Rossi: Preparing for Brazil, Abu Dhabi and 2016

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The life of a Formula One racing driver has its perks, but underpinning everything is hard work and huge amounts of effort both on and off track. This largely goes unseen by the fans, but this is true with most major athletes that have worked their whole lives to reach the next goal.

One thing I’ve learned in life and also in sport is that ‘You Never Arrive’. There is always more to learn, achieve and accomplish, especially when it’s an ultra-competitive environment.

Look at Mexico! We’ve just finished the Grand Prix there on a track that was fantastic to race on, and which looked incredible on TV, all with the atmosphere of a massive rock concert. The fans were amazing and the organizers did a truly world class job. From the moment we arrived, we were welcomed like Mexico’s favorite sons. It was very special feeling!

The amount of hard work that goes into promoting and hosting a Grand Prix is just astonishing. I know quite a few of people who put on the Mexican race, and they’ve been working flat out for many months to make sure they staged a memorable event. Thanks to them and the hundreds of thousands of fans that attended the race, F1 was brought back to Mexico in style and no doubt for many years to come.

For me the Mexico weekend went very well. We did have some up and downs, losing some track time in FP3, but we made up for it in qualifying and then on Sunday I put in my fourth race finish ahead of my teammate since my F1 debut in Singapore. With the package we have now that’s my main target; to continue to finish in front of my teammate. In F1 there are individual races going on throughout the overall Grand Prix and ours at Manor is a good one. In Mexico I put in my fastest time on the final lap and again achieved my main race goal – that’s a pretty good way to end the back-to-backs in Austin and Mexico.

Before talking more about what lies ahead this month, I want to mention again the people at COTA in Austin. They did a great job putting on a race that’s already being talked about as probably the race of the year, and when you think about the weather conditions they had to cope with, and over 100,000 people through the gates on Sunday, it is amazing what they achieved. For me there is pride and responsibility as America’s F1 driver, particularly when I hear that so many fans came out to watch the race despite the unpredictable weather. This tells me that F1 is becoming firmly established in the US which is what we have been and will continue to work towards.

I understand that after we’d all left for Mexico, Austin was hit again by even worse weather than we’d experienced during the Grand Prix week, and that someone who’d been working at COTA died in the flooding that hit Austin this past week. My thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family, and everyone affected by the latest cruel floods.

From Mexico, it was home to London for one day and then to Spain the rest of this week for GP2 simulator work and preparations for Bahrain and Abu Dhabi with Racing Engineering. Even with how well F1 is going, I look forward to racing my GP2 car again and locking up second place in this year’s championship.

Switching from F1 to GP2 is something I am really enjoying! GP2 is ultra-competitive and I have a great team and race car. It’s a fantastic championship and combined with my F1 ambitions for 2015 going along as anticipated is an awesome feeling. For 2016, our F1 plans with Manor F1 Team are progressing as we expected and I anticipate some great news very soon.

For now the next stop is Brazil, for the Brazilian Grand Prix and the penultimate round of the 2015 Formula 1 World Championship. Interlagos is a circuit I am seriously excited about! I have fantastic memories of racing there – in 2008 I won there twice in the Formula BMW of Americas Championship and now I’m back racing there in F1. Brazil is an important race on the F1 calendar and Interlagos is a historic track and I will be doing my part to deliver for Manor F1 Team and Formula 1 as a whole.

My 2015 racing campaign finishes after Brazil in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi. I want to secure second in the championship at the upcoming round in Bahrain, and fight for more GP2 wins at both races. It is my goal to leave the GP2 series with at least five wins, so I need two more before we’re done.

To most it might seem a bit strange to travel from Mexico to Spain and then back across the Atlantic to go to Brazil, all to spend time in a simulator preparing for GP2, but this is the sort of hard work I am talking about. This is the work that goes on everyday away from the cameras and the live audiences that helps drivers and teams succeed at the highest level. These details are vital as we prepare to push from the very first laps we run in Bahrain and in Abu Dhabi. That’s where all the hard work pays off.

Even with the workload I have ahead of me in Spain, I will still make sure to relax and rest a bit before Brazil! My trainer Carlos is also based in Spain and he’ll have a good eye on me with respect to diet, hydrations and training programs prior to Brazil. The relationship between driver and trainer is another one the fans don’t really have a lot of insight into, but it’s very important and critical to success on track.

The engineers look after the ones and zeros that make the cars operate at their optimum levels, the mechanics put in the hours to ensure everything works at the highest reliability rates and there are numerous others in a motor racing team who work flat out to make sure the “show” runs to plan, with the highest success levels possible. The trainer makes sure the driver is operating at peak performance at all times, including a driver’s sleep pattern and I’m very fortunate to work with one of the best in the business, even though he won’t let me eat what I might really want!

Have a great week everyone and thank you for your support, now on to Brazil!

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).