Sebring online race features real-world winners from IndyCar and IMSA

IMSA
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Several big names from the IndyCar and IMSA series have entered the “Sebring SuperSaturday” online event that will be streamed Saturday in a partnership with iRacing.

The 90-minute online race will happen 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Sebring International Raceway, which had been scheduled to host the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring this weekend (it’s been postponed to Nov. 11-14 because of the novel coronavirus outbreak).

The single-class race will feature drivers choosing cars from four GTLM options: BMW M8 GTE, Ferrari 488 GTE, Porsche 911 RSR and Ford GT. It will be streamed live on the iRacing eSports Network on YouTube and iRacing’s Twitch channel, with pre- and postrace from the Torque Show on Facebook Live.

Colton Herta, who has driven a BMW for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in the Rolex 24 the past two years, is among the active IndyCar drivers in the race. Also on the entry list are Santino Ferrucci, Dalton Kellett and Sage Karam.

Felipe Nasr, who was among the 2019 winners at the Twelve Hours of Sebring and had been scheduled to make his IndyCar debut last weekend at St. Petersburg, is on the list of prominent IMSA drivers entered in the race.

Mustang Sampling Racing drivers Joao Barbosa and Filipe Albuquerque also are entered in the online race.

“It’s great to keep in touch with the racing community through iRacing,” two-time prototype champion Barbosa, among the first to sign up, said in a release. “That’s as close as it will get for us in the next couple months. It will be fun, but our competitive spirit is always high. It’s great to keep us racing sharp and at the same time have fun and help to spend time at home.”

Here are the car choices for those drivers: Herta, BMW M8 GTE; Ferrucci, BMW M8 GTE; Kellett, TBD; Karam, Porsche 911 RSR; Nasr, BMW M8 GTE; Barbosa, Ferrari 488 GTE; Albuquerque, Porsche 911 RSR.

Some other IndyCar and sports car veterans in the event: Jesse Krohn, Jeff Segal, Gabby Chaves and Tristan Vautier.

There currently 39 drivers in the race. The official entry list will be released Friday with 15 to 20 more drivers to be added.

NBCSN, which has been broadcasting IMSA races since last season, will show a one-hour highlight show of the 2019 Twelve Hours of Sebring at 8 p.m. ET Saturday. It was the closest overall finish in the race’s 67-year history.

IMSA is among many series capitalizing on the layoff from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic by turning to iRacing.

NASCAR will begin holding all-star exhibitions with its drivers Sunday, and IndyCar and Formula One drivers are racing on worldwide online platforms, too.

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.