Hulkenberg seeks to fight through weather issues in prepping for USGP


AUSTIN, Texas – Wet weather is bound to dominate Friday’s two free practice sessions and Saturday’s FP3 and qualifying ahead of this weekend’s United States Grand Prix (2:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, NBC).

So while the rain is due to pose a threat, Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg is at least hoping the team gets enough running in to prep for qualifying, while avoiding going too far on wet weather setup to compromise the team’s race on Sunday.

“Running in the wet is always fun. I personally like driving in the wet. You have to take it as it comes,” Hulkenberg told assembled reporters Thursday at Circuit of The Americas.

“It will have an impact if you don’t get much dry running. I think we’ve had this previously as well. You have to manage it, and it mixes things up.”

The Russian Grand Prix two weeks ago stood out for its lack of running on Friday, due to a slippery track surface, a session delay due to a diesel spill, and some other rain.

There’s 180 minutes worth of running on a Friday, between the two 90-minute free practice sessions. Sometimes the sessions aren’t that heavy on running.

But Hulkenberg said he prefers it where you’re not fighting for track time and struggling to get clear laps.

“I think I like it,” he said. “Coming up to Formula 1, in junior series, you have 30-minute cracks in GP2 and GP3.

“It’s cold water and you have to learn to swim, more or less. That puts more emphasis on the driver. You don’t have much time to work on your game.”

Hulkenberg also said that while he was happy for Sergio Perez to pick up a podium last time out in Sochi, he said had his first lap coming together with Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, the race could have played out entirely different.

“Yeah (it’s bittersweet), but although my accident not happened and no safety car it could have been a completely different race,” he said. “Very positive for the team though to get a podium ahead of Mexico. Four races to the end of the season and I’m looking for a successful weekend.”

Hulkenberg also addressed the Baku/Le Mans date clash set for 2016, which will all but certainly rule out one of the three overall 24 Hours of Le Mans race winners from a chance to repeat.

He said interest between he and Porsche Team continues and they hope to continue together in the future.

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).