Latest FIA calendars offer no resolution to July 2017 FE/WEC clash

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The latest meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Vienna has offered no resolution to the clash between Formula E and the FIA World Endurance Championship on the July 16 weekend in 2017.

A number of drivers ply their trade in both Formula E and WEC, including the all-electric series’ defending champion, Sebastien Buemi.

The championships had enjoyed a gentleman’s agreement to avoid clashes so that drivers could complete double duties, but it was confirmed over the summer that both had scheduled rounds for the July 15-16 weekend in 2017.

Despite attempts to fix the situation, WEC CEO Gerard Neveu has said that the planned round at the Nürburgring will go ahead on July 16 as it was the only weekend free for the track. Formula E is set to hit New York City on that same weekend with races on both Saturday and Sunday.

With Formula E also racing in Montreal on July 29-30, the most logical date for the WEC event to slip into was July 23, although the presence of the German Grand Prix caused complications.

There was also the issue of the fact another Automobile Club de l’Ouest-sanctioned championship – the European Le Mans Series – has a race at the Red Bull Ring scheduled for July 23. There is some crossover in personnel between the FIA WEC and ELMS, and that’s why there’s no ELMS races on FIA WEC weekends.

Following the meeting of the WMSC in Vienna earlier this week, the FIA issued a statement on Wednesday featuring 2017 calendars for a number of series including WEC and Formula E, both of which were unchanged.

As a result, for the time being at least, the July 16 clash – and the subsequent headache for any drivers competing in both series – remains.

However, now that the German Grand Prix has officially been dropped from the Formula 1 calendar for 2017, it would appear that the biggest stumbling block for the WEC is that the Nürburgring is already planning to host a Drift Cup event on July 23.

Should this be moved and the series agree to change from its July 16 date, then the clash could surely be avoided and both grids will feature their regular drivers.

July 16 is currently scheduled to be a mammoth day for motorsport, with F1 set to race at Silverstone and IndyCar racing in Toronto besides the Formula E and WEC events.

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