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

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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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.