Dalziel was leading, and then hit more traffic. Photo courtesy of IMSA

Sellers, Dalziel’s Long Beach ‘double doubles’ with in and out of luck

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LONG BEACH, Calif. – Two drivers, Bryan Sellers and Ryan Dalziel, have histories at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach dating to 2002. Dalziel made his first U.S. start in Atlantics there in 2002 but crashed out on the first lap. Sellers, who’d debut in Atlantics a year later in 2003, then scored his first podium of his career there in his first Long Beach start in 2004 – a race Dalziel happened to win.

Since their respective debuts more than a decade ago, they’ve been busy in-and-out of various series and cars but have carved successful sports car careers. And this weekend, they were the two busiest drivers of the weekend split between the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Pirelli World Challenge races, with both drivers pulling “double duty” racing in both marquee series.

Sellers was split between the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 in IMSA’s GT Daytona class and the No. 6 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3 in PWC’s GT class. For Dalziel, it was the No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi in IMSA’s Prototype class and the No. 2 CRP Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 in PWC GT.

And for both drivers, they were in and out of luck this weekend because wins were possible but instead they were each left to settle with podium finishes shy of the ultimate top step.

IMSA RACE

In Saturday’s 100-minute BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix, Sellers captured his and the PMR team’s third pole with the Lamborghini in GTD, while Dalziel’s teammate Scott Sharp qualified sixth in class.

Sellers won GTD pole in Long Beach but it went downhill from there. Photo: Paul Miller Racing

A strategy gamble saw Sharp get out early and hand over to Dalziel. The way the cautions and pit stops worked out, the GTLM and GTD cars were ahead of the faster Prototypes on the road because all cars were on the same lead lap, and that meant Dalziel restarted 19th on the road with just under 40 minutes remaining, and would need to pass all those GT cars for position to get to the overall lead.

You can live by the traffic but you can also die by it, and in Dalziel’s case, that’s what happened to him. Despite the Scot stealthily scything through it to get to the overall lead with less than 20 minutes to go, it was in the final 10 minutes when lapping more traffic that a surefire win went away.

Dalziel was trying to hold back Jordan Taylor’s No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R, but then came upon Wolf Henzler’s No. 991 TRG Porsche 911 GT3 R and Sage Karam’s No. 14 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3. Karam and Henzler were battling for a top-five position in class and to not get lapped, but whereas Andy Lally in his No. 93 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 made it easy for Dalziel and Taylor to get past, the two blue cars run by Kevin Buckler and Paul Gentilozzi just ahead were not.

While it was fair to expect Henzler and Karam to scrap over the position, it was unfortunate timing it occurred directly in front of Dalziel. Karam and Henzler both moved right on the straight, with Henzler then moving back left a split second later, and that forced Dalziel to the wall in a three-wide position. That created a draft for Taylor, who saw Dalziel’s getting boxed in as his opportunity and seized it. Taylor drafted Dalziel around the outside past the two GT cars, then shifted to his outside to complete the pass going into Turn 1 – all while braking later in the process.

Sharp and Dalziel attempt to smile after a hard-luck second. Photo: Tequila Patron ESM

Yes, Dalziel and Sharp had a season-best second place after a rough Sebring where both that car and the No. 22 car both failed to finish, but this second was a bitter pill to swallow for the entirety of the Erin Gahagan-managed team.

“If we came in this weekend thinking we were going to lead laps, be competitive and finish second, we would have been thrilled. But to have led so many laps, see how strong we were, and just get ruined by lapped cars driving like morons is frustrating. We did everything we could do,” Dalziel lamented. “I’m beyond gutted on the inside. I thought for sure we had it in the bag. Our strategy was to turn the car out, go in a straight line. It was perfect until I came up to a couple of guys, maybe not looking in their mirrors.

“I had a lot of fun, there was one part we got clear of everyone. and I took a tenth and I felt like the gap was getting better. Then as the runs went long, it was a quick car. Then we came up on the gaggle of cars and my smile turned into a frown. There were plenty of race moments where things went well for me and bad for Jordan, but not always. I hit the brakes, went one way, it was the same as the GTD car. I tried to go the other way but saw a big black Cadillac drive right by me and that was the end of it.”

Incidentally, Dalziel’s third place finish in the crash-filled PWC race here in 2015 also came with a caveat – he was assessed a points penalty for what the series (under a previous CEO) deemed “unsportsmanlike conduct.”

Sellers’ day was no better. He and co-driver Madison Snow were pinged with a race-killing stop-and-hold penalty after the car entered pit lane when the track and pits had yet to be declared green. Ultimately, the car completed the unfortunate first-to-worst finish of 16th in GTD.

“Unfortunately, it was not the day we were looking for,” Sellers said. “Sometimes it goes your way, and sometimes it doesn’t. Today was not our day. That’s all we can do. We had a great effort, and it is true to say you win and lose as a team. We have to go back and look at what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

PWC RACE

Sellers at speed. Photo: PWC

After the chaotic affair that Saturday’s 100-minute affair was, Sunday’s 50-minute PWC Roar by the Shore race offered a bit of a reprieve for both drivers.

Sellers and Dalziel would both finish where they started, third and sixth, respectively. This marked Sellers’ first PWC podium in his second race weekend, and completed a double podium for the K-PAX Racing McLaren team as Alvaro Parente won overall for the second straight year.

The only thing that was abnormal was when a water main pipe broke over the back straight, which caused a mid-race red flag to clean it up.

“It was a good and fun weekend,” Sellers said. “Normally track time is limited on a street course but that certainly wasn’t an issue for me this weekend. I felt like that’s all I was doing was on-track and didn’t have a lot of time for anything else. I think that everybody at K-PAX Racing is happy to have two drivers on the podium. The level of competition on this side doesn’t cease to amaze me and it’s pretty impressive. You can never let down for one lap. They say that endurance racing is qualifying laps every single race, and then you come over here and it truly is qualifying laps in every single race.”

Dalziel’s Mercedes. Photo: CRP Racing

Dalziel said of his day in the CRP Mercedes, “It was a positive weekend for us. We definitely learned what direction we need to go in with the Mercedes AMG GT3. From the minute we rolled off the truck, we were good. It was a relatively dull race for us. We may have had something for a top five, but we had some damage to our car. We learned a lot in this last race. I’m glad we are leaving the street courses because this car will excel on road courses.”

Alonso gets seat fit, visits Borg-Warner Trophy in Indy

Photo: Michael L. Levitt/LAT Photo USA
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Fernando Alonso’s quick first visit to the U.S. before this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix continued Monday with a trip to Indianapolis with his Andretti Autosport team, following the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama in Birmingham, Ala.

After a jam-packed Sunday packed with media commitments and observing from the pits, Alonso went to Andretti’s shop on Zionsville Rd. where he made his seat fit for his upcoming first test on May 3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

This was the only time this could be worked into his schedule before he heads to Sochi to resume his Formula 1 commitments in his day job, lead driver of the team’s McLaren Honda.

Alonso also met the trophy he hopes to win as part of his quest to capture the Triple Crown, the Borg-Warner Trophy.

Andretti Autosport is the defending champion team at Indianapolis with Alexander Rossi. Rossi follows Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014), Dario Franchitti (2007) and Dan Wheldon (2005) as winners for the team in the ‘500.

“It’s a beautiful trophy that I would be proud to take home if I won the Indianapolis 500. There are so many familiar faces on the trophy from the past and present that represent the greatest race in the world,” Alonso said, via BorgWarner. “Can I please get a full-sized trophy to take home if I win the race? The small ones (Baby Borgs) are nice but a big one would be wonderful!”

As Alonso is a two-time World Champion, he wouldn’t be the first driver to pull off an Indianapolis 500 victory. Others that have done so are listed below:

  • Jim Clark – Formula One World Champion in 1963 and 1965, Indianapolis 500 winner in 1965
  • Graham Hill – Formula One World Champion in 1962 and 1968, Indianapolis 500 winner in 1966
  • Mario Andretti – Formula One World Champion 1978, Indianapolis 500 winner in 1969
  • Emerson Fittipaldi – Formula One World Champion 1972 and 1974, Indianapolis 500 winner in 1989 and 1993
  • Jacques Villeneuve – Formula One World Champion 1997, Indianapolis 500 winner in 1995

NBCSN videos from Alonso’s Sunday at Barber are linked below.

Press Conference

Grid Interview with Townsend Bell

NBCSN Booth

Haas goes for first three-in-a-row scoring streak in Russia

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After back-to-back eighth place finishes from Kevin Magnussen at China and Romain Grosjean last time out in Bahrain, Haas F1 Team has its second chance to score points three races in a row for the first time in its F1 career – and arguably a more realistic chance at this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix (Sunday, 8 a.m. ET, NBCSN).

Grosjean’s shock sixth and fifth place finishes to open his 2016 account in Australia and Bahrain were unexpected but the team hit a bump in the road in China. Russia, however, saw the Frenchman return to the points with an eighth place, and bring his season tally to 28 points to conclude the remarkable start of results in flyaway races.

Now, with a car that could theoretically be considered the fourth best in the field behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, hopes are high for either Grosjean or Magnussen to extend the team’s scoring streak to what would be the longest yet in its short history.

The team did well to note the Olympic tie in at the Sochi circuit, linking “Super G” and how fast the new 2017 Formula 1 cars are.

From the release: “The first time we saw Super-G in Sochi was in 2014 when the Russian city hosted the XXII Olympic Winter Games. Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud beat American Andrew Weibrecht by .3 of a second on the 2.096-kilometer (1.302-mile) course with a 622-meter (2,041-foot) vertical drop to nab gold in the alpine slalom event.

“Three years later, a Super-G of a different sort returns to Sochi, but instead of taking place on the white slopes of the Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort, it will happen on the black asphalt of the Sochi Autodrom as the fastest cars in Formula One history rocket around the 5.848-kilometer (3.634-mile), 18-turn circuit for the April 30 Russian Grand Prix.”

Grosjean described the physical uptick in training he’s needed to do. The 31-year-old is in his sixth full season and seventh overall in F1, since his midseason debut in 2009.

“The cars are brutal to drive – we are not far from 8G with the peak in high corners – so it is pretty good fun, but it is hard on the body, it is hard on parts, it is hard on the cars,” Grosjean said. “You better not miss the turning point on some places. The speed we go through the corners is insane compared to the past. You need to be more precise, more accurate, more on it.

“We’re going through more g-forces, so the neck is stronger and the core is stronger,” Grosjean added. “Your whole body had to adjust to these high speeds.”

Team principal Guenther Steiner explained the importance of needing to bank points early in the crowded midfield. Haas sits seventh in the championship now, just nine points behind Sahara Force India in fourth, who have scored with both drivers in each of the three races so far in 2017.

“It’s always good to come back from two races with points, and it shows that the car is capable to score points at each race. Then again, it’s always difficult because it’s a tight midfield and we all went testing after Bahrain and everyone has learned something,” Steiner said.

“It’s as tight as it’s ever been. With four to five teams so close together, I cannot remember when that happened, and every weekend it’s mixed up in a different way. Any of these teams can go into Q3 and get into the points. It’s a very tense battle, but I think a nice battle and it keeps the constructors championship pretty open for the midfield.”

Grosjean added, “It was good to score points in Bahrain. Clearly, we deserved them – since race one, actually. I think the most encouraging fact for now is that the car is performing well everywhere we’ve been. So now we go to Russia, which was a bit of a tough one for us last year. We’ll see if we’ve made progress and if the car is working well at every type of circuit. If so, then pretty much everywhere we could score points.”

For Magnussen, the chance of a score comes after he delivered his best 2016 result here last year – seventh for Renault. He was also fifth in 2014 with McLaren, and has a chance to score for a third different team here this weekend.

“I think it’s a good track and I’ve had some good races there. Hopefully, I can have another good one there this year,” he said.

“I know last year I had a good first lap. Quite a few people messed up and lost things like front wings and so on. I made up lots of positions with that. I then had a really good race after that to finish seventh.”

 

 

PWC: 36 SprintX cars, lineups pack variety, diversity at VIR

Photo: PWC
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No less than 36 cars are set to compete in the first of five Pirelli World Challenge SprintX weekends, this weekend at VIRginia International Raceway.

Breaking down those 36 cars, they’re split this way:

  • 12 GT Pro/Pro
  • 16 GT Pro/Am
  • 1 GT Am/Am
  • 1 GT Cup Pro/Am
  • 1 GT Cup Am/Am
  • 2 GTS Pro/Am
  • 3 GTS Am/Am

And that’s before you get to the rest of the entry list: GTS: 9; GTSA: 10; TC: 32; TCA: 15; TCB: 8.

In sports car racing, the easiest way to get hooked is to embrace the variety and diversity of machinery first and ask questions about how complex it is later.

So with that in mind, here’s a breakdown of the GT SprintX entries (which themselves are split between three classes, but we’ll set that aside for a minute) and their respective lineups.

Cadillac Racing, Cadillac ATS-V.R

3 – Johnny O’Connell/Jordan or Ricky Taylor
8 – Michael Cooper/Jordan or Ricky Taylor

The fully professional Cadillac lineups give the Taylor brothers a chance to dip their feet back into Pirelli World Challenge competition alongside the team’s full-season drivers. That being said, it’ll be weird to see Jordan and Ricky racing against each other again, and Cadillac still hasn’t confirmed which brother goes where.

Magnus Racing, Audi R8 LMS

4 – Pierre Kaffer/Spencer Pumpelly (Kaffer misses Lime Rock)
44 – John Potter/Marco Seefried (Seefried misses Lime Rock)

For Magnus Racing, a return to the mini-endurance racing with pit stops could see the team with a slight advantage over those PWC-only teams in recent years. Kaffer and Pumpelly is as good a lineup as you’ll find on the grid while Potter and Seefried know each other’s nuances well.

K-PAX Racing, McLaren 650S GT3

6 – Bryan Sellers/Jonny Kane
9 – Alvaro Parente/Ben Barnicoat
98 – Mike Hedlund/Michael Lewis

With Strakka Racing coming to McLaren, Jonny Kane is the ace of reckoning added here with Sellers. Meanwhile Parente has the talented but inexperienced McLaren GT junior driver Barnicoat alongside; Hedlund and Lewis provide a very solid all-American duo.

GMG Racing, Porsche 911 GT3 R

14 – James Sofronas/Laurens Vanthoor (VIR and CTMP)
14 – James Sofronas/Matt Halliday (Lime Rock, Utah and COTA)

Calvert Dynamics, Porsche 911 GT3 R

77 – Alec Udell/Preston Calvert (partnership with GMG)

In simple terms, Sofronas’ team is one that should benefit from the SprintX format. Porsche places factory driver Vanthoor in when available while Halliday is a team veteran. Udell and Calvert will share a Calvert Dynamics entry prepared by GMG, which combines the two top teams from the series’ GT Cup class.

Wright Motorsports, Porsche 911 GT3 R

16 – Michael Schein/Jan Heylen
58 – Patrick Long/Joerg Bergmeister

Two solid lineups here for John Wright’s team. The iconic pairing of Long and Bergmeister is reunited in the team’s all-pro entry with Heylen and Schein one of the top pro/am entries.

RealTime Racing, Acura NSX GT3

43 – Ryan Eversley/Tom Dyer
93 – Peter Kox/Mark Wilkins

Wilkins and Dyer, the team’s SprintX additions, are underrated for a reason – they’re solid, quiet, capable drivers who aren’t flashy but usually get the job done. But they’re going to have to rise up against some of the other pros competing, especially when Acura’s four full-season drivers in IMSA aren’t added here.

Bentley Team Absolute, Bentley Continental GT3

78 – Yufeng Luo/Alexandre Imperatori (VIR and CTMP)
88 – Adderly Fong/Vincent Abril

Past Blancpain GT Series champion Abril is an excellent addition to this young lineup, and he and Fong will be the car to watch versus the pro/am No. 78 car.

CRP Racing, Mercedes-AMG GT3

2 – Ryan Dalziel/Daniel Morad

“Razzle Dazzle” and “State of Moradness” combine for one of the coolest nickname and driver pairings on the grid. The Canadian should learn the Mercedes quickly and combined with the rapid Scot who’s based in Florida, this team should excel.

TR3 Racing, Ferrari 488 GT3

31 – Daniel Mancinell/Andrea Montermini

Mancinelli has raised more than a few eyebrows in his first two weekends in the series, but has the pace to star. Ferrari GT veteran Montermini is a nice counterbalance.

R. Ferri Motorsport, Ferrari 488 GT3

61 – Alex Riberas/Kyle Marcelli

Remo Ferri’s entry is one of the best ones out there, with two very talented drivers sharing the team’s Ferrari 488 in the SprintX races. Marcelli’s vastly experienced for his still tender age of 27; Riberas is a rising GT star in sports car racing.

Scuderia Corsa, Ferrari 458 GT3

7 – Martin Fuentes/Stefan Johansson

Giacomo Mattioli doesn’t usually enter something unless he thinks he can win, and this pro/am lineup of last year’s GTA champ (Fuentes) and Ferrari veteran and team sporting director Johansson, is one of the best in this category.

M1 GT Racing, Audi R8 LMS

23 – David Ostella/James Dayson

Pair of Mazda Road to Indy veterans-turned-sports car Canadians share a car that will be consistent if not the outright fastest among pro/am entries.

MOMO NGT Motorsport, Ferrari 458 GT3

30 – Henrique Cisneros/TBA

Cisneros usually assembles a good effort, and the identity of his co-driver will be interesting.

Black Swan Racing, Mercedes-AMG GT3

54 – Tim Pappas/Jeroen Bleekemolen

The band has come back together for the past GTC champions of American Le Mans Series. Bleekemolen remains rapid as ever; he and Pappas have gelled well before.

DXDT Racing, Mercedes-AMG GT3

63 – Aaron Povoledo/David Askew

Team’s strength comes from its 2016 SprintX experience, something many others don’t have.

Always Evolving Racing/AIM Autosport, Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3

75 – Ricardo Sanchez/Frankie Montecalvo

There’s a lot of newness for the AE/AIM/Nissan combo including a new driver lineup and new 2017 car. While it’s unfortunate past Nissan winners Bryan Heitkotter and James Davison aren’t here, young guns Sanchez and Montecalvo have potential in spades.

McCann Racing, Audi R8 LMS

82 – Mike Skeen/Michael McCann

This SprintX-only, pro/am entry could provide an avenue for “ginger stig” Skeen to live up to his lanky frame and produce some typical giant-killing performances.

MCC Motorsports, Mercedes-AMG GT3

92 – Alexandre Negrao/Alexandre Negrao Sr.

Little known here about this entry, other than it’s another Mercedes that features a past GP2 veteran in Negrao.

TRG, Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3

007 – Kris Wilson/Drew Regitz

Wilson has been capable of winning races with TRG before but it’s hard to see this aging car and the lone am-am labeled driver lineup doing much of that here. That said, in the hands of James Davison, it does still have some speed left.

Dream Racing Competition, Lamborghini Huracán GT3

07 – Cedric Sbirrazzuoli/Lawrence DeGeorge

The pairing has driven together in Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and now PWC SprintX. Sbirrazzuoli’s got the speed here between this duo.

DIME Racing, Lamborghini Huracán GT3 (First Alternate)

111 – Jonathan Summerton/Michael Macs

Past Atlantic series race winner Summerton leads this lineup, although whether he’ll get a chance to race depends on one of the primary entries having a pre-race issue that promotes the first alternate into the field.

REST OF THE FIELD

There are also seven additional entries for the first SprintX race of the season, with two GT Cup and five GTS entries. Those cars may interfere with the GT competitors but will have their own interesting race within the race, as well.

Tom Dillmann confirmed for Formula E debut at Paris

Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Series Media Service.
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Mike Conway (Faraday Future Dragon Racing) will have company among guest drivers in the upcoming FIA Formula E Championship Paris ePrix on May 20.

Venturi, Conway’s old team, have confirmed French open-wheel veteran turned occasional sports car racer Tom Dillmann as a fill-in driver for Maro Engel at Paris, and will thus make his series debut. Engel is racing for Mercedes in DTM, while Loic Duval is racing for Audi at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz the same weekend.

Dillmann has driven the Venturi VM200-FE-02 before, standing in for Stephane Sarrazin for the shakedown in last month’s Mexico City ePrix as Sarrazin was en route to Mexico from the FIA World Endurance Championship Prologue test in Monza.

He’s an F3, GP2 and WEC race winner already. The 28-year-old Frenchman is understandably keen to impress on debut.

“Formula E is an exciting place to be for a driver – with thrilling motor racing and interesting technical developments. It goes without saying that it’s my goal to contest a full season in this series in the future,” he said in a release.