Photo: Team AKKA-ASP

Serralles, Marciello land AKKA-ASP Mercedes seats in Blancpain GT

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Two drivers who’d come close to reaching their respective top levels in open-wheel – Felix Serralles and Raffaele Marciello – have instead gone the sports car route for 2017 having been confirmed at Jerome Policand’s Team AKKA-ASP for the upcoming season in the Blancpain GT Series.

The two drivers will be split in a pair of Mercedes-AMG GT3 cars for both the Endurance Cup and Sprint Cup races, Serralles with Dani Juncadella in the No. 88 car and Marciello with Michael Meadows in the No. 90 car. Tristan Vautier (No. 88) and Matthias Lauda (No. 90), both of whom have full-season appointments in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and FIA World Endurance Championship, respectively, are the third drivers for these two PRO class entries at Endurance Cup races.

Serralles enjoyed a particularly busy offseason with his first test in both an IndyCar with Andretti Autosport at Sebring International Raceway, and in an Oreca 05 Nissan LMP2 car with G-Drive Racing (with Jota Sport running the operation) at the FIA WEC end-of-term rookie test in Bahrain.

After two years in Indy Lights, first with Belardi Auto Racing and then with Carlin, Serralles won a few races but was ultimately in the eye of the storm at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca season finale when he pulled aside to allow Ed Jones through to score enough points for the title. The Puerto Rican needed to sort his own future for 2017, and now has.

Marciello was at a similar open-wheel crossroads after his stint in Ferrari’s Young Driver Academy ended. Three seasons in GP2 where he struggled to properly contend for a championship saw him score only one win and finish at best, fourth in the standings. Marciello also had a handful of race weekends as third driver with Sauber F1 Team in 2015, but never competed beyond a practice session.

Juncadella has previous touring car experience in DTM and also did a handful of free practice sessions in F1 with Sahara Force India. Meadows has both single-seater and GT experience. Interestingly, Juncadella beat Marciello to the 2012 Formula 3 Euroseries title.

The full Team AKKA-ASP roster is below. Testing takes place in Paul Ricard March 13-14 with the seasons opening at Misano April 1-2 (Sprint) and Monza April 22-23 (Endurance).

Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup

PRO category
#90 Raffaele MARCIELLO (ITA) – Michael MEADOWS (GBR) – Matthias LAUDA (AUT)
#88 Felix SERRALLES (PRI) – Daniel JUNCADELLA (ESP) – Tristan VAUTIER (FRA)

Pro-AM category
#87 Jean Luc BEAUBELIQUE (FRA) – Mauro RICCI (ITA) – Jules GOUNON (FRA)
#89 Daniele PERFETTI (SUI) – Alex FONTANA (SUI) – Ludovic BADEY (FRA)

Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup

PRO category
#90 Raffaele MARCIELLO (ITA) – Michael MEADOWS (GBR)
#88 Felix SERRALLES (PRI) – Daniel JUNCADELLA (ESP)

Pro-AM category
#87 Jean Luc BEAUBELIQUE (FRA) – Jules GOUNON (FRA)
#89 Christophe BOURRET (FRA) – Jean-Philippe BELLOC (FRA)

Blancpain GT Sport Club

#72 Anthony Pons (FRA)

GoDaddy to sponsor Patrick in ‘Danica Double’ at Daytona, Indy — now all she needs are rides

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By The Associated Press

Danica Patrick is going back to green.

GoDaddy Green, to be exact – a fitting color for her farewell tour.

The company will sponsor Patrick in the upcoming “Danica Double” that will close out her racing career, The Associated Press has learned. Patrick has no ride yet for next month’s Daytona 500 or the Indianapolis 500 in May, but she now has the financial backing to pull it off.

This time around, the original GoDaddy Girl will symbolize the new core mission of the company that helped make her one of the world’s most recognizable athletes.

“There’s this great story: I left IndyCar with GoDaddy on my car, I started NASCAR with GoDaddy on my car, I’m most recognized as the GoDaddy green car and driver, and so to finish up my career that way feels appropriate,” Patrick told the AP from Scottsdale, Arizona.

Her final race will be the Indy 500, an appropriate choice because it was “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” that rocketed Patrick and GoDaddy into pop culture notoriety.

GoDaddy and Patrick grew up together. The company switched series with her and marketed her as a strong, sexy woman in 13 Super Bowl commercials – a record appearance for celebrities. Now, the company is most interested in Patrick the budding businesswoman who is firmly closing the door on her racing career and rebranding herself as an entrepreneur . She has a book out, an apparel line, a wine label and confirmed to AP this week that she’s dating Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

“Our goals are so well-aligned,” Barb Rechterman, the chief marketing officer of GoDaddy, told AP. “She’s passionate, tenacious and creative just like so many of our customers who are also looking to leverage the power of the internet and turn their `side hustle’ into a full-time business. Danica absolutely epitomizes the heart of our GoDaddy customers.”

Prepare to hear a lot about the “side hustle” as GoDaddy climbs aboard the so-far fledgling “Danica Double.”

Patrick announced in November she would end her driving career with the Daytona 500 and Indy 500, but didn’t have a deal completed for either race. Still doesn’t. Yet somehow, Patrick always figures a way to get what she wants. Talks ended with Chip Ganassi Racing about a possible ride, and late last month, Patrick said, she called former GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons and asked about a reunion.

GoDaddy has rebranded since it last teamed with Patrick. The company now touts itself as “the world’s largest cloud platform dedicated to small, independent ventures,” and there’s no better spokeswoman than Patrick, who is in the next chapter of her life and her brand.

GoDaddy pulled out of racing after the 2015 season, and Patrick hasn’t had the same level of funding and marketing support since. Patrick has slowly reshaped her image, first into a Instagram model and is now a full-blown lifestyle guru. She realized – at the age of 35 – she was on her own.

She and GoDaddy aligned for a splashy move into NASCAR, where she was glamorous off the track but only mediocre on it. Through all of this, she was married, divorced, spent five years dating fellow driver and competitor Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and then seemed to find herself through a tailored diet, exercise and a healthy lifestyle.

She is cutting the cord on racing after Indy, and her focus is on a sense of well-being far away from the track.

“Their business is so perfectly paired to what is going on with mine, so when we sat down and met, it was like, `Let’s talk about our business. Let’s talk about the messaging. How does this work?”‘ Patrick said. “And this is undeniably perfect for both of us. Not only is it a huge two races and the biggest two races of the year, but on top of that, you have so much `side hustle’ going on, and all the messaging and our brands, and where we are going is so perfectly paired.”w

GoDaddy can help Patrick move on to whatever it is for racing’s former “It Girl.” The company will help her streamline her online presence. Patrick, for the company, is back as a neon green-and-yellow symbol to all the wannabe entrepreneurs chasing dreams.

She’ll get those rides, too. Patrick said she knows she will because she believes she will.

“That’s just the way the universe works,” she said. “You have to ask for what you want. Things have taken a long time with this, but you just have to go with the flow on these things. The universe is not on your time schedule.”

More AP auto racing: https://racing.ap.org/