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DragonSpeed confirms LMP1 plans

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Recently crowned European Le Mans Series LMP2 champions 10Star DragonSpeed confirmed earlier on Tuesday their intentions to enter the LMP1 class of the FIA World Endurance Championship. The team will debut in 2018 as the part of newly dubbed “super season,” stretching from April 2018 to June 2019 and featuring a return to the Mobil 12 Hours of Sebring and two runnings of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“The whole team is thrilled and up for the challenge. Having won sports car titles in GT3 and LMP2, the natural progression for our highly talented and motivated crew is to move up to LMP1,” said team principal Elton Julian. “We’re carefully studying potential partners who can help us put together a program which will deliver the progress and success we want for DragonSpeed. Everyone is on the same page in terms of the package and approach we need, and we can’t wait to get started.”

The LMP1 class has been shrouded in unknowns since Porsche revealed that their LMP1 program will end after this season, creating the possibility of a factory effort from Toyota Gazoo Racing competing against a slew of privateer teams.

Despite the uncertainty, Julian feels it serves as a great opportunity for privateer teams like his. “I look back to 2005, when I first drove at Le Mans. You had a single works team with Audi plus a great supporting cast of privateers running six different chassis and four different engines. In fact, the pole went to one of the privateers,” he explained. “If Toyota continues – and we all hope they will – I think over the next couple of years we can bring back that variety and tradition of privateers being genuinely competitive in the top class.”

Drivers Henrik Hedman and Ben Hanley shared Julian’s enthusiasm about facing the challenge of LMP1 competition.

“The chance to progress to the premier level of endurance racing with such a successful and close-knit group made this an easy decision,” said Hedman. “Step by step, we’ve grown together and achieved a lot. I applaud the ACO and FIA for the new schedule and the opportunity it has created. I’m committed to preparing myself and applying everything I’ve learned over the past few seasons to racing the new generation of LMP1 cars with Elton and the team.”

Added Hanley, “I’m really happy to continue with DragonSpeed on its journey. Moving up to the WEC and LMP1 is a great chance for us to fight for overall podium results, especially at Le Mans given the issues the hybrids have had there the last few years. Henrik never stops improving and his commitment is an inspiration to the entire team. Having enjoyed one-off drives with a few WEC LMP2 teams this season, I can say for certain that DragonSpeed are up to the job.”

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NHRA: Dodge/Mopar to unveil new Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car today in Denver

Photos/video courtesy Dodge/Mopar
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If you’re a fan of NHRA Funny Car racing and Dodge/Mopar, you may notice something different at this weekend’s Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in suburban Denver, Colorado.

Two-time (2011 and 2014) NHRA Funny Car champ Matt Hagan – who has won the last two NHRA national events in the last four weeks – will be piloting a newly-designed 2019 Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, a 10,000-horsepower Funny Car that makes its debut today at Dodge/Mopar’s premier NHRA national event.

The new Charger SRT Hellcat succeeds the former Mopar Dodge Charger R/T, which had been in use since 2015.

“We improved on the body design,” Hagan said of the new Charger Hellcat. “It was already a great design, a great body. But now, we’re going to have a little more downforce, a little more traction on these racetracks and it will be a huge performance advantage.”

The new Hellcat includes a number of innovations, including a new front splitter to increase downforce. Just like its predecessor, the R/T, the Hellcat will go head-to-head with Chevrolet’s Camaro in the NHRA Funny Car ranks.

“We will be able to press harder with more downforce on the nose, which translates into huge amounts of downforce on the run,” Hagan said.

According to a media release, the new Hellcat features major design changes in three key areas: the front end, bodysides and burst panel placement:

* “At the front, the shape of the nose has been tweaked and a new splitter (photo), built of carbon fiber and Kevlar like the rest of the Funny Car body, has been added. The splitter substantially mimics the look and shape of the production vehicle’s splitter while generating greater downforce to help plant the Funny Car to the track.

* “Bodyside scallops have been redesigned to more closely identify with the production Hellcat while also enhancing on-track function and performance. The deeper character lines provide greater visual ties to the street version of the Hellcat, while also helping to mitigate the “body burn” common on all Funny Cars due to the close positioning of the exhaust headers.

* “The location of the burst panel on the hood has also been reworked. The panel is now centered over the top of the engine to more efficiently release energy and pressure in the event of engine issues, a common occurrence in race cars that are pushed to the razor’s edge of performance.”

Since the R/T was first introduced into the Don Schumacher Racing corps, it has gone on to 50 wins, 42 runner-up finishes and 40 No. 1 qualifiers in NHRA national events and one NHRA Funny Car World Championship (Ron Capps, 2016).

The new Charger SRT Hellcat, which can exceed 330-plus mph and covers 1,000 feet in under four seconds, is the drag strip version of the supercharged, 707-horsepower production Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, the quickest, fastest and most powerful sedan in the world.

While Hagan will drive the first Hellcat, his other three Dodge-powered DSR teammates – Capps, Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr. – will soon take delivery of their own versions of the car over the remaining 11 races of the 2018 season.

One day after winning two weeks ago at Norwalk, Ohio, Hagan and crew chief Dickie Venables put the new Hellcat through its paces with several test runs. The results were so strong that it was decided to debut the car at Denver and run all qualifying and elimination rounds with it.

“We made four good, solid runs in testing at Norwalk,” said Hagan. “We put the body through a lot of different things and were really, really pleased with it.

“I really think it’s going to translate over to performance on the race track, and hopefully more win lights in the future.”

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