Photo: Mazda Raceway

Eclectic weekend of sports car, other series racing on tap

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There’s no open-wheel racing this weekend as the Verizon IndyCar Series season is complete and Formula 1 has its only off weekend in October before the two-week North American swing at Circuit of The Americas for the United States Grand Prix and at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez for the Mexican Grand Prix.

That being said, beyond NASCAR in Talladega and NHRA in Dallas, there’s still plenty on tap in a very eclectic weekend of racing, mainly in California but also in Germany and Japan to monitor.

RED BULL GRC, RED BULL AIR RACE BOTH SET FOR SEASON FINALES

Photo: Larry Chen/Red Bull Content Pool

Red Bull hosts two unique showcases of content this weekend in California and Indiana, with the season finales of both Red Bull Global Rallycross and Red Bull Air Race for 2017.

In Red Bull GRC’s case, the 12th and final race of the year comes from the Port of Los Angeles on Saturday. The Supercars finale airs on Saturday, October 14, at 4:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Will Christien will be on the call.

Scott Speed is poised to wrap his third straight title for Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross, with teammate Tanner Foust looking to overtake him. A weekend preview is here.

Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

Red Bull Air Race coverage from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the eighth round of the year, airs Sunday night, October 15, at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

After seven rounds, Czech pilot Martin Sonka leads the standings with 63 points, ahead of Yoshihide Muroya (Japan, 59), Pete McLeod (Canada, 56) and Kirby Chambliss (USA, 52).

The top four can still win the Air Race World Championship. A Q&A with Chambliss and a weekend primer is here.

MRLS HOSTS SRO, PWC, MX-5, PIRELLI GT3 CUP (Full weekend schedule)

The level of “eclectic” that is occurring at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca this weekend is fascinating. Two years ago in September, the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires and Pirelli World Challenge held its season finales at the track on the same weekend, and it was a case of “whose headliner is it anyway.” Then last year, MRTI joined other Mazda-powered series – IMSA’s Prototype Lites and the inaugural Global MX-5 Cup race were alongside – for an all-Mazda weekend.

And so the fall date at Mazda Raceway has its latest reinvention this week with four different series all on the same dance card.

K-PAX Racing McLaren joins SRO race at Mazda Raceway. Photo: PWC

The headliner is meant to be SRO’s Intercontinental GT Challenge, with the inaugural California 8 Hours on tap featuring a mix of primarily GT3 and GT4 cars in what will be the longest professional race in Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca’s history. This comes out of the relationship between SRO and Pirelli World Challenge, so this sees the traditional sprint series now having some of its teams running factory efforts in an endurance race.

Wright Motorsports, K-PAX Racing, RealTime Racing, Magnus Racing, GMG, TRG, Black Swan Racing and Ian Lacy Racing will fly the flag for PWC squads while Team Land and WRT are among the notable international additions. Here’s the full entry list for that race, which will stream via SRO Motorsports’ website (main site; TV site), and will also have domestic coverage on both CBS Sports Network and Motor Trend on Demand (details linked here). The eight-hour race begins at 9:15 a.m. PT on Sunday morning.

TC classes full field photo at COTA. Photo: PWC

PWC has its own cars and series on tap as well, with the three Touring Car classes in action for their finales. Given the high car counts (29 TC, 12 TCA, 9 TCB), the TC races are split off from the TCA/TCB races. All four races will occur on Saturday though; the TC races are at 9:50 a.m. and 4 p.m. PT, with the TCA/TCB races set for 9 a.m. and 2:05 p.m. PT; those stream via the series website.

In TC, Paul Holton (C360R Audi RS 3) leads the points going in with 183, ahead of Nick Wittmer (175), Greg Liefooghe (162) and Toby Grahovec (156). In TCA, Matthew Fassnacht (S.A.C. Racing Global MX-5 Cup) leads teammate Elivan Goulart by 12 points (209-197). In TCB, Jake Pipal (220), P.J. Groenke (218) and Canaan O’Connell (217) are spread by just three points. The TC class entry lists are here.

Photo: Mazda Motorsports

Mazda hosts its second Global MX-5 Cup Challenge, with $75,000 awarded to the winner. Among the 20 cars entered, guest stars include Indy Lights champion Kyle Kaiser and iRacing gamer turned driver Glenn McGee, along with 2017 MX-5 Cup champion Patrick Gallagher and past champions Kenton Koch, Nathanial Sparks and John Dean II and a number of other series veterans including Dean Copeland, Nikko Reger, Bryan Ortiz, Robert Stout, Matt Cresci, Robby Foley and Drake Kemper. That entry list is linked here. Mazda will stream both races on its Facebook page, which run at 12:40 p.m. and 5 p.m. PT on Saturday.

The Pirelli GT3 Cup Trophy USA is also in action with a pair of races itself. This series, which runs around the country and was at Road America for its most recent round at the end of September, has nearly 40 Porsches split between 991 and 997 GT3s, and a bunch of GT4s. Notably on the entry list here, Flying Lizard Motorsports founder Seth Neiman will return to the driver seat this weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for his first event back under the team banner since 2014. Neiman will race a Porsche GT4 Cayman for Round 8 of the Porsche Pirelli GT3 Cup Trophy USA October 12-14. These two races run at 5:10 p.m. PT Friday and 3 p.m. PT Saturday. Additional series details are linked here via the Competent Motorsport website.

WEC IN JAPAN, DTM AND AUDI TT CUP RACES IN GERMANY

Porsche 919 Hybrid, Porsche LMP Team: Earl Bamber, Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley

The seventh round of the FIA World Endurance Championship season takes place at Fuji Speedway in Japan, during the overnight hours of Saturday into Sunday. A catch-up with Porsche factory drivers Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber is linked here. The race runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. local time in Japan, which translates to 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. ET in the U.S. FOX Sports has coverage via FS GO (10 p.m. to 1 a.m. ET), FS2 (1 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. ET) and FS1 (2:30 a.m. to 4 a.m. ET), while Radio Show Limited coverage for the race only via its RS3 channel.

Hockenheim will be the site of the DTM season finale. Audi drivers Mattias Ekstrom and Rene Rast are 1-2 in that series’ championship, Ekstrom with 172 points to Rast’s 151. It’s an interesting time for that series with Mercedes having announced it will leave at the end of 2018, and enter Formula E.

Meanwhile Audi Sport’s TT Cup series will also be in action in Hockenheim. The regular TT Cup event (two races) is joined by a unique Audi Sport TT Cup “Race of Legends” on Sunday, where 16 Audi legends (Christian Abt, Filipe Albuquerque, Frank Biela, Dindo Capello, Rahel Frey, Marcel Fassler, Jean-Marc Gounon, Lucas di Grassi, Vanina Ickx, Tom Kristensen, Lucas Luhr, Stephane Ortelli, Emanuele Pirro, Frank Stippler, Hans-Joachim Stuck, Marco Werner) will compete in a half hour race. Audi’s stream link is here and commentary will be supplied by Radio Show Limited. More details on RSL’s participation and times can be found via its website and @RSL_Studio on Twitter.

Audi bids farewell to Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich upon retirement

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Audi bid farewell to its iconic head of motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, at its end-of-season ‘Race Night’ event in Germany on Friday upon his retirement.

Ullrich took over the reins as Audi’s head of motorsport in 1993 and stayed in the role for 23 years, overseeing its arrival in the prototype class of sports car racing and domination of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ullrich stepped down from the position at the end of 2016, handing the reins over to ex-Audi DTM chief Dieter Gass, and attended his final racing event with the German marque at its first works Formula E outing in Hong Kong earlier this month.

Ullrich was honored at the Race Night event on Friday and thanked for his efforts in developing Audi into a force within global motorsport.

“In 566 factory-backed commitments during this period he celebrated 209 victories, 13 of them in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, eleven in the 12-hour race at Sebring and nine in the ‘Petit Le Mans’ at Road Atlanta,” a piece on Ullrich’s tenure for Audi’s website reads.

“31 driver titles in super touring car racing, in the DTM and in the sports prototype category are credited to him. 57 campaigners were Audi factory drivers during Wolfgang Ullrich’s era and he was responsible for 18 new developments of racing cars – an impressive tally.”