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IMSA: Risi Ferrari, Turner BMW, 8Star PC big winners on VIR weekend

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Releases from IMSA Communications on this weekend’s Oak Tree Grand Prix from Virginia International Raceway, the third-to-last race weekend of the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, are below. Risi Competizione bagged a last lap win in GT Le Mans, with Turner Motorsport winning the GT Daytona class yet again. 8Star Motorsports won both segments of the weekend’s Prototype Challenge races.

DANVILLE, Va. (August 24, 2014) – Ferrari continues to find new reasons to celebrate in its 60th anniversary celebration of racing in North America.

Two races after scoring its first pole in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship GT Le Mans (GTLM) class at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and one race after a breakthrough first win at Road America, Giancarlo Fisichella made a last-lap pass on Wolf Henzler to score a second consecutive victory in the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 Italia Sunday in the Oak Tree Grand Prix at Virginia International Raceway.

A late caution set up a six-minute sprint to the checkered flag, with Fisichella immediately attacking the No. 17 Team Falken Tire Porsche 911 RSR of Henzler. The two went side-by-side multiple times throughout the final four laps with Fisichella making the race-winning pass on the final lap in Turn 11.

“I knew it was the last lap and I did all I could do,” said Fisichella, who was joined by co-driver Pierre Kaffer in the victory, just as he was two weeks ago at Road America. “I got close to Henzler and I was lucky because I even had a good exit. Once I took the lead, I was quicker than him in the straights.”

Henzler, who took over for co-driver Bryan Sellers, was tasked with conserving enough fuel to get to the finish throughout his one hour, 10 minute stint, while also maintaining enough pace to stay ahead of the rest of the GTLM field. A caution for the stopped Porsche 911 RSR of Michael Christensen with 12 minutes remaining allowed Henzler to save enough fuel to finish the race, but also put Fisichella right on his rear bumper.

“Sometimes you have to take a chance; we took a bit of (a gamble on) fuel and it paid off,” said Henzler. “Some other times you take a chance and you can’t make it. This time we were lucky, other times we were not. I think we deserved it, we deserved to be on the podium here.”

Searching for its first victory in GTLM competition, BMW scored its sixth podium in nine races with Dirk Mueller and John Edwards co-driving to third in BMW Team RLL’s No. 56 Crowne Plaza BMW Z4 GTE.

Antonio Garcia and the No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R team unofficially leads the GTLM standings by six points, 270-264, over Jonathan Bomarito and Kuno Wittmer and the No. 93 SRT Motorsports Dodge Viper SRT GTS-R team with two races remaining.

FOURTH VICTORY FOR CAMERON, PALTTALA RESULTS IN THREE-WAY TIE IN GTD

Dane Cameron swept to the inside of Damien Faulkner with 45 minutes remaining and led the rest of the way to take the fourth GT Daytona (GTD) victory of the season for the No. 94 Turner Motorsport BMW Z4 started by Markus Palttala in the Oak Tree Grand Prix.

Cameron took the checkered flag 1.420 seconds ahead of Alessandro Balzan, giving the team its second consecutive victory while setting up a three-way tie atop the GTD point standings with only two races remaining.

Cameron now has 244 points, unofficially joining No. 555 AIM Autosport REVO/Robert Graham Ferrari 458 Italia drivers Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler, and No. 22 Alex Job Racing WeatherTech Porsche 911 GT America drivers Leh Keen and Cooper MacNeil for the lead in the championship.

“It’s a big gain for us to come in 12 points behind and leave tied,” Cameron said. “We’re in a good position now, but we’re not going to change our strategy. We’re not going to run conservatively and run for points or anything. We’ll do what we need to win this championship.

“The last thing we needed today was that late yellow. The last thing we wanted was to be bunched up with everybody else, but I was able to get a good run coming out of the first corner and I could exhale from there. It was a pretty stressful day. It’s never easy to win in this category.”

Palttala led prior to his pit stop during the first of three cautions. Madison Snow, driving the No. 58 Dempsey Racing Porsche 911 GT America started by early race leader Jan Heylen, and Faulkner, who joined Michael Lewis in the No. 81 GB Autosport Tully’s Coffee Porsche 911, stayed out under the second caution period shortly before the two hour mark to take turns in the lead. Following the restart, Cameron needed four minutes to execute what proved to be the winning pass.

Balzan finished second in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia started by Jeff Westphal, followed by Patrick Dempsey and Andrew Davis in the No. 27 Dempsey Racing Porsche 911 GT America.

Dempsey started from the back of the field after missing qualifying due to an accident in Saturday morning practice, and worked his way up to third prior to his pit stop. Davis rejoined the race in seventh, and quickly worked his way into podium contention.

“I felt today was really important to show how much it means to me and to be in a series with these guys that are up here,” Dempsey said. “After chasing a podium for so long this year, and being here to compete, is so much fun.

“It’s a tremendous honor and privilege. When you have these moments, you’re grateful to have this experience.”

source: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

DANVILLE, Va. (August 24, 2014) – Luis Diaz took over where teammate Sean Rayhall left off at Virginia International Raceway, leading every lap of Sunday’s 45-minute Prototype Challenge (PC) segment to give the No. 25 8Star Motorsports Takis/Speedsters ORECA FLM09 the overall victory in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship event.

Rayhall led all 23 laps in Saturday evening’s segment, while Diaz led 24 laps on Sunday, holding off the efforts of Bruno Junqueira, Colin Braun and Renger van der Zande, who each took turns in second. The event ended under caution following a late incident involving Junqueira, who spun and made contact with a tire barrier in Turn 7.

Combined points from the weekend’s two segments determined the final results for the eighth PC race of the season.

“My plan was to stay out front,” Diaz said. “I’m not very good with math, that’s why I’m a race car driver. I knew I didn’t have as fast of a pace as the other guys, so I couldn’t make any mistakes. I had a lot of pressure on me, I was playing the game of not looking in my mirrors. I was thankful the yellow flag came out. I knew Colin was stronger than me, and we didn’t have to fight against this good driver.”

Braun finished the segment in second in the No. 54 CORE autosport ORECA FLM09 started by Jon Bennett, who finished seventh in the opening segment. Renger van der Zande took third in the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport Martini entry started by Mirco Schultis, who was eighth on Saturday.

“They certainly had a good car, a fast car, and hats off to them,” Braun said. “Guys who finished second always say if they had more green flag running we would have had a shot at them at the end. It would have been fun to race Luis at the end, but that’s the way it goes. It was certainly exciting racing.”

Diaz led Junqueira for the opening 14 laps, before Junqueira spun in the No. 09 RSR Racing Linospresso USA entry driven to second by Duncan Ende on Saturday. Braun then ran second for several laps, but lost the position to van der Zande while challenging Diaz in the Oak Tree Turn.

Van der Zande had an off-course excursion of his own three laps later, with Braun moving to within a half-second of the lead before the final caution.

“It was a real bullfight, a sprint race, and I enjoyed it,” said van der Zande, a two-time winner in 2014 competition. “My fight for the lead was amazing – all fair and clean, with a little paint exchanged.”

In the combined final results, David Ostella (fifth on Sunday) and James French (third on Saturday) finished second in the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA FLM09, followed by Braun and Bennett.

“James did an awesome job going from seventh to third yesterday, but I struggled with the car today,” Ostella said. “I can’t complain about second overall. It’s our best finish of the season. Hopefully we will get it one better at the next one.”

The next race for the PC competitors will be at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, with all four TUDOR Championship classes featured on Saturday, Sept. 20.

Rosberg: Hamilton’s late-season form ‘the best Lewis I’ve ever seen’

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 27: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo neads Nico Rosberg of Germany driving the (6) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo on track  during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 27, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Nico Rosberg believes that Lewis Hamilton produced some of the best performances of his career towards the end of the 2016 Formula 1 season when the Briton had nothing to lose in the championship fight.

Rosberg clinched his maiden F1 drivers’ championship by five points in Abu Dhabi last Sunday, defeating Hamilton for the first time during their time as teammates.

Rosberg closed out the season with four straight second place finishes, with Hamilton’s run of victories in the same period not being enough to catch up in the standings.

Speaking in a video produced by Mercedes after his championship win, Rosberg said that he felt the most pressure after his final win of the season in Japan, the result that meant he could wrap up the title without taking another victory.

“The changing moment was Suzuka for me, when all of a sudden I had the 33-point lead and that meant it was in my hands, and it’s mine to lose, because it was enough to do second-second-second and third,” Rosberg said.

“That’s when really the pressure started for me because it became real, the chance to win the championship and to beat Lewis. It was real.”

Rosberg was only assured of the title when he crossed the finish line in Abu Dhabi, with Hamilton going deliberately slow in a bid to back the German into the chasing pack.

“Abu Dhabi was intense. It was the most intense experience I’ve ever had in a race car,” Rosberg said.

“Even qualifying, the laps in qualifying, not easy really. And for sure it has an impact on your performance. It’s not possible that you do the same performance as if you’re in Lewis’ position where he has nothing to lose.”

Rosberg believes that the lack of pressure brought the very best out of Hamilton, as he closed out the campaign with four consecutive victories from pole position.

“That’s why he got the pole positions and why I was second in the last couple of races because he’s free, has no weight and nothing to lose,” Rosberg said.

“It was the best Lewis I’ve ever seen, the last few races, because not only was he completely free, but also the most determined and motivated ever, working as hard as ever.

“[It was] massively difficult to beat him in those circumstances.”

Rosberg announced on Friday that he would be retiring from racing with immediate effect, meaning we have likely seen the last of his rivalry with Hamilton in F1.

Lewis Hamilton escapes punishment for defying Mercedes team orders in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 27:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP prepares for the race on the grid  during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 27, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Lewis Hamilton will face no punishment for defying team orders from Mercedes during the Formula 1 title decider in Abu Dhabi last weekend.

Hamilton took his fourth straight win and 10th of the season at the Yas Marina Circuit last Sunday, but fell five points short of Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in the final drivers’ championship standings.

In a bid to make Rosberg lose places, Hamilton slowed the pack down in Abu Dhabi, causing concern on the Mercedes pit wall as Sebastian Vettel threatened to snatch victory away.

Hamilton ignored several calls from the Mercedes pit wall to pick up the pace, risking disciplinary action from the team after going against its orders.

However, Mercedes non-executive director Niki Lauda has confirmed that Hamilton will not be punished and that the team has moved on from the incident.

“There is no need to say anything to Lewis,” Lauda told The Mail on Sunday.

“We have no problem about how he raced in Abu Dhabi. We have drawn a line under it.”

Mercedes’ more pressing concern at the moment is finding a replacement for Rosberg after the German’s shock decision to retire from racing with immediate effect.

Hamilton’s contract with Mercedes runs for another two years, and without erstwhile rival Rosberg to battle against, is the early favorite for the championship in 2017.

Lauda claims half the F1 grid is chasing Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes seat

SUZUKA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 09: Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP Mercedes GP non-executive chairman Niki Lauda and Mercedes GP Executive Director Toto Wolff celebrate after winning the race and the constructors championship for 2016 during the Formula One Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka Circuit on October 9, 2016 in Suzuka.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda says that “practically half of Formula 1” is chasing Nico Rosberg’s seat for the 2017 season after the World Champion’s sensational decision to retire on Friday.

Rosberg was crowned F1 drivers’ champion for the first time last weekend in Abu Dhabi, only to announce five days later that he would be retiring with immediate effect.

The decision stunned the F1 world, and gave the driver market for the 2017 season a late and unprecedented twist as speculation swirled over who would replace Rosberg at Mercedes.

Speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport in Italy, Lauda said that over half the F1 grid has enquired about Rosberg’s drive.

“Practically half of Formula 1 and maybe more,” Lauda said when asked about the interest in Mercedes’ free seat.

“I am constantly taking calls.”

Mercedes said following Rosberg’s announcement that it would take its time to decide on a replacement, with options including junior drivers Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon, or more established racers that would need their contracts to be bought out.

Lauda hinted that Wehrlein and Ocon were not first choices for Mercedes, though, saying: “Hiring a youngster is a risk and we don’t know how strong he would be.”

Lauda also revealed that he thought Rosberg was playing a joke on him when he first found out about the news, not long before the formal announcement.

“I took it badly. I was not expecting it,” Lauda said.

“At first I didn’t believe him. ‘Nico,’ I told him, ‘Are you pulling my leg? Is it a joke?’

“But he, seriously, said it was all true. Truly incredible.”

The Mercedes seat is one of just four free on the F1 grid for 2017. Manor is yet to sign any drivers for next year, while Sauber has one vacancy remaining.

FIA confirms remaining dates on 2017 WRC calendar, adds Poland

GAP, FRANCE - JANUARY 23:  Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia of France compete in their Volkswagen Motorsport Volkswagen Polo R WRC during Day Three of the WRC Monte Carlo on January 23, 2016 in Gap, France.  (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)
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The FIA has confirmed the full calendar for the 2017 World Rally Championship season following the latest meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Vienna this week.

The WMSC had previously approved a 12-round calendar for the 2017 season, but only confirmed the dates for the opening six rounds of the year.

In a statement issued by the FIA on Wednesday, the dates were firmed up for the entire calendar, as well as adding a 13th round in Poland.

FIA World Rally Championship – 2017 Calendar

1. Monte Carlo – 20-22 January
2. Sweden – 10-12 February
3. Mexico – 10-12 March
4. France – April 7-9
5. Argentina – April 28-30
6. Portugal – 19-21 May
7. Italy – 9-11 June
8. Poland – 30 June – 2 July
9. Finland – 28-30 July
10. Germany – 19-20 August
11. Spain – 6-8 October
12. Great Britain – 27-29 October
13. Australia – 17-19 November

In its statement, the FIA also confirmed the following regarding WRC in 2017:

  • The start order for World Championship rallies from 2017 has been amended and is now based purely on performance:
    • Day 1: All cars start according to the actual Championship classification
    • Day 2: P1 drivers start in the reverse order of the actual rally classification after Day 1. Other drivers start in the order of the rally classification.
    • Day 3: P1 drivers start in the reverse order of the actual rally classification after Day 2. Other drivers start in the order of the rally classification.
    • P1 drivers re-starting in Rally 2 will start at the end of the P1 group.
    • The start order of the first rally of the Championship will be based on the Championship classification of the previous year.
  • A WRC Trophy has been created for drivers and co-drivers participating in pre-2017 specification WRC cars. The maximum number of qualifying rallies is seven and the driver and co-driver who have scored the highest total of points in six of the qualifying rallies will win the titles. If less than five competitors register, no titles will be awarded.
  • M-Sport has been awarded the contract to supply R2 cars for the FIA Junior WRC Championship for 2017 and 2018.
  • Michelin Competition and DMACK Tyres are the registered tire companies for the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship.

Following Volkswagen’s shock withdrawal from the WRC, defending champion Sebastien Ogier is currently without a seat, but is known to be in the running for drives with both Citroen and the Ford M-Sport team in 2017.