F1 teams to follow FIA’s lead for Russian Grand Prix

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As concerns about the planned Russian Grand Prix continue to grow, Formula 1 teams have said that they will follow the FIA’s guidelines and lead for the race in October.

The first Russian GP in 100 years is set to take place on October 12th at the Sochi International Street Circuit, which has been built around the Winter Olympics complex in the city. However, following the Crimean crisis and the recent MH17 disaster, there have been some concerns about the viability of the race.

Bernie Ecclestone has said that he sees no reason why the race should not go ahead, as have the organizers in Sochi. When asked about the matter in a press conference yesterday, the team principals said that they would follow the stance taken by the sport’s governing body, the FIA.

“Obviously what’s going on in Russia and that part of the world at the moment is of huge concern to everybody,” Claire Williams of Williams Martini Racing said. “But we’ve always said as a sport we try to disengage from taking a political angle on these things.

“Here the FIA is the governing body of our sport, they issue a calendar and we have to take our direction from them and at the moment, the race is still on the calendar.”

Her sentiments were echoed by Force India team owner Vijay Mallya and Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn.

“Well something similar occurred in Bahrain and we followed the FIA’s directive or recommendation,” Mallya said. “I think I agree with Claire. It’s up to the FIA to guide us and we all follow what the FIA guidance is.”

“I absolutely agree with that,” Kaltenborn added. “We have to rely on the governing body and commercial rights holder. They’re the ones who have the responsibility and we will do as they say, like we’ve done in the past.”

The most recent cancellation of a grand prix came in 2011 when trouble in Bahrain flared up. The decision was taken by the FIA to cancel the event, and this was followed by the teams. In 2012, the race went ahead despite lingering concerns, but it was the FIA’s call to make; it appeared to be the correct one as the race went ahead with few problems.

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds