IMSA: Risi Ferrari, Turner BMW, 8Star PC big winners on VIR weekend

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Releases from IMSA Communications on this weekend’s Oak Tree Grand Prix from Virginia International Raceway, the third-to-last race weekend of the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, are below. Risi Competizione bagged a last lap win in GT Le Mans, with Turner Motorsport winning the GT Daytona class yet again. 8Star Motorsports won both segments of the weekend’s Prototype Challenge races.

DANVILLE, Va. (August 24, 2014) – Ferrari continues to find new reasons to celebrate in its 60th anniversary celebration of racing in North America.

Two races after scoring its first pole in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship GT Le Mans (GTLM) class at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and one race after a breakthrough first win at Road America, Giancarlo Fisichella made a last-lap pass on Wolf Henzler to score a second consecutive victory in the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 Italia Sunday in the Oak Tree Grand Prix at Virginia International Raceway.

A late caution set up a six-minute sprint to the checkered flag, with Fisichella immediately attacking the No. 17 Team Falken Tire Porsche 911 RSR of Henzler. The two went side-by-side multiple times throughout the final four laps with Fisichella making the race-winning pass on the final lap in Turn 11.

“I knew it was the last lap and I did all I could do,” said Fisichella, who was joined by co-driver Pierre Kaffer in the victory, just as he was two weeks ago at Road America. “I got close to Henzler and I was lucky because I even had a good exit. Once I took the lead, I was quicker than him in the straights.”

Henzler, who took over for co-driver Bryan Sellers, was tasked with conserving enough fuel to get to the finish throughout his one hour, 10 minute stint, while also maintaining enough pace to stay ahead of the rest of the GTLM field. A caution for the stopped Porsche 911 RSR of Michael Christensen with 12 minutes remaining allowed Henzler to save enough fuel to finish the race, but also put Fisichella right on his rear bumper.

“Sometimes you have to take a chance; we took a bit of (a gamble on) fuel and it paid off,” said Henzler. “Some other times you take a chance and you can’t make it. This time we were lucky, other times we were not. I think we deserved it, we deserved to be on the podium here.”

Searching for its first victory in GTLM competition, BMW scored its sixth podium in nine races with Dirk Mueller and John Edwards co-driving to third in BMW Team RLL’s No. 56 Crowne Plaza BMW Z4 GTE.

Antonio Garcia and the No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R team unofficially leads the GTLM standings by six points, 270-264, over Jonathan Bomarito and Kuno Wittmer and the No. 93 SRT Motorsports Dodge Viper SRT GTS-R team with two races remaining.

FOURTH VICTORY FOR CAMERON, PALTTALA RESULTS IN THREE-WAY TIE IN GTD

Dane Cameron swept to the inside of Damien Faulkner with 45 minutes remaining and led the rest of the way to take the fourth GT Daytona (GTD) victory of the season for the No. 94 Turner Motorsport BMW Z4 started by Markus Palttala in the Oak Tree Grand Prix.

Cameron took the checkered flag 1.420 seconds ahead of Alessandro Balzan, giving the team its second consecutive victory while setting up a three-way tie atop the GTD point standings with only two races remaining.

Cameron now has 244 points, unofficially joining No. 555 AIM Autosport REVO/Robert Graham Ferrari 458 Italia drivers Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler, and No. 22 Alex Job Racing WeatherTech Porsche 911 GT America drivers Leh Keen and Cooper MacNeil for the lead in the championship.

“It’s a big gain for us to come in 12 points behind and leave tied,” Cameron said. “We’re in a good position now, but we’re not going to change our strategy. We’re not going to run conservatively and run for points or anything. We’ll do what we need to win this championship.

“The last thing we needed today was that late yellow. The last thing we wanted was to be bunched up with everybody else, but I was able to get a good run coming out of the first corner and I could exhale from there. It was a pretty stressful day. It’s never easy to win in this category.”

Palttala led prior to his pit stop during the first of three cautions. Madison Snow, driving the No. 58 Dempsey Racing Porsche 911 GT America started by early race leader Jan Heylen, and Faulkner, who joined Michael Lewis in the No. 81 GB Autosport Tully’s Coffee Porsche 911, stayed out under the second caution period shortly before the two hour mark to take turns in the lead. Following the restart, Cameron needed four minutes to execute what proved to be the winning pass.

Balzan finished second in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia started by Jeff Westphal, followed by Patrick Dempsey and Andrew Davis in the No. 27 Dempsey Racing Porsche 911 GT America.

Dempsey started from the back of the field after missing qualifying due to an accident in Saturday morning practice, and worked his way up to third prior to his pit stop. Davis rejoined the race in seventh, and quickly worked his way into podium contention.

“I felt today was really important to show how much it means to me and to be in a series with these guys that are up here,” Dempsey said. “After chasing a podium for so long this year, and being here to compete, is so much fun.

“It’s a tremendous honor and privilege. When you have these moments, you’re grateful to have this experience.”

source: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

DANVILLE, Va. (August 24, 2014) – Luis Diaz took over where teammate Sean Rayhall left off at Virginia International Raceway, leading every lap of Sunday’s 45-minute Prototype Challenge (PC) segment to give the No. 25 8Star Motorsports Takis/Speedsters ORECA FLM09 the overall victory in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship event.

Rayhall led all 23 laps in Saturday evening’s segment, while Diaz led 24 laps on Sunday, holding off the efforts of Bruno Junqueira, Colin Braun and Renger van der Zande, who each took turns in second. The event ended under caution following a late incident involving Junqueira, who spun and made contact with a tire barrier in Turn 7.

Combined points from the weekend’s two segments determined the final results for the eighth PC race of the season.

“My plan was to stay out front,” Diaz said. “I’m not very good with math, that’s why I’m a race car driver. I knew I didn’t have as fast of a pace as the other guys, so I couldn’t make any mistakes. I had a lot of pressure on me, I was playing the game of not looking in my mirrors. I was thankful the yellow flag came out. I knew Colin was stronger than me, and we didn’t have to fight against this good driver.”

Braun finished the segment in second in the No. 54 CORE autosport ORECA FLM09 started by Jon Bennett, who finished seventh in the opening segment. Renger van der Zande took third in the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport Martini entry started by Mirco Schultis, who was eighth on Saturday.

“They certainly had a good car, a fast car, and hats off to them,” Braun said. “Guys who finished second always say if they had more green flag running we would have had a shot at them at the end. It would have been fun to race Luis at the end, but that’s the way it goes. It was certainly exciting racing.”

Diaz led Junqueira for the opening 14 laps, before Junqueira spun in the No. 09 RSR Racing Linospresso USA entry driven to second by Duncan Ende on Saturday. Braun then ran second for several laps, but lost the position to van der Zande while challenging Diaz in the Oak Tree Turn.

Van der Zande had an off-course excursion of his own three laps later, with Braun moving to within a half-second of the lead before the final caution.

“It was a real bullfight, a sprint race, and I enjoyed it,” said van der Zande, a two-time winner in 2014 competition. “My fight for the lead was amazing – all fair and clean, with a little paint exchanged.”

In the combined final results, David Ostella (fifth on Sunday) and James French (third on Saturday) finished second in the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA FLM09, followed by Braun and Bennett.

“James did an awesome job going from seventh to third yesterday, but I struggled with the car today,” Ostella said. “I can’t complain about second overall. It’s our best finish of the season. Hopefully we will get it one better at the next one.”

The next race for the PC competitors will be at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, with all four TUDOR Championship classes featured on Saturday, Sept. 20.

NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
McLaren Racing
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As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Formula E team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”

 

James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship car from Mercedes-EQ. – McLaren Racing

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – McLaren Racing

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”