Lotterer: “F1 (racing) isn’t what it used to be anymore”

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Perhaps it’s fitting Andre Lotterer made his Formula One debut in a green car, the Caterham-Renault, considering more than a decade ago he was on the fast track to F1 as part of another green car program – Jaguar.

Yet it’s that juxtaposition that sums up how much F1 has changed since Lotterer was a then-21-year-old test driver with Jaguar in 2002.

Jaguar was one of a host of manufacturers in F1 at that time, but they’ve mostly departed. Meanwhile, the privateer Caterham team continues to fight for its future having been through a management change earlier this year and trying to figure out its budget.

It’s that contrast, as Lotterer enjoys a healthy multi-series career with Audi in the FIA World Endurance Championship and also still racing single seaters in Super Formula, that allows him to be at peace with where his career is at the moment.

Speaking to MotorSportsTalk at Austin this weekend for the FIA WEC Six Hours of the Circuit of The Americas, Lotterer reflected on the Belgian Grand Prix debut and where he’s at now.

“It was a nice thing for me to do F1. It was my target when I was younger, didn’t make it, but I do have a very happy and beautiful career,” he said. “Audi is the most amazing manufacturer to be with. You can be with them a long time and have a healthy career. They are the most beautiful race cars out there, so I think people envy us racing them.

“Then on the other side I have the purest and fastest race cars around the corners in the world, in Super Formula. They’re so precise, and you don’t want the race to end. The cars do exactly what you want. The combination of both things, sporting wise, are really good.”

While Lotterer praised F1’s media reach, he was less complementary about the on-track product itself.

“F1 is another dimension in terms of media. For people who don’t know that much about racing, many think it’s the only thing.

“But in terms of racing, F1 isn’t what it used to be anymore. I got to feel that when I did my race. There’s not much grip from the tires and not much downforce in the corners. You can’t go flat out. But it was still a good experience.”

Lotterer, who is now a three-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Audi and longtime co-drivers Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler, hailed the Le Mans challenge as a greater annual goal.

“Le Mans is a challenge, that gives you so many emotions,” he explained. “Even if you win 3 times, you want to win it again and again. In that sense, it keeps your motivation up, and it’s not wrong. You’re trying to beat Tom’s target of nine wins. It’s a race that can give you that. Driving in Japan, 10 years, I don’t get tired of it.

“F1 could be another challenge but at 33 years old, you want to go into a good challenge. What I mean by that is that you’re in a team for 2-3 years, well-funded and with everything healthy. But apart from the top 3-4 teams, nobody can offer you that in F1. So 7-8 years ago there were more manufacturers, but now is not the right time.”

Additionally, Lotterer praised the fan-friendly nature of the FIA WEC, and how much more open the paddock is compared to the F1 “piranha club.”

“It’s very fan friendly here, more open, and a lot more people. The F1 paddock is very empty. Just the teams and a few VIPs.

“For me it was a great experience as a one-off, but a lot of attention around my box. But for sure, if they want to please the fans more, it’s not the ideal way. We’re much more fan friendly here. There’s a much more humble approach.”

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)