Report: Indian government recognizes national motorsport federation, aiding F1 hopes

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Hopes of a revival for the Indian Grand Prix in the next few years have been raised after the Indian government recognized the national federation for motorsport, the Federation of Motor Sport Clubs of India (FMSCI), for the first time in four years.

The first Indian Grand Prix was held on the outskirts of New Delhi at the Buddh International Circuit back in 2011, but was dropped after just three editions.

A step in the right direction appears to have been made though, with Press Trust of India reporting that the Indian government has now added the FMSCI to a list of recognized federations.

“This can only be good for Indian motorsports,” FMSCI member Vicky Chandhok said. “Interestingly, the government never de-recognized FMSCI, it just took the body off the list in 2011 and it has re-recognised us.

“And the reason there was a lot of criticism surrounding government’s apathy towards motorsport was because that was the time when Formula 1 came to India for the first time. Indian motorsports was in the limelight like never before.”

However, the report also notes that this is unlikely to affect negotiations between the race promoter, Jaypee Group, and Formula One Management, given that the FMSCI will not receive any financial backing.

Speaking to this writer back in July 2014, Force India team principal Vijay Mallya confirmed that the government would be unable to aid efforts to revive the grand prix.

“I think it would be asking for too much for the government to financially subsidize a sport such as Formula 1 which is, at the best of times, could be considered elitist,” Mallya said.

“It would perhaps be politically incorrect because people would argue that if the government had cash, they should spend it more on the poor of India than on something like Formula 1.

“But there is really no need for any government intervention here. A private group has built the track, and they are the promoters. I think basically the issues are between the race promoters and the commercial rights holder which is Bernie [Ecclestone].”

Although government recognition of the FMSCI may mean little in terms of reviving the grand prix, it is nevertheless a positive step for motorsport in India, which in turn could help its F1 dream.

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