IMSA Mid Season

As the IMSA WeatherTech Sports car Challenge heads into the final stretch, things couldn’t be tighter. With the points standings close in all classes, now is not the time for errors.

DPI: The closes race is in the DPI class with only twenty points separating the top five contenders. While Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya in the number six Acura sit atop the driver standings, a recent surge by Tristan Nunez and Oliver Jarvis in the Mazda has moved them into striking distance. With this small of a margin, one bad race could be disastrous.

 

LMP2: There is a dead heat between Matthew McMurry, Kyle Masson, and Cameron Cassels. With this being the case it truly is a case where no one can afford to make a mistake.

 

GTLM: There is  just over a twenty point swing here with Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor of Porsche leading followed closely by their teammates Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet. However both Corvette and Ford team drivers are very close behind especially since the 67 Ford of Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook just broke the Porsche two race win streak.

GTD: This is the only class with a clear gap between leaders and second place. Trent Hindman and Mario Farnbacher enjoy a thirty point advantage over Bill Auberlen and Robby Foley. Judging by by last weeks run this may not change any time soon.

All in all the next four races should be be quite exciting and eventful.

The Masters

1978 Lotus 79

I believe 2014 was the first year I attended The Hawk with Brian Redman (now The WeatherTech International Challenge). I was immediately amazed with what I saw, cars I had only read about as a kid going past me at speed. Former CART Lola’s, vintage British and American racers of the 60’s, and the amazing pre war cars of the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. I was so busy trying to capture as much as I could that I didn’t realized that just how many shots I had taken, and that I would soon need to change memory cards. Also it was then that I realized I had left my extra cards in my car. So with about thirty shots left I turned to go get the other cards. That’s when I caught site of a familiar car flash past me at the start of the next session. My first thought was that couldn’t have been a Lotus formula 1 car. Then I remember it did say John Player Special on the side. Needless to say I sprinted to the car to retrieve my others memory cards and get back trackside. Upon my return I then saw Tyrell, Ferrari, March, Hill, more Lotuses, Benetton, Shadow, and many others. I was impressed.

1976 Penske PC4

1979 Shadow DN9

This was the FIA Masters U.S. class, a class consisting of vintage Formula 1 cars. They were back the following year as well, however they have not been back since. While we are regularly treated to the sights and sounds of the Benetton and Jordan owned by the French family, it would really be nice to have all of the others back. I guess what brings this all to mind is I recently saw photos of the Masters class running at some other track. I didn’t pay too much attention to where, just the pictures. I then started reminiscing about the first time I got to see these wonderful machines doing what they were meant to, drive fast. This years FIA entry list shows twelve cars scheduled to attend the WeatherTech International Challenge, and while I would love to see twice as many I have to take into account that most of these car reside in Europe. I imagine it would take a special event or anniversary to justify the expense of bringing them here. Now all we have to do is come up with just such an event. Any ideas?

1983 Tyrell 011

1978 Arrows FA1

Joel

BlancPain GT World Challenge North America

I have always looked up to the Pirelli World Challenge as one of the most forward thinking series in racing. Many of the changes in other series that we take for granted have come out of world challenge. Among the most important were first the adoption of the GT3 standard, then the GT4. Both of which are used in Europe and Asia. With the adoption of GT3, car counts and team participation grew enormously. It provided a competitive and cost efficient platform for teams to build on. The next year IMSA adopted the standard for it’s GT Daytona class.

When World Challenge went to the GT4 standard for it’s GTS class, not only did it produced more participation, but in it”s first season it brought cars to the series that had previously only raced in Europe and Asia. Cars such as the Sin R1, KTM XBow, and the Ginetta G55. These cars raced against Mustang, Camaro, Porsche Caymen, and Maserati. It was at the very least an interesting mix of car makes. IMSA’s Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge (now Michelin Pilot Challenge) was suffering from plummeting car counts and team participation. However since going to GT4 they have seen a resurgence, fielding as many as 37 cars per event, and the level of competition among cars is close from green to checkered flags.

Their latest move is probably my favorite. By joining the with the BlancPain GT series they are now part of a worldwide GT racing series. Something I have wanted to see in North America for some time. For years the only option I had to see GT only races were YouTube videos from Europe. Having such a series here in the U.S. is just what the doctor ordered, for me anyway. Now billed as the BlancPain GT World Challenge North America, they compete with Europe and Asia for Driver and Manufacture championships. Another welcome change is longer races with pit stops for driver and tire changes. In the old 50 minute sprint format, due to caution and red flags, I have seen races with as little as 20 minutes of green flag action. This was very disappointing to everyone involved. While GT3 is, and will always be my personal favorite, the level of competition in GT4 is truly outstanding. It is the kind of racing that always has you looking forward to the next event.

So what next? Maybe a couple more races on the calendar, but definitely one or two more in the in the interior of the country. Whatever the future holds we can only hope that it further adds to the excitement of GT racing in the U.S.

joel

Juncos Racing Update

I wrote an article previously on two teams that compet in the Road to Indy series and had moved up to the top tier IndyCar series. One of these teams was not done yet, and decided at the end of 2018 to expand into the IMSA WeatherTech Championship with an entry in the competitive Prototype DPI class.

Since their entry into American racing Juncos Racings’ mission has been to find and develop the most promising and talented new drivers for the series in which they compete. Their current crop of drives for the IMSA series consist of successful young talent just ready to make that next step to the top of the motorsports ranks.

– Kyle Kaiser: A name known from the Juncos Pro Mazda and Indy Lights Program.
– Rene Binder: A third generation racer with Extensive European Racing Experience.
– Will Owen: From USF2000 to Pro Mazda to European Le Mans, and now WeatherTech.
– Agustin Canapino: From 2014 to 2018 he has been winning championships in his native Argentina.

With this being their first year, it is only natural to look at this years results a learning experience with expectations of much better things to come.

Patron and Extreme Speed Motorsports

If you attended an American Le Mans series race in 2010, the one thing you couldn’t avoid seeing was the name Tequila Patron. As series sponsor there name was everywhere. They were also team and car sponsors throughout all of the different classes. While they relinquished the series sponsorship to TUDOR in 2014, they remained a big part of the series as a team sponsor. First sponsoring the Highcroft Honda HPD ARX-01e, it would later be Extreme Speed Motorsports who would become the primary benefactor of their sponsorship dollars. In hindsight I guess you could say it was inevitable. After being acquired by the Bacardi corporation who has never shown any serious interest in U.S. motorsports it has been decided to no longer sponsor the EMS prototype team after this season.

One of the unavoidable facts of racing is that sponsors come and go as the need suits them. After all it is their money. Teams are in a constant struggle to find the dollars needed to keep going and remain competitive. We can only wish Scott Speed and his EMS team the best of luck in finding new sponsorship, as a consistently competitive and winning team, it should be possible. We hope they will return to the series in 2019.

SportsCars’ Off Season aka The Silly Season

Motorsports economics is a very harsh task master. From the mega dollar world of the Le Mans prototypes, thru IndyCar, NASCAR, on down to the weekend club racer. The decision to field, or withdraw a factory backed team is most often a corporate marketing decision and not solely based on cost. However with individually owned teams it all comes down to having the where with all to field and maintain equipment. Sponsorship plays a big part, and the lack of it has caused the demise of many race teams through the years, and continues to do so to this day. Teams have come and gone through the years, but when popular and successful teams cease operation fans feel it most. On the bright side, it is well to remember that as some teams leave the sport, new ones often emerge to replace them.

Our first case is that of Stevenson Motorsports. It’s always sad to hear of a major race team closing their doors, but it is a trend that is sure to play out for years to come. We often receive this type of news at this time of year, the off season. I have watched Stevenson Motorsports go from strength to strength over the years in Grand-AM, IMSA and the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. Yet to see them leave the sport says a lot about modern sports car racing. Sometimes being consistently competitive just isn’t enough. I can look through my archives and find lots of others, yet it wasn’t any easier to see them go either. We can only wish the team members the best of luck in whatever future endeavors they pursue.

Another team that is leaving is Cadillac Racing’s Pirelli World Challenge team. However this one comes with a bit of a twist. The five time manufacturers title winning team is merely leaving World Challenge to devote their full efforts to their IMSA DPI program. World challenge will not suffer much as they will still have no shortage of exciting highly competitive teams.

The most recent announcement as of this writing is that GAINSSCO/Bob Stallings Racing will cease operations. After having competed in Grand-AM, IMSA, and most recently Pirelli World Challenge.

It is still early in what has come to be known as the silly season, so I am quite sure there are more changes yet to come before racing starts again.

 

joel

Pirelli World Challenge GT4

One of the more interesting yet least talked about changes in the Pirelli World Challenge series was the adoption of the GT4 specifications for its GTS class last year. With the withdrawal of class champ Kia at the end of the 2015 season, it looked as if the entry list would be a bit thin for 2016. However the adoption of GT4 standards brought an increase in car counts, and some pleasant surprises. Cars which I had only seen running in Europe and Asia via the internet began to appear stateside.

Some of the more interesting being the KTM Xbow, Ginetta G55, and the Sin R1. Other familiar names are Ford Mustang Boss 302, Chevrolet Camaro GT4R, Porsche Caymen GT4 CS MR, Aston Martin Vantage GT4 & GTS and the Maserati Gran Turismo. Making a reappearance in U.S. racing is the Lotus Evora GT4 Grand AM. But far and away the most interesting news is the entry of the McLaren 570S CT4, and the Panoz Avezzano 2017.

So now what looked to be a very average year for the GTS class suddenly got quite intriguing. I am looking forward to to seeing this class more so than I have been for a couple of years.

Now if only we can get Maserati to get off of a nine year old platform and develop a new GT3 spec car all will be right with the world.