RGR Sport was a big success in 2016. Photo: Getty Images

Q&A: Speed Group flat out behind-the-scenes in racing business

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Sometimes it’s worth taking a look at operations in motorsports that are behind the scenes and making waves, One of those is Speed Group, a business and driver development/management, digital media, marketing & sponsorship and logistics group, which has seemingly been all over the map in recent weeks and particularly, over the last year.

The business team foundation was rooted among longtime friends and motorsports veterans Toni Calderon, James Hinchcliffe and David Martinez, who a decade ago all worked together on Gerry Forsythe’s Formula Atlantic team. Calderon was in the PR side of the game before his career evolved, while Hinchcliffe and Martinez were drivers in Atlantics then.

Hinchcliffe has carried the torch in IndyCar the last few years while Martinez has become a solid, steady driver coach. Hinchcliffe won this weekend in Long Beach.

Some of the other key individuals the company has worked with include Esteban Gutierrez, who made his FIA Formula E Championship debut earlier this month in Mexico City, Ricardo Gonzalez, who was both owner/driver of the RGR Sport team in the FIA World Endurance Championship (Gonzalez was also the 6 Hours of Mexico City race promoter), and Will Owen, a talented up-and-comer from the open-wheel world who made his proper sports car debut last week at Long Beach for PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports (filled in for Jose Gutierrez, finished fifth overall with Tom Kimber-Smith in 35-car field) and whose primary effort this year is with United Autosports in the European Le Mans Series. Force India test driver Alfonso Celis Jr., young sports car driver Theo Bean and the DE Force Racing team in USF2000 are also Speed Group clients.

We caught up with Calderon (pictured above, right) for a look behind-the-scenes at what Speed Group does and how they’ve progressed, with other quick quotes from Hinchcliffe, Martinez, Gonzalez and Owen.


MST: Toni, from your perspective, you’ve advanced your career from more of just PR into the driver development/business development side of the sport. What led to this transition and how have you been able to navigate from that point?

Toni Calderon: “Well it was just a natural transition, I started just as almost everyone in the commercial side of motorsports doing PR because that’s the best way to get your foot in the door, but as we all know this is a small industry so you quickly start making connections and developing relationships and you start figuring out what works and what doesn’t, and what can be done better in the industry. For me and for Speed Group, it’s always been about trying to always keep a very high standard with what we do and who we get involved with, and to try to always keep a very personal relationship with all our clients.”

MST: When Speed Group began, what were some of the original goals and expectations? How has the company/organization grown as quickly/rapidly as it has?

TC: “When Hinch, David and I came up with the idea of starting a company like Speed Group we were young and just getting our careers started and it was really just us thinking about what would be helpful to have at that point of our careers, especially for David and Hinch as drivers. So we always remembered that and many years later when we finally got the company off the ground we wanted to make sure that we had a “one stop shop” where a driver could come into it and have support in every aspect of his/her career, whether it was career management, coaching, or PR & Marketing, basically a company that can let drivers just focus on driving and we take care of everything else.

MEXICO CITY – NOVEMBER 09: David Martinez drives his #7 INDECK Forsythe Championship Racing Panoz DP-01 during practice for the Champ Car World Series Grand Premio Tecate on November 9, 2007 at Autodromo Hermonos Rodriguez in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

“We’ve had a great three years so far since we first launched Speed Group, our growth has really mostly just come from word of mouth, we don’t spend a lot of time looking for clients to be honest, but it’s been very gratifying to have people coming to us asking for help, and at the same time we’ve been careful about how we grow to make sure we never dilute our services or the personal attention we can give to our clients.”

MST: What have been some of your best successes as an organization so far? What have you learned from the setbacks/challenges?

TC: “There’s a few! Being able to be a part of the day to day careers of young drivers like Will Owen, Jose Gutierrez and Theo Bean has been a very gratifying experience, we’ve been able to be a part of their growth and have helped advanced their careers into sports cars with some very good teams so this is particularly something i’m very proud of, 2017 will be a big year for all of them.

“Another huge accomplishment was helping Ricardo Gonzalez launch RGR Sport last year, it was a very exciting project which we got to be involved with from day 1 and basically we helped him start it from scratch and achieved huge success with it. And of course being able to sign guys like Esteban Gutierrez and Alfonso Celis who are now at the top of the ladder just makes it that more exciting because we are basically covering almost every level of racing now.

DE Force Racing is in USF2000 this year. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

“One of the biggest challenges for us has definitely been being able to cover a lot of different series all around the world, this year we will be involved with Formula 1, IndyCar, Formula E, WEC, European Le Mans Series, World Series V8, Indy Lights, Pro Mazda Championship, USF2000 Championship, IMSA WeatherTtech Championship, IMSA Prototype Challenge, NACAM Formula 4 and some karting! So you just need to be able to keep it all organized and that definitely gets tricky some times, but every race weekend we learn and we get better at it.”

MST: People always look at James Hinchcliffe as the comedic force of IndyCar but he has to be pretty smart from a business side as well. What would you say is the key to Hinch’s business acumen and how he has this portion/component of the sport as part of his career?

TC: “Well one thing I can tell you is that Hinch is even smarter than he is funny, and even though he’s still young he has been around for a very long time, and knows the ins-and-outs of the sport just as good or better than anyone else in the IndyCar paddock. From day one of his career he had a very clear idea in his mind that he needed to make a name for himself and stand out, and he always stuck with that and it’s obviously paid off hugely, also winning races and being one of the fastest IndyCar drivers helps! He is just hugely dedicated to the sport both in and out of the track, and is definitely a role model and example to follow for all our young drivers.”

FORT WORTH, TX – AUGUST 27: James Hinchcliffe driver of the #5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda speaks during a media conference before the Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on August 27, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Mike Stone/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)

MST: Mexico has long been a hotbed for motorsport but in recent years has had a resurgence. You guys have worked with a number of Mexican drivers and key stakeholders. What can you identify as the reason(s) why it took off how it has?

TC: Well it’s a combination of timing, the economy, and cycles of interest among the decision makers and sponsors in Mexico. But more importantly it’s about having local heroes, obviously CART and Champ Car were very popular the last decade in Mexico when at some point we had up to five Mexican drivers, but then that slowed down once we didn’t have any more local drivers in there.

“It’s the same with F1 and WEC; as soon as we started having Mexican drivers there the interest immediately picked up and now we have both races in Mexico. And lastly now you can see it with Formula E. I had the chance to be with Esteban Gutierrez at the Mexico City ePrix which was his debut in the series, having him be part of it was a huge deal he helped make the event the best attended Formula E race ever, so that just goes to show you how important it is to have someone that the local crowd can cheer for.”

The podium at Mexico City, promoted and won by RGR Sport. Photo: RGR Sport

MST: The RGR Sport story was one of the more remarkable ones last year as a new team built from the ground up. Can you provide a bit of the backstory into how it came together and the logistics/prep work it took to make it happen?

TC: “It all started with Ricardo and I having the crazy idea of bringing a WEC race to Mexico City, and eventually Ricardo becoming the promoter of the 6 Hours of Mexico. After that deal was done we knew that having a Mexican team would be a huge help to the promotion of the event, but just like the race, if we didn’t do it ourselves then nobody was going to do it, so we just made the decision to go for it and start our own team.

“We’ve had a very good relationship with Onroak and OAK Racing for many years so the first big piece of the puzzle was to partner with them so they could help us with our operations and engineering, after that we made sure that we were able to sign Bruno Senna who had always been in our minds from the minute we started with this project.

“Once we knew we would have a very strong crew and Bruno as a teammate, we took our time to figure out who should be our third driver and we did a lot of research and I talked to a lot of drivers to make sure we could find someone that not only would be good on track obviously, but that would fit in with the concept of our team. Eventually after meeting Filipe (Albuquerque) at the Roar at Daytona I knew that he was the right guy and we went ahead and signed him.

Albuquerque, Gonzalez, Senna won on debut in Silverstone. Photo: RGR Sport

“Partnering with OAK Racing, Bruno, and Filipe, were the best three decisions we could’ve made. Another big concept that we wanted to make sure we applied with RGR was to be as open, carefree, and fan friendly as possible and this is where Speed Group really came in. We definitely achieved that because we went from being an unknown team to one of the most popular in the WEC almost overnight, and had a lot of fun doing it.

“Ricardo and I had a list of things we’ve always wanted in a race team, and basically we were able to do all of them with RGR. The rest is history, we had an almost perfect year and hopefully soon we’ll be able to come back and do it all again.”

MST: You’ve had a relationship with Juncos Racing for a bit of time. How inspirational has the Juncos story been as Ricardo’s grown and developed the team to where now he’ll be in IndyCar?

TC: “Working with Ricky and his team has been a great experience, he was one of our first clients and we’ve developed a very close relationship and have been super proud to see how much they’ve grown. It’s almost like a family, it’s a very cool feeling when a client has so much success and you can support them in every step of the way, no doubt being in IndyCar will be a big challenge but we’ve already been able to help him out a bit and we are very excited to where that relationship will lead for us.”

And from those others involved with Speed Group:

James Hinchcliffe: “What I think we are all most proud about is that Speed Group has become exactly what we envisioned it to be 10 years ago sitting in an Applebee’s in Texas! In fact, it’s even better than we imagined. What the company has done is such a short time is pretty amazing and a testament to how dedicated everyone in the company is. As we’ve grown, we’ve regrouped and restructured a few times to keep on top of what we need to provide for our clients. I think that the ability to recognize when those changes were needed, and the agility to respond quickly, have been a huge part of Speed Group’s success. This is the same mentality that we continue to implement to make sure we are staying on top of this constantly evolving environment.”

David Martinez: “Speed group is something very special for me. Apart from being a great one-stop shop for aspiring race car drivers, we’re a big family we’re new everyone works as a group to improve the quality of our team, including our clients. There is a sad point in a driver’s life when you get to hang the gloves and stop racing professionally which has been my case. Being part of Speed Group has given me the opportunity to relive all the excitement through our young drivers. It’s unreal but when they have success, it really feels like we’re in the car with them. I know for sure that if I had support from a company like Speed Group when I started, perhaps I would still be racing.”

Ricardo Gonzalez: “When i’m not at the track I’m usually completely focused on my business so it’s important to have a good group of people behind me looking out for my motorsports career, its a good feeling to know that they have your back and you can just show up a the track and drive basically.  Working with Toni and his team at Speed Group for many years now has been a very beneficial experience, we’ve basically grown together from racing GTC cars in the US, to winning Le Mans and the world championship in WEC, and eventually starting our own LMP2 team and promoting a race, it’s been quite an adventure!”

Owen, now of United Autosports, has transitioned to sports cars. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Will Owen: “We’d be absolutely lost without Speed Group, and the combination of Toni, David and James. Everyone there helps with management, media and bringing it all together, because you need all of that to be the complete package. It’s not just that. Teaching me about the sport, how to do the media stuff correctly. They’re there to help me and guide me with what they want to do. It’s super important for the busy weeks like that.”

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.