Photo courtesy of IMSA

Cadillac look to end dominant IMSA season with Petit Le Mans win

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To say that the new Cadillac DPi-V.R has been dominant in its first season would be somewhat of an understatement. The fastest and most tested DPi effort out of the box, its teams (Wayne Taylor Racing and Action Express Racing) won the first seven races of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, so were not headed until the second half of the season.

Wayne Taylor Racing, under the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R banner, is poised to clinch the team and driver’s championships with drivers Ricky and Jordan Taylor. They also still have a chance to win the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup as well.

At Action Express, both of its entries, the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac and the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac, have visited victory lane this year. Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi won at Watkins Glen in the No. 5 with third driver Filipe Albuquerque, with teammates Eric Curran and Dane Cameron doing so in the No. 31 at the very next race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Further, Barbosa, Fittipaldi, and Albuquerque enter Saturday’s Petit Le Mans currently leading the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup.

As a result, all of the Cadillac teams are in position to clinch championships this weekend. For Wayne Taylor Racing, this means having a smooth start to the race, as completing the first 45 minutes of Saturday’s race will see them lock up both the team and driver’s titles.

“I would like to get the first 45-minutes out of the way cleanly, then we can race with nothing to lose for the final 9 hours and 15 minutes,” said Ricky Taylor, the elder of the two Taylor brothers. “It is a unique position because we can truly take risks and enjoy the race instead of being on eggshells for the championship. Petit Le Mans is a classic event and one of the biggest races on our calendar. Although we won the first five races of the season, winning at Petit Le Mans would be the cherry on the cake.”

Teammate and younger brother Jordan shared identical thoughts, a win here meaning the No. 10 car would have won Daytona, Sebring and Petit Le Mans in the same season – three of the four Patron Endurance Cup rounds.

“The number one goal heading into the race is getting to the 45-minute mark to clinch both championships,” Jordan asserted. “Once that is done, we can switch to treating the race like we treated the races early in the year, being aggressive and taking risks we need to, to win the race. It’s one of our biggest races of the year, plus it’s an important race for the TPNAEC, so we’ll be fighting hard.”

For Action Express and its No. 5 entry, while an overall championship may not be in the cards, securing the Patron Endurance Cup would serve as a consolation prize, and a race win would be a nice boost of momentum heading into the offseason.

The No. 5 Mustang Sampling entry from Action Express currently leads the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup. Photo courtesy of IMSA

“We are leading the (Patron Endurance Cup) so that is our goal on Saturday and the best way to achieve that is to have a clean and good race and finish first. It would be great to finish the year on a high to get ready for 2018,” Fittipaldi said of the team’s goals entering the weekend.

For third driver Albuquerque, it’s also a chance to again get acclimated with the team before he becomes a full-time driver in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling machine next year. And, as he described, he hopes to make up for a disappointment last year.

“We were in a good position last year but we had a puncture with three hours to go and that lost us a lap,” Albuquerque explained. “We will have to stay away from problems, and Road Atlanta is a narrow track so that can be a challenge! I am really enjoying racing the Cadillac Dpi-V.R, it is a very sophisticated car with good grip and power so it is a very good car to drive and hopefully it will help us navigate the traffic and stay out of trouble this weekend.”

Finally, the race will also be the swan song for Cameron, who will leave the team for Team Penske and its new Acura DPi program at race’s end. And he would like nothing more than to end his tenure with the team with his first victory at Petit Le Mans.

Saturday’s Petit Le Mans will be Dane Cameron’s final race in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac. Photo courtesy of IMSA

“It is a great event but the race is hard with the traffic and with the car count making it pretty tricky to make up time while also being smart. I’ve not got a Petit win, so that is a very big box that I’d like to check off this weekend!”

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New study surveys drivers’ opinions on crashes, concussions, more

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Auto racing safety has continued to improve through the decades, but the sport remains inherently dangerous, according to a new survey.

At the close of 2018, a new organization called Racing Safety United emerged with the intention of reducing drivers’ risk of being harmed.

RSU is made up of more than 30 members including former NASCAR Cup Series competitor Jerry Nadeau, two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Randy LaJoie, NHRA team owner Don Schumacher and motorsports journalist Dick Berggren.

One of RSU’s first initiatives was to determine what current drivers thought of racing safety. The organization developed a 14-question survey and promoted it on select motorsports websites and forums. 

Participants were given the opportunity to disclose their identity or remain anonymous, and those who provided contact information were entered to win a $500 prize (for anonymous participants, the prize funds would be donated to a motorsports charity). 

More than 140 individuals participated in the survey over the course of 12 months. Below are the results of the survey:

Driver status

The vast majority of survey participants (60%) were amateur racers, while 26% of the participants were classified as Semi-Pro/Professional racers. The remaining 14% consisted of other individuals involved in the sport such as team owners and crew chiefs. 

When asked how frequently they race, 58% of driver respondents averaged 10 or more times per year on track, while 42% averaged 10 times or less.

The top five tracks respondents said they raced most often: Road Atlanta (21 votes), Watkins Glen (17 votes), Virginia International Raceway (16 votes), Mid-Ohio (16 votes), and Road America (13 votes).

Vehicular damage, injuries common

Over a third of respondents said they had been injured while racing, and almost two-thirds sasid they had suffered severe vehicle damage while racing

Driver error was cited as the top cause of vehicle damage (42 mentions), followed by concrete walls (26 mentions), mechanical failures (24 mentions), and other drivers (19 mentions). The study concluded those results indicated a need for better driver training/coaching, energy absorbing walls, and more technical inspections.

Almost a quarter of drivers said they had experienced racing-related concussions, and nearly half the respondents said one or multiple concussions would affect their decision to race in the future. 

Drivers primarily influenced by peers 

Roughly half the drivers said they would consider adopting new safety equipment if influenced by another driver (51 total mentions) and/or if recommended by a sanctioning body (47 total mentions). The study concluded those results indicated a need for drivers to become safety advocates and educate other drivers and for sanctioning bodies to mandate safety equipment. 

Drivers concerned with concrete walls

Approximately three-quarters of the drivers surveyed said they believed certain race tracks were more dangerous than others. Nearly half the drivers surveyed believe that concrete walls were the primary cause of damage to drivers and vehicles. 

Drivers willing to help

Just more than three-quarters of the drivers surveyed said that they would be willing to join a safety alliance to advocate for safer tracks. Two-thirds of drivers said that they also would be willing to contribute to a motorsports safety fund.

Click here for the full results of RSU’s survey

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