Pure Michigan 400

NASCAR: Toyota working to find more horsepower for engines


Last year for Toyota Racing Development, the power of their NASCAR Sprint Cup Series engines wasn’t the problem. It was their reliability.

This year, the situation has been reversed.

While TRD has largely avoided the engine failures that plagued them in 2013, it’s clear that they’ve been unable to match, performance-wise, the Hendrick and Roush-Yates powerplants that have respectively pushed Hendrick Motorsports and Team Penske to the top of the pecking order.

Last Sunday at Michigan, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin claimed that his TRD engine was down 50 horsepower after he finished seventh in the Pure Michigan 400. Three of the Top-5 finishers, including winner Jeff Gordon, had Hendrick motors; a fourth Top-5 finisher, Team Penske’s Joey Logano in third, had a Roush-Yates motor.

Today, TRD president David Wilson denied that his organization’s engines were as down on horsepower as Hamlin alleged. But he admitted that the company has a gap to close, and is working hard to do that.

“Ultimately, we are bringing more performance,” Wilson said according to the Sporting News’ Bob Pockrass. “We’re not down 50 horsepower, I guarantee you that.

“But we also recognize we need to be better and have been very, very candid and open that we’re continuing to work to make sure when we get to the Chase, we’re more competitive.”

With three regular season races remaining, four Toyota drivers are currently on the Chase Grid with two of them, JGR’s Hamlin and Kyle Busch, having clinched berths.

Their teammate, Matt Kenseth, and Clint Bowyer of TRD-powered Michael Waltrip Racing currently occupy two of the four Grid positions that are still up for grabs.

JGR in particular appears in good shape to have all three of its drivers make the Chase as Kenseth has a sizable points cushion in his favor.

But it still bears noting that Kenseth has gone winless in 2014 after taking seven checkered flags last year. Busch’s win total has also dropped, from four in 2013 to a lone win in 2014 at Fontana.

If Toyota’s going to stand a chance to win this year’s Sprint Cup championship, TRD needs to solve its power woes. JGR’s owner, Joe Gibbs, is counting on them.

“We’ve got some good updates coming in the motor, and so hopefully we get hot at the right time,” Gibbs told Pockrass. “We’ve been behind.”

Lotus prepared for close fight with Force India for P5

SUZUKA, JAPAN - SEPTEMBER 26:  Romain Grosjean of France and Lotus drives during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka Circuit on September 26, 2015 in Suzuka.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

Lotus technical director Nick Chester believes that the team faces a close fight with Force India for fifth place in the constructors’ championship that will rage on until the end of the 2015 Formula 1 season.

Lotus currently ranks sixth in the teams’ standings, 17 points behind Force India in fifth with five races remaining this year.

Finishing fifth in the constructors’ championship would not only secure some much-needed additional prize money for Lotus, but it would also secure it a place on the F1 Strategy Group for 2016 when it is poised to become Renault F1 Team.

Reflecting on last weekend’s race in Japan, Chester said he was pleased with the double-points finished achieved by Lotus drivers Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean, and believes that the team can catch up in the coming weeks if Force India hits trouble.

“[Japan] was very rewarding and also very important for us in our fight for fifth place in the constructors’ championship,” Chester said. “We closed up a little bit more on Force India and of course there is a bit more to do.

“They had a good race in Monza when both our cars got knocked out but effectively we’re one good race away where they have a bad one and we can catch up. It will be tight all the way until the end of the season.

Looking ahead to the upcoming Russian Grand Prix in Sochi, Chester spoke of the challenge posed to both the teams and the drivers by the tight and twisting circuit around the site of the old winter Olympic park.

“We know that the surface is very smooth and last year we struggled generating temperature with the tires, partly through the smooth surface and partly through what was a conservative tire allocation,” Chester said.

“Pirelli’s softer allocation for this year along with the more weathered track surface and our better knowledge of the circuit should mean we fare far better in this regard. In terms of its needs, we know that it’s a track that is quite power and traction-sensitive.

“The layout presents a lot of slow speed corners and long straights. Braking down into turn 13 is very severe and you come out of the kink before you brake so it is a difficult corner to get right. Overall, the whole track is quite technical, so it certainly a challenging one for the drivers.”

Status targets 2016 GP2 title after GP3 exit

2015 GP2 Series Round 8.
Autodromo di Monza, Italy.
Sunday 6 September 2015.
Marlon Stockinger (PHL, Status Grand Prix) 
Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _G7C2088
© GP2 Series
Leave a comment

Status Grand Prix has set its sights on winning the 2016 GP2 Series championship following its decision to close down its GP3 team at the end of the current season.

Earlier this week, GP3 issued a statement confirming its team roster for the next three seasons that featured new entries from DAMS and Virtuosi Racing.

However, both Carlin and Status did not appear on the list, signalling that both had opted to leave GP3 at the end of 2015.

Status first entered GP3 back in 2010, but only set up a GP2 team in 2015 after taking over the old Caterham Racing operation.

This will now become the main focus for the Irish outfit, though, as explained by team boss Teddy Yip Jr. earlier this week.

“Status Grand Prix has not renewed entry into the GP3 Series from 2016 onwards in order to maximize focus on our GP2 campaign,” Yip said.

“Having finished second in the team championship in the inaugural GP3 Series, we have enjoyed six successful years in the category collecting nine race wins, 26 podium finishes and vying for numerous team and driver titles.

“We are very proud to have given opportunities and achieved success with drivers such as Robert Wickens, Antonio Felix da Costa, Alexander Sims and our current GP2 race winner, Richie Stanaway.

“We now look forward to finishing the 2015 GP2 and GP3 seasons on a high before mounting a robust GP2 title campaign in 2016.”

Both GP2 and GP3 return from a one-month break next weekend in support of the Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix.