Photo: Mazda

IMSA: Mazda updated livery released; JDC-Miller, CORE add drivers

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The news keeps coming in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for 2018, in its marquee Prototype class.

On Wednesday, a day after Mazda Team Joest revealed its new-look lineup, it revealed its new-look “evo” Mazda RT24-P in its “Soul Red Crystal” livery. All but Rene Rast of the six drivers were on site with the car at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Photos and the updated logo are below.

Photo: JDC-Miller Motorsports

The JDC-Miller Motorsports team has signed its first driver to its second Oreca 07 Gibson, with Swiss sports car and open-wheel veteran Simon Trummer confirmed in the team’s No. 84 entry. Trummer has tested for the team in Sebring, and comes off a four-year FIA World Endurance Championship stint with the Lotus, ByKolles and CEFC TRS Manor teams.

“With the team moving to a two-car program in 2018, we felt it was important to include someone like Simon to our program that knows the car and fits very well into our program on a personal side. When he tested with us at Sebring he was right up to speed for being at the track for the first time while also driving on a new tire. More importantly, he fit right into the entire group, it was like he had been with us all year,” said team principal John Church.

Trummer added, “I have always wanted to race in the US and IMSA at the moment is for sure very attractive with all the new cars and manufacturers joining the championship. JDC-Miller had an incredible season in their first year competing in Prototype and when they decided to expand to a two-car program for 2018 we started discussing the possibilities of doing something together.”

Of note here is JDC-Miller listing No. 84 for its second car, a number that was listed on the D3+Transformers Racing Ligier at Road Atlanta.

CORE autosport has stacked its lineup for its prototype return, its debut in the top-flight Prototype class, with team regulars Jon Bennett and Colin Braun joined by Romain Dumas and Loic Duval at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Dumas passes up a drive at the Dakar Rally for a drive at the Rolex, as he makes his return to the race for the first time since 2013 (GT class with TRG). Surprisingly, next year’s Rolex will be Dumas’ first start in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship since the GRAND-AM and ALMS series came back together prior to 2014.

“I’m really happy to go back to Daytona. For a long a time I’ve been looking to come back, but Dakar is always at the same time. This year, as soon as I get the opportunity with CORE, I decided not to do Dakar,” he said.

“Loïc and I were teammates at Audi in 2012 and as soon as I heard it was a possibility for him to be part of the team, I was very enthusiastic. We live very close to each other—eight miles away—so we have a good relationship. It was clear when I spoke with him that we are there to achieve the best result and we are old enough to understand that we are here for the team and that’s very important for Daytona.

“I drove this car [ORECA 07 Gibson], this year at Le Mans with Alpine and at Spa. I know it’s a very cool car. I think its pace will be pretty good. I know we have a lot of competition ahead of us. First, we have to do our own race, without looking at everyone else, then the race will come to us if we are doing a good job.”

Duval made his Rolex debut in an identical car last year with DragonSpeed and now links up with his longtime friend and colleague, Dumas.

“The main thing I know about CORE is they are the GT factory team for Porsche and to be honest that is about it. I spoke a little but with Romain and he explained to me about how professional the team is. It wasn’t a surprise though, because when you are a factory team for Porsche it means a lot already. I knew that the team was first class,” he said.

“I’ve been doing some testing back in Europe and I was racing in Bahrain in WEC in the ORECA. It’s definitely good training for me because I will not race any car from now to Daytona, so I’m quite sharp in the LMP2 ORECA, which for me also makes a lot of sense to be fully fit for Daytona.”

NHRA shocker in Houston: John Force fails to qualify for first time since 2008, snaps 221-race streak

Photo and videos courtesy NHRA
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Sunday’s eliminations in the 31st annual NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway in suburban Houston  just won’t be the same without John Force.

In one of the most stunning turn of events seen in the last decade-plus in NHRA drag racing, the legendary 16-time Funny Car champion and the sport’s all-time winningest driver on Saturday failed to qualify for Sunday’s main event of the race weekend.

It marks the first time Force, who turns 69 on May 4, failed to qualify for a race since Sept. 13, 2008 in Charlotte race, snapping a string of having made the eliminations in each of the subsequent 221 races until failing to do so Saturday.

“That is hard for me,” Force said after failing to go any faster than 222.29 mph in the four qualifying rounds for the race, two on Friday and the other two on Saturday. “You earn what you get. We didn’t put it in the show. We couldn’t get to half-track.

“We have had a lot of problems all year. At least I got my final shot to get in and I didn’t make it. I will be here tomorrow rooting on Robert, Courtney and Brittany (teammates Robert Hight and daughters Courtney and Brittany Force). I’ll be signing autographs for all the fans. I am sorry to all of you fans that I didn’t make it.”

Saturday’s failure to qualify marked only the 22nd time he’s DNQ’d in his 40-year professional drag racing career. He set a drag racing record by qualifying for 395 consecutive events from 1988 until April 2007.

“I am bummed that the boss didn’t get in. That was quite a streak he had going,” Hight said of hoss and father-in-law. “There is nobody better at rallying a team and leading a comeback than John Force.

“He loves the fight and he will do whatever it takes to get his team back on top. It really isn’t something to worry about because two of our Chevys are No.1 and No. 2 right now.

“We have good combinations and we just have to duplicate one of those set ups for John’s PEAK Funny car. He’ll be back next week in Charlotte.”

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As for the other classes (information courtesy NHRA Media Relations):Leah Pritchett set a new Top Fuel track record during the final qualifying session on Saturday to secure the top spot in Top Fuel heading into Sunday.Hight (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) are also No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the fifth of 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Defending event champion Pritchett raced her Mopar Dodge dragster to a pass of 3.680-seconds at 326.00 mph. This is her first No. 1 qualifier of the season and eighth of her career.

“We’ve been developing our confidence the last couple of races,” Pritchett stated. “To be able to put it on the track is phenomenal. We know we need to be exceptional because our competition is exceptional.”

Pritchett will line up against Terry Brian in round one of eliminations on Sunday. Defending world champion Brittany Force locked-in the No. 2 spot after a 3.701 at 313.80 in her Monster Energy dragster. Tony Schumacher is seeded third and will face William Litton.

Hight’s final qualifying pass of 3.894 at 317.27 in his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro took him to the top of the Funny Car category. This is his first No. 1 qualifier of the season, second at Houston and 58th of his career.

“This is going to be a new ball game tomorrow,” Hight said. “With fresh asphalt and the sun being out; these cars are going to spin. It’s definitely going to be fun. Two of our Chevy’s are one and two (in Funny Car) which shows we have good combinations.”

Hight will face-off against Todd Simpson Sunday morning in the first round. Teammate Courtney Force sits in the No. 2 position with a pass of 3.911 at 295.14 in her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro and two-time world champion Matt Hagan rounds out the top three.

Anderson, four-time Pro Stock world champion, remained atop the field Saturday with his pass of 6.492 at 213.00 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro from the first qualifying session on Friday. He notched his third consecutive No. 1 qualifier of the season and is seeking his first victory of the year.

“I haven’t had great Sunday’s yet,” Anderson stated. “I know I’m going to break through one of these days though. The weather is going to be great again tomorrow. I feel good about it, I’m excited and so far it’s just been a great weekend.”

Anderson will race Steve Graham in the first round of eliminations. Jeg Coughlin Jr. qualified in the No. 2 position with a pass of 6.504 at 212.36 in his JEGS.com/Elite Performance Chevrolet Camaro and Tanner Gray is third.

Eliminations at the NHRA SpringNationals begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday at Royal Purple Raceway.

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SUNDAY’S FIRST-ROUND PAIRINGS FOR ELIMINATIONS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Leah Pritchett, 3.680 seconds, 326.00 mph vs. 16. Terry Brian, 4.275, 284.62; 2. Brittany Force, 3.701, 320.20 vs. 15. Terry Haddock, 4.081, 287.17; 3. Tony Schumacher, 3.703, 322.73 vs. 14. Bill Litton, 3.927, 306.60; 4. Billy Torrence, 3.737, 317.87 vs. 13. Kebin Kinsley, 3.819, 313.51; 5. Antron Brown, 3.740, 324.98 vs. 12. Terry McMillen, 3.783, 314.31; 6. Clay Millican, 3.746, 315.78 vs. 11. Mike Salinas, 3.766, 313.73; 7. Doug Kalitta, 3.748, 320.05 vs. 10. Richie Crampton, 3.766, 316.23; 8. Scott Palmer, 3.754, 318.17 vs. 9. Steve Torrence, 3.759, 313.88. Did Not Qualify: 17. Terry Totten, 4.636, 216.34.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.894, 317.27 vs. 16. Todd Simpson, Dodge Charger, 4.318, 288.33; 2. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.911, 313.58 vs. 15. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Camry, 4.151, 283.49; 3. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.913, 311.85 vs. 14. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.077, 305.77; 4. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.918, 317.42 vs. 13. Richard Townsend, Camry, 4.026, 308.99; 5. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.918, 301.94 vs. 12. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.017, 307.51; 6. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.925, 311.41 vs. 11. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 3.994, 311.34; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.926, 313.00 vs. 10. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.989, 313.37; 8. Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 3.927, 316.52 vs. 9. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.938, 314.09. Did Not Qualify: 17. Jim Campbell, 4.341, 273.05; 18. John Force, 4.625, 222.29.

PRO STOCK: 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.492, 213.00 vs. 16. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.775, 205.60; 2. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.504, 212.36 vs. 15. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.621, 208.65; 3. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.507, 211.99 vs. 14. John Gaydosh Jr, Chevrolet Camaro, 6.592, 210.93; 4. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.513, 212.29 vs. 13. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.548, 210.67; 5. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.518, 211.99 vs. 12. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.545, 210.50; 6. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.525, 212.79 vs. 11. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.532, 212.73; 7. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.527, 212.29 vs. 10. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.532, 211.79; 8. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.528, 211.93 vs. 9. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.530, 211.33.