Photo: VISIT FLORIDA Racing

Sports cars: AXR, Visit Florida, Corvette, DTM notes and more

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bunch of sports car news has come out here recently in the last few days, with most of it this mroning so we’re going to round it all up below:

  • Action Express Racing has confirmed its extra drivers for the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Filipe Albuquerque, the talented Portuguese driver, will share the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R with Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi. It’s his fifth straight Rolex 24 start; he won Rolex GT in 2013 and then has raced in GTD, PC and P since. In the No. 31 Whelen Engineering/Team Fox entry, Mike Conway will make his Rolex 24 debut with Sunoco Challenge winner Seb Morris, with IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship champions Dane Cameron and Eric Curran.
  • Lest this be the only DPi team with news, Wayne Taylor Racing with Konica-Minolta is the first to show its Cadillac in livery. Here’s the link to that.
  • Corvette Racing will keep Mike Rockenfeller and Marcel Fassler as third drivers for its pair of Corvette C7.Rs at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. Rockenfeller was in the No. 3 car, Fassler the No. 4 car last year.
  • Park Place Motorsports has confirmed a full-season return to IMSA’s GTD class. Joerg Bergmeister and Patrick Lindsey will run all races in the No. 73 Porsche 911 GT3 R with Matt McMurry the third driver for Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup races.
  • Tequila Patron ESM has revealed car numbers and lineups for its Ligier JS P217 Nissan lineup. Ryan Dalziel and Scott Sharp will be in the team’s No. 2 car with Pipo Derani back for the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup. Ed Brown and Johannes van Overbeek will be in the No. 22 car with Bruno Senna for the TPNAEC and Brendon Hartley at Daytona. More here from them.
  • VISIT FLORIDA Racing has taken delivery of its Riley Technologies Mk. 30 Gibson LMP2 car, with a shakedown at Carolina Motorsports Park prior to a full test this week at Daytona.
  • BMW Team RLL’s lineup will feature Alexander Sims and Martin Tomczyk as new full-season drivers in the pair of BMW M6 GTLM alongside Bill Auberlen and John Edwards, respectively. Augusto Farfus and Bruno Spengler are alongside Auberlen and Sims, with Kuno Wittmer and Nicky Catsburg in the second BMW alongside Edwards and Tomczyk.
  • Audi and BMW DTM lineups are out. Audi’s are Loic Duval and Rene Rast as new full-season additions, continuing with Mattias Ekström, Jamie Green, Nico Müller, and Mike Rockenfeller. For BMW, it’s Marco Wittmann, Timo Glock, Augusto Farfus, Tom Blomqvist, Maxime Martin and Bruno Spengler. Edoardo Mortara has left Audi to join Mercedes-Benz, but the rest of Mercedes’ lineup will be revealed at a later date.

Graham Rahal’s ‘Weighty Issue’

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MONTEREY, California – Graham Rahal admits that he can’t wait until the day he doesn’t have to worry about his weight. Being a 6-foot-2, big-boned individual can have its advantages, but not when it comes to fitting into an IndyCar.

That is why the son of 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner and three-time CART IndyCar champion Bobby Rahal has begun a body shaping therapy known as “Sculpting” that uses lasers to trim away body fat.

“Honestly, it is no secret, I’m not shy about this, that I’ve struggled with my weight,” the 201-pound Rahal told a group of reporters during INDYCAR’s Open Test at Laguna Seca on Thursday. “I can guarantee you that from a strength perspective and a stamina perspective, there’s very few guys out here that can keep up with me. I’m just not a super skinny build. It’s never been my thing.

“I’ve tried. We’ve kind of looked around. There was some mutual interest from them to look into trying this, see if it works. I’ll be honest. I was always very skeptical of the stuff. Where I’m at, I’ve done one treatment. I can’t even tell you today if it’s something that really works or not.”

That led Rahal to try out the sculpting process that was invented by a doctor who found it with swelling in kid’s cheeks. The “Sculpture” process uses a laser that kills the fatty cells.

“It takes a long time, I think,” Rahal said. “It’s going to take multiple I think to get there.”

Watch Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on NBC at 3 p.m.

A race driver needs to be thin, yet very strong to have the physical strength and stamina to compete at a high level in the race car. When it comes to the NTT IndyCar Series, it’s even more important because of the size of the cars and tight cockpit.

Additionally, the extra weight can impact the performance of the race car. The lighter the driver, the less weight inside of the car. In INDYCAR, drivers are weighed and for the lighter drivers, lead weight is added to the car to meet a requirement.

But in Rahal’s case, the lead weight ballast has to be reduced and that sometimes throws off the center of gravity in the car.

“The facts are it’s not going to work if you don’t work out, too, and eat well,” Rahal said. “It doesn’t do anything. But earlier this year, man, I had given up drinking completely for three, four months. I was working out every day, twice a day on most occasions. I went to a nutritionist, doing everything. I literally was not losing an ounce. It was the most frustrating period of time for me.

“I am the biggest guy here. Is it ever going to be equal for me? No matter what these guys talk about with driver ballast, it’s a whole different thing, where my center of gravity is.”

That is what led the 30-year-old driver from Ohio to study the “Sculpting” procedure. He realizes he is never going to have the metabolism of some of the thinner drivers, but he needs to maintain a weight that minimizes his disadvantage.

“It is a challenge,” he admitted. “Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves (on Penske Team Acura in IMSA) weigh 60 pounds less than me or something. There is no ballast there. That’s a big swing, a lot of weight to be carrying around.

“We have to try anything we can. If you’re going to be serious, try to find the performance advantage and the edge, you’ve got to look outside of the box.

“It is something new for me. But the fight I guess against being an ultra-skinny guy.

“I fly home with most of these guys after races, I see most of these guys a lot of times, they’re sitting there eating In-N-Out Burger, whatever else. Literally I cannot do it. If I do it, it immediately reflects for me. These guys you see them the next weekend, they’re like this big.

“It’s like, (crap), it’s not my build.”

Because of Rahal’s height and size, he chose to step away from the endurance races for Team Penske in IMSA at the end of last season. He was replaced at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring by fellow IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi.

Rahal complained that the steering wheel actually hit his legs inside of the Acura, making it difficult for him to drive on the challenging road courses. Since that time, Acura Team Penske has moved the steering column up by a few inches, and it no longer impacts a driver the size of Rahal.

For the IMSA season-ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on Oct. 12, Rahal will be back in the Team Penske Acura.

“Back in the (Team Penske) shop three weeks ago, I could actually turn the steering wheel, which I was shocked about,” Rahal said. “My head touched the roof, whatever, I’m used to that. Physically being able to steer, which I now should be able to do better.

“So I’m excited about it. It’s another great opportunity obviously with Penske. But more importantly for me is Acura, Honda. It’s a great thing to be back in.

“But that wasn’t a weight thing. It’s purely size. They just don’t build cars for guys my size. I used to talk to J.W. (Justin Wilson) about that. It’s the facts of life. Even the GT cars. You would think a GT car would be big. I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a GT car, I was comfortable in either. They’re built for small guys. That’s the way it goes.”

Rahal is taller than his father, Bobby, who is also his IndyCar team owner along with David Letterman and Michael Lanigan.

“I blame my dad,” Rahal said. “I do. You can tell him I said that. I told him, ‘It’s a genetic thing. I got good genes in some ways.’

“I told my wife this the other day, I’m very excited for someday when my career ends just to have a ‘Dad Bod,’ be able to let go for a minute, see how things turn out, because this is getting a little bit exhausting.

“We’re going to stay committed through the winter. I try my hardest every year, but I never tried harder this year to be thin. I weigh about the same as last year, but it took so much effort to get there, I just have to think outside the box.”