Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA notes: Riberas, Rum Bum, TRG, tires and more in news

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A number of notes from the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge have popped up over the last 24-odd hours. Here’s a quick recap:

  • What was already a small GS class field in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge took a hit this week with news on Monday that the Rum Bum Racing team announced its withdrawal from the championship. In a statement, the team said, “The team will continue to evaluate competition possibilities in the future as well as investigate partnership opportunities.” The winningest team in series history won 21 times in 66 starts and won series titles in 2012 and 2013. Brothers Matt and Hugh Plumb campaigned the previous generation Porsche 997 car.
  • Alex Riberas will replace Ian James behind the wheel of the No. 23 The Heart of Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R for the balance of the season in the WeatherTech Championship, with James slotting into the third driver role for the remaining two Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup rounds at Watkins Glen and Petit Le Mans. “Mario is like the brother I never had,” Riberas said. “We get along extremely well and it’s a dream for me to race alongside him this entire season. He is one of the quickest drivers I have ever seen and he already has some experience in the USA.” Both are Silver-rated; even though both are professional drivers, they fit under the Silver categorization by the FIA. In other words, don’t hate the players, hate the game.
  • GT Le Mans class teams will get the latest 2016 specification Michelin tires, in preparation for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Three IMSA teams – Corvette Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing and Risi Competizione – are preparing to carry the flag for the series with their Corvette C7.R, Ford GT and Ferrari 488 GTE at Le Mans this year. Additionally, the drivers from the two Porsche North America entries will be racing Porsche Team Manthey-entered Porsche 911 RSRs at Le Mans. “This will be the first time that our WeatherTech Championship teams race on our latest 2016 specification tires,” said Chris Baker, director motorsport, Michelin North America. “We have run the first three races on our special 2016 ‘low energy circuit’ tires. Our tires used in the FIA-World Endurance Championship (WEC) Series, which includes Le Mans, are designed for double and triple stints, meaning the tires must deliver exceptionally high and consistent performance for over three hours,” said Baker. The WeatherTech Championship has different pit rules permitting tire changes while refueling. Le Mans and WEC separate those functions. The challenges at Monterey are a bit different than at Le Mans, but our technical partner teams welcome the opportunity to get actual race miles with the new tires.”
  • How’s this for a cool Continental note? From the tire manufacturer’s advance release: “Tires from dandelions: Yep. That’s right. We’re constructing tires made from dandelion-derived latex. Continental Tire is using the Russian dandelion to extract latex and produce tires, replacing rubber that is currently extracted from rubber trees. The first tires have been produced and successfully tested but tires aren’t expected to hit store shelves for another five to 10 years. And race tires aren’t out of the question. Find out more about it here: Continental Constructing Tires From Dandelions.”
  • Paralyzed driver Michael Johnson makes his debut this weekend in the series in a BMW 228i, modified as Johnson is paralyzed from the waist down. He’s been in the Mazda Road to Indy the last few years. A separate post on him will follow this week. Johnson posted the livery earlier this week:
  • TRG is going to have a jam-packed weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The team returns its No. 007 Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3, now driven by James Davison and Brandon Davis instead of the Perez boys (as was done at Daytona), to the WeatherTech GTD class. Davison will also be in one of the team’s new Lamborghini Huracán LP 620-2s in the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America, with Derek DeBoer also driving. The full release is here.

  • Jens Klingmann and Bret Curtis will have a new livery on their No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 this weekend, a white, red and black color scheme serving as a major departure from the usual yellow and blue Turner livery thanks to aFe Power. For one race at least, we won’t go a bit crazy trying to distinguish the two similarly liveried cars.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.