Handful of changes, additions highlight IMSA Watkins Glen entry list

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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The third round of IMSA’s Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup season at Watkins Glen International takes place next week, June 29-July 2, with 39 cars and a handful of notable additions in terms of cars and drivers. The Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen kicks off the post-Le Mans portion of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.

ENTRY LIST

Gianmaria Bruni makes his debut as a Porsche factory driver alongside Laurens Vanthoor in the No. 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR in GT Le Mans.

Bruni, formerly of Ferrari, has been out of competition since the end of last year. Kevin Estre was in that car the opening rounds of the year before he departed for the FIA World Endurance Championship; Wolf Henzler was in at Circuit of The Americas last time out for the class.

That’s one of eight GTLM cars listed, while the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE is not. The team’s chassis that raced at Le Mans suffered significant front-end damage there after being contacted by Mathieu Vaxiviere’s TDS Racing Oreca 07 on the Mulsanne Straight going into a chicane.

It was a separate chassis from the one raced in IMSA, although consecutive first-lap accidents at Long Beach and Austin took them out of contention.

The Prototype class sees Onroak Automotive veteran Olivier Pla the latest pro in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217 Gibson alongside Jose Gutierrez. The team ran limited laps at Detroit with Kenton Koch and Ryan Lewis listed, with Gutierrez unavailable. Bobby Oergel’s team has cycled through primary lineups of Gutierrez and Tom Kimber-Smith, Kimber-Smith and Will Owen, then at COTA, Gutierrez and Marco Bonanomi.

Pipo Derani (No. 2) and Bruno Senna (No. 22) return to the Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPis as third drivers, both after racing in different classes at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Pla and Derani were in Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs while Senna was in one of the Vaillante Rebellion Orecas in LMP2.

Other third drivers that return to action include Filipe Albuquerque, Spencer Pigot, Marino Franchitti and Chris Miller.

The GT Daytona class sees roughly half the 17-car class add third drivers. It’s not a requirement to have a third for Watkins Glen. 3GT Racing, Paul Miller Racing, Stevenson Motorsports, Michael Shank Racing and Turner Motorsport, do not, at the moment, have third drivers.

Notable additions include the Alex Job Racing Audi R8 LMS of Townsend Bell, Bill Sweedler and Frankie Montecalvo and the Dream Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3. The Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi, which ended second in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and had considered doing this race, is not listed.

The Prototype Challenge class has four cars and a bevy of TBAs, as could be expected. While Starworks Motorsport is listed it’s not guaranteed the team will run, Peter Baron instead working towards finalizing his impending LMP2 effort for either later this year or the start of 2018.

A busy weekend for IMSA also features the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda, IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama and Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama, Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America action.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.