F1: Titanium skid blocks important for safety, says FIA

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Along with standing restarts and other changes, the 2015 Formula One season is set to also feature cars fitted with titanium skid blocks.

But the FIA insists that, contrary to some criticism, the titanium blocks aren’t just going to be there to jazz up the show with showers of sparks.

In recent comments, F1 race director Charlie Whiting said the new blocks are also there for safety reasons.

“The skids have formerly been made of a heavy metal, which has been very resistant to wear, and [the teams] put the skids around the points in the plank where thickness is measured,” Whiting said.

“This metal is extremely heavy and when pieces detach they can be extremely harmful. We saw two punctures in Spa previously because of bits of this metal that lay in a kerb and caused damage.

“In a worst case scenario, they could fly off and hit someone.”

Whiting went on to give other reasons behind the FIA’s decision to mandate the titanium blocks, including the titanium’s quicker wear rate than that of the metal being used on the current blocks.

“…The titanium wears some two to 2.5 times more quickly than the metal currently used,” he said. “Thus, cars will have to be run a little bit higher to manage wear and teams won’t be able to drag them on the ground quite as much as they have in the past.”

However, he did concede that the resulting sparks from the titanium “will look a little more spectacular” in the eyes of some.

During last month’s Austrian Grand Prix, the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg and the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen were fitted with the titanium blocks in a practice session.

However, per our man on the ground Luke Smith, the blocks only appeared to work in providing sparks along the main straight at Red Bull Ring – and not anywhere else on the circuit.

The Callaway Corvette GT3 is coming to America, in PWC

Photo: Callaway Competition USA
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Pirelli World Challenge has been in need of some good news from a car count standpoint early into this offseason, and receives it Monday with confirmation Callaway Competition will bring its GT3-spec homologated Corvette C7 GT3-R Stateside next season.

The withdrawal of the factory Cadillac Racing program after PWC’s season finale in Sonoma in September has opened the door for the factory-blessed Corvette C7 GT3-R to run in North America, because Cadillac’s ATS-V.R has been the lone GT3-spec car under the General Motors awning for the last three seasons, while the Callaway Corvette has raced only internationally.

Reeves Callaway has been on site at the tail end of the PWC season to survey the opportunity and now a deal has been struck for a factory effort to run next year, before the Callaway Corvette program becomes a customer effort in 2019. This follows the same timeline as Acura did with its new NSX GT3 this year to run it as a factory program in 2017 before shifting to customer efforts in 2018.

“Joining the Pirelli World Challenge has been a long term objective for Callaway Competition,” Callaway said in a release. “Now the field is a roll-call of the most capable sports cars from every country. To do well here, you must beat the best in the world. What better way to showcase our iconic American car?

“For 2018, we will run a Callaway factory team to give us the best chance of continuing the championship record the Corvette has achieved in international competition. For 2019, we will not race against our customers, but provide high-quality support to them in the tradition of other manufacturer customer racing support programs.”

“For several years fans have asked when they would see the Callaway Corvette GT3 run in the Pirelli World Challenge,” added Greg Gill, President and CEO of Pirelli World Challenge. “The wait is over and we are very pleased to announce the arrival of the Callaway Corvette GT3 for the 2018 season.”

The Callaway Competition USA Corvette C7 GT3-R will be unveiled and both full season drivers announced at the Performance Racing Industry show in Indianapolis on December 7 at the Pirelli World Challenge booth. Following the unveiling event, the car will be on display for the remainder of the trade show. Details of the presentation will be announced in the coming weeks.

Callaway’s confirmation comes amidst the likely drawdown of potentially nine or 10 cars that raced in PWC’s GT and GTA ranks either all season or most of it in 2017, among at least five manufacturers. That’s not to say those losses can’t be recouped elsewhere on the grid, over the next several months before the St. Petersburg season opener in March.

PWC will hold its annual state of the series and competitor meeting to finalize the next year’s plans at the PRI show as well.