Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Three streaks abound as WeatherTech series hits Detroit

Leave a comment

A four-race and two three-race win streaks are on the line heading into this weekend’s Chevrolet Sports Car Classic, Round 5 (for Prototype and GT Daytona) and 4 (Prototype Challenge) of the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season in the second of two knock-down, drag-out, 100-minute street fights this season.

For IMSA, which produced a barnburner of a Saturday afternoon in Long Beach a little more than a month ago where nearly all of the 35 cars entered had a ridiculous story to tell the last time the series hit the streets, going for a cleaner race Saturday must be the goal.

Meanwhile last-time out at Circuit of The Americas, other than a catastrophic first corner that took out most of the GT Le Mans class field, it was a pretty straightforward race that ended with similar winners – the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R, No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09 and the No. 33 Riley Motorsports-Team AMG Mercedes AMG-GT3 in the P, PC and GTD classes.

It’s those three cars that will be under the microscope this weekend on the streets of Detroit, as they look to extend their streaks, or finally got toppled.

The Taylor brothers, Jordan and Ricky Taylor, have enjoyed a stratospheric and amazing start to the season with four wins in four completely different types of races – the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix and Advance Auto Parts SportsCar Showdown – at race lengths of 24 hours, 12 hours, 100 minutes and the standard two hours, 40 minutes.

All the while, they’ve done this thanks to incredible preparation from the Wayne Taylor Racing crew, and in spite of several Balance of Performance adjustments assessed by IMSA that have been designed to level the playing field. The Cadillacs got hit again going into Detroit this weekend, with a 0.6mm smaller air restrictor and 2-liter reduction in fuel capacity with other aero reductions also outlined.

It may not matter. The Taylors are riding a ridiculous amount of form both this season and in street course races in IMSA.

At Detroit alone, the Taylors have won in 2016 and 2014, and with Long Beach wins in 2015, 2016 and 2017, their street setup has clearly been dialed in despite this year’s switch from the now retired Corvette DP to the Cadillac DPi-V.R.

With the four-for-four start to the year, the Taylors also hold a 22-point lead over Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa, the past champions in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac who have looked fractionally off by comparison to the Taylors this year. Either they, or defending champions No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing with Dane Cameron and Eric Curran, will look to get the Action Express team on the board this year, this weekend. Cameron and Curran scored their first win as teammates here in miserable conditions in 2015.

Among the others in Prototype, the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson has thoroughly impressed with the pro/am driver pairing of Stephen Simpson and Misha Goikhberg. On the strength of four top-fives in as many races, there’s been a shift in goals here for the new team in Prototype class – podiums are now the goal rather than a dream as might have been thought earlier this year. A year ago here, the team combined its own PC chassis with one from BAR1 Motorsports to even make the race and score points; they must be hoping for a simpler outing this weekend.

The Mazdas also have a story to uphold, having scored podiums in its last two street races. The previous generation Lola Multimatic based chassis scored the Mazda Motorsports’ team’s first Prototype podium in Detroit last year and the new Mazda RT24-P scored its first podium at Long Beach earlier this year.

The pair of Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPis, No. 90 VISIT FLORIDA Racing Riley Mk. 30 Gibson and No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217 Gibson cars, the latter with Tom Kimber-Smith listed to return after missing COTA, complete the grid.

No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09. Photo courtesy of IMSA

Performance Tech’s wins with the young pairing of James French and Pato O’Ward have been perhaps overshadowed. Like the Taylors, they’ve won at Daytona, Sebring and COTA, and now head to their shortest race of the year. Against the pair of BAR1 cars, it’s hard to see Performance Tech losing its grip on the top – although strange things can happen on these streets.

Nos. 33 and 50 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3s. Photo courtesy of IMSA

In GTD, the Riley Mercedes of Jeroen Bleekemolen and Ben Keating has won two of the last three races with teammates Cooper MacNeil and Gunnar Jeannette having played a strategic spanner to perfection in Long Beach making it three in a row for the Mercedes-AMG GT3.

With a weight increase and an air restrictor decrease assessed going into Detroit, however, Mercedes will have work on its hands to keep that streak alive with either its No. 33 or 50 cars, or the No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3, led by Tristan Vautier, who’s done well at the track in IndyCar.

Scuderia Corsa has been on the podium three straight races but not yet won this year; the engine issue that struck Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan at Daytona looms large. But knowing this is the defending champion entry, the No. 63 Ferrari 488 GT3 should be one to watch. They enter this weekend 24 points behind Bleekemolen and Keating in the championship.

Daniel Morad is also entered with Mathieu Jaminet in the No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, in what remains a race-by-race program. At third in the points, this is a pivotal weekend for Morad to get a big result and justify the expense to continue. Right now, the program is confirmed through Watkins Glen but a question mark from there.

Michael Shank Racing, of note, comes to Detroit after its maiden Indianapolis 500 voyage with Andretti Autosport and Jack Harvey. They’re back to work on their usual Acura NSX GT3s and a year after they were teammates here in a Prototype, Ozz Negri and Katherine Legge are split. Sage Karam, too, comes to Detroit after Indianapolis, back in his 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3.

Extreme E reveals competition format for its global races next season

Extreme E
Leave a comment

Extreme E, a new series that will raise awareness about climate change by racing electric SUVs around the world, unveiled its competition format Friday.

The five-race environmentally conscious series will begin next season with races held in Senegal, Saudi Arabia, Nepal, Greenland and Brazil.

Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport are among the eight teams that will race in the series. Each team will have a male and female driver who alternate in each event.

ELECTRIC APPEAL: Why Ganassi is going to the Extreme E

In the details provided Friday, the two-day events will feature two qualifying races Saturday and two semifinals and a final round Sunday. Each race is two laps: One driven by the male driver and the other by the female. Results are based on finishes, not times.

The first semifinal is slotted with Saturday’s top four qualifiers, and the top three finishers advance to the final. The second semifinal (also known as the “Crazy Race”) will feature the last four qualifiers with the winner advancing to the final.

Click here to see the details of Extreme E’s sporting format.

Here’s the release from Extreme E:

29 May, London: Extreme E, the revolutionary electric off-road racing series, has outlined the race format for its five-event adventure to some of the most formidable, remote and spectacular locations across the globe, starting early 2021.

The series has devised an innovative format unlike any other, likened to a Star Wars Pod Racing meets Dakar Rally, which is designed to break the mould in motorsport with all-action, short, sharp wheel-to-wheel racing, world-class drivers and teams, the cutting-edge ODYSSEY 21 electric SUV and its stunning, formidable environments, all firmly in focus.

Each race, which will be known as an X Prix, will incorporate two laps over a distance of approximately 16 kilometres. Four teams, with two drivers – one male, one female – completing a lap apiece in-car, will race head-to-head in each race over the two-day event.

Qualifying takes place on day one to determine the top four runners who will progress through into Semi-Final 1 and the bottom four competitors who will go on to take part in Semi-Final 2: the unique ‘Crazy Race’.

The Crazy Race will be a tooth-and-nail, all-or-nothing fight, with only the quickest team progressing into the Final, while the top three will make it through from Semi-Final 1. The winner of the Final – the fastest combination of team, drivers, car and engineers over the epic two-day battle – will then be crowned the X Prix Winner.

Another innovative feature is the Hyperdrive. This will award an additional boost of speed to the team who performs the longest jump on the first jump of each race. Hyperdrive power can be used by that team at any point in the race.

This initial format is designed to incorporate eight teams, and can be adapted to accommodate additional entries.

Teams will field one male and one female driver, promoting gender equality and a level playing field amongst competitors. Each driver will complete one lap behind the wheel, with a changeover incorporated into the race format.

The teams will determine which driver goes first to best suit their strategy and driver order selections are made confidentially, with competitors kept in the dark as to other teams’ choices until the cars reach the start-line. Contests between males and females will therefore be ensured.

X Prix circuits will also incorportate natural challenges that will leave viewers at the edge of their seats, and drivers and teams will be pushed right to the limits of their abilities; with hazards to navigate and defeat such as extreme gradients, jumps, banks, berms, pits, dunes and water splashes.

Alejandro Agag, Extreme E Founder and CEO, said: “Extreme E is a championship like nothing else that has come before in sport. Its goal and objective is to accelerate innovation and tackle climate change head on using transportation.

“Creating this innovative sporting format, which we’re likening to Star Wars Pod Racing meets Dakar Rally, is vital in order to engage the next generation of motorsport fans. We hope our fans will enjoy the short, sharp, wheel-to-wheel racing this format has been built around, and with our high performance electric vehicle, driver changeover, the Hyperdrive feature, and the Crazy Race qualification format, there is plenty to watch out for, and many chances for positions to change hands, Our races really will go right to the wire.”

Extreme E’s cutting-edge 550-horsepower, ODYSSEY 21, incorporates a number of innovations to enable it to cope with all the rigours of racing over the toughest terrain, where no car has raced before. The battery-electric, 400kw (550hp), 1650-kilogram, 2.3-metre wide E-SUV is bespoke from the ground up. Capable of firing from 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds, at gradients of up to 130 percent.

It is made up of a common package of standardised parts, manufactured by Spark Racing Technology with a battery produced by Williams Advanced Engineering. This encompasses a niobium-reinforced steel alloy tubular frame, as well as crash structure and roll cage, whilst tyres, for both extreme winter and summer requirements, supplied by founding partner Continental Tyres.

As well as being used as platform for equality and illutstrating the capabilities of electric vehicle technology, Extreme E will highlight the impact that climate change is having on its remote race locations, using a committee of leading scientists to help bring global attention to issues such as deforestation in Brazil, rising sea levels along the West African coastline, melting Arctic icecaps in Greenland, and more.

The championship will announce further drivers, teams and partners over the coming weeks as it builds towards its early 2021 start-date apace.