Wednesday, March 2, 2016

IMSA News Roundup: March 2, 2016

IMSA News Roundup: March 2, 2016
Notebook Items Include Upgrades To PC Class For Sebring; Japanese Driver Joins Mazda
Prototype Team; Patience Pays Off For Bodymotion Racing

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 2, 2016) – Two IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championships teams successfully tested upgrades for the Prototype Challenge (PC) class that will take effect at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida on Saturday, March 19.

CORE autosport and JDC/Miller Motorsports tested the new improvements in the class, which include:

·         A new electronics package, consisting of a new engine control unit (ECU); new gearbox control unit (GCU); new power distribution unit (PDU); and a new chassis loom
·         New telemetry
·         Traction control
·         A new dash panel and display
·         A new engine configuration, which is 25 pounds lighter with a lighter crank, rods and pistons to allow for better weight distribution while not reducing the overall minimum weight of the car

“We worked through the new parts and pieces during the test,” said Colin Braun, defending two-time PC champ with Jon Bennett co-driving the No. 54 Flex-Box/Composite Resources ORECA FLM09 for CORE autosport. “We were doing our part to help out for the good of the series and class. We weren’t able to get through our own car setup, working through these new parts and working to get all the electronics working. But obviously we had good pace and have a good race car – and I couldn’t expect anything less from the guys on our team.”

All PC teams have the update kits, and will be allowed to test at Sebring during the promoter test day on Tuesday of race week. The goals for the upgrades were to have a more reliable and nicer car to drive, which will be eligible to compete in the WeatherTech Championship through the 2017 season.

Japanese Driver Joins Mazda Prototype Team For Sebring
Keiko Ihara of Tokyo will join the Mazda Prototype team for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida. She will team with drivers Tom Long, Joel Miller and Ben Devlin in the No. 70 car.

Ihara, 42, has a long history in motorsports, including being the first Asian woman to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and also the first woman to earn a podium finish in a World Endurance Championship (WEC) event, co-driving with Gustavo Yacaman and Alex Brundle to finish third at the 6 Hours of Fuji in 2014.

Ihara has competed at Le Mans three times, with a best finish of 14th overall in 2014. She has raced in a diverse number of series, including the British and French Formula 3 categories and a number of GT and Prototype categories around the world. 

Ihara completed a private test session with the Mazda Prototype team in December at tPalm Beach International Raceway in Jupiter, Fla., and has also spent time with the Prototype “driver in the loop” simulator at Multimatic Motorsports in Ontario, Canada.

"We are pleased to add Keiko to our line-up in the Mazda Prototypes for Sebring,” said John Doonan, director, Mazda Motorsports North America. “Sebring is a grueling race and with Keiko's experience at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, she can bring good insights to the team. The entire Mazda Motorsports team has confidence that we can compete up front there. With 13 class victories at Sebring over the years, all of us are focused on bringing Mazda our first overall victory there.”

Patience Pays Off For Bodymotion Racing At Sebring Test
While most of the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge teams packed up early on the second and final day of the February Test at Sebring International Raceway due to rainy conditions, Bodymotion Racing decided to wait out the deluge despite the threatening forecast for the remainder of Wednesday afternoon.

Their patience paid off. The rain let off somewhat, enabling new team drivers Trent Hindman and Cameron Cassels to run for one hour at the end of the day in the new No. 12 Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport.

“We were very thankful that the skies finally gave us a break,” said team manager Geoff Abel. “While we didn’t get any dry track, it was just about the best conditions we’d seen except for Tuesday’s first session. We wanted to put some laps on the car. That was the first time Cameron was able to drive it, and it also allowed us to get additional feedback from Trent, who was quite pleased with the car in the conditions we were dealt.”

The team’s only prior test with the new Porsche was at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 in January, and they had made many changes since then.

“We had some new car bugs that we were trying to sort out, trying to get all of the systems online,” Abel said. “We definitely learned a lot in that extra hour, and now we’re looking forward to getting back to Sebring.”

End Quote:
Joao Barbosa, Driver of the No. 5 Action Express Racing Mustang Sampling Corvette DP, who attended the Sebring test but did not drive as he recovers from a fractured wrist suffered in a fall at home: "It's certainly no fun being at the track and not being able to drive our Mustang Sampling Corvette DP. The car has been fast for most of the test and Filipe (Albuquerque) and Christian (Fittipaldi) have been able to get in quite a few laps and provide the team with some good data to help us prepare for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours in a few weeks. The perspective has not changed for me much not being in the car. We usually get plenty of time to sit on the box during a test and watch what the other drivers are doing. I just know that it's not as much fun as getting to drive."

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Corvette DPs From Action Express Racing Place 1-2

Corvette DPs From Action Express Racing Place 1-2
In Day 1 Of WeatherTech Championship Test At Sebring
BMW Fastest in GTLM, Audi Unofficially Faster Than GTD Track Record

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 25, 2016) – Felipe Albuquerque and Dane Cameron drove Corvette DPs from Action Express Racing to the top-two positions on the speed chart Thursday during the first day of a two-day IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship test at Sebring International Raceway.

The test allows teams to prepare for the 64th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida, Round 2 of the WeatherTech Championship and Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup, set for Saturday, March 19.

Albuquerque set the fastest lap of the day in the afternoon session in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Corvette DP, 1:51.965, while Dane Cameron led the morning action, running 1:52.306 (119.887 mph) in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering/Team Fox Corvette DP.

BMW and Audi were quickest in the respective GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) classes.

BMW Team RLL paced both sessions in GTLM, with Bill Auberlen, Dirk Werner, John Edwards, Lucas Luhr and Kuno Wittmer sharing the No. 25 IHG Rewards Club BMW M6 GTLM. The car’s best lap was 1:58.780 (113.352 mph).

Second with a lap of 1:59.073 (113.073 mph) was the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE of Toni Vilander and Davide Rigon. Porsche North America brought one of its two cars to the test, with the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR of Patrick Pilet and Frederic Makowiecki with a lap of 1:59.170 (112.981 mph).

Ford Performance brought both of its Ford GTs to the test, which was split into a pair of four-hour sessions on Thursday.

GTD unofficially saw 11 of the 17 unofficially eclipse Jeroen Bleekemolen’s track record, set last year in a Dodge Viper GT3-R. Lawson Aschenbach led the day, running 2:01.822 (110.522 mph) in the No. 9 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS GT3.

Leading the four Prototype Challenge (PC) entries was the No. 54 CORE autosport ORECA FLM09 of Jon Bennett, Colin Braun and Mark Wilkins, with an unofficial track record lap of 1: (11 mph).

• Ford Performance announced on Thursday that four-time Champ Car titlist Sebastien Bourdais would join Dirk Muller and Joey Hand in the No. 66 Ford GT for Sebring, while Scott Dixon would join Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook in driving the 67 Ford GT for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing. Both Bourdais and Dixon participated in the team’s testing.

“I was involved in a bit of the early stuff with this program in a few tests at the end of last year, but I didn’t get to drive it at Daytona,” Dixon said. “Obviously, it’s a big change from the Prototype to the GT, but it’s a fun program to be part of. It’s nice to come here, run a few laps and make the car as durable as possible.

“It’s definitely different from anything I’ve driven here at Sebring. The car is still early on in its life cycle, so there’s a lot of room to develop things. It’s a new book; there are a lot of directions you can go, and it’s nice to be driving something you can have some influence.”

• The test marked the debut of the Ferrari 488 GT3 in IMSA, as Christina Nielsen, Alessandro Balzan and Jeff Segal co-drove the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa entry. It was the car’s first time out in the U.S. after an initial shakedown in Italy.

“I did my first laps in the car this morning, and it was amazing,” Nielsen said. “We still have a few things to work on – one of them is seat position, because we have a bit of a size difference – but the car is very responsive and it’s nice to drive on the track. The other teams have had their new cars for Daytona, and it’s nice to finally be part of the game.”

• Ben Keating, No. 33 and No. 93 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R: “I’ve always felt like the Viper liked Sebring compared to the other cars in our class; this year, it seems every GTD car likes Sebring. So I guess Sebring likes GT3 cars and the advantage we’ve had is gone all of a sudden. … There are a lot of fast cars out there. I’m doing about the same lap time that I did last year. Last year, it was a really good lap time. Today, it’s slow as molasses.”

• In its competition debut, Dream Racing tested in the WeatherTech Championship for the first time with the No. 27 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 for regular drivers Larry DeGeorge and Cedric Sbirrazzuoli, joined at the test by Paolo Ruberti and Fabio Babini.

“I’ve been to Sebring once before, for last year’s World Final,” said Sbirrazzuoli. “After the race, I got to do three or four laps with a Huracán GT3 which had a Daytona setup. That’s completely different from the setup we’re running at this test. This is a new experience for me, starting now. I used to do endurance racing in Europe, now I’m doing endurance racing in the U.S.”

The team had an off-course excursion late in the morning session that resulted in left-front damage.

“Just a dumb mistake,” DeGeorge said. “I was carrying too much speed into the corner. The back end got loose, and I tried to save it. The damage looks mostly cosmetic. We’ve got our other car; we’ll work on it and we’ll be ready for tomorrow.”

• Testing continues on Friday for all WeatherTech Championship competitors, running from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a one-hour lunch break.

Porsches Lead Both Continental Tire Challenge Classes

Porsches Lead Both Continental Tire Challenge Classes In Sebring Test
Hugh Plumb Posts Fastest Lap In Rainy Two-Day Continental Tire Challenge Session

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 24, 2016) – A pair of Porsches topped the time charts on Tuesday and Wednesday during a two-day IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge test at Sebring International Raceway.

Hugh Plumb ran a lap of 2:16.737 (98.466 mph) in the No. 13 Rum Bum Porsche 911 co-driven by his brother Matt to lead the Grand Sport (GS) competitors.

“We learned a lot when we raced here last year, but Sebring is always a different animal when you come back,” Hugh Plumb said. “It’s a rough track, without a lot of mechanical grip. In the limited time we had on Tuesday, we learned enough to make us feel good for when we come back next month. The Rum Bum guys are always working in the right direction – they’re never complacent with what we have.”

Fastest in Street Tuner (ST) was Andy Lee in the No. 22 Kris Wright Racing with Goldcrest Motorsports Porsche Cayman co-driven by Kris Wright.  Both fast times were set in the dry Tuesday morning session, with the Tuesday afternoon practice and extended Wednesday afternoon sessions marred by periods of heavy rain which limited track time.

• Robin Liddell was in a unique position, testing all three Porsches that Rebel Rock Racing brought to the test. The 2015 GS champion took laps in the No. 6 Porsche 911 in GS and the No. 7 and No. 8 Caymans in ST.

“It was kind of fun, but I was amazed when I looked at the time sheet and saw I had three of the fastest times,” Liddell said. “The ST Caymans were familiar territory, because I drove one of them [to a third place finish] at Daytona. They both felt very good, and we used the test to try out a few changes. The GS car was fun, because I haven’t driven a 911 in quite a while. It was good right off the bat. It had good power, and I was pleasantly surprised. After only a few laps we were only one second off the Rum Bum car, and we can definitely improve the car even more before next month’s race.”

• The No. 99 Automatic Racing Aston Martin Vantage, driven by Charles Espenlaub, also was in attendance. “We made a lot of positive changes early on in the test,” said team owner David Russell. “Then we made some changes that weren’t positive, but we’re learning a lot. We got a lot done here in a relatively short amount of time.”

• Trent Hindman, the 2014 GS champion in a Fall-Line Motorsports BMW, took his first laps in the No. 12 Bodymotion Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport that he will co-drive in GS competition with Cameron Cassels.

“We learned quite a bit about this car, even though we didn’t get in as many laps as we’d hoped because of the weather,” Hindman said. “We learned a lot about how the electrical systems operate, which is a big, big point in this car. We also got Cameron in for a few laps, and it was nice for him to finally drive his race car. My first impression of the car is very good. Porsche has done its homework with the Cayman for quite some time, and this is the highest-performing Cayman they’ve ever produced.
“We’ve got some new-car teething issues – which is OK, it happens – but the ability to have a turn-key package like this from Porsche and have their support getting through these initial problems is really good. I imagine that’s a big selling point for this car.”

• Andy Lee, No. 22 Goldcrest/Wright Porsche Cayman: “I’ve done a lot of testing here, but this will be my first race at Sebring. This is a great place, with a lot of history. The track itself is relatively easy to figure out, driving-wise, but it’s a very difficult place to set up for. The grip level is relatively low, and there are so many pavement changes, that makes it challenging.”

• Opening Continental Tire Challenge practice at Sebring will be held at 10:15 a.m. on Wednesday, March 16. Round 2 of the 2016 season takes the green flag at 1:05 p.m. on Friday, March 18.

The test continues on Thursday and Friday with a large contingent of IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competitors, preparing for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on March 19.

Friday, February 19, 2016

IMSA News Roundup: February 18, 2016

IMSA News Roundup: February 18, 2016
Notebook Items Include Ferrari 488 GT3 Ready For First U.S. Test, Dream Racing Debut With
Lamborghini; Alex Job Racing Joins Sebring Hall Of Fame Class

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 18, 2016) – Scuderia Corsa is looking to test its new Ferrari 488 GT3 at the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Sebring February Test on Feb. 25-26, which will be the first appearance of the new car in the GT Daytona (GTD) class.

Several members of the Giacomo Mattioli-led team were in Italy for a recent shakedown of the car at Fiorano, with Alessandro Pier Guidi driving. Christina Nielsen, Alessandro Balzan and Jeff Segal are expected to drive the car in the Sebring test.

“It’s been great to become familiar with the Ferrari brand with the 458 and how it handles, but of course I’m looking forward to driving the 488,” Nielsen said. “We were up against a lot of the new cars in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, when we raced the 458, so I’m sure it’s going to be even better when we come to Sebring and get to race the 488.

“They had a good shakedown in Italy, and now I’m looking forward to testing it at Sebring. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of work to do, but we’ve got a good crew and experienced drivers who are familiar with Ferraris, so I’m sure we can keep developing the car so we will be a strong competitor in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.”

The Ferrari 488 GTE made its debut at the Rolex 24, with three cars in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class. Scuderia Corsa finished fourth in GTLM, with Pier Guidi joined by Memo Rojas, Daniel Serra and Alexandre Premat. Risi Competizione finished sixth with drivers Giancarlo Fisichella, Toni Villander, Olivier Beretta and Davide Rigon, while SMP Racing finished 10th. Risi Competizione is expected to have the lone Ferrari 488 GTE at the Sebring test.

The GT3 and GTE are both heavily based on Ferrari’s newest road car, the Ferrari 488 GTB, and are also assembled in the same factory in Maranello, Italy. The Ferrari 488 GT3 features only minor changes from the GTE.

Dream Racing Debuts With Lamborghini Huracán
Dream Racing will join the WeatherTech Championship when it rolls out its new No. 27 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 at the Sebring test.

The Las Vegas-based team is owned by Enrico Bertaggia, with Alaric Edscorn the team manager. Larry DeGeorge and Cedric Sbirrazzuoli will drive at the test. DeGeorge, of Jupiter, Fla., and Sbirrazzuoli co-drove in the 2015 Lamborghini Super Trofeo in both America and Asia, teaming for six podiums. Sbirrazzuoli was recently named to Lamborghini’s GT3 Junior Program.

“We’ve only had the car for two and a half weeks,” Edscorn said. “We plan to run the next 10 races, beginning with Sebring. Larry and Cedric will be our main drivers, but we haven’t decided if we will go with three or four drivers for the Sebring race.”

Bertaggia is CEO of Dream Racing, a five-star driving experience based at Las Vegas Motor Speedway which offers the opportunity to drive race cars from Lamborghini, Ferrari and Porsche, in addition to various supercar driving experiences.

Alex Job Racing Joins Sebring Hall Of Fame Class In 2016
The most successful car owner in Sebring history with 10 victories, Alex Job Racing joins the star-studded Sebring Hall of Fame list of 2016 inductees.

The team will be honored at the Hall of Fame Luncheon on Friday, March 18, the day before the 64th running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida. The ceremonies take place at the Chateau Elan Hotel and Conference Center overlooking the Hairpin Turn of the legendary 3.74-mile circuit. Endurance racing legend and Sebring Hall of Fame member Derek Bell will serve as MC of the event.

“I am honored to have the team inducted into the Sebring Hall of Fame," said Alex Job, the team’s owner. "With 10 wins and a 1-2-3 sweep of the podium we have always done well at what is thought, around the world, as the most demanding track for sports cars. All of our victories have been with Porsche and as we head into our 27th year with the brand we are hoping to add the 11th win in a month."

Ian James, Mario Farnbacher and Alex Riberas combined to win the 2015 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring for Alex Job Racing in the No. 23 Team Seattle/Heart of Racing Porsche. The team also fields the No. 22 WeatherTech Porsche GT3 R for Cooper MacNeil and Leh Keen.

Joining Alex Job Racing in the Class of 2016 are Tom Kristensen, Sebring’s leading winner with six overall victories; Sam Posey, 1975 Sebring winner; Dick Smothers, two-time class winner; Tres Stephenson, President of Sebring Raceway for over three decades; and former Tampa Tribune Sports Editor Tom McEwen.

The Sebring Hall of Fame luncheon is open to the public, but tickets are limited. Admission is a $200 contribution to the Sebring Hall of Fame (a 501 3(C) Florida not for profit corporation). Teams and sponsors may purchase individual tables. For more information and reservations please call Ariel Starling at 863-655-1442 or 655-7721.

End Quote:
Olivier Pla, Driver of the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian Honda Ligier J2 P2, winner of the 2015 TOTAL Pole Award at Sebring in a Krohn Racing Ligier: "Sebring has always been a special place for me. It's a track that I love. I have been on the pole in LMP2 class in 2012 when the WEC championship was there, and on the front row in 2014. Then to get the pole in 2015 was a great moment. Coming back this year with the Ligier but with a new team in Michael Shank Racing is exciting. Daytona was hard to take (with the engine failure) because the team gave us a super quick car and we were leading the race so we have a bit of unfinished business. We are very concentrated on the 12 Hours of Sebring and focusing on the result that we all want. Can't wait for it!"