Photo courtesy of IMSA

O’Ward, Masson set to continue with Performance Tech

Leave a comment

Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires veteran Patricio – or Pato – O’Ward and fellow talented teen Kyle Masson delivered as good a debut as could be done at the 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona. O’Ward, the 17-year-old Mexican set the fastest race lap as part of Brent O’Neill’s dominant quartet in the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09, en route to the class win in Prototype Challenge.

He’ll join James French for the season in that car, with Masson confirmed for the remaining rounds in the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup veterans. Masson will run a Mazda Prototype Lites (MPL) chassis in IMSA’s Prototype Challenge series this year, a separate supporting division of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Those three plus Nick Boulle won the PC class at the Rolex 24; a story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s Dave Kallmann on French is linked here.

The PC class within the WeatherTech Championship has an eight-race schedule this year, with the four endurance races joined by rounds at Circuit of The Americas, Detroit, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Road America.

“We had opportunities arise going into Daytona and if we had a good showing we could get Pato’s deal done,” O’Neill said. “He’s really just awesome, he and James will be great together. It’ll be a good pairing and a plus for us is that we have two silvers that are really fast. It gives us options in the pits with what we can do with strategy.

“The only thing we’ll really be working on with Pato is how he still loses sight of time during the race. He comes from the format of 45-minutes races. He’s from the sprint race mentality so every once in a while, you have to tell him to reign it in. But he’s so professional in the car. He doesn’t throw the car off and he turns competitive lap times. They’ll be awesome teammates and I know James is excited about it. They’re both great kids.”

“The PC car is so different than what I’ve driven before,” O’Ward said. “It’s heavy but it’s not a slow car. It was impressive when I drove it. The PC has 540 horse power, roughly I think. It’s an enjoyable car to drive. In the rain, it’s not so enjoyable. With the cold weather and rain in the Rolex 24 it was difficult to handle. That’s more the weather though not the car. It’s not as physical as I thought it would be. It’s the only open cockpit car in IMSA. So, it’s cool to be a part of the last year of the class.”

“As a unit we all worked really well together at Daytona and we had great pace. I think keeping the group that swept Daytona together is a smart move and I am ecstatic about the opportunity to stay with them,” Masson added.

F1 aggressive on COVID-19 testing, social distancing enforcement

F1 COVID-19 testing
Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
Leave a comment

With big hugs and wide smiles, McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown exuberantly celebrated the first podium finish of Lando Norris’ Formula One career. His exuberance earned a warning from Formula One and FIA officials during the era of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and subsequent F1 testing.

“Obviously I got excited with Lando on the podium and embraced him after the race,” Brown said with a laugh during a news conference Friday. “You get caught up in the emotion and excitement of the event, but it was suggested maybe I don’t do that again if we get a podium anytime soon.”

MASK WARNING: NASCAR tells teams to avoid ‘complacency’

Now in its second race weekend of 2020, F1 has taken an aggressive approach to maintain a paddock free of COVID-19. Before teams hit the track last week for the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix, F1 and FIA officials said more than 4,000 tests were conducted over a week with no positive tests.

In order to enter the track, any F1 personnel (which includes drivers and team members) must have a negative COVID-19 test. Private testing was used ahead of those traveling to Austria. After entering the track, personnel are tested every five days with private medical teams at events along with extra screening.

The results of F1 COVID-19 testing also will be made public every seven days. More than 8,000 tests were conducted through Saturday.

It’s a much different tack from NASCAR and IndyCar, neither of which is conducting COVID-19 testing (and with NASCAR recently distributing that warned teams of “complacency with protocols).

Though Brown, who also oversees Arrow McLaren SP Motorsports in IndyCar, demurred when asked whether the U.S.-based series should be taking a cue, he praised F1 COVID-19 testing for being a best-in-class example.

“I don’t know exactly what every other racing series is doing, so it would be difficult for me to say they’re doing it right or wrong,” Brown said from Austria. “All I can really do is speak to what Formula One is doing, and they’re doing an unbelievable job with 5,000 tests, and people flying in from different parts of the world. The minute that someone — and there’s not been many instances – has taken a mask off, you’re getting a letter or a phone call saying put your mask back on.

“I think all sports should be looking at all sports and seeing who’s doing what and what are our best practices, but I’ve got nothing but great things to say about how the FIA and Formula One and the countries they’re racing in are executing because it feels extremely safe here.”

Brown said it’s unlikely the European-based circuit will do F1 COVID-19 testing at races in the United States, Brazil, Mexico and Canada because the events likely will be scrubbed. Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, was scheduled to play host to F1 on the Oct. 23-25 race weekend but just canceled its MotoGP race.

“We’d very much like to race at all those circuits,” Brown said. “Unfortunately, my opinion is it’s probably unlikely we’ll race at any of those venues this year. That’s obviously due to the COVID situation. … Let’s see what happens, but certainly it seems like the spikes in Texas are pretty severe and Brazil and Mexico and Canada a little less so. But if we miss them this year, we certainly look forward to going back to those venues next year.”