Friday, September 18, 2015

Friday Five: Nürburgring, Austin, Singapore, Chicago

One championship will come to a close this weekend while two sports car series head to Texas for a day full of races. Another race will take place on city streets under lights and been hampered by severe haze while another series will be heading to the Windy City. GT 500
The final round of the 2015 Blancpain Endurance Series season takes places at the Nürburgring. Fifty-six cars are entered with 22 in the Pro Cup class, 21 in the Pro-Am Cup class and 13 in the AM Cup class.

In Pro Cup, #2 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT drivers Stéphane Ortelli and Frank Stippler lead the championship with 56 points. The Monegasque-German duo has yet to win a race this season but finished second at the 24 Hours of Spa and third at Silverstone. They also picked up bonus points for being second at the halfway point of the 24 Hours of Spa. Stéphane Richelmi will be in the third driver in the #2 Audi at Nürburgring.

Eight points behind the #2 are German Nico Bastian and Dutchman Stef Dusseldorp of the #99 Rowe Racing Mercedes. The #99 Mercedes has not even finished on the podium this year but the team picked up crucial points for being the leader of the 24 Hours of Spa at the six-hour and 12-hour mark.  A point behind the Rowe Racing Mercedes is the #23 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN of Alex Buncombe, Wolfgang Reip and Katsumasa Chiyo, who won the 1000km Paul Ricard in June.

The #7 Bentley of Guy Smith, Andy Meyrick and Steven Kane are 15 points behind the #2 Audi. The three Brits finished second at Paul Ricard. The #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT of defending BES champion Lauren Vanthoor, Robin Frijns and JK Vernay are 20 points behind their teammates. The #1 finished third overall, second in class at Monza and finished second at Silverstone.

The Pro-Am Cup has already been clinched. The #51 AF Corse drivers Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin clinched at Spa after finishing second in class. They have finished on the podium in three of four classes.

In AM Cup, Ian Loggie and Julian Westwood lead with 71 points as they won the 24 Hours of Spa with Benny Simonsen and Callum MacLeod. The #25 Glorax Racing Ferrari of Fabio Mancini, Andrey Birzhin and Rino Mastronardi are five points back of Team Parker. The #25 Ferrari was did not enter at Spa but won at Paul Ricard and finished third at Monza

Six points back of the #24 Audi are Jürgen Häring, Dimitrios Konstantinou and Frank Schmickler in the #59 Attempto Racing Porsche 997 GT3 R. The #59 Porsche finished second at Spa. The final contenders is the #111 Kessel Racing Ferrari of Stephen Earle, Marco Zanuttini and Liam Talbot. Kessel Racing won at Monza and finished third at Spa.

6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas
The FIA World Endurance Championship returns to the United States for the sixth round of the season.

The #7 Audi R18 e-Tron quattro of André Lotterer, Marcel Fässler and Benoît Tréluyer lead the championship with 95 points after winning the first two races of the season and having finished third in the last two races. Seventeen points behind is the #17 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard, who won the most recent round at Nürburgring and finished second at Le Mans. Nineteen points back is the #18 Porsche of Marc Lieb, Roman Dumas and Neel Jani. The #18 Porsche has finished second in three races this season. Porsche has won all four pole positions this season with the #17 taking the first two and the #18 taking the last two.

The #8 Audi of Lucas di Grassi, Loïc Duval and Oliver Jarvis is 43 points behind their teammates. Alexander Wurz, Mike Conway and Stéphane Sarrazin are 49 points back in the #2 Toyota TS040 Hybrid. The defending champions, Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi are 58 points back. They will be joined this weekend by Kazuki Nakajima in the #1 Toyota. Nakajima has four fewer points than Davidson and Buemi after he missed Spa due to injuries suffered in practice.

In LMP2, Matthew Howson and Richard Bradley lead as they have won the last two races in the #47 KCMG Oreca-Nissan. They will be joined by Nicolas Lapierre this weekend, who was their third driver when they won at Le Mans in June. Fifteen points back is the #26 G-Drive Racing Ligier-Nissan of GustavoYacamán, Ricardo González and Pipo Derani. The #26 entry won at Spa and has finished on the podium in every race this season. The #28 G-Drive Ligier-Nissan is another seven points back in the championship with Romain Rusinov, Sam Bird and Julien Canal behind the wheel. The #28 won at Silverstone and has consecutive runner-up finishes entering Austin.

The lone American team in WEC is Extreme Speed Motorsports and they have two Ligier-HPDs entered in LMP2. The #30 will be driven by Scott Sharp, Ryan Dalziel and David Heinemeier Hansson while the #31 will be shared by Ed Brown, Johannes van Overbeek and Jon Fogerty. Extreme Speed Motorsports is still looking for their first podium of the season.

In the World Endurance Cup for GT Drivers, Richard Lietz leads with 73 points after winning at Nürburgring with Michael Christensen in the #91 Porsche 911 RSR. A point behind Lietz are the #71 AF Corse Ferrari drivers James Calado and Davide Rigon. Ten and a half points behind Lietz are the defending GT world champions of Gianmara Bruni and Toni Vilander.

Three Aston Martin Vantage V8s are entered in GTE-Pro. The Spa-winning #99 Aston Martin will be driven by Richie Stanaway, Fernando Rees and Alex MacDowell. Darren Turner will be joined by Jonny Adam in the #97 Aston Martin as Stefan Mücke will compete in the Blancpain Endurance Series finale at the Nürburgring. The #95 Aston Martin will be shared by Christoffer Nygaard and Marco Sørensen. The #92 Porsche will feature an all-French line-up of Frédéric Makowiecki and Patrick Pilet.

The #72 SMP Racing Ferrari of Andrea Bertolini, Viktor Shaitar and Aleksey Basov have won the last two races in GTE-Am and hold a 25-point lead in that class over the #83 AF Corse Ferrari of Emmanuel Collard, François Perrodo and Rui Águas. The #98 Aston Martin of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda won the first two races of the season and finished second at Nürburgring but trail the #72 Ferrari by 35 points after not finishing at Le Mans. The #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche of Patrick Dempsey, Patrick Long and Marco Seefried are 40 points back.

In the #96 Aston Martin, Stuart Hall and Francesco Castellacci will be joined by Benny Simonsen. Le Mans winner Earl Bamber will join Christian Reid and Khaled Al Qubaisi in the #88 Abu Dhabi-Proton Porsche. The lone Corvette competing in WEC at Austin is the #50 Labre Competition entry driven by Gianluca Roda, Kristian Poulsen and Paolo Ruberti.

Lone Star Le Mans
The penultimate round of the IMSA season will be at Circuit of the Americas prior to the WEC race in the evening.

Two points separate the top three in the Prototype championships. The #90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP of Michael Valiante and Richard Westbrook lead with 248 points, one ahead of the #5 Action Express Corvette DP of João Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi and two ahead of the #31 Action Express Corvette DP of Dane Cameron and Eric Curran. The #90 has two wins this year, Laguna Seca and Watkins Glen. Barbosa and Fittipaldi won at Sebring and finished second at Daytona and Road America. Cameron and Curran won at Road America and won in the wet at Belle Isle.

The #01 Ganassi Ford-Riley of Scott Pruett and Joey Hand have yet to score a victory this season and are 16 points behind Valiante and Westbrook. The #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP of Ricky and Jordan Taylor are 18 points back despite having two victories.

In GTLM, Patrick Pilet has won three consecutive races and leads the championship with 248 points and he will be joined by Nick Tandy in the #911 Porsche. The #3 Corvette of Antonio García and Jan Magnussen trail Pilet by 5 points. Eight points back are the drivers of the #25 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing BMW of Bill Auberlen and Dirk Werner. The #24 RLLR BMW and #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari are tied with 233 points. John Edwards and Lucas Luhr won at Laguna Seca in the #24 BMW while Giancarlo Fisichella and Pierre Kaffer have four podiums but have yet to be on the top step.

Earl Bamber will pull double duty, as he will be in the #912 Porsche with Jörg Bergmeister. Bryan Sellers and Wolf Henzler are the final GTLM entry driving the #17 Team Falken Tires Porsche.

The #54 CORE Autosport Oreca of Colin Braun and Jon Bennett lead the Prototype Challenge championship with 253 points. They are five clear of Mike Gausch and Tom Kimber-Smith, drivers of the #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca. Eleven points back of Braun and Bennett is the most recent PC winner, the #11 RSR Racing Oreca of Bruno Junqueira and Chris Cumming. Mikhail Goikhberg is 21 points back as he will be joined by Matt McMurry in the #85 JDC/Miller Motorsports Oreca.

Starworks has entered two cars for Austin with Renger van der Zande and Mike Hedlund in the #8 and Alex Popow and Sean Rayhall in the #88. Conor Daly will join James Gue in the #38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca.

Three of the top four teams in the GT Daytona class have not won a race this season including the current championship leader, Christina Nielsen with 232 points. Nielsen has four runner-up finishes this season and will share the #007 Aston Martin with Kuno Wittmer, who won at Austin last year in GTLM driving a Viper. Six points back of Nielsen are Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell in the #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari, who won the most recent round at VIR. The #48 Paul Miller Racing Audi of Christopher Haase and Dion von Moltke are eight points back of Nielsen while the #22 Alex Job Racing Porsche of Cooper MacNeil and Leh Keen are 17 points back. Ian James and Mario Farnbacher have won two races this year and round out the top five in GTD in the #23 Team Seattle/Alex Job Racing Porsche.

Singapore Grand Prix
The 13th round of the 2015 Formula One season will take place under the lights in Singapore.

Lewis Hamilton looks for his 41st career victory, which would put him level with Ayrton Senna and Sebastian Vettel for third on the Formula One all-time wins list. Hamilton has won the last two Grands Prix and the two-time world champion has finished in the points in every race this season while finishing on the podium in 11 of 12 races. He holds a 53-point lead over his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, who suffered a mechanical failure with three laps remaining at Monza.

Seventy-four points behind Hamilton is Sebastian Vettel. The German is coming off a runner-up finish at Monza. The top three in the championship are the only three drivers who have stood on the top step of the podium this season. Felipe Massa is fourth in the championship, 150 points behind Hamilton. Kimi Räikkönen is five points behind his former Ferrari teammate while fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas is a point behind the 2007 world champion and is the final driver mathematically eligible for the title.

Massa, Räikkönen and Bottas all need to outscore Hamilton in Singapore to keep their title hopes alive.

Hamilton is the defending winner of the Singapore Grand Prix while Vettel won three consecutive races on the Marina Bay Street Circuit. Hamilton also won in Singapore in 2009. Fernando Alonso won the 2007 and 2009 races from Singapore. The Singapore Grand Prix has been won from pole position five out of seven times.

Alexander Rossi is scheduled to make his Formula One debut driving for Manor Grand Prix, replacing Roberto Merhi. Rossi is scheduled to run five of the final seven races (Singapore, Japan, United States, Mexico, Brazil). The two rounds Rossi will not be driving in are Russia and Abu Dhabi as he will be on GP2 duty for Racing Engineering. Rossi is second in the GP2 championship behind Stoffel Vandoorne by 108 points.

This year's Singapore Grand Prix could be heavily affected by haze and unhealthy air quality. The haze spreads from Indonesia, where fires are used to clear land for plantations.

Chase Opener from Chicagoland
With ten races remaining in the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, the Chase will begin at Chicagoland Speedway. Sixteen drivers are vying for twelve spots in round two with the bottom four winless drivers from this round in points being eliminated after Dover.

Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch enter as co-leaders, each with 2012 points after each won four of the first 26 races. Joey Logano has 2009 points. He is the only driver with three victories. Kevin Harvick was the top driver in points after 26 races but he will start in fifth, tied with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards on 2006 points as all four drivers each have two victories this season. Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex, Jr. and Denny Hamlin have 2003 points, as they were the final drivers to make the Chase on victories. Each has one win this season.

Jaime McMurray, Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon, Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer all qualified for the Chase on points. All will start with 2000 points.

This is the fifth consecutive season that Chicagoland has been the Chase opener. Keselowski has won two of the previous four Chicagoland races with Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth winning the other two. Stewart has the most wins at Chicagoland with three. Harvick is the only other driver with multiple victories at Chicagoland as he won the first two Cup races at the track in 2001 and 2002. Other Chase drivers to have won at Chicagoland are Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch.

Two of the last four Chicagoland races have been delayed by race with the 2011 race being pushed to Monday while the 2013 race did completed all 400 miles on Sunday but faced over six hours of delays. A Chicagoland race has never been shortened by rain and only once has a Chicagoland race been extended due to green-white-checkers, which was the 2006 race and won by Jeff Gordon.

1. Over or Under: 0.5 champions after Nürburgring who weren't leading entering the weekend?
2. Over or Under: 5.5 total German cars on WEC podiums?
3. Over or Under: 1.5 class winners starting on pole position in class.
4. Over or Under: 119.25 minutes for the winner complete the Singapore Grand Prix?
5. Over or Under: 1.5 non-Chase drivers in the top ten at Chicagoland?

Last Week's Over/Unders
1. Under: Ryan Dalziel was the only championship contender to finish in the top four in the PWC GT race from Laguna Seca.
2. Under: There was one Ford on the PWC GTS podium.
3. Over: Two drivers suffered a retirement in the second Indy Lights race at Laguna Seca.
4. Under: Neither Pro Mazda race featured two Americans on the podium.
5. Over: Nico Jamin won the U.S. F2000 title by 72 points over Jake Eidson.

1. The Pro Cup champion will have a race victory.
2. An American will finish on a class podium in the WEC race.
3. There will be a new championship leader in GTD after Austin.
4. A Red Bull finishes on the podium.
5. At least one Chase driver finishes outside the top 30.

Last Week's Predictions
1. Johnny O'Connell does not win the Pirelli World Challenge GT championship (Wrong. O'Connell did win the title).
2. There will be three different manufactures represented on the podium in the PWC GTS race (Correct. Aston Martin, Porsche and Ford were all on the podium).
3. Spencer Pigot wins the Indy Lights title (Correct. Spencer Pigot did win the title).
4. At least one driver scores their first win of the Pro Mazda season at Laguna Seca (Wrong. Garret Grist swept the weekend and ended with three wins on the year).
5. Nico Jamin wins at least one race (Correct. Jamin swept the weekend).
Overall: 3/5 Running Tally: 5/10