Photo courtesy of IMSA

Sean Rayhall eager to begin new opportunity with 3GT

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Despite being only 22 years old (he turns 23 on March 10), Sean Rayhall has endured quite the adventure on his way to becoming a professional racing driver.

He made his racing debut in the Skip Barber Southern Series in 2009 at the age of just 14. He jumped to Legends cars in 2010 and then into the CARS Tour – formerly the USAR Pro Cup Series – in 2011.

He moved into sports cars in 2013, winning a championship in the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda while also contesting the Prototype Challenge class in the American Le Man Series, the latter continuing in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2014.

Rayhall then tackled open wheel racing in 2015, running a partial schedule in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires with 8Star Motorsports, winning twice that year.

And most recently, in 2017, Rayhall jumped across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe, contesting the European Le Mans Series season in a Ligier JS P3 for United Autosports, in which he won the LMP3 class championship with co-driver John Falb.

And now, Rayhall is set for a new opportunity back in the U.S. as a new signee with 3GT Racing for the remaining rounds of the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup in the WeatherTech championship.

The new venture, which sees him replace the retired Scott Pruett in the No. 15 Lexus RC F GT3, came about after January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, where Rayhall was competing with HART in the No. 69 Acura NSX GT3, following what seemed like an informal conversation with 3GT owner Paul Gentilozzi.

“It came about, sure enough, our trailer was parked next to Gentilozzi’s trailer and he came up to me after the race,” Rayhall said. “We got to chatting and he said, ‘Are you signed for the rest of the NAEC?’ I said, ‘No. I think HART wants me, but I’m not really sure what the deal is.’ He said, ‘Don’t sign anything.’ I was like, ‘All right. Why?’ He said, ‘I’ll give you a call this week.'”

Rayhall continued, “(Gentilozzi) gave me a call on Wednesday, had a small talk, and Monday we did a deal. It’s pretty funny how it was just kind of right place, right time. I don’t even know if our trailers weren’t parked together if that would have happened. It’s kind of out of sight, out of mind, but being back in the IMSA paddock has been good to me so far, obviously. I’m just really fortunate to be back here.”
What’s most interesting is that, while Rayhall has driven a wide variety of machinery in his career, GT cars were not on that list prior to this year’s Rolex 24. Rayhall even admitted that other GT opportunities went by the wayside because he hadn’t raced such a platform.

However, his versatility in other areas gives him the confidence that he can quickly wrap his arms around a GT3 car.

“I think the versatility is huge,” he said. “I’ve gotten turned down a lot from some GT opportunities just because I haven’t raced a (GT) car. It’s pretty funny, because it’s like, a car is a car, and if you give me enough time in it, I think any of us are going to figure it out.
“In a prototype, you have a lot to learn how to trust the downforce and how to use it, and how you want to do your brake release and stuff like that. A GT car, there’s like two ways to drive it, and that’s it. You figure it out. You look at data and you take small baby steps to get there.”
Rayhall is also acutely aware of the role he is playing as a replacement for Pruett, one of the most accomplished sports car racers of all time, and he acknowledges that replacing someone of Pruett’s caliber is a tall task.
“The hero, the legend, the greatest of all time in sports cars, Scott Pruett, is stepping out and it’s big shoes to fill,” Rayhall said. “I’m just here to kind of keep it clean and make sure we can fight in the last two hours.”
Rayhall’s IMSA plans add to an already packed 2018 season, which will see him return to the ELMS with John Falb and United Autosports to defend the LMP3 class title, while he also competes in the revamped IMSA Prototype Challenge series with K2R Motorsports. And, as he explained, he is always seeking out new opportunities, even in cars he has never raced.
“I got a call the other week about doing something, and I might try to add one or two (races) here and there,” he said. “On my off weekends, I’m actually talking about going and racing a sprint car by Road America up in Wisconsin.
“I’ve got a deal to possibly run like three nights a weekend on my off weekends. I’m just a racer, man. If I’m not coaching or if I’m not in a race car, I don’t want to be sitting at home on the off weekend. I just want to be at the racetrack.”

Mercedes: F1 teams need to work together to avoid split

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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.