Matthew Brabham, F1 great’s grandson, to race Super Truck in Australia

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While still pursuing his goal of driving in next year’s 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, Matthew Brabham has found a way to keep himself busy in the meantime.

The grandson of three-time Formula 1 champion Sir Jack Brabham, and the son of IndyCar and sports car great Geoff Brabham, the younger Brabham is taking – shall we say – a different kind of road this weekend.

He’ll compete at Surfers Paradise in his native Australia, racing in veteran American race car driver Robby Gordon’s Stadium SuperTruck Series.

It’s the same racetrack that Gordon finished third behind Nigel Mansell and Emerson Fittipaldi in the CART race there in 1993.

“The track has changed a little bit since my IndyCar days (having been shortened from 4.5 kilometers for Indy cars to 2.96 kilometers to better accommodate V8 Supercars),” Gordon told Speedcafe.com.

As for Brabham, he’ll drive the No. 83 in the 11-truc field with primary sponsorship from legendary rock band Def Leppard.

This will be Brabham’s second start in a Truck for Gordon, having done so earlier this year at Toronto.

“He raced in Toronto and did a good job there without any preparation beforehand,” Gordon said.

That’s almost the same situation Brabham faces this weekend, having arrived back in his native land on Thursday after being overseas in the U.S.

While looking for a full-time ride, Brabham has kept himself busy in 2015, competing in a number of events across a variety of race series including Indy Lights, Formula E, Stadium Super Trucks, a NASCAR late model event and two IndyCar tests for Andretti Autosport.

“I guess I’m at that point in my career where I’ve got to accept anything I can get. There’s a lot of late call-ups,” Brabham told Speedcafe.com. “Coming back to the Gold Coast to see all my friends and my family and race at the same time is just awesome.

“I’m just going to have some fun in practice tomorrow and just get my bearings really.

“I’ve driven on this track in Formula Ford so I know where the track goes and I’ve been watching IndyCar races here my whole life.”

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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