All photos courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: GP3R, Road America set stage for development series title bouts

Leave a comment

While much of the focus last week coming out of Road America was IMSA’s future direction and platform for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and the renamed Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda, four of IMSA’s developmental or single-make series have had particularly busy last couple weeks on track – potentially setting the scene for champions to move up in 2017.

Last week at Road America, IMSA’s Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama and Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America were in action.

This weekend, it was the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama and Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires racing on the streets of Trois-Rivieres, for the annual Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres (GP3R).

Morad (17) and Hargrove (28). Photo courtesy of IMSA
Morad (17) and Hargrove (28). Photo courtesy of IMSA

Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama

The battle between Canadian talents and rivals Daniel Morad and Scott Hargrove rolled onto the streets of Trois-Rivieres this weekend. Hargrove closed to within three points of Morad, 137-134, leaving the streets of Toronto in mid-July.

In race one of the GP3R weekend, Hargrove made the gap tighter still with a win in his No. 28 OpenRoad Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, edging ahead of Morad (No. 17 Porsche Centre Oakville/Alegra Motorsports Porsche) at Turn 6 after making contact with his title rival.

“I had an opportunity on the first lap, and I was kind of kicking myself for not really going for it because I didn’t know if I was going to get another chance,” Hargrove said. “But then coming out onto the back straight, I got a really good run up behind Daniel (Morad) and he knew, and I said, ‘It’s now or never,’ and I just went for it. Probably one of the sketchiest moves I’ve made, but I’m just very happy the car stopped.”

Morad bounced back in a big way on Sunday with a win while Hargrove lost points and time at the end of the race. He was credited with eighth place after sustaining damage to his car from a late collision, and was assessed a post-race time penalty for incident responsibility.

“The team and myself are working together, and we’re constantly improving the car,” Morad said.” I’m looking forward to our chances in the last race, although anything can happen, and we need Lady Luck on our side.”

Although Hargrove has five wins to Morad’s four, Morad now leads Hargrove by 13 points, 175-162, heading into the season finale weekend Sept. 2-4 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. The doubleheader will be Rounds 11 and 12 this year, and will make this the first IMSA Single-Make Series that concludes its 2016 campaign.

Toppe. Photo courtesy of IMSA
Toppe. Photo courtesy of IMSA

Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires

Clark Toppe closed the gap on his JDC Motorsports teammate Austin Versteeg to just two points (154-152) with two race weekends remaining in the Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires season. Meanwhile the lanky (6’6″) 18-year-old Texan helped to extend the John Church-owned team’s overall win streak to 27 races straight, dating to August 2014.

Toppe passed Versteeg for the lead in the first of two races and Versteeg’s later spin dropped him down the order. Kyle Masson and Max Hanratty completed the podium.

Toppe then took the lead on Versteeg off the start in race two to pull away for his second win of the weekend. Hanratty and Masson swapped their race one positions. Behind them in easily his most impressive weekend of the year was Hanratty’s Patron ESM teammate James Dayson, who finished fifth and fourth in the two races.

Rounds 10, 11 and 12 will be Sept. 9-11 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca as part of the all-Mazda weekend at the scenic, 2.238-mile, 11-turn circuit in Salinas, California. The final two races of the year will be part of Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in October.

Lazare. Photo courtesy of IMSA
Lazare. Photo courtesy of IMSA

Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama

Jesse Lazare’s weekend sweep at Road America last weekend, in the No. 21 Kelly-Moss Road and Race Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, brought his win total to seven wins in 10 races and extended his points lead over Lucas Catania (No. 26 NGT Motorsport Porsche) to 26 points (173-147). The win also occurred at Kelly-Moss’ home race; the team is based in Madison, Wis., 110 miles away from Elkhart Lake, Wis. 

Rounds 11-12 are scheduled for Aug. 26-28 at VIRginia International Raceway in Danville, Virginia, with additional doubleheader weekends to come at Circuit of The Americas (Sept. 14-17) and Road Atlanta (Sept. 28-Oct. 1)

Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America

After its third weekend of the year at Road America, the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America has three more weekends left – at VIR, Circuit of The Americas and then at Circuito de la Comunidad Valenciana Ricardo Tormo (Dec. 1-2) for the final North American rounds of the year before the World Final there Dec. 3-4.

Ferrari Challenge

Ferrari Challenge North America has been off since the Canadian Grand Prix weekend in Montreal June 10-12. Remaining weekends are at Lime Rock (Sept. 23-24), Homestead (Nov. 4-6) and Daytona (Dec. 1-4), the latter of which is its World Final.

Street race in Vietnam could lead Formula One’s Asia expansion

Formula One logo
Leave a comment

TOKYO (AP) — Formula One is expected to add more races in Asia, including a street circuit in the capital of Vietnam, a country with little auto racing history that is on the verge of getting a marquee event.

“We think Hanoi could come on in the next couple of years, and we’re working with the Hanoi government to that end,” Sean Bratches, Formula One’s managing director of commercial operations, told the Associated Press.

There is even speculation it could be on the schedule next season, which Bratches rebuffed.

Vietnam would join countries like Azerbaijan, Russia and Bahrain, which have Grand Prix races, little history in the sport, and authoritarian governments with deep pockets that serve F1 as it tries to expand into new markets.

“This (Hanoi) is a street race where we can go downtown, where we can activate a large fan base,” Bratches said. “And you have extraordinary iconography from a television standpoint.”

A second race in China is also likely and would join Shanghai on the F1 calendar. Bratches said deciding where to stage the GP will “be left to local Chinese partners” – Beijing is a strong candidate.

Bratches runs the commercial side of Formula One, which was acquired last year by U.S.-based Liberty Media from long-time operator Bernie Ecclestone.

Formula One’s long-term goal is to have 24-25 races – up from the present 21 – and arrange them in three geographical segments: Asia, Europe and the Americas. Bratches said the Europe-based races would stay in middle of the calendar, with Asia or the Americas opening or ending the season.

He said their positioning had not been decided, and getting this done will be slowed by current contracts that mandate specific places on the calendar for several races. This means eventually that all the races in Asia would be run together, as would races in Europe and the Americas.

The F1 schedule is now an inefficient jumble, allowing Bratches to take a good-natured poke at how the sport was run under Ecclestone.

“We’ve acquired an undermanaged asset that’s 67-years-old, but effectively a start-up,” Bratches said.

Early-season races in Australia and China this year were conducted either side of a trip to Bahrain in the Middle East. Late in the season Formula One returns to Asia with races in Japan and Singapore.

The Canadian GP this season is run in the middle of the European swing, separated by four months from the other races in the Americas – the United States, Mexico and Brazil. These three are followed by the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi, which means another trip across the globe.

“With the right economics, with the right structure and cadence of events across territories, 24 or 25 is probably where we’d like to be from a longer-term standpoint,” Bratches said.

Big changes are not likely to happen until the 2020 season ends. This is when many current rules and contracts expire as F1’s new owners try to redistribute some income to allow smaller teams to compete.

“There’s more interest than we have capacity in the schedule,” Bratches said, firing off Berlin, Paris or London as potentially attractive venues. “We want to be very selective.”

“Those cites from an economic impact standpoint would find us value, as do others around the world,” Bratches added. “It’s very important for us as we move forward to go to locations that are a credit to the Formula One brand.”

An expanded schedule would have to be approved by the teams, which will be stretched by the travel and the wear-and-tear on their crews. The burden will fall on the smaller teams, which have significantly smaller revenue compared with Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull.

Bratches also envisions another race in the U.S., joining the United States Grand Prix held annually in Austin, Texas. A street race in Miami is a strong candidate, as are possible venues like Las Vegas or New York.

“We see the United States and China as countries that could support two races,” he said.

Liberty Media has reported Formula One’s total annual revenue at $1.8 billion, generated by fees paid by promoters, broadcast rights, advertising and sponsorship. Race promotion fees also tend to be higher in Asia, which makes the area attractive – along with a largely untapped fan base.

In a four-year cycle, F1 generates more revenue than FIFA or the International Olympic Committee, which rely almost entirely on one-time showcase events.

Reports suggest Vietnamese promoters may pay between $50-60 million annually as a race fee, with those fees paid by the government. Bratches said 19 of 21 Formula One races are supported by government payments.

“The race promotion fee being derived from the government … is a model that has worked historically,” Bratches said.