Rossi: Reflections on a momentous year of racing

© AP

So that’s my 2015 season! Done and dusted but with a great tail wind. What a year it has been!

I finished the year second in the GP2 Series and had the privilege and opportunity to work with Racing Engineering, who’ve been an absolute blast to work with all year.

2015 also brought another important milestone and box ticked in my career; the first US Formula 1 driver to compete in the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas, and the first American to take part in an F1 race since 2007.

GP2 was an incredible experience this year, but I’ll also look back on 2015 in years to come and reflect on a very strong five-race F1 debut. This will rank equally alongside the GP2 races we won and the podiums we scored. Ending the year with those two achievements and boxes ticked would not have been possible without a group of people working tirelessly to make such a great year happen, so my sincere thanks to them.

As I write this, we are in the process of finalizing my 2016 plans and getting closer to a very exciting conclusion. Obviously the push is F1 and I know the job done this year is paying dividends towards that, so stay tuned on that front.

The final GP2 race weekend in Abu Dhabi was interesting, to say the least! Practice went well, as we were quick straight away and getting through the test run plan, ending the session fourth. Qualifying was not as good as we’d planned, ending the session seventh – we struggled with traffic, timing and track position and were up to fourth on the first set, then we boxed for the second set of super-softs but did not improve and had to settle for a fourth row start.

It’s one of the subtleties of racing at this level that’s hard to explain to fans. You and your engineers time it and plan it, ahead of time and during session down to the last nuance, looking for gaps and taking all the other cars’ movements into account, but then you find yourself having to lift or brake early due to a car on cool-down at the exact the point on the track when you want to be at the limit.

This can be very costly and, depending on the situation, could be hundredths or tenths of seconds, but nevertheless at this level of motorsport it is usually the difference between being up front on the grid and mid-table. Every driver has dealt with this, and none of us will ever get used to it. It’s one of the most frustrating things in motorsport, but if you can’t cope with it you don’t belong there.

In GP2, starting seventh isn’t the end of the world. You can fight for the podium and win from there. Of course you always need a good car, good start and good team strategy and for things to fall your way, like the safety cars, timing of pit stops and saving enough tires for when you need it. All these factors are what make up a winning race combination, which is why GP2 is so competitive.

For the feature race our plans went fairly well and I was quick in each phase of the race. We’d started on options, and when a virtual safety car was called for contact between Artem Markelov and Daniel de Jong we boxed for a set of primes, but unfortunately I was held in the box for six extra seconds due to pit lane traffic and the team did not want an unsafe release violation, which can cost you a drive through penalty. We finally came out of the pit stop in 18th, so we had a bit of work to do.

The period of the race when you’re making up time after your pit stop on fresh rubber is the one I most enjoy. This is an opportunity to turn in big laps and make up a lot time and places, in the gap when other cars also have to stop. Usually the car feels great, everything’s working as it should and it’s almost like the race slows down around you. It’s a great zone to be in, and this especially true at Yas Marina which has a little of everything!

It looked like we’d be in with a shot of the podium, but in the end I had to settle for fourth. That place confirmed second position in the 2015 championship and this was a very good result for me and the team. I’ve said many times what an honor it was to race Stoffel Vandoorne this year – he’s a good friend and worthy  hampion, and I’m sure we’ll be fighting again on track very soon.

With the sprint race still to come on Sunday, we kept the celebrations on hold but in the end the sprint was a bit anti-climatic. I had started fifth and was off the line well and up to fourth when the red flag immediately came out for a six car incident behind. Thankfully no one was hurt, but the safety crew could not fix the crash barriers in time before the F1 event, so the GP2 race was called off.

So that was it, the end of 2015 season and time to celebrate and enjoy sharing some very good times with the whole Racing Engineering family and at the GP2 Awards Gala that followed Sunday evening at Yas Marina Circuit.

So that’s it for now! It is time to recharge and have a couple of meals that Carlos, my trainer, would not approve of. I’ll definitely be getting some skiing in and a few weeks without travel, but then immediately 2016 will start. The accomplishments of 2015 are now in the history books and I’m only looking forward.

Wherever you watch motor racing and however big a fan you are, I hope you’ve enjoyed the insights into my life as an F1 and GP2 race driver. I’m very excited about next year, and hope you’ll be part of the journey when it starts all over again.

Thank you for your support. Have a safe and joyful holiday season!

God Bless,


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

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance
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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).