Continental Tire deal the latest detail to emerge from USCR merger process

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Continental Tire will play a major role in “#TheFuture,” of both United SportsCar Racing and the aptly named Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge.

The tire manufacturer was confirmed Wednesday as exclusive supplier to three of the four USCR classes, Prototype (P), Prototype Challenge (PC) and GT Daytona (GTD). The GT Le Mans category (GTLM) will remain as an open-tire specification to allow for open competition. Additionally, Continental’s exclusive supply to the supporting CTSCC ranks as both tire partner and title sponsor was confirmed.

This isn’t a huge surprise but it means a couple things. First, the existing American Le Mans Series P1 and P2 teams, who run on either Michelin or Bridgestone tires, would need to be able to adapt Continental Tires to whatever car they choose to run in USCR. The P1 class has been eliminated for 2014, and some tests have been performed with P2 cars on Continental rubber.

Secondly, it will likely prevent any European P2 teams, who run on either Dunlop or Michelin rubber, from racing in any USCR endurance events.

Continental currently supplies tires to ALMS PC and all of GRAND-AM’s classes in both the Rolex and CTSCC championships.

The specifications for the merged USCR championship, which will fuse the ALMS and GRAND-AM Rolex Series for 2014, have begun to emerge this month. Driver ratings, pit/paddock regulations and procedures were revealed on July 12. On July 19, further information about class specifications and available cars was announced.

The next major hurdle for the series is a 2014 schedule reveal. Several dates have been leaked by tracks expected to join the calendar (Daytona, Sebring, Petit Le Mans and most recently, Indianapolis).

From conversations, some series insiders are rather anxious about the number of races given the timeline for finalizing 2014 budgets is happening now. Meanwhile, USCR officials have continually stressed the nature of what a long process it is to pare down 22 races at 17 tracks from 2013 into either 10 or 11 races for 2014.

Ideally, a schedule needs to be revealed in August, if not by Labor Day weekend at Baltimore for the ALMS at the absolute latest.

Reports: Fernando Alonso to test on September 5 at Barber Motorsports Park

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According to a number of media stories Thursday afternoon and evening, two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso will reportedly test an Indy car at Barber Motorsports Park on Wednesday, September 5.

The 2.38-mile permanent road course just outside Birmingham, Alabama, per those stories, will play host to Alonso as he reportedly tests with IndyCar’s Andretti Autosport team and Honda.

Honda Performance Development (HPD) President Art St. Cyr issued a statement late Thursday afternoon about Alonso’s reported upcoming test:

“Fernando Alonso is one of the premier racing drivers of this generation, and we very much enjoyed working with him at the 2017 Indianapolis 500.

“He has shown that he can be very competitive right off the bat, and it would be great for IndyCar if he were to decide to drive here full-time after his F1 career. Having Alonso as a driver would be an obvious benefit for any team or manufacturer.”

However, St. Cyr’s statement also included a reference to Honda potentially not being able to field a new engine for Alonso in the IndyCar series in 2019.

“Our engine lease agreements are made between HPD and specific teams,” St. Cyr’s statement said. “Several of our current IndyCar Series teams already have agreements in place with HPD for the 2019 season, and we have been operating near maximum capacity all year long to properly provide powerful, reliable engines for all of our teams.

“We have had discussions with several current and potential teams for 2019, and those discussions are ongoing.”

Rumors of Alonso potentially racing for a hybrid operation that would include Andretti Autosport, McLaren and Harding Racing have been picking up speed. But there’s one potential major hurdle: Harding’s Dallara’s are powered by Chevrolet engines.

Alonso announced earlier this week that he’d be retiring from Formula One at season’s end, saying he’s looking forward to new adventures.

Because of his loyalty to McLaren, it’s increasingly looking as if Alonso comes to IndyCar, McLaren will have some involvement – although perhaps not as much as it potentially could do if it went all-in with a full-time effort immediately in 2019.

There is no word whether Chevrolet or Harding Racing could potentially be on hand at the Sept. 5 test at BMP, even in just an observation role.

Since being part of the winning team at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, Alonso’s desire to become only the second driver to win motorsport’s triple crown – the Monaco Grand Prix, Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500 – has increased exponentially.

He’s already won the first two; just a Indy 500 triumph remains on his bucket list.

The late Graham Hill is the only driver to have accomplished the triple crown feat to date.

Alonso, who turned 37 on July 29, has made just one prior IndyCar start, in the 2017 Indianapolis 500. He led 27 laps of the 200-lap event and appeared to have a car strong enough to win before it suffered engine failure with 21 laps remaining.

Instead of what likely could have been a top-five finish, if not a win, Alonso’s first foray into IndyCar racing ended disappointingly with a 24th-place finish.

In addition to being courted by IndyCar, NASCAR has also jumped into the Alonso sweepstakes, saying he’d be welcome to race in the 2019 Daytona 500.

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