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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 ItaliaRacing.net. 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.

Recap: Green Bay Packers QB Brett Hundley takes in Kohler Grand Prix

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When professional athletes decide to experience sports outside of the one where they make their living, it never ceases to entertain. Case and point: Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Hundley.

The 24-year-old Hundley spent the weekend at Road America, taking in the Kohler Grand Prix. His time at the facility began on Thursday, where he first paid a visit to Team Penske driver Will Power, who gave him a quick tutorial.

Will Power shows Brett Hundley a steering for a Verizon IndyCar Series machine. Photo: IndyCar

The next part of Hundley’s day saw him take a two-seater ride with none other than Mario Andretti. And, unsurprisingly, it left a big impression.

Mari Andretti takes Brett Hundley around Road America in the Verizon IndyCar Series two-seater. Photo: IndyCar

“The first lap, I’m screaming, and it’s the warm-up lap! And then the second lap: I’m just bright-eyed, going through corners. I give so much respect, that’s an awesome sport, man!” Hundley said in a media debrief afterward.

However, the day was not finished. Later on, Hundley showed off his arm strength and throwing accuracy by attempting to throw a football through the passenger side window of a moving Chevrolet Corvette. And while it took a few attempts, he eventually hit his mark.

Hundley stayed through Sunday and dawned a photographer’s bib in order to take in more of the action.

In fact, he even inadvertently photobombed second-place finisher Josef Newgarden during his post-race interview.

A video chronicling Hundley’s visit can be viewed here and additional photos from his weekend can be found on his Instagram page.

 

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Merhi confirmed for WEC return with Manor at the Nürburgring

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CEFC Manor TRS Racing has confirmed that Roberto Merhi will return to the FIA World Endurance Championship for next month’s 6 Hours of Nürburgring, replacing Jean-Eric Vergne.

Merhi previously raced for Manor in both Formula 1 and the WEC, making his most recent appearance with the British marque at last November’s 6 Hours of Bahrain.

Merhi’s last racing outing came in the Formula 2 double-header in Spain and has flirted with a move into Formula E, but was confirmed on Wednesday to be making his racing return at the Nürburgring on July 16.

Merhi will deputize for Vergne in the No. 24 Oreca 07 Gibson while the Frenchman is in New York for the city’s inaugural Formula E event.

FIA to re-examine Vettel/Hamilton Baku F1 clash

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The FIA has confirmed that it will re-examine the clash between Formula 1 title rivals Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton in Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix to see if further action is warranted.

Vettel and Hamilton made contact twice behind the safety car in Baku, with the second incident deemed to be an act of dangerous driving on Vettel’s part.

The FIA stewards in Baku handed Vettel a 10-second stop/go penalty for the clash – the harshest available penalty besides disqualification – but faced calls to issue a stricter punishment post race.

Hamilton said that the incident set a dangerous precedent for F1 and wider motorsport, but Vettel believed his rival deserved a penalty for allegedly brake testing him.

On Wednesday, the FIA confirmed that it would be re-examining the incident in a meeting on July 3, with a verdict set to be delivered ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix.

“Following the recent incident at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in which Car 5 (Sebastian Vettel) was involved in a collision with Car 44 (Lewis Hamilton), on Monday 3rd July, the FIA will further examine the causes on the incident in order to evaluate whether further action is necessary,” a short statement from the FIA read.

“A statement regarding the outcome of this process will be made available before the upcoming Austrian Grand Prix (7-9 July).”

Wickens not interested in full-time IndyCar switch despite practice run

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Robert Wickens is not interested in making a full-time switch to the Verizon IndyCar Series in the near future despite his practice run-out at Road America last weekend for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Mercedes DTM driver Wickens was called up for Friday practice at the KOHLER Grand Prix in the No. 7 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda after Mikhail Aleshin was unable to make it in time due to immigration issues.

Aleshin was able to return to the United States in time for Saturday’s final practice and qualifying at Road America, with Wickens stepping back down.

The Canadian got his first taste of an Indy car in a car swap with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe in March, paving the way for his practice appearance at Road America.

However, Wickens is not looking to make a full-time move over to IndyCar anytime soon despite enjoying his run-out, with his focus lying with DTM.

“Not really, to be honest,” Wickens said when asked if IndyCar was something he would like to move into in Mercedes’ ‘Tales from the Paddock’ press newsletter.

“I just want to race cars. That’s the main thing. I have no urge to leave the DTM at the moment.

“Everything is going well, and I’m really happy with Mercedes.”

Wickens also went into detail about how rapidly things moved with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, having only been told the day before practice that he was required for the running.

“I planned on having a relaxing weekend at home, but on Thursday afternoon I got a call from Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, which is the team that we did the ride swap with involving James Hinchcliffe back in April,” Wickens said.

“They asked if I could go to Road America and fill in for Mikhail Aleshin who had immigration issues. Fortunately, Toto [Wolff] was happy for me to do it and I was able to jump on a plane and get to Wisconsin.

“We didn’t get to the hotel until about 10pm on Thursday, and Free Practice 1 was on Friday morning very early. It took some getting used to.

“The practice itself was fun. The track was really good. It would be amazing to have a DTM race there one day.

“I definitely wanted to do the full weekend, but the full-time driver got his immigration stuff sorted and he made it to the race track by Friday night. My duties were finished, but it was still a really fun Friday.”