PWC: Weekend winners, plus other Mid-Ohio weekend notes

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Editor’s Note: The Pirelli World Challenge races from the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course air Sunday, August 10, at 1:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. The GT, GT-A, and GTS classes ran Saturday and Sunday for 50-minute sprint races; the TC, TCA and TCB classes ran Friday and Saturday for 40 minutes apiece. If you don’t want to know who won the races, we’d advise you read no further. 

The GT, GT-A and GTS double at Mid-Ohio saw a trio of drivers complete doubleheader weekend sweeps. EFFORT Racing won both Saturday and Sunday in GT and GT-A, to cap off a perfect weekend for the Houston-based team in its pair of Porsche GT3 Rs.

Ryan Dalziel, making his return to the Pirelli World Challenge for the first time since 2013, took Saturday’s rain-shortened race as he was classified as the race leader when the race was red flagged due to a deluge. Johnny O’Connell and Mike Skeen rounded out the GT podium. Dalziel’s teammate, Michael Mills, won his second straight and third GT-A race of the year. Blackdog Speed Shop’s Lawson Aschenbach took the GTS win in his Chevrolet Camaro over Alec Udell and Nic Jonsson.

Podiums were similar in the all-dry race two, Round 12, on Sunday with Dalziel leading Skeen and Anthony Lazzaro in GT. The podium order was reversed in GT-A – Mills won but Albert von Thurn und Taxis and Jim Taggart swapped second and third; the German came second on Sunday with Taggart third. Aschenbach beat the Kia Racing/Kinetic Motorsports teammates of Jonsson and Mark Wilkins in GTS.

O’Connell (GT) and Wilkins (GTS) lead the respective points standings, as do their manufacturer’s (Cadillac, GT; Kia, GTS) with just four races and two race weekends to go. Mills leads the GT-A classified drivers.

The pair of Touring Car races were exciting both days; Friday’s featured a mix of wet/dry conditions while Saturday’s, all dry, was a thrill ride from start to finish.

Winners on Friday were Michael DiMeo (TC), Jason Wolfe (TCA) and Tyler Palmer (TCB). Wolfe’s drive was particularly impressive; the Mid-Ohio track instructor came from 14th overall on the grid up to second overall in his Kia Forte Koup, ultimately ending third overall behind DiMeo and Nissan driver Steven Doherty, who barely held onto his Nissan Altima Coupe in a wicked series of slides.

Saturday’s race two (Round 10) was a classic scrap between DiMeo and Adam Poland in TC, with DiMeo prevailing again for his eighth win in 10 races. Shea Holbrook secured her fifth win of the year in TCA in a nice bounce back, with Chase Pelletier winning in TCB. Hondas swept the win category there.

Points leaders in these classes are DiMeo (TC), Wolfe (TCA) and Brian Price (TCB); Wolfe and Holbrook are neck-and-neck for the TCA lead.

Dalziel’s pair of wins was enough for him to be confirmed for the remainder of the Pirelli World Challenge season in the No. 31 GT entry, as outlined in a video produced by EFFORT Racing. Nick Tandy had replaced prior driver Tim Bergmeister at Toronto, with Dalziel in for Mid-Ohio.

Former IndyCar rookie-of-the-year Alex Lloyd made his professional racing return in CRP Racing’s No. 12 Emkay Fleet Management/Hawk Performance Chevrolet Corvette. In race one he drove from 24th to 11th; in race two he stalled on the grid, took his start, had to serve a drive-through penalty, carved through the field and then had a mechanical issue. He recaps the weekend here for Yahoo Autos (it includes helmet cam. It’s good.).

There were two charity entries competing this weekend, with Pirelli World Challenge President/CEO Scott Bove and 15-year-old rising star Austin Cindric sharing the No. 55 Special Operations Warrior Foundation Ford Mustang Boss in GTS, and Leo Parente and Dan Goodman sharing the No. 00 FIAT USA/Pirelli Tire/SRT Motorsports FIAT 500 in TCB.

Bove (25th to 20th, race one) and Cindric (22nd to 14th, race two) each made passes in their respective races; the net total of 13, plus other flat donations, made for more than $13,500 raised in total. More here from the series website. Cindric completed his weekend – “The Quad” – with racing in all three USF2000 races plus the Pirelli World Challenge GTS Round 12. In the USF2000 races, Cindric finished 18th in race one, then sixth in both races two and three in the 21-car field.

More info will follow from Parente’s and Goodman’s respective outings soon.

After a couple-week break, the Pirelli World Challenge GT classes head to Sonoma Raceway on August 22-24 for a doubleheader, while the TC ones are next in action at Brainerd International Raceway in Minnesota August 29-31 for a doubleheader there.

Loftus Robinson Rejoin Dreyer and Reinbold Racing for Indy 500

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Indianapolis-based real estate developer Loftus Robinson will rejoin Dreyer and Reinbold Racing for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. The relationship between Loftus Robinson and DRR goes back to 2015, when they first partnered for the “500.” The partnership continues for 2017, with Sage Karam piloting the effort for the second consecutive year.

“Being an Indianapolis-based company, we felt it has been important to partner with another local company, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, in the famed Indy 500,” said Drew Loftus, co-principal of Loftus Robinson. “The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has served as a great backdrop for our business’ growth. We have enjoyed our relationship with Dennis and his racing team. They have built a tremendous infrastructure to assist us and our partners through the event. We’re anxious to see Sage back on track in the No. 24 DRR Chevrolet this May.”

Team co-owner Dennis Reinbold echoed Loftus’ enthusiam. “Loftus Robinson has been one of the Indianapolis area’s top young commercial real estate companies in recent years and we are very pleased to have them back in 2017 with our Indy 500 entry,” he explained. “Loftus Robinson has utilized our racing team’s participation in the world’s greatest auto race to formulate strong relationships with their business partners as well as developing new clients right at the track. We hope to put them in victory lane on May 28 with Sage at the wheel.”

Practice for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil begins on May 15.

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JR Hildebrand cleared to return for Phoenix

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After sitting out the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama last weekend, JR Hildebrand will be able to return to action for this weekend’s Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix (Saturday, 9 p.m. ET, NBCSN), after being cleared Tuesday to drive.

The primary driver of the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing sustained a broken bone in his left hand in a final lap accident at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 9, after a collision with Mikhail Aleshin. He was re-evaluated upon returning to Indianapolis and was not cleared to drive for the Barber Motorsports Park race.

Hildebrand was on site in Birmingham, Ala. in a driver coach role for Zach Veach, who filled in for his Verizon IndyCar Series debut. Veach started and finished 19th in his first start.

For Hildebrand, the return to Phoenix comes after he paced the series official preseason open test there in February, and comes as a great opportunity to come back from a challenging start to the year. Hildebrand had nondescript runs of 13th and 11th in the first two races but was 11th in points after Long Beach, although he fell to 21st when he missed Barber.

“It’s been a tricky couple of weeks working through this injury, I’m certainly anxious to get back in the car!” he said in a release. “I feel like I’m far enough along to be able to go for it this weekend in Phoenix. I know we’ve got a good program; I want to be able to come through for the team at an event where we should be strong. The competition there is tough, I expect we will really have to be on our game over the course of the weekend. I’m looking forward to getting back in the Fuzzy’s Vodka car! Everyone has been super helpful and I appreciate the hard work that everyone has put in to be able to get me back in.”

Meanwhile team owner Carpenter makes his first start of the season in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet as part of his oval-only program.

Spencer Pigot will be back in the No. 20 car at the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on May 13, before Carpenter’s back in for the rest of the month of May leading up to and into the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

IMSA: Henzler, Bonanomi called up for drives at COTA

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Two fill-in drivers have been confirmed for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s next race at Circuit of The Americas, on May 6.

Wolf Henzler will deputize for Kevin Estre in the No. 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR, while Marco Bonanomi will make his IMSA Prototype class debut as a fill-in driver for Tom Kimber-Smith in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217 Gibson.

Henzler will be in the No. 912 car alongside Laurens Vanthoor in GT Le Mans in the first “standard” two-hour, 40-minute race of the season, the Advance Auto Parts Showdown, as Estre will be on FIA World Endurance Championship duty the same day in the WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps with Porsche’s GT Team there.

Henzler’s absence means if TRG runs its Porsche 911 GT3 R at COTA in the GT Daytona class, Kevin Buckler would need a replacement for him.

There’s another potential fill-in-for-WEC driver scenario needed if Alegra Motorsports, the Rolex 24 at Daytona winners, were to run in GTD as well. Thus far Carlos de Quesada’s team has run Daniel Morad and Porsche factory driver Michael Christensen in its No. 28 Porsche in GTD through three races, but with Christensen and Estre set to share the No. 92 car at Spa, a replacement would need to be sourced there.

Bonanomi is the second replacement that is confirmed though. The Italian, who made one prior IMSA start since the 2014 merger with Fall-Line Motorsports in an Audi R8 LMS Ultra, will fill-in for “TKS,” who returns to England to take care of his mother, who is battling cancer.

“Tom will unfortunately miss the next race at Circuit of the Americas. He needs to be able to spend time back in the UK with his mother who is presently undergoing treatment for cancer,” said team principal Bobby Oergel.

“As all the drivers who have driven with PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports know, once you’re a part of our team, you’re family, and Tom is a big part of this family. It’s unfortunate that he will miss a round of the championship, but we know that family comes before racing, and we’re happy that he is able to take the time he needs to be with his family during this time.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Tom and his mother, and we are praying that she will be cancer free in the near future.”

Bonanomi has tested with the car and will share the car with Jose Gutierrez, who missed Long Beach as Will Owen filled in for him there.

“I was very happy to receive the call from PR1 to drive at their test at COTA. It was my first time driving the Ligier, but I think the test was very positive,” said Bonanomi.

“We tested some set up changes for the race that I think will be very good. The track itself is very demanding on the car and tires, especially with the extreme temperatures that can be present. The first practices during race week will be very critical to get everything just right in terms of set up, but after the test, I think we should be pretty close.”

F1 Strategy Group meeting reveals shark fin, ‘Shield’ plans for 2018

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Tuesday’s meeting of the F1 Strategy Group and F1 Commission in Paris took a couple big steps towards forward in the look of Formula 1 cars for 2018, as the cockpit “Shield” and shark fin/T-wings were among the items discussed.

This meeting included CEO of Formula One Group Chase Casey for the first time, along with FIA President Jean Todt and the key other stakeholders in the meeting.

The “Shield” concept for additional frontal protection moves up in the priority list. Per the FIA’s release, the plan is to go ahead with additional track testing this year before a 2018 implementation:

“A number of more integrated solutions for additional frontal protection have been studied, and the decision has been taken to give priority to the transparent ‘shield’ family of systems. The FIA aims to carry out track tests of this system during this season in preparation for implementation in 2018,” the release said.

The ‘Halo’ and aeroscreen ideas were trialled last year (see below):

SPA, BELGIUM – AUGUST 26: Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP sits in his car fitted with the halo in the garage during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 26, 2016 in Spa, Belgium. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA – APRIL 29: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB12 TAG Heuer fitted with the aeroscreen on track during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on April 29, 2016 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Meanwhile the shark fins and T-wings, which have come back to the cars this year over the engine cover, are set to be restricted to a box next year. The structural rigidity of those from some teams have come under scrutiny this year.

“Changes in the regulation boxes around the engine cover have been made so that designs incorporating the ‘t-wing’ and ‘shark fin’ will be strictly limited,” the release said.

Three other sporting and technical changes were released:

  • Measures will be taken to ensure that oil will not be used as fuel. In addition, only one specification of oil may be used for any given power unit during an event
  • Pirelli will be allowed to develop 2018 wet weather tyre compounds using previous specifications of cars and wheel dimensions
  • In the event of a red flag period during a race, the race will be resumed from a standing start

In two other bits, from the Spanish Grand Prix on May 14, the sporting regulations will be strictly enforced to ensure drivers’ car numbers and surnames will be made bigger and more visible. Although permanent numbers have come into play starting in 2014, where a driver picks one number for the entirety of his or her career, none has really been that big on an F1 base chassis.

Lastly, per the release “Representatives from the non-member teams will now be invited to meetings of the F1 Strategy Group to have access to the discussions, demonstrating the effective commitment of both the FIA and the Commercial Rights Holder to improve transparency in the sport.”