Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2016 IndyCar Predictions

On the penultimate day of 2015, we have the final set of predictions for 2016 and those predictions focus on the Verizon IndyCar Series. While it has been 123 days since the 2015 season came to a close in Sonoma and Scott Dixon came from behind to win the race and the championship, the 2016 season will be here soon enough. Only 74 days to go until the green flag in St. Petersburg. With that said, here are the predictions.

1. Hélio Castroneves Wins the 100th Indianapolis 500
The stars are aligning. The 100th Indianapolis 500 is upon us. Hélio Castroneves has been stuck on three Indianapolis 500 victories since 2009. It is the silver anniversary of Rick Mears winning his fourth in 1991. Penske is sitting on 16 victories. Chevrolet is on nine and is one behind Honda and Cosworth for third all-time among engine manufactures. Castroneves will turn 41 years old just over two and a half weeks prior to the race. His career is on the back the nine and this could be the last great opportunity for him to get it. It just feels like if it is going to happen, it would happen in the 100th running.

Fun fact: Of the previous nine round number Indianapolis 500s, eight have been won by Americans (Jimmy Murphy, Fred Frame, George Robson, Pat Flaherty, Johnny Rutherford, Bobby Rahal, Buddy Lazier, Sam Hornish, Jr.). The 50th Indianapolis 500 was won by Graham Hill.

2. Honda Wins At Least Two Pole Positions
Honda has not won a pole position since Houston 1 in 2014. Chevrolet has won 22 pole positions and three others were set by points since then. That streak is bound to end. If Sebastián Saavedra can win a pole in the wet at Indianapolis, then why couldn't Ryan Hunter-Reay or James Hinchcliffe or Takuma Sato do the same or why couldn't one of those three have a red flag fall their way in the Fast Six or why couldn't Honda make up ground this offseason and Marco Andretti win pole position for the Indianapolis 500? It's bound to end. It's going to end.

3. James Hinchcliffe Finishes in the Top Ten in the Championship
The Canadian's 2015 campaign ended prematurely and when Hinchcliffe was sidelined he was tied for seventh in the championship with a victory, two top tens and a fastest lap from five races. I don't know if Hinchcliffe would have finished in the top ten had he completed the entire 2015 season but after seeing what Ryan Briscoe and Conor Daly did in the #5 Honda in his place, I think he would have been in the conversation. Hinchcliffe's career has been mired by inconsistent results. In his first year with Andretti Autosport, he started great with seven top tens in the first eight races. In the final seven races, he had one top ten. In 2013, he won the season opener at St. Petersburg but had a pair of 26th place finishes before winning at São Paulo only to finish 21st at Indianapolis in the next race. He won Iowa later that season and in the next race at Pocono retired after spinning in the first corner on the first lap. Even his abbreviated 2015 season was inconsistent: 16th, first, 12th, seven, 12th.

I think Hinchcliffe will hone in his consistency and I think Schmidt Peterson Motorsports will have a better 2016 season with Mikhail Aleshin returning in place of James Jakes. If Honda can solve the aero kit issues, I think SPM could win a race or two and potentially both drivers could be vying for top ten finishes in the championship.

4. There Will Be Four Indianapolis 500 Rookies
We already know there will be two attempting to qualify for the 100th Indianapolis 500. Spencer Pigot has a three race deal with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (St. Petersburg and both Indianapolis races). Matthew Brabham has a deal for both Indianapolis for PIRTEK Team Murray in partnership with KVSH Racing. We known Stefan Wilson is working on a deal. We know Jack Harvey is trying to graduate to IndyCar. Max Chilton is exploring options in IndyCar. Who knows who else is working on deals for IndyCar? Could Alexander Rossi end up in IndyCar if he is passed over by Manor? What other drivers that are stuck in the European pipeline will jump across the pond?  I think any fewer than four rookies will be a surprise.

5. Conor Daly Finishes Worse Than 14th in the Championship
Conor Daly has his full-time seat. Now the pressure is on. For all the highs he had in the limited opportunities he had in 2015 (11th-hour substitute performance at Long Beach, sixth at Belle Isle), he had plenty of blunders (spinning from the lead of PC class on the final lap at Road America, totaling a car in Petit Le Mans practice) leaving you to question Daly's ability. Daly has been around for a while and he has had success in GP3 and scored on his debut GP2 weekend but now he is in a big time series I think people will get a heavy dose of reality when they see Daly not competing at the front from the crack of the bat. I think Daly will have a few good runs but historically, IndyCar rookies do not finish well in the championship standings. Since reunification, the average championship finish for rookie of the years is 12.375 but if you take out Simon Pagenaud, who won rookie of the year in 2012 but had run a full season of Champ Car in 2007 and replaced him with the next best rookie from that season (Josef Newgarden), the average finish drops to 14.625. I think if Daly doesn't have an experience teammate or a teammate of equal caliber, he will struggle. Knowing Dale Coyne Racing, the likelihood of that happening is slim to none.

6. Three Drivers That Didn't Win in 2015 Win in 2016
Hélio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti, Simon Pagenaud, Charlie Kimball and Ed Carpenter all went winless in 2015. You almost feel like you can pencil one victory in for each Castroneves and Pagenaud. Kanaan, Andretti and Carpenter are all threats on ovals. Kimball had a pretty good 2015 season with a third in the Indianapolis 500 and Sonoma. They all won't be shutout again. Then you have the potential of a rookie winner, although rookie winners have been few and far in-between since reunification. The only rookie (not including those who were classified as rookies in 2008 but had run full seasons of Champ Car) to win since reunification is Carlos Huertas.

7. At Least Three Races Will Be in the News For Not Returning in 2017
The favorite is Pocono followed by Phoenix and Boston. And just to raise IndyCar fan's blood pressure, let's just throw in Iowa, Texas, Road America, Toronto and St. Petersburg for shits and giggles.

8. There Will Be At Least Three Moments Where Race Control Leaves Us Scratching Our Heads
Brian Barnhart is in charge. Three is lowballing it.

9. There Will Be a Delayed Session at Boston
There will be something that goes wrong. Something always goes wrong. A manhole cover will come loose. The surface will be two bumpy. There will be railroad tracks. A protest will breakout and invade the circuit. A hurricane will hit Boston that weekend. You name it; it is bound to happen at the inaugural race in Boston.

10. Scott Dixon Breaks the Record for Most Consecutive Seasons With a Victory Before Texas
The New Zealander is on the verge of making history in 2016. Bobby Unser, Emerson Fittipaldi, Hélio Castroneves and Dixon have each won a race in 11 consecutive seasons. Dixon is attempting to become the first driver to win a race in a dozen consecutive seasons. It's inevitable. It's not a matter of if. It's a matter of when. Predicting Dixon will win the first half of the 2016 season doesn't sound like a stretch of a prediction but takes this into consideration: Of his 38 victories, only 14 have come with in the first eight races of a season and in the DW12-era only twice has he won in the first eight races of a season. He struggles at St. Petersburg. He doesn't have much a history with Phoenix and what history he does have isn't great. He just won Long Beach. He lives on the podium at Barber. He is always a favorite at Indianapolis and he has run well at Belle Isle. I bet he gets off the schneid at Barber.

11. At Least Two 2015 Championship Contenders at Sonoma Will Finish Outside the Top Eight
IndyCar is really competitive. Simon Pagenaud went from championship contender in 2014 to outside the top ten in 2015. If it wasn't for two victories and a second in the final four races of 2015 Ryan Hunter-Reay very well could have finished outside the top ten in the championship. Of the half-dozen drivers that were championship eligible at Sonoma in 2015, a third struggling to finish in the top ten in 2016 would not be surprising. The obvious names I am thinking of are Graham Rahal and Josef Newgarden because 2015 was an anomaly for both of them. Rahal finally had a great season but can he duplicate that? The same question can be asked of Newgarden.

While I think Castroneves will win at Indianapolis, that doesn't mean he will be a championship contender. The Brazilian has consistently finished in the top ten in the DW12-era but he failed to win in 2015 and he could win Indianapolis and then have a slew of poor results drop him in the championship. I think Juan Pablo Montoya could regress. He isn't getting any younger and if Pagenaud rebounds in 2016, it will have to come at the expense of one of the other Penske drivers. They aren't putting all four in the top six of the championship. The only 2015 championship contenders that I feel comfortable will be there again in 2016 are Dixon and Will Power. Dixon has finished in the top four of the championship every season since 2006. Power has finished in the top four since returning to full-time competition in 2010.

12. There Will Be No Serious Injuries or Fatalities
IndyCar needs this to happen. Last year, there was Justin Wilson's death and James Hinchcliffe's severe injury. The year before that Mikhail Aleshin was seriously injured in practice at Fontana. In 2013, Dario Franchitti has his career ended at Houston and Justin Wilson's season ended with a trip to hospital after suffering pelvic injury in an accident in the Fontana finale. IndyCar needs to get through a season without someone being laid up in a hospital for weeks or worse due to something that happened in the car. A broken wrist here and there is fine. We can't expect drivers not to be banged up a little bit. It's unrealistic. All sports have injuries and motorsports is no different. It's the serious and devastating ones that IndyCar can do without for few seasons.

Don't forget to check out the other four sets of predictions: NASCAR, Et Cetera, Sports Cars, Formula One.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2016 Formula One Predictions

Exactly one month ago the 2015 Formula One season wrapped up from Abu Dhabi and we are just under three months until the 2016 season opener from Melbourne, Australia. Lewis Hamilton heads to 2016 gunning for his third consecutive title and fourth overall. Both Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel are within shouting distance of Alain Prost for second all-time in grand prix victories. Meanwhile, Nico Rosberg hopes to dethrone his teammate and remain the top German and the rest of the grid just hope to be remotely competitive.

1. There Will Be At Least Four Race Winners and One Will Be a First Time Winner
After back-to-back seasons that saw only three winners from two teams, I think we will see a little more diversity on the top step of the podium in 2016. The Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg will still be there. Sebastian Vettel will give those two more of a run for their money. I think Red Bull could bounce back. Williams could have one fall into their laps. Who knows? Maybe Max Verstappen wins one in the rain.

2. Nico Rosberg Will Not Lead Germans in Victories
And you know what that means: Sebastian Vettel will win more races than Rosberg. I think Vettel and Ferrari made big leaps in 2015 and while he only won three races, he is on the coattails of Mercedes. I think 2016 will be the season remembered for the Lewis Hamilton vs. Sebastian Vettel battle we have all been waiting for. They have been racing in the same series since the middle of 2007 but never have been on top at the same time. When Hamilton has won his championship, Vettel has been on a playing field below him. When Vettel dominated, Hamilton wasn't at his best. The title might not come down to the final race but the first 18 rounds should be great.

3. There Will Be At Least One Incident Where a Mercedes Retires Because of Contact With Another Mercedes
I think tension will be at an all-time high in the Mercedes camp especially if Vettel provides a greater challenge. I think at one race you could see Hamilton feeling the pressure of Vettel and Ferrari breathing down his neck and Rosberg feeling the pressure of being once again running second fiddle to Hamilton while also have Vettel ahead of him and those two have a moment where each is trying to make up ground and end up ruining each other's race.

4. Alain Prost Will Still Have A Share Of Second All-Time In Victories After the 2016 Season
As of today, the record book for Grand Prix victories looks like this:

Michael Schumacher- 91
Alain Prost- 51
Lewis Hamilton- 43
Sebastian Vettel- 42

I could see Hamilton and Vettel each winning about seven races. I don't think we will see a double-digit race winner next season and I don't think Hamilton will win nine. I think Prost will be fine for a season. His slip in the record books will come in 2017.

5. Haas F1 Scores At Least One Points Before Hungary
Maybe I am being too optimistic but I think Haas F1's entrance into Formula One will be a thousand times better than the entrances of Virgin Racing (now Manor), Lotus Racing (then-Caterham) and HRT in 2010. I think the team will struggle on reliability at the start of the season but I think they will have more pace than expected. I think Romain Grosjean could steal a point at Monaco or Montreal at the earliest.

6. Manor Scores At Least Two Points
Especially if they hire Pascal Wehrlein (although there could be an issue with FIA Super License points) and Alexander Rossi (although I don't see this happening because Rossi is American and Americans don't get breaks in Formula One and someone will have more money than him and get the seat). I think Manor could finish ahead of Haas F1 in the Constructors' Championship but they have lost John Booth and Graeme Lowdon and that could be a massive set back just when it looked like the team could take a step in the right direction.

7. McLaren Will Be At Least the Second-Best British Constructor
McLaren has been crap for the last two seasons and it couldn't get much worse than 2015. We aren't sure if Fernando Alonso will be back but all signs point to him returning. Jenson Button is back for one more rodeo. Honda will have an offseason to pick up on their power deficiency to the rest of the field. They finished ahead of Manor this year and that shouldn't be an issue next year. Lotus' future is still uncertain as the sale to Renault is still being finalized. I think they can finish ahead of Lotus, which has no real leader (Pastor Maldonado is the senior driver). I think they can definitely jump Sauber and I think Toro Rosso could fall down to earth.

8. A Driver That Has Never Had a 100-Plus Point Season Scores 100 Points or More
The century-mark use to be extremely difficult to obtain and was normally reserved for men whose name ended in "macher" but since the points system changed in 2010, 100 points isn't even enough to crack the top five in the championship. Sixteen drivers have cracked 100 points on 58 occasions, 43 of those since 2010. I think Daniil Kvyat could crack 100 points (he fell five short in 2015) and perhaps one of the Force India drivers could continue on the rise of that team and score 100 points. Sergio Pérez scored 78 points last year and Nico Hülkenberg scored 58 points. They both would have to significantly improve but maybe Force India could be the surprise of 2016.

9. There Will Be At Least Two Driver Changes During The Season
I don't know where they will be but Manor will likely feature one and the other could come at McLaren if the team continues to be mired at the back of the field and Alonso and/or Button get sick of it, opening the door for the long awaited debut of Stoffel Vandoorne.

10. At Least One Driver Who Didn't Score in 2015 Scores At Least 21 Points
This is a stretch prediction. Drivers who didn't score in 2015 and have seats or are in running for seats in 2016 are Roberto Merhi, Alexander Rossi, Will Stevens, Kevin Magnussen, Esteban Gutiérrez, Jolyon Palmer, Pascal Wehrlein and Stoffel Vandoorne. I think the Merhi-era is over in Formula One. I think Rossi would be lucky to be back in 2016. I don't see Stevens doing it even if he does return. Magnussen's Formula One career is over at the ripe-old age of 23 years old. I think it would be a stretch for Gutiérrez to do it and I don't see Vandoorne competing in Formula One next year. That leaves us Palmer and Wehrlein. Last year, Lotus drivers Grosjean and Maldonado scored 51 points and 27 points respectively. It's not impossible but as I said above, with the ownership of that team uncertain, that could play heavily into the competitiveness of Lotus. Twenty-one points for Manor with Wehrlein would be truly remarkable but I think it would be a stretch for that pairing.

11. A Track On the 2016 Schedule Announces It Won't Be On the 2017 Schedule
The early favorite is Austin followed by Hockenheimring, Monza and Baku in that order... at least that is the way I have it in my book.

12. Formula One is Agreed to be Sold Before End of 2016
It has been rumored through out all of 2015. I am not sure if it is the American-Qatari group that features Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross or some other group but I think CVC Capital Partners will sell their controlling stakes in the series.

Yesterday, the 2016 sports car predictions were posted and don't forget to check out predictions for both NASCAR and many other motorsports series from around the world.

Monday, December 28, 2015

2016 Sports Car Predictions

Christmas is in the rearview mirror and 2016 is days away and the sports car season is not that far behind and it kicks off with consecutive 24-hour races; one in Dubai and one in Daytona. Six series will be featured and each will have two predictions. From LMP1 to LMP3, GTE to GT3, here are go.

1. FIA WEC: All Three LMP1 Manufactures Score Over 200 Points
If you thought the 2015 championship battle was great, I think the 2016 could be a little bit better. Toyota was hungover in 2015 but has sobered up for 2016 and I think the Japanese manufacture will give Porsche and Audi a tougher fight. All three manufactures are so balanced that it's tough to pick a favorite to just run away with it. Porsche just won the title but we just saw Toyota struggled mightily after winning the title and Audi is Audi and isn't going anywhere. It is a stretch to say that next November that each manufacture will have one car eligible for the title at the start of the Bahrain finale but I wouldn't be surprised if all three won in 2016 and if there were more races with all three manufactures being represented on the podium.

2. Ferrari Locks Up A GTE Title Before Bahrain
With Proton Competition becoming Porsche's GTE-Pro team, I think AF Corse Ferrari is the favorites for the 2016 World Endurance Cup for GT Manufactures. Last year, Porsche defeated Ferrari by four points for the manufactures' title but Richard Leitz had greater control over the World Endurance Cup for GT Drivers, dethroning Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander by 13.5 points. However, as respectable as Proton Competition is as a team and while Aston Martin will still be there and Ford enters as a fourth manufacture, Ferrari has the goods to dominate in 2016. While the 458 Italia has been put out to pasture and the 488 Italia is the new kid on the block, AF Corse dominated the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup in the 458's debut season in 2011. Porsche is going through changes, Aston Martin's driver lineup isn't set and Ford will struggle for part of the season. This is Ferrari's title to lose.

3. IMSA: A Race Victory Falls Into Ligier's Lap
Last year I said LMP2 cars wouldn't win at all in 2015 and I was right. My tune is changing for 2016. Chip Ganassi Racing will be gone from the Prototype ranks after the 24 Hours of Daytona. Mazda will be there but how competitive will they actually be for race victories? The future of the DeltaWing is unknown. Action Express Racing kept the João Barbosa/Christian Fittipaldi band together and Dane Cameron/Eric Curran is a respectable driver line-up. The Taylor Brothers are still there and Spirit of Daytona Racing returns but with a new driver line-up of Marc Goossens and Ryan Dalziel (and Ryan Hunter-Reay for the three longest races and Long Beach). With the full-time grid likely set at only seven entries, a blind squirrel will find a nut. Michael Shank Racing nearly won at Belle Isle and Mosport last year and I don't see why they couldn't steal a victory in 2016. At the same time, I can see Extreme Speed Motorsports taking one of the first two rounds... actually, scratch that. I can see ESM taking Sebring. Ligier will defeat the Corvette DP at least once.

4. BMW Wins At Least Seven Race Between the Two GT Classes
Porsche is coming off the title. Corvette won the big races but stumbled once again after Le Mans. Ford is getting all the attention. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing BMW kept the driver line-ups together (John Edwards/Lucas Luhr and Bill Auberlen/Dirk Werner) and each won a race in 2015 with the latter taking two victories. Heck, Auberlen and Werner jumped the Daytona-Sebring sweeping duo of Antonio García and Jan Magnussen for second in the championship to Patrick Pilet. However, I expect BMW to be very competitive in GT Daytona as the class has adopted GT3 specifications. Turner Motorsports has put together two exceptional driver combinations in Bret Curtis/Jens Klingmann and Michael Marsal/Markus Palttala. GTD will be fun to watch in 2016 as there has been a proliferation in Lamborghini entries, new Audi entries on the grid, plenty of Porsches and the threatening Vipers.

5. Pirelli World Challenge: Patrick Long Finishes in the Top Two of the Championship
The prodigal son is coming home (to the United States that is). Patrick Long replaces Ryan Dalziel at EFFORT Racing Porsche and his name goes to the top of the list of championship contenders behind only Johnny O'Connell. Long is the last driver to win the PWC title since O'Connell and Cadillac have gone on their run of domination. He won of four of twelve races in 2011 when he last competed full-time in PWC. He won the last PWC race he competed in (a one-off at Miller Motorsports Park in 2012). You could argue Dalziel was the best driver in PWC last season. He only won two races but had ten podiums while O'Connell only scored five and Olivier Beretta had seven. Dalziel finished third in the championship despite missing three races due to FIA WEC duties. When Renger van der Zande ran the Sonoma round as a substitute, the Dutchman finished second and first. EFFORT Racing has the goods and they have a driver that can deliver. If Long doesn't win the title, he will at least make it close.

6. Four Different Manufactures Are Represented in the Top Five of GTS
Last year, three manufactures were represented in the top five with Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet's Michael Cooper taking the team's third consecutive title over Ford's Andrew Aquilante and Porsche's Jack Baldwin. TRG-Aston Martin's Kris Wilson finished sixth in the championship but Wilson won five races, the most victories in GTS and missed six races. Baldwin is switching over to Maserati for 2016. You expect someone will run the new Porsche Cayman GT4. Unfortunately, Kia is leaving the series. Blackdog Speed Shop appears not to be going anywhere, though. TRG and Aston Martin are committed to PWC. There will be a drove of Ford Mustangs out there. I don't see one or two manufactures dominating.

7. Blancpain GT: Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Wins a Specific Championship
Technically this team won titles in 2015. They took the Blancpain GT Series Teams' Championship and Robin Frijns won the Driver's Championship but they should have won a specific title. If it weren't for Laurens Vanthoor breaking his leg at Misano, he and Frijns would have taking the Blancpain Sprint Series title over Bentley's Vincent Abril and Maximilian Buhk. The team also had a shot at the Blancpain Endurance Series title with Stéphane Ortelli (who is leaving the team) and Frank Stippler. Winning the titles for the combination of the two series is nice but you want to take the other pieces of silverware as well. I think they will do that in 2016.

8. The Average Grid Size for Blancpain Sprint Series Will Be Above 20 Entries
I think we are reaching a critical point in the global landscape of GT3 racing. There is nothing wrong with Pirelli World Challenge, European Le Mans Series and Asian Le Mans Series each running GT3-spec cars. But when you get overlap (PWC vs. IMSA, ELMS vs. Blancpain GT vs. British GT vs. ADAC GT Masters, ALMS vs. GT Asia) then problems start to occur. Last year, the BSS grid featured around 18 cars at each round while the BES grids were overflowing with over fifty-plus cars across the three different class at each round. In Europe alone, there are plenty of GT3 sprint series. Along with BSS, there is British GT, ADAC GT Masters and starting in 2016 there will be GT3 Le Mans Cup, a support series to ELMS. However, while I fear GT3 being spread too thin with all these series, I think BSS and Stéphane Ratel has a lot of pull over the GT3 landscape and I think we will larger grids come next year.

9. European Le Mans Series: Jota Sport Scores Fewer Podiums Than in 2015
The team has lost the championship the last two seasons in heartbreaking fashion. Both years Jota Sport has entered as the championship lead and left without a trophy. Jota Sport is a terrific team and deserves a title but with plans to expand to FIA WEC competition in 2016 I think they could be stretching their resources and it could hurt their ELMS effort. They finished on the podium at the first four ELMS round. I still think Jota Sport is an ELMS championship contenders and they don't need four podiums to be champion. Greaves Motorsport won the title and had only three podiums. Despite there being an extra ELMS round in 2016, expecting a team to finish on the podium two-thirds of the time is asking a lot.

10. The Average LMP3 Grid Exceeds Eight Entries
The GTC class (GT3-specs) is gone but I think LMP3 entries will make up for that loss. There were five entries at three of five rounds last year. United Autosport will run a car and Alex Brundle will be one of their drivers. CBP Sport are committed to running at least one car in 2016. Ultimate Racing will enter a Ligier. Ave-Riley is developing an LMP3 chassis. LMP3 will be much more competitive in 2016 and while it's sad to see some GT3 cars go away, I think the fight in LMP3 will make up for it.

11. Asian Le Mans Series: Ferrari Will Not Be Shut Out From Another GT Podium
There are two rounds left in the ALMS season. At Sepang I, the Clearwater Racing McLaren, Team AAI BMW and Team AAI Mercedes made up the GT class podium. Neither the Spirit of Race Ferrari, which finished second at the season opener at Fuji or the Sepang I pole position winning Nexus Infinity Ferrari finishing on the podium. I don't see Ferrari being shut out at Buriram on January 10th or when the series returns to Sepang on January 24th.

12. There Will be At Least One Race Where the LMP3 Winner Finishes Ahead of the GT Winner
It has yet to happen. At Fuji, the GT winning (GT3-specs) Clearwater Racing McLaren and the LMP3 winning DC Racing Ligier finished on the same lap with the McLaren finishing just under 20 seconds ahead. At Sepang I, both LMP3 entries had mechanical issues and the DC Racing Ligier took another victory in class, this time 14 laps behind the Clearwater Racing McLaren. In ELMS, the LMP3 winning car finished ahead of the GTC (GT3-specs) winning only at the final round at Estoril but the LMP3 winner did finish on the same lap in two of the other four rounds. It might be a stretch but I think it will happen.

Don't forget to check out the NASCAR and Et Cetera predictions, which were posted prior to Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

2015 Motorsports Christmas List

Another Christmas is upon us and it is amazing how there is always something you want, especially in motorsports. There is always something you would like to see be done differently or a driver you want to see get a shot on the grid or a track on the schedule. If I was a motorsports Santa Claus this is what I would be bringing now the chimney for all the boys and girls.

Let's start with Chip Ganassi and I would give him a heart and a soul so he could let Kyle Larson run the Indianapolis 500. He let's him run the 24 Hours of Daytona and we all know the consequences. The Memo Gidley accident is fresh in our minds. It's pretty hypocritical of him to not let Larson run at Indianapolis. Just shut up and give him the ride. I am tired of team owners giving driver's ultimatums, such as win a championship and then you can run Indianapolis. That's backward thinking. Qualifying for one race is much easier than winning a title. Let them run Indianapolis and get that distraction out of the way so they have a clearer conscience when going for that title. And besides, Ganassi is never going to win a NASCAR Cup championship so he has given Larson an impossible task while all he wants to do is one that is very possible.

Also to Chip Ganassi: Accepting doubleheaders in IndyCar.

To IndyCar:

Virtual Safety Car! They need it and they need it badly and it would improve races by a thousand percent.

A return to Milwaukee, Michigan, Richmond and Fontana. Milwaukee being the week after Indianapolis and Belle Isle moving to Labor Day weekend after Boston fails or Labor Day if Boston somehow miraculously makes it.

A return to Laguna Seca. It would be the perfect venue for starting the season the week after the Super Bowl in February.

A third engine manufacture to lighten the load for Chevrolet and Honda.

Competency in race control.

Getting rid of the rule that the teams need functioning radio to compete. It cost Stefano Coletti a shot at a top five at Sonoma. Just use pit boards if a radio goes out. Don't ruin someone's race because of it.

Actual support series for oval events. If only IndyCar had a lower-level series that could go to places such as Pocono and run as an undercard to give fans more on-track action.

Better TV windows. 5:00 p.m. ET on a Sunday for Iowa and 3:00 p.m. ET on a Sunday for 500 miles at Pocono is idiotic.

To Formula One:

A return to France.

Competency to realize that 65 spot grid penalties sound absurdly stupid.

Track run-off. Actual track run-off to discourage track limits from being abused like it's nobody's business.


Consistency in race control.

A points system that isn't the Chase.

The ability to get over wanting "game seven moments" and accepting that they are a motorsports series.

To the Entire Sports Car World:

A better driver ratings system.


LMP3 to be the replacement for Prototype Challenge. Just adopt it. The rest of the world has. Stop being difficult. Yeah, it's going to cost money. Get over it you cheapskates.

To Formula E:

Events at actual, existing racetracks.

An oval race. Why not run a one-mile oval when they are stateside? They could double-up with IndyCar at Phoenix.

Now that the series have been handed presents, what about individuals?

To North American GT3 fans: A removal of SRO's ridiculous geo-block on online coverage of Blancpain GT Series and other events. What are they getting out of that?

To JR Hildebrand: A full-time IndyCar ride.

To Spencer Pigot: The same thing as Hildebrand.

To Scott Dixon: An attempt at the Daytona 500. He already has an Indianapolis 500 victory and four IndyCar championships, he mind as well pursue history. Winning the Daytona 500 isn't that hard. If Trevor Bayne can do it, anyone can do it.

To Sébastien Bourdais: An experienced teammate.

To Alexander Rossi: A full-time shot in Formula One.

To Regan Smith: A ride to attempt and qualify for the Indianapolis 500 and make history in becoming the first driver with the last name Smith to qualify for the race.

To Daniel Ricciardo, Lewis Hamilton and Romain Grosjean: Each getting their own ride for the NASCAR Grand National Series at Watkins Glen.

To Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber and Nico Hülkenberg: A chance to defend their 24 Hours of Le Mans victory.

To Nick Tandy: A chance to run a short-track NASCAR race.

To Felix Rosenqvist: A ride in one of the Road to Indy series. I think he could jump into IndyCar right now and be competitive but he deserves at least a ride in Indy Lights.

To Circuit of the Americas: A few million dollars to keep the United States Grand Prix. That or Formula One lowering its sanctioning fees to be more conducive for business.

To all the Nissan employees affected by the shutting down of their LMP1 program: Steady jobs elsewhere in the motorsports industry.

To Sage Karam: A full season in IndyCar.

To sprint car fans: USAC returning to pavement racing.

To Valentino Rossi and Marc Márquez: A pair of boxing gloves for each.

To Stoffel Vandoorne: A full-time Super Formula ride and a shot at the Indianapolis 500 paid for by Honda.

To Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button: An upgrade to their sense of humors because they might need it if Honda doesn't make a big stride forward in 2016.

To Extreme Speed Motorsports: A stable car for the 2016 season.

To Ford and Ford fans: Patience when it comes to the Ford GT program in both IMSA and WEC.

To Alexander Wurz and Jeff Gordon: Peaceful retirements.

And finally I would like to wish everyone a Happy and Merry Christmas. Fortunately, Christmas leads into a weekend this year, so hopefully everyone will get a little more time for rest and relaxation and a little more time with loved ones. More predictions for 2016 will come after the weekend. Enjoy the time with your family.

Merry Christmas from For the Love of Indy.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

2016 Et Cetera Predictions

Last week, we went over predictions for the 2016 NASCAR season, now it is time to look over a plethora of series, most of the four-wheel variety but a few that compete on two-wheels. From single-seaters to sports cars, touring cars to motorcycles, here are ten things from ten series to look out for in 2016.

1. MotoGP: Suzuki Scores At Least Three Podiums
In testing from Valencia, the Suzuki team appeared to take a massive step forward. After what I would call a successful return season in 2015 (Aleix Espargaró and Maverick Viñales finished 11th and 12th in the championship respectively and Espargaró won pole position in Barcelona), the team was second and fourth in testing with Viñales ahead of his senior teammate. It isn't wise to take too much from the first tests. Yamaha will still be a championship contender and there is still a lot of time until the season opener but I think Suzuki will have a few races where they will end up getting a bike on the podium. I don't think they can beat the likes of Honda and Yamaha but with the adoption of unified electronic packages for all bikes in 2016, the playing field may be more level than ever in MotoGP.

2. Indy Lights: The Champion Does Not Come From Juncos Racing or Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
Juncos Racing won last year's title with Spencer Pigot but I don't see the team repeating. Kyle Kaiser is a decent driver but he needs to work on bringing the car home in one piece first before he can think about winning a championship and the team has brought in Canadian Zachary Claman DeMelo, who spent 2015 running a handful of Formula Renault races. DeMelo's sample size from 2015 is quite small but his best finish in nine races was 11th.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has won a lion's share of Indy Lights title and RC Enerson will return after finishing fourth in his rookie season. The only other driver SPM has announced is Ethan Ringel, who is awful and has been awful in every series that he has raced in that are worth a damn. SPM normally runs three or four cars and tested Heamin Choi and James French at the Chris Griffis Memorial Test in Austin last month.

However, with Ed Jones returning to Carlin and if Carlin runs four cars and brings over some impressive drivers from Europe, the title could be heading to the team with blue liveries. Andretti Autosport is also talking about running four cars but Shelby Blackstock was not great in 2015 and he is slated to return and Dalton Kellett will be promoted from Pro Mazda but the Canadian Kellett has never finished better than 10th in a championship and in 60 starts between U.S. F2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights (he ran at Baltimore in 2013) Kellett has two career podiums. Then there is Team Pelfrey, which bought the 8 Star Motorsports Indy Lights operation. If Team Pelfrey can retain Sean Rayhall, they could be a serious title contender in 2016. Let's not forget that Zach Veach will return after a sabbatical and will drive for Belardi Auto Racing.

3. Super Formula: Honda Wins More Than Two Races
If you think Honda struggles in IndyCar, wait until you see it's track record in Super Formula. One victory last year, in the final race, in a torrential rainstorm. In 2014, Honda had one victory. In 2013, Honda had two victories. Honda hasn't won at least three races in a season since 2012. They are bound to get off the snide and they could be bringing in a big gun to take the fight to the Toyotas. Stoffel Vandoorne has long been rumored to be heading to Super Formula as the Belgian is coming off a GP2 championship but can't return to that series and McLaren and Honda don't have room for him in Formula One. Vandoorne didn't light the world on fire in his test but passed Super Formula champion Naoki Yamamoto won the 2015 finale and did well in the test and Richie Stanaway also did a good job driving for Honda. Honda is bound to have a good season. It mind as well be 2016.

4. Super GT: James Rossiter Does Not Win the Suzuka 1000km
James Rossiter became the eighth driver to win consecutive Suzuka 1000kms. No driver has ever won the race three consecutive times. I don't see that changing in 2016 although I am sure Rossiter will give it a valiant effort.

5. V8 Supercars: Red Bull Racing Australia Wins at Least Fourteen Races
With Shane van Gisbergen joining Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup at Red Bull Racing Australia, I think the Holden team will be take the fight back to the Prodrive Fords. Whincup is three victories away from hitting the century mark. Lowndes has 103 victories and is coming off a runner-up finish in the championship. Van Gisbergen is coming off another year winning the season finale. Red Bull Racing Australia won fourteen races last year and van Gisbergen won two races driving for Tekno Autosports. There is no reason why they shouldn't match that number in 2016.

6. DTM: There Will Be At Least Two Driver Changes at Mercedes-Benz
Audi and BMW have announced their 2016 DTM driver line-ups and both manufactures are retaining all their 2015 drivers. I can't see there being zero turnover and seeing as how defending champion Pascal Wehrlein is in the running for a seat at Manor in Formula One and tested a GP2 car last month, I think Wehrlein will be at least one driver change. Who is the other? Daniel Juncadella has struggled in three seasons in DTM. The Spaniard scored 26 points in 2015 and in his previous two seasons, each which were only 10 races in length, he tallied 21 and 22 points respectively.

Who could join Mercedes-Benz? Kevin Magnussen tested for the team, as did Marvin Kirchhöfer, who has finished third the last two seasons in GP3. Then there is Maro Engel, who won the inaugural FIA GT World Cup driving for Mercedes at Macau and started 42 DTM races from 2008-11.

7. WSBK: Nicky Hayden Scores At Least One Podium but Finishes Behind Michael van der Mark in the Championship
Nicky Hayden heads to World Superbikes after 13 seasons in MotoGP. He joins Michael van der Mark at Honda's factory supported team. While I would like to see Hayden experience a rebirth in WSBK, I think he will have some success but won't be anything spectacular. Last year, van der Mark finished on the podium three times and finished seventh in the championship behind his teammate Sylvain Guintoli, who finished on the podium only once. I think van der Mark will take a big step forward and finish ahead of Hayden.

8. WSS: Less than 25 Points Decides the Championship
Kenan Sofuoglu won his fourth World Supersport title by 37 points over PJ Jacobsen. Jules Cluzel gave the Turkish rider a hard fight until an injury caused him to miss the final three races. Sofuoglu, Jacobsen and Cluzel are all slated to return in 2016, as is Lorenzo Zanetti, who finished third in the championship in 2015. Kyle Smith won the season finale in his rookie season. I think with the amount of talent on the WSS grid, the championship just won't be decided before the season finale and there could be as many three riders vying for the title in the final race.

9. World Rally Championship: Ford Wins at Least One Rally
To be honest, this is an off-the-wall prediction. I think Volkswagen will still be the best team but won't dominate like they have. Volkswagen appears to be getting bored walloping the competition in WRC. Citroën will be competitive but I think either Mads Østberg or Ott Tänak get a victory.

10. World Touring Car Championship: There Will Be More Race Winners Than in 2015
There were seven race winners in 2015. The major change in the WTCC will be the decision to reverse grids for race one instead of race two in 2016 and I think there will be more race winners. José María López, Yvan Muller and Citroën will still be the favorites but I think the change to the sport regulations will give more teams an opportunity to grab a race victory while the best teams charge from the back.

Monday, December 21, 2015

2015 For the Love of Indy Awards

A lot has happened in 2015. From contact to contracts, passes to parkings, pit lane kerfuffles to rainy red-flagged periods. Records fell and I think 2015 left us realizing how great motorsports can be with drivers showing great diversity in running many different disciplines. Some races were duds but others shined. There have comebacks made by drivers from around the globe. Not everyone had a great season and they are looking toward 2016 but those who excelled never want the calendar to turn over. Today, we look back at the great moments from the 2015 motorsports season.

Racer of the Year
Description: Given to the best racer over the course of 2015.
And the Nominees are:
Jonathan Rea
Nick Tandy
Lewis Hamilton
Scott Dixon
Sébastien Bourdais

And the winner is... Nick Tandy
The British driver won at Le Mans overall in his first time competing in the LMP1 class. He won in LMP2 at the Nürburgring and finished on the class podium on two other occasions. He won four times in GTLM in the 2015 IMSA season, including the unbelievable overall victory in the sloppy Petit Le Mans. Tandy drove his way to the front at Road Atlanta that day. It was a shining performance on an otherwise gloomy day. While he didn't take home a championship, Nick Tandy demonstrated motorsports excellence in multiple types of machinery. He succeeded in situations when he and his teammates were not expected to be front-runners.

On the other nominees:
Jonathan Rea had a spectacular 2015 World Superbike season. The British rider started the season by finishing on the podium in 20 consecutive races and won 12 of those races, including sweeping four weekends. He ended the season with 14 victories and 23 podiums from 24 races. He finished in the top four in 23 races and the lone retirement occurred in the final race of the season.

Lewis Hamilton won his third World Drivers' Championship after winning ten of 19 races, scoring 17 podiums and winning 11 pole positions. He clinched the title with three races to go after winning a thrilling wet-to-dry-to-wet United States Grand Prix. More importantly, Hamilton shattered the notion that a driver can't succeed in Formula One and live in the United States and Hamilton spend so much damn time in the colonies at fashion shows and basketball games and walked away with the title.

Scott Dixon won his fourth IndyCar title this season and won three races, including his first Grand Prix of Long Beach and the season finale at Sonoma to give him the title on tiebreaker over Juan Pablo Montoya. He also scored his second career Indianapolis 500 pole position. The Kiwi not only excelled in IndyCar. He had a dominating drive at the 24 Hours of Daytona that put the pressure on the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP and that team cracked. They went over on Jordan Taylor's drive time and Dixon cruised to victory and etched Tony Kanaan, Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson in the record book as 24 Hours of Daytona winners. Dixon also finished second in class at Petit Le Mans.

Sébastien Bourdais didn't win a championship but he had two IndyCar victories, including a dominating drive at Milwaukee; he won the 12 Hours of Sebring and won the Prototype class at Petit Le Mans with João Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi and that trio finished second in the 24 Hours of Daytona. To top all that off, the Frenchman had a seventh in the Sandown 500 and ninth in the Bathurst 1000 as he ran the V8 Supercars endurance races in his free time during the ungodly long IndyCar off-season. 

Past Winners
2012: Kyle Larson
2013: Marc Márquez
2014: Marc Márquez

Race of the Year
Description: Best Race of 2015.
And the Nominees are:
The 6 Hours of Silverstone
Australian motorcycle Grand Prix
United States Grand Prix
Putrajaya ePrix

And the winner is... Australian motorcycle Grand Prix
It was 40 minutes of pure motorsports with four riders going at it. It had back-and-forth action. It had a final lap pass for the victory as Marc Márquez defeated Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Iannone and Valentino Rossi for the victory. The top four were covered by 1.058 seconds. There was not one boring lap of that race. Iannone murdered a seagull with his head. How many other races feature that? There was no separation between the top four.

And it wasn't just the top four. Dani Pedrosa had a good battle for fifth with Maverick Viñales. The Espargaró brothers went at it, the British riders of Bradley Smith and Scott Redding had a decent battle for a position inside the top ten. There was nothing but phenomenal racing up and down the field from the time the lights went out until the checkered flag waved.

On the other nominees...
The 6 Hours of Silverstone was just foreshadowing for the entire 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship season. It featured Audi vs. Porsche for six hours. Heck, Toyota was even up there. You all three manufactures finish on the lead lap and the #7 Audi faced a potential penalty for exceeding track limits on what would be the race winning pass. Audi won that battle but Porsche would win the war but what a way to start a season.

The MAVTV 500 was one of the most exciting IndyCar races ever. There was a record-setting 80 lead changes but it didn't feel like there were 80 lead changes. It was a race that didn't feature any cautions and then there were a slew of them. There wasn't any pack racing and then the cars could never separate. There was a botched pit lane penalty that should have been called against Graham Rahal for leaving the pit lane with the fuel nozzle engaged. Rahal then got away with a block as he charged to the front and won the race while Ryan Briscoe got airborne but walked away.

What ended up being the World Drivers' Championship deciding race was fantastic. Practice had been limited due to heavy rain. Nico Rosberg was on pole but Lewis Hamilton came away with the lead in turn one. Sebastian Vettel would have to charge from 13th on the grid after serving a penalty for an engine change. Vettel wasn't the only one on the move. Max Verstappen climbed up from eighth, Jenson Button from 11th and Carlos Sainz, Jr. from 20th. Right when it appeared the race would Rosberg's for the taking and the championship would go to Mexico, he ran wide and Hamilton swept by. The British driver won and clinched the title while Rosberg and Vettel rounded out the podium and Verstappen finished an impressive fourth.

It appeared Sébastien Buemi was on his way to another grand slam in the second round of the 2015-16 Formula E season. After it had not occurred in the first season, Buemi scored maximum points in the first race from Beijing and was walking away at Putrajaya. And then he stopped. The heat and the humidity of the early Malaysian afternoon caused havoc on the race. Buemi's race was ruined, Nicolas Prost's race was ruined, Lucas di Grassi slid through to the race lead. Nelson Piquet, Jr. saved energy to perfection and it appeared the race would fall in his lap. António Félix da Costa had a lurch while in second. Both Dragon Racing cars retired. Sam Bird moved to second after Robin Frijns tapped the wall. The Dutchman would finish third after Jérôme d'Ambrosio hit the barrier. Frijns crabbed his way home as he suffered significant damage from tapping the wall. Di Grassi won the race but it never seemed to be a sure thing.

Past Winners
2012: Indianapolis 500
2013: British motorcycle Grand Prix
2014: Bathurst 1000

Achievement of the Year
Description: Best success by a driver, team, manufacture, etc.
And the Nominees are:
Scott Dixon: Fourth IndyCar Championship
Jonathan Rea: Fourteen victories and 23 podiums from 26 races.
Justin Wilson Memorial Charity Auction: Over $600,000 raised for Justin Wilson's family.
Craig Lowndes: First V8 Supercars driver to score 100 victories.
Pascal Wehrlein: Youngest DTM champion at 21 years old.

And the winner is... Justin Wilson Memorial Family Auction
The motorsports community rallied around the Wilson family after the death of Justin Wilson at Pocono. It wasn't just an IndyCar thing. All credit to those who organized the auction and those who organized the gathering of items that were put up for auction. From IndyCar to NASCAR, Formula One to Sports Cars, the motorsports community came to the aid of the Wilson's and there were items from other major international sports figures as well. It was a heart-warming event that showed how closely knit the motorsports community is and I cannot forget to mention all the t-shirts that were sold and the proceeds went to the Wilson family. I know I am one of many who couldn't afford to buy a firesuit for $15,000 but could drop $25. It wasn't much but I think many people just wanted to help anyway they could.

On the other nominees... 
The air is getting thinner around Scott Dixon. The only other drivers with at least four IndyCar championships are AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti, Sébastien Bourdais and Dario Franchitti. He could grab sole possession of second in IndyCar championships in 2016 and at only 35, he could tie Foyt's seven championships.

I think Jonathan Rea needs more credit for the season he had. Entering this season, he had 15 career victories; he won 14 alone in 2015. He went from 17th to sixth all-time behind only Carl Fogarty, Troy Bayliss, Noriyuki Haga, Troy Corser and Colin Edwards. He tied Ben Spies and Troy Corser for third most wins in a season. His 23 podiums is the second most in a season behind only Edwards' 25 podiums in 2002. It was a remarkable season.

It seemed inevitable that Craig Lowndes was going to get 100 V8 Supercars race victories but nothing is guaranteed. Race weekend formats have changed and have made it possible for a driver to win 100 races in a career but it is still impressive nonetheless.

Pascal Wehrlein came from behind to win the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters championship. In his three seasons in DTM, Wehrlein has developed into one of the best young drivers in the world. He consistently brought the car home in points. He is such a smart driver and only turned 21 years old on the final day of the season. Great things are in his future.

Past Winners
2012: DeltaWing
2013: Sebastian Vettel for winning nine consecutive races on his way to a fourth consecutive title
2014: Marc Márquez: Setting the record for most wins in a premier class season.

Moment of the Year
Description: The Most Memorable Moment in the World of Racing during the 2015 season.
And the Nominees are:
Nico Hülkenberg winning Le Mans
"Schieb Ihn Raus"
Porsche 911 RSR defeating Prototypes at Petit Le Mans
Matt Kenseth vs. Joey Logano
Valentino Rossi vs. Marc Márquez

And the winner is... Matt Kenseth vs. Joey Logano
After Joey Logano spun Matt Kenseth while Kenseth was leading at Kansas, payback was just a matter of time. It didn't seem likely when Logano advanced to the semifinal round of the Chase and Kenseth was eliminated from championship contention but Kenseth didn't let that stop him. He drove into the side of Logano at Martinsville and set the bar for what NASCAR will allow. Logano went unpunished for his incident at Kansas but Kenseth was suspended for the following two races. Logano could not recover and would not be one of the four drivers championship eligible at Homestead. It was a black eye for NASCAR as it highlighted the series incompetence to distribute consistent penalties.

On the other nominees...
Nico Hülkenberg won overall Le Mans winners this year with Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber. While Hülkenberg's Formula One season was not nearly as successful as his first appearance at Le Mans, I think Hülkenberg should be recognized for taking advantage of an opportunity, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He didn't let his day job get in the way. Unlike many drivers who are leashed, Hülkenberg realized what opportunities laid at his fingertips with the talent he had. It got more people talking about trying Le Mans, running the Indianapolis 500, running NASCAR races. Hopefully drivers start cross-pollinating more. Carpe Diem boys and girl. Seize the day. Hülkenberg did just that.

"Schieb Ihn Raus" (translated: Push him out) was the command Timo Scheider received over his radio while battling Pascal Wehrlein and Robert Wickens for position in the second DTM race from Red Bull Ring. Scheider did just take, sliding into the back of the Canadian and like dominos, sending him into Wehrlein. Both Mercedes ended in the gravel trap, Scheider finished sixth. After the race, Scheider was disqualified and head of Audi Sport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich was banned from the remaining four rounds of the DTM season.

I mentioned it before when honoring Nick Tandy, the Porsche 911 RSR defeated the mighty Prototypes class to win Petit Le Mans. Granted, that race did end prematurely and had it not been restarted, a prototype would have won overall and not a GTLM car. But Tandy drove a phenomenal race and GTLM champion Patrick Pilet held his own while the Prototypes struggled on their wet tires. GTs beating prototypes is rare and it should be honored.

2015 could be labeled as "The Year of Contact." From "Schieb Ihn Raus" to Kenseth-Logano and then there was Valentino Rossi-Marc Márquez at Sepang. The Italian kicked the Spaniard off his bike and it cost Rossi big time. He kept his second but had to start last at the season finale at Valencia. He got up to fourth but it wasn't enough and Jorge Lorenzo took the championship despite entering trailing by seven points.

Past Winners
2012: Alex Zanardi
2013: 24 Hours of Le Mans
2014: Post-race at the Charlotte and Texas Chase races.

Pass of the Year
Description: Best pass of 2015.
And the Nominees are:
Final corner of Bathurst 12 Hour: Laurens Vanthoor from 4th to 2nd on the outside
Sage Karam at the 24 Hours of Daytona: From 3rd to 1st on the outside on a restart
Sergio Canamasas on Arthur Pic at Sainte Devote
Graham Rahal on Takuma Sato and Simon Pagenaud at Toronto
Kyle Busch at Loudon, unlapping himself on his way to victory

And the winner is... Laurens Vanthoor from 4th to 2nd on the outside
Twelve hours and the final podium positions came down to the final turn. Vanthoor got some help as Stefan Mücke, who was third, drove into the side of the Bentley of Matthew Bell but Vanthoor went around the outside and put the power down on exit of the corner and just avoided contact with Bell. Mücke thought he was going to end up second but because of Vanthoor's intelligence, the German ended up fourth.

On the other nominees... 
Sage Karam's move early in the 24 Hours of Daytona was impressive as he used the outside to get around his Ganassi teammate and the Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP. He also had some help as slower GT traffic was throwing picks.

Sergio Canamasas isn't the greatest driver on the planet but when he races at Monaco he enters another atmosphere. The Spaniard made a daring move on Arthur Pic entering Sainte Devote and came out on the other side with the position. No contact with the Frenchman. No contact with the barrier. Canamasas ended up on the podium because of that move.

Turn three is the best passing zone at Toronto. Graham Rahal was able to get up the inside of Takuma Sato entering turn three but completed the pass in turn four and then slid up the inside of Simon Pagenaud in turn five to get another position out of nowhere. That move ended up giving Rahal a ninth place finish while Sato was tenth and Pagenaud was 11th.

In July, Kyle Busch had to win races if he hoped to make the Chase. At New Hampshire, Busch was a lap down but drove down the leaders Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski. On the front straightaway, Busch powered passed Keselowski on the outside and then dove to the inside and drove past Harvick to get back on the lead lap. Busch would go on to win the race.

Past Winners
2012: Simon Pagenaud at Baltimore
2013: Robert Wickens at Nürburgring and Peter Dempsey in the Freedom 100
2014: Ryan Blaney on Germán Quiroga

The Eric Idle Award
Description: "When You're Chewing on Life's Gristle, Don't Grumble, Give a Whistle, And This'll Help Things Turn Out For The Best, and...  Always Look On The Bright Side of Life."
And the Nominees are:
Team Penske
Marcos Ambrose
Jota Sport

And the winner is... McLaren
It was a terrible year for McLaren. Nobody was happy. Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button were able to find moments of comic relief to the painful season but both drivers struggled all season with an unreliable car that was down on power to its competitors. On the bright side, it couldn't get any worse for McLaren and hopefully year two with Honda is a massive leap forward.

On the other nominees:
Team Penske choked away another IndyCar championship despite having three bullets at the season finale. To make matters worse, Penske had a chance to win the NASCAR championship and ended up with zero drivers eligible for the title at the finale despite having the driver with the most Cup victories this season.

Nissan brought out all the bells and whistles for their LMP1 return. They unveiled the car in a Super Bowl commercial! They painted the car in Manchester City colors! Here they were to take on Toyota, Audi and Porsche. And then they got the snout beat out of them at Le Mans and they didn't return and the entire future of the program was thrown into question after one race.

Marcos Ambrose returned to Australia but his time in V8SC lasted one round. He was replaced and returned for the endurance races. It was a disappointing ending to a great career.

For the second consecutive year, Jota Sport lost the title despite entering the final round of the European Le Mans Series season leading the championships. What will it take for this exceptional sports car team to win a title?

Past Winners
2012: Ben Spies
2013: Sam Hornish, Jr.
2014: Alexander Rossi

Comeback of the Year
Description: The Best Comeback in the 2015 season.
And the Nominees are:
Kyle Busch
Scott Dixon
Dani Pedrosa
Vincent Abril/Maximilian Buhk
Laurens Vanthoor

And the winner is... Kyle Busch
He broke his leg and won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. Many didn't like that he could win the title despite missing 11 races but before the Chase, he would four races and was 25th in points ahead of Tony Stewart, Sam Hornish, Jr., Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., who had all started every race of the season. Don't hate the player, hate the game. The system allows for it to be possible for a driver to win the title despite missing a handful of races. We rarely see drivers return from injury during a season and be remotely competitive but Busch was dominant over the summer and he held his own in autumn and it paid off with a championship.

On the other nominees... 
Scott Dixon entered the IndyCar finale from Sonoma 47 points behind Juan Pablo Montoya. He did all he had to do. He won the race and led the most laps from ninth on the grid! It was a drive that you would frame and show your kids on giving it your all even when the odds are stacked against you.

Dani Pedrosa missed three races after getting arm-pump surgery but he returned from surgery and finished fourth in the championship and won two races and scored six podiums.

Vincent Abril and Maximilian Buhk entered the Blancpain Sprint Series finale trailing Robin Frijns by eight points. The Bentley drivers scored maximum points (34) and won the final race of the season with Frijns finishing second, 0.375 seconds back. Abril and Buhk took the title by eight points.

Laurens Vanthoor would have been in that BSS title fight as Frijns' co-driver but he broke his leg at the previous round at Misano and it ruled him out for the finale. Vanthoor returned to competition at the Sepang 12 Hours but it's not just Vanthoor's return that should be acknowledged. The Belgian was running second, in rainy conditions and erased the 12-second lead Christopher Mies held in twenty minutes with 40 minutes to go in the race. Vanthoor would go on to win the race with Stéphane Ortelli (in his final race with Audi) and Stuart Leonard by over eight seconds.

Past Winners
2013: Michael Shank Racing at the 24 Hours of Daytona
2014: Juan Pablo Montoya to IndyCar

Most Improved
Description: Racer Who Improved The Most from 2014 to 2015.
And the Nominees are:
Jamie Green: From 10th to 2nd in DTM with four victories after not winning since 2012.
Martin Truex, Jr.: From 24th to 4th in NASCAR. One victory and 22 top-tens after only five top ten in 2014.
Danilo Petrucci: From 20th to 10th in MotoGP. Scored 96 points more in 2015 than 2014. Scored his first career podium. Finished in the points in 16 of 18 races.
Hiroaki Ishiura: From 5th to Super Formula Champion. Scored his first career victory in his 45th career start. Five podiums in 2015 after five podiums in his entire career entering this season.
Graham Rahal: From 19th to 4th. Ended a record 124-race winless drought. Won two races. Six podiums after six podiums in the previous four seasons.

And the winner is... Graham Rahal
This was the year we have all been waiting for from Graham Rahal. He was a championship contender and if it weren't for double points and Sébastien Bourdais, he would have probably finished second in the IndyCar championships. And he did it with no teammate and with an aero package that was behind that of Chevrolets. He really didn't put a wheel wrong all season. The poor results are mostly because he was an innocent bystander or was taken out (where was Tristan Vautier going?!) But now the pressure is really on Rahal. Can he build off his 2015 success or will he revert to his 2013-2014 form?

On the other nominees... 
Jamie Green won three of the first four races and then kind of disappeared but he did end up finishing second to Wehrlein and he finished on the podium in both races at the final weekend at Hockenheim, including a race victory to close out the season.

Martin Truex, Jr. had a massive turn around. He finished fourth because of the Chase format but without the Chase format, he would have finished fifth in the championship. It was a great year. He only had the one victory but he consistently ran at the front.

Danilo Petrucci kept finishing in the points and finished second at Silverstone in the wet. He never scored more than 27 points in a season and he ended up scoring 117 points in 2015 on a customer Ducati nonetheless.

I just want to acknowledge the season Hiroaki Ishiura had. He never lit the world on fire prior to this season and in Super Formula, where the grid features the like of André Lotterer, Kazuki Nakajima, Kamui Kobayashi and João Paulo de Oliveira, he drove smart, caught some breaks as Nakajima missed a round due to injury and won the title by constantly finding his way onto the podium.

Past Winners
2012: Esteban Guerrieri
2013: Marco Andretti
2014: Chaz Mostert

And there you have it. I would like to congratulate all the champions and race winners this year in the world of motorsports and I want to thank all of you who have been following along to this blog. Keep an eye out over the final two weeks of the year, as there will be more predictions for 2016 and other fun things to come as 2015 comes to a close. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Buemi Retakes Championship Lead With Punta del Este Victory

The second Punta del Este ePrix ended with the same driver on the top step of the podium as last year's race.

Renault e.dams' Sébastien Buemi won the race from fifth on the grid. The Swiss driver had to battle Abt Audi Sport's Lucas di Grassi but would off the Brazilian to get his second victory of the season. The Swiss driver went on to score fastest lap and the two bonus points vaulted Buemi to the championship lead with 62 points to di Grassi's 61 points. Di Grassi has finished on the podium on all three races. Jérôme d'Ambrosio started on pole position but faded to third and had to hold off a hard-charging Loïc Duval. The Belgian is now third in the championship with 28 points. Duval is tied for fourth in the championships with Sam Bird on 24 points. The British driver retired from race but Bird holds the tiebreaker over the Frenchman based on his second at Putrajaya.

Nicolas Prost finished fifth with António Félix da Costa finishing sixth. Jean-Éric Vergne made a final lap pass for seventh on Nelson Piquet, Jr. but the defending Formula E champion retook the position on an over-under move. Piquet, Jr., however would spin later in the lap and slam into the barrier, dropping him out of the points and giving seventh to Vergne once and for all. Daniel Abt finished eighth. Stéphane Sarrazin scored points for a third consecutive race with a ninth-place finish. Piquet, Jr.'s accident elevated Robin Frijns to tenth, extending his points-scoring streak to three races.

Simona de Silvestro matched her career-best finish by finishing behind her Andretti teammate in 11th. Oliver Turvey came home in 12th. The British driver was running in the points before being handed a penalty for not adhering to the minimum pit stop time of 59 seconds. Oliver Rowland finished 13th on debut. Rowland did lead a lap during the pit cycle. Nathanaël Berthon finished 14th with Piquet, Jr. classified in 15th.

Besides Bird, Bruno Senna was the only other retirement from the race. Jacques Villeneuve did not start after damage suffered in practice and qualifying.

You know the top five in the championship. Nick Heidfeld, who was replaced by Rowland after having minor hand surgery, is sixth with 17 points and tied with Frijns. Sarrazin and da Costa are tied on 16 points. Prost rounds out the top ten with 11 points. Senna and Abt are tied on ten points. Turvey has eight points, Vergne has six points and Berthon and Piquet, Jr. are tied on four points. De Silvestro, Rowland and Villeneuve have yet to put points on the board.

Renault e.dams has 73 points and leads the Teams' Championship by two over Abt Audi Sport. Dragon Racing has 52 points. Virgin Racing has 30 points, three ahead of Mahindra Racing and ten ahead of Aguri. Andretti has 17 points, one ahead of Venturi Grand Prix. NEXTEV Racing rounds out the Team's Championship with 12 points.

The fourth round of the 2015-16 Formula E season will take place on February 6, 2016 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Friday, December 18, 2015

2015 Punta del Este ePrix Preview

The final major motorsports event of the 2015 will occur this Saturday with Formula E running the third round of their 2015-16 championships from Punta del Este, Uruguay.

Lucas di Grassi's victory at Putrajaya last month gave the Brazilian Abt Audi Sport driver the championship lead. Di Grassi has 43 points from the first two races. He finished second at Beijing. Eight points behind di Grassi is Beijing winner and winner of last year's Punta del Este ePrix Sébastien Buemi. After scoring maximum points in China, Buemi scored pole position and fastest lap in Putrajaya but had heating problems cost him a shot at victory. The Swiss e.dams driver trails by eight points. Eleven points behind Buemi is DS Virgin Racing's Sam Bird. The British driver finished seven and second in the first two rounds.

Nick Heidfeld is fourth in the championship but will miss Punta del Este after undergoing hand surgery. The German suffered ligament damage in Putrajaya. The Venturi Grand Prix driver has 17 points and finished third in Beijing. Formula Renault 3.5 champion Oliver Rowland will replace Heidfeld. Rowland won eight races and scored 13 podiums from 17 races to take the title. Andretti driver Robin Frijns crabbed his way to third in Putrajaya and is a point behind Heidfeld. The Dutch driver is in a Venturi sandwich as Stéphane Sarrazin is two points back of Frijns. Dragon Racing's Loïc Duval is seventh in the championship with a dozen points.

Mahindra's Bruno Senna and Dragon's Jérôme d'Ambrosio are tied on ten points with the tiebreaker going to the Brazilian. Both have a fifth place finish with Senna having a 13th in China to the Belgian's 14th in Malaysia. NEXTEV's Oliver Turvey and Aguri's António Félix da Costa are tied for tenth on eight points. Daniel Abt has six points. Nathanaël Berthon and defending Formula E champion Nelson Piquet, Jr. are tied on four points. Nicolas Prost has one point from the first two races. Jacques Villeneuve, Jean-Éric Vergne and Simona de Silvestro have all yet to score a point this season.

News came out earlier this week that Trulli GP has withdrawn from the championship. The team failed to pass scrutineering at the first two rounds of the season.

Last year at Punta del Esta, Sébastien Buemi went on to win after pole-sitter Jean-Éric Vergne had a suspension failure end his race while challenging the Swiss driver. Last year's race saw four safety car periods. Nelson Piquet, Jr. and Lucas di Grassi rounded out the podium. Daniel Abt scored fastest lap.

1. Over or Under: 49.1 minutes to complete the 33-lap Punta del Este ePrix?

Last Week's Over/Unders
1. Under: There were two Ferraris in the top five after the first six hours of the Gulf 12 Hours.
2. Under: No cars completed 300 laps in the Sepang 12 Hours after a red flag for torrential rain interrupted the race. The winning #17 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi completed only 228 laps.

1. Sébastien Buemi does not score fastest lap.

Last Week's Predictions
1. AF Corse gets one car on the Gulf 12 Hours podium but does not win the race (Wrong. AF Corse failed to put a car on the podium).
2. Two Audis finish on the overall podium at Sepang (Correct. Audi swept the podium).
Overall: 1/2 Running Tally: 37.5/70

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

2016 NASCAR Predictions

It has been less than a month since the 2015 NASCAR season ended but it is already time to look ahead to the 2016 season. These predictions look at all three national touring divisions. Some of these predictions focus on the household NASCAR names, some with younger stars and there is a little international flavor to these predictions.

1. Kyle Busch Leads Joe Gibbs Racing Solely in Cup Victories
Despite missing 11 races in 2015, Kyle Busch went on to win five races, the same as teammate Matt Kenseth and take the title. I think Busch will run a full schedule and he will end up scoring more victories than his three other JGR teammates. This also counts on some regression from the team. I don't think JGR will win 14 races in 2016. They could easily pick up ten victories but that means someone will end up in victory lane less than they did in 2015. Kenseth went from seven victories in 2013 to zero in 2014. Kenseth has never won more than three races in consecutive seasons; however, Busch is in a terrible pattern. He won four races in 2011, one in 2012, four in 2013, one in 2014 and five this year. Both drivers should end up with at least two victories but I think Busch is driving smarter than ever and I think he will score three to five victories in 2016.

2. At Least One Penske is Eligible For the Title at Homestead
The fact that neither made the final four championship eligible drivers is surprising. Joey Logano won the most races in 2015 with six and had he just accepted second at Kansas and not spun Kenseth and then in turn get punted at Martinsville, then perhaps he would have won that race and automatically qualified for the finale. Had Keselowski kept his nose clean at Martinsville and/or not had a debris caution with less than twenty-five laps to go at Texas, he would have been eligible for a second title at Homestead. One of them will make it. I think both drivers score at least three victories in 2016.

3. Ryan Blaney Scores More Top Tens Than Chase Elliott
The 2016 rookie class features Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Chris Buescher, Brian Scott and Jeffrey Earnhardt. The first two names will be the main contenders for the rookie of the year honors and on paper it's Elliott's to lose. He is driving for Hendrick Motorsports, he is replacing Jeff Gordon, he has teammates and one is a former champion and the other is a two-time Daytona 500 winner. However, Blaney has the experience on Elliott in Cup equipment and while he doesn't have a teammate, the Wood Brothers have benefitted from having a relationship with Team Penske.

To be fair and compare Blaney's and Elliott's Grand National Series statistics, they are equal on victories but Blaney has only made 43 starts to Elliott's 66 starts. Blaney has led 703 laps to Elliott's 626 laps led. They are equal on average start at 9.6 but Elliott has the advance in average finish at 8.5 to Blaney's 9.3. These two drivers are nearly equals. The one advantage Elliott may have over Blaney that could be the deciding blow is he has run 33 races the last two seasons while Blaney did do two full seasons in Trucks but both those seasons were two-thirds the length of a Grand National season. Blaney could be burned out by the time September rolls around.

Side note: It will be great to see the Wood Brothers return to full-time competition for the first since 2008.

4. At Least One Driver Under-24 Wins A Cup Race
Blaney will only be 22. Elliott is only 20. Kyle Larson and Chris Buescher will be under 24 years old for a good portion of 2016 (Larson until July 31st, Buescher until October 29th). Erik Jones is only 19 and turns 20 on May 30th. He will likely get a handful of Cup starts and if he starts a plate-race, you wouldn't rule him out from sneaking into victory. After all, if Trevor Bayne could do it, Erik Jones could do it.

5. At Least Five Cup Races Feature a Rain-Delay
There were quite a few rain delays in 2015. This is only going to include championship races so any delay in the shootout, Daytona 500 qualifying races and the All-Star Races will not count toward the total.

6. Tony Stewart's Average Finish is Worse Than 16.0
He should have just retired after this season. The three-time champion was well below average in 2015. He was at a Kobe Bryant level below average. His average finish was 24.8 last year. Fourteen drivers had an average finish below 16.0 in 2015 and all fourteen of those drivers made the Chase (Paul Menard at 17.1 and Clint Bowyer at 18.8 were the exceptions). Stewart could win a race, especially a plate-race but he's not going to run competitively on a regular basis. There won't be a string of races where Stewart is constantly qualifying in the top ten and finishing there.

7. Martin Truex, Jr. Doesn't Finish in The Top Twelve of the Championship
He had a great season in 2015 and had a shot at the title in the finale at Homestead but I think we will see a regression from the New Jerseyan and the Colorado-based Furniture Row Racing as the team switches from Chevrolet to Toyota. While Toyota is coming off their first drivers' title, they have yet to become a threat for the manufactures' title. Joe Gibbs Racing has been responsible for 88.6% (70) of Toyota's 79 victories in Cup. Only once has another Toyota team won more than two races in a season and that was Michael Waltrip Racing (which is no longer with us) and Clint Bowyer, who won three races in 2012. Maybe Truex gets a victory but I expect a slight drop off from his 2015 production.

8. JR Motorsports Wins at Least Seven Second Division Races
Chase Elliott and Regan Smith may be gone but the team has brought in Justin Allgaier and Elliott Sadler and there will be a rotating cast of characters Elliott, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne in a third car. I think one full time driver will at least get one victory with the other getting at least two victory and the all-star car picking up at least three victories.

9. A Driver Breaks a 50-Race Winless Streak in the Grand National Series
Sadler hasn't won in 57 starts. Allgaier hasn't won in 44 starts. Ty Dillon hasn't won in 47 starts. Darrell Wallace, Jr. hasn't won in 39 career starts. Brian Scott has never won in 207 starts. Somebody will have a lengthy drought come to an end in 2016.

10. Ryan Reed Scores at Least Two Top Tens But Zero Victories
Reed won the 2015 season opener at Daytona and then didn't score another top ten all season. He has never scored multiple top ten finishes in just over two seasons in NASCAR's second division. That seems like it is extremely difficult to do for a full-time competitor in that series. I think he breaks his trend in 2016. Don't get me wrong. He won't be a championship contender. He won't contend for a victory at a non-plate race but he could back into a top ten at Chicago or Atlanta or Iowa.

11. The Average Age of the Top Five in the Trucks Championship is Under 28.8 Years Old
The Truck Series is getting young. While veterans Matt Crafton, Johnny Sauter and Timothy Peters will still be there, Tyler Reddick returns, John Hunter Nemechek is now eligible for a full season, Daniel Hemric is only 24, Christopher Bell and William Byron will be full-timers. Gone are the days of Ron Hornaday, Jr., Mike Skinner, Jack Sprague and Johnny Benson battling for the title.

12. There Will be at Least One National Touring Division Race With More Than Two Drivers Not From North America
Nick Tandy, Daniel Ricciardo, Lewis Hamilton and Romain Grosjean all expressed interest in running a NASCAR race in 2015. Grosjean has a connection, Ricciardo has an offer, Tandy could get in Penske's ear and Hamilton is the world champion. There are two Grand National road course races during Formula One's summer break. I don't think any of them will end up running a NASCAR race in 2016 but it would a hell of a show at either Watkins Glen or Mid-Ohio if it were to happen. If any of those four run a race I would be happily surprised. There is already a Belgian competing, Anthony Kumpen, uncle of Toro Rosso driver Max Verstappen. Only two more are needed if Kumpen becomes a regular.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Musings From the Weekend: IndyCar Needs to Exploit Gaps in European System

This is the final Musings From the Weekend of 2015. I know. I am sad to. But there will be plenty posted over the final two weeks of the year. Keep an eye out for some fun stuff over the next two weeks as you put up Christmas decorations, wait for Stars War to be released and order Chinese food. However, this weekend featured a few red flags and some rain. Stéphane Ratel makes it difficult to be a GT3 fan in the United States and Canada thanks to geo-blocking. Off the track, a few drivers announced their plans to participate in IndyCar in 2016. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

IndyCar Needs to Exploit Gaps in European System
Esteban Ocon is in a dilemma. The GP3 champion is 19 years old and his career path is at a crossroads. It would seem obvious that Ocon should just move up to GP2 like four of the five previous GP3 champions but it's not that simple. The Mercedes development driver wants to go to Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters next year and Mercedes-Benz shouldn't have a problem finding a place for the Frenchman.

The GP2/GP3 system does not allow a champion to return and defend their title and that makes sense on paper. It's a development series and once you win it, you are kicked out of the nest and have to make it on your own. The only problem is there aren't always seats available at the next level and GP2 champions Giorgio Pantano, Davide Valsecchi, Fabio Leimer and Jolyon Palmer have failed to get a Formula One race seat the year after their titles and it appears you can add Stoffel Vandoorne's name to that list. Ocon doesn't turn 20 years old until September 17, 2016 and while he wouldn't necessarily be a shoe-in for the GP2 title, if he were to win it, Ocon would likely find himself adding his name to that list above. He could go to Formula 3.5 V8 (formerly Formula Renault 3.5) but that isn't a series Mercedes has used for development drivers.

The GP2/GP3 system is made to keep drivers flowing through but currently there is a logjam of drivers trying to get to Formula One but with no alternative that will keep them in the eyes of Formula One team owners. Ocon could be 20 years old with nowhere to go. As long as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are winning races and getting along, there will be no room for Ocon at Mercedes and let's not forget to mention DTM champion and Mercedes development driver Pascal Wehrlein is also trying to make it to Formula One and tested a GP2 car last week.

DTM makes all the sense in the world for Ocon. He could run two years there before moving to GP2 or straight to Formula One. The FIA Super License points could become an issue though. Ocon sits on 65 Super License points and is set to drop five points from third in the 2013 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0. However, Ocon is set to drop 30 points for second in the 2014 European Formula Three champion after the 2017 season and that could put the Frenchman in jeopardy of not being qualified for a Super License. The DTM champion only gets 15 points. DTM would be a butterfly bandage to a wound that needs a suture.

However, there is an alternative. The United States and the Road to Indy system. Indy Lights is also a butterfly bandage but IndyCar is Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte to the more expensive, harder to find  croquembouche that is GP2. Both champions get 40 Super License points, second in GP2 also gets 40 points and IndyCar only gets 30. There are fewer races in IndyCar but everyone agrees there should be more. But, unlike GP2, the IndyCar champion can stay as long as they like.

IndyCar needs to promote this one difference to Formula One teams and turn their series into a semester-abroad option for development drivers and a chance for Formula One teams to get a firmer hold in the American market. Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, Williams and McLaren all have development drivers that could one day make it to Formula One. By sending one or two to the United States creates the opportunity for these names to build up a following stateside and if they were to make it to Formula One, it would be a name American fans could recognize and tune in to watch. It could also increase viewership of IndyCar in Europe and around the globe, as fans would have a chance to tune in and see highly touted drivers with Formula One in their future.

The stretch would be for IndyCar to turn their U.S. campus also into a series that the likes of Mercedes and FIAT invest in and develop engines for. IndyCar needs more engine manufactures. Honda and Chevrolet are strained and growth in the series has been stunted because of it. But if Mercedes could partner with a team or two (say... KV and Carlin) and FIAT could partner with a team (say... Andretti and Racing Engineering, who are evaluating expanding to IndyCar) all of a sudden the pressure is off Honda and Chevrolet, IndyCar has two more partners in the series and hopefully the grid would grow by 4-6 entries.

It's a pie-in-the-sky idea but IndyCar can't just be selling IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500 to manufactures. While many of you are angry that this sounds like IndyCar taking a backseat to Formula One, let's face it that IndyCar and Formula One aren't even in the same car. If IndyCar can benefit by turning itself into an American promotional and development arm for Formula One teams and manufactures, then why not do it? Of course, don't put all your eggs in that basket and still buddy up with Super Formula but IndyCar needs to be open to whatever it takes to raise the quality of the series and grow, not just in the United States but also around the globe.

IndyCar Needs to Embrace Electric Power
With the news coming out of Paris that countries from around the world will govern the reduction of carbon dioxide emission, I start thinking about the future of motorsports. While any motorsports series from around the world evolving into an all-electric series won't be the cure for the environment issues of the world, it is worth considering slowly adapting and weaning off fuel.

I think about IndyCar's place in the motorsports landscape and I think about Formula E. Formula E isn't lighting the world on fire but it has people's attention and most importantly, it has the attention of manufactures.

What if the 101st Indianapolis 500 was all-electric? It's not going to happen but let's play a hypothetical. Speeds would be much slower but the problem is how motorsports fans view electric motorsports. Fans hold electric motorsports to the standards of over a century of development when in reality electric motorsports are in year two. Back at the turn of the 20th century, when it was gas-powered engines vs. steam-powered, the speeds were comparable to what Formula E is running at today.

If anything, instead of pooh-poohing electric motorsports for not being equal to cars running on ethanol, gasoline or diesel, we should celebrate the milestones. We should celebrate the first 100-mph average lap and same for 150-mph and 200-mph and so on in electric equipment. The men and/or women who become the first to break those milestones should be celebrated in the same way René Thomas, Parnelli Jones and Tom Sneva were.

When I look at Formula E, I see a very narrow path being paved for electric motorsports. It seems the ball will only go in the direction that series is going and while that isn't necessarily a bad thing, it is if it doesn't embrace the current motorsports infrastructure. Formula E has from the start been about racing on street circuits in city centers around the world and while that sounds nice, I only wonder what it means for places such as Monza, Spa-Francorchamps, Silverstone, Bathurst and Indianapolis? I think about oval racing in general. There is no reason why Formula E couldn't run an oval race or two. The series is too young to say oval racing is against their tradition. The series should be open to being different and not being all-street circuits.

However, while Formula E shows no interest in bringing their product to ovals, maybe another sanctioning body should partner with Formula E to further the development of electric motorsports and maybe that series should be IndyCar. IndyCar needs support races at oval races and an electric championship could be it.

My expanded idea:
An American-based electric series run in partnership with Formula E and IndyCar as a support-series to IndyCar events.

Run at all the ovals, three road courses and three street circuits.

The goal would to further develop the electric technology in hopes to one day become the formula for IndyCar.

There are a lot of questions I still have about how it would work. How long would races be? What is the practical length for a race around a place such as Indianapolis or Pocono? What road courses would be run? I'd love to see Road America be attempted because some day an electric car is going to have to tackle the over four-mile course. And these questions are a good thing. They lay the foundation for what needs to be explored. If I had to choose the three road courses, I'd select the IMS road course, Road America and Sonoma. As for the street circuits, I would select St. Petersburg, Toronto and Boston.

How many cars would there be? Would all these teams be run by IndyCar teams? IndyCar teams barely have enough to run IndyCar programs. There could be some crossover but Bryan Herta Autosport, Dale Coyne Racing and AJ Foyt Racing would be unlikely to compete. I think 18 cars would be good for a start. Andretti could run a car or two, same for Dragon Racing. Maybe Penske or Ganassi would consider joining the series. Maybe the likes of e.dams and Abt would expand to the United States. As for the drivers, I would have as many IndyCar/Road to Indy drivers as possible involved. They would already be at the race tracks and it would be good for both series as it would give current IndyCar fans drivers to watch for and it would give new fans drivers they could follow to IndyCar if they gave it at shot. It would be a win-win for each series.

As for a name for this pie-in-the-sky electric series, I was thinking IndyE but I think the terms "Indy" or "IndyCar" should be as far away from the name of this series name. I then came up with United States Electric Championship (USEC) but it sounds too similar to USAC. Considering there would be a race in Canada, I thought it should be the North American Electric Championship but NAEC is already claimed by IMSA for their North American Endurance Championship. What about the Can-Am All-Electric Championship? The CAAEC. It's not worth coming up with acronyms and names for something that currently doesn't exist but I have already wasted my time doing it.

One day there will have to be an all-electric race on an oval and it mind as well be sooner rather than later and IndyCar mind as well jump on the opportunity now and not let the ball pass them by.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about the Gulf 12 Hours but did you know...

The #17 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT of Laurens Vanthoor, Stéphane Ortelli and Stuart Leonard won the Sepang 12 Hours.

The #23 Top Speed Racing Lamborghini Super Trofeo Huracán of Yuan Bo, James Munro, Mohamad Afiq Ikhwan Bin Mohamad Yaz and Martin Rump won in the GTC class in the Sepang 12 Hours. The #86 Wing Hin Motorsports Toyota GT86 of Kenny Lee Wan Yuen, Ho Wil Liam and Wong Yew Choong won in the TC class.

Coming Up This Weekend
The final major race of the calendar year: Formula E heads to Punta del Este, Uruguay.

Friday, December 11, 2015

#11 Kessel Racing Ferrari Wins Red-Flagged Gulf 12 Hours

The Gulf 12 Hours ended just over ten minutes from the scheduled distance after an accident between the #99 Kessel Racing Ferrari of Michael Lyons and the #38 Black Pearl Racing by Rinaldi Ferrari of Alexander Volz.

The #11 Kessel Racing Ferrari of Davide Rigon, Michael Broniszewsky and Giacomo Piccini won the race and completed 301 laps. This is Rigon's second consecutive Gulf 12 Hours victory and Broniszewsky's and Piccini's first Gulf 12 Hours victories. The #11 Ferrari led 96 of 149 laps run in the second half of the event. 

The #2 Black Falcon Mercedes of Yelmer Buurman, Hubert Haupt and Abdulaziz Al Faisal finished second, 24.253 seconds behind the Ferrari and the #44 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin of Jonny Adam, Darren Turner and Ahmed Al Harthy rounded out the podium and finished a minute and nine seconds off the leader. 

The #55 AF Corse Ferrari of Marco Cioci, Jack Gerber and Ilya Melnikov won the Pro-Am class and  finished five laps back of the overall winners, fourth overall. Despite the accident, the #99 Kessel Racing Ferrari of Lyons, Marco Zanuttini and Vadim Gitlin won the Gentlemen's class and rounded out the top five having completed 295 laps and Rigon set the fastest lap of the race with a 2:10.546.

The #51 AF Corse Ferrari of Andrea Rizzoli, Thomas Flohr and Francesco Castellacci finished sixth. The #1 Black Falcon Mercedes of Jeroen Bleekemolen, Maro Engel and Khaled Al Qubaisi finished ten laps behind the overall winning Kessel Racing Ferrari. The #1 Mercedes suffered an electrical problem while running on the lead lap and in contention for the race victory. The electrical problem forced the team to spend a fair amount of time in the garage. The team also had to serve a penalty for Engel violating the time limit on one stint. 

Loris Capirossi finished his first race on four-wheel eighth overall, 12 laps down in the #65 Kessel Racing Ferrari with co-drivers Alexis de Bernardi and Nicola Cadei. The Cup class winning #20 MRS GT-Racing Porsche of Xavier Maassen, Charlie Espenlaub and Charlie Putnam finished ninth overall and completed 284 laps. The #10 Renault Sport R.S. 01 of Jerome Naveaux, Miguel Ramos, Filipe Barreiros and Jean-Pierre Lequeux rounded out the top ten, completing 280 laps. 

Prior to the red flag that ended the race, the lone safety car period in the second half of the race occurred when the #87 GDL Racing Porsche of Remi Terrail had an accident in turn four. The safety car period lasted just over 27 minutes.