Photo: Mazda

IMSA: Mazda updated livery released; JDC-Miller, CORE add drivers

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The news keeps coming in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for 2018, in its marquee Prototype class.

On Wednesday, a day after Mazda Team Joest revealed its new-look lineup, it revealed its new-look “evo” Mazda RT24-P in its “Soul Red Crystal” livery. All but Rene Rast of the six drivers were on site with the car at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Photos and the updated logo are below.

Photo: JDC-Miller Motorsports

The JDC-Miller Motorsports team has signed its first driver to its second Oreca 07 Gibson, with Swiss sports car and open-wheel veteran Simon Trummer confirmed in the team’s No. 84 entry. Trummer has tested for the team in Sebring, and comes off a four-year FIA World Endurance Championship stint with the Lotus, ByKolles and CEFC TRS Manor teams.

“With the team moving to a two-car program in 2018, we felt it was important to include someone like Simon to our program that knows the car and fits very well into our program on a personal side. When he tested with us at Sebring he was right up to speed for being at the track for the first time while also driving on a new tire. More importantly, he fit right into the entire group, it was like he had been with us all year,” said team principal John Church.

Trummer added, “I have always wanted to race in the US and IMSA at the moment is for sure very attractive with all the new cars and manufacturers joining the championship. JDC-Miller had an incredible season in their first year competing in Prototype and when they decided to expand to a two-car program for 2018 we started discussing the possibilities of doing something together.”

Of note here is JDC-Miller listing No. 84 for its second car, a number that was listed on the D3+Transformers Racing Ligier at Road Atlanta.

CORE autosport has stacked its lineup for its prototype return, its debut in the top-flight Prototype class, with team regulars Jon Bennett and Colin Braun joined by Romain Dumas and Loic Duval at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Dumas passes up a drive at the Dakar Rally for a drive at the Rolex, as he makes his return to the race for the first time since 2013 (GT class with TRG). Surprisingly, next year’s Rolex will be Dumas’ first start in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship since the GRAND-AM and ALMS series came back together prior to 2014.

“I’m really happy to go back to Daytona. For a long a time I’ve been looking to come back, but Dakar is always at the same time. This year, as soon as I get the opportunity with CORE, I decided not to do Dakar,” he said.

“Loïc and I were teammates at Audi in 2012 and as soon as I heard it was a possibility for him to be part of the team, I was very enthusiastic. We live very close to each other—eight miles away—so we have a good relationship. It was clear when I spoke with him that we are there to achieve the best result and we are old enough to understand that we are here for the team and that’s very important for Daytona.

“I drove this car [ORECA 07 Gibson], this year at Le Mans with Alpine and at Spa. I know it’s a very cool car. I think its pace will be pretty good. I know we have a lot of competition ahead of us. First, we have to do our own race, without looking at everyone else, then the race will come to us if we are doing a good job.”

Duval made his Rolex debut in an identical car last year with DragonSpeed and now links up with his longtime friend and colleague, Dumas.

“The main thing I know about CORE is they are the GT factory team for Porsche and to be honest that is about it. I spoke a little but with Romain and he explained to me about how professional the team is. It wasn’t a surprise though, because when you are a factory team for Porsche it means a lot already. I knew that the team was first class,” he said.

“I’ve been doing some testing back in Europe and I was racing in Bahrain in WEC in the ORECA. It’s definitely good training for me because I will not race any car from now to Daytona, so I’m quite sharp in the LMP2 ORECA, which for me also makes a lot of sense to be fully fit for Daytona.”

Oliver Askew: ‘I was starting to lose confidence’ after ‘hardest hit I’ve had’

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Oliver Askew knew something was medically wrong in the days after concussion-like symptoms began from “the hardest hit I’ve ever had” in the Indianapolis 500. He’d been evaluated and cleared to race after the Aug. 23 crash, but he just didn’t feel right.

The IndyCar rookie told The Associated Press on Thursday he has been experiencing dizziness, sleeping difficulties, irritability, headaches and confusion since he crashed in the Aug. 23 race. He continued to race in four more events as he tried to “play through it” until friends and family encouraged him to seek medical treatment.

He since has been diagnosed with a concussion and is working on a recovery plan with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s sports medicine concussion program, the same place NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. received care after concussions in 2012 and ’16. Askew will not compete in next weekend’s doubleheader on the road course at Indianapolis, and Arrow McLaren SP will put three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves in the No. 7 Chevrolet.

“This is all I’ve worked for,” the 23-year-old told AP. “I don’t come from money, and I’ve worked my way up and have finally gotten my shot in a good car. And then all of a sudden, the results just weren’t there in a car I knew should be performing. And I just didn’t feel like myself, you know?

“So initially I felt like I needed to stay in the car and continue to improve. And then I didn’t feel like I could do that with my condition and what was going on. I was starting to lose confidence in myself.”

Earnhardt praised Askew for going to Pittsburgh to see Dr. Micky Collins.

“Oliver is in the best hands when it comes to taking care of this problem and getting back on the racetrack. It was very smart of him to get in front of Micky so that he could understand the seriousness of the situation and begin the process of getting well,” Earnhardt said. “You can absolutely heal from this but not without taking the step of getting help. Often that’s the most difficult step.”

Athletes often hide injuries to continue competing, and even Earnhardt admittedly masked concussions during his driving career. Askew didn’t know what was wrong with him but was frightened to get out of the car.

He is a paid driver who brings no sponsorship money to the team (but did bring a $1 million scholarship for winning last year’s Indy Lights championship), and owner Sam Schmidt holds the option on his contract.

As he tried to race on, his performance suffered. Askew had finished third and sixth at Iowa — the previous two races before Indianapolis. After the crash, he was part of a multicar accident the next week at Gateway and has not finished higher than 14th in the four races since Indy.

A year after winning seven Indy Lights races, Askew has fallen from 12th to 18th in the standings and slipped considerably off the pace. He said he struggled in team debriefs, had difficulty giving feedback and has gone through a personality change that was noticeable to those close to Askew.

Spire Sports + Entertainment, which represents Askew and was among those who pushed the driver to see a doctor, noted Arrow McLaren SP did not reveal that Askew was suffering from a concussion in its Thursday announcement he would miss next week’s race.

“Oliver clearly demonstrated his talent until Lap 91 of the Indianapolis 500, and I hope this does not become another case study of why athletes do not tell their teams they are injured,” said agent Jeff Dickerson. “The reason they do that is because more often times than not they are replaced. In motorsports, there is always somebody to replace you, and whether it was Dale Jr. or Oliver Askew, there is always another driver available.

“I hope this is not a barrier to progress for other drivers — especially young drivers afraid of losing their job — to notify their teams they are hurt. I hope the team proves me wrong because the good news is, the kid has had a head injury for the past month and has still run 14th in IndyCar.”

After finally seeking medical treatment, Askew said he was relieved to learn there was something wrong. He said doctors told him the injury has a “100% recovery rate” and he believes he will be able to race in the IndyCar season finale next month at St. Petersburg. He’s been rehabilitating with exercises and tasks that strain the brain such as deliberately going to grocery stores and the airport.

“Honestly, you know, if I had not gone to see medical professionals I would probably stay in the car,” Askew said. “But now after hearing what’s wrong and that it could get worse, God forbid I have another hit, I know I did the right thing. I think I can be an example for young drivers now in stepping up and saying something is wrong, I need to have this checked out.”