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Sports cars: Various confirmations, nuggets from the last week or so

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Originally, I thought about lumping the below tidbits of information in with the provisional list of 2017 FIA Driver Ratings which came out prior to last week. Then that story morphed into a column about how ratings produce more angst than not.

So, here’s some highlights of the rest of the other sports car news from the last week or so:

  • The IMSA two-day test at Daytona was completed prior to the Thanksgiving break. Recaps from Tuesday and Wednesday are linked here, via their website.
  • DragonSpeed will debut its Oreca 07 chassis at the Rolex 24 at Daytona with a pretty good lineup of Henrik Hedman, Ben Hanley, Nicolas Lapierre and Loic Duval. The Elton Julian-led team finished fourth overall with an Oreca 05 at this year’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. More here from Sportscar365.
  • Duval also will test an Audi RS 5 DTM car this week, along with Dutchman Nyck de Vries (21), South African Kelvin van der Linde (20) and American Dion von Moltke (26). More here from my colleague Luke. Von Moltke is a rare American to test in DTM; Joey Hand raced there a couple years ago for BMW, with limited success.
  • Another Rolex 24 entry is one from Aston Martin Racing, with Paul Dalla Lana, Mathias Lauda, Pedro Lamy and either Nicki Thiim or Marco Sorenson as a fourth driver. Dalla Lana confirmed the presence of a GTD-class entered Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 to Sportscar365.
  • CJ Wilson has announced a multi-level dealership agreement with British specialist auto manufacturer, Briggs Automotive Company (BAC) Limited and CJ Wilson Racing team. The partnership will see CJ Wilson Racing and Entertainment become the exclusive dealership and service facility for BAC’s Mono supercar in the Arizona and North Texas markets. More here from the team’s website.
  • TRG will make a welcome full-season return to IMSA’s GTD program, with a Porsche 911 GT3 R. Drivers will be determined at a later date. Said TRG CEO Kevin Buckler, “The Porsche support program has been second to none over all these years and it will be nice to have them by our side once again. It’s also going to be nice to be racing with some of my old friends that are still at Porsche. As we move into our 26th year as a company, the future of professional sportscar racing is strong and I am glad to be doing my part to help lead in any way I can. And, oh yeah….we really like to win!”
  • CRP Racing is the first Pirelli World Challenge race team to announce purchase of the naturally aspirated, 6.3-liter V8 Mercedes-AMG GT3 race car, and Ryan Dalziel will be the team’s new driver. The Scotsman nearly won the 2015 PWC title but missed a couple races due to conflicts. Nick Short’s CRP team ran Kyle Marcelli last year, Mike Skeen the year before with the previous generation Audi R8 LMS ultra. “Pirelli World Challenge is a significant part of the Mercedes-AMG Customer Sports Program in 2017, and we look forward to supporting a premier team like CRP Racing and a top driving talent like Ryan Dalziel,” said Robert Moran, Director of Communications, Mercedes-Benz USA. “We are excited to welcome CRP Racing to the Mercedes-AMG family for 2017.”
  • Might R. Ferri Motorsport be back in PWC in 2017 after a year’s hiatus? The team posted a Ferrari 488 GT3 car with PWC number plates on its Facebook page.
  • Matteo Cressoni will join Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan in Scuderia Corsa’s lineup for the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup rounds, replacing Jeff Segal, who’s off to the Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 program. More here via Cressoni is Silver-rated, which leaves that car open for a Gold or Platinum-rated fourth driver.
  • Another driver likely in for the TPNAEC rounds is Shane van Gisbergen, with the WeatherTech Racing Mercedes team, according to Speedcafe. “The Giz” would theoretically join Gunnar Jeannette and Cooper MacNeil in the team’s No. 50 Mercedes-AMG GT3. Both Jeannette and MacNeil are Silver-rated; van Gisbergen is Platinum; so there’s no driver restrictions on a fourth driver there.
  • Although van Gisbergen will leave his McLaren factory role at year’s end, he still has a one-off role with them still to go. Along with PWC GT champion Alvaro Parente and Côme Ledogar, van Gisbergen will drive K-PAX Racing’s McLaren 650S GT3 at the Motul Sepang 12 Hours on December 11 – this is part of the Intercontinental GT Challenge. More here from Speedcafe.
  • Flying Lizard Motorsports has entered a second car for the NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill, with Tommy Sadler, Andy Wilzoch, Charlie Hayes, and Will Owen in the No. 74 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR running on Toyo Tires. That joins the Audi R8 LMS in the field, which won last year. Earlier in November, Flying Lizard signed young charger Nate Stacy to a one-year deal with an option for a second, to race one of two FLM Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MRs in PWC’s GTS class.
  • Newly crowned Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup champion Sven Mueller has been promoted to become a Porsche works driver. Italian Matteo Cairoli (20) and Mathieu Jaminet (22) from France are bumped up to being “Young Professionals,” and Norway’s Dennis Olsen (20) now advances from the Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland up to the next level of the Porsche motorsport pyramid to contest the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup. The full release from Porsche is linked here. Porsche is set to announce its driver lineups and programs for 2017 at its year-end event this weekend in Germany.
  • Shea Holbrook, PWC TC driver/team owner, will be in this weekend’s NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill. She’ll join Honda Racing/HPD as a development driver for the race, Dec. 2-4, for the first competition test of HPD’s 10th generation Honda Civic.
  • TDS Racing will run an Oreca 07 in next year’s FIA World Endurance Championship with Francois Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Matthieu Vaxviere. More here from Endurance-Info.

‘Game-changing’ multi-year agreement will take INDYCAR, NBC Sports ‘to the next level’


NEW YORK – As the fourth Nor’easter in three weeks bore down on the Big Apple, it was tough to spot people that were clearly in a good mood.

But Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, was clearly in a good mood.

On Wednesday morning at 10 am ET, we all found out why: NBC will become the exclusive home of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, starting in 2019.

The new three-year deal not only makes “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” part of the network’s “Championship Season” – its collection of high-profile championship events from May to July – but also reaffirms NBC’s status as the home of motorsports television in the United States.

That status is something Miller doesn’t take for granted.

“It’s important people know that storytelling is in our DNA, and motorsports lends itself very well to storytelling,” Miller said as he, INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles and driver James Hinchcliffe made a snowy trek to the New York Stock Exchange to promote the deal on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

“We’ve had great success with the second half of the entire NASCAR season, and then we’ve had half of the IndyCar package [since 2009] … But we never had the real meat of the series and that didn’t set anybody up for success.

“Having the entire package of IndyCar now – all 17 races, qualifying, practice, you name it – really sets IndyCar on a strong path and solidifies NBC’s position as the home of motorsports. I think it becomes a property much like the Premier League, the NHL, and even the Olympics and the Triple Crown. We have 100 percent of the media opportunity and we can put all those great assets behind it.”

With the storm no doubt keeping some traders home, the floor of the NYSE was relatively subdued. But that made it no less important to be at the heart of Wall Street. Miles and his team are pursuing a new title sponsor for the IndyCar Series to replace Verizon, which will fully focus its efforts in the series with the powerhouse Team Penske going forward in 2019.

The new deal – which includes 8 races per year on the NBC network (with the remaining races going to NBCSN), live streaming of all races, and a direct-to-consumer package with NBC Sports Gold – gave Miles plenty to push for any potential backers. As for Hinchcliffe, he held his own nicely in an interview that also explored IndyCar’s global ambitions, the impact of technology on the sport, and of course, his spin around the ballroom on “Dancing with the Stars.”

On the ride back to 30 Rock, Miles was confident that NBC can play a big role in attracting a sponsor that can help the series keep growing.

“With respect to our work in finding the best title sponsor, it’s really important – and this has not been talked about much – but we expect to work with hand in glove with NBC’s sales,” he explained. “We have the opportunity to create packages which are both broadcast sponsorship and series sponsorship, I think, in a way that doesn’t come along very often.

“Usually, the media deal and the sponsorship deal doesn’t align like this, so we’re really excited about the offering we’ll have and the approach to the market we can take.”

Should the partnership with NBC bear fruit on that front and others, it will only add to the upswing that the IndyCar Series has had in recent years.

Hinchcliffe has been a witness to that. He entered the series in 2011, when it was trying to find its footing after the sport’s reunification three years earlier. After 13 years of CART vs. the Indy Racing League, getting everything back under one roof was not a smooth process.

But fast-forward seven years, and things have changed for the better. TV ratings and digital viewers have gone up. Race scheduling has become more stable and enhanced with the return of traditional open-wheel markets. And this year’s debut of the universal aero kit aims to pump up the action on the track, while also giving the cars a cleaner, meaner look.

Now, with NBC all in, Hinchcliffe is bullish on his sport’s future.

“This is a game-changing thing for us,” he declared. “If you look at the last four or five years, we’ve seen a steady growth in pretty much every measureable metric that there is – in a time where, globally, motorsports is in a bit of a downturn.

“The fact that IndyCar was able to rally against a global dip in motorsports interest, attendance, sponsorship – it speaks volumes to what we have been doing and this is just gonna take us to that next level.”