IMSA: Monterey Selected Pre-Race Notes & Quotes

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Following are a few pre-race notes and quotes from around the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship paddock heading into the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix:

  • WeatherTech Alex Job Racing is moving on after Sebring, where a penalty was incorrectly assessed by IMSA to the team’s No. 22 Porsche 911 GT America instead of one of the factory 911 RSRs. “After the controversy that happened at Sebring, all I can hope for is that Laguna goes smoothly. We will keep pushing our hardest, just as we always do however, I really hope the officiating has improved because we have too much invested and my crew works too hard for another disaster to happen,” said Cooper MacNeil, who co-drives with Leh Keen.
  • Spirit of Daytona’s No. 90 Corvette DP won the GRAND-AM race at Monterey in 2012 and the pole with Richard Westbrook last year. Despite a great driver lineup of “Westy” and Michael Valiante, luck hasn’t been on the team’s side this year. “This is one of the all-time great tracks and everyone is a little extra motivated when you come out to a place like Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. This will be a different animal for us compared to 2012 as we’ve got an entirely new technical package so this is a new notebook for everyone. But hopefully we can unload with a quick car,” said team owner Troy Flis.
  • Wayne Taylor Racing, now with Konica Minolta sponsorship, seeks it second straight Monterey win and first this season. Jordan and Ricky Taylor have a pair of runner-up finishes (Daytona, Long Beach) in the No. 10 Corvette DP this season.
  • It will be a busy weekend for Oakland’s Johannes van Overbeek in his home race in the No. 2 Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD ARX-03b. “JVO” participated in an annual bike ride on Tuesday of 80 miles from San Jose to Monterey. “It will be a challenging weekend to get a setup because we’re practicing with 50-plus cars in two hours, so we expect a few yellows.  Then we are racing with nearly half that number on Sunday afternoon,” he said of the weekend; he’ll share the Tequila Patron-sponsored car with Ed Brown.
  • Few drivers have as many laps at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca as Jonathan Bomarito of SRT Motorsports. The Monterey native, who now lives in San Diego, seeks to provide the No. 93 SRT Viper GTS-R its elusive first win (the sister No. 91 got the team’s first at Road America last year). “I was born and raised in Monterey County and I used to ride my bike from my backyard up to the track as a kid. I’ve always been around it. I taught at the racing school up there for a number of years and it’s definitely my hometown,” he said, and will again co-drive with Kuno Wittmer.
  • MOMO NGT Motorsport won the GTC class at Monterey last year and seek an encore in a 20-plus car field, now with Kuba Giermaziak alongside Henrique Cisneros in the No. 30 Porsche 911 GT America. “There are a lot more variables to deal with this time around. The field is three times larger and we are battling different manufacturers, so you could say the difficulty has increased,” Cisneros said.
  • CORE autosport seeks a PC class three-peat this weekend, having won the opening two rounds of the season. The team has also stood on the podium in each of its three starts in Monterey. PC and GTD will race together on Sunday; Colin Braun explained the challenges that presents: “I’d say the PC class is more affected by it, because we usually have a mix of passing GTD and GTLM cars, but getting passed by Prototypes. It will be interesting to not have to worry about being passed and just focused on getting through forward traffic.”
  • BMW Team RLL has scored three straight Monterey podiums, although is yet to win at the track. “We may not have the best pace for qualifying but we have several things in our favor for this round. The Z4 GTLM is a more developed car than it was last year. Unlike our main competitors, we have lots of setup and race data from last year and should be fast out of the transporter,” said team principal Bobby Rahal.
  • P2 in GT in 2013, Team Falken Tire seeks its first podium finish with its new car this weekend. Said Bryan Sellers, who’ll co-drive the No. 17 Porsche 911 RSR with Wolf Henzler, “We had a great result and a very strong car and tire combination last year here at Laguna Seca. The new Porsche 911 RSR is a definite improvement so we are hoping for the best moving forward. We were able to learn a lot about our performance in Long Beach and have an idea where we need to make progress.”

Report: Harvey seeking to get IndyCar program sorted by Christmas

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As noted on Monday, there hasn’t been much movement in the Verizon IndyCar Series driver market for 2016, and the available seats left out there are exactly the same ones (in theory, anyway) as they were this time 12 months ago.

And if Jack Harvey can get his program sorted, arguably the most intriguing of those remaining seats – the second seat alongside James Hinchcliffe at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports – could go away itself.

Harvey, who has been working to gather the necessary budget since the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in September to graduate into IndyCar, has said he’s close for the better part of a month.

In early November, Harvey told The Linc in the U.K. there was an 80 percent chance he’d be in IndyCar next season.

He’s now expanded on those hopes in an interview with Autosport’s Marcus Simmons, renowned in U.K. circles as one of the leading journalists in discovering young open-wheel talent.

“The sooner the better,” Harvey told Simmons. “If we could be in before Christmas it would be better for me and the team, so we’re trying to work towards that.

“But we want to make the best deal, not just rush one – our foot’s in the door and it’s time to push the whole body through.”

He “graduates” from the Racing Steps Foundation this year; the RSF has been an instrumental part of Harvey’s upbringing.

Realistically, SPM makes the most sense for Harvey to graduate with. He’s been with SPM’s Indy Lights program the last two years, where he bagged seven wins, finished on the podium in 60 percent of his starts and finished second each of the last two years.

And frankly, he’s due for the opportunity. You can say “oh, he didn’t win a title” – but consider the list of Indy Lights non-champions in the current IndyCar field, a list that includes race winners Helio Castroneves, Marco Andretti, Charlie Kimball and Carlos Munoz among others – and he’d be more than fine to fit in.

Plus, with Spencer Pigot already confirmed for at least a three-race program with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, with hopes of more, it would be nice to see the two protagonists from this year’s Indy Lights battle continue their rivalry at the next level.

Vandoorne, McLaren lead Abu Dhabi’s single day of Pirelli tire testing

xxxx during the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on October 11, 2015 in Sochi, Russia.
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It was only a test, two days after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix season finale at Yas Marina Circuit, but it’s still nice to write as the 2015 Formula 1 season officially draws to a close: A McLaren Honda was fastest.

GP2 Series champion Stoffel Vandoorne resumed aboard the McLaren MP4-30 Honda chassis and compared to a year ago, when he barely made more than an installation lap in the post-Abu Dhabi test, ended 2015 on top of the timesheets – albeit with times not really the focus in what was a Pirelli tire test of various configurations for the new “ultrasoft” compound.

“We had one shot when it came to testing tires for next season, and we can be satisfied by what we’ve achieved in this test, even if we have to fully analyze the data,” Pirelli’s Paul Hembery said, via Autosport.

The “ultrasoft” compound, marked with a purple stripe, could further the delta between Pirelli’s prime and option tires in 2016. There’s only been a step of one compound between primes and options between the four 2015 compounds: supersoft, soft, medium and hard.

As it was, Vandoorne’s best time of 1:44.103 was 0.353 clear of Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari, who ended his season on the podium with third place on Sunday.

American Alexander Rossi, who finished second to Vandoorne in GP2 this season, poked fun at Vandoorne ending P1 on Twitter.

Other 2015 regular season drivers who tested included Raikkonen’s teammate Sebastian Vettel, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat (although Kvyat didn’t turn a lap), Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and Toro Rosso teammates Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr.

Fellow young guns – Mercedes’ Pascal Wehrlein, Lotus’ Jolyon Palmer, Sauber’s Adderly Fong, Force India’s Alfonso Celis Jr. and Manor’s Jordan King and Rio Haryanto – also ran during the private test session.

Here are the unofficial times below, via McLaren’s Twitter account:

Detroit Grand Prix names new General Manager, Michael Montri

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Michael Montri has been named the new General Manager of the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, which runs next June 3-5, 2016.

Montri replaces Charles Burns, the former director of INDYCAR security who ran the event from the end of 2012 through the end of November, this year.

Since its return to the calendar in 2012, the Penske-run event has established itself as one of the best-run events on the INDYCAR calendar from an operational and organizational standpoint.

It’s also asserting itself as the lone doubleheader weekend on the INDYCAR calendar, following Toronto’s reduction to one race and the absence of Houston on the schedule.

Montri, as it is, has been within the Penske organization for more than a decade in a variety of roles, starting as a marketing and public relations intern when Penske still ran Michigan International Speedway.

From the Detroit Grand Prix release:

“Since 2002, Montri has worked with Penske Automotive Group (PAG), serving most recently as Vice President of Fleet Operations for Penske Car Rental and as Vice President of Procurement for PAG. For the last several years, Montri has also worked with the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix team, providing support leading up to and during race weekend.”

“We are excited to welcome Michael Montri as the General Manager for the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix,” said Bud Denker, Chairman of the Grand Prix. “Michael has a strong background in motorsports and he brings a wealth of knowledge, experience and leadership from his time in Detroit with the Penske Corporation companies. He has also worked closely with our Grand Prix staff over the last few events so he is a great fit to lead the team into 2016 and beyond.”

“The Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix is such a positive and important event for our region and I’m really looking forward to the opportunity of leading our Grand Prix team,” said Montri. “I’ve always had a passion for motorsports so this new challenge really represents a return to my roots. Most importantly, the Grand Prix is about giving back to Detroit and, specifically, to Belle Isle. I look forward to working with all the stakeholders involved with the Grand Prix and continuing its mission of revitalizing the jewel within our city – Belle Isle Park.”

As King, Haryanto test, Manor’s venerable chassis MR03B retires at last

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 27:  Will Stevens of Great Britain and Manor Marussia drives during practice for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 27, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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The period of transition continues for Manor Marussia F1 Team, as today two of its young potential future stars tested, while its own venerable, workhorse chassis MR03B took its last scheduled laps.

GP2 drivers Jordan King and Rio Haryanto were behind the wheel for today’s running at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. Neither was really in it for lap times – best times were only 1:49.593 (Haryanto) and 1:49.661 (King) respectively – but more a chance to go through Pirelli’s designated program and gain further experience in a Formula 1 car.

English driver King completed 59 laps in his first ever outing in a Formula 1 car, while Haryanto, the young Indonesian driver, made 56 laps in his first bit of F1 running since 2012. So this marked his first running in the current generation of machinery, which debuted ahead of the 2014 season.

“It has been quite a while since I last tested a Formula 1 car, with Manor, in fact, in 2012,” Haryanto said. “The cars of today though are quite a lot different, especially in respect of the new engine developments, so it took some time to get used to the changes, especially the engine management. As the morning progressed though I was improving all the time and with no issues I could really get into the program.”

King added of his day, “My first time at the wheel of an F1 car has been an incredible experience and I can’t thank Manor enough for providing me with this opportunity. Today’s Pirelli tire test had a very specific focus and I was determined to make the most of this chance to show my development capability as well as my potential for the future. We had a trouble-free day, so I could really get stuck into the plan, and this enabled me to build my confidence as the afternoon progressed.”

As for the chassis, which was Will Stevens’ race chassis this year, Manor confirmed it has completed more than 20,000 km over its two-year lifespan.

A calculation from veteran F1 journalist Adam Cooper puts that at some 65 race distances!

Manor Marussia F1 Team heads into the winter with former team chiefs Graeme Lowdon (sporting director) and John Booth (team principal) leaving and perhaps pursuing a new adventure, Dave Ryan (racing director) now entering and as the only team on the grid yet to confirm its driver lineup.

American Alexander Rossi is known to be among the contenders for a full-season seat, while Stevens, Haryanto and Mercedes reserve Pascal Wehrlein’s names have also been mentioned as possibilities.