IMSA Sebring Day 1 of 2-day test notebook: Fred Poordad back from serious 2017 crash

Leave a comment

It may be more than three weeks before the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring weekend, but there was plenty of action at the central Florida track Tuesday.

It was the first day of a two-day test for various classes, and if you didn’t know it, you’d say teams were doing more racing than practicing.

Here’s some of the highlights:

* IMSA Prototype Challenge: P1 Motorsports topped the speed charts in impressive fashion.

Based 100 miles south of Sebring in Coconut Creek, Florida, P1 Motorsports picked up where it left off at a private test at Sebring last week.

The team’s No. 25 Ligier JS P3, piloted by Joel Janco and Kenton Koch, unofficially posted the fastest time of eight prototypes in either the LMP3 or Mazda Prototype Challenge in both practice sessions Tuesday.

“It was kind of the perfect place to test before a test, and then the race,” Koch said, per a IMSA media release. “For the most part the car was hooked up at the end of that test (from last week).

“We tried some little things in the morning today and ended up just going back to where we were. I’m really happy with everything, the car’s really hooked up and Joel’s doing great too. All the practice is really paying off.”

There was just one incident across the several classes in the entire day: the No. 44 Ave Motorsports Ave-Riley AR2 of Gary Gibson made contact with a tire barrier in Turn 16 in the morning session. Damage was repaired and the car was back on the racetrack midway through the afternoon practice session.

There will be one more practice Wednesday, starting at 8 a.m. ET.

* A little over a year after a bad wreck while practicing for the Bathurst 12-hour race in Australia, Fred Poordad is back behind the wheel, taking part Tuesday in his No. 20 Wright Motorsports Porsche GT3 Cup ride.

“I was having a really awesome time and a great run until I had a little mishap coming down the mountain and clipped a wall and went into another one,” Poordad said of the Bathurst incident. “Unfortunately, it left me with some back and neck injuries and I spent six months rehabbing.”

Poordad’s injuries were initially so serious that he wondered if he’d ever race again. But one year later, he was back behind the wheel Tuesday, preparing for the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA By Yokohama season.

It didn’t take him long to shake off the rust, holding pace with several of the quickest driver on the racetrack.

“I’m feeling pretty good now,” Poordad said. he said shortly before the start of the day’s second session of the test day. “I wanted to get back in the car to see if the passion and energy were still there. So far, so good. I’m enjoying it. There’s nothing like being in a Porsche.”

There will be another test session Wednesday that is open and free to the public, but there will be a $10 admission charged for sessions on Thursday and Friday.

* Dutch driver Indy Dontje wasn’t exactly sure what he was getting into with his first visit to Sebring Raceway.

But he proved to be a quick learner in Tuesday’s practice for the Grand Sport (GS) class.

Behind the wheel of the No. 57 Winward Racing/HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT4, Dontje unofficially had one of the top five times in Tuesday’s morning practice session, the first of three scheduled for the Continental Tire Challenge across two days.

“I got my rhythm and put a good lap time together and it’s quite bumpy in some places, but it’s a nice, quick track and I think this will suit the Mercedes a bit more than Daytona,” Dontje said. “I was really happy with my pace and I’m really excited to be here in Sebring. I’ve heard a lot of stories about it, so I wanted to know the track and see and hear everything.”

Sebring will be the second of four venues that Dontje will compete at in the 2018 season for Winward Racing/HTP Motorsport.

Dontje and co-driver Bryce Ward finished fifth last month at Daytona in the BMW Endurance Challenge.

“I experienced everything at Daytona,” Dontje said about adjusting to racing in the U.S. vs. in Europe. “The team itself, it’s good because we have a partnership with HTP, so there are some European mechanics here with me.

“We have a sort of mixture of all the guys we have the experienced guys from Europe, we have the experienced guys from the U.S. It’s cool, you know?”

Dontje is not a man unto his own island at Sebring. He has teammate Damien Faulkner to lend a hand.

“He’s an experienced guy here,” Dontje said of Faulkner, adding, “so sometimes if I felt like I have a big question, I ask him because he knows his way around.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Mercedes: F1 teams need to work together to avoid split

Getty Images
Leave a comment

MELBOURNE, Australia — Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said Friday that Formula One teams have a responsibility to try to overcome their differences over the future of the sport in the face of a threat by Ferrari to quit because of a number of proposed changes.

Bernie Ecclestone, who ran F1 for 40 years before being replaced by new owners Liberty Media last year, has raised the possibility that Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne could walk away from F1 and form a breakaway series over Liberty’s future vision for the sport.

Ferrari is unhappy with Liberty’s proposal to simplify engines and redistribute prize money among F1 teams after the current contract with teams expires at the end of 2020.

Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene would not comment on the specifics of Marchionne’s previous comments at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Friday, but said: “My only suggestion, please take him seriously.”

Wolff is also taking the possibility of Ferrari walking away seriously. He told Britain’s Press Association before the Australian GP that he agreed with Marchionne’s concerns and that Formula One can’t afford to alienate Ferrari or lose the team.

“Don’t mess with Sergio Marchionne,” he said. “Formula One needs Ferrari much more than Ferrari needs Formula One.”

Wolff was more diplomatic on Friday, saying he hopes all sides could come together for the good of the sport.

“I think this as much a battle on track as much as it is a fight off track for an advantage,” he said. “It is clear the current governance and how the rules are being made is not very functional. There’s too much different opinions and agendas on the table and we need to sort it for 2021 for the best interest of the sport.”

Red Bull boss Christian Horner agreed there are too many competing agendas, suggesting that the FIA-Formula One’s governing body-and Liberty Media come together to decide on a set of regulations and financial framework for the next contract and the teams can then decide if they want to accept it or not.

“Trying to get a consensus between teams that have varying objectives, different set-ups, is going to be impossible,” he said. “It’s history repeating itself. It happens every five or six years, every time the Concorde Agreement comes up for renewal.”

Tempers also flared during Friday’s media conference over another issue of contention between the teams – Ferrari’s recent hiring of FIA’s ex-safety director, Laurent Mekies.

Horner believes Ferrari broke an agreement among teams at a recent meeting to institute a 12-month waiting period for any former employee of FIA or FOM (Formula One Management) to be able to start working for one of F1’s teams. The concern is that former FIA staff who go to work for a specific team could share secrets from other teams.

“Certain teams were pushing for that period to be three years, but in the end it was agreed upon being 12 months,” he said. “It almost makes those meetings pointless if we can’t agree on something and action it.”

Arrivabene defended Ferrari’s move, saying Mekies would not join its team until after a six-month “gardening leave” period.

“There is nothing wrong with that because we were absolutely respecting the local law, the Swiss local law where Laurent was hired,” he said.