IMSA drivers hunker down together in Florida awaiting season restart

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They’re playing golf and video games, cycling hundreds of miles in the Florida heat and sampling each other’s cuisine.

It’s a good thing that IMSA drivers, whose full slate of sports car endurance racing ensures they already spend an ample amount of time together in close proximity at the track, seem to enjoy each other’s company.

Because several are making the most of being stuck with sharing living quarters while waiting for the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Series to restart its season. With a few dozen drivers who are from or based outside the United States, it made sense for many to be here well ahead of the series’ restart  (which was announced May 15 but has been tweaked a few times since) because of potential travel and visa complications from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that had sidelined the series.

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Corvette Racing drivers Oliver Gavin and Antonio Garcia arrived June 18 from Europe and have been sharing a place on the Gulf Coast in Clearwater, Florida, while preparing and training for Saturday’s race at Daytona International Speedway

Antonio Garcia of Corvette Racing (IMSA).

They are planning to keep the arrangement through the July 31-Aug. 2 race weekend at Road America (after Daytona, IMSA will head to Sebring International Raceway in two weeks).

“It’s another new experience,” Garcia, who has roomed in a house with Gavin before at the 12 Hours of Sebring, said before adding playfully, “So far it is going OK. We don’t hate each other yet.”

There are many ways to stay occupied for the drivers, who are working out daily to adapt to the summer heat (Gavin bikes; Garcia runs).

Though they aren’t under quarantine restrictions, they also have observed isolation (aside from exercise and trips to the store) during the pandemic. So it helps that Garcia also bought a PlayStation that has allowed them to race the virtual versions of the Corvette C7.R (the team switched to the mid-engine C8.R this season).

“Antoino has some pretty good skills with his cooking, which is good,” Gavin said. “I’m not so hot at that, so I’m doing some shopping, tidying up, doing the dishes. Just filling the days and trying to get acclimated.”

Similar scenes are playing out around the Sunshine State. The GTLM championship duo of Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor are sharing a place in nearby Dunedin, which is a longtime favorite vacation spot and “second home” for Vanthoor (Bamber jokes that he has enrolled in his Porsche teammate’s cycling academy).

It’s an even fuller house for Mazda drivers Tristan Nunez, Oliver Jarvis and Harry Tincknell, who also have been waiting out the layoff together while training for the race the past few weeks. Fourth Mazda driver Jonathan Bomarito has been working on pit stops for the DPi team at its facility in Charlotte, North Carolina, and eyeing his teammates’ setup with some envy.

“These guys have it so good, it’s crazy,” Bomarito said with a laugh on a recent Zoom conference call with reporters. “They live like rock stars over there. We’re all jealous. Everybody should be jealous.”

Mazda driver Harry Tincknell (IMSA).

Tincknell, a Brit who describes himself as “golf-obsessed,” admits it’s been nice having a couple of dozen courses nearby.

“I’m not making as many birdies as I’d like, unfortunately, but a few popped in every now and again,” Tincknell said. “But it’s been fun. We’ve been real lucky to be out on the farm in central Florida. It’s been really good for me. To be out here two to three weeks has been great. We’ve been going on runs every morning. We’ve been doing some circuits together.

“I was cooking for everyone last night and so far so good. No one seems to have come down with any illnesses. It’s not been a bad life considering what the weather can be like in the U.K. at the moment. … We’ve been making the most of it, but at the same time, we’re in a quite isolated area that we’re not having too much exposure to other people or anything like that. Just trying to stay as healthy as we can while still training and having fun.”

It still can be taxing for the international drivers who could end up being away from their families indefinitely.

Corvette Racing driver Oliver Gavin (IMSA).

While Gavin, a native of England, and Garcia, who hails from Spain, are committed to staying in the United States through at least the end of July, the uncertainty around travel restrictions could keep them from returning home beyond that.

“It is going to be a difficult period and something my wife and I spoke about, and also my kids,” Gavin said. “There are going to be lots of things that not a lot of us really want to do, but we have to in order to fulfill our jobs to get back racing and do the thing we love. We know there will be some sacrifices. My wife has been supportive 100 percent, and my kids have been as well.

“We’ve had a fantastic time together these last three months. It’s three months at home with my wife and my kids that I just have never had before. So that side of it has been a huge positive.”

The Corvette C8.R made its debut in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January and will be racing again Saturday at Daytona International Speedway (David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

Sergio Perez still has coronavirus; will miss second consecutive F1 race

F1 Sergio Perez out
Laurent Charniaux/Pool via Getty Images
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SILVERSTONE, England — Sergio Perez will be out for a second F1 race at Silverstone this week after again testing positive for the coronavirus.

The Mexican driver had hoped to return to Formula One after spending seven days in quarantine, but his Racing Point team said this morning he had tested positive.

“He is physically well and recovering,” the team said. “The whole team wishes Sergio and his family well and we look forward to his return.”

That means German veteran Nico Hulkenberg again fills in for Sunday’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix after having also replaced Sergio Perez when he was out for the F1 British Grand Prix at the same venue last week. Hulkenberg did not start that race because of an engine problem.

There are two consecutive weekends of racing at Silverstone as Formula One tries to pack in races following the pandemic-delayed start to the season.

Perez became the first Formula One driver to test positive for coronavirus, and it had been unclear whether he would be available to drive after the period of quarantine was extended to 10 days.

Racing Point also was in the news Friday after being hit with a 15-point penalty in the Formula One constructors’ championship and fined 400,000 euros ($470,000) Friday for using brake ducts based on those from last year’s Mercedes cars.

The stewards ruled that Mercedes was the “principal designer” of the parts, and that Racing Point made only minor changes to computer design data it received from Mercedes.

Rival team Renault filed protests about the legality of the brake ducts, which were added to the “listed parts” under F1 rules for 2020. That means teams must design their own. Racing Point argued it was merely using information about the Mercedes parts to inform its own design.

Racing Point uses customer engines from Mercedes and has admitted basing its 2020 car design on photographs of last year’s Mercedes car. The similarities led to the Racing Point being nicknamed the “pink Mercedes” when it was first seen in testing ahead of the season.

Racing Point can appeal the ruling. The points deduction drops the team from fifth to sixth in the standings, below Renault. The ruling doesn’t affect the points totals for Racing Point’s drivers.