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Eriksen: Six new HPD ARX-04b coupes planned to race in 2015

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One of the items from last weekend’s Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course we weren’t able to hit during the weekend was Honda’s Steve Eriksen, VP and COO of Honda Performance Development, having a sit down with the media to discuss Honda’s current racing projects.

Eriksen expanded on the new HPD ARX-04b coupe, the new P2 car. Here’s a transcript of that section:

THE MODERATOR: Let’s move to sports cars for a moment. The new ARX-04b makes its debut in 2015. It’s a beautiful car. We know the Extreme Speed Motorsports team is going to run it in the TUDOR Championship. Give us an update on where that project stands, perhaps if we have the possibility of seeing other cars out there in addition to the Extreme Speed entries.

STEVE ERIKSEN: Our target was to have six cars planned for next season. I have every confidence that we’ll have all six out there.

The balance between World Endurance Championship or the TUDOR Championship kind of depends on the politics and balance of performance happens in the U.S. But I expect that all six of the cars we’ve targeted will go out to teams.

The progress on the car is going really well. We’re planning to put the first cars together in late October, then they’ll be on track in November. You can see them in person.

The car itself, it takes everything we learned from the last times that we had to do new cars. If you look back on the history, there was the ARX-01a, which debuted in 2007, then the 01b came out in 2008, which was a major update. The 01c was developed for Le Mans. That was a car that raced and set all kinds of records in 2010. We didn’t have opportunities to do updates to the car until we created this new car because of the ACO regulations.

What you’ll see is essentially the behind-the-scenes work that has been going on for years in our sports car program finally come to light. All the things that have been happening in the virtual world over the years is going to be coming together in this new car.

We made a special emphasis on the safety in this car. If you look at the regulations and you look at LMP1 versus LMP2, there are some differences in safety requirements between the two cars. Our P2 car is going to have all of the P1 safety requirements in addition to the P2 safety requirements. We’ve gone above and beyond. Although that adds expense to the car, it’s going to have every safety advancement we can put in the car.

This is not part of the regulation requirement, but we’re adding the fuel safety interlock system, which is the same system on every IndyCar here, which we developed. That same system of ours is going into the sports car as well. That’s another safety enhancement.

We’re also pushing the TUDOR Series to go back to ACO-style pit stops with the requirement that you can’t work on the car until fueling is done. We feel that’s an important safety benefit that should be put back into the series.

I think it will also save teams money because they’ll be able to double, triple, even quadruple stint their tires. I think it will help make the racing more interesting because you’ll have this back and forth between a DP car, which is really using the cars properly, then a P2 car for which the tires are not designed to operate with that type of car.

When the 04b comes out, I think you’ll see a lot of neat refinements on that car. It’s going to be a special car.

THE MODERATOR: You expect some mix of 04b cars, chassis, between the World Endurance Championship and the TUDOR Championship, correct?

STEVE ERIKSEN: That’s correct. If I was guessing today, and every day changes, but if I was guessing today, I’d say there will be four in the TUDOR Series and two in the WEC.

Kevin Hart, Ludacris, Marco Andretti head to Abu Dhabi for F1 finale

Marco Andretti
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Marco Andretti has had a good run of attending season finale events.

Obviously, the 28-year-old grandson of Mario Andretti rounded out his 10th season in the Verizon IndyCar Series at its own season finale at Sonoma, finishing 11th and then ending the year ninth in points.

But Andretti told NASCAR Talk’s Nate Ryan, among other reporters, at Phoenix International Raceway where he’d tested his IndyCar and then made the promotional rounds that he’d have a busy next couple weeks ahead.

“I’m watching too many races. I need to be in them!” Andretti said. “(Homestead), I’m going as Jeff Gordon’s guest. Then going to Abu Dhabi Formula 1. (Our season) needs to be longer.”

Last week, he and fellow IndyCar stars Josef Newgarden and James Hinchcliffe made the trip to Homestead-Miami Speedway – incidentally, as did Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton – to witness Jeff Gordon’s final drive before hanging up his helmet after 23 incredible years at NASCAR’s top level.

This week, it was Marco’s turn to hit Hamilton’s usual turf, as he and his friends Ludacris and Kevin Hart made the trip to Abu Dhabi to witness the F1 finale.

Marco, who had a Honda Racing F1 test in the late 2000s but never was able to make the move to emulate both Mario and Michael, each of whom raced in F1, appeared wowed by the Yas Marina Circuit once he arrived from Chicago.

Abu Dhabi F1 quals!! @kevinhart4real @ludacris

A photo posted by Marco Andretti (@marcoandretti) on

Yas is hands down the most insane facility ! #AbuDhabi. Wish I was driving !!

A photo posted by Marco Andretti (@marcoandretti) on

Andretti, Luda, Hart and crew met up with Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo at the weekend.

Andretti is continuing the trip into this week, with further posts via his Instagram page.

Hart – one of this country’s most talented and recognizable comedians at the moment – also appeared to enjoy the atmosphere.

As did Ludacris, who posted this view from a yacht.

The only way to watch the F1 Race in Abu Dhabi. #yachtlife

A photo posted by @ludacris on

The vacation crew found Hamilton after the race on Sunday night.

Hamilton’s friend, another artist in Big Sean, who’d performed the halftime show at the Philadelphia Eagles-Detroit Lions Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit, also made the flight out to Abu Dhabi.

Complete with other more obscure, random celebrities like Rick Astley – who apparently “Rick-rolled” free practice two coverage on the world feed – Edgar Davids and Dwight Yorke, it was a weekend of interesting folks hitting Abu Dhabi. My MotorSportsTalk colleague Luke Smith noted those three, below, in various tweets over the weekend.

Out of Thanksgiving, IndyCar’s open spots are exactly in same place as this time last year

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Now that it’s a new work week and the tryptophan has hopefully worked itself through your system, you’ve had and enjoyed your family time, it’s time for the final few full work weeks of the 2015 calendar before the next round of holidays – Christmas time.

Those who already have confirmed seats for the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season are certainly thankful for what they have.

Meanwhile if we flash back some 12 months to look at the then-available amount of talent waiting in the wings, here’s what stood as the unconfirmed seats:

  • Chip Ganassi Racing, fourth car (along with a formal confirmation of the full lineup)
  • Andretti Autosport, fourth car (plus a possible fifth)
  • Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, second car
  • KVSH Racing/KV Racing Technology, second car
  • CFH Racing, No. 20 road and street course driver alongside Ed Carpenter (ovals)
  • Dale Coyne Racing, both cars
  • Bryan Herta Autosport, first car

Flash forward 12 months later, and the situation is exactly identical. Those exact same seats have yet to be confirmed for 2016.

The only differences from above is that the first three drivers at Chip Ganassi Racing – four-time and defending champion Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball – already have been formally confirmed for 2016, and Sage Karam has not.

Karam’s manager told a little over a week ago that his contract was not retained for 2016; that said, it’s “only” November and conceivably he could return if enough budget is found.

Sebastien Bourdais is still anticipated to return with KVSH Racing for a third season; A.J. Foyt Enterprises also hasn’t formally confirmed, but is expected to keep its same lineup of Takuma Sato and Jack Hawksworth.

Gabby Chaves is expected to return for a second season with BHA, while of the other seats listed above, the second SPM seat is the most intriguing option.

Proof then that the more things change in IndyCar, the more they stay the same. And when there’s very little news on the driver market… there’s very little news on the driver market.

Race Recap: Rosberg’s hot streak continues in Abu Dhabi

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The 2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix may have lacked the drama of the title deciders we have been treated to at the Yas Marina Circuit over the years, but it was nevertheless an important race in setting the scene for the new season.

Nico Rosberg capped off a largely disappointing campaign with a sixth win of the year, completing his first career hat-trick following victories in Mexico and Brazil.

Teammate Lewis Hamilton was left to settle for P2 once again, and although he may have clinched his third world title in emphatic style earlier this year, the Briton will undoubtedly be wary of a renewed charge from Rosberg in 2016 following his impressive run of form.

In the final race recap video of the season, Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett review the 2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the F1 year as a whole ahead of the long winter break.

Lowdon, Booth bid farewell to Manor in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 28:  Manor Marussia Team Principal John Booth and Manor Marussia President and Sporting Director Graeme Lowdon arrive in the paddock before final practice for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 28, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Sporting director Graeme Lowdon and team principal John Booth both bid emotional farewells to Manor Marussia Formula 1 Team in Abu Dhabi on Sunday after resigning from their roles last month.

Lowdon and Booth were instrumental in the formation of Virgin Racing in 2010, which ultimately evolved to become Marussia F1 Team.

When Marussia collapsed financially in 2014, Lowdon and Booth managed to keep the team going and revive it as Manor for the new season, securing its place on the grid.

However, following disagreements with team owner Stephen Fitzpatrick over the future of the team, both Lowdon and Booth tendered their resignations, with today’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix marking the final race in their roles.

“This is of course my final race with the Manor Marussia F1 Team,” Booth said.

“At a time like this, there is so much to say but I think the single biggest sentiment I will take away is incredible pride at just how much we punched above our weight for such a small team.

“It was a greater challenge than we ever anticipated, but six years on we are still here fighting.

“I wish the team every success in the future and I will be following their progress with a great deal of satisfaction at what we created together.”

Lowdon took to Twitter to thank the Manor team, but left the door on F1 open by only saying goodbye ‘for now’.

Manor’s final race of the year ended with another double finish as Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi finished 18th and 19th respectively. After the race, both drivers paid tribute to their outgoing bosses.

“I would like to thank everyone in the team for their support, but in particular John and Graeme, who we say goodbye to here today,” Stevens said.

Merhi added: “I would like to thank the whole team, not only for this opportunity but for the hard work throughout the season. We’ve had some difficult times, but I am very proud of us.

“My thanks also to John and Graeme and I wish them well for the future. I am sure we have not seen the last of them!”