Ricciardo relishing return to Silverstone for British GP

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Daniel Ricciardo has made no secret of his excitement ahead of next weekend’s British Grand Prix as he prepares to return to one of his favorite circuits.

Ricciardo made his Formula 1 debut at Silverstone four years ago, racing for minnows HRT for the second half of the 2011 season before being signed by Toro Rosso for 2012.

Since then, much has changed. The Australian has become a multiple grand prix winner and third-place finisher in the drivers’ championship, leading Red Bull’s charge in 2014.

However, his adoration for Silverstone has not wavered one bit.

“I can’t hide it!” Ricciardo said. “Silverstone’s awesome.

“I love high-speed circuits with high-speed corners. The run from Copse through Maggotts, Becketts, Chapel and then around Stowemaybe – the five coolest corners on the calendar and to have them coming at you one after the other. Yeah, I love it.”

Reflecting on his debut with HRT back in 2011, Ricciardo explained how exciting it was to attack Silverstone behind the wheel of an F1 car for the very first time.

“So at the time it was probably the quickest I’d ever been around the circuit because the HRT was just about faster than the old-spec FR3.5 car,” he said.

“It’s definitely a circuit where, the faster the car, the better the experience – though that’s usually the case with highspeed tracks. I mean, Silverstone’s great in a Formula Renault 2.0. In an F1 car? Epic.”

One of the most striking aspects of Silverstone for Ricciardo is the atmosphere provided by the local fans, regardless of the weather.

“The thing about Silverstone is that it’s packed from Thursday onwards,” Ricciardo said.

“If we have one of those nice, hot blue-sky sunny weekends then the atmosphere’s amazing. If it’s grey, wet and windy then the atmosphere’s still amazing.

“I’m not sure how that’s possible – but Silverstone manages it. As for driving in those conditions, it’s still exciting – but in a very different way!”

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