Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Corvette scores shock win and Change Racing a debut win at VIR

Leave a comment

A seemingly straight-forward Michelin GT Challenge at VIR for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Virginia International Raceway quickly turned chaotic in the closing minutes and saw the No. 3 Corvette C7.R of Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen score a surprise win in GT Le Mans for Corvette Racing.

In GT Daytona, Change Racing, with drivers Jeroen Mul and Corey Lewis, dominated from the pole in their Lamborghini Huracan GT3, to score their debut win in IMSA competition, although they faced a late challenge from the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3, in the hands of Jens Klingmann and Jesse Krohn. However, Corey Lewis, who finished the race for Change Racing, held off a final-lap challenge from Klingmann to take the victory.

Reports for both classes are below.


A frantic start saw Alexander Sims take lead after starting second in the BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM. Sims went side-by-side with Joey Hand, in the pole-sitting No. 66 Ford GT from Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, with the two going door-to-door through several corners before Sims eventually cleared Hand for the lead.

Sims and co-driver Bill Auberlen dominated the race from there, leading by over 20 seconds at multiple stages. However, a punctured tire prior to their final scheduled pit stop forced them to pit a few laps early, putting them into a big fuel conservation strategy in their final stint.

That allowed the No. 3 Corvette of Antonia Garcia, running second, to begin closing in. Garcia and co-driver Jan Magnussen emerged in second after an intense skirmish with the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE of Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander and the No. 66 Ford of Hand and co-driver Dirk Mueller.

Up front, Sims tried desperately to save enough fuel to make it to the checkered flag, but another puncture forced him to pit in the final 15 minutes, handing the lead to Garcia, who held on for the win from there.

Behind Garcia, however, chaos hit teammate Tommy Milner, in the No. 4 Corvette, and Mueller, who got together battling for a position on the podium entering the Turn 14 “roller coaster.” Both cars spun off into the grass, but were able to continue.

As a result of the contact, Ryan Briscoe (with co-driver Richard Westbrook) came through to take second, while Fisichella, who fell back as far as sixth after an off-course excursion in the second half of the race, ended up third on Risi Competizione’s return to IMSA competition. Sims ended up fourth, with Mueller in fifth.


Jeroen Mul took off from pole for Change Racing at the drop of the green flag, and he and co-driver Corey Lewis appeared to be destined for a relatively easy win, leading by over 10 seconds during the final hour of the race, with Lewis behind the wheel after Mul started.

However, Jens Klingmann, in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3, ran down Lewis in the final minutes, taking advantage of lapped traffic to do so. Specifically, Lewis was held up by a slowing Tommy Milner, whose No. 4 Corvette appeared to suffer a punctured tire on the final lap, which allowed Klingmann to close right on the back bumper of Lewis.

Yet, Lewis held off the challenge, even slightly increasing the gap between the two on the final lap, to take an emotional first win for he and the team, with Klingmann coming home second.

Behind them, Jeroen Bleekemolen, with Trent Hindman filling in for Ben Keating as a co-driver, finished third in the No. 33 Riley Motorsports – Team AMG Mercedes-AMG GT3. Alessandro Balzan and Christina Nielsen finished fourth in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3, with Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow finishing fifth in the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3.

The 2 hour 40 minute affair ran caution-free, but did see several drivers spin off course at various points. Most significantly, along with the aforementioned Milner/Mueller contact, Sage Karam, in the No. 14 3GT Racing Lexus RCF GT3, and Katherine Legge, in the No. 93 Acura NSX GT3 for Michael Shank Racing w/ Curb-Agajanian, came together in the early laps in a controversial incident.

Legge tried to get alongside Karam on the backstretch leading up to Turn 14, with Karam pushing her to the edge of the track. Legge returned the favor approaching the turn, with Karam putting two wheels on the grass. Karam managed to regain control, and actually out-breaked Legge into the corner, but slowed up suddenly on corner-exit. As a result, Legge piled into the back of him, doing significant damage to the front of Legge’s car, with the Michael Shank-led team eventually retiring the car after trying to repair.

Karam, for his role in the incident, was given a 60-second stop and hold penalty, and was later seen on camera having an animated conversation with Michael Shank about the incident.


F1 Preview: 2018 Australian Grand Prix

Photo: Getty Images
Leave a comment

Save for two occasions, in 2006, and 2010, the Australian Grand Prix has served as the season-opening event for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since 1996, and this weekend’s event will be the 21st time that the city of Melbourne has kicked off the Formula 1 campaign.

The 2018 season is the fifth one of the current hybrid power unit era, the second season of the current aero regulations, and the second under Liberty Media’s guidance.

Last year saw titans Mercedes AMG Petronas and Scuderia Ferrari duel for supremacy for most of the season before Mercedes distanced Ferrari late in the season to take the constructor’s title and the driver’s title, with Lewis Hamilton, who is now tied with Sebastian Vettel on four world championships apiece.

Four drivers on the grid have Formula 1 world championships to their name: Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, and Fernando Alonso. Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley also has a world championship to his name as a two-time titlist in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

So, what can viewers expect from the 2018 curtain-raiser in Australia? A handful of things to watch are below?

2018 Australian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Does Anyone Have Anything for Mercedes?

Only on one day during pre-season testing did a Mercedes driver lead the way – Lewis Hamilton was fastest on the final day of Week 1 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

However, all indications were that was by design, with the team focusing the majority of the second week, if not the entire second week, on long runs with their W09 EQ Power+ chassis.

Such a decision is an ominous one, in that it indicates the team is very comfortable with the amount of speed in the car and did not see a need, or desire, to show their hand during testing.

With that in mind, the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas may yet again have the best and fastest cars, and the team looks poised to potentially make it five constructor’s and driver’s championships in a row.

Ferrari and Red Bull Look to End Mercedes Reign

The biggest threats to Mercedes are undoubtedly Ferrari and Red Bull, the only other teams to win in 2017.

And both teams displayed a lot of pace during testing, particularly in the “one-lap speed” category. Ricciardo set a lap record around the Catalunya circuit during the second week, only for Vettel to supplant that mark later in the week. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen led the way during the final day of testing.

It is unknown how that pace will translate over the course of a race distance. Mercedes appeared to have an edge on both Ferrari and Red Bull over long runs and race simulations, but there is also a theory that neither Ferrari nor Red Bull had their true long-run form on display.

Still, if a team is going to knock off Mercedes, it will likely be either Ferrari or Red Bull.

McLaren on the Rebound?

Put simply, the previous three seasons for McLaren F1 Team were a bit of a disaster. Their partnership with Honda yielded point totals of 27 (2015), 76 (2016), and 30 (2017) in a three-year venture that was defined by poor reliability and underwhelming power.

The relationship hit a boiling point last year and both entities parted ways ahead of the 2018 season, with McLaren signing a new power unit deal with Renault.

Testing went better than in previous years, though the team continued to battle reliability problems. However, all issues appeared to be minor, needling issues rather than more significant, foundational problems, as the other Renault teams (Red Bull and Renault Sport F1 Team) had solid runs with few reliability issues.

The car does appear to have speed in it, so if the reliability problems are behind them, McLaren could be in for a rebound season.

Stuck in the Midfield Again

Formula 1’s battle amongst the midfield is set to be as fierce as ever as a host of a several teams have a chance at being “best of the rest.”

Sahara Force India has been the frontrunner from the the midfield teams each of the last two years, finishing fourth in the constructor’s title in both 2016 and 2017, though if the steady conflict between drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez continues through 2018, it could hamper their efforts significantly.

Renault Sport F1 Team and Haas F1 Team look to improve on their 2017 form, while Toro Rosso is in a new partnership with Honda power units…and has experienced a surprisingly smooth pre-season as Honda’s 2018 platform looks significantly better, with the team enjoying a solid run of testing with few, if any, reliability problems.

Williams Martini Racing and Alfa Romeo Sauber appear to be at the back of the pack entering the season, but both could battle for points finishes if those ahead of them falter.