ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Katherine Legge lost control of her No. 93 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 exiting Canada Corner during this morning’s third practice for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America, which brought the one-hour session to an early end.
Legge got on the exit kerb of the corner and then spun back to the inside, driver’s right, which caused significant front end damage to the Acura. She was OK but it will leave the Shank crew with quite a repair to make the rest of the weekend’s activities.
Up front, it was Ryan Dalziel in the No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi that led in Prototype and overall, with a best time of 1:53.851 in a sunny, cool morning practice unaffected by weather for the first time this weekend. Dalziel and Scott Sharp share that car.
With the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R, No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson and No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217 Gibson in the next three positions, all within 0.351 of Dalziel, it made it four different makes and models in the top four positions.
The No. 24 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM of Martin Tomczyk led in GT Le Mans at 2:02.129, more than half a second clear of Joey Hand in the No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT.
At 2:06.600, Lawson Aschenbach led in GT Daytona in the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS, not even a tenth clear of second placed Jesse Krohn in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3.
Performance Tech Motorsports unsurprisingly led in PC with Pato O’Ward in at a 1:58.025 in the No. 38 Oreca FLM09.
The weekend at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Presented by Lear is usually a celebration of all-things “Bow tie.”
But it was Honda and Acura that utterly dominated the weekend on General Motors’ home soil, with GM’s corporate headquarters in the background.
In total, Honda won both Verizon IndyCar Series races and the new Acura NSX GT3 won its first race in its fifth start in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. For good measure, the Honda Red Bull Olsbergs MSE Honda Civic Coupe also got on the podium in Thompson, Conn. this weekend in Red Bull Global Rallycross competition.
Honda’s aero kit struggles since the introduction of manufacturer aero kits in the 2015 IndyCar season have been well-documented, but it wasn’t until you did some digging into the stats to see how rare what the California-based Honda Performance Development effort accomplished was this weekend, and in the last week.
RAHAL BREAKS HONDA’S ROAD AND STREET POLE DROUGHT
When Graham Rahal took the pole for Saturday’s first race of the weekend, it immediately triggered the stats that this ended droughts for both Rahal, the driver, and the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team dating to 2009 and 2007 that they’d won poles.
What it also revealed was that Honda hadn’t won a pole on a road or street course in that time of aero kits. All of Honda’s poles since 2015 had come on ovals, courtesy of James Hinchcliffe, Carlos Munoz and Mikhail Aleshin last year in Indianapolis, Texas and Pocono, and this year via Scott Dixon at Indianapolis. The last time Honda won a pole on a road or street course came with the base Dallara DW12 chassis at Houston race one in 2014, achieved by Simon Pagenaud, in a bizarre rain-affected race won by Carlos Huertas.
So, that pole was the first of three big moments for Honda and sister brand Acura on Saturday in Detroit.
ACURA, SHANK, LALLY AND LEGGE WIN GTD
The second came a few hours later when after a storming lap to get up to second in qualifying, Katherine Legge then did the best she could in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race in her No. 93 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 despite being balked by a slower Prototype Challenge car.
Legge kept the car within shouting distance of the lead though and on the pit stop, the Shank team – which had been flat out for a month anyway with its Indianapolis 500 entry in partnership with Andretti Autosport – nailed its pit stop taking only two left side Continental tires and moving to the lead.
From there, co-driver Andy Lally controlled the pace from there, delivering the first win for the NSX GT3 in only its fifth race in the series. A gamble to not take any tires backfired slightly for Jeff Segal and Ozz Negri in the sister, and rebuilt, No. 86 car; after vaulting from 12th up to sixth, which later became third, Segal got tapped by another car at Turn 7 in the final five minutes and dropped to fifth.
“I’m just so grateful that our team gets the win for the Acura brand today. You could almost feel it around this place, everyone was really, really calm before the race, it was almost too quiet!” Shank said.
“We are really making advancements on the car and I am just so thrilled for the team. Everyone from the drivers, to the crew guys, to the engineers, everyone did what they needed to today.”
For Legge, the victory was a culmination of a lot of hard work and persistence to enter into the Honda and Acura family over the last five years.
“Today was the longest hour of my life watching Andy drive. I was telepathically talking to him. It was harder to watch than actually drive!” she said, after her first win in the U.S. since a Formula Atlantic race in 2005 at San Jose.
“Thank you to everyone who has given us a chance to put together this car and this ride. In 2013, I drove with HPD in the Indy 500 and it started the relationship, and I wanted to be in their program. And I kept nagging to do the ‘500 with Mike, and I kept nagging him. And when they wanted to do Le Mans, I pushed him to drive the LMP there. And then we became a good team, and I became good friends with Andy. So it’s been really special working everything out.”
Lally, who’s achieved a ton in sports car racing on his own, paid all credit to Legge, Shank and HPD for this win.
“Everyone from HPD have been full tilt on this program. Shank and the crew made a fantastic pit stop,” he said. “We’ve had quite an up and down year. We’ve had some things go wrong at bad times, but today, everything went right. I’m so happy for these guys. Kat did an amazing job. She helped me get faster this weekend. I was junk, and I found some things she was doing and applied it to what I was doing. I did not think we were going to be here at the beginning of the weekend!”
RAHAL DOMINATION LEADS HONDA PODIUM SWEEP
The wins for Sebastien Bourdais and James Hinchcliffe at St. Petersburg and Long Beach this year kicked off Honda’s success on the street courses and what followed Saturday afternoon served as a continuation of that form.
Rahal’s first win saw him lead 55 of 70 laps in a period of utter domination, easily his most authoritative win yet of five he’d achieved in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
With Scott Dixon and James Hinchcliffe on the podium behind him, Dixon rallying through pain while Hinchcliffe atoned from a first lap spin with two laps of extra fuel in what was still a two-stop strategy, Honda had its first podium sweep on a road or street course also since that Houston 2014 weekend. In race two, Pagenaud beat teammate Mikhail Aleshin and Jack Hawksworth in what was both of those drivers’ first career IndyCar podiums.
DOUBLING UP ON SUNDAY
Chevrolet finally fought back a bit with Josef Newgarden and Will Power scoring podiums behind Rahal, but after another Honda pole from Takuma Sato in the morning and Rahal banking his second straight win, it was another authoritative day here.
As the Acuras did on Saturday, it was quick pit work from the RLL Racing crew that netted Rahal the lead. Sato led the opening 22 laps, while Rahal led 41 of the remaining 48 laps after the first pit stop sequence, only losing the lead again through stops. Sato was fourth and perhaps unlucky to end that way.
BIG PICTURE? BIG GAINS FOR HONDA IN 2017
The problem Chevrolet faces this year is in its strength of depth among teams. On the short ovals, Penske and Chevrolet still clearly have the advantage but elsewhere, the Honda teams have stepped up.
It’s somewhat intriguing that Honda has five teams – Ganassi, Andretti, RLL, Coyne and Schmidt Peterson – and all but Ganassi have won a race this year.
Honda has five wins in eight races this year, which comes after a year when Chevrolet won 14 races to Honda’s two in 2016, and 11-5 in 2015. It’s a perfect four-for-four on street courses with only Toronto on July 16 to come.
And having won the Indianapolis 500, Honda now has three IndyCar wins in eight days, with Sato’s win at Indianapolis hugely important for both Honda of Japan and America. A loss there would have been a bitter pill to swallow, and Sato’s win defeating Helio Castroneves’ Chevrolet was big from a big-picture standpoint, especially as Honda endured a month of reliability issues and had three more failures in the race.
Honda also led the manufacturer’s championship, 480 to 471, going into Detroit and that lead should increase leaving it. Chevrolet has won each of the five manufacturer’s championships in the last five seasons, 2012 to 2016, but appears to be under threat in search of the six-pack this year.
President of Honda Performance Development Art St. Cyr and a number of other key Honda officials were on site in Detroit this weekend and hailed the overall weekend performance.
“This series is so competitive, it is extremely rare when a driver and team combine to dominate a weekend as Graham [Rahal] did here in Detroit,” he said.
“Combined with our win at last week’s Indianapolis 500, yesterday’s historic first victory for the Acura NSX GT3 in sports car racing, and our 1-2- 3 IndyCar sweep on Saturday, it’s been a very memorable eight days for everyone at Honda Performance Development. Congratulations to Graham, to Scott [Dixon] for a gritty effort in both races, and to Takuma for coming off a hectic Indy 500 ‘Champion’s Tour’ to perform very well this weekend.”
Michael Shank Racing and Acura Motorsports have unveiled the two NSX GT3 race liveries they’ll campaign during next month’s Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway.
The cars will also be front and center for MSR’s efforts in the 2017 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and, per a team media release, “will feature striking ‘mirror image’ black, grey and white graphics on the team’s pair of Acura NSX GT3 entries.”
Check them out:
* First is the No. 86 car, which pays homage to Acura’s 30th anniversary in sports car racing. Similar to the paint scheme it first carried in 1986, the nose starts out with a black front before morphing into a grey cross hatch pattern and ending with a white scheme at the rear of the car.
Piloting the No. 86 will be Verizon Indianapolis 500 winner and former IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, two-time GT class champ and 2014 24 Hours of Daytona winner Jeff Segal, fellow IMSA regular Ozz Negri of Brazil and American driver Tom Dyer.
* The No. 93 team, which commemorates 1993, the year Honda Performance Development was founded, will carry a paint scheme with a look reverse to that of the No. 86, starting with a white front that eventually morphs to a black rear deck.
The No. 93 driver lineup will IndyCar star Graham Rahal, sports car specialists Andy Lally and British racer Katherine Legge, and endurance specialist Mark Wilkins.
In addition, both cars will carry splashes of orange, which dates back to Acura Motorsports’ first entry into IMSA racing in the 1990s, as well as green, which indicates the cars are GT Daytona class entries.
“The debut of the Acura NSX GT3 at the prestigious Rolex 24 will mark the return of the Acura brand to IMSA sports car competition,” said Art St. Cyr, president of Honda Performance Development and Acura Motorsports. “We’ve aimed to race the NSX in North America since the car was just a sketch on paper, and we couldn’t be more excited than to debut at Daytona.”
Both MSR teams will take part in the “Roar Before the 24” IMSA open test on January 6-8, at DIS.
The opening round of the 12-race 2017 WeatherTech championship, the Rolex 24, takes place Jan. 28-29.
Gabby Chaves will make his return to the Panoz DeltaWing Racing program at this weekend’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen.
It will mean the DeltaWing DWC13 coupe is back to a three-driver lineup with Chaves back alongside Katherine Legge and Sean Rayhall. Legge has tested at the new, repaved Watkins Glen International surface and called it “immaculate.”
“It was pretty clear straightaway that we would need to add a third driver to the lineup as it was so physically demanding that even doing one full stint was going to take a toll on the drivers,” said DeltaWing team manager Tim Keene. “We are pleased to have Gabby back for this event.”
Chaves, who drives the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda in the Verizon IndyCar Series and will join Spencer Pigot as the only two IndyCar drivers competing at the Glen next weekend.
“I’m really excited and looking forward to joining the team once again,” Chaves said in a team release. “The car has looked extremely competitive with all the development over the last year, and I can’t wait to see what we can do in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen. I really believe the car, drivers and crew can pull off the win!”
Another element of the DeltaWing program at Watkins Glen is the debut of its partnership between it and Hometown Heroes Racing, which join forces to honor those who dedicate their lives to serve our nation and protect, defend and save the lives of complete strangers on a daily basis.
Additionally, the DeltaWing hasn’t just tested at Watkins Glen but also tested at its home track at Road Atlanta, since missing the series’ most recent round in Detroit.
At the Road Atlanta test, DeltaWing engineer Catherine Crawford was back to visit, as she continues her recovery from a brain tumor sustained earlier this year.
IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship driver Katherine Legge, who’s primarily raced the DeltaWing but also deputized for John Pew at the most recent round in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier JS P2 Honda, along her friend and Firestone Racing senior project engineer Cara Adams, will compete in the IRONMAN 70.3 Augusta, in support of the Scott Rigsby Foundation, a service organization that supports injured veterans.
The release is below:
Friends on-and-off the tracks of the INDYCAR and IMSA, Cara Adams and Katherine Legge will face a new challenge on September 25, when they take on the 2016 IRONMAN 70.3 Augusta in support of the Scott Rigsby Foundation (SRF), a service organization that supports veterans who have been injured while on duty.
The SRF provides veterans with grants to obtain prosthetic limbs, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) counseling and other medical services. SRF also works with physically challenged athletes to inspire kids with loss-of-limb or mobility issues to participate in active lifestyles, including prosthetics and orthotics.
The pair of racing veterans began their grueling training regimen in March to prepare for the IRONMAN 70.3 Augusta, which consists of a 1.2-mile swim in the Savannah River, followed by a 56-mile bike through the hills of Georgia and South Carolina, and finishing with a 13.1-mile run through downtown Augusta.
Legge, a veteran racing driver who led the opening segments of this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona and was the first woman to win a major North American open-wheel race, maintains an extensive fitness regime to prepare for the physical demands of both long-distance sports car and Indy car racing. This will be her first IRONMAN event.
“Entering my first IRONMAN event is a big challenge,” said Legge. “I’m thrilled to be doing it with one of my best friends, and to benefit the Scott Rigsby Foundation, for all the fantastic work they do on behalf of our veterans. The training has been intense, but Cara has been a great coach, and my friend Ozz (fellow IMSA sports car racer Oswaldo Negri, Jr., an experienced triathlete) also has been mentoring me. Reaching the finish in my first IRONMAN will be a great personal achievement, and we hope to raise as much support as possible for the SRF.”
Adams, senior project engineer for Firestone Racing, is responsible for the development of the oval and superspeedway Firestone race tires used in the Indianapolis 500® and the Verizon IndyCar® Series. She is a seasoned triathlete, after competing in several in Sprint and Olympic distance triathlons, including the IRONMAN Miami in October 2012.
“I’m thrilled to be competing in the IRONMAN 70.3 Augusta, on behalf of the Scott Rigsby Foundation,” said Adams. “With family and close friends who have sacrificed so much in the service of our country, this is a cause close to my heart. I’m so excited to be participating with my good friend Katherine, and experience this amazing event together. We’re both very competitive, train together as our schedules permit, and constantly push each other to improve. I’m looking forward to raising as much money as possible for the Scott Rigsby Foundation.”
Fans can keep up with the pair’s IRONMAN journey by following @Cara_Adams and @Katherinelegge on Twitter.