2015 GP2 Series season preview and primer

0 Comments

The 2015 Formula 1 season may already be well underway, but its premier feeder championship, GP2, is only just about to burst back into life this weekend in Bahrain following the winter break.

Once again, the series promises to provide some of the closest, toughest and most entertaining racing in 2015 as F1’s stars of tomorrow look to prove their worth out on track.

The championship is once again filled with drivers that have already been tipped as future greats, whilst others will be hoping to make a name for themselves in 2015.

As per 2014, MotorSportsTalk will be providing comprehensive coverage of the championship. For those who are new to GP2, or to simply give a handy reminder to fans of the series, here is our complete season preview and primer.

WHAT IS GP2?

GP2 emerged from the old International F3000 series back in 2005, and has since been the direct feeder series to Formula 1, although drivers have been known to graduate from Formula Renault 3.5 and GP2’s own feeder series, GP3. Many of the teams in F1 do have major interests in GP2 with junior teams and drivers, as it is the perfect training ground for them under the wing of the sport.

GP2 perfectly prepares drivers for life in Formula 1 as they are part of the grand prix weekend. Each GP2 round supports its respective grand prix, meaning that the drivers get to use the exact same facilities and circuits. The series also gets great exposure by being an integral part of the grand prix weekend, being broadcast all over the world and in front of the baying crowds that flock to some of F1’s best-attended races.

THE CAR

In order to make the racing as competitive as possible, all drivers race with identical chassis, engines and tires in GP2.

The current car, the GP2/11, was designed by Dallara and is fitted with a four litre V8 engine (larger and louder than in F1, where turbocharged V6s are used), generating up to 612 BHP. It will be used until 2016 to keep costs down.

The GP2/11 can do 0-60 in 2.9 seconds and is capable of a top speed of 206mph. This may be the ‘feeder series’, but a GP2 car is no slouch. The car must also pass a Formula One crash test and be up to F1 standards in all areas of safety.

Pirelli tires are a standard for all teams racing in GP2, just as they are in Formula 1. Furthermore, teams have the same compounds that are used in F1: super-soft, soft, medium, hard, intermediate and wet.

THE DRIVERS AND TEAMS

Here is the grid for the 2014 GP2 Series season:

DAMS

1. Pierre Gasly (France)
2. Alex Lynn (Great Britain)

Carlin

3. Julian Leal (Colombia)
4. Marco Sorensen (Denmark)

ART Grand Prix

5. Stoffel Vandoorne (Belgium)
6. Nobuharu Matsushita (Japan)

Racing Engineering

7. Jordan King (Great Britain)
8. Alexander Rossi (United States of America)

Russian Time

9. Mitch Evans (New Zealand)
10. Artem Markelov (Russia)

Trident

11. Raffaele Marciello (Italy)
12. Rene Binder (Austria)

Campos Racing

14. Arthur Pic (France)
15. Rio Haryanto (Indonesia)

MP Motorsport

16. Sergio Canamasas (Spain)
17. Daniel de Jong (Netherlands)

Rapax

18. Sergey Sirotkin (Russia)
19. Robert Visoiu (Romania)

Arden International

20. Andre Negrao (Brazil)
21. Norman Nato (France)

Status Grand Prix

22. Marlon Stockinger (Philippines)
23. Richie Stanaway (New Zealand)

Hilmer Motorsport (missing first race in Bahrain)

24. TBA
25. TBA

Lazarus

26. Nathanael Berthon (France)
27. Zoel Amberg (Switzerland)

THE CALENDAR

1. Bahrain 17-19 April
2. Spain 8-10 May
3. Monaco 21-23 May
4. Austria 19-21 June
5. Great Britain 3-5 July
6. Hungary 24-26 July
7. Belgium 21-23 August
8. Italy 4-6 September
9. Russia 9-11 October
10. Abu Dhabi 27-29 November

The round supporting the German Grand Prix was cancelled, but may yet be replaced by another event.

THE RACE WEEKEND

The typical GP2 race weekend fits around the proceedings of Formula 1. On the Friday of each race, there will be a free practice session lasting 45 minutes, and then a 30 minute qualifying session. The grid for the feature race is formed from these results.

On Saturday, the feature race sees drivers race over a distance of 170km (140km for Monaco) and, like in Formula 1, they must make a pit stop and use both compounds of tire. Points are awarded in the same way as Formula 1.

On Sunday, the top eight finishers in the feature race are reversed to form the grid for the sprint race (i.e. finishing P8 in the feature race gets you pole for the sprint race).

The sprint race is run over a reduced distance of 120km (100km for Monaco), and points are awarded on a smaller scale (15 for P1, 12 for P2, 10 for P3) right the way down to one point for P8.

Points are also awarded for pole position and the fastest lap in each race.

DRIVERS TO WATCH

Stoffel Vandoorne

Vandoorne enjoyed the best season for a rookie in GP2 in five years last season, scoring more points than any other driver in the second half of the season. Had it not been for a difficult run of form between Bahrain and Austria, he would most probably have challenge Jolyon Palmer for the title. McLaren’s Eric Boullier wants to keep his junior driver in GP2 for another year so he can win it before coming to F1 as “the boss” – and he heads into the new season as the favorite to do exactly that.

Raffaele Marciello

Marciello is a member of Ferrari’s Driver Academy, and proved that with his pace throughout 2014. His win at Spa was particularly outstanding, but it proved to be the highlight of an inconsistent campaign. The Italian’s move to Trident has turned a few heads, given that it seems to be a step down from Racing Engineering, but he knows that a bid for the title is necessary if he is to move up to F1 next season.

Alexander Rossi

After coming close to making his F1 debut last year, Rossi (pictured) is back for a third season in GP2 and appears to be one of the title contenders. Now with Racing Engineering, the American driver will want to add to his solitary win in GP2 and give himself a boost ahead of a possible ride with Haas F1 Team in 2016.

Pierre Gasly

Gasly begins his first full season in GP2 this weekend with DAMS, and is set to be another title contender. The Red Bull junior driver has impressed in every series he has raced in, finishing second in last year’s Formula Renault 3.5 championship behind Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr. DAMS is the defending champion team, and could take the Frenchman all the way in 2015.

Alex Lynn

Alongside Gasly at DAMS is British driver Alex Lynn, who enters GP2 as the winner of last year’s GP3 Series. Lynn is combining his commitments with a reserve role at Williams Martini Racing in F1, but hopes to prove that the decision to cut ties with Red Bull and its junior programme was the right one in 2015 with DAMS.

Also look out for: Mitch Evans, Arthur Pic, Sergey Sirotkin, Marco Sorensen

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

0 Comments

Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”