IMSA

2018 IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship preview — GTD

Leave a comment

IMSA Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Heading into the Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta – the season finale for the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – this is the third in a four-part series in which the primary championship contenders in each of the three classes are compared.

Wednesday, we previewed the GTLM class. Thursday, we looked at the Prototype class. Today, we will look at the GTD class and Saturday we’ll have an all-encompassing look at next week’s overall event.

Here’s how the Lamborghini vs. Acura battle for the GT Daytona (GTD) title shapes up:

No. 48 Paul Miller Racing

Lamborghini Huracán GT3

Bryan Sellers/Madison Snow

Engine: 5.2-liter, normally aspirated V10 (mid-engine)

Points: 303 – 1st

2018 Victories: 2

2018 Podiums: 7

How The No. 48 Can Clinch the Title: The No. 48 will eliminate the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG from the championship by starting the race. It will win the title outright if it finishes on the podium, regardless of the No. 86 Acura’s performance. There are several other scenarios that also could bring the No. 48 the championship depending on the finishing position for the No. 86.

2018 Performance: The No. 48 team has led the standings since March, when it won its first race of the season in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts. It opened the year with five consecutive podium results and has been on the podium seven times in 10 races thus far – including a second win at Lime Rock Park in July.

Noteworthy: Paul Miller Racing has finished inside the top three in the GTD standings three times in the past four seasons, but this would the first championship for the team, as well as Sellers and Snow.

What They’re Saying:

BRYAN SELLERS – “The battle this season has been intense, the championship is coming down to the final race and it is a testament to how strong the season has been. We have had great results, great team performances, and we are hoping to finish it off the right way. The (No.) 86 team has done a fantastic job all season, and I expect nothing less than a stellar performance for 10 hours. With that said we need to deliver the same.”

MADISON SNOW – “We are currently leading the championship and have no plans on that status changing before the season is over. It is a close battle between us and the Acura. Our Lamborghini doesn’t have anywhere near the BoP of the Acura, but I believe that we will be able to keep the points lead at the end of the race.”

*************************


No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing

Acura NSX GT3

Katherine Legge

Engine: 3.5-liter, twin-turbo V6 (mid-engine)

Points: 297 – 2nd

2018 Victories: 2

2018 Podiums: 6

How The No. 86 Can Clinch the Title: Among several other possibilities, the No. 86 team would clinch the title with a victory at Motul Petit Le Mans AND a finish of fourth or lower by the No. 48. The No. 86 team holds the tiebreaker, as both it and the No. 48 have two victories, but the No. 86 has more second-place finishes (three to one).

2018 Performance: The No. 86 team is heating up at the right time, with a victory in the most-recent race, the America’s Tire 250 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, for full-season driver Legge and co-driver Alvaro Parente following a third-place run at Michelin GT Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway in August. The key to the team’s season could have been Rounds 3 through 5, as its victory at the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic in Detroit by Legge and Mario Farnbacher, was sandwiched by second place results in the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio and the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen. Those results were key drivers in the team’s decision to expand from an originally planned Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup program to the full WeatherTech Championship season.

Noteworthy: The championship would be a first for both Legge and the Meyer Shank Racing organization. Legge would continue the streak of female GTD champions following Christina Nielsen’s back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017.

What She’s Saying:

KATHERINE LEGGE – “I think that preparation and being smart is the key to Petit. It’s a long race and there are so many factors that are out of your control, all you can do is try to put yourself in the best possible position for the end, without taking risks. Then in the last hour you go for it.”

*************************

Others in mathematical contention for the GTD title:

* No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 (Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen).

Three-time F1 champion Niki Lauda dies at 70

AP Photo/Luca Bruno, File
1 Comment

BERLIN (AP) Three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda, who won two of his titles after a horrific crash that left him with serious burns and went on to become a prominent figure in the aviation industry, has died. He was 70.

The Austria Press Agency reported that Lauda’s family said in a statement he “passed away peacefully” on Monday. Walter Klepetko, a doctor who performed a lung transplant on Lauda last year, said Tuesday: “Niki Lauda has died. I have to confirm that.”

Lauda won the F1 drivers’ championship in 1975 and 1977 with Ferrari and again in 1984 with McLaren.

In 1976, he was badly burned when he crashed during the German Grand Prix but made an astonishingly fast return to racing just six weeks later.

Lauda remained closely involved with the Formula One circuit after retiring as a driver in 1985, and in recent years served as the non-executive chairman of the Mercedes team.

Born on Feb. 22, 1949 into a wealthy Vienna industrial family, Nikolaus Andreas Lauda was expected to follow his father’s footsteps into the paper-manufacturing industry, but instead concentrated his business talents and determination on his dreams of becoming a racing driver.

Lauda financed his early career with the help of a string of loans, working his way through the ranks of Formula 3 and Formula 2. He made his Formula 1 debut for the March team at the 1971 Austrian Grand Prix and picked up his first points in 1973 with a fifth-place finish for BRM in Belgium.

Lauda joined Ferrari in 1974, winning a Grand Prix for the first time that year in Spain and his first drivers’ title with five victories the following season.

Facing tough competition from McLaren’s James Hunt, he appeared on course to defend his title in 1976 when he crashed at the Nuerburgring during the German Grand Prix. Several drivers stopped to help pull him from the burning car, but the accident would scar him for life. The baseball cap Lauda almost always wore in public became a personal trademark.

“The main damage, I think to myself, was lung damage from inhaling all the flames and fumes while I was sitting in the car for about 50 seconds,” he recalled nearly a decade later. “It was something like 800 degrees.”

Lauda fell into a coma for a time. He said that “for three or four days it was touch and go.”

“Then my lungs recovered and I got my skin grafts done, then basically there was nothing left,” he added. “I was really lucky in a way that I didn’t do any (other) damage to myself. So the real question was then will I be able to drive again, because certainly it was not easy to come back after a race like that.”

Lauda made his comeback just six weeks after the crash, finishing fourth at Monza after overcoming his initial fears.

He recalled “shaking with fear” as he changed into second gear on the first day of practice and thinking, “I can’t drive.”

The next day, Lauda said he “started very slowly trying to get all the feelings back, especially the confidence that I’m capable of driving these cars again.” The result, he said, boosted his confidence and after four or five races “I had basically overcome the problem of having an accident and everything went back to normal.”

He won his second championship in 1977 before switching to Brabham and then retiring in 1979 to concentrate on setting up his airline, Lauda Air, declaring that he “didn’t want to drive around in circles anymore.”

Lauda came out of retirement in 1982 after a big-money offer from McLaren, reportedly about $3 million a year.

He finished fifth his first year back and 10th in 1983, but came back to win five races and edge out teammate Alain Prost for his third title in 1984. He retired for good the following year, saying he needed more time to devote to his airline business.

Initially a charter airline, Lauda Air expanded in the 1980s to offer flights to Asia and Australia. In May 1991, a Lauda Air Boeing 767 crashed in Thailand after one of its engine thrust reversers accidentally deployed during a climb, killing all 213 passengers and 10 crew.

Lauda occasionally took the controls of the airline’s jets himself over the years. In 1997, longtime rival Austrian Airlines took a minority stake and in 2000, with the company making losses, he resigned as board chairman after an external audit criticized a lack of internal financial control over business conducted in foreign currency. Austrian Airlines later took full control.

Lauda founded a new airline, Niki, in 2003. Germany’s Air Berlin took a minority stake and later full control of that airline, which Lauda bought back in early 2018 after it fell victim to its parent’s financial woes.

He partnered with budget carrier Ryanair on Niki’s successor, LaudaMotion.

On the Formula One circuit, Lauda later formed a close bond with Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who joined the team in 2013. He often backed Hamilton in public and provided advice and counsel to the British driver.

Lauda also intervened as a Mercedes mediator when Hamilton and his former Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg feuded, argued and traded barbs as they fought for the title between 2014-16

Lauda twice underwent kidney transplants, receiving an organ donated by his brother in 1997 and, when that stopped functioning well, a kidney donated by his girlfriend in 2005.

In August 2018, he underwent a lung transplant that the Vienna General Hospital said was made necessary by a “serious lung illness.” It didn’t give details.

Lauda is survived by his second wife, Birgit, and their twin children Max and Mia. He had two adult sons, Lukas and Mathias, from his first marriage.