2016 Rolex 24 – A Classic!

2016 Rolex 24

2016 Rolex 24

After 24 hours of racing at the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona, the two Corvettes of Oliver Gavin and Antonio Garcia were separated by just 0.034 seconds!  This was the closest finish in the history of the greatest endurance race in America – a race that has quite a storied history.

With left just over 30 minutes left in the 2016 Rolex 24, Oliver Gavin in the #4 Corvette nudged Earl Bamber in the #912 Porsche in the West Horseshoe to take the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class lead.  Bamber was unable to hold of Antonio Garcia in the #3 Corvette and ultimately finished third on the podium.  Garcia furiously charged ahead after his teammate Gavin climaxing with just under 3 minutes to go in the race as Garcia in the #3 Corvette passed Gavin in the #4 into the Turn 1 breaking zone.  But alas, Garcia went in just a bit too hot and Gavin repassed him on the exit.  Garcia came back to make it so close at the finish, but Gavin held on for the GTLM win.

2016 Rolex 24

2016 Rolex 24

While the Corvettes were battling head-to-head, setting fast laps, in GT Daytona (GTD), the Magnus Racing #44 Audi R8 and the Konrad Motorsport #28 Lamborghini Huracan were having a fuel saving competition.  At the same moment that Garcia was setting up to pass Gavin into Turn 1, Fabio Babini in the #28 Lamborghini ran out of fuel at the infield kink allowing Rene Rast in the #44 Audi to pass and coast – literally – to the GTD class victory.

2016 Rolex 24

2016 Rolex 24

Nicky Catsburg in the beautiful #540 Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 made a nice run and was closing on the #44 at the checker to finish second in GTD.

2016 Rolex 24

Meanwhile, at the top of the field, Luis Felipe Derani, in his first sportscar race in the US, brought the #2 Tequila Patron ESM Honda-powered Ligier home for the overall 2016 Rolex 24 victory.  This was both Extreme Speed Motorsports’s and Honda’s first win at Daytona.  The Ligier P2 car also managed to break the grip of the DP cars, in particular the Corvette Daytona Prototypes, who have seemed to dominate the top Prototype class in recent years.  The #2 Ligier had just amazing pace from the drop of the green flag to start the race.  Despite and early spin caused by contact, penalties, and plenty of pit time, the Extreme Speed team put in a great performance for a well-deserved win.

2016 Rolex 24

In the Prototype Challenge (PC) class, Kenton Koch brought the #85  JDC-Miller Motorsport car home to victory.

I’ll admit I was sad to see the demise of ALMS and skeptical about the merger with Grand-AM to form a single top-level sportscar series, but with the 2016 Rolex 24 kicking-off season 3 of the IMSA series, it’s clear that sportscar racing in the US is in great shape.  In addition to really competitive racing, IMSA has managed to attract new manufacturers – Lamborghini and Ford – with fabulous looking and sounding cars.

Here you can see many more pictures of the cars from the 2016 Rolex 24.

2016 Rolex 24 Podium Positions By Class

Pic Class Driver Team Car Gap
1 P S.Sharp, E.Brown, J.van Overbeek, L.Derani Tequila Patron ESM Ligier/HPD
2 P R.Taylor, J.Taylor, M.Angelelli, R.Barrichello Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette/Chevrolet 26.166s
3 P R.Dalziel, M.Goossens, R.H.-Reay Visit Florida Racing Corvette/Chevrolet 1m27.276s
1 GTLM O.Gavin, T.Milner, M.Fassler Corvette Racing Chevrolet 14 Laps
2 GTLM A.Garcia, J.Magnussen, M.Rockenfeller Corvette Racing Chevrolet 14 Laps
3 GTLM E.Bamber, F.Makowiecki, M.Christensen Porsche North America Porsche 14 Laps
1 GTD J.Potter, A.Lally, M.Seefried, R.Rast Magnus Racing Audi 33 Laps
2 GTD T.Pappas, N.Catsburg, P.Long, A.Pilgrim Black Swan Racing Porsche 33 Laps
3 GTD B.Keating, G.Robinson, J.Mosing, E.Foss, D.Faulkner Riley Motorsports Dodge 33 Laps
1 PC C.Miller, M.Goikhberg, S.Simpson, K.Koch JDC-Miller Motorsports ORECA/Chevrolet 34 Laps
2 PC R.Alon, T.K.-Smith, J.Gutierrez, N.Boulle PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA/Chevrolet 38 Laps
3 PC T.Drissi, M.Drumwright, J.Mowlem, R.Vera, B.Gaughan BAR1 Motorsports ORECA/Chevrolet 43 Laps

Rolex 24 at Daytona, Finally!

Rolex 24

How did I let this one sit on the bucket list for so long?  I guess in some defense, it is on the other side of the country, but…  The Rolex 24 is an event that every race fan needs to experience, especially anyone who likes the sights, sounds, and smells of sportscars.  My trip to Daytona came together on very short notice due to a well-timed and placed business trip.  Surprisingly it was easy to arrange: tickets are cheap ($95 for 4 day pass to just about anywhere except the luxury suites), a comfortable hotel was available less than 30 minutes away in Flagler Beach, and that along with a variety of layers for the unpredictable weather is about all you need.

Access is surprisingly easy.  Daytona International Speedway is just off I-95, and 3 hours before scheduled green flag time, even surface street traffic was pretty light.  Since I was essentially winging it, I had no infield or reserved parking.  Nevertheless, I managed to get into the free lot on the northeast corner of the grounds.  Great place to park at the last minute – just a hundred yards or so from the Turn 4 Tunnel that leads to the infield near the garages.  Just where I wanted to start the day.

Before heading to the track, as I was checking out the Rolex 24 website, I came across two lists: ‘Top 10 Spots to Watch the Rolex 24’ and ‘Top 10 Things First-Timers Should Experience’ on the Rolex 24 Things To Do page.  First thing to do: head to the garage area to be nearby when the Pit Lane opens for the Fan Grid Walk.

One of the particularly cool things about TUSC/IMSA is the access provided to pits, paddocks, cars, and drivers.  Unlike other series, for instance that one that begins with ‘F’ and ends with ‘1’, TUSC/IMSA makes a concerted effort at openness and actively fosters a connection between teams/drivers and fans.  Access and fan engagement is something that TUSC/IMSA has gotten right. The Rolex 24 Fan Walk, an hour of up close access to the pits, cars, drivers, and front stretch, start/finish banking is really something special.

Rolex 24

Rolex 24

Just before the marshals began clearing the grid I ran into SoCal’s own Connor De Phillippi as he was preparing to pilot the #19 GTD Porsche on its opening stint.  Connor would also be driving the #18 car, where he would be spending most of his time.

Rolex 24

About 30 minutes before roll off, the grid was cleared.  I decided to make my way to the infield kink for the race start.  At the Rolex 24, it’s open seating in all the stands, and I never had a problem finding a place to sit or stand where I wanted to.

The roar of engines marks the green flag drop, and it’s just seconds until 53 cars enter the infield.  Scott Dixon in the Chip Ganassi Racing #02 car was off to a quick start leading out of the International Horseshoe.  The kink is a very fast part of the infield, and with how close you can get to the track, you can really appreciate the speed.  Sights and sounds are fantastic!

Rolex 24

After watching at the kink for a bit, I headed over the Turn 2 (inside) stands to watch the cars come of the NASCAR Turn 2 banking while the sun was still high.  Along the way, I checked out a few of the car corrals and party scenes and stopped in the PCA tent. The PCA tent had two big screen TVs set up: one showing the broadcast action, the other showing the full timing and scoring. Nice!

Rolex 24

The Turn 2 stands are about as far away in the infield that you can walk, and there were just few of us there surrounded by a sea of RVs. Great place to relax a bit. While at Turn 2, the Prototypes began to catch up with the GT Daytona class cars. As cars launch out of the infield onto the banking, a fair amount of passing gets done between NASCAR 1 and the Bus Stop Chicane near the end of the backstretch.

Rolex 24

Rolex 24

Rolex 24

Next, I wandered around the infield checking out the various vantage points. I ‘tuned in’ to radiolemans.com on my mobile phone to listen to their broadcast of the race and use my ear buds as hearing protection, and I pulled up live timing and scoring on the IMSA app.

Rolex 24

Rolex 24

Rolex 24

Rolex 24, BMW Team RLL

For the first few hours of the race, there was lots of action but no big surprises: the Chip Ganassi, Action Express, Michael Shank, and Wayne Taylor Racing ran at or near the top of the Prototypes. Core Autosport and Starworks Motorsport headed the Prototype Challenge class. The usual suspects led the GT classes – Corvette Racing, Falken Tire Porsche, Risi Competizione Ferrari, RLL BMW, Porsche North America in GT Le Mans (GTLM) and Riley Viper, Scuderia Corsa Ferrari, GB Autosport Porsche, and Paul Miller Audi in GT Daytona (GTD). The fields were pretty tightly bunched and very competitive with numerous lead changes. The infield was a great place to hang out moving between the two horseshoes, the Sprint Fanzone with its food, drink, and big screen TV, the garages, and that deck on top of the garages.

As the sun set and nightfall came, I settled in at the West Horseshoe and the small grandstand near Turn 6 (where cars exit the infield and onto the banked oval.

Rolex 24, Tequila Patron ESM

Rolex 24, Team Falken Tire

Rolex 24, SpeedSource

Finally, after standing at the top of the Turn 6 stand for a while with it fully dark, I began to shiver in my t-shirt and shorts. Time to head back to the car for jeans and a fleece and a hot cup of coffee along the way. Another cool thing about this place and this race: there are plenty of places to get food and drink and the lines are never too long. A brisk walk thru the garages, out the Turn 4 tunnel, to the car and back, and I was back in the infield but a lot more comfortable!

Rolex 24

Rolex 24, Risi Competizione

The first North American Endurance Cup bonus points were awarded at the 1/4 point of the race with class leaders #01 Chip Ganassi with Joey Hand behind the wheel in Prototype, #54 Core Autosport in Prototype Challenge, #3 Corvette Racing in GTLM ,and #93 Riley Motorsports in GTD.

Rolex 24

Rolex 24

Rolex 24

As midnight approached and the race seemed to quiet down a bit, decided to grab a few more shots and start heading back to the car.

Rolex 24

Rolex 24, Tequila Patron ESM

Along the way, the Ferris Wheel caught my attention, so I decided to check it out. With almost no line, that would be the last stop before heading back to the hotel.

Rolex 24

Rolex 24

The plan for Sunday was to check out the main grandstand and the viewing from there, so I parked in the lot of the big NASCAR building right across the street from the track. Once again, easily in and parked, and I was in the grandstand in no time. The most significant events during the night were the two factory Porsches taking each other out in the infield, the Team Falken Tire Porsche experiencing a crank case failure, and the Risi Ferrari retiring with electrical problems, so there were no Porsches or Ferraris left in the hunt in GTLM, which seriously degraded the battle in that class. The factory Porsches (#911 & #912) both eventually made it back into the race and the #911 was running at the end, but they were never in contention after their crash. So it was a bit of a different race come Sunday morning.

Watching from the main grandstand far exceeded my expectations. You can still get pretty close to the action, and you can also get high to see the entire track – whatever your preference.


Is this the last racing series with both exciting and varied engine sounds?

On the first green light lap following a Full Course Yellow (FCY) with just over three hours to go, the #4 Corvette tagged a back marker prototype car that wiggled in Turn 6 coming out of the infield and caused enough damage to drop the #4 from contention following a fairly lengthy pit stop for repairs that cost 4 laps.

With two hours to go in the 2015 Rolex 24, there were still close battles going in all but the PC class, where the #54 Core Autosport seemed to have things under control. In the Prototype class, the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing car driven by Max Angelelli led the Chip Ganassi #02 piloted by Scott Dixon and the #5 Action Express car with Sebastien Bourdais at the wheel. In GTLM, it was down to the #3 Corvette Racing and #25 BMW Team RLL cars, and in GTD, it was the #93 Riley Motorsports Viper leading the #22 Alex Job Racing Porsche. All other cars running with laps down in class at this point.

Rolex 24, Action Express Racing

Rolex 24

The #02 Chip Ganassi car and the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing car were running nip and tuck for the last couple hours of the race. Scott Dixon’s ability to drive fast while ‘making fuel’ in the #02 and Jordan Taylor’s hard charging in the #10 made it likely to come down to the wire.

Rolex 24

In a dramatic twist, the PC class leader #54, driven by Colin Braun, clobbered the wall coming out of the bus stop chicane with just under 20 minutes to go and ultimately finished third in class.  During the ensuing FCY, in another twist, the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing car pitted suddenly for a driver change – apparently to avoid a drive time violation for Jordan Taylor.  Sadly, the team still missed the mark, perhaps by 1 lap, and were disqualified.

Congratulations to class winners #02 Chip Ganassi Racing, #3 Corvette Racing, #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports, and #93 Riley Motorsports!

Thank you IMSA and Daytona International Speedway for a great race and a fabulous experience.  I’ll be back!

Lots more pics at Rolex 24 at Daytona 2015

Rolex 24 Podium Positions By Class

Pic Class Driver Team Car Gap
1 P S.Dixon, T.Kanaan, K.Larson, J.McMurray Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Riley/Ford 24h00m57.667s
2 P J.Barbosa, C.Fittipaldi, S.Bourdais Action Express Racing Corvette/Chevrolet 1.333s
3 P R.Westbrook, M.Valiante, M.Rockenfeller, G.Cosmo visitflorida.com Racing Corvette/Chevrolet 6 Laps
1 GTLM J.Magnussen, A.Garcia, R.Briscoe Corvette Racing Chevrolet 15 Laps
2 GTLM B.Auberlen, D.Werner, A.Farfus, B.Spengler BMW Team RLL BMW 15 Laps
3 GTLM O.Gavin, T.Milner, S.Pagenaud Corvette Racing Chevrolet 22 Laps
1 PC M.Guasch, A.Novich, A.Palmer, T.K.-Smith PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca/Chevrolet 26 Laps
2 PC J.Mowlem, T.Papadopoulos, T.Drissi, B.Alder, M.Plowman BAR1 Motorsports Oreca/Chevrolet 27 Laps
3 PC J.Bennett, C.Braun, M.Wilkins, J.Gue Core Autosport Oreca/Chevrolet Not running
1 GTD B.Keating, D.Farnbacher, A.Carter, K.Wittmer, C.Lawrence Riley Motorsports Dodge 36 Laps
2 GTD C.MacNeil, L.Keen, A.Davis, S.Gisbergen Alex Job Racing Porsche 36 Laps
3 GTD M.Snow, J.Heylen, P.Dempsey, P.Eng Wright Motorsports Porsche 38 Laps

Rolex 24 Tips & Suggestions

  1. Go to the Rolex 24 website and check out the Top 10 Spot To Watch and Top 10 Things To Do.  Make a point to check out as many as possible.  Of these, my favorites, in no particular order:
    1. Various infield grandstands
    2. Infield scene in general
    3. Ferris wheel
    4. Front stretch
    5. Top of Daytona Rising
    6. Garage scene
    7. Fan Walk
  2. Get there early!  There is so much to see and do at the Rolex 24, and you’ll want to do it all.
  3. Get infield parking if you can, especially if you’re a local and you have a car you can take to one of the corrals or if you have an RV.
  4. Take clothing options and layers.  Over nighters have fire pits for a reason!
  5. Wear comfortable shoes; this place is huge!
  6. Take a pocket charger or extra batteries for your cameras, cell phones, and other gizmos.
  7. Make sure you have hearing protection.
  8. Get the Daytona International Speedway and IMSA mobile apps for your phone.
  9. Bring an earbud headset to listen to the race.
  10. Use Full Course Yellow periods to go move around and check out something new.  Since it takes a while to go thru the whole pit cycle, you won’t miss the action and you’ll probably like what you find.

POC Season Finale at WSIR

Cup Racers, Time Trialers, and Performance Driving Series drivers of the Porsche Owners Club took to Willow Springs International Raceway (WSIR) December 6 and 7 for their traditional season ending event at their ‘home’ track.  Crisp but clear weather made for some fast lap times and good racing at WSIR.

In addition to the great fun on the track, club members enjoyed a newly renovated cafe, courtesy of Porsche Cars North America, who recently hosted a private event at the track.

WSIR

WSIR

WSIR

WSIR

Lots more pics here.

The POC returns to Rosamond in January for the 2015 season opening Time Attack and Performance Driving Services events at Streets of Willow.

For those who spend time at the track, I found a great new product that is the best I’ve ever used for cleaning up my car after an event: MOTHERS 09224 R3 Racing Rubber Remover – 24 oz.

PCA Grand Prix Region – ACS, Fontana

Despite a heavy downpour just as the first run group was getting settled in, and threat of rain throughout the day, the PCA Grand Prix Region put on a successful and fun Time Trial and Driver’s Education event at the Auto Club Speedway Infield Course on November 1.  The Infield Course at ACS is great place for drivers who are learning their craft to make a first step to a real race track.  Besides being easily accessible from just about anywhere in SoCal, the facilities at Auto Club Speedway are fantastic, and the infield course is an interesting track that’s a safe place to learn and progress.  With a wet track, it’s a fabulous place for everyone – even the most experienced pilots – to practice their car control skills.  For those of us who failed to rent a garage, we also got to practice our keep dry skills.

PCA Grand Prix Region

The PCA Grand Prix Region did a nice job getting the event started on time despite the changing weather conditions.  Driver’s Meeting and orientation safety briefing held, first timers and other students paired up with experienced instructors, the track went hot just as really dark clouds were rushing in from the west.  Even though the track was often quite wet with a big puddle in the ‘playground’ section of the track (in this track map, the area between Turn 5 and Turn 7), there were few off track excursions or other incidents.

PCA Grand Prix Region

PCA Grand Prix Region

In addition to being PCA Grand Prix Region event, the Time Trial portion was a PCA Zone 8 event, which meant it contributed to the overall Zone 8 Time Trial championship.  Zone 8 is composed of 13 Porsche Club of America regional clubs in SoCal, Southern Nevada, and Arizona.

PCA Grand Prix Region

 

An excellent event left smiles all around, especially the beginners getting acquainted to a real race track and those who improved their positioning the Zone 8 championship.

Many more pics are available here.

For those who spend time at the track, I found a great new product that is the best I’ve ever used for cleaning up my car after an event: MOTHERS 09224 R3 Racing Rubber Remover – 24 oz.

Congrats to Will Power, IndyCar Champ

For the third year running, the IndyCar Champion was crowned at the season finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.  And after finishing IndyCar runner-up three times, it was finally Will Power’s time to take the crown.

Will Power

Will Power came to Auto Club Speedway with a lead of 51 points over Penske Racing teammate Helio Castroneves and 81 points over Simon Pagenaud.  Helio’s pole reduced the lead to 50 points entering the race, and with the finale awarding double points – up to 103 with all the bonuses – Power’s lead was anything but secure, especially with his starting position on the last row.

In the first 10 laps, Pagenaud was losing places while Power gained a few as his teammates Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya ran at the front.

At the halfway point, Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay was leading from Montoya and Castroneves.  Power was running 7th in the thus far caution free race.  Hunter-Reay was steadily pulling away from Montoya just before pit stops around lap 140.  On lap 145, just after most had cycled thru the pits, Castroneves lead Tony Kanaan and Montoya.

On lap 175, Ryan Hunter-Reay spun, bringing out the first caution – a record run of green flag laps.  On the ensuing green, Will Power drove aggressively to the front from 5th like a man possessed.  He took the lead on lap 189.

On laps 198 thru 200, the Ganassi Racing pair of Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon both passed Power.  Late pit violations for Helio Castroneves and Ryan Hunter-Reay put them both out of race contention and also ended Helio’s title hopes.  On Will Power’s last stop, a mistake was made on his front wing adjustment that made his car very difficult to handle.  Since Helio’s penalty essentially eliminated him from championship contention and Pagenaud had gradually lost several laps throughout the night, Power was able to nurse his car home while Tony Kanaan took his first and well-deserved win on the last race of the season.

We’re lucky in SoCal to host two of North America’s premier open wheel races – the Grand Prix of Long Beach and the season ending 500 miler.  For the third year in a row, we were treated to an exciting finale that crowned the IndyCar season Champion.  Not sure I am a fan of ending the season so early – it seems like we should be seeing these guys for at least another month.  That makes the off-season just that much longer as well.  I can’t wait until Long Beach in the Spring!

Conway Takes IndyCar Long Beach Win

 IndyCar Long Beach

IndyCar Long Beach What a 40th Grand Prix of Long Beach!

In an unpredictable, somewhat chaotic IndyCar Long Beach race, Mike Conway of Ed Carpenter Racing won with a clean and steady approach while those around him were banging each other, scraping the barriers, or running out of gas.

Conway was running 15th when the leaders began cycling thru the pits with 27 laps to go.  Up to that point, pole sitter Ryan Hunter-Reay had dominated the race.  Hunter-Reay and Andretti Autosport teammate James Hinchcliffe pitted together while running one-two on lap 53.  Hunter-Reay exited the pits just ahead of Hinchcliffe while Josef Newgarden pitted behind them from third.  Newgarden had done a great in-lap and with a clean pit stop, got out just ahead of Hunter-Reay into Turn 1, but naturally on cold tires.  Hunter-Reay and Hinchcliffe on warming tires were stacked up behind Newgarden around the fountain.  At Turn 4, Ryan Hunter-Reay made an over optimistic attempt to pass Newgarden and punted him into the left barriers.  The ensuing melee took out Newgarden, Hunter-Reay, and Hinchcliffe who were running one, two, three as well as Tony Kanaan and Takuma Sato who ran into the pile up from behind.

On the restart, the running order was Scott Dixon, Justin Wilson, Will Power, & Mike Conway.  Shortly after the restart, Dixon nudged Wilson into the barriers on the approach to Turn 8.  The impact was pretty light, but it was enough to destroy Wilson’s left front suspension.  Wilson was furious because even though Dixon had to stop before the end, Wilson was good on fuel and was well positioned for a win.

In earlier action on Lap 32, Will Power helped Simon Pagenaud into the tire barrier at Turn 6 while Pagenaud was running in second place as the sequence below shows:

IndyCar Long Beach

IndyCar Long Beach

IndyCar Long Beach

Pagenaud was about as upset at Power as Wilson was at Dixon. For his part, Will Power apologized, surprised that he wasn’t penalized.

Ultimately, Carpenter took a well-deserved checkered for running a clean and consistent race.

IndyCar Long Beach

The top 15 at the finish:

Pos  Driver              Team/Engine           Time/Gap
 1.  Mike Conway         Carpenter/Chevy  1h54m41.6418s
 2.  Will Power          Penske/Chevy          +0.9005s
 3.  Carlos Munoz        Andretti/Honda        +1.5591s
 4.  Juan Pablo Montoya  Penske/Chevy          +2.0226s
 5.  Simon Pagenaud      Schmidt/Honda         +2.8169s
 6.  Mikhail Aleshin     Schmidt/Honda         +3.8574s
 7.  Oriol Servia        Rahal/Honda           +4.9621s
 8.  Marco Andretti      Andretti/Honda        +8.1948s
 9.  Sebastian Saavedra  KV/Chevy              +8.9029s
10.  Carlos Huertas      Coyne/Honda          +24.2295s
11.  Helio Castroneves   Penske/Chevy         +30.0552s
12.  Scott Dixon         Ganassi/Chevy        +30.7310s
13.  Graham Rahal        Rahal/Honda             +1 lap
14.  Sebastien Bourdais  KV/Chevy               +3 laps
15.  Jack Hawksworth     Herta/Honda            +3 laps

Many more pics at IndyCar Long Beach.

Ganassi & Corvette Dominate TUSC Long Beach

TUSC Long Beach

No. 1 Extreme Speed Motorsports Patron HPD ARX-03b

TUSC Long Beach AKA Tequila Patrón Sports Car Showcase At Long Beach

Wow, that’s a mouthful!  TUSC Long Beach was very different from any of the recent versions of ALMS races at Long Beach.  First of all, thanks to the inclusion of only two of the four TUSC classes, the field was much smaller than any race in recent memory.  In fact, it was the smallest sportscar field at Long Beach since 2009, the worst year there for ALMS thanks to the world financial crisis.  However, this year it was intentionally smaller – there is simply not enough paddock and pit space at Long Beach for the entire TUSC field.  On the positive side, the small field consisted of two classes rather than four, which should have meant for heightened competition…

… In The Race

So the other way this race was so different was the fact that it was run caution free.  That’s right, no Full Course Yellow!  At TUSC Long Beach!  Interestingly, at the green flag, Memo Rojas in the Ganassi No. 01 Telcel Ford EcoBoost/Riley and Antonio Garcia in the No. 3 Corvette C7.R – the respective class pole sitters – got off to an immediate lead and never looked back as the field gradually spread out.

TUSC Long Beach

No. 01 Telcel/Ford EcoBoost

Garcia just ran away with the race, and without a caution or trouble, there was nothing to close up the field. Joao Barbosa in the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP beat Scott Pruett out of the pits when the two cars pitted on the same lap. But Pruett had the No. 01 car back out in front within a couple of laps, and that’s where he finished. Further back in the field there were some interesting battles, especially for the Prototype podium spots, but since there not as many cars on the track and there was a smaller speed differential, there was simply less traffic to manage and fewer opportunities to pass. Although this is a timed race anyway, having it run without caution made it seem fast.

TUSC Long Beach

No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R

TUSC Long Beach Results

Prototype

  1. Pruett/Rojas (01), Ford EcoBoost/Riley
  2. Taylor/Taylor (10), Corvette DP
  3. Barbosa/Fittipaldi (5), Corvette DP

GT Le Mans

  1. Magnussen/Garcia (3), Chevrolet Corvette C7.R
  2. Muller/Edwards (56), BMW Z4 GTE
  3. Gavin/Milner (4), Chevrolet Corvette C7.R

TUSC Long Beach

Impressions

Even though there was only one pass on track for the lead in either class, the TUSC Long Beach edition was exciting, fun to watch, and seemed to be well attended.  The TUSC Paddock was open, friendly, and the drivers seemed to be more accessible and engaging, which the fans clearly loved.  I’d call this one a success.

Many more pics of TUSC Long Beach 2014

Pruett Takes Pole for Long Beach TUSC Race

The grid is set for the TUDOR United Sportscar Championship (TUSC) race that’s the Saturday feature event of the 40th Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend.  I know the IndyCar main event is Sunday, but Saturday is actually my favorite day – a relaxed atmosphere, open paddocks, IndyCar qualification, and the TUSC race to cap the day’s events.

Because of the pit constraints and a relatively small track at Long Beach, only the two main classes are running the this TUSC event: the Prototype and GT Le Mans (GTLM) classes.  Scott Pruett put the No. 01 Telcel/Chip Ganassi Racing Ford EcoBoost/Riley DP on pole with a time of 1:15.325.

Pruett

 

In the tightly contested GTLM field, Jan Magnussen took pole in his No. 3 Corvette C7.R with a time of 1:17.939, just ahead of Bill Auberlen in the No. 55 Crowne Plaza BMW Z4 GTE.

Magnussen

Auberlen

Should be a fantastic and competitive race today. See you at the Beach!

SoCal Speed!

Spring brings racing to Southern California, and several of the season’s best events happen over the next couple of weekends.

SoCal

First of all, this weekend we have the Porsche Club of America (PCA) 13th Annual California Festival of Speed at Auto Club Speedway.  The Festival of Speed is the largest Porsche event in the Southwest, and it really does have something for everyone: Cup Races, Time Trials, Autocross, Concours, Vendors, & a Swap Meet.  More info including schedule and map on the calendar here: California Festival of Speed.

Next weekend the TUDOR United Sportscar Championship (TUSC) and IndyCar come to SoCal for the 40th Grand Prix of Long Beach – a massive weekend celebration of SoCal speed.  Long Beach is really a can’t miss event for motorsports fans.  Check out what SoCal’s Bill Auberlen of BMW Team RLL has to say about the party that is Long Beach here on the TUSC site.  Information, tickets, schedule, map, fan guide and much more can be found here: Grand Prix of Long Beach.

So far, aside from some really horrible officiating calls that have directly effected the race results, the unification of ALMS and Grand-Am under the TUSC banner has worked out quite well.  In particular, the series seems to have gotten the balance of power between the former ALMS LMP2 cars and the former Grand-Am DP cars just about right.  No surprise, the racing the in the GT classes has been particularly exciting and competitive.

IndyCar welcomes fan favorite Juan Pablo Montoya back to open wheel racing with Team Penske with teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves.  The competition between the Penske guys, Team Ganassi (Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Ryan Briscoe, & Charlie Kimball), and Andretti Autosport (Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe, and Carlos Munoz) should be particularly close this year.  Sadly, we’ll be missing the 2009 Grand Prix of Long Beach winner, Dario Franchitti, who retired in the offseason due to injuries sustained in the Houston race last year.

Also next weekend, the Porsche Owners Cup will be running a Cup Race and Time Attack weekend at Willow Springs.

Mark Webber – A Tribute

Mark Webber - 2010 Canadian Grand Prix

The final race of the 2013 Formula 1 season is now a week in the past, and this season brings to a close a number of careers and eras.  Although it’s conceivably possible we might see (and hear!) V8s in Formula 1 someday in the future, Mark Webber is gone with finality, having joined Porsche’s LMP1 factory team for its assault on Le Mans.

Mark Webber began his Formula 1 career in 2002 with Minardi, making his debut at his home Australian Grand Prix where he finished fifth – scoring points in his first F1 race.  Webber went on to win multiple Rookie of the Year awards for his efforts with Minardi that year.  For the next two season, he raced for Jaguar F1, scoring points on multiple occasions and building this F1 resume.  Mark Webber’s last race with Jaguar in 2004 was also Jaguar’s last appearance on the F1 grid before being sold to Red Bull where it would be known as Red Bull Racing beginning 2005.

Mark Webber – The Williams Years

For the next two seasons, Webber raced for Williams, where many F1 followers expected him to notch his first victory.  Williams Technical Director, Sam Michael went so far as to predict Mark Webber would ultimately win the F1 Driver’s Championship while at Williams.  Unfortunately for both Webber and Williams, it didn’t work out that way.  After a promising fifth place finish in his first Grand Prix with Williams in Australia and scoring points in five of his first six races with the team – including a podium in Monaco – the second half of the 2005 season was lack-luster for both as acrimony between Williams and its engine supplier increased throughout the season.  Webber still managed a career high tenth place in the F1 Driver’s Championship while Williams finished fifth in the Constructor’s Championship.

A 2006 switch to Cosworth power did not improve the situation as Mark slipped to fourteenth in the Driver’s Championship and Williams only managed eighth in the Constructor’s Championship despite having two future stars as their drivers – Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg.

Mark Webber – The Red Bull Years

For 2007 it was announced that Webber would join David Coulthard at Red Bull Racing.  That same year, Red Bull would be featuring their first Adrian Newey car, the RB3.  This was also the team that was Jaguar in it’s prior incarnation.  For 2007, there were lots of teething pains to get over, but Mark Webber and Red Bull Racing were clearly making progress.  In Japan, Mark had a clear chance for victory: he was running second behind Lewis Hamilton but had faster pace.  In the rain, behind the safety car, Hamilton suddenly checked up and Sebastian Vettel in a sister Torro Rosso ran into Webber from behind, taking both of them out of the race.  Hmmm…

2008 was another building year for Red Bull.  Mark had his best year since his 2005 season with Williams, scoring points in five of the first six races and finishing eleventh in the Driver’s Championship.  For 2009, Mark Webber was joined by the Red Bull prodigy, Sebastian Vettel, and it was a breakout year for the team.  Webber won his first F1 race in Germany, followed it up with another win in Brazil, and finished fourth in the Driver’s Championship.  However, his teammate had an even better year with four victories and a runner-up position for the season – a position echoed by Red Bull in the Constructor’s Championship.

Mark Webber - 2010 Canadian Grand Prix

2010 would be Mark Webber’s best opportunity to win the F1 Driver’s Championship.  He won in Spain and Monaco from pole and had another two victories at Silverstone and Hungary.  He also scored poles in Malaysia, Turkey, and Belgium.  In Turkey, while running 1-2, Webber and Vettel collided taking Vettel out of the race immediately and dropping Webber to third after a pit stop to replace a broken front wing.  After his Monaco win, Webber was leading the Driver’s Championship, a lead he took into the Korean Grand Prix.  In horrendous conditions that led to the race starting under a safety car and a necessitated a subsequent lengthy delay, Mark Webber spun after running wide on a turn while in second place.  He ultimately hit the barriers and also took out fourth running Nico Rosberg as he careened back across the track.  In the same race, Vettel’s engine failed while he was running in the lead.  Ultimately Fernando Alonso won the race to take the lead in the Championship.  By Mark Webber’s reaction, you could almost feel that this was a turning point in his run for the Championship.  It was later learned that Webber was racing with a small shoulder fracture that was sustained in a mountain biking accident.  Alonso took the lead into the final race of the season with Webber in second and Vettel close behind in third.  As is well-known, Ferrari made a strategic mistake in covering Webber on pitstops; Alonso was stuck behind Vitaly Petrov to finish seventh, and Webber was behind Alonso in eighth.  Vettel won the race and his first of four Driver’s Championships.  Mark was third behind Alonso.

Red Bull Racing was now firmly Sebastian Vettel’s team.  For the next three seasons, Mark Webber had some brilliant streaks and won a total of three more races, but clearly his chance in the Sun was gone – he was now part of the supporting cast.  He continued to play a key role in Red Bull Racing’s run of four straight Constructor’s Championships on his way to third on the Driver’s Championship in 2011 and 2013, but the competition at the top of the driver’s contest was primarily between Alonso and Vettel.

Mark Webber - 2012 US Grand Prix

Over their time together as teammates, there was clearly no love lost between Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.  The hostilities seemed to come to a head in this year’s Malaysian Grand Prix when Vettel ignored team orders and overtook Webber in the closing laps of a race that Webber had dominated.  This action also seemed to turn many fans and public opinion against Vettel as he faced a chorus of boos at subsequent races.

Mark Webber- 2013 Belgian Grand Prix

Mark Webber closes out a Formula 1 career highlighted by class, gritty determination, and flashes of brilliance.  He goes on to a second career at the top end of sports car racing – actually returning to the sport from which he came to F1.

Mark Webber- 2013 Belgian Grand Prix

Many more pics at Mark Webber Tribute