PWC: Parker Chase, Ginetta look to build on rookie campaign

Photo: Parker Chase Racing
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A pair of teenagers took the 2016 GTS class of Pirelli World Challenge by storm. Nate Stacy won and contended for the class championship at age 16 in the venerable Ford Mustang Boss 302. Meanwhile 15-year-old Parker Chase took one of the new GT4-spec cars, the Ginetta GT4, to a number of podium finishes of his own en route to rookie-of-the-year honors.

Expect the two to continue their progression and development this year. Stacy switches to Flying Lizard Motorsports and will be in a Porsche Cayman GT4, while Chase, only a high school sophomore who was recently named to Ginetta’s Young Driver Development Program, appears set to continue with the manufacturer for another year. Ginetta and Chase’s 2016 team, Performance Motorsports Group, are yet to reveal their formal PWC program but Chase said the goal is to continue as planned in 2017.

Stacy had Touring Car experience in both PWC’s TC and TCB classes prior to stepping up to GTS this past season, while Chase was a largely unheralded name to the series and the sports car world.

But after success at the season-opening round not far from Chase’s hometown of New Braunfels, Texas at Circuit of The Americas in Austin (the track is 50 miles north of New Braunfels), a decision was made that would see Chase and the rest of Stuart Robinson’s Performance Motorsports Group team push the No. 19 Alta Towers/Enertech Resources Ginetta G55 GT4 into a full-season effort.

“It was kind of a one-off race at the beginning,” Chase told NBC Sports at the Performance Racing Industry Trade Show in Indianapolis. “We did COTA, and finished pretty well there in third and fifth. From there went to go to St. Pete. That sealed the deal.

“As we’re here at end of the season, I know much more. I’ve developed better race craft. Stepping up from Spec Miata, it was big to just have learned the basics of the cars and progress from there.”

Chase’s Ginetta, several KTM X-BOWs from the ANSA Motorsports and Mantella Autosport teams, and the SIN R1 GT4s from Racers Edge Motorsports led the charge among the lighter, more nimble GT4-spec cars up against the heavier but more powerful legacy GTS cars, Stacy’s Mustang and the Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.Rs among them.

Chase (left) and Stacy (center) were the two young stars of GTS in 2016. Photo: PWC
Chase (left) and Stacy (center) were the two young stars of GTS in 2016. Photo: PWC

That made the racing last year very intriguing. At Sonoma in particular, when Stacy held off a hard-charging Chase for his first career win, watching the variation in where cars excelled was fascinating, and that taught Chase quite a lot about how to race such wildly disparate animals.

“It was kind of a struggle,” Chase admitted. “They couldn’t carry much mid-corner speed. In my car and others, you had to carry more, because that’s the way to be fast. Being stuck behind kills the momentum, but then they have so much torque out of the corners that you lose time.”

Despite the learning curve, Chase developed in multiple areas. He looked up to several-time PWC champion Lawson Aschenbach as a mentor, with Aschenbach without question the most experienced driver in class. He relied on Robinson’s advice, having helped him in karting prior to stepping up to GTS. And with fellow New Braunfels native Harry Gottsacker in a second Ginetta, Chase had a second set of data to draw of as the year went on.

“Early in the season in his first few races I helped him a lot. Then by Utah, Sonoma and Laguna (Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca), we were right on same pace,” Chase explained. “We took a bit from each other and I think working together is much better than being a one-car team.

“With Stuart, I worked with him a bit in karting. I worked with him more in Spec Miata. He started this program and helped me get my licenses. This one really helped to get me into GTS at 15.”

Chase also spread his wings driving different machinery in 2016. Besides the GTS car, he also raced a partial season of GRC Lites and scored a podium at MCAS New River, and raced in the Ginetta G57 LMP3 prototype at December’s 25 Hours of Thunderhill with Colin Braun, Ryan Carpenter, Bryan and Colton Herta and Joel Miller. A potential win went begging with right-rear wheel issues striking the car in the final hours.

“Taking it all in really helps me,” he said. “The Thunderhill weekend in the G57 gave me a chance to use way more power and downforce. I’m hoping the GTS might feel like a piece of cake afterwards! We’ll do some testing and see how I improve.”

The PWC GTS season begins at St. Petersburg the weekend of March 10-12. The exact weekend schedule should be released in February, with Chase and perhaps the rest of the PWC paddock looking for more track time beyond the limited running this year on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of the race weekend. Chase will turn 16 in February.

As expected, FIA denies granting Colton Herta a Super License to race in F1

Colton Herta Super License
Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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The governing body for Formula One on Friday said IndyCar star Colton Herta will not be granted the Super License that the American needs to join the F1 grid next season.

“The FIA confirms that an enquiry was made via the appropriate channels that led to the FIA confirming that the driver Colton Herta does not have the required number of points to be granted an FIA Super Licence,” the FIA said in a statement.

The FIA decision was not a surprise.

Red Bull was interested in the 22-year-old Californian and considering giving Herta a seat at AlphaTauri, its junior team. AlphaTauri has already said that Pierre Gasly will return next season and Yuki Tsunoda received a contract extension earlier this week.

However, AlphaTauri has acknowledged it would release Gasly, who is apparently wanted at Alpine, but only if it had a compelling driver such as Herta to put in the car. F1 has not had an American on the grid since Alexander Rossi in 2015, but Herta did not particularly want the FIA to make an exception to the licensing system to get him a seat.

At issue is how the FIA rates IndyCar, a series it does not govern. The points it awards to IndyCar drivers rank somewhere between F2 and F3, the two junior feeder series into F1.

IndyCar drivers have criticized the system in defense of Herta and the intense, close racing of their own highly competitive series. Herta has won seven IndyCar races, is the youngest winner in series history and has four starts in the Indianapolis 500. He qualified on the front row in 2021 and finished a career-best eighth in 2020.

Rossi, who has spent the last four seasons as Herta’s teammate at Andretti Autosport, lashed out this week because “I’m so sick and tired of this back and forth” regarding the licensing.

“The whole premise of it was to keep people from buying their way into F1 and allowing talent to be the motivating factor,” Rossi wrote on social media. “That’s great. We all agree Colton has the talent and capability to be in F1. That’s also great and he should get that opportunity if it’s offered to him. Period.

“Motorsport still remains as the most high profile sport in the world where money can outweigh talent. What is disappointing and in my opinion, the fundamental problem, is that the sporting element so often took a backseat to the business side that here had to be a method put in place in order for certain teams to stop taking drivers solely based on their financial backing.”

Rossi added those decisions “whether out of greed or necessity, is what cost Colton the opportunity to make the decision for himself as to if he wanted to alter career paths and race in F1. Not points on a license.”

The system favors drivers who compete in FIA-sanctioned series. For example, Linus Lundqvist earned his Super License by winning the Indy Lights championship.

Lundqvist’s required points come via the 15 he earned for the Lights title, 10 points for finishing third in Lights last year and his 2020 victory in the FIA-governed Formula Regional Americas Championship, which earned him 18 points.

That gave the 23-year-old Swede a total of 43 points, three more than needed for the license.

Herta, meanwhile, ended the IndyCar season with 32 points. He can still earn a Super License by picking up one point for any free practice sessions he runs this year; McLaren holds his F1 rights and could put him in a car. Herta could also potentially run in an FIA-sanctioned winter series to pick up some points.

Michael Andretti, who has petitioned the FIA to expand its grid to add two cars for him to launch a team, said he never bothered to explore potential replacements for Herta on the IndyCar team because he was confident the Super License request would be rejected.

Andretti has been met by severe resistance from existing F1 teams and even F1 itself in his hope to add an 11th team. Andretti could still get on the grid by purchasing an existing team and he’d like to build his program around Herta, who is under contract in IndyCar to Andretti through 2023.