PWC: Acura TLX-GT set for debut at Mid-Ohio

Leave a comment

As the Pirelli World Challenge Championships heads to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for Rounds 11 and 12 of the GT, GT-A and GTS seasons, as it will mark the arrival of one of the series’ most anticipated new cars at the Honda Indy 200 weekend.

The RealTime Racing squad, which had been GTS stalwarts the last several years with the tried-and-true Acura TSX, is now transitioning into the GT class with the new Acura TLX-GT. As Acura looks forward to the 2015 production car’s debut, this gives the RealTime squad a chance to present the car over the final few races of 2014 to build the anticipation.

The car had been set to debut at Detroit, but was delayed following a testing issue. But now, the car has been officially confirmed for its debut this weekend.

For seven-time PWC GT champion Peter Cunningham, the challenge of debuting a new car is one he doesn’t take lightly.

“It’s certainly been a very exciting program, very challenging program,” Cunningham told MotorSportsTalk heading into the weekend. “We’re doing it on a timeline that’s quite compressed. That adds to the challenge and the excitement of this Acura program.”

In what’s been an eight-month period, the Milwaukee-based RealTime team has launched, assembled and tested the TLX-GT. It jumps into a GT class that also includes entries from Cadillac, McLaren, Ferrari, Audi, Porsche, Bentley, Dodge, Mercedes-Benz and Reiter Engineering Lamborghini, among others. The TLX prototype and TLX-GT racecar were premiered in Detroit earlier this year.

“It’s been nothing short of fantastic,” Cunningham said of the GT field this year, since he’s been in the abnormal position of a spectator during races. “For us to take a new car and get thrown into it, is going to be a whirlwind for sure.

“We’d never intend to come out of the box with anything but a good level of performance, but we just need to manage our expectations because the field is so incredible and competitive,” he added. “We can’t expect to just come out of the box and set the world on fire. But we seek a decent, reliable weekend.”

Part of the excitement surrounding this car is the activating and marketing aspect, something which has also included Verizon IndyCar Series driver Simon Pagenaud in an ad earlier this year.

“There’s some really exciting things going on with that car; a good power band with the twin turbo added to it,” Pagenaud said. “I’m really interested to see it against Cadillac and the rest of the field. You’ll see the handing with four-wheel drive – I’ve always been a big four-wheel drive fan. I’ve never understood why it wasn’t more in play. You get to see that a lot in rally, and I’m really excited to see it stack up against the competition.”

Although it’s a bit of a challenge, Pagenaud tries to watch other races on site over the course of the weekend. Pirelli World Challenge has already run on five IndyCar weekends this year; this will be the sixth of seven Indy/PWC shared weekends in 2014.

“I try, but it’s such a busy schedule every weekend, especially for a doubleheader,” he explained. “But usually when we’re done, PWC is on track in the evening. I try to follow as much as I can – obviously I’m interested more now with Acura in the mix, and I’ll check. It’s such a very early time for RealTime. But it should be interesting to see in the first few practices. If it rains, they should be in good form.”

After Mid-Ohio, the next stop on the PWC schedule is August 23-24 at Sonoma Raceway.

More info here:

F1 Preview: 2018 Australian Grand Prix

Photo: Getty Images
Leave a comment

Save for two occasions, in 2006, and 2010, the Australian Grand Prix has served as the season-opening event for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since 1996, and this weekend’s event will be the 21st time that the city of Melbourne has kicked off the Formula 1 campaign.

The 2018 season is the fifth one of the current hybrid power unit era, the second season of the current aero regulations, and the second under Liberty Media’s guidance.

Last year saw titans Mercedes AMG Petronas and Scuderia Ferrari duel for supremacy for most of the season before Mercedes distanced Ferrari late in the season to take the constructor’s title and the driver’s title, with Lewis Hamilton, who is now tied with Sebastian Vettel on four world championships apiece.

Four drivers on the grid have Formula 1 world championships to their name: Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, and Fernando Alonso. Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley also has a world championship to his name as a two-time titlist in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

So, what can viewers expect from the 2018 curtain-raiser in Australia? A handful of things to watch are below?

2018 Australian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Does Anyone Have Anything for Mercedes?

Only on one day during pre-season testing did a Mercedes driver lead the way – Lewis Hamilton was fastest on the final day of Week 1 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

However, all indications were that was by design, with the team focusing the majority of the second week, if not the entire second week, on long runs with their W09 EQ Power+ chassis.

Such a decision is an ominous one, in that it indicates the team is very comfortable with the amount of speed in the car and did not see a need, or desire, to show their hand during testing.

With that in mind, the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas may yet again have the best and fastest cars, and the team looks poised to potentially make it five constructor’s and driver’s championships in a row.

Ferrari and Red Bull Look to End Mercedes Reign

The biggest threats to Mercedes are undoubtedly Ferrari and Red Bull, the only other teams to win in 2017.

And both teams displayed a lot of pace during testing, particularly in the “one-lap speed” category. Ricciardo set a lap record around the Catalunya circuit during the second week, only for Vettel to supplant that mark later in the week. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen led the way during the final day of testing.

It is unknown how that pace will translate over the course of a race distance. Mercedes appeared to have an edge on both Ferrari and Red Bull over long runs and race simulations, but there is also a theory that neither Ferrari nor Red Bull had their true long-run form on display.

Still, if a team is going to knock off Mercedes, it will likely be either Ferrari or Red Bull.

McLaren on the Rebound?

Put simply, the previous three seasons for McLaren F1 Team were a bit of a disaster. Their partnership with Honda yielded point totals of 27 (2015), 76 (2016), and 30 (2017) in a three-year venture that was defined by poor reliability and underwhelming power.

The relationship hit a boiling point last year and both entities parted ways ahead of the 2018 season, with McLaren signing a new power unit deal with Renault.

Testing went better than in previous years, though the team continued to battle reliability problems. However, all issues appeared to be minor, needling issues rather than more significant, foundational problems, as the other Renault teams (Red Bull and Renault Sport F1 Team) had solid runs with few reliability issues.

The car does appear to have speed in it, so if the reliability problems are behind them, McLaren could be in for a rebound season.

Stuck in the Midfield Again

Formula 1’s battle amongst the midfield is set to be as fierce as ever as a host of a several teams have a chance at being “best of the rest.”

Sahara Force India has been the frontrunner from the the midfield teams each of the last two years, finishing fourth in the constructor’s title in both 2016 and 2017, though if the steady conflict between drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez continues through 2018, it could hamper their efforts significantly.

Renault Sport F1 Team and Haas F1 Team look to improve on their 2017 form, while Toro Rosso is in a new partnership with Honda power units…and has experienced a surprisingly smooth pre-season as Honda’s 2018 platform looks significantly better, with the team enjoying a solid run of testing with few, if any, reliability problems.

Williams Martini Racing and Alfa Romeo Sauber appear to be at the back of the pack entering the season, but both could battle for points finishes if those ahead of them falter.