Pastor Maldonado’s race ended at the first corner after he was crashed into by Fernando Alonso, leaving him with terminal suspension damage.

“It’s sad to end the race in the first corner because we were looking good for the race,” Maldonado said. “Today we had a good strategy to go with our better race pace, but anyway this is racing and it can happen.

“I didn’t see the contact I just felt it in the back of the car from Fernando. I tried to restart but then I saw the suspension damage. Imagine if that incident had been the other way round, it would’ve been big news then!”

FIA clear Ferrari, Haas of wrongdoing on aero testing

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany  steers his car during the third free practice at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015. The Emirates Formula One Grand Prix will take place on Sunday. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Formula One stewards have cleared Ferrari and 2016 entrant Haas of any breach of rules limiting aerodynamic testing.

Stewards at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix had been asked by Mercedes to clarify the rules due to fears that teams were skirting regulations that limit time spent in wind-tunnel testing and other aerodynamic development.

Mercedes did not directly accuse any team, but the complaint related to the close ties between Ferrari and U.S. team Haas. Ferrari, as a current competitor, was subject to testing restrictions, but Haas was not, because it enters F1 next year.

Stewards ruled Sunday that there is “no evidence that competitors have not complied” with the rules, but did recommend to the sport’s governing body that future entrants be subject to the same restrictions as existing teams.

Hamilton: Mercedes surpassed all expectations in 2015

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 29:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP lifts his trophy on the podium after finishing second in the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 29, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Lewis Hamilton believes that the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula 1 team surpassed all expectations in 2015.

Mercedes entered the new season with a big task of emulating its feats from 2014 when it claimed 16 race wins and 18 pole positions as well as setting a new record for constructors’ championship points.

However, the W06 Hybrid car allowed Hamilton and teammate Nico Rosberg to reach such lofty heights once again, taking another 16 wins and 18 poles while beating last year’s constructors’ tally.

The team finished with 12 one-two finishes and scored 86% of all possible points, both new F1 records.

Speaking on the podium after finishing second in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton paid tribute to the Mercedes team following a season that also saw him claim a third drivers’ title.

“It’s been a good year. I’m happy,” Hamilton said. “I’m happy it’s over for sure, so now we can really enjoy it.

“Really have to take my hat off to the team who once again did an amazing job in building this car. The pit stop today, just the performance through the whole year, they’ve surpassed their own expectations and our expectations.

“We’ve truly shown that Mercedes-Benz is the best team in the world, so I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Hamilton spent much of Sunday’s race toiling behind Rosberg at the front of the field, and tried to get ahead of the German driver by running an alternative strategy in the closing stages of the race.

Mercedes warned Hamilton against trying a one-stop strategy as he requested, but the Briton thinks going as long as he did during his second stint without trying to go to the end was the wrong move.

“I think in hindsight once Nico had pitted I probably would have backed off a little bit and probably made those tires last a lot longer,” Hamilton said.

“The tires were still fine at the end, so I honestly felt I potentially could have taken them to the end.

“But if that didn’t work out, going too longer probably wasn’t the right thing to do, but we gave it a try and did the best job I could with it.”