Sunday, January 31, 2016

Extreme Speed Motorsports Wins Overall; Corvette Photo Finish in GTLM

The #2 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier-HPD of Pipo Derani, Johannes van Overbeek, Scott Sharp and Ed Brown won the 24 Hours of Daytona by 26.166 seconds over the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP of Max Angelelli, Ricky Taylor, Jordan Taylor and Rubens Barrichello. This is Sharp's second 24 Hours of Daytona victory. He won in 1996 with Wayne Taylor and Jim Pace. Derani won on his Daytona debut. Rounding out the podium was the #90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP of Marc Goossens, Ryan Dalziel and Ryan Hunter-Reay. All three cars finished 736 laps.

Fourth overall, five laps down, was the #5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP of João Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi, Filipe Albuquerque and Scott Pruett. The #01 Ganassi Ford-Riley of Alexander Wurz, Brendon Hartley, Andy Priaulx and Lance Stroll finished 11 laps down in fifth. The #31 Action Express Racing Corvette DP of Dane Cameron, Eric Curran, Simon Pagenaud and Jonny Adam finished 12 laps down in sixth

The #4 Corvette of Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Marcel Fässler won in GTLM by 0.034 seconds over the #3 Corvette of Antonio García, Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller. Gavin held off García at the line after battling for the final 20 minutes. It is Gavin and Milner's first victory in North America since Mosport 2013. Gavin and Milner won last year's 24 Hours of Le Mans with Jordan Taylor. Earl Bamber, Frédéric Makowiecki and Michael Christensen finished third in GTLM in the #912 Porsche. All three cars finished 722 laps. Alessandro Pier Guidi, Alexandre Prémat, Daniel Serra and Memo Rojas rounded out the top ten overall, fourth in GTLM, a lap behind the GTLM leaders. The #25 RLLR BMW of Bill Auberlen, Dirk Werner, Augusto Farfus and Bruno Spengler completed 721 laps.

Twelfth overall was the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari of Giancarlo Fisichella, Davide Rigon, Toni Vilander and Olivier Beretta, completing 709 laps. A lap behind the Ferrari was the #02 Ganassi Ford Riley of Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson.

René Rast conserved enough fuel to cost the #44 Magnus Racing Audi to victory in GTD. Rast, Andy Lally and John Potter all scored their second class victory and all three won together in 2012. Marco Seefried scored his first Daytona victory. The #540 Black Swan Racing Porsche of Tim Pappas, Nicky Catsburg, Patrick Long and Andy Pilgrim finished second in class, three seconds behind the Magnus Racing Audi. The #93 Dodge Viper of Ben Keating, Gar Robinson, Jeff Mosing, Eric Foss and Damien Faulkner finished third in class. All three cars on the GTD podium finished 703 laps. Fourth in GTD was the #98 Aston Martin of Paul Dalla Lana, Richie Stanaway, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda, one lap down in class.

The #85 JDC/Miller Motorsports Oreca of Stephen Simpson, Kenton Koch, Chris Miller and Mikhail Goikhberg won in Prototype Challenge. The #85 Oreca completed 702 laps and won by four laps over the #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca of Tom Kimber-Smith, José Gutierrez, Robert Alon and Nicholas Boulle. Third in PC was the #20 BAR1 Motorsports Oreca of Johnny Mowlem, Brendan Gaughan, Marc Drumwright, Tomy Drissi and Ricardo Vera. The #20 Oreca completed 693 laps.

The second round of the IMSA season will be the 12 Hours of Sebring, which will take place on March 19th.

The #5 Action Express Corvette DP Leads With Eight Hours To Go

Sixteen hours are in the books and eight hours separate the teams from the finish of the 54th 24 Hours of Daytona. Daylight is upon us. Here is the run down:

The #5 Action Express Corvette DP of Christian Fittipaldi leads the #90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Corvette DP of Ryan Hunter-Reay and Ricky Taylor, who drivers the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP. Just over two seconds cover the top three overall.

The #01 Ganassi Ford-Riley of Andy Priaulx is situated in fourth. Scott Sharp is fifth in the #2 Ligier-HPD, the final car on the lead lap.

A pit fire dropped the #31 Action Express Corvette DP a lap down. Jonny Adam is behind the wheel of that machine, sixth overall.

Seven cars are still on the lead lap in GTLM.

Oliver Gavin leads in the #4 Corvette with Nick Tandy trailing in second in the #911 Porsche. Bruno Spengler runs third in the #25 RLLR BMW and Frédéric Makowiecki has the #912 Porsche in fourth. The #3 Corvette of Jan Magnussen is fifth. Two Ferraris round out the lead lap cars in class. James Calado has the #72 SMP Racing Ferrari ahead the #68 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari of Daniel Serra in seventh.

Seven cars are on the lead lap in GTD. Magnus Racing leads with René Rast behind the wheel of the #44 Audi. Alex Riberas is second in the #23 Team Seattle/Alex Job Racing Porsche. The #97 Turner Motorsport BMW of Maxime Martin runs in third position. Mathias Lauda has the #98 Aston Martin up to the fourth in class with Cooper MacNeil running in fifth in the #22 Alex Job Racing Porsche.

Patrick Long runs sixth in the #540 Black Swan Racing Porsche. The #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari of Robert Renauer is seventh. The #30 Frikadelli Racing Porsche of Patrick Huisman, #9 Stevenson Motorsport Audi of Dion von Moltke, #93 Riley Dodge Viper of Damien Faulkner and #28 Konrad Racing Lamborghini of Lance Willsey are all a lap down.

Prototype Challenge has seen the most attrition of the four classes. Kenton Koch leads by ten laps in the #85 JDC/Miller Motorsports Oreca over the #26 BAR1 Motorsports Oreca of Don Yount but Koch's lead has shrunk by a few laps after Koch had his own accident. The #20 BAR1 Motorsports Oreca of Ricardo Vera is a lap behind it's teammate and the #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca of José Gutierrez is a lap behind the #20 Oreca.

Notable cars to suffer setbacks during the night include the #48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini. Gearbox issues through out the night have the #02 Ganassi Ford-Riley of Jamie McMurray outside the overall top ten. The #16 Change Racing Lamborghini has retired as has the #60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier-HPD.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

After Eight Hours, Negri Leads 24 Hours of Daytona.

One-third of the 2016 24 Hours of Daytona has been completed. Here is a run down of the four classes after eight hours.

Oswaldo Negri, Jr. has the #60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier-HPD in the lead despite the #60 having a slight incident early in the race when John Pew ran into the back of the #2 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier-HPD of Johannes van Overbeek at the bus stop chicane. Nergi, Jr. passed the #02 Ganassi Ford-Riley of Tony Kanaan for the overall lead on the most recent restart. Ricky Taylor has the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP up to third while #02 of Kanaan is in third. The #10 team will be a man down for the rest of the race as Jordan Taylor is unable to continue due to illness. Jordan did complete one stint. Kanaan is trailed by the #90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Corvette DP of Marc Goossens.

Filipe Albuquerque rounds out the top five in the #5 Corvette DP for Action Express Racing. The #31 Action Express Corvette DP of Eric Curran is sixth. Andy Priaulx has the #01 Ganassi Ford-Riley in seventh and van Overbeek has the #2 Ligier-HPD in eighth, the last car on the lead lap.

The #912 Porsche of Earl Bamber leads in GTLM ahead of Jan Magnussen in the #3 Corvette and the #72 SMP Racing Ferrari of James Calado. The #4 Corvette of Oliver Gavin is fourth. Toni Vilander is the top Ferrari as the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari is fifth ahead of the #911 Porsche of Kevin Éstre and #100 RLLR BMW of Kuno Wittmer. A lap back in class is Augusto Farfus in the #25 BMW. Two laps down is the #68 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari of Daniel Serra.

The debut for the Ford GT has not gone to plan. Both cars have suffered from mechanical issues but both are still running. Ryan Briscoe is 22 laps down in the #67 Ford while Dirk Müller is 11 laps behind his teammate in the #66 Ford.

Tom Kimber-Smith leads in PC by two laps in the #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca. In second is Brendan Gaughan in the #20 BAR1 Motorsports Oreca. Kenton Koch is third in class in the #85 JDC/Miller Motorsports entry. Kyle Marcelli is fourth, also two laps back, in the #38 Performance Tech Oreca.

Thirteen cars are on the lead lap in GTD. The #48 Paul Muller Racing Lamborghini of Mirko Bortolotti leads the #16 Change Racing Lamborghini of Spencer Pumpelly. René Rast has the #44 Magnus Racing Audi in third with the #23 Team Seattle/Alex Job Racing Porsche in fourth. Rounding out the top five is the #73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche of Norbert Siedler. The #6 Stevenson Motorsport Audi of Andrew Davis is running in sixth.

The #540 Black Swan Racing Porsche of Nicky Catsburg is seventh, ahead of the #98 Aston Martin of Richie Stanaway. The top Ferrari is the #51 Spirit of Race entry of Peter Mann. In tenth is the #22 Alex Job Racing Porsche of Leh Keen. Antonio Pérez has the #007 TRG-Aston Martin in 11th with Christina Nielsen in 12th in the #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari. The last car on the lead lap in GTD is the #33 Dodge Viper of Jeff Mosing.

Notable retirements include the #54 CORE Autosport Oreca, the #0 DeltaWing and the #70 Mazda.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Pace Car Driver: No More Than A Piece of Trivia

The Super Bowl is just over a week away. Does anyone know who will be doing the coin toss? No. Can you name whom did the coin toss last year? No? Teddy Bruschi and Kenny Easley. Did you know Tom Brady did the coin toss ten years ago at Super Bowl XL? The Super Bowl is the biggest sporting event in the United States and yet we don't remember who did the coin toss. Why? Because in the grand scheme of the game it is irrelevant beyond a prop bet that gambling addicts sweat over.

The Indianapolis 500 pace car driver is in the same boat as who does the Super Bowl coin toss. It's just a piece of trivia in the end. No one turns on the Super Bowl to see whom does the coin toss and no one tunes into the Indianapolis 500 because of the pace car driver. 

It is complete bullshit to believe the pace car driver can be used for activation to promote the Indianapolis 500. If people are going to watch, there will have to be more than the pace car driver. The race needs to grab people's attention. It needs to become something they are going to invest their time and emotion in. If the race can't do that, they will flip the channel to something else or turn it off altogether and go outside to sit by the pool. 

If you want more people watching the Indianapolis 500 and in turn IndyCar to grow, the pace car driver is just going to let you down. Hoping the pace car driver will draw a crowd is like getting hooker, it provides a short-term surge but long term you are still lonely. You can get some glitz and glamor celebrity with more Twitter followers than all 33 drivers starting the race combined and you can get them to tweet pictures from Instagram and show to their flock where they are at but do you really think someone is going to become hooked on it long time? No. People will see it and then forget about it when said celebrity tweets out pictures at some other event less than 48 hours later. 

IndyCar should want a spouse, someone who is going to invest in the series and stay around and keep coming back for more. How do you do that? It's going to take more than a pace car driver. What happens on the racetrack must grab people and the characters performing the play are what must keep them around. I have said this time and time again: make the drivers relatable to people. If the people can relate to the drivers then people are more likely to stick around because they have a reason to watch. The connection needs to be with the drivers, not the pace car driver. 

The pace car driver is just a piece of trivia. If you believe it is a promotional tool than it's a promotional tool that has a shelf life of all of five minutes.

With that said, perhaps IndyCar should take a page from the playbook of the NFL and the Super Bowl coin toss. Like I said, last year it was done by Teddy Bruschi and Kenny Easley, an ex-player from each time playing in last year's game (New England and Seattle respectively) and a decade ago Tom Brady did. In recent years the coin toss has been done by Joe Namath, Phil Simms, Cris Carter, Bill Parcells, Deion Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Gen. David Petraeus, Jerry Rice, Steve Young and Dan Marino. What does all but one of those names have in common? They are some of the greatest football players of all-time. Go back and look at other past Super Bowl coin tosses. The Super Bowl coin toss has become a way to celebrate the past, celebrate the history of the game and share it with young and old fans. 

Since the pace car driver is just a piece of trivia and it's relevance is so little, instead of chasing stars and hoping it becomes a trending topic on social media why not just have the pace car driver be a honorary position for some of the greatest people in motorsports? People, those who are motorsports fans and those who aren't would respect a legend getting honored more than attention-seeker getting more attention. A celebrity can be a pace car driver but I would rather have it be someone who wants to do it and not some who has to be asked and then informed about what they will be doing. 

With this being the 100th Indianapolis 500, a lot people have been bickering about who should do it. Honestly, I don't care. It's just a piece of trivia. Like I said before, it should honor someone from motorsports and this year in particular it should honor somebody steep in the history of the Indianapolis 500. I threw out Roger Penske because nobody has won more at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway than Penske and he has that "Chevrolet connection."

(Quick sidebar: I hate the idea of the "Chevrolet connection" and Chevrolet getting a say in who drives the pace car. It sounds like all someone has to do is slide their hand in Chevrolet's pocket to get the position. Chevrolet should get no say. One of its cars is getting whored out and that's all they should get. If they don't like it than I am sure Honda would love to promote the NSX). 

Other than Penske, A.J. Foyt could do it again; Mario Andretti could do it. There is anyone of a plethora of names who could do it and you couldn't argue against. Rick Mears, Al Unser, Alex Zanardi, Sam Hornish, Jr. (if he isn't competing in the race), Jigger Sirois (could you image that? That would be the most inside of jokes), a Hulman-George family member (could you imagine if Tony George did it?), Damon Hill (in honor of the 50th anniversary of his father Graham Hill winning the race), Bobby Rahal, Michael Andretti, you get the point. 

Regardless of who does it, it will still only be a piece of trivia. All that matters will be what happens during the race.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

2016 24 Hours of Daytona Preview

The 54th 24 Hours of Daytona takes place this weekend and the event has 54 entries across four classes. Old faces are in new places. The Prototype class begins its final season in its current format. The Ford GT makes its long awaited debut and GTD is finally GT3-spec. Let's take a class-by-class look at the entries.

This will be Ganassi's final race in the Prototype class and he has brought the band back together to defend its crown as well as assembled an all-star foursome. Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson return to drive the #02 Ford-Riley and look to make it consecutive victories in the two-around-the-clock endurance race. The #01 Ford-Riley sees Ganassi bringing Alexander Wurz out of retirement for one race to be joined by defending World Endurance Drivers' champion Brendon Hartley, WEC Ford GT driver Andy Priaulx and Formula Three driver Lance Stroll.

Christian Fittipaldi and João Barbosa enter the 2016 season looking for their third consecutive championship. Filipe Albuquerque and Scott Pruett will join the defending champions in the #5 Action Express Corvette DP. Pruett enters looking for a record-breaking sixth 24 Hours of Daytona victory. He is currently tied with Hurley Haywood for the most all-time. Dane Cameron, Eric Curran, Simon Pagenaud and Jonny Adam will drive the #31 Action Express Corvette DP.

Wayne Taylor Racing returns will Ricky and Jordan Taylor being joined by Max Angelelli and Rubens Barrichello in the #10 Corvette DP. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Wayne Taylor's first 24 Hours of Daytona victory. Both his sons are still looking for their first victory in the event and Angelelli has not won since he, Wayne Taylor and Emmanuel Collard won in 2005. Barrichello was a late addition to the driver line-up. The Brazilian ran last year for Starworks in a BMW-Riley with Ryan Hunter-Reay, Hartley, Tor Graves and Scott Mayer.

Taylor's two co-drivers for that 1996 victory are both entered to race in this year's race. Scott Sharp returns with the #2 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier-Honda and co-drivers Johannes van Overbeek, Pipo Derani and Ed Brown. Jim Pace was the first driver in that 1996 winning trio and he will be in the underdog of the Prototype class: The #50 Highway to Help BMW-Riley. Pace's co-drivers are Dorsey Schroeder, Bryan DeFoor, David Hinton and Thomas Gruber.

Besides the ESM Ligier, the other two LMP2 cars belong to Michael Shank Racing and SMP Racing. Shank will run the #60 Ligier-Honda with Oswaldo Negri, Jr., John Pew, A.J. Allmendinger and Olivier Pla. SMP Racing brings their BR01-Nissan over to make its North American debut. Maurizio Mediani, Nicolas Minassian, Mikhail Aleshin and Kirill Ladygin will drive the #37 BR01-Nissan.

Ryan Dalziel, Marc Goossens and Ryan Hunter-Reay will drive the #90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP.  The DeltaWing returns with Katherine Legge, Sean Rayhall, Andy Meyrick and Andreas Wirth driving the #0 entry. Mazda returns with two prototypes. The #55 Mazda has Jonathan Bomarito, Tristan Nunez and defending Indy Lights champion Spencer Pigot entered and the #70 Mazda is slated to be driven by Joel Miller, Tom Long and Ben Devlin.

Prototype Challenge
Eight cars are entered in the PC class.

PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports won last year and the #52 Oreca sees only one returning driver from last year's winning team. Tom Kimber-Smith has Robert Alon, José Gutierrez and Nicholas Bouille joining him this year.

CORE Autosport finished second last year after an accident in the closing minutes while leading the class. Jon Bennett and Colin Braun will have Martin Plowman and Mark Wilkins join them in the #54 Oreca.

JDC/Miller Motorsports finished third last year and three drivers return from last year: Chris Miller, Stephen Simpson and Mikhail Goikhberg. Kenton Koch is the new driver to the #85 Oreca.

Starworks has entered two impressive driver line-ups. The #8 Oreca sees Renger van der Zande, Alex Popow, Chris Cumming and Jack Hawksworth listed with the #88 Oreca scheduled to have Mark Kvamme, Sean Johnston, Maro Engel and Felix Rosenqvist drive.

BAR1 Motorsport also has two entries. Tomy Drissi, Marc Drumwright, Ricardo Vera, Brendan Gaughan and Johnny Mowlem are entered in the #20 Oreca. Five drivers are listed for the #26 Oreca: Ryan Eversley, Adam Merzon, Don Yount, Ryan Lewis and Jon Falb.

Performance Tech Motorsports rounds out the PC entry list with the #38 Oreca. James French, Jim Norman, Josh Norman and Brandon Gdovic are the drivers.

GT Le Mans
Eleven cars are entered in the GTLM class.

Jan Magnussen and Antonio García will look to make consecutive victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona; however, Mike Rockenfeller joins the Dane and Spaniard in the #3 Corvette, replacing Ryan Briscoe. The #4 Corvette sees Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin returning with Marcel Fässler joining the Anglo-American duo.

Briscoe has moved on to the Ford GT program run by Chip Ganassi. The Australian will split the #67 Ford with Richard Westbrook and Stefan Mücke, who will drive a Ford GT in WEC later this year. Joey Hand, Dirk Müller and Sébastien Bourdais will drive the #66 Ford. This marks the 50th anniversary of the Ford GT40 winning the 24 Hours of Daytona with Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby.

Defending GTLM champion Patrick Pilet returns to drive the #911 Porsche 911 RSR with Nick Tandy and Kevin Éstre. Pilot and Tandy won the 24 Hours of Daytona in GTLM in 2014 with Richard Lietz as their co-driver. Earl Bamber leads the #912 Porsche driver line-up with Frédéric Makowiecki and Michael Christensen joining the New Zealander.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has two BMWs entered with stout line-ups. Bill Auberlen and Dirk Werner will drive the #25 BMW and DTM drivers Augusto Farfus and Bruno Spengler will join the American and German. Lucas Luhr and John Edwards will be the full-time drivers in the #100 BMW. For Daytona, Kuno Wittmer and Graham Rahal will be the third and fourth drivers in the #100.

Three Ferrari 488 GTEs are scheduled to make their debut. Risi Competizione entered the #62 Ferrari for Giancarlo Fisichella, Toni Vilander, Davide Rigon and Olivier Beretta. Scuderia Corsa has entered a car in GTLM along with their traditional GTD entry. Alessandro Pier Guidi, Alexandre Prémat, Daniel Serra and Memo Rojas will drive the #68 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari. SMP Racing not only brought over a BR01. Their #72 Ferrari features Viktor Shaitar, Andrea Bertolini, Gianmaria Bruni and James Calado.

GT Daytona
The largest class in the 2016 24 Hours of Dayton will be GT Daytona, which will feature 22 cars from seven manufactures.

Riley Motorsports won last year's race and returns with two Dodge Vipers. Jeroen Bleekemolen, Ben Keating, Dominik Farnbacher and Marc Miller will be in the #33 Viper while Keating joins Gar Robinson, Jeff Mosing, Eric Foss and Damien Faulkner in the #93 Viper.

Defending GTD drivers' champions Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler have moved from Scuderia Corsa to the #11 O'Gara Motorsport Lamborghini and will be joined by Richard Antinucci and Edoardo Piscopo.

Replacing Bell and Sweedler in the #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari will be Christian Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan. Jeff Segal and Robert Renauer join the Dane and Italian for Daytona. The only other Ferrari in GTD is the #51 Spirit of Race entry of Peter Mann, Raffaele Gianmaria, Matteo Cressoni and Marco Cioci.

Besides O'Gara Motorsport, four other Lamborghini Huracáns are entered. Change Racing has entered the #16 Lamborghini for Spencer Pumpelly, Corey Lewis, Justin Marks and Kaz Grala. Konrad Motorsport has entered two Lamborghinis. Emanuele Busnelli and Jim Michaelian are entered in Konrad's #21 Lamborghini. Rolf Ineichen, Lance Willsey, Franz Konrad, Fabio Babini and Marc Basseng will drive the #28 Lamborghini. Paul Miller Racing switched over from Porsche. Bryce Miller, Mirko Bortolotti, Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow will drive the #48 Lamborghini.

Stevenson Motorsports moves up to IMSA from Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge with two Audi R8s. Robin Liddell, Andrew Davis, Lawson Aschenbach and Matt Bell will drive the #6 Audi with Kenny Habul, Boris Said, Dion von Moltke and Tristan Vautier in the #9 Audi. Magnus Racing has switched to Audis. Andy Lally and John Potter return in the #44 Audi and will be joined by Marco Seefried and René Rast. Flying Lizard Motorsports and Krohn Racing have partnered for the #45 Audi to be driven by Nic Jönsson, Pierre Kaffer, Christopher Haase and Tracy Krohn.

Five Porsches are entered. Alex Job Racing has entered the #22 Porsche for Cooper MacNeil, Leh Keen, David MacNeil, Shane Van Gisbergen and Gunnar Jeannette. Ian James and Mario Farnbacher return in the #23 Team Seattle/Alex Job Racing Porsche and they will be joined by Alex Riberas and Wolf Henzler. VLN stalwarts Frikadelli Racing makes its Daytona debut with Klaus Abbelen, Frank Stippler, Sven Müller, Duncan Huisman and Sabine Schmitz in the #30 Porsche. Patrick Lindsey and Jörg Bergmeister will drive the #73 Park Place Racing Porsche. Matt McMurry and Norbert Siedler round out the Park Place driver line-up. Black Swan Racing has entered the #540 Porsche for Nicky Catsburg, Tim Pappas, Patrick Long and Andy Pilgrim.

Turner Motorsport entered two BMWs. Bret Curtis and Jens Klingmann will drive the #96 M6 GT3 with Ashley Freiberg and DTM champion Marco Wittmann joining Curtis and Klingman. Michael Marsal, Markus Palttala, Maxime Martin and Jesse Krohn will drive the #97 BMW.

Aston Martin has two entries. The factory team has brought their leading FIA WEC GTE-Am team of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda to Daytona. Richie Stanaway will be the fourth driver in the #98 Aston Martin Vantage V8. TRG-Aston Martin returns after forming a partnership with Formula One driver Sergio Pérez. James Davison, Santiago Creel, Antonio Pérez, Ricardo Pérez and Lars Valjoen are entered to drive the #007 Aston Martin. Sergio Pérez is also listed as a driver but he was listed for the #007 at the test two weeks ago but did not participate.

On track action in preparation for the 24 Hours of Daytona begins at 9:25 a.m. ET Thursday with a one-hour practice. A thirty-minute session will follow later that day at 1:20 p.m. ET. Qualifying will begin at 4:00 p.m. ET and a 90-minute night practice will round out Thursday at 6:30 p.m. ET. A final one-hour practice will be at 10:45 a.m. ET Friday.

The 24 Hours of Daytona will begin at 2:40 p.m. ET Saturday. Fox Sports 1 coverage will begin at 2:00 p.m. ET before switching to Fox Sports 2 at 4:00 p.m. ET. Online coverage will begin at 10:00 p.m. ET and run until 7:00 a.m. ET Sunday when FS1 picks up coverage. FS2 will take over at 10:30 a.m. ET before switching over to FS1 at 1:00 p.m. ET for the conclusion of the race.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Musings From the Weekend: The Pain of Exclusivity

The Eastern part of the United States was buried by snow. World Rally Championship kicked off their season with the famed Rallye Monte Carlo. A few championships were awarded in Malaysia. Supercross returned to Anaheim. There was more racing from New Zealand. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

The Pain of Exclusivity
With the IndyCar grid likely going to shrink a little in 2016, I started wondering, "What can IndyCar do so these team owners can make more money?"

Take CFH Racing. It is a race winning operation. It has kept the most promising and probably most marketable driver in IndyCar for another season. It was contending for a championship in the final race last year. Despite all this, it is a team scraping by and not entirely set for 2016. Josef Newgarden appears to be fine but it is the #20 Chevrolet that isn't set in stone and that's the car that has a company featured on the side pods in every race. Ed Carpenter said to the team has yet to secure the budget to confirm the #20 will be full-time this season.

CFH Racing showed they could compete with the big boys but even that isn't enough to get sponsors on-board. While the #20 Chevrolet is a unique venture with Carpenter splitting the car on ovals and road/street circuits, it is a sponsor's dream as regardless who is in, it seems to find it's way to the front and get exposure. Mike Conway won twice in the #20 when he was Carpenter's partner in crime in 2014. Luca Filippi had a respectable season last year and finished second in CFH's 1-2 in Toronto.

CFH Racing isn't the only team that is struggling. Spencer Pigot, fresh off the Indy Lights championship, has only three with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Chip Ganassi Racing's fourth car is still up in the air after the team released Sage Karam and the Pennsylvanian has signed with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing to attempt the Indianapolis 500. All is quiet on Andretti Autosport's fourth seat. KV Racing has decided to save itself the headache of funding a second car and will focus solely on Sébastien Bourdais in 2016.

I am sure IndyCar doesn't want its grid to shrink but without a change, teams will continue to hemorrhage money. What is the answer? What ever makes IndyCar more attractive to sponsors. NBCSN does a great job and while ratings have improved on the network, it still doesn't appear to be good enough for a sponsor to spend six or seven figures sponsoring a racecar. ABC doesn't appear interested in showing more races on network television and because IndyCar loves putting the word "exclusivity" in contracts, NBC can't show any races. ABC's exclusivity as network partner to IndyCar hampers the series and the teams. Not every IndyCar can be shown on network television; motorsports in the United States isn't a sport for network television, but if NBC could show three or four races and put IndyCar out there for more eyeballs to see, it could make the series a more desirable to sponsor. IndyCar needs to find a way to have ABC make a concession for the betterment of the series.

I am not sure how much of a difference three or four races would make but I can't help but think it would help a little bit and perhaps the extra races on network television will draw more fans not only to the NBCSN races but to the ABC races as well and grow the fan base as a whole.

Champions From the Weekend
The #8 Race Performance Oreca-Judd clinched the Asian Le Mans Series championship in LMP2 with a second place finish in the season finale at Sepang. Swiss driver Nicolas Leutwile ran all four races with Shinji Nakano and Oliver Webb splitting the four races evenly.

With a fourth place finish in GT, the #3 Clearwater Racing McLaren 650S GT3 took the title. Rob Bell, Weng Sun Mok and Keita Sawa ran all four races.

Winners From the Weekend
Did you know...

Sébastien Ogier started his campaign for a third consecutive championship by winning Rallye Monte Carlo.

Antonio Giovinazzi and Sean Gelael won their second consecutive Asian Le Mans Series race as the #9 Jagonya Ayam with Eurasia Oreca-Nissan won at Sepang. The #1 DC Racing Ligier-Nissan of David Cheng, Ho-Pin Tung and Thomas Laurent won in LMP3. Absolute Racing's #5 Audi R8 LMS of Christopher Mies, Jeffrey Lee and Alessio Picariello won in GT.

Jehan Daruvala, Pedro Piquet and Lando Norris split the Toyota Racing Series weekend from Teretonga Park.

Ryan Dungey won at Anaheim, his second consecutive Supercross victory.

Coming Up This Weekend
The 24 Hours of Daytona.
AMA Supercross heads north to Oakland.
Toyota Racing Series heads north to Hampton Downs Motorsports Park.

Friday, January 22, 2016

A Few Pieces Remain, Why Not Start the Season Next Week?

The 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series grid is close to 90% full.

There will be about 21-22 full-time cars and 18.5 of those entries have drivers.

Takuma Sato (somehow) and Jack Hawksworth will both return to AJ Foyt Racing.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Carlos Muñoz will be back at Andretti Autosport.

Josef Newgarden will carry the CFH Racing flag while Ed Carpenter's partner in crime is still to be determined.

Chip Ganassi Racing will bring back defending champion Scott Dixon, 41-year old Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball.

Conor Daly has been signed by Dale Coyne Racing.

Sébastien Bourdais will be the only driver at KV Racing.

Graham Rahal returns to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports' 2016 line-up will feature two returning drivers: James Hinchcliffe and Mikhail Aleshin.

Team Penske retains all four drivers from 2015: Juan Pablo Montoya, Will Power, Hélio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud.

Gabby Chaves has not been confirmed to be returning to Bryan Herta Autosport despite winning Rookie of the Year last year. The runner-up in the last two Indy Lights season Jack Harvey is reportedly in contention for that seat as well as the vacant second Dale Coyne Racing seat.

The 22nd seat is going to be a little more of a stretch. KV has already put the kibosh on a second full-time entry and is going all-in on Sébastien Bourdais (which isn't a bad bet to make). The fourth Ganassi seat is still in play but whether it will be one driver or a rotating cast of characters remains to be seen. Perhaps Andretti could run a fourth car and then there is Spencer Pigot, who is slated to be at St. Petersburg and both Indianapolis with RLLR. Pigot becoming a full-time entry is not out of the realm of possibilities.

So it appears the grid will shrink a little bit in 2016. That's not a great thing but it could be worse. I still think 22 cars would be a good grid size but there would still be a handful of talented drivers on the sidelines. Someone will always end up on the sidelines but if the grid were 24-26 full-time entries, then I think that would really benefit the series.

Grid size aside, it has been nearly five months since a bow was put on the 2015 season and while we are less than two months from the 2016 season going green, I think we are all ready for a race. NASCAR is still a month away from starting. There have been a few events over the last couple weeks but this is a crucial time in the American sports calendar. The NFL season is coming to a close. Baseball is still over two months from Opening Day. College basketball season is starting to heat up but won't catch fire until the end of February. The NBA and NHL are just over halfway through. Don't get me wrong, an IndyCar race during January or early February is going to enthrall the country and give IndyCar record-setting ratings but maybe it gets IndyCar a larger audience than normal and maybe more people stay tuned for the entire season.

The drivers want to race. They are hungry. That's why nine of the drivers listed above (Pagenaud, Aleshin, Pigot, Hunter-Reay, Dixon, Kanaan, Hawksworth, Bourdais and Rahal) are entered for the 24 Hours of Daytona and other names who has been linked to IndyCar in recent years such as Tristan Vautier, who hasn't been ruled out of returning to Coyne in 2016, Martin Plowman and Katherine Legge.

IndyCar should join the 24 Hours of Daytona bill and start there season at the one of the most famous racetracks in the world. IndyCar needs a home run of a season opener and starting the season under the lights at Daytona would do just that. Over a third of the IndyCar grid is already down there. Fans are already there. It's a slam-dunk. It's going to be a tight fit and it has pitfalls but it would be worth it.

First, IndyCar would have to accept what time IMSA gives them (if IMSA gives any at all but I am sure a deal could be made). There is time though but IndyCar would have to be creative with the scheduling. Sports cars don't hit the track until Wednesday and it is wall-to-wall sports cars from 9:30 a.m. ET to 8:00 p.m. ET Thursday.

Here is what I envision:
Monday: IndyCar Media Day from Daytona. It gives the media a chance to talk to the drivers and Dale Coyne to announce his second driver. It gives any drivers with Indianapolis 500 programs a chance to make their announcement. It's the perfect way to kick off the opening weekend.

Tuesday: Test all day. Start in the afternoon and go into the evening.

Wednesday: Sports cars, more specifically Continental Tires Sports Car Challenge, are on track until 4:45 p.m. ET. I say IndyCar has a two-hour practice session starting at 5:00 p.m. ET. Who knows? Maybe even NBCSN could show the session and have that lead into their Wednesday night NHL coverage.

Thursday: Off day. There is too much sports car action. Give the teams a day at the beach.

Friday: Sports cars are done at 4:15 p.m. ET. Have qualifying at 5:00 p.m. ET with the race starting at 7:00 p.m. ET.

Besides scheduling, weather could be a hang up for this event. While it is Florida, it is not exempt for cold weather. Looking at the forecast for next week's 24 Hours of Daytona, the high for next Friday is 63º F with a low of 46º F and 15 MPH winds. It's not the greatest weather but it's better than what the Northeast is facing this weekend and much warmer than the Midwest. However, after many years of watching the 24 Hours of Daytona, the fans in the infield will just light a fire, crack out a six-pack and enjoy the race.

Another problem is space in the infield. Would there be enough room to add close to two-dozen IndyCar haulers in the infield? Last year during Speedweeks, there were 133 entries across NASCAR's three national touring divisions. For this year's 24 Hours of Daytona, there are 54 entries and there are 37 entries for the CTSCC race. I haven't been able to locate an entry list for Ferrari Challenge; the other support series to the 24 Hours of Daytona, but last year Ferrari Challenge had 29 entries. That's 120 entries. I am not sure you could squeeze another two-dozen IndyCar haulers into the infield but worse-case scenario, IndyCar parks everything on the back straightaway considering that grandstand has been torn down.

I think it could be a big event for IndyCar and for NBCSN. It would be a big weekend for motorsports and a historic weekend.

I also think IndyCar would benefit as it would be a chance to show off to series to a lot of up-and-coming drivers. The 24 Hours of Daytona feels like a scouting combine. You have a lot of drivers heading to Daytona with balls hanging up in the air over what they will do over the rest of the year. A good showing in Daytona could earn a driver a paying ride. With drivers such as Formula Three champion Felix Rosenqvist, GP2 and GTE race winner Richie Stanaway and the liability but talented son of a billionaire that is Lance Stroll entered for Daytona, it could be a great way for IndyCar to show these drivers firsthand that there is an alternative form of single-seater racing that is more affordable than the road to Formula One.

I think IndyCar could sell a race at Daytona. I think it could be a race sponsors would want to be apart of. IndyCar would have to be really nice to IMSA to allow it to happen but I am sure they could work something out. I can't see any reason why it shouldn't happen.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

NASCAR Goes 0-For-3 With a Fielder's Choice

NASCAR is constantly in the phallic stage: They are always touching themselves.

Just when you think NASCAR is done with the rule changes and we can go one year without Brian France getting on a stage and issuing a decree that NASCAR is improving the sport because every decision the series makes is made of gold.

Yesterday, four changes were announced. The Chase will expand to NASCAR's second division and the Truck series. Four NASCAR second division races will feature Heat Races. NASCAR will introduce the "caution clock" in the Truck series.

What is the "caution clock" you ask? Well, it's just as bad as it sounds. NASCAR will start a twenty-minute clock when the green flag flies and when that clock hits all zeros a caution will come out. If a caution comes out prior to the clock hitting quadruple zeros, then the clock resets and will start on the next restart. The clock will disabled within the field twenty laps, except at Pocono and Mosport, where it will be disabled with 10 laps to go.

It's the dumbest thing I have ever heard. NASCAR basically wants drivers to ride around. They have created a safety net for drivers. If a driver/team botches a setup change and that driver is dropping to the back of the field, don't worry, just hold on, a caution will be out in twenty minutes and you will get a chance to fix the problem.

NASCAR has no appreciation for green flag racing. A race should not be constant start-and-stop. Races need to flow. The next caution should not be predetermined. If a driver is opening up a gap and the rest of field can't catch said driver, then so be it. If you have three or four drivers pull away from the rest of the field and those four have a second and a half covering them and they battle for sixty laps, then so be it.

Cautions cause people to change the channel. People don't want to watch another ten minutes of cars circling around and then another round of pit stops and then ten minutes of racing followed by ten minutes of caution. People want that constant action. If you keep the cars going at full speed, you make it hard for people to turn away because you get to see the cars change over the course of a run. One driver appears to be running away only to fall back to the field because of tire wear. What if someone needs to make an emergency pit stop and losses a lap or two? Green flag action is great. It's heart pounding.

I think the "caution clock" will end with the same fate as when NASCAR limited how many crew members could go over the pit wall on a pit stop in the Truck series in 2009 and forced drivers to stop for fuel on one lap and then come back in to put on tire or vice versa. I think there will be enough backlash that NASCAR will scrap this but unfortunately we will have to live with it for 2016.

The next two swing and misses NASCAR made Tuesday was introducing the Chase in the other two national touring series and I am not sure why. Last year, the Grand National series had four drivers mathematically eligible for the championship in the final race and that was after 32 races prior. The Truck series had three drivers mathematically eligible for the championship in the final race after 22 races.

I am not sure what NASCAR, and more specifically Brian France, wants from his series. The championships came down to the final race and the final lap for that matter. The championship didn't come down to one pass for position but it still wasn't a certainty who the champion would be until the checkered flag. I honestly believe Brian France has some type of sex addiction and his incapability to achieve a desirable orgasm has been transferred to him running the racing series his father and grandfather created.

The Chase, especially in the Truck series, now opens a new Pandora's Box. John Hunter Nemechek was not eligible to run the full season until June last year. Once he turned 18 years old, Nemechek ran all 16 races and won at Chicagoland. The Chase would have started the week after Chicagoland at New Hampshire and Nemechek had won a race and was 13th in points, well inside the top 30. However, Nemechek missed five of the first seven races because he wasn't eligible to run ovals greater than 1.25 miles in length. Would he get a waiver?

Also, realize how easy it is to be in the top 30 in the Truck series. Last year, 30th in points was Caleb Holman with 130 points from six starts. That's it. It takes a half a dozen races to get in the top 30. What if a driver doesn't turn 18 years old until the end of August but is 26th in points with two victories after that Chicago race? Will that driver get a waiver? NASCAR is becoming a elementary school with all the waivers they require. The easiest way to avoid this would be not to adopt a Chase format.

Even better, for the Grand National, 30th in points was Boris Said, who had started five races and had 157 points. Not that difficult what so ever.

However, NASCAR did get on base yesterday but this could have been better.

The four Dash for Cash races will feature heat races to set the starting order for a feature race. The spring Bristol race, spring Richmond race, spring Dover race and Indianapolis will be the four races. I am a proponent for heat races because they make the laps more meaningful. Instead of 400 laps and people only caring about the final 100 laps, split the race up to make all 400 laps mean more.

But NASCAR missed it. These heat races are only setting the grid. The finishing order of heat race one will set the odd-numbered position and the second heat will set the even-numbered position. Basically, NASCAR extended qualifying. If NASCAR is going to do heat races, eliminate drivers, include an LCQ, have the feature be about 20 cars with 20-25 cars not advancing but at least getting extended track time for their sponsors to get exposure.

I think the heat races and the "caution clock" are cousins except one is a genius and the other is a sociopath. Heat races (when they are more than just setting the grid) are short and to the point but could leave a top driver in trouble of not making it to the feature. All of a sudden, the LCQ becomes important, especially if a hand full of top drivers end up have a bad day and multiple race winners won't have a shot at maximum points. The "caution clock" is just a way to prevent an hour or green flag racing and break up the action. I was thinking of how many laps could be completed in 20 minutes. Let's say at a mile and a half oval, the average lap time was 30 seconds. You would complete 40 laps in that time frame. Think about the Showdown for the All-Star Race. That is 40 laps in length. That is the perfect length for a heat race. Instead of doing the "caution clock," just do heat races majority of the time. Have a handful of races be a traditional race format but do heat races at races that most people don't care about. Who cares about the format at Dover? Nobody.

Ultimately, heat races solve NASCAR's problem that 95% of there races have: They are too long. In the Cup series, outside of the Daytona 500, the Coca-Cola 600, the Southern 500 and the Brickyard 400, every race should be 350 miles or less.

NASCAR (and most of American motorsports for that matter) gives out professional participation trophies. No one should get points just for starting a race. Points should be earned. Adopt the Formula One system and only pay the top ten. That will make the championship more interesting. Forget the Chase. Make points harder to come by and the Chase would no longer be necessary but the championship will benefit as drivers will have more incentive to fight week in and week out.

NASCAR needs to be a motorsport series but they are blind. NASCAR thinks they are big time but they are still a regional series 50 weeks of the year.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Musings From the Weekend: Having Your Heart Ripped Out

The first endurance race of the year took place in the Middle East. Another Dakar Rally was completed. History repeated itself in Tulsa. Superiors spent another week in Southern California. There was racing from New Zealand. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Having Your Heart Ripped Out
St. Louis lost their football team and regardless of what happens in the final two weeks of the month, no sports fan will have had a worse month of January than St. Louis sport fans.

Fortunately, I have never had one of my favorite teams ripped out like a Mayan ripping out a beating heart but the more I thought about and the more I tried to imagine that emotion, I realized I have experienced something similar to that. Milwaukee falling off the IndyCar schedule, again. Fontana being abandoned by IndyCar, again. The loss of Michigan. The loss of Richmond. Cleveland being a casualty of reunification. Road America being a casualty of reunification (fortunately that has been rectified as has Phoenix).

While it has sucked to see those races go, it isn't a perfect analogy to that of St. Louis because I don't live in any of those places and that is a problem for IndyCar. Milwaukee is gone and while it hurt me and might have hurt some in the Indianapolis-area and some in Ohio and California and Florida, how many people in Milwaukee are sad to see it go?

I have talked about this before. IndyCar needs to establish itself in the communities the series travels to and become apart of the fabric of those communities. It can't be just another carnival that pops up its tent and is then on the move and out of town before you know it was even there. IndyCar can't rely on getting majority of their race day attendance being fans traveling two to three hours or more get to a race out of the red. Milwaukee isn't the largest metropolitan area but it's far from being Winslow, Arizona and there are plenty of bodies within an hour of the Milwaukee Mile to get a decent crowd without having to rely on people from Chicago, Indianapolis and beyond to save the day at the gate.

I concede to the city of St. Louis that the pain they are feeling is worst than what I and majority of IndyCar fans felt when the news came that Milwaukee, Fontana and NOLA would not return in 2016. Who knows? Maybe IndyCar will be coming to the St. Louis area sometime soon. And perhaps not too long after that IndyCar will be leaving without ever being a blip on the radar.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about what happened in the Dakar Rally and Dubai 24 Hour but did you know...

Rico Abreu won his second consecutive Chili Bowl.

Ryan Dungey won the AMA Supercross race from San Diego.

Ferdinand Habsburg, Lando Norris and Jehan Daruvala split the opening round of Toyota Racing Series season from Ruapana Park.

Coming Up This Weekend
The World Rally Championship season begins with Rallye Monte Carlo.
Asian Le Mans Series seasons wraps up at Sepang.
Round two of the Toyota Racing Series will be at Teretonga Park, located at the very bottom of New Zealand.
AMA Supercross returns to Anaheim.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Peterhansel Wins Twelfth Dakar

The 2016 Dakar Rally has come to a close and three competitors added to their Dakar legacy while one joins an elite list of winners.

Stéphane Peterhansel won in the car class, his 12th Dakar victory, sixth in the car class. This is the Frenchman's first victory since going back-to-back in 2012 and 2013. This is Peugeot's first Dakar victory since Ari Vatanen won in 1990. Mini had won the last four Dakars in the car class.

Sébastien Loeb won the final stage. It was Loeb's fourth stage victory. He won by a minute and 13 seconds over Mikko Hirvonen. Nasser Al-Attiyah finished a minute and 36 seconds back in third on the same time as Cyril Despres in fourth. Leeroy Poulter was fifth, two minutes and four seconds back. Nani Roma and Orlando Terranova finished sixth and seventh. Roma finished a second behind Poulter and Terranova finished 34 seconds behind Roma. Giniel de Villiers finished three minutes and eight seconds back ahead of Vladimir Vasilyev in ninth, four minutes and 33 seconds back and Erik Van Loon finished tenth, five minutes and 19 seconds back.

Peterhansel finished 13th on the stage, over seven minutes back.

Peterhansel won overall by 34 minutes and 58 seconds over Al-Attiyah. Over an hour back was de Villiers in third. Hirvonen finished just under three minutes off the podium. Poulter finished an hour and a half back. Roma, Despres, Vasilyev, Loeb and Harry Hunt rounded out the top ten.

Other notables in the car class: Romain Dumas finished 20th and Robby Gordon finished 25th.

Toby Price became the first Australian to win the Dakar Rally in any class as he took the bike title. It is KTM's fifteenth consecutive victory in the bike class.

Pablo Quintanilla won the stage by a minute and 41 seconds over Kevin Benavides. Hélder Rodrigues finished two minutes and 37 seconds back in third. Price was fourth, four minutes and 22 seconds behind Quintanilla. Štefan Svitko was fifth, six minutes and 24 seconds back. Gerard Farres finished over ten minutes back in sixth. Ivan Cervantes was seventh, 11 minutes back with Ricky Brabec less than a minute behind Cervantes in eighth. Adrien Van Beveren and Mario Patrao rounded out the top ten on the stage.

Price took the overall victory by 39 minutes and 41 seconds over Svitko. Quantanilla finished 48 minutes and 48 seconds back in third. Benavides finished over 54 minutes back in fourth and Rodrigues was 55 minutes back in fifth. Van Beveren, Antoine Meo, Farres, Brabec and Armand Monleon were the back half of the top ten.

Marcos Patronelli became the first rider to win the Dakar Rally three times in the quad class. Patronelli previously won in 2010 and 2013. Yamaha has won all eight times quads have participated in the Dakar Rally.

Brian Baragwanath won his third stage by seven minutes and 44 seconds over Giuliano Giordana. Sergei Karyakin finished 11 seconds behind Giordana. Jeremias González finished fourth, 11 minutes and 45 seconds back. Walter Nosiglia rounded out the top five on the stage, 12 minutes and 43 seconds back. Alejandro Patronelli finished sixth, over 15 minutes back, Alexis Hernandez finished seventh and Marcos Patronelli finished eighth, exactly a minute behind his brother.

Marcos defeated this brother Alejandro by five minutes and 23 seconds in the overall standings. Baragwanath finished an hour and 41 minutes seconds back in third. Karyakin was fourth, an hour and 44 minutes back and González finished over two hours back in fifth.

Gerard de Rooy won his second Dakar Rally as the Dutchman took the truck class. His previous Dakar victory came in 2012 and that was the last time Iveco won until this year. Kamaz had won the three previous editions.

Hans Stacey won by a minute and 45 seconds over Pieter Versluis for the stage victory. Eduard Nikolaev finished two minutes and eight seconds back in third with Martin Kolomy in fourth, 44 seconds behind the Russian. Airat Mardeev finished fifth, three minutes and 13 seconds back with Federico Villagra three seconds behind him and de Rooy finishing five minutes and 56 seconds back in seventh.

De Rooy took the overall victory by an hour and ten minutes over Mardeev. Villagra was third, a half hour behind Mardeev. Stacey and Ton Van Genugten rounded out the top five and both finished over two hours behind their fellow Dutchman.

Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Gives Audi First Dubai 24 Hour Victory

German manufacture dominance in the United Arab Emirates continues. The #19 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS of Laurens Vanthoor, Stuart Leonard, Michael Meadows and Alain Ferté won the Dubai 24 Hour, Audi's first victory in the event. All eleven editions of the two-around-the-clock endurance race has been won by a German manufacture.

The #19 Audi completed 588 laps and won by five laps over the #16 Black Falcon Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 of Oliver Webb, Adam Christodoulou, Abdulaziz al Faisal, Oliver Morley and Frank Montecalvo. The #16 Mercedes started 98th on the grid after a fire during practice destroyed the team's first car. The team ended up using a show car to compete. The #4 C.ABT Racing Audi of Christer Jöns, Andreas Weishaupt, Issac Tutumlu, Matias Henkola and Daniel Abt rounded out the podium after completing 580 laps.

The #10 Hofor-Racing Mercedes of Michael Kroll, Chantal Kroll, Christiaan Frankenhout, Kenneth Heyer and Roland Eggiman finished fourth, ten laps down. The #10 Mercedes was the top A6-Am class finisher. Rounding out the top five was the #14 Optimum Motorsport Audi of Flick Haigh, Ryan Ratcliffe, Joe Osborne and Frank Stippler, 13 laps down. In sixth was the #22 Preci-Spark Mercedes of David Jones, Godfrey Jones, Morgan Jones, Philip Jones and Gareth Jones. The #34 Car Collection Motorsport Audi of Elmar Grimm, Ingo Vogler, Max Edelhoff, Gustav Edelhoff and Dr. Johannes Kirchhoff finished seventh, 15 laps down.

The first non-German manufacture was the #333 V8 Racing Corvette of Nicky Pastorelli, Alex van t'Hoff, Rich Abresch and Wolf Nathan in eighth after completing 572 laps. Two Lamborghini Huracán GT3s rounded out the top ten. The #7 HB Racing of Robert Renauer, Daniel Allemann, Ralf Bohn and Alfred Renauer finished ninth, 18 laps down with the #26 Konrad Motorsport entry of Rolf Ineichen, Mark Ineichen, Christian Engelhart, Fabio Babini and Franz Konrad rounding out the top ten, 19 laps down. The #26 Lamborghini had an engine failure while running third with less than a half hour to go.

In the 991 class, the #40 Lechner Racing Middle East Porsche of Jaap van Lagen, Saeed Al Mehairi, Bashar Mardini, Sven Mûller and Hasher Al Maktoum were victorious, finishing 11th overall and completing 568 laps.

The SP2 class winner was the #64 Porsche Lorient Racing Porsche of Frédéric Ancel, Christophe Bourret, Pascal Gibon, Jean-François Demorge and Philippe Polette. The French team finished 16th overall, completing 553 laps.

The #229 Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4 of Anna Walewska, Nathan Freke, Aleksander Schjerpen and Tim Oliphant finished 24th and won the SP3 class after completing 536 laps.

The #1 Memac Ogilvy Duel Racing Seat León Cup of Ramzi Moutran, Nabil Moutran, Sami Moutran and Phil Quaife won the TCR class in 32nd, completing 524 laps.

In 34th, completing 521 laps, was the A3 class winning #208 Team Altran Peugeot of Kim Holmgaard, Guillaume Roman, Thierry Blaise and Stéphane Ventaja.

In A2 class, the #57 LAP57 Racing Team Honda Integra of Mohammed Al Owais, Abdullah Al Hammadi, Nadir Zuhour, Junichi Umemoto and Rupesh Channake won after completing 511 laps, 39th overall.

Finally, the #148 QSR BMW M235i of Pieter Vanneste, Jimmy de Breucker, Mario Timmers, Luc Moortgat and Dylan Derdaele won the Cup1 class, finishing 43rd and completed 505 laps.

The #19 Audi lead 279 laps. Vanthoor becomes the first Belgian to win the Dubai 24 Hour. Ferté became the first French driver to win the event since Patrick Pilet and Raymond Narac won in 2010 with Marco Holzer. Vanthoor and Leonard won the Dubai 24 Hour less than a month after winning Audi's first Sepang 12 Hours.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Hirvonen Wins First Career Dakar Stage

The penultimate stage of the 2016 Dakar Rally was the longest stage of this year's race and it saw two competitors pick up their first stage victories.

Mikko Hirvonen won his first career stage. The Finn is competing in his first Dakar Rally. Hirvonen was victorious by nine seconds over fellow Mini driver Nasser Al-Attiyah. In third place on the stage was Leeroy Poulter, who finished 45 seconds back. Giniel de Villiers finished 57 seconds back in fourth. Nani Roma rounded out the top five, three minutes and nine seconds behind Hirvonen. Vladimir Vasilyev finished four minutes and 23 seconds back in sixth and Orlando Terranova finished six minutes back in seventh. Sébastien Loeb finished eighth, eight minutes and 33 seconds back. Cyril Despres and Stéphane Peterhansel rounded out the top ten, nine minutes and 11 minutes back respectively.

Peterhansel leads heading into the final stage of the 2016 Dakar Rally and is on the verge of his 12th Dakar victory and sixth in the car class. He leads Al-Attiyah by 40 minutes and 59 seconds. De Villiers is an hour and 11 minutes back with Hirvonen trailing the South African by just under four and a half minutes. Fifth place is Poulter. He is an hour and 36 minutes back. Roma is ten minutes outside the top five. Despres is an hour and 55 minutes back in seventh. Vasilyev, Loeb and Harry Hunt round out the top ten. Vasilyev and Loeb are over two hours back while Hunt trails by over three hours.

Hélder Rodrigues won his first stage of this year's race. The Portuguese rider won by four minutes and 32 seconds over overall bike class leader Toby Price. Kevin Benavides finished 23 seconds behind the Australian. Štefan Svitko finished sixth minutes and 48 seconds back with Adrien Van Beveren in fifth, 40 seconds behind the Slovakian. Pablo Quintanilla finished sixth, 12 minutes and 23 seconds back. Gerard Farres finished 17 minutes and four seconds back with Armand Monleon finishing 11 seconds behind Farres. Oliver Pain was 21 seconds behind Monleon and Jacopo Cerutti finished 53 seconds behind Monleon.

Price leads Svitko by 37 minutes and 39 seconds. Quantinalla is 53 minutes back with Benavides and Rodrigues both over 57 minutes back and only one second separating the two riders for fourth. An hour and 14 minutes back is Antoine Meo. Van Beveren trails by an hour and 36 minutes. Farres is an hour and 54 minutes back. American Ricky Brabec is ninth, two hours and three minutes behind Price. Monleon is over three hours back in tenth.

Marcos Patronelli won his third stage and extended his quad class lead. He won by nine seconds over Bolivian Walter Nosiglia. Sergei Karyakin finished 49 seconds back in third. Jeremias González finished fourth, three minutes and 47 seconds back. Alejandro Patronelli finished four minutes and 15 seconds back of his brother in fifth.

Marcos leads his brother Alejandro by four minutes and 23 seconds. Both riders are vying to become the first three-time winner in the quad class. Karyakin is an hour and 52 minutes behind Marcos in third. Brian Baragnwanath is an hour and 57 minutes back. González is two hours and six minutes back in fifth.

Pieter Versluis won stage 12 in the truck class, his first victory since stage two. Federico Villagra finished three minutes and 14 seconds back in second with Hans Stacey finishing four seconds behind the Argentine. Jaroslav Valtr finished five minutes and a second back in fourth and Gerard de Rooy finished fifth, 23 seconds behind Valtr.

De Rooy leads the truck class overall by an hour and 13 minutes over Airat Mardeev. De Rooy is on the verge of his second Dakar victory. Villagra trails by an hour and 43 minutes. Ton Van Genugten and Stacey round out the top five, both are over two hours behind their fellow Dutchman.

The final stage of the Dakar Rally heads from Villa Carlos Paz to Rosario.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Al-Attiyah Wins Stage Eleven

The overall class leads stayed the same across the board after stage eleven of the 2016 Dakar Rally.

Nasser Al-Attiyah won his second stage of this year's race. Both have come after the rest day. The Qatari beat Sébastien Loeb by five minutes and 52 seconds with Mikko Hirvonen finishing third, seven minutes and a second back. Stéphane Peterhansel was fourth on the stage, eight minutes and five seconds behind Al-Attiyah. Fifth on the stage was Yazeed Al-Rajhi, 11 minutes and 57 second behind Al-Attiyah. Nani Roma finished 12 minutes and 14 seconds back in sixth with Giniel de Villiers 44 seconds behind Roma. Cyril Despres finished eighth, 14 minutes and 51 seconds back. Toyota drivers Leeroy Poulter and Vladimir Vasilyev rounded out the top ten, both finished over 20 minutes back. Robby Gordon was 11th, over 22 minutes back.

Peterhansel still leads overall but the gap to Al-Attiyah has dropped to 51 minutes. An hour and 17 minutes back is de Villiers. Hirvonen is just over five minutes behind the South African. Poulter trails Hirvonen by 24 minutes. Roma and Despres are the final two drivers within two hours of Peterhansel, an hour and 54 minutes and an hour and 56 minutes respectively. Vasilyev is two hours and 11 minutes back. Loeb trails by two hours and 25 minutes. Harry Hunt is tenth, two hours and 48 minutes back.

Gordon is over ten hours back in 28th.

Carlos Sainz has retired after a mechanical failure on stage ten. American Sheldon Creed was disqualified from the race after stage nine for skipping waypoints.

Antoine Meo picked up his second stage victory in the bike class. The Frenchman defeated class leader Toby Price by 18 seconds. Pablo Quintanilla finished third, two minutes and 48 seconds. Hélder Rodrigues was fourth, six minutes and two seconds behind Meo. Adrien Van Beveren finished sixth, 12 minutes and nine seconds back. Kevin Benavides finished four seconds back of Van Beveren. Štefan Svitko finished 26 seconds behind Benavides. American Ian Blythe was the surprise of the stage, finishing eighth, 21 minutes and 28 seconds back. Jordi Viladoms finished ninth, 25 minutes and 29 seconds back and Gerard Farres rounded out the top ten, 27 minutes and seven seconds back. Ricky Brabec finished less than a minute outside the top ten in 11th on stage eleven.

Price leads Svitko by over 35 minutes. Meo is now third, 43 minutes back and Quintanilla trails Meo by less than two minutes. Benavides is 57 minutes back in fifth. Rodrigues is an hour and two minutes back. An hour and 33 minutes back is Van Beveren with Brabec just over six minutes behind the Frenchman. Farres is an hour and 41 minutes back. Michael Metge is 10th, over three hours back.

Alejandro Patronelli won his first stage of this year's Dakar by a minute and six seconds over stage ten winner Brian Baragwanath. Marcos Patronelli was twenty seconds behind Baragwanath in third. Sergei Karyakin finished fourth, 17 minutes and 49 seconds back. Jeremias González was fifth, 28 minutes and 56 seconds back.

Eight seconds separate the Patronelli brothers entering the penultimate stage. Marcos leads Alejandro. Baragwanath is an hour and 41 minutes back in third. Karaykin trails by an hour and 51 minutes and González is two hours and two minutes back in fifth.

Eduard Nikolaev won his third stage in the truck class by seven minutes and two seconds over Hans Stacey. Ton Van Genugten was 34 seconds behind Stacey in third. Airat Mardeev finished fourth, seven minutes and 51 seconds behind his fellow Russian. In fifth was Dmitri Sotnikov, nine minutes and 38 seconds back. Overall leader Gerard de Rooy finished 13 minutes and 49 seconds back in sixth.

De Rooy leads overall by an hour and nine minutes over Mardeev. Federico Villagra finished ninth on the stage and is third in the truck class, an hour and 45 minutes back, Van Genugten trails by two hours and 10 minutes in fourth. Stacey is just over two and a half hours back in fifth.

The penultimate stage heads from San Juan to Villa Carlos Paz.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Peterhansel Back On Top After Sainz Suffers Gearbox Issue

Stage ten of the 2016 Dakar Rally saw two class leads go unchanged but there was another changer a top the car class.

Stéphane Peterhansel won the stage, his third of this year's edition. Cyril Despres made it a French and Peugeot 1-2, finishing five minutes and 40 seconds behind Peterhansel. Vladimir Vasilyev was 12 minutes and 56 seconds back in third. Nani Roma finished fourth, 14 minutes and 33 seconds back. Sébastien Loeb scored his first top five stage finish since his accident on stage eight. Loeb was 17 minutes and 40 seconds behind his fellow countryman. Giniel de Villiers finished 26 minutes and 16 seconds back in sixth with Czech driver Miroslav Zapletal scoring his first top ten stage finish of this year's race, a minute and a half behind the South African. Harry Hunt of Great Britain also picked up his first top ten stage finish, 34 minutes and 25 seconds back. Emiliano Spataro finished five seconds behind Hunt. Leeroy Poulter rounded out the top ten, 37 minutes and 36 seconds back.

Carlos Sainz suffered a gearbox issue, stranding him out on the course for a significant amount of time before assistance could arrive. Sainz wasn't the only contending driver to stop on course today. Nasser Al-Attiyah suffered a flat tire and finished 52 minutes behind Peterhansel.

Peterhansel leads by exactly one hour over Al-Attiyah with three stages remaining. De Villiers is 12 minutes behind Al-Attiyah with Mikko Hirvonen just over 11 minutes behind the South African. He finished 56 minutes behind Peterhansel on stage ten. Ten minutes behind the Finn is Poulter. Despres is over an hour and 50 minutes back but Roma trails Despres by 18 seconds for sixth.

Štefan Svitko won his first stage of this year's Dakar. The Slovakian beat Kevin Benavides by two minutes and 54 seconds and Toby Price was five minutes and 47 seconds back in third. Paulo Gonçalves finished fourth, six minutes and a second back. Antoine Meo made it three KTMs in the top five. He finished seven minutes and 43 seconds back of Svitko. Pablo Quintanilla finished nine minutes and 55 seconds behind Svitko in sixth. Hélder Rodrigues was 12 minutes and a second back and American Ricky Brabec finished 13 minutes and 47 seconds back in eighth. Adrien Van Beveren and Gerard Farres rounded out the top ten, 18 minutes and 26 minutes back respectively.

Price retains his overall lead. The Australian leads Svitko by over 23 minutes. Gonçalves trails by 34 minutes in third. Quintanilla is 42 minutes back with Meo less than two minutes behind the Chilean and Benavides a little over a minute back of Meo. Rodrigues is 56 minutes back in seventh. Brabec trails by an hour and 12 minutes in eighth. Farres is three minutes and a second behind the American. Van Beveren rounds out the top ten, an hour and 21 minutes behind Price.

Brian Baragwanath won his second stage in the quad. The South African beat Marcos Patronelli by 29 seconds with Alejandro Patronelli a minute and 17 seconds back of Baragwanath. Sergei Karyakin was fourth, 17 minutes and 42 seconds back. Stage nine winner Pablo Bonetti finished fifth, 21 minutes and 53 seconds behind Baragwanath.

Marcos leads his brother Alejandro by a minute and 32 seconds. Jeremias González is an hour and 34 minutes back after losing over 41 minutes to Marcos Patronelli on this stage. Karyakin trails González by less than a minute. Baragwanath is fifth, an hour and 41 minutes back and the final rider within two hours of the quad class lead.

Dutchman Pascal De Baar took a surprise stage victory. His previous best stage finish this year was ninth on stage two. The Renaults Truck driver beat Gerard de Rooy by two minutes and 36 seconds. Airat Mardeev finished 26 minutes and six seconds back in third. Martin Kolomy finished 19 seconds behind Mardeev. A minute back of Kolomy was Hans Stacey.

De Rooy leads overall by an hour and 15 minutes over Mardeev. Federico Villagra is an hour and 32 minutes back in third. Stacey trails by an hour and 48 minutes. Two hours and 16 minutes back in fifth is Ton Van Genugten.

Stage eleven will go from La Rioja to San Juan.

2016 Dubai 24 Hour Preview

The first major endurance race of 2016 takes place this weekend. The 11th Dubai 24 Hour starts on Friday and will run through Saturday. One hundred cars are entered for the opening round of the 2016 24H Series season. Twenty-nine cars are entered in the premier, GT3-spec A6 class, 12 are consider Pro cars.

Black Falcon Racing returns with three Mercedes to defend it's victory. The #2 Mercedes will be split by two-time Dubai 24 Hour winners Jeroen Bleekemolen and Khaled al Qubaisi, last year's winner Hubert Haupt, Maro Engel and Indy Dontje. The #3 Mercedes will feature Haupt and two of his co-drivers from last year's winning team, Abdulaziz Al Faisal and Yelmer Buurman as well as 2013 winner Bernd Schneider and Michal Broniszewski. The #16 Mercedes will be lead by the fourth driver from last year's winner team, Oliver Webb. Adam Christodoulou, Patrick Assenheimer, Oliver Morley and American Frankie Montecalvo will be the other driver in the #16 Mercedes.

The other American in the A6 class is Connor De Phillippi. The former Road to Indy driver will be in the #28 Land-Motorsport GmbH Audi R8 with Marc Basseng, Christopher Mies and 2009 winner Carsten Tilke. Car Collection Motorsport has entered two Audis of their own. The #33 Audi will feature Markus Winkelhock, 2011 winner Claudia Hürtgen, Heinz Schmersal, Pierre Ehret and Peter Schmidt. The #34 Audi will be driven by Ingo Volger, Elmar Grimm, Max Edelhoff, Gustav Edelhoff and Dr. Johannes Kirchoff. C.Abt Racing has entered the #4 Audi for Daniel Abt, Isaac Tutmulu, Matias Henkola, Andreas Weishaupt and Christer Jöns. Frank Stippler leads the #14 Optimum Motorsport Audi driver line-up with Flick Haigh, Ryan Ratcliffe and Joe Osborne as his co-drivers. Belgian Audi Club Team WRT has entered an Audi R8. The #19 Audi will be driven by Laurens Vanthoor, Michael Meadows, Stuart Leonard and Alain Ferté.

Three Porsche's are entered. Artthea Sport has entered a Porsche 911 GT America. The #45 will be shared by Jens Feucht, Klaus Werner and Martin Gøtsche and Nanna Gøtsche. Attempto Racing has entered two Porsche 997 GT3 Rs. The #66 will be driven by Sven Heyrowsky, Arkin Aka, Hans Wehrmann, Jürgen Häring and Edward Lewis Brauner and the #999 will be split by Dirk Vorländer, Dimitri Parhofer, Dirg Parhofer, Daniel Zampieri and Andreas Liehm.

Besides the three Black Falcon entries, there are eight other Mercedes in the A6 class this year. IDEC Sport Racing has entered the #17 for Frederic Yearly, Gabriel Abergel and Paul and Patrice Lafargue. Alex and Tim Müller will share the #27 SPS automotive-performance Mercedes with Lance-David Arnold and Valentin Pierburg. Gravity Racing International will have Vincent Radermercker, Christian Kelders, Gerard Lopez and Eric Lux drive the #6 Mercedes. The #10 Hofor-Racing Mercedes will be split by Christiaan Frankenhout, Kenneth Heyer, Roland Eggimann and Chantal and Michael Kroll.

V8 Racing has two cars entered but only one is a Mercedes. Duncan Huisman, Max and Luc Braams, Nick de Brujn and Pun JunJin will drive the #18 V8 Racing Mercedes. Preci-Spark's #22 Mercedes will be an all-English line-up with five Joneses: David, Godfrey, Morgan, Philip and Gareth. Ram Racing will have Paul White, Tom Onslow-Cole, 2012 winner Thomas Jäger, Stuart Hall and Roald Goethe in the #30 Mercedes. GDL Racing will have an all-Dutch line-up in the #67 Mercedes. Ivo and Rik Breakers, Renger van der Zande and Daniel de Jong will drive the GDL Racing entry.

A German manufacture has won all ten previous runnings of the Dubai 24 Hour.

Konrad Motorsport has entered a Lamborghini Huracán. The #26 features three winners from 2014: Christen Engelhart and Mark and Rolf Ineichen. Fabio Babini and Franz Konrad will also drive the #26. HB Racing has also entered a Huracán. The #4 Lamborghini will be driven by Daniel Allemann, Ralf Bohn and Robert and Alfred Renauer. The other Lamborghini in class is the #12 Huracán Trofeo, which belongs to Leipert Motorsport and will be driven by Mikhail Spiridonov, Frank Leone-Provost, Jean-Charles Perrin and Shahin Nouri.

Three Ferraris are entered for this year's race. The #11 Scuderia Praha Ferrari will be driven by Matteo Malucelli, Matteo Cressoni, Jiri Pisarik and Peter Kox. Dragon Racing has entered two Ferraris. Rob Barff, Jordan Grogor, Tiziano Carugati, Gino Forgone and Frederic Fatien will be in the #88. Matt Griffin, Alex Kapadia, John Hartshorne and Khaled Al Mudhaf will share the #888.

MRS GT-Racing has entered the #25 Nissan GT-R to be driven by Ahmed Bin Khanen, Bassam Kronfli, Ilya Melnikov and Tomonobu Fujii.

V8 Racing's second entry is the #333 Corvette that will be driven by Nicky Pastroelli, Alex van t'Hoff, Rick Abresch, Wolf Nathan and Miguel Ramos.

Boutsen Ginion Racing has entered the #8 Renault RS01 to be driven by Eric Vaissiere, Andre-Aain Corbel, Christophe de Fierlant and Daniel Waszczinski.

A few 991 class entries to watch for:

MRS GT-Racing has entered two Porsche 991 Cup cars. The #78 Porsche features Charles Putman, Charles Espenlaub, Xavier Maasen and Joe Foster. Pitman, Espenlaub and Maassen won their class at the Gulf 12 Hours last month. Their other entry is the #46 Porsche, which will be driven by Guy Cosmo, Mauricio Hernandez, Yutaka Matsushima and Tomoyuki Takizawa.

Once Indianapolis 500 pole-sitter Alex Tagliani will drive the #72 HRT Performance Porsche alongside José Luis Talermann, Kim André Hauschild, Jean-Frederic Laberge and Harald Hennes.

Former DTM and V8 Supercar driver Alexandre Prémat will drive the #35 B2F compétition Porsche with Bruno and Benoit Fretin and Michel Mitieus.

Porsche factory driver Sven Müller will be one of five drivers in the #40 Lechner Racing Middle East Porsche. Dutchman Jaap van Lagen and Emirati drivers Saeed Al Mehairi, Bashar Mardini and Hasher Al Maktoum will be Müller's co-drivers.

Black Falcon also has two cars entered in the 911 class. The #60 Porsche will be driven by Klaus Bachler, Burked Kaiser, Sören Spreng, Stanislav Minsky and Mark Wallenwein. The #61 will be shared by Anders Fjordbach, Saud Al Faisal, Manuel Metzger, Gerwin Schuring and Saaed Al Mouri.

The #63 MSG Motorsport Porsche will be driven by Dan Cammish, Luca Rettenbacher, Martin Konrad and Facu Regalia.

Nine of the previous ten Dubai 24 Hours have featured at least one German driver winning overall. The lone year a German was not on the top step of the podium was in 2008 when Australians Klark Quinn, Jonathon Webb, New Zealander Craig Baird and Briton Tony Quinn won in a Porsche.

While a German manufacture has won all ten editions, Audi has never won the event. Mercedes has won three of the past four years. Porsche has four victories, most recently in 2014 and BMW won three, most recently in 2011. Tommy Milner, the only American to win the event, was on that 2011 winning team with Hürtgen, Augusto Farfus and Edward Sandström.

Never has a Dubai 24 Hour winning team featured drivers all from the same country.

The 11th Dubai 24 Hour will begin at 5:00 a.m. ET Friday.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Sainz Jumps to Top of Car Class

Another day and another lead change a top of the car class occurred while two class leaders entering stage nine were victorious and there was a first time winner.

Carlos Sainz won his second stage of the 2016 Dakar Rally and the Spaniard leaped to the top of the car class. He defeated Erik Van Loon by ten seconds. Mikko Hirvonen finished third, 17 seconds behind the Spaniard. Giniel de Villiers finished 38 seconds back in fourth and Nasser Al-Attiyah rounded out the top five, two minutes and four seconds back. Cyril Despres was sixth, six minutes and 46 seconds back and Stéphane Peterhansel finished seventh, nine minutes and 12 seconds behind Sainz. Yazeed Al-Rajhi finished 26 seconds behind Peterhansel in eighth. Orlando Terranova was ninth, ten minutes and 53 seconds back. Mark Corbett scored his best stage finish this year as the South African ended up tenth, 15 minutes and 31 seconds behind Sainz.

Sainz takes the overall lead by seven minutes and three seconds over Peterhansel. Al-Attiyah is 14 minutes and 38 seconds back in third. Hirvonen is fourth, over 34 minutes back. De Villiers trails by 53 minutes in fifth. An hour and a minute back is Al-Rajhi with Leeroy Poulter two minutes behind the Saudi driver. Van Loon is an hour and 28 minutes back in eighth. Nani Roma and Despres round out the top ten, both over an hour and 42 minutes back.

Toby Price won his second consecutive stage and fifth overall. The Australian defeated Kevin Benavides by seven minutes and ten seconds with Štefan Svitko ten minutes and 33 seconds behind him in third. Pablo Quintanilla finished 15 seconds behind the Slovakian and Ricky Brabec finished fifth, 11 minutes and three seconds behind Price. Antoine Meo finished 50 seconds behind the American. Adrien Van Beveren finished seventh, 14 minutes and 23 seconds back. Gerard Farres was eighth, 15 seconds behind Van Beveren. Hélder Rodrigues finished 16 minutes back of Price in ninth and Armand Monleon finished tenth, 38 seconds behind Rodrigues.

Price extended his overall lead to 24 minutes and 47 seconds over Svitko. Quintanilla is 32 minutes behind in third. Benavides trails Quintanilla by less than half a minute. Meo rounds out the top five, just over 40 minutes back. Rodrigues trails by 46 minutes in sixth. Farres is 52 minutes back in seventh. Brabec, Van Beveren and Italian Alessandro Botturi rounded out the top ten; all trail by over an hour.

Pablo Copetti won his first stage of the 2016 Dakar Rally in the quad class. He defended Alejandro Patronelli by 35 seconds and Marcos Patronelli by a minute and 28 seconds. Brian Baragwanath finished three minutes and four seconds back in fourth. Nelson Sanabria rounded out the top five, three seconds behind Baragwanath.

Marcos Patronelli still leads overall. He is a minute and 13 seconds ahead of his brother Alejandro. Alexis Hernandez is third, over 40 minutes back. Jeremias González trails by 50 minutes in fourth. Sergei Karyakin is fifth, an hour and five minutes behind Patronelli.

Gerard de Rooy won his second consecutive stage. The Dutchman defeated his fellow countryman Ton Van Genugten by three minutes and 59 seconds. Sixteen minutes and four seconds back in third was Andrey Karginov. Federico Villagra was 41 seconds behind Karginov in fourth. Eduard Nikolaev finished fifth, 19 minutes and 14 seconds behind de Rooy.

De Rooy's lead has increased to 27 minutes and 12 seconds over Nikolaev. Villagra is third, over 41 minutes back. Pieter Versluis trails by 44 minutes in fourth. Van Genugten jumps up to fifth, just over 45 minutes behind de Rooy.

Stage ten heads from Bélen to La Rioja.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Second Week of Dakar Starts With New Class Leaders Across the Board

Stage eight saw lead changes at the top of every class and a few contenders suffered major set backs.

The big change came in the car class as Nasser Al-Attiyah won his first stage of this year's Dakar and ended Peugeot's six-stage winning streak. The Mini driver defeated Carlos Sainz by 21 seconds and Stéphane Peterhansel by 31 seconds. Cyril Despres scored his best stage finish with a fourth, four minutes and 40 seconds behind Al-Attiyah. Mikko Hirvonen made it consecutive fifth place finishes. The Finn was six minutes and 42 seconds behind Al-Attiyah. Nani Roma and Orlando Terranova were sixth and seventh. The Spaniard was ten minutes and 11 seconds back and the Argentine was 11 minutes and 37 seconds back. Toyota's Leeroy Poulter and Yazeed Al-Rajhi finished eighth and ninth.  Poulter finished 12 minutes and six seconds back and Al-Rajhi was 14 minutes and 21 seconds back of Al-Attiyah. Erik Van Loon rounded out the top ten, 15 minutes and 16 seconds back.

Sébastien Loeb suffered a major accident when he rolled his Peugeot 18 miles from the end of the stage. The class leading driver entering stage eight and his co-driver Daniel Elena were ok but the car needed a significant amount of repairs and they finished an hour and eight minutes after Al-Attiyah.

Peterhansel assume the lead of the car class after Loeb's disastrous stage and he leads Sainz by two minutes and nine seconds. Al-Attiyah is 14 minutes and 43 seconds back in third and Hirvonen moves up to fourth, over 36 minutes back. Poulter trails by 49 minutes in fifth. Al-Rajhi and Giniel de Villiers are separated by half a minute but both drivers are over 54 minutes behind Peterhansel. Loeb is the first competitor over an hour behind the lead in eighth. Vladimir Vasilyev and Roma round out the top ten, trailing Peterhansel by 68 minutes and 88 minutes respectively.

Toby Price won his fourth stage of this year's Dakar and in doing so the Australian now leads the bike class overall. He defeated Paulo Gonçalves by five minutes and 17 seconds and Pablo Quintanilla by six minutes and 32 seconds. Slovakian Štefan Svitko finished fourth, eight minutes and two seconds behind Price. Kevin Benavides came home in fifth, four seconds behind Svitko. Hélder Rodrigues finished sixth, nine minutes and 19 seconds back. Gerrard Farres finished 10 minutes and 47 seconds back in seventh and Antoine Meo was three seconds back of Farres. Juan Pedrero finished 18 seconds back of Meo and Adrien Van Beveren finished tenth, 15 minutes and seven seconds back. American Ricky Brabec finished 11th, a minute and 37 seconds outside the top ten for the stage.

Price leads Gonçalves by two minutes and five seconds with Svitko 14 minutes and 14 seconds back. Quintanilla, Benavides and Meo are all over twenty minutes behind Price. Rodrigues is the first rider trailing Price by over a half hour. Farres is 37 minutes back and Pedrero trails by 39 minutes. Alain Duclos is tenth, 45 minutes back. Brabec is 11th, 51 minutes behind Price.

Ian Blythe is 29th, two hours and 28 minutes back. Alexander Smith is nearly five hours back in 45th. Scott Bright trails by six hours and 41 minutes in 59th. Carroll Gittere is over ten hours back in 84th.

Marcos Patronelli won stage eight and like Price he took his class lead. The Argentine rider won in the quad class by five minutes and 42 seconds over his brother Alejandro. Alexis Hernandez finished third, nine minutes and 17 seconds back. Lucas Bonetto was fourth, 39 seconds behind Hernandez. Sergei Karyakin finished 16 minutes and 41 seconds back in fifth.

Marcos leads overall by two minutes and six seconds over Alejandro. Hernandez trails by 32 minutes in third. Karyakin is 43 minutes back in fourth. Jeremias González rounds out the top five by 46 minutes.

Gerard de Rooy won stage eight and took the truck class lead. The Dutch driver beat Eduard Nikolaev by two minutes and 35 seconds. Andrey Karginov finished five minutes and 23 seconds behind de Rooy in third. Jaroslav Valtr scored his best finish of this year's Dakar, as the Czech driver was fourth, 13 minutes and 38 seconds behind de Rooy. Dmitry Sotnikov was nine seconds behind Valtr. Federico Villagra was sixth, 14 minutes and 35 seconds back and Hans Stacey finished seventh, 14 seconds behind Villagra.

De Rooy will take a seven-minute and 58-second lead into stage nine over Nikolaev. Pieter Versluis dropped from the class lead to third, 13 minutes and 29 seconds behind de Rooy after finishing tenth on stage eight, 19 minutes behind his fellow countryman. Stacey trails by over twenty minutes in fourth. Airat Mardeev is 22 minutes back in fifth.

Stage nine will start and finish in Bélen.

Musings From the Weekend: Where Aero Kits Are Missing It

The second weekend of 2016 was a little busier for the motorsports world than the first weekend. The Dakar Rally reached the halfway point. AMA Supercross kicked off its season. Testing for the 24 Hours of Daytona took place. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Where Aero Kits Are Missing It
Thanks to this commercial, this song has been stuck in my head for the past three days.

However, that commercial got me thinking about aero kits.

There has been a lot of criticism over aero kits during the past year, including from the defending IndyCar champion Scott Dixon. I think people have a point when they question what aero kits add to IndyCar. They aren't drawing the average person to IndyCar but not every decision IndyCar makes should be focused on drawing in the average person. IndyCar needs to be a motorsports series first and while the first year of aero kits was a trying year, aero kits add a layer of diversity that has been missing from the series for a long time. Of course, IndyCar has yet to capitalize on bringing in independent aero kit manufactures but the door is still open.

But something hit me and I think it is because of that commercial. What are Honda and Chevrolet's aero kit know as? They are nameless. We just call them the Honda kit and the Chevrolet kit. That's boring. If IndyCar and the manufactures want the aero kits to be something that draws in more everyday people to the race then the aero kits should be relatable to the everyday person.

What if the Honda aero kit was called the "Civic Indy" or the "Accord IC" or the "Fit Indy Special" and the Chevrolet aero kit called the "Indy Impala" or the "Cruze IC" or the "Camaro Special"? Name the aero kits after road cars that way the aero kit becomes a promotional tool for the manufactures and the cars they produce and it would allow for the IndyCar to be featured in commercials. Instead of just having an IndyCar in the background of a commercial, by using a road car name for the aero kits, the IndyCar can be integrated into the commercial and simultaneously promote the manufactures' road car program and IndyCar program.

Take the Civic commercial at the top. The only line in the commercial is "direct from our imagination." To me, that line is perfect for the world of motorsports, especially IndyCar. While 2016 isn't the 1960s with turbines, four-wheel drive cars, front-engine vs. rear-engine, gasoline vs. methanol, imagination is still important to motorsports. In another world, perhaps that commercial features an IndyCar with a "Civic Indy" kit to show people what the human imagination can create and the broaden their idea of what a car can be.

I think aero kits should exist and I hope someday soon there are multiple independent aero kits to give IndyCar teams multiple options and not force the teams to use the aero kits of their manufacture or the lame-duck, undeveloped Dallara aero kit. But while questions rage on about the point of aero kits, shouldn't they become what motorsports has always been in a sense? A promotional tool. After all, I don't think Honda would mind hearing that the Honda "Civic" or "Accord" won the Indianapolis 500 and the same for Chevrolet and the "Impala" or "Camaro."

Perhaps once the manufactures starting taking advantage of aero kits for their own cause, then the existence of aero kits will be more appreciated.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about what has been happening in the Dakar Rally but did you know...

Jason Anderson picked up his and Husqvarna's first Supercross victory as he took the season opener from Anaheim.

Antonio Giovinazzi and Sean Gelaeli won the 3 Hours of Buriram in the #9 Jagonya Ayam with Eurasia Oreca-Nissan. In the LMP3 class, the #1 DC Racing Ligier-Nissan of David Cheng, Ho-Pin Tung and Thomas Laurent took the victory and clinch the LMP3 title. The #27 Nexus Infinity Ferrari of Joshua Hunt and Dominic Ang won in the GT class

Coming Up This Weekend
The final week of the Dakar Rally.
Dubai 24 Hour starts Friday.
Chili Bowl from Tulsa.
AMA Supercross heads to San Diego.
Toyota Racing Series begins from Ruapuna Park in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Loeb Retakes Class Lead

The 2016 Dakar Rally returned to Argentina and there was a change at the top of the car class.

Carlos Sainz won his first stage of this year's rally. The Spaniard defeated his Peugeot teammate Sébastien Loeb by 38 seconds. Nasser Al-Attiyah finished third, three minutes and 22 seconds behind Sainz. Stéphane Peterhansel entered stage seven as the car class leader but the Frenchman relinquished his lead after finishing fourth, five seconds behind Al-Attiyah. Mikko Hirvonen cracked the top five and was four minutes and seven seconds behind Sainz. Cyril Despres finished five minutes and 24 seconds back in sixth with Giniel de Villiers a second behind Despres. Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Leeroy Poulter followed their Toyota teammate de Villiers in eighth and ninth. They were six minutes and 42 seconds back and six minutes and 57 seconds back respectively. Nani Roma was tenth, seven minutes and 16 seconds back. Robby Gordon finished 11th, ten minutes and a second back.

Loeb takes a two-minute and 22-second lead into the rest day over Peterhansel. Sainz is four minutes and 50 seconds back in third. Al-Attiyah is fourth, over 17 minutes back and Hirvonen rounds out the top five, over 32 minutes behind Loeb. Toyota drivers take up the next four spots in the overall classifications. De Villiers leads Poulter, Al-Rajhi and Vladimir Vasilyev, who finished 13th on stage seven. Emiliano Spataro is tenth, the first driver over an hour behind Loeb.

Sheldon Creed remains the top American, 24th overall after finishing 21st on stage seven. Gordon is now 28th overall. Both drivers are over three and a half hours back.

Antoine Meo won his first career Dakar Rally stage. The Frenchman defeated Kevin Benavides by a minute and 53 seconds. Bike class leader Paulo Gonçalves finished third on the stage, three seconds behind Benavides. Michael Metge was fourth, three minutes and 51 seconds back. Hélder Rodrigues finished four minutes and 28 seconds behind Meo in fifth. Toby Price finished sixth, five seconds outside the top five. Pablo Quintanilla was 19 seconds behind the Australian in seventh. Txomin Arana was eighth, five minutes and three seconds. Ivan Cervandes and Gerard Farres rounded out the top ten. Cervandes was thirty seconds behind Arana and Farres was 28 seconds back of Cervandes.

Gonçalves retains the class lead into the rest day. He is three minutes and 12 seconds ahead of Price and nine minutes and 24 seconds ahead of Štefan Svitko, who finished 11th on stage seven. Quintanilla is 18 minutes and six seconds back in fourth with Benavides 21 minutes and a second back. Meo is five seconds behind Benavides. In seventh, Rodrigues is 22 minutes and 44 seconds behind his fellow countryman. Farres is eighth, 29 minutes and 57 seconds behind Gonçalves. Alain Duclos is over a half an hour back in ninth after finishing 15th on stage seven. Juan Pedrero rounds out the top ten, 32 minutes back after finishing 16th on the stage.

American Ricky Brabec finished 12th and is now 12th overall, over 38 minutes back. Ian Blythe is nearly two hours back in 34th. Alexander Smith is over three and a half hour behind Gonçalves in 47th. Scott Bright trails Smith by just less than an hour in 58th. Carroll Gittere is over seven hours back in 83rd.

Argentine Lucas Bonetto won his first stage of this year's rally. He won the quad class by 29 seconds over fellow countryman Pablo Copetti. Walter Nosiglia finished third, 54 seconds back. The Patronelli brothers rounded out the top five. Alejandro finished two minutes and 34 seconds back and Marcos was 48 seconds behind his brother.

Alejandro Patronelli continues to lead overall. He leads his brother by three minutes and 36 seconds. Russian Sergei Karyakin is third; seven minutes and 51 seconds back after finishing seventh on stage seven. Jeremias González is over 26 minutes behind Patronelli after he finished sixth on the stage. Alexis Hernandez rounds out the top five, just over a minute behind Gonzàlez. Since winning stage five, Hernandez had failed to crack the top five in a stage. The Peruvian finished 11th on stage seven, matching his worst stage finish in this year's race.

In the truck class, Eduard Nikolaev won his second stage of this year's Dakar. The Russian beat Kamaz teammate Airat Mardeev by 58 seconds. Dutchman Pieter Versluis was third, a minute and 17 seconds behind Nikolaev. Gerard de Rooy finished two minutes and 11 seconds back in fourth and Andrey Karginov was fifth, six minutes and 44 seconds behind his countryman.

Versluis leads the truck class heading into the rest day after Hans Stacey finished ninth on stage seven and drops to fifth in class. Versluis leads de Rooy by five minutes and 31 seconds. Ten minutes and 48 seconds back is Mardeev with Nikolaev six seconds behind his fellow Russian. Stacey is 11 minutes and 28 seconds behind Versluis.

Sunday will be a rest day. On Monday, the teams head from Salta to Bélen.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Peterhansel Takes Dakar Lead, Loeb Drops to Second

The sixth stage of the 2016 Dakar Rally saw three lead changes in the overall classifications in three classes and one competitor scored his first stage victory of this year's race.

Stéphane Peterhansel won the car class, his second stage victory, by seventeen seconds over Peugeot teammate Carlos Sainz. Saudi driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi finished seven minutes and 19 seconds back in third. Sébastien Loeb failed to finish in the top three of a stage for the first time since the prologue as the nine-time World Rally champion finished eight minutes and 15 seconds back of Peterhansel. Nasser Al-Attiyah finished fifth, 36 seconds behind Loeb. Nani Roma was sixth, 11 minutes and a second back. Orlando Terranova finished two minutes and five seconds back of Roma and Mikko Hirvonen was a minute and nine seconds behind Terranova. Giniel de Villiers finished ninth, 59 seconds behind Hirvonen. Erik Van Loon and Cyril Despres finished tied for tenth, 16 minutes and 45 seconds back of Peterhansel.

Peterhansel has taken a 27-second lead over Loeb in the overall standings. Sainz is five minutes and 55 seconds back of Peterhansel, third overall. Al-Attiyah is fourth, over 15 minutes back. De Villiers and Hirvonen trail Peterhansel by 29 minutes and 21 seconds and 29 minutes and 51 seconds respectively. Leeroy Poulter is over 34 minutes back in seventh. Al-Rajhi is eighth, over 37 minutes back. Vladimir Vasilyev is ninth, 42 minutes back and Emiliano Spataro is tenth, 57 minutes back.

The Americans Sheldon Creed and Robby Gordon finished 37th and 50th on the day. Creed is 29th overall and Gordon is 32nd overall. Both are over three hours behind Peterhansel.

Toby Price won in the bike class for the second consecutive day. The Australian finished a minute and five seconds ahead of fellow KTM rider Matthias Walkner. Class leader Paulo Gonçalves finished third, a minute and 12 seconds behind Price. Štefan Svitko finished fourth, four minutes and 44 seconds behind Price and Hélder Rodrigues rounded out the top five, five minutes and 23 seconds back. Husqvarna riders Pablo Quintanilla and Txomin Arana finished sixth and seventh, with seven seconds separating the riders. Ricky Brabec finished eighth, eight minutes and 16 seconds behind Price. Italian Alessandro Botturi finished a minute and three seconds behind Brabec and Jordi Viladoms was tenth, 11 minutes and nine seconds behind Price.

Gonçalves keeps his overall lead but only leads Price by 35 seconds. Walkner is two minutes and 50 seconds back. Svikto trails by five minutes and 17 seconds with Quintanilla nearly ten minutes behind the Slovakian. Rodrigues is over 20 minutes behind his fellow countryman. Kevin Benavides is over 21 minutes back in seventh. French riders Antoine Meo and Alain Duclos are eight and ninth and Juan Pedrero is tenth.

Brabec is 14th with Ian Blythe in 36th, Alexander Smith in 50th and Scott Bright in 50th.

Marcos Patronelli won his second stage in the quad class. The Argentine rider finished six minutes and 39 seconds ahead of his brother Alejandro. Brian Baragwanath finished third, eight minutes and 21 seconds back. Sergei Karyakin finished nearly ten minutes behind Baragwanath and Jeremias González was fifth, over three minutes behind Karyakin.

Alejandro Patronelli took the overall lead in the quad class as Alexis Hernandez finished eighth on stage six. Alejandro leads his brother by two minutes and 48 seconds. Karyakin is five minutes and 39 seconds back. Hernandez dropped to fourth, trailing the Argentine by 21 minutes and a second back. González is fifth, just under 25 minutes back of his fellow countryman.

Hans Stacey won his first stage in the truck class and retook the truck class lead overall. The Dutchman finished seven seconds ahead of Gerard de Rooy. Pieter Versluis made it a Dutch sweep of the top three, finishing a minute and 15 seconds behind Stacey. Eduard Nikolaev was fourth, two minutes and 11 second back with Dmitry Sotnikov ten seconds back of Nikolaev.

Stacey leads Versluis by 59 seconds. Federico Villagra dropped from the lead to third, four minutes and five seconds back of Stacey after finishing ninth on stage six. De Rooy trails Stacey by five minutes and 36 seconds and Airat Mardeev is fifth, 12 minutes and six seconds behind Stacey after the Russian finished eighth in stage six.

Stage seven brings the teams back to Argentina. All four classes head to Salta.