IMSA: Former PC champ Guasch returning to full-time competition in 2015

Leave a comment

The last time Michael Guasch competed in a full season, he became the last Prototype Challenge driver’s champion in the American Le Mans Series.

Guasch will certainly be hoping for another title in his return to full-time action this season, which was announced today by the team he won the 2013 ALMS PC crown with, PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports.

He will co-drive the team’s No. 52 ORECA FLM09 through the entire 2015 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship alongside newcomer Andrew Novich, who finished second in last year’s Prototype Lites standings.

Guasch is looking forward to working with Novich and knocking any rust off that he may have.

“All of the recent changes to the PC class should make for close competition and the schedule is better than ever,” he said in a team release. “It’ll be great to drive with Andrew all year as well. Both of us are [Northern California] guys and I’m hoping we can spend a lot of time training together and even hitting up the kart track at Sonoma throughout the year.

“We had a great test earlier this year [at Buttonwillow Raceway Park], my fitness is at an all time high, and PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports always engineers one of the fastest cars in the class.  We are looking to have everything we’ll need to repeat and expand upon our 2013 successes.”

Novich comes off an interesting 2014 season that saw him excel despite having to transition to higher-downforce machines with the Lites cars.

He believes that it’s given him a solid baseline for 2015 and working with the ORECA in the TUDOR Championship.

“My first year in Lites was eye opening, just getting used to the horsepower ratio and high downforce levels,” Novich recalled. “They were a blast to drive, making my transition to the PC car much easier. In all honesty, the PC car is a dream to drive, but it definitely keeps you on the edge during the high speed corners.”

The PC category is also undergoing a series of technical changes ahead of the new year as well, adding to the challenge. Nonetheless, team owner Bobby Oergel expects the Guasch-Novich combo to be contenders.

“The technical package includes changes to the ride height, pulling out the air restrictor, revised engine camshafts, and increases to the downforce package at certain tracks,” Oergel explained in his own thoughts. “It’ll be key to get a handle on these changes as soon as possible and the find those precious tenths needed to run up front in this highly competitive spec category.

“One thing that hasn’t changed is the team’s commitment and dedication to win, so I know we’ll once again be challenging for wins and championships.”

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
3 Comments

LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.