Photo: Dreyer & Reinbold Racing

Alex Keyes confirms GRC Lites return with DRR, WIX Filters

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Past GRC Lites division race winner Alex Keyes will continue in the division this year, the second rung in the Red Bull Global Rallycross, and is back with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.

The full release is below:

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (DRR) is excited to announce Alex Keyes, three-time Red Bull Global Rallycross (GRC) feature winner, will return to the racetrack this season. Driving in the No. 24 DRR Red Bull Global Rallycross Lites car, Keyes will showcase WIX®Filters as the primary sponsor partner for six races.

Keyes, the 18-year-old driver from Folsom, California, made a dramatic debut last year with Red Bull Global Rallycross Lites victories at the New River Military Base, Washington D.C., and the season finale in Las Vegas. In addition, Keyes recorded four podium finishes and placed sixth in the final Lites point standings as a rookie.

The former open-wheel star is scheduled to compete in numerous 2016 Red Bull GRC Lites events including the season-opening weekend at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Arizona, May 20-22. The No. 24 will feature WIX primary livery at the famed Daytona International Speedway June 17-19, as well as at The Base at MCAS New River in Jacksonville, NC on July 1-3, in Washington D.C. on July 30, and in Atlantic City on August 28. WIX will serve as a full time major associate partner for the Red Bull GRC Lites season on the No. 24 entry. 

“We love partnering with these young drivers,” said Jennifer Gibson, brand manager for WIX. “Their passion for the sport only equals their enthusiasm for their fans, and it’s remarkable to be around. The energy is infectious, and we can’t wait to see how this year unfolds.”

WIX products include oil, air and fuel filters that have been track-tested and proven in all levels of stock car, dirt track, off-road and drag racing. WIX uses motorsports as a grueling testing ground for scenarios involving high temperatures, fluctuations in pressure and rapid breakdown in engine oil.

“I’m very excited to return with the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing team in 2016,” said Keyes, a former Formula Car Challenge Series champion in 2014. “Last year’s series was an eye-opening experience, and I learned a lot. But the biggest take away for me? It was the most fun I’ve ever had racing; it was intense. You always had to be on top of it. There’s a learning process, and once I worked through mistakes and the team as a whole started to learn the cars, we really found a good rhythm.” 

DRR will field two Red Bull GRC Lites machines in 2016, including the No. 2 DRR Red Bull GRC Lites entry with newcomer Cabot Bigham and Paratek Pharmaceuticals. Coming off a 2015 season resulting in four wins and eight podium finishes, DRR is poised for continued success in 2016. The DRR organization has been successful in the Verizon IndyCar Series since 2000 and continues to expand its effort within both Red Bull GRC SuperCar and Lites series.

“We are very pleased to have both WIX Filters and Alex back with our Lites program in 2016. WIX has been a partner since the beginning, and we believe the pairing couldn’t be a more appropriate fit,” said Dennis Reinbold, team owner of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. “Alex has developed into a strong contender and team leader, winning three races with us in 2015. He’s gained the experience and confidence to win at any circuit in the series. We’re excited to have Alex debut at the season opener, and we look forward to working hard and producing results both on- and off-track for WIX in 2016.”

Keyes, 18, was a successful karting racer for six years before moving into formula cars in 2013 where he was chosen as a Lynx Racing Academy driver, competing in the Pacific F1600 series. In 2014, he moved up to the West Coast Formula Pro Mazda class and captured the title with ten wins and 13 pole positions. He also competed in the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires. 

Former Indy 500 champion Buddy Rice again will serve as a driver consultant and program manager for DRR’s GRC Lites program. DRR will continue to utilize many of his personnel from its IndyCar team, including engineering, mechanical, shock and damper, and management staff.

“I work well with Buddy as he comes from a similar background as me: the Lynx Academy,” said Keyes. “All DRR mechanics are hard workers who know how to put it out there on the racetrack! In 2016, everything for me is going out and trying to win every race, no one remembers who finishes second.”

F1 tests: Mercedes innovates with wheel adjustment system

Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images
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MONTMELÓ, Spain — Veteran Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time on the second day of Formula One preseason testing on Thursday, but Mercedes still garnered more attention by introducing an innovative wheel adjustment system.

On-board footage showed defending champion Lewis Hamilton pulling the steering wheel back and forth on the front straight to apparently change the angle of the front wheels on his Mercedes car.

The team stayed tight-lipped about the car’s new feature but guaranteed it was “safe” and “legal.”

“I probably won’t shed a great deal more light than what you saw on the TV but yeah we have a system in the car, it’s a novel idea,” team technical director James Allison told F1 TV. ”We’ve got a name for it, it’s called DAS, if you’re interested, and it just introduces an extra dimension for the steering, for the driver, which we hope will be useful during the year. But precisely how we use it and why we use it, that’s something we will keep to ourselves.”

Allison said governing body FIA knew in advance that the team was introducing the new system.

“It’s something we’ve been talking to them (about) for some time,” he said. “The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems and we’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements. I’m pleased we got it on the car, it seems to be useful, and we’ll see over the coming days how it benefits us.”

Hamilton said he was still trying to get used to the system, but praised the team for coming up with the innovation.

“I’ve only had one morning on (it, so) I don’t really have a lot to talk about with it. We’re trying to get on top of it, understand it, but safety-wise no problem today and the FIA are OK with the project.

“For me it’s really encouraging to see that my team is continuing to innovate and stay ahead of the game, and I think that’s down to the great minds in the team and so hopefully that’ll work to our benefit.”

Hamilton led the time charts on Wednesday but was only ninth-fastest on Thursday.

MORE: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas fastest in Day 1 of F1 practice
MORE: Sergio Perez fastest early on Day 2 of F1 Practice

The 40-year-old Raikkonen, who has a chance this season to break the record for most race starts in F1, was fastest with a time of 1 minute, 17.091 seconds in his Alfa Romea. He was 0.2 seconds quicker than Sergio Pérez with Racing Point. Daniel Ricciardo of Renault was third.

Raikkonen caused a red flag near the end of the afternoon session when his car stopped on the track with an apparent mechanical issue. The Finnish driver had spun earlier in the session, as did Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, Romain Grosjean of Haas and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, formerly known as Toro Rosso.

Grosjean had the most laps among the 13 drivers who went to the track on Thursday, with 158.

Bottas was the slowest driver of the day, while Sebastian Vettel was sixth-fastest with Ferrari.

Pérez had set the quickest time in the morning session. The Mexican driver had been third fastest on Wednesday, behind Hamilton and Bottas.

Drivers will be back on the track on Friday to close out the first week of testing. Teams will have another three days to test next week.

Preseason testing has been reduced from eight to six days to help compensate for the record 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam Grand Prix and the return of the Dutch GP. Midseason testing also has been eliminated.

The season opens on March 15 at the Australian GP.

The Barcelona-Catalunya track will host the Spanish GP on May 10.