Tyler McQuarrie living it up in a ridiculously diverse 2016 season

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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SCORE off-road trucks, Stadium SUPER Trucks, IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and Formula Drift.

And that’s just the first four series Tyler McQuarrie has competed in this year.

McQuarrie, 37, has done a little bit of everything throughout his career after rising through the open-wheel ranks, but also dabbling in short track and stock car racing before marking himself a standout in the drift world and adding sports car racing for good measure.

But nothing is comparing to what he’s undertaking this year, in more than 20 weekends and at least a half dozen series of competition in what has to be one of the most diverse racing seasons on record.

IMSA, CJ Wilson Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport

He’s doing a little bit more of everything throughout a jam-packed 2016 season. Next up this weekend is his second race in the No. 35 Safecraft Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport for CJ Wilson Racing in IMSA’s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge GS class, co-driving with Till Bechtolscheimer at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca; the pair finished fifth on debut of the new car at Sebring in mid-March.

The Sebring result came after the new pairing barely had any testing to prep.

“That was my first time in that car!” McQuarrie noted to NBC Sports. “The only other time in a GT4 Cayman was coaching at Chuckwalla about a month (before the first race). I literally did two laps. I had kind of an idea of what to expect, but that was my first time in the car and getting in, dissecting how it was.

“The car is awesome. It’s a perfect car for that category, to open up to drivers, mainly because of the gearbox. The long runs at Sebring were new to us. We weren’t really sure what to expect, but we were competitive.”

McQuarrie and Bechtolscheimer barely knew each other and Bechtolscheimer was adapting to modern machinery after primarily racing vintage material in Europe, but he impressed McQuarrie with how quickly he acclimated at Sebring.

“The test day on Tuesday you could see it in his eyes, it seemed like, ‘What have I got myself into?'” McQuarrie said. “It was system overload and after a mistake he was really questioning things. I thought this might be a long six races.

“But he worked super hard with feedback, data, video, he just started building more confidence. His talent started to show in qualifying and the race. He did exactly what he needed to do. It was good for me to not pass judgment!”

Gonna turn to the left sometimes, in ARCA 

This weekend’s start at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, however, comes after McQuarrie made his ARCA Racing Series debut at Salem, driving for Lira Motorsports and also with Safecraft sponsorship as part of its #RaceEverything campaign.

McQuarrie described the run up to his debut, and how his old CJ Wilson Racing teammate, stock car veteran Chad McCumbee, helped with pointers. McCumbee continues to race a Mazda MX-5 in the Continental Tire Challenge series for Freedom Autosport, after winning the ST class crown with CJWR last year.

“Basically at St. Pete the opportunity came up,” McQuarrie explained. “Lira Motorsports asked if I wanted to run with them, and the first thing we’ll do is test on (March) 29 and see how the test goes, and then the plan would be to run Salem, April 24. It’s something I wasn’t expecting, but that goes with the season. Throw a stock car in the mix!

“It’s funny, the first person I called was Chad. So it’s him saying, ‘What do you know about this, and can I help you?’ I can’t imagine a better person to lean on. We’re all so different as teammates. Even not being teammates anymore, we’re all such really good friends.”

Hitting the Stadium SUPER Truck shows on the streets 

So that hits sports car and stock car components. So what about two kinds of trucks?

McQuarrie’s prior weekend just before Salem was in Long Beach – a track he seemingly knows inside and out from his drifting career – in one of Robby Gordon’s Stadium SUPER Trucks.

He’d debuted in the series at St. Petersburg, following one test at Gordon’s shop in Charlotte.

The sheer power and menacing force of these trucks are unreal, McQuarrie explained.

“I went into it not really knowing what to expect with the racing,” he said. “It was all second gear stuff. But going there, you get 30 minutes of practice/qualifying before the first race.

“You’re learning so much, because it so different than what you’re used to. At the end of the day, whatever car you’re in, your manipulating it. This thing is unreal; it brakes terrible. It’s all rear brake. You’re dancing the truck through this brake zone. It doesn’t put the power down. But that stuff makes for very good racing. It’s so easy to screw up! Then throw the jumps in there, and I’m like obsessed with jumping. I was stoked to walk out of St. Pete with two third places.”

Almost no rules truck racing in Mexico

Stadium SUPER Trucks are one thing. Off-road trucks are quite another.

And more than the driving itself – McQuarrie called the jump into a truck the equivalent of moving from a street (Porsche) 911 into a GTE-spec 911 RSR – is the atmosphere.

“Racing in Mexico, there’s no rules!” McQuarrie said. “I’m so used to IMSA, FD… ‘This is your pit box, and here’s the speed you can do in paddock.’ You go down there and the pit is at the house you rent, in this development in Mexico. It’s go from waking up to clothes, helmet, garage, out of the driveway to this nice street and straight into downtown San Felipe – get on this dirt road and rip it! It’s so cool to me  to have this freedom. It was so different from all the regulations in IMSA.

“The regulations they do have are nuts. I’m telling my wife, even for like the spectators, we’re going through Whoops and it’s the length of truck, and there’s spectators lining the road. And if you want to stand there, go for it. But fine, go do it. They picked to stand there. It’s a huge adventure.

“In testing and pre running, we learn the course and our satellite phone died. So me and my navigator are stuck in the middle of desert. We’re out there 4-5 hours fixing an axle. No one knew where we were… except you’re in middle of Mexico desert.

“It’s so quiet, it’s loud. You’re waiting for a chupacabra. It’s such a cool adventure.”

The rest of the action

Think this is enough? McQuarrie also has his usual FD commitments – he says that “doing all the other stuff will help my drift stuff, where I’m not focusing on judging, so I can just go out and have fun.” But there’s still nothing like drifting his 1,000-horsepower Mobil 1 Camaro, he says.

More sports car action? How about the Pirelli World Challenge Sprint-X series in a Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 (Super Trofeo car) at Utah Motorsports Complex and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca later this year.

Partners making it possible

Safecraft Safety Equipment, Mobil 1 and Synergy are some of the key partners that has made McQuarrie’s mental season of racing possible. The run at Monterey this weekend is the fourth in a row with Safecraft as part of its #RaceEverything campaign; it began in Mexico with the aforementioned SCORE San Felipe 250, while April has seen McQuarrie pound the streets of Long Beach on consecutive weekends in Formula Drift and Stadium Super Trucks, before their stock car debut in ARCA at Salem.

The schedule itself

Per McQuarrie, here’s his schedule for this year (subject to change), which is as diverse as it is jam-packed:

2016 race schedule

San Felipe SCORE Feb 28
St Pete SST March 13
Sebring IMSA March 17
Long Beach FD April 9
Long Beach SST April 17
Salem ARCA April 24
Laguna IMSA April 29
Atlanta FD May 7
Baja 500 June 1-5
Detroit SST June 5
New Jersey FD June 17
Watkins Glen IMSA June 30
Toronto SST July 15
Montreal FD July 15
Lime Rock IMSA July 22
Road America Aug 5
Seattle FD Aug 5
Miller PWC Aug 14
Boston SST Sep 2
Texas SST Sep 10
OC SST Sep 15
Irwindale FD Oct 8
Laguna PWC Oct 8
Las Vegas SST Nov 3
Baja 1000 Nov 20

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