Photo: Dan R. Boyd for BorgWarner

Borg-Warner Trophy face reveal, 2016 PRI Show notebook

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Spent the tail end of last week in Indianapolis for the 2016 Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Trade Show and the Borg-Warner Trophy face reveal, which saw Alexander Rossi’s face the latest one adorned on the trophy.

Notes from those two events are below:

-Wednesday’s Borg-Warner Trophy face revealing for Alexander Rossi was a particularly well-run event. Usually things of this nature are built up for quite a while before the actual unveil, but in this instance the program moved quickly and swiftly from its 5 p.m. start time to the face reveal at 5:10, which served as the formal end of the program before Rossi started making the rounds of interviews.

-One of the special moments after the unveil came when Holly Wheldon, sister of the late Dan Wheldon, and Rossi posed alongside Dan Wheldon’s winning No. 98 Honda from the 2011 Indianapolis 500. Rossi and Bryan Herta carried the tradition from 2011.

-To go along with the face reveal, the annual BorgWarner dinner followed later Wednesday night at Mo’s … A Place for Steaks in downtown Indianapolis, which brought together a number of assembled media and special guests to honor the new champion. Rossi and three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Bobby Unser were the featured attractions, while Jeff Gordon was a surprise visitor to the dinner to congratulate Rossi on his achievement. Gordon, now a FOX Sports NASCAR analyst, made an eight-race comeback to NASCAR’s top-level series this year as an injury replacement for Dale Earnhardt Jr., and has just been confirmed to race next year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona in Wayne Taylor Racing’s Cadillac DPi-V.R.

-On Thursday morning, Rossi’s winning car itself was presented to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. Prior to the presentation, Gordon came over for an encore to meet Rossi once again.

-Rossi is in a welcome position where it’s December, he knows what he’s doing next year, and has already had one test with two new additions to his No. 98 Andretti-Herta Autosport Honda. He seemed to be positively beaming about new engineer Jeremy Milless, and he’s also getting a great new strategist in Rob Edwards, as Bryan Herta is set to move to Marco Andretti’s car. Considering for the last several years, Rossi’s plans have come together late in the offseason, the fact he knows where everything is, will have year-to-year team and series continuity and also knows the tracks now, he should be poised for a better overall second season.

-Spoke to IMS President Doug Boles at the Borg-Warner Trophy face reveal. Boles is bullish on 2017 Indianapolis 500 ticket renewals, as it’s higher than anticipated compared to projections and trending ahead of 2015, which is the realistic target to hit. Additionally, Boles said there are a couple potential sponsors that could take on the IndyCar Grand Prix title sponsor role. In terms of other IMS events, Boles has been thrilled with the turnout thus far at the Speedway’s Holiday Lights display, which is a 1.7-mile drive around the circuit that’s had tens of thousands of visitors thus far since opening, and he’s also expecting a large number of entries for the 2017 SCCA National Championship Runoffs to be held next September. North of 750 cars are possible for the 2017 Runoffs, Boles said.

-Thanks to IndyCar for a fun end-of-year media dinner gathering at Hibachi Japanese Steakhouse in Indianapolis’ Broad Ripple neighborhood. Good times and laughs were had by most, if not all, attendees.

-Saturday saw an on-site taping of James Hinchcliffe’s “The Mayor on Air” podcast he co-hosts with INDYCAR Digital Media Director Brian Simpson. Hinchcliffe had got Simpson in a prank for his birthday in August, while Simpson – and a number of others – got him back not long after Hinchcliffe turned 30 on December 5. Hinchcliffe said he’s happy to get back into his normal in-Indianapolis routine after several months away with his “Dancing with the Stars” commitments.

-Hinchcliffe and Rossi weren’t alone on site among the IndyCar contingent. Charlie Kimball and Graham Rahal also made appearances.

-HP Composites, a premiere producer of carbon fiber and composite components for Motorsport, Series Production and the Industrial and Aerospace sectors, has established North American operations in Denver, N.C. HP Composites and Onroak Automotive are sister companies under the Everspeed group banner.

Photo: Sunday Group Management
Photo: Sunday Group Management

-The F4 U.S. Championship schedule was also revealed at the same time. The schedule for them is: April 8-9, Homestead (with Trans-Am), April 28-30, VIR (with PWC), June 8-11, Indianapolis (with SVRA), July 8-9, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (with IMSA), August 10-12, Mid-Ohio (with NASCAR Xfinity/Trans-Am), and Sept. 14-17, COTA (with FIA WEC). Note the Indianapolis date is part of the SVRA “Open Wheel World Challenge” weekend, while the Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational is the following week, June 16-18.

pwcteaser

-Pirelli World Challenge held its ‘State of the Series’ presentation on Friday at the show. The biggest change comes with a move to USAC for sanctioning, although PWC is working through the next step of its relationship with longtime partner SCCA, per PWC president/CEO Greg Gill. The race formats, TV and streaming package, and other components were revealed, including a move to online registration systems and a new timing & scoring partner in Timing Solutions Ltd.

shea-holbrook-driving-2017-honda-civic-at-25-hours-of-thunderhill-race
Photo: Honda Racing/HPD

-A number of intriguing participants were in the room from a mix of manufacturers in teams that either are set to continue in PWC as have they have in the past, or could be poised to switch from IMSA.

-One of the key manufacturer/team announcements was Shea Racing’s confirmation of an extended relationship with Honda Racing/HPD. PWC B-Spec champion Tom O’Gorman steps up to a new Honda Civic Si in TCA, while Shea Holbrook and Jason Fichter will continue to run a pair of Touring Car-class Honda Accords. Spoke to both Holbrook and O’Gorman at PRI and will have follow-ups with them to come.

-More content from breakout interviews gathered at PRI will follow in the coming days.

Vettel in no rush to sign new Ferrari F1 contract

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Sebastian Vettel is in no rush to sign a new Formula 1 contract with Ferrari despite his current deal expiring at the end of the season.

Vettel joined Ferrari in 2015 on a three-year deal, and currently leads the F1 drivers’ championship for the Italian marque ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.

Vettel’s future has been subject to much speculation as part of the annual ‘silly season’ driver rumor mill, but the four-time world champion has shown few signs of wanting to leave Ferrari.

In order to focus on his bid for a fifth title, Vettel is not looking to sign a new contract with Ferrari any time soon, believing there to be no need for an immediate decision.

“We have other things to do. In the summer there’s a bit more time, there’s a couple of weeks rest where there’s no race,” Vettel said in Thursday’s FIA press conference ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

“But for now, focus is extremely high on working on the car. A piece of paper can be signed fairly quickly, so that’s not a problem.

“I’m not in a rush, I don’t think the team is in a rush as far as I understand. I think they would tell me otherwise.

“There’s no problem. Nothing’s wrong.”

Vettel is currently paired at Ferrari with Kimi Raikkonen, whose contract is also up at the end of the year.

‘Dinner with Racers’ rides again for third season

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Spencer Pumpelly killing a guy… allegedly. Johnny O’Connell attempting to run over Dario Franchitti… again, allegedly. Copious mentions of Bill Riley. Chicken sandwiches.

All these inside jokes, along with awesome stories and food selections, are staples of the “Dinner with Racers” podcast series, which is presented by Continental Tire, and will roll on once again this fall for a third season.

The key addition to this year from co-creators Sean Heckman, PR veteran and partner in TMB Creative, Inc. (The Media Barons) and Ryan Eversley, Acura factory driver for RealTime Racing in the Pirelli World Challenge, is the launch of an official guest submission contest (fans can submit their guest recommendations here), as well as other fan contests to be revealed as they get closer to hitting the road.

Quotes from both Eversley and Heckman in the official release go true to form if you know both individuals, their styles and sense of humor, and if you’ve listened to any of the podcasts from seasons one and two.

“I can’t believe we’re doing this again,” stated co-host Eversley. “It’s honestly a lot of fun to do this, and in many ways very refreshing. The enthusiasm we find in every guest we meet, no matter how accomplished, is incredible, and something that reminds us both how great it is to work in this sport. The only thing more satisfying is the tremendous fan response we’ve had over the years. We honestly had no clue how many people would not only listen, but respond so positively, and for that we couldn’t be more grateful. This year we’re trying to do a little more to include our fan-base, we hope they enjoy it.”

“I agree, it’s a lot of fun,” continued Heckman. “For the first week.”

The cross-country trip will occur this fall and episodes are generally released around the holidays, either on the front side or back side of Thanksgiving but before Christmas.

Ferrucci steps up to Formula 2 with Trident for rest of season

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American racer Santino Ferrucci will make the step up to FIA Formula 2 for the remainder of the 2017 season, linking up with Trident.

Ferrucci, 19, made his GP3 debut in 2016 and has raced in the series ever since, balancing development duties with the Haas Formula 1 team.

The native of Woodbury, Connecticut will make his F2 debut this weekend in Hungary, securing a seat with Trident for the rest of the season.

“We are really proud to announce the agreement reached between Team Trident and the American racer Santino Ferrucci for the final five rounds of the FIA Formula 2 season,” Trident team manager Giacomo Ricci.

“The 19-year-old already had the chance to test one of our GP3 Series cars in last November’s collective postseason test at Abu Dhabi.

“Back then, he impressed the team’s staff, bringing home great results and keeping his name among the top-5 at all times.

“He is now set to make his Formula 2 debut at Budapest, on the same track where he led the way in GP3 Series testing.

“I am sure that Santino has all the skills needed to adapt to a Formula 2 car very quickly. Also, thanks to his Formula 1 experience, he will not have problems in managing more power and carbon fiber brakes.”

Pirelli confirms Brazil, Abu Dhabi tire selections to finish 2017

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Pirelli has confirmed the Brazilian and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix tire selections for the final two races of the season, which brings to a conclusion all the selected sets for the rest of the way.

Pirelli will have the supersoft, soft and medium compounds on offer at Sao Paulo in Brazil with the ultrasoft back for Abu Dhabi with the supersoft and soft compounds.

The Abu Dhabi selections will match those at Austin and Mexico City for that back-to-back in October.

Here are the remaining tire selections for after the summer break. At Hungary this weekend, teams can run the supersoft, soft and medium.

  • August 27: Belgium, Ultrasoft, Supersoft, Soft
  • Sept. 3: Italy, Supersoft, Soft, Medium
  • Sept. 17: Singapore, Ultrasoft, Supersoft, Soft 
  • Oct. 1: Malaysia, Supersoft, Soft, Medium
  • Oct. 8: Japan, Supersoft, Soft, Medium
  • Oct. 22: USA, Ultrasoft, Supersoft, Soft 
  • Oct. 29: Mexico, Ultrasoft, Supersoft, Soft
  • Nov. 12: Brazil, Supersoft, Soft, Medium
  • Nov. 26: Abu Dhabi, Ultrasoft, Supersoft, Soft