A Farewell to Porsche

While the flat six of the Porsche made a very distinctive sound, I think the first thing I noticed about them was what sounded like a small explosion when it shifted gears. However it is a sound we will now only hear in the GT3 class.Porsches decision to pull out of IMSA’s GTLM class further reduces a field that was suffering from the loss of Ford at the end of 2019. I’m assuming that they will continue their GT3, and Porsche cup series participation.

We are left to imagine what could have been if…
– Ford had extended their contract for one more year
– Ferrari would decide to spend a dollar and field a team
– Porsche had remained
– All with the new Corvette coming on line

As far as I know this does not effect the GTE series, or other overseas racing. We have seen it before, and will see it again. Teams come and go as priorities shift. We can only hope this drought won’t last long.

In the past other teams besides the factory entries have carried the Porsche banner in IMSA’s top GT tier. So we honer them as well.

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

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.

Farewell Prototype Challenge

The pace of change in most sports moves at a glacial pace taking decades for things to evolve. In Motorsports however change tends to move at light speed with change sometimes coming mid season. Sports car racing in particular undergoes constant evolution.

When the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Challenge season begins there will be noticeable changes to the starting grid. The most noticeable will be the number of prototype entries. With the introduction of the highly successful DPI platform, car counts have gone up dramatically and will continue to do so.

The second major change will be the absence of the Prototype Challenge (PC) class. After a very successful ten year run, and with no new design or updates to the FLM09 chassis offered by manufacture ORECA, it was decided it was time to phase out the class altogether. Many pro sports car drivers of today got their first experience and possibly wins in PC. The level of competition in this was class was always close and exciting, the roar of the big block Chevy engines irresistible. Part of the increased car count in the Prototype class next year will come from some PC stalwarts such as Core Autosports and Performance Tech moving up to prototype. Looking at my archives I see where the class went from seven plus cars in 2010 to just three cars last year after it was announced they would be phased out. Since I have already seen some of these cars on the vintage circuit, I’m sure more will appear there in the coming years. This will allow some of us to enjoy them for a while longer.

Still as always we have to look on the bright side. That is more Prototype and GTD cars on track. For a GT fanatic such as myself this is very good news. Prototype Challenge was a spec class with all car being of identical design and build. And while some will chide spec racing as not being real racing, it is this type of racing that showcases the skill of the driver as opposed to the pockets of the team owners. But that is a topic for a later day.

joel

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