Monday, January 23, 2017

Musings From the Weekend: Going Green and Only Green

Juan Pablo Montoya is the best driver in the world. Sebastian Vettel would like to make an argument that he is at least second best. Pascal Wehrlein flipped a three-wheeler. Kurt Busch jumped a start and got away with it. Scott Speed rear-ended Hélio Castroneves. Jenson Button looks like he loves retirement. And that is just what happened in Miami at the Race of Champions. In other areas of motorsport, a Frenchman picked up where he left off despite driving for a privateer team, there was a surprise in Sepang, Scott Dixon went to the beach and a German broke an arm. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Going Green and Only Green
The winter months lead to a lot of thinking about racing because there frankly isn't much racing to watch. While waiting for the ground to thaw and cars to be shipped to the sands of Dubai and Daytona, we sit and wait and listen because podcasts that talk about racing exist.

Dinner with Racers has found a hole in the fabric of motorsports and has patched it with over two-dozen episodes interviewing an array of people from the motorsports industry in the United States. From the legends of Hurley Haywood to the anonymous NASCARCASM, Dinner with Racers brings together many different stories and ideas about what should be done in motorsports because everyone has the answer.

Some answers make sense. Others are scary. Another batch border on ridiculous but most deserve some time to deconstruct and see how they could work.

IndyCar technical manager Kevin Blanch was one of the guests on the latest season of Dinner with Racers. While IndyCar has shifted from the identity of the dirt of USAC to arguably a confusing and unclear identity of wanting to be ovals because the only race worth a damn in the series is an oval but realistically being a road course series that attracts young American and international kart drivers and runs a few oval races on the side. Blanch comes from a dirt track background and he sees the reality of motorsports: Fewer people are drawn to the race track.

In the episode, Blanch talks about simplifying a race weekend, making it a one-day show and providing constant on-track action for fans, similar to local short track events he attends. He suggestion he makes is having only green flag laps count. He said a race like the Indianapolis 500 could be left alone but for the rest of the schedule that is irrelevant to most, why not count only green flag laps. It is an interesting suggestion and one that bucks from what we are taught to believe. Motorsports stand out because a race never stops; it only slows down. While cautions are seen as stoppages in a race, they aren't. Cautions slow the racing and prevent people from deliberately overtaking but positions change hands through pit stops and teams try to conserve more fuel than the next to go a lap longer and hopefully open a gap. The only stoppages are red flags.

Maybe IndyCar should adopt the green flags laps only approach to racing but there are other things to consider and in the year 2017 the most important thing is television time. With the 2017 IndyCar TV schedule being released last week, we know most races get a 3-hour window with a few exceptions. The 500-mile races get four-hour windows while the IMS road course race and the Belle Isle races get two and a half hours and coincidentally those are ABC races.

One issue with green flag laps only is getting those races to fit into the TV window. They fit now because even if a caution period lasts 10-15 minutes laps are still clicking down. Now imagine cars circling for 10-15 minutes and doing nothing but wasting fuel and tires? Now imagine four caution periods at 12 minutes in length, 48 minutes total. Now add the laps that would have been completed under those caution periods to the elapsed time of the race.

Let's take Iowa as an example. Iowa took an hour and 52 minutes to complete in 2016. Of 300 laps, 42 were under caution, not many and considering how fast laps are at Iowa, 42 wouldn't take that long but 42 is the second-fewest caution laps at Iowa. The average amount of caution laps at Iowa is 56.9 laps with a median of 60.5 laps. Since the race increased to 300 laps in 2014, the average length in time is an hour and 58 minutes. Looking back to when Iowa ran heat races to set the grid in 2012 and 2013, the 2013 heat races were 50 laps in length and all took about 15 minutes.

That appears doable. An extra 15 minutes wouldn't be the end of the world. However, Texas this year, as crazy and confusing as it was, took just under two and a half hours of elapsed time with 53 caution laps. Let's say the average lap at Texas took 25 seconds to complete, it would take about 22 minutes to complete those 53 laps but that would leave little wiggle room at the end of the TV window for what fans would deem as sufficient post-race coverage.

What about road and street circuits? The road courses had low caution numbers in 2016. Barber had one caution lap, Sonoma had three, Road America had four, Watkins Glen had nine and the IMS road course and Mid-Ohio had ten. Running an extra lap or three or four would be doable. It would only be an extra 90 seconds to six minutes. Even nine or ten laps would only take about fifteen minutes. The natural-terrain road course races ranged from an hour and 39 (Road America) to two hours on the nose (Sonoma). Once again, that appears doable.

Street courses are similar. While St. Petersburg and Toronto both led the way with 16 laps. Long Beach was caution-free and was the fastest Grand Prix of Long Beach in event history. The Belle Isle races had eight and nine cautions respectively. The street course races ranged from 93 minutes (Long Beach) and two hours and 13 minutes (St. Petersburg) with the other three street course races falling between an hour and 40 minutes and an hour and 42 minutes. While St. Petersburg has always been a rather long race in elapsed time, the other races could run an extra 15-20 minutes.

It appears green flag laps only could be done not just at ovals but even road and street courses and the races could still fit within current TV windows but there are other issues. First would be increased risk. If only green flag laps count and laps are still run under caution that means more total laps run which means more chance of a mechanical failure or increased chance of contact with another car. Another issue is that caution periods will become absolutely pointless. What is the point of turning laps if the laps don't count? If that was the case, why not just red flag the race every time? However, that wouldn't be any better as then you could have 10-15 minutes of no action, something that most people whether in the stands or watching on TV would want.

Blanch's idea could work for IndyCar but how much would it change? Would it increase the television ratings by 125%? Probably not. Would it increase attendance by 125%? Probably not but I think it would help attendance more than television ratings. My worry would be a race would end up becoming like a basketball game where it takes 45 minutes to complete the final ten laps of action. NASCAR is already criticized for its green-white-checkered rule and I can't imagine IndyCar being praised by only counting green flag laps if races ended with three, four or five attempts just to complete the final lap.

While interesting, I am not sure counting only green flag laps would increase IndyCar's popularity by much and the series should keep the status quo.

Champions From the Weekend
By winning the 4 Hours of Sepang, the #25 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier-Nissan won the Asian Le Mans Series LMP2 championship. Andrea Pizzitola, Andrea Roda and Aiden Read were the winning drivers in the race but Roda defeated Pizzitola by two points in the drivers' championship.

With its victory in LMP3, the #26 Tockwith Motorsport Ligier of Nigel Moore and Phil Hanson took the LMP3 drivers' and teams' championship.

By finishing fifth, the #5 DH Racing Ferrari won the GT teams' championship with Michele Rugolo taking the GT drivers' championship. The #31 Team Audi Korea of Alex Yoong, Marchy Lee and You Kyong-Ook won the race at Sepang.

All three LMP3 champions receive automatic invitations to the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about what happened from Miami and Sepang but did you know...

Sébastien Ogier won Rallye Monte-Carlo on his debut with M-Sport Ford.

Ryan Dungey won the second Supercross race from Anaheim and gives him the championship lead over Ken Roczen. Roczen fell during the race and broke his left arm.

Richard Verschoor won the bookends of the Toyota Racing Series races from Teretonga Park with Pedro Piquet winning race two. Thomas Randle crossed the line first in race one but received a ten-second penalty for jumping the start and elevating Verschoor to first.

Coming Up This Weekend
The 24 Hours of Daytona.
Supercross heads east to Glendale, Arizona (even though they say it is Phoenix).
Toyota Racing Series heads north to Hampton Downs.

Friday, January 20, 2017

2017 Race of Champions Preview

The 28th Race of Champions takes place this weekend and for the first time the event comes the United States as Marlins Park in Miami, Florida hosts the two-day competition.

This year's race will see the individual, Champion of Champions competition take place on Saturday with the Nations' Cup to be contested on Sunday followed by a new Ryder Cup-style, America vs. the World event to close the competition on Sunday.

Seventeen drivers will compete in the Champion of Champions competition on Saturday across four groups.

Defending Champion of Champions champion Sebastian Vettel will defend his title and looks to join Stig Blomqvist, Didier Auriol and Mattias Ekström as repeat winners of the competition. Vettel headlines Group A. Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Hélio Castorneves makes his debut and will also be in Group A. Travis Pastrana returns to Race of Champions for the first time since 2011 and this will be Pastrana's eighth appearance in ROC. In Pastrana's three previous ROC appearances since the group stage format was introduced, he has won one of nine races. The final spot in Group A will be determined by a playoff between 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi and defending two-time Global Rallycross champion Scott Speed, both making their ROC debuts. Speed was going to compete in 2006 competition after Jimmie Johnson withdrew due to injury but Speed himself had to withdraw due to illness.

Group B is led by 2003 World Rally Champion and two-time World Rallycross champion Petter Solberg. This will be Solberg's fourth ROC appearance. He best result in the Champion of Champions competition is the quarterfinals. Newly hired Sauber F1 driver Pascal Wehrlein returns for his third consecutive ROC appearance. He finished runner-up on debut in 2014 to David Coulthard in Barbados. Felipe Massa returns to ROC for the fourth time. Massa is a two-time quarterfinalist. IndyCar champion, two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and seven-time Formula One grand prix winner Juan Pablo Montoya makes his ROC debut in Group B.

Jenson Button is the senior member of Group C as the 2009 World Drivers' Champion makes his sixth ROC appearance. Button's best result in the Champion of Champions competition was a semifinal appearance in 2009. Tony Kanaan returns to ROC for the first time since 2004. He was eliminated in the first round of Champion of Champions that year by eventual runner-up Sébastien Loeb. Debutants Kyle Busch and James Hinchcliffe round out Group C.

Group D will have four-time Champion of Champions runner-up Tom Kristensen make his 15th consecutive ROC appearance and he ties Stig Blomqvist for most ROC appearances. Kristensen will try to finally breakthrough to the top of bracket after finishing runner-up last year to Vettel. David Coulthard will make his tenth ROC appearance and try to reclaim the Champion of Champions title for the second time in the last three competitions. Ryan Hunter-Reay makes his fourth ROC appearance. The IndyCar champion and Indianapolis 500 failed to get out of the group round in 2012, was a quarterfinalist in 2014 and was eliminated in round one last year. Kurt Busch makes his second ROC appearance. He was a quarterfinalist in 2014.

The top two from each group will advance to the knockout competition. The quarterfinals and semifinals will be single-elimination with the final featuring a best-of-three format.

Sunday's Nations' Cup will see ten pairings of two drivers split between three groups.

Group A will feature all North American pairings. Hunter-Reay and Rossi will pair to form Team USA IndyCar with the Busch brothers forming Team USA NASCAR and Pastrana and Speed forming Team USA Rally X. Hinchcliffe leads Team ROC Factor Canada with former Indy Lights driver and Nissan Micra Cup driver Stefan Rzadzinski making his debut. Rzadzinki's spot in the competition was decided by a fan vote.

Group B features all European teams as Vettel and Wehrlein represent Germany, Button and Coulthard represent Great Britain and Kristensen and Solberg form Team Nordic. Last year, England 1 featuring BTCC driver Jason Plato and Ford factory driver Andy Priaulx upset the German pairing of Vettel and Nico Hülkenberg to win Nations' Cup. Vettel had won six consecutive Nations' Cup representing Germany from 2007-2012. No German team contested the next competition in 2014, where Kristensen and Solberg won the Nations' Cup as Team Nordic by defeating the British pairing of Coulthard and Susie Wolff.

Group C is an all-South America affair. Kanaan and Massa represent Brazil while Montoya will be joined by 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year and 2014 Indy Lights champion Gabby Chaves. The final team in Group C will be Team ROC Factor Latin American with Hélio Castroneves pairing with Argentine Gabriel Glusman. Like Rzadzinski, Glusman's spot in the competition was decided by a fan vote.

For the Nations' Cup the top two in Group A will advance and meet in the first semifinal while only the group winners from Group B and Group C will advance and meet each other in the final. The semifinals and final will feature a best-of-three format with the winners of race one and two meeting in the third race.

The concluding event on Sunday will be the America vs. The World competition. The six American drivers will take on the top drivers from the rest of the world in a three-round, two-race competition. Round one will feature six races each worth one point for the winner. Round two will feature three races worth two points for the winner. Round three will feature one race worth three points for the winner. The first team to amass at least eight points will be winner of the America vs The World competition.

The track for this year's Race of Champions will feature two loops and a total length of 0.3809 miles (613 meters). Drivers will start side-by-side on the main straightaway and head in the same direction. One driver will make a left-hand turn and complete loop A while the other driver will make a right-hand turn and complete loop B. When drivers return to the main straightaway the driver will cross over and complete the other loop. The first driver to complete each loop will win the race.

Saturday's Champion of Champions competition will begin at 3:00 p.m. ET with Sunday's Nations' Cup scheduled for a noon ET start.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Auditing IndyCar Seats: January 2017

We are just under two months until the IndyCar season opener at St. Petersburg and testing has already resumed for the new season. Despite the large amount of time still remaining until the first race of the season, the IndyCar grid is pretty much a complete puzzle, although there was a minor  event on the Richter Scale Monday.

Chip Ganassi Racing returns to Honda and retains Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball and Max Chilton from 2017.

Andretti Autosport marks another four-car team for Honda with Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi and Marco Andretti all returning with Takuma Sato moving to his fourth IndyCar team in what will be his eighth season in the series.

Dale Coyne Racing of all teams had its driver line-up set prior to Thanksgiving with Sébastien Bourdais returning to the fold to be accompanied by 2016 Indy Lights champion Ed Jones.

Graham Rahal returns with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and while a second full-time might happen, the team appears to have an extra Indianapolis 500 entry already lined up but more on that in a moment.

All signs pointed to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports retaining James Hinchcliffe and Mikhail Aleshin for a second consecutive season but that now appears to be in doubt as Aleshin has hit an issue with sponsorship. We are in the 10th hour of the offseason, plenty of time for Aleshin to salvage the deal or SPM to find another driver for the #7 Honda. SPM was reportedly looking at the possibility of a third car earlier in the offseason. I wouldn't rule out the #7 Honda being on the grid even if Aleshin is not the driver.

Should SPM run two cars, it would be 13 Honda entries on the 2017 IndyCar grid. What about Chevrolet?

Simon Pagenaud leads the way for Team Penske after winning the Astor Cup in September at Sonoma. Will Power and Hélio Castroneves made it a clean sweep of the top three for Team Penske and both drivers return for 2017. The lone change is Josef Newgarden replacing Juan Pablo Montoya as a full-time driver with Montoya at least running the Indianapolis 500.

Ed Carpenter Racing has recruited J.R. Hildebrand to replace the exiting Newgarden. Ed Carpenter will run the six oval races in the #20 Chevrolet with Spencer Pigot returning as the road/street course driver in that car.

A.J. Foyt Racing spent the first five seasons of the DW12-era with Honda but with Ganassi moving to Honda, A.J. Foyt Racing will be moving to Chevrolet and the team confirmed the switch yesterday. The American manufacture will take on eight full-time rides. Along with a new manufacture, Foyt has two new drivers with Carlos Muñoz moving from Andretti and Conor Daly moving from Coyne.

The one M.I.A from 2016 is KV Racing. All has gone quiet from the 2012 Indianapolis 500 winning team. Over autumn, the team reportedly was moving its operation to Florida and was working to form a partnership with the defending Indy Lights teams' champions Carlin, which bases its U.S. operation out of Florida. There is still some time for KV to restart its program but the 11th hour is approaching. News has come out today that former Formula One driver Pastor Maldonado is talking to KV about running at least the road/street courses with the team and leaving the six oval races open for another driver. Should the team make it to the grid, we would be looking at 22 full-time teams with Honda holding the edge on entries with 13-9 but right now it appears it will more likely be 13 Hondas and 8 Chevrolets.

With us knowing that 21 or 22 cars will be full-time, let's get into Indianapolis 500 entries because what else do we have to do besides pull out our eyelashes over trying to figure out how 33 cars will enter the race come May?

We know about Montoya entering in a fifth Penske entry. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing would like to enter Oriol Servià in a second full-time entry but even if that doesn't occur, the team appears highly likely to bring the Catalan driver back for the month of May and Servià could make his 200th IndyCar start in the 101st Indianapolis 500. He and Montoya bring the entry list up to at least 23 entries.

Just focusing on the Honda teams for a moment, Andretti frequently enters an extra car for the month of May. Coyne has entered Pippa Mann at Indianapolis the last four years and partnered with Jonathan Byrd's Racing to run Bryan Clauson last year. Like Coyne, SPM has entered an additional entry for the Indianapolis 500 the last four seasons. Ganassi did not run an extra car last year at Indianapolis as the team focused on the Ford GT program but the team does have the resources if it wished to run an extra car.

Let's say Ganassi does not enter an extra car but Andretti, Coyne and SPM all do, the entry list would be up to 26 entries.

ECR has entered three cars each of the last two years at Indianapolis and with Carpenter lined up to be the oval driver in the #20 Chevrolet, it would make sense for the team to run an extra for Spencer Pigot, who finished 25th last year driving for RLLR after running out of fuel on one stint. Counting on ECR to run a third car, that brings the entry list up to 27 entries.

This is where it gets a bit hairy. As it currently stands, the Indianapolis 500 entry list would feature 17 Hondas and 10 Chevrolets. Since IndyCar went back to two engine manufactures in 2013, only once has a manufacture entered 18 cars or more for the Indianapolis 500 and that was Honda entering 18 in 2014.

A.J. Foyt Racing has been known for running extra entries even when the team has said it won't be running additional entries and with all likelihood that team is Chevrolet, a third Foyt entries seems inevitable and that would be a 11 Chevrolets and 28 entries.

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and Lazier Burns Racing have been the two consistent Indianapolis-only teams the last few seasons and both have been Chevrolet entries every year. D&R likely will be there. Lazier's team is another story but he has been able to make the call every year. Both returning would bring the entry list up to 30 entries with three to go and Chevrolet up to 13 entries.

If KV can't get to the grid, the hope would be the team could at least be pumped up to field an Indianapolis 500 entry. The team field two cars last year, the second being a partnership with Pirtek Team Murray and Matthew Brabham. Two one-offs from KV are unlikely but one car, whether it be by itself of in a partnership with Carlin or another team can only benefit IndyCar and it would likely be a Chevrolet. Hopefully that would be 31 entries.

While Honda is already at 17 entries, perhaps an 18th isn't out of the realm of possibility. Michael Shank Racing has been trying and trying to attempt the Indianapolis 500 the last five years only. He has the Acura NSX program. He got to run Le Mans last year and check that off his wish list. He can't be anymore in bed with Honda and with the investment Honda has spent on IndyCar this year with bringing back Ganassi and bringing Bourdais to Coyne I think Honda makes sure Shank has a car entered this year. That would be 32 entries.

Where does the 33rd entry come from? Does Honda keep spending and try to get a 19th car entered and increase its power in numbers over Chevrolet? Does Dreyer & Reinbold Racing field a second one-off? Could ECR run another entry? Could an Indy Lights team, whether it is Juncos or Belardi, run a one-off? Could some team come out of nowhere and field a one-off?

We always end up with 33 cars but it just seems to be getting more and more difficult and it shouldn't be and in fact with the amount of interest there is from drivers in running the Indianapolis 500 there should be at least 36-38 entries each May and actual bumping. Bumping is a dramatic spectacle that provides the bittersweet sight of success coming at the expense of others but that is for another post and I am sure as we move closer to St. Petersburg the picture will become clearer for the month of May.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Musings From the Weekend: Don't Be the Super Bowl

Happy Birthday to A.J. Foyt, who turns 82 years old today. A hometown favorite won in his backyard. A Porsche driver is off to a historic start. A Brit made history. A Frenchman added another chapter to his illustrious career. A Kiwi was penalized as was a Brazilian and an Australian benefitted. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Don't Be the Super Bowl
Formula One is having a minor crisis. Formula One is too brash to have major crises but it is having a minor one. Tracks are no longer dazzled by the glittering spectacle of the largest circus in the motorsports' world. Even the gaudiest stages are having second thoughts. Singapore, the race that has been held up as the example of Formula One's new money versus the old money example of Monaco, could be on the verge of divorcing itself from the only series in the world that could close the streets of the Asia-Pacific metropolis and line the streets with ribbons of lighting.

Along with Singapore, its neighbor Malaysia is starting to no longer fancy Formula One and the dwindling crowd size supports that. Brazil is on the fence. Canada was on the fence. The United States is always on the fence. Let's not forget Germany's wishy-washy relationship with Formula One and what seems to be a quadrennial squabble with Italy.

However, the fluidity of the schedule doesn't concern Formula One or Bernie Ecclestone. One reason is probably because the schedule could stand to lose three or four races and the series would be fine. This upcoming 20-round season is one fewer than 2016 and there is still wiggle room for the series. Another reason is Ecclestone can probably find another two or three countries to fill the voids if the backbone of the series crumbles and needs replacements. I am sure oil-rich Qatar or Rio Haryanto's sugar daddy Indonesia could step up and fund a race and France is returning for 2018. However, what happens if seven or eight or nine races want to rinse their hands of Formula One after years of spending and crowds that don't replenish the coffers?

McLaren executive director Zak Brown believes the answer is turning each race into a Super Bowl with lots of fan engagement. Brown states that the Super Bowl takes over a city in the week leading up to the game and each grand prix should follow that mold of a week long celebration before the curtain raises on race day.

While I applaud Brown's idea, there is a problem with being the Super Bowl. First, all the fan engagement in the world the Monday-Thursday before a race will not make it more affordable for fans to show up at the race track Friday-Sunday. It takes a small fortune to attend a Formula One race and the ticket structure forces fans to buy 3-day tickets, which means only showing up for race day leaves you eating 2/3s of the ticket cost unless you get a hotel, another expenditure that won't be cheap.

The Super Bowl is a once-a-year event. People save for it. People mortgage their homes to go to it, especially if their team is going to the big game because the opportunity may never come again in their lifetime. Not to mention, the Super Bowl is the cash grabs of all cash grabs. How many of those events in the days leading up to the Super Bowl are free? Next to none. Fans pay to go to media day. Media day! Well, now media night but an event that is just players sitting around at podiums and being hawked by journalists and wannabe journalists just trying to be noticed and get fifteen minutes of fame by stealing the spotlight by asking ridiculous questions and wearing wedding dresses.

A grand prix is a once-a-year event but a grand prix relates differently to the fan base than the Super Bowl. A grand prix returns the next year and the next year and the year after that. It's not a once-in-a-lifetime event. It's not worth mortgaging the home over nor should the festivities leading up be another way to siphon every last dollar out of a fans pocket.

Brown's sentiment is in the right place but slightly misguided. Formula One doesn't need 21 Super Bowls. It needs races that the average person can afford to attend even if that means lowering the sanctioning fee so tracks can set prices at a more reasonable rate. Fan engagement on race weekends can be improved as well. There should be more face-to-face interaction between drivers and fans. There should be autograph sessions, even if sessions are held the Thursday before the race weekend but it needs to be done at a reasonable price. Just because drivers, chief mechanics and team executives are millionaires doesn't mean the fans have the same type of change to throw around.

The Super Bowl is the antithesis of what Formula One should want a grand prix to be. It is one thing to want to be compared to another haughty event but 21 Super Bowls isn't the solution for Formula One. The solution is be more like IMSA, WEC or IndyCar and interacting with the fans at a fair price.

Winners From the Weekend
The #911 Herbert Motorsports Porsche of Brendon Hartley, Robert Renauer, Albert Renauer, Daniel Allemann and Rolf Bohn won the Dubai 24 Hour. The #1 Hofor-Racing Mercedes of Michael Kroll, Chantal Kroll, Roland Eggimann, Kenneth Heyer and Christaan Frankenhout won in A6-Am.

Other class winners from the Dubai 24 Hour:
SPX: #87 GDL Racing Middle East Lamborghini of Franke Pelle, Rory Penttinen, Vic Rice and Pierre Ehret

991: #68 Black Falcon Team TMD Friction Porsche of Saud Al Faisal, Saeed Al Mouri, Anders Fjordbach and Alexander Toril.

SP2: #207 Bovi Motorsport Brokemat Silver Sting of Wolfgang Kaufmann, Kalman Bodis, Jaap van Lagen and Heino Bo Frederiksen.

SP3: #231 Optimum Motorsport Ginetta of Stewart Linn, Ade Barwick, Dan O'Brien and William Moore.

TCR: #108 Cadspeed Racing with Atech Audi of James Kaye, Julian Griffin, Erik Holstein and Finally Hutchison.

A3: #308 Team Altran Peugeot of Guillaume Roman, Thierry Blaise, Kim Holmgaard and Michael Carlsen.

CUP1: #151 Sorg Rennsport BMW of Stephan Epp, Christian Andreas Franz, Michael Hollerweger, Heiko Eichenberg and Oskar Sandberg.

A2: #171 Team Eva Solo/K-Rejser Peugeot of Jacob Kristensen, Jan Engelbrecht, Thomas Sørensen, Jens Mølgaard and Henrik Sørensen.

Stéphane Peterhansel won the Dakar Rally, his seventh in the car class and 13th overall. Sam Sunderland became the first British person to win the Dakar Rally as he victorious in the bike class. Sergey Karyakin won in the quad class. Eduard Nikolaev won in the truck class for the second time. Leandro Torres won the inaugural running of the UTV class.

Oklahoman Christopher Bell won the Chili Bowl.

Ken Roczen won the Supercross race at San Diego, his second consecutive victory.

Marcus Armstrong, Thomas Randle and Jehan Daruvala split the Toyota Racing Series races at Ruapuna Park. Taylor Cockerton initially won race two but was handed a 10-second penalty for a false start. Originally second-place finisher Pedro Piquet was handed a 30-second penalty for an incident with Randle. These penalties elevated Randle to the top of the podium.

Coming Up This Weekend
Race of Champions comes to the United States and specifically, Miami.
Asian Le Mans Series closes its 2016–17 season at Sepang.
The World Rally Championship opens with Rally Monte-Carlo.
Supercross returns to Anaheim.
Toyota Racing Series heads to Teretonga Park.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

2017 Dubai 24 Hour Preview: Part II (Everybody Else)

Part one of the 2017 Dubai 24 Hour Preview featured the top class in the race, the A6 class, and part two will look at selected entries across the other eight classes that will be on the grid.

In the SPX class, four entries to keep an eye on are the #10 Leipert Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo, the #19 Eurotrac (by Bas Koeten) Dodge Viper, the #24 GPC Motorsport Vortex 1.0 and the #401 Schubert Motorsport BMW. Oliver Webb won overall in 2015 with Black Falcon and he will led the #10 Leipert Motorsport Lamborghini effort with Jake Rattenbury, Jean-Charles Perrin and Harald Schlotter. Alexandre Colgny, Gino Forgone, Iradj Alexander and Tom Dyer won at the 24H Barcelona last September in the A6-Am class and will be driving the #24 Vortex 1.0. Eurotrac (by Bas Koesten) features an all-Dutch line-up as Daniel de Jong, Ivo Breuker, Bert de Heus and Leon Rijnbeek will drive the #19 Dodge Viper. BMW debuts its M4 GT4 this weekend with the #401 Schubert Motorsport BMW of Jens Klingmann, Jörg Müller and Ricky Collard. Klingmann raced last year with Turner Motorsports in the IMSA GT Daytona class while Müller contested in Super GT's GT300 class with Team Studie. Collard finished second in the 2016 BRDC Formula 3 Championship.

There are four entries in the 991 class to keep an eye on. Along with its two Mercedes in the A6 class, Black Falcon has entered two Porsches in this class. Anders Fjordbach and Saud Al Faisal won the 997 class in the 2015 race and they will lead the #68 Black Falcon Porsche with Saeed Al Mouri and Alexander Toril rounding out the line-up. Burkard Kaiser, Sören Spreng, Miguel Toril and Bandar Alesayi will drive the #69 Black Falcon Porsche.

Charles Putman, Charles Espenlaub, Joe Foster and Andy Pilgrim are all notable names in American sports car racing and the four drivers split the #85 PROsport Performance Porsche. Putman, Espenlaub and Foster won the 991 class at the 12H Mugello last year.

Memac Oglivy Duel Racing won the TCR class last year at Dubai and the team steps up to the 991 class with the #95 Porsche with last year's winning combination of Phil Quaife, Ramzi Moutran, Nail Moutran and Sami Moutran all returning.

In the SP2 class, the #247 Reiter Engineering KTM features a driver line-up that is very familiar for Pirelli World Challenge fans. Antony Mantella, Dore Chaponick, Jr, Brett Sandberg and Benjamin Mazatia share the KTM. Sandberg is coming off winning the PWC GTS championship in an ANSA Motorsports KTM after three victories. Mantella had one victory last year in GTS while Chaponick, Jr. had six top ten finishes in ten starts.

Next to A6, the largest class is the SP3-GT4 class, which features 18 entries. Jann Mardenborough leads the #123 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN Nissan effort with fellow Nissan GT Academy drivers Ricardo Sanchez, Romain Sarazin and Johnny Guindi rounding out the line-up. Manthey Racing has entered a Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport with Heinz Schmersal, Friedhelm Mihm, Markus von Oeynhausen, Wolfgang Kemper and Sebastian Kemper as the drivers in the #242 Porsche. Reiter Engineering has a KTM X-BOW GT4 entered in this class with an all-female driver line-up. Caitlin Wood, Anna Rathe, Naomi Schiff and Marylin Niederhauser are entered in the #246 KTM.

NASCAR driver and 2015 Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America amateur champion Brandon Gdovic will drive the #178 CWS Ginetta with Colin White, Tom Hibbert and Mike Simpson. The #249 Newbridge Motorsport - OCC Lasik Racing Porsche has an all-American driver line-up with Derek Welch, Jeffrey Stammer and Mathew Keegan. The #250 Rotek Racing Porsche has two American drivers, James Maguire and John Schauerman as well as American sports car racing regulars Nico Rondet and Ian James as well as Argentine Roy Block.

Two TCR entries to keep an eye on are the #100 Team Bleekemolen SEAT and #216 Modena Motorsports SEAT. Michael Bleekemolen returns with his son Sebastian and fellow Dutch drivers Dennis de Borst and Aart-Jan Ringelberg. Rebellion Racing's Mathias Beche joins the #216 SEAT line-up with Canadians Wayne and John Shen and Dutchman Francis Tjia.

Team Altran Peugeot won five of seven times in the A3 class last year in the 24H Series including at Dubai and the team has entered two Peugeot 208 GTis. Thierry Blaise, Guillaume Roman and Kim Holmgaard look for their second consecutive Dubai class victory with Michael Carlsen joining them in the #308 Peugeot. Yusif Bassil, Thierry Boyer, Gonzalo Martin de Andres and Loïc Dupont will drive the #908 Peugeot.

In the CUP1 class, the Belgian #154 QSR BMW returns defending its class victory with Jimmy de Breaker and Mario Timmers returning alongside new co-drivers Rodrigue Gillion and Kevin Kenis making it an all-Belgian driver line-up.

Team Clio Cup France presents the top three from the 2016 Renault Clio Cup France championship with Eric Tremoulet, Jimmy Clairet and Teddy Clairet as well as Jeremy Sarhy and Pascal Arellano in the #165 Renault Clio Cup IV. There are two other Renault Clio Cup IVs entered in the A2 class, the #112 Stanco&Tanner Motorsport Renault for Stefan Tanner, Luigi Stanco, Ralf Henggeler, Andy Mollison and Nicklas Oscarsson and the #172 Team Cooksport Renault for Alex Sedgwick, Shane Deegan, Oliver Cook, Jonathan Maybin and Josh Cook.

The 2017 Dubai 24 Hours will start at 5:00 a.m. ET on Friday January 13th.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

2017 Dubai 24 Hour Preview: Part I (A6 Class)

This weekend marks the 12th running of the Dubai 24 Hour from the Dubai Autodrome. Ninety-eight cars are entered across nine classes. Part one of the 2017 Dubai 24 Hour preview will focus on the A6 class, which features 24 entries.

Belgian Audi Club WRT won last year's race and Stuart Leonard is the only returning of the four drivers that were apart of last year's victories team. Joining Leonard in the #4 Audi will be the defending Blancpain GT Sprint Series champion Enzo Ide, 2015 Blancpain GT Series champion and current Andretti Autosport Formula E driver Robin Frijns, defending ADAC GT Masters Series champion Christopher Mies and Ruben Maes. Last year's victory was the first for Audi in the Dubai 24 Hour. The team has also entered the #5 Audi for Marcel Fässler, Michael Vergers, Mohammed Bin Saud Al Saud and Mohammed Bin Faisal Al Saud.

Black Falcon has won three of the previous five Dubai 24 Hours. Jeroen Bleekemolen and Khaled Al Qubaisi won in consecutive years in 2012 and 2013 and will pilot the #2 Mercedes alongside Patrick Assenheimer and Manuel Metzger. Yelmer Buurman, Abdulaziz Al Faisal and Hubert Haupt were all apart of the 2015 winning effort for Black Falcon and will drive the #3 Mercedes with Maro Engel and Michal Broniszewski.

Grasser Racing Team has entered two Lamborghinis and has four former Dubai 24 Hour winners in its stable. Christian Engelhart, Adrian Amstutz, Rolf Ineichen and Mark Ineichen all won the race in 2014 with Stadler Motorsports. Engelhart and the Ineichens are entered in the #963 Lamborghini while Engelhart and Rolf Ineichen are also entered in the #964 Lamborghini along side Amstutz and Ezequiel Companc. Mirko Bortolotti and Rik Breakers round out the #963 line-up.

Two-time Dubai 24 Hour winner Bernd Schneider returns in the #25 Mercedes for HTP Motorsport with 2009 winner Carsten Tilke, Wim de Pundert and Alexander Hrachowina rounding out the driver line-up. IMSA Performance won the 2010 edition of the Dubai 24 Hour and returns with the #76 Porsche. Raymond Narac is the only holdover from that 2010 victory with Thierry Cornac, Maxime Jousse and Mathieu Jaminet rounding out the all-French line-up.

Manthey Racing has entered the #12 Porsche for Sven Müller, Otto Klohs, Matteo Cairoli and Jochen Krumbach. Müller is the defending Porsche Supercup champion and defeated Cairoli by 12 points for the title. Müller won the 991 class in last year's Dubai 24 Hour. Porsche LMP1 driver Brendon Hartley will make his Dubai 24 Hour debut in the #911 Herberth Motorsport Porsche with co-drivers Daniel Allemann, Ralf Bohn, Robert Renauer and Alfred Renauer.

Hartley's former Formula Renault 3.5 rival Jean-Éric Vergne will also be making his Dubai 24 Hour debut as the former Toro Rosso and current Techeetah Formula E driver will be in the #28 GP Extreme Renault RS01 with defending Formula V8 3.5 vice-champion Louis Delétraz, former IndyCar driver Nicky Pastorelli and Jordan Grogor. Frédéric Fatien, Tiziano Carugati, Josh Webster and Stuart Hall make up the other line-up for GP Extreme's #27 Renault RS01.

Two other Lamborghinis are also entered by Austrian teams. The #7 HB Racing Lamborghini features Norbert Siedler, Sam Tordoff, Florian Spengler, Andrea Amici and Herbert Handlos. Konrad Motorsport has entered the #21 Lamborghini for Marc Basseng, Marco Mapelli, Jules Gounon, Luca Stolz and Franz Konrad.

Christopher Haase leads the driver line-up for the #14 Optimum Motorsport Audi. Joe Osbourne, Flick Haigh and Ryan Ratcliffe join the German in the car. SPS automotive-performance has entered the #16 Mercedes, which features Tom Onslow-Cole, Tim Müller, Lance-David Arnold and Valentin Pierburg.

Hofor-Racing won the 2016 24H Series A6 championship and in the #1 Mercedes for Dubai will be Michael Kroll, Chantal Kroll, Roland Eggimann, Kenneth Heyer and Christiaan Frankenhout. This exact line-up won last year's A6-Am class in the Dubai 24 Hour. Car Collection Motorsport finished third to Hofor-Racing in the 2016 championship and Gustav Edelhoff, Max Edelhoff, Elmar Grimm, Ingo Vogler and Dr. Johannes Kirchhoff will drive the team's #34 Audi. Car Collection Motorsport has also entered the #33 Audi for Daniel Diaz Varela, Toni Forné, Dimitri Parhofer, Peter Schmidt and Issac Tutumlu. The #17 IDEC Sport Racing Mercedes is another full-time 24H Series front-runner and features Patrice Lafargue, Paul Lafargue, Nicolas Minassian and Alban Varutti behind the wheel.

Wolf Henzler joins the class-winning Forch Racing powered by Olimp in the #29 Porsche with Polish drivers Robert Lukas and Marcin Jedlinski and Mexican driver Santiago Creel. Former Formula One driver Robert Kubica announced that he would also be in the #29 Porsche at Dubai. V8 Racing returns with the #18 Corvette for the all-Dutch line-up of Loris Hezemans, Wolf Nathan and Rick Abresch.

Rounding out the A6 entries are the #22 Gravity Racing International Mercedes for Vincent Radermecker, Gerard Lopez, Christian Kelders and Jarek Janis and the #66 Attempto Racing Porsche for Jürgen Häring, Mike Hansch, Dieter Ulrich, Peter Terting and Philipp Wlazik.

The Dubai 24 Hour will start at 5:00 a.m. ET on Friday January 13th. Part two of the preview will be posted tomorrow and highlight some of the other notable entries.

Monday, January 9, 2017

American Brabec Wins Dakar Stage

After weather gave the competitors an extra rest day over the weekend in Bolivia's capital La Paz, the 2017 Dakar Rally resume with an altered marathon stage to the salt flats of Uyuni and it saw the only American in this year's race end up on the top step of the podium. Meanwhile, one category leader extended his overall lead, another overall lead change in the quad class and one overall leader hold serve.

American Ricky Brabec won stage seven in the bike class and became the first American to win a stage in the two-wheel category since Kurt Casalli won two stages in the 2013 edition. The California won by a minute and 44 seconds over fellow Honda rider Paulo Gonçalves. Overall leader Sam Sunderland finished third on the day, four minutes and 43 seconds behind Brabec but the British rider extended his overall lead. Joan Barreda finished fourth, six minutes and 51 seconds behind his fellow Honda rider and Xavier de Soultrait rounded out the top five on the day, seven minutes and ten seconds back. 

Sunderland still holds the overall lead and his gap has increased to 17 minutes and 45 seconds ahead of Husqvarna rider Pablo Quintanilla, who finished ninth on the day. Adrien Van Beveren remains third but finds himself 22 minutes and 16 seconds behind Sunderland. Gerard Farres Guell is fourth, 28 minutes and 36 seconds back with Matthias Walkner rounding out the top five, over 34 minutes behind Sunderland. De Soultrait is over 38 minutes back in sixth ahead of Pierre Alexander Renet, who is over an hour back but about three minutes ahead of Gonçalves. 

After his stage victory, Brabec is 14th, one hour, 44 minutes and 44 seconds behind Sunderland. 

Stéphane Peterhansel won his second stage of this year's race and extended his lead but Sébastien Loeb finished 48 seconds behind his fellow French and Peugeot driver. Toyota's Giniel de Villiers finished third on the day, three minutes and 33 seconds back of Peterhansel. Mikko Hirvonen finished five minutes and three seconds behind Peterhansel in fourth with Nani Roma rounding out the top five, 29 seconds behind his fellow Mini driver Hirvonen. 

Peterhansel holds a minute and 57-second lead over Loeb overall. Roma is 11 minutes and seven seconds behind Peterhansel in third. Cyril Despres finished seventh on the day and lost over nine minutes and finds himself 14 minutes and one second behind Peterhansel in fourth. Hirvonen rounds out the top five, 47 minutes and 24 seconds behind Peterhansel. De Villiers trails Peterhansel by nearly an hour and 12 seconds in sixth. 

Sergey Karyakin won his first stage of the Dakar Rally and has vaulted himself to the top of the quad classifications. The Russian won the day by two minutes and 59 seconds over Alex Dutrie. Ignacio Casale finished third, nine minutes and 36 seconds back with Nelson Sanabria finishing 13 minutes and 15 seconds back. Simon Vitse rounded out the top five on the day, finishing 15 seconds behind Sanabria. 

Karyakin leads Vitse by five minutes and 16 seconds overall through stage seven. No rider has held on to the overall lead in the quad class for consecutive stages. Karyakin did hold the overall lead after stage four but dropped to second after stage five behind Vitse. Dutrie is four seconds behind his fellow Frenchman Vitse in third. Casale trails by 15 minutes and 58 seconds in fourth. Daniel Mazzucco trails by an hour and 15 minutes in fifth. 

Dmitry Sotnikov won stage seven of the truck class by two minutes and 51 seconds over Ton Genugten. This is Sotnikov's first stage victory of the 2017 edition and Kamaz's second stage victory.  Federico Villargra finished third on the day, three minutes and 37 seconds behind Sotnikov. Truck overall leader Gerard de Rooy finished four minutes and 25 seconds behind Sotnikov with Siarhei Viazovich rounding out the top five on the day, five minutes and 22 seconds behind Sotnikov.

De Rooy maintains the overall lead in the truck class by two minutes and 11 seconds over Sotnikov. Eduard Nikolaev is third, five minutes and 57 seconds behind de Rooy after finishing seventh on stage seven nearly eight minutes behind Sotnikov. Ayrat Mardeev is fourth, 20 minutes and 12 seconds back after finishing eighth on stage seven. Villagra rounds out the top five, trailing de Rooy by almost 34 minutes.

Stage eight sees the race return to Argentina as the teams go from Uyuni, Bolivia to Salta, Argentina.