Mihai Fira
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2008 BMW M1 Hommage

2008 BMW M1 Hommage

Collective gasps welcomed the BMW Turbo Concept on the stage at the 1972 edition of the Paris Motor Show. The car, stunning from every angle, was the embodiment of what future BMW products would offer: cutting-edge looks, state-of-the-art technology, and performance. This mesmerizing prototype designed by Paul Bracq was the inspiration for BMW’s one and only supercar: the M1. Thirty years later, BMW honored both the Turbo and the M1 by creating the appropriately-named M1 Hommage. Dressed in a similar coat of hypnotic red as the Turbo and with countless design cues that trace their roots in the Giugiaro-penned M1, the Hommage was a way for BMW to look back while also looking towards the future.

First displayed at the Concorso D’Eleganza Villa D’Este in 2008, the M1 Hommage was the German manufacturer’s way of refreshing the wedge-shaped M1 which was celebrating its 30th birthday. BMW brought the much-revered older siblings to complement the launch of this design experiment, but many were left bemused by the company’s announcement that there would be no new supercar to come from Munich.

This wasn’t, however, entirely true as BMW didn’t ignore its waves of fans who fell in love with their 2008 concept and went on to include certain unmistakable design cues in their 2009 Vision EfficentDynamics concept which led to the BMW i8. It’s not a supercar, it was never intended to be, but it’s similar enough to the M1 Hommage to make us happy, and it also channels the Turbo prototype through all of its hybrid technology that it incorporates.

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2018 24 Hours of Le Mans - Race Report

2018 24 Hours of Le Mans - Race Report

Toyota claims elusive victory with Alonso on-board the winning crew

Toyota’s legendary bad luck at the world’s most famous long-distance endurance race has finally been broken on Sunday when the No. 8 Toyota TS050 of Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, and Fernando Alonso crossed the line to score the Japanese manufacturer’s first overall win. Toyota Gazoo Racing virtually ran away with the victory after dominating in practice, qualifying and the entirety of the 24-hours-long race ahead of a fleet of brand-new non-hybrid prototypes that were pegged back from the word go by the rule book. Alonso brought in significant media attention, and Toyota’s marketing division is jubilant after the Spaniard ticked it all: fastest lap at the Test Day, pole position, and victory – all on attempt number 1.

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2018 ADAC 24 Hours of Nurburgring - Race Report

2018 ADAC 24 Hours of Nurburgring - Race Report

Porsche scores dramatic win against Mercedes-AMG

Looking down the packed start/finish stretch of the Nurburgring GP Track on Saturday afternoon, the sunbathing each and every one of the thousands present, you wouldn’t have thought that a deluge was just around the corner. But unpredictability is the name of the game up in the Eiffel Mountains for the 24 Hours of Nurburgring, and it was the same this time around.

Every year since 1970, thousands upon thousands of racing fans line the mythical Northern Loop of the Nurburgring race track in Germany to attend one of the most grueling 24-hour-long races of them all. It involves the longest permanent road course in the world, the largest array of machinery, and the largest grid plus the always-enthralling weather that’s got enough curveballs for the race weekend to fill an entire F1 season.

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IMSA Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio - Race Report

IMSA Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio - Race Report

Acura takes overall honors, Porsche scores GTLM win

IMSA’s return to the scenic Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, has been a true rollercoaster, Acura enjoying a green light route to their first victory where they needed it most, at the venue sponsored by the luxury brand itself. It was the first time that IMSA raced at Mid-Ohio since 2012, a return that’s been long awaited by sports car racing fans across the land. All three classes were present with the grand total of cars reaching 34 including 14 prototypes. With the other 20 cars being GTs, there were worries of incidents on the tight and tumbling 2.25-mile-long road course during the race, as was the potential of rain that eventually evaporated.

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2018 Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps - Race Report

2018 Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps - Race Report

The FIA World Endurance Championship got their fairy tale kick-off to the 2018-2019 Super Season with the overall winner while GT battles kept us glued to the screen throughout the whole six-hour-long fight in the Ardennes. This promises to be a very interesting season.

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2018 FIA WEC Super Season Preview

2018 FIA WEC Super Season Preview

The longest season yet is just around the corner!

The World Endurance Championship is back with a revised calendar, hanging its title on the back of the GT manufacturers and a sleuth of new cars in the P1 class – as well as a return to Sebring! Less than a week separates us from the start of the seventh season of the FIA WEC, and this one will be historic, as it marks the transition of the series towards a “winter” schedule via a Super Season that starts in May of this year and ends in June of next year. The schedule includes two visits to Le Mans for the fabled 24 Hours race, two at Spa-Francorchamps, as well as one at Sebring in the same weekend as the IMSA 12 Hours race.

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2018 IMSA GP at Long Beach - Race Report

2018 IMSA GP at Long Beach - Race Report

Cadillac and Chevrolet win in their classes

When you think about a 100-minute-long race along the scenic Long Beach street circuit, you assume it’s all going to be about that one fast lap in qualifying with the shortness of the event and the tight nature of a street circuit, but IMSA’s annual visits to Long Beach have proved that you can have an exciting sports car race on a street course. The 2018 running of the race was no exception with a healthy prototype field backed up by an equally strong GTLM pack that did battle in 80°F heat.

Only 22 cars gathered on Shoreline Drive to take the start as IMSA decided the race will be a GTLM and Prototype-only event due to limited paddock space, with IndyCar, Pirelli World Challenge, Formula Drift, and Stadium Super Trucks also racing this past weekend. GTD will be coming back to fight at Mid-Ohio. With Vautier’s crash at Sebring, Spirit Of Daytona Racing’s Cadillac did not show up in California so the eight works GTLM machines were joined by 14 Prototype-class models. DPI dominated the proceedings at the sharp end of the field with the ORECA and Ligier prototypes acting as second-class citizens, and the status quo remained unchanged in qualifying.

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2018 12 Hours of Sebring - Race Report

2018 12 Hours of Sebring - Race Report

Nissan scores surprising win ahead of Cadillac

With over a dozen Prototypes lined up on the grid, this year’s Sebring 12 Hours was bound to be epic, and after some very unpredictable round-the-clock action, through which nobody in either of the three classes marked themselves as a favorite, we can attest that IMSA competition has delivered yet again.

The break between Daytona and Sebring always seems longer than it really is and the same was the case this year, especially since we have such an amazing field in each of the three categories. Then, finally, race week was upon us, and we got to see some exciting practice sessions that saw Cadillac, Acura, and even Mazda top the timing sheets before everyone got themselves in line for qualifying. There was also the matter of refueling times that was addressed for Sebring with IMSA mandating a minimum refueling time for each class that varies between 30 to 40 seconds.

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2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona - Race Report

2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona - Race Report

Cadillac takes 1-2 victory!

After 24 grueling hours that saw a myriad of punctures, but surprisingly few full-course cautions, Cadillac proved again to be head-and-shoulders above the plentiful opposition, which included F1 Champ Fernando Alonso, in what was a truly record-breaking 56th running of the ultimate enduro test on the Daytona International Speedway.

Just two short years ago, the 24 Hours of Daytona was broken apart by no less than 21 full-course yellow periods. They were for cars slowing down or stopping on course, a number of crashes, and other more or less minor incidents. This meant that many competitors were able to get back some of the laps they’d lost since IMSA allows for a ‘wave-around’ procedure that sees cars that are a number of laps down gain a lap at each caution period – although each car can only gain a certain number of laps. As a team owner, you can rest assured that, having a 24 hour-long-race in front of you, there will surely be cautions that will give you the opportunity to gain some time that you might’ve lost – or should you?

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Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona 2018 Preview

Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona 2018 Preview

The racing season is just around the corner

It’s that time of the year again, after the Roar Before the 24, of high anticipation, when everyone thinks they have the keys to all the locked answers but, in reality, it will take the whole of the upcoming Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona to find out what’s really what. That doesn’t mean, however, that we aren’t putting together this preview for you to get in gear for what is, as ever, the longest and most difficult race in the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship and, this time around, one that is buzzing with worldwide interest much more than in the last few years.

The 56th Annual Daytona 24 Hours is upon us. From the 25th through to the 28th of January, all of our eyes will follow the action at the 3.56-miles-long Daytona Speedway as 50 cars divided into three classes, Prototype, GT-Le Mans and GT-Daytona, will do battle twice-around-the-clock. It is, as per usual, the opening round of the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship and it might just be the opening act to a memorable season, as I’ve talked about in my race reports in 2017.

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2017 Six Hours of Bahrain - Race Report

2017 Six Hours of Bahrain - Race Report

Toyota wins final race of the season. Porsche says goodbye to WEC racing

The final hurrah of the Porsche 919 Hybrid was dented by Toyota’s determination to outscore their German rivals in the number of victories this season, which they did by scoring the fifth win in Bahrain to end the season on a high. Porsche returned to Le Mans with a car worthy of the overall victory in 2014 after a 16-year hiatus, and it promptly went on to bag three consecutive world titles (manufacturers’ and drivers’) and three Le Mans victories, albeit making the best out of Toyota’s misfortune, especially in 2016. This page of sports car racing history was to have its last lines written this weekend at the final round of the FIA WEC – The Six Hours of Bahrain.

The track in the middle of the desert posed nearly unique challenges in terms of tire management, but Porsche was confident they could score a farewell victory, which would have brought their total tally to a record-breaking 18. Audi, mind you, have gathered 17 between 2012 and 2016 and that’s exactly how much Porsche got between 2014 and 2016. Toyota, meanwhile, had gathered 15 and had the ability to get the 16th in Bahrain, thus derailing Porsche’s final WEC gig. The two teams were, roughly, on equal terms, so who got it?

It wasn’t a matter of championships being decided, at least not in LMP1, since Porsche got the job done with races to spare so, at the top, it was just about the last installment of the Porsche vs. Toyota duel. Lower down the order, however, there was very much still to play for as titles were undecided in LMP2, GTE-Pro, and GTE-Am.

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2017 Hankook 24 Hours COTA - Race Report

2017 Hankook 24 Hours COTA - Race Report

Comfortable win for Porsche!

Up until last weekend, the Rolex 24 hours at Daytona was the only professional twice-around-the-clock race in the United States but all that changed after COTA hosted such an event for GT and touring cars as Dutch organization Creventic made its North-American debut after organizing a number of successful series in Europe.

Before delving into what went on at the Circuit Of The Americas at the end of last week when the second ever professional 24 Hours race was held in the U.S., let’s look a bit at Creventic’s history. The Dutch organization which was behind this event, although it was sanctioned by the SCCA, is not new in the motorsport scene. In fact, their first hit came 11 years ago with the very first Dubai 24 Hours when they realized the potential of the Middle Eastern market and the appetite to race at the Dubai Autodrome which was also a host of the FIA GT at the time.

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2017 Six Hours of Shanghai - Race Report

2017 Six Hours of Shanghai - Race Report

Toyota wins, but loses championship to Porsche

Toyota brought to China a new update to their aerodynamic package in a last-grasp attempt to push the championship battle all the way to the Bahrain finale, but Porsche’s steady run meant the Japanese fell, yet again, in the “close but no cigar” category – and not for lack of trying. It was strange and — while some blamed pollution for making their vision fuzzy — hard to believe, but after FP2 it started to sink in: Toyota were dominating in Shanghai. And not with half measures – properly!

The No. 7 TS050 of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose-Maria Lopez led every free practice session and then, in qualifying, nobody could topple Conway and Kobayashi. The duo managed a shattering 1:42.832 average, almost half a second quicker than what Andre Lotterer and Neel Jani could achieve aboard the No. 1 Porsche. Toyota’s other car was third, some 0.6 seconds adrift while the other Porsche filled up the second row after a botched run for Earl Bamber who got delayed by a P2 car and then spun on his hot lap.

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2017 California 8 Hours at Laguna Seca - Race Report

2017 California 8 Hours at Laguna Seca - Race Report

The longest race ever held at Laguna Seca!

Last weekend, the Monterey Peninsula and many more GT racing fans watched as the longest race ever held at Mazda Speedway Laguna Seca unfolded under the sunniest of skies with a large array of both American and European entries in what was the third round of the SRO-organized International GT Challenge.

Blancpain GT Series organizers SRO (Stephane Ratel Organization) have been looking to expand their GT racing empire for a few years now. First, former BPR Global GT Series founder Stephane Ratel looked to have a hand in the Bathurst 12 Hours and, more recently, the Sepang 12 Hours entered under SRO’s control. The Malaysian race, though, will be part of the IGTC for the final time this year and it will be replaced come 2018 by a 10-hour-long race at Suzuka, replacing in a way Super GT’s blue riband event, the Pokka 1000. In turn, Sepang will be part of a so-called “Pacific 36 Endurance Cup” championship centered around three events: the existing Bathurst 12 Hours, the Sepang 12 Hours and a proposed race of the same length at Hampton Downs in New Zealand.

With these races under SRO influence (or organized by Ratel’s men), the logical step was to link them all in a world championship of sorts. The inaugural season took place last year and for 2017 four races were planned: everything kicked off at the Bathurst 12 Hours with round two being Blancpain Endurance Series’ most emblematic race, the Spa 24 Hours. Another hiatus was then in order as everyone geared up for last weekend’s race – the first ever 8 hours race at Laguna Seca. We’ve previously seen four hours worth of racing around Laguna Seca in the American Le Mans Series days but never a professional race double that duration.

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2017 Six Hours of Fuji - Race Report

2017 Six Hours of Fuji - Race Report

Toyota defeats Porsche, but can it win the championship?

As it’s almost always the case in the shadow of Fuji-san, there was rain and fog all through last weekend when the FIA WEC visited the former Formula One venue for its six-hour-long race. This prompted multiple interruptions and luck-favored the local stars. Fellow Moto GP fans will understand how us, endurance racing devotees, felt this weekend because they too endured a rain-soaked Japanese GP. For us, it was an important weekend because Porsche was virtually on the cusp of becoming World Champion with another win at Fuji. Toyota needed to win — and would have liked even more a one-two — to keep mathematical hopes alive with two more races left to run, in Shanghai and Bahrain.

This race was also important as many people thought that, being at home, Toyota might feel encouraged to make an announcement on their future in the WEC. As we know, Porsche will cut short their involvement at the end of this season, electing not to take part in the upcoming "super season." This will leave Toyota, if they choose to continue, as the only works hybrid LMP1 entrant — Peugeot choosing not to join the ranks of P1 in 2019 as they look forward to ramping up their Global RX presence.

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2017 Petit Le Mans - Race Report

2017 Petit Le Mans - Race Report

The season ends with an exciting race at Road Atlanta!

The 20th running of the – by now – classic Petit Le Mans 10-hour enduro was a real rough and tough way to pull the curtain over a brilliant 2017 season of IMSA racing, making most everyone eager for everything next season has to offer. North-American sports car racing was in a difficult place in 1998 when the first Petit Le Mans was organized as Don Panoz was beginning to almost single-handedly grow this branch of road racing again with a sprinkle of Le Mans flavor thrown on top. This year, the 10-hour-long Petit Le Mans took place for the 20th time, and those involved are again looking towards what could be a "golden age."

The sign of things to come was Team Penske’s late announcement that they would make their debut this year, at Road Atlanta, before bringing the two ORECA-based HPDs to the grid next year. It was a surprising decision given their original ORECA 07 LMP2 was damaged quite significantly during testing at the same track, but strings were pulled and, sure enough, Hughues De Chaunac’s operation provided another car for Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, and Juan Pablo Montoya to drive. They were to be joined by the usual crowd of three Caddies, two Nissan-Ligier DPIs, two Ligier LMP2s, and two other ORECA LMP2s – one for JDC/Miller and one for the returning Rebellion Racing.

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2017 IMSA America's Tire 250 at Laguna Seca - Race Report

2017 IMSA America’s Tire 250 at Laguna Seca - Race Report

Unexpected win for Ligier over Cadillac!

Laguna Seca seems to attract great racing like nothing else if last Sunday’s two-hour-and-40-minutes sprint is to be taken into consideration as what we witnessed was an up-and-down dramatic roller coaster that went to the wire across the board and left many googling online dictionaries for superlatives. The Monterey Peninsula again hosted a brilliant showcase of multi-class sports car racing as three classes of cars — Prototype, GT-LM, and GT-D — battled it out. It was a game of differing strategies, late stops for fuel, tight near-misses and daring overtakes. In the end, unexpected contenders rose to the occasion to take the victory in two of the three classes while in the last it was a story of continued consistency.

In qualifying, as ever, Ricky Taylor was head and shoulders above everyone else as he piloted the No. 10 Cadillac sponsored by Konica Minolta to an earth-shatteringly quick 1:16.853, eight-tenths off the next Caddy. The margin was even bigger before Christian Fittpaldi’s late 1:17.682 to beat VisitFlorida.com Racing’s Marc Goosens who only managed a 1:17.730. Dane Cameron and Eric Curran’s No. 31 was fourth quickest while Jose Gutierrez made it two LMP2s in the top five with his time in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsport Ligier. The two Nissan ESM DPIs followed next while the banana-yellow ORECA of JDC-Miller Motorsports was bog last.

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2017 Six Hours of COTA - Race Report

2017 Six Hours of COTA - Race Report

Another win for Porsche against Toyota

A rather thrilling race unfolded last Saturday on what was the final visit to Austin’s COTA for the FIA WEC – at least for a while – as Porsche managed to win yet again, although this time with significant pressure from Toyota. The World Endurance Championship freight arrived in Texas this past week for the sixth round of the 2017 season, the last to be run in regular fashion before a certain (for now) switch to a winter season from 2019-2020 onwards. Before that, and before we delve into what went on in Austin, let’s again talk about the super season that will mark the transition between the current status quo and the upcoming one.

As I wrote in my previous piece covering the Mexican round, an eight-round super season split between 2018 and 2019 was announced by series boss Gerard Neveu in Mexico City as a way to switch from the current spring-summer-autumn schedule to a autumn-winter-spring(ish) one that’s bound to end with the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This means that we’ll see five rounds in 2018 and three more in 2019. Four of these will be two visits apiece to Spa-Francorchamps and Le Mans.

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FIA WEC Six Hours of Mexico - Race Report

FIA WEC Six Hours of Mexico - Race Report

Porsche defeats Toyota once again

The FIA WEC returned for its short American round last weekend with the Six Hours of Mexico amid lingering uncertainty about the series’ future as a whole raft of changes will give the championship a revamped look for 2018. Rumors turned into officially-confirmed information this past week as the FIA WEC geared up for its Mexican race which counted as round five of the 2017 season. Before we delve into the news, this was the status quo after the end of the European leg: Porsche, winners of this year’s Le Mans, announced they would pull the plug on their P1-H program one year earlier than originally planned, thus leaving Toyota as the only manufacturer in the top tier category.

With Peugeot, supposedly the closest manufacturer to a works program in the top class, still far away, the FIA and ACO had to react – and quickly. The reaction was two-fold: first off, according to Gerard Neveu – the man in charge of the championship, Porsche’s unexpected departure left the organizers with no choice but to alter the championship’s format which will take the shape of a super season for next year. This means the series will kick off with the Spa-Francorchamps Six Hours in May and end with the 2019 edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours.

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IMSA Michelin GT Challenge at VIR - Race Report

IMSA Michelin GT Challenge at VIR - Race Report

Wins for Chevrolet and Lamborghini

Can it get more old school than a GT-only race at a track like VIR? Sunday’s tenth round of the IMSA Weathertech Sports Car Championship was a showcase of proper throwback racing, with enough panel-to-panel rubbing to please anyone as well as a host of surprise turnarounds and a finish that sets the championship up nicely for the last two races of 2017.

It was GTO vs GTU, or rather GT-LM vs GT-D this past weekend at the up-and-down twisty Virginia International Raceway where another GT-only round took place, just last year. The race marked the return of Risi Competizione which took a hiatus following their unfortunate race-ending and chassis-bending crash at Le Mans. Giuseppe Risi’s No. 62 488 GTE was quick out of the box, not something impossible to predict when Ferrari regulars Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander were the listed drivers.

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2017 IMSA Continental Tire Road Race Showcase - Race Report

2017 IMSA Continental Tire Road Race Showcase - Race Report

Surprising defeat for Cadillac!

As the IMSA Weathertech Sports Car Championship enters its final leg, we were treated to an exciting race on Wisconsin’s Elkhart Lake road course where, finally, Cadillac’s stronghold was broken. Last weekend’s action at Road America got underway in difficult, mixed, weather conditions which meant not much valuable data could be gathered for what was forecast to be a dry race. That is, until the third and final free practice session but even that didn’t go all the way. Katherine Legge suffered a significant crash in the fast Canada Corner (anyone recalls her Champcar shunt there?) which almost ruled out the No. 93 Acura she shares with Andy Lally.

Michael Shank’s crew, though, decided to repair the damaged chassis – with help from the RealTime Racing Acura mechanics who campaign the same type of cars in Pirelli World Challenged and are based close to the track – and they managed to do just that, the blue NSX being ready for the pre-race warm up session. This meant, however, that Legge and Lally – who came to Road America sitting third in the standings – had to start from the back. This brings us to how the rest of the field was ordered by qualifying. First up was the GT-D which was an impressive showcase by Dutchman Jeroen Mul who, on his first visit to Elkhart Lake, took his first ever series pole in the No. 16 Change Racing Huracan. His time, a 2:06.649, was quicker by 0,174-seconds than the best that Jesse Krohn could do aboard the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3. It was the second pole in a row for a Lamborghini in GT-D while Porsche’s quickest car, that of Park Place Motorsport, was third fastest.

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2017 Blancpain 24 Hours of Spa - Race Report

2017 Blancpain 24 Hours of Spa - Race Report

Audi takes the crown, followed by Bentley and Mercedes-AMG

The 69th running of the epic Spa 24 Hours was as much a battle between the world’s top brands as it was one between top teams in a race that was marked, like last year, by multiple penalties which shaped the finishing order as well as some scary shunts. The Spa 24 Hours, a staple in the world of endurance racing, has been around for just about as much as the 24 Hours of Le Mans and, in recent years, it has seen a constant growth since becoming the blue riband event of the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup. The SRO-sanctioned series is also flourishing and now, the Spa 24 Hours, is also part of the Intercontinental GT Cup (alongside the Bathurst 12 Hours and others) and the Blancpain GT combined leaderboard which brings together the Endurance Cup and the Sprint Cup leaderboards.

This meant that none was fazed when a 63-strong entry list was presented, which comprised of Pro entries, Pro-Am, Am, and National entries. The designations are basically using the FIA-approved driver licensing system where the Pros are the Platinum and Gold-rated drivers while the Ams are the Silver and Bronze-rated ones. The National category is an addition to the usual GT3-only classes which aims to bring lower tier machinery to Spa, such as the Porsche 991 Cup, the Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo or the Ferrari 488 Challenge. This year, only two Porsches made up the National class.

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2017 IMSA Northeast Grand Prix - Race Report

2017 IMSA Northeast Grand Prix - Race Report

Porsche wins both classes!

Lime Rock Park’s tight nature makes it perfect for an all-GT contest, and that’s exactly what we had on the plate for last weekend’s IMSA Weathertech Sports Car Race at the Lakeville track. Akin to the old days of the IMSA GT Championship, the two-hours-and-40-minutes sprint around the 2.459-mile-long circuit was open only to the GT-LM and GT-D contenders which made for great racing between the two “cores” of action.

The seventh round of the 2017 season came as a lot of news was coming out of the Prototype camp which will return at Road America. For starters, Mazda announced they will cut their season short as they begin a new relationship with Joest Racing which will take over the Japanese manufacturer’s program in IMSA over from SpeedSource. The team that previously ran Audi Sport’s LMP1 program (and has a rich history even before that, with Porsche) will begin testing with the Riley/Mutimatic-based RT24-P immediately which is why we won’t see the car back on track until its debut under the new Mazda Team Joest banner at Daytona in 2018.

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2017 Six Hours of the Nurburgring - Race Report

2017 Six Hours of the Nurburgring - Race Report

Porsche scores second consecutive 1-2 win!

After a shorter-than-previously post-Le Mans break, the World Endurance Championship returned with the German round hosted, as ever, by the legendary Nurburgring. This time around, the race came amid looming concerns regarding the top LMP1-Hybrid class which is potentially in jeopardy. In spite of ACO’s early-year announcements that it will stick with hybrid technology, as stated in the new-for-2020 rule book, factory teams might step out as early as next year. Porsche is poised to take a decision on whether they will commit to their original plan – that of also doing the 2018 season – or if they will pull the plug one year short, at the end of 2017. Toyota, which had previously confirmed its commitment all the way through 2019, might, in the wake of a potential Porsche withdrawal, reconsider its position as well.

This means that, in the worst case scenario, we could be left with no works teams to fill the P1-H class next year and with a very uncertain P1-L presence to round up the debacle. That’s because, despite announcements from Dallara, Ginetta and Perrinn, there have been very few firm confirmations from teams that will actually run these new cars. Thus, the optimistic ACO-fueled figures of 6-8 cars might actually be just half, and with no P1-H, we might witness a very sorry sight at next year’s Le Mans.

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2017 IMSA Canadian Tire Motorsport Park - Race Report

2017 IMSA Canadian Tire Motorsport Park - Race Report

Cadillac beats Nissan and Mazda to the finish line!

It’s barely been a week since the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, and IMSA was back at it this Sunday with the Mobil 1 Sportscar Grand Prix at CTMP, a race that over-delivered, as many do in the series, this time with the aid of Mother Nature. Mosport, as it was known some 50 years ago when it first welcomed the Canadian Formula 1 Grand Prix, is now the host of the annual trip that IMSA makes north of the border to Bowmanville, Ontario. All classes, P, PC, GT-LM and GT-D, took part in the 160-minute-long race for which mostly dry weather was forecasted “Watch out later on for that mostly!“

The weekend got going with practice where, again, prototypes showed their speed, namely the JDC-Miller ORECA which came tantalizingly close to a win at Watkins Glen. In spite of all that, it was business as usual in qualifying, Wayne Taylor Racing getting their third pole of the 2017 season thanks to Ricky Taylor’s storming 1:08.459 which was 0,128-seconds quicker than the best that Misha Goikhberg could do in the No. 85 ORECA. ESM’s Nissan-Ligiers were third and fourth filling up row 2 with Jonathan Bomarito fifth in Mazda’s No. 55 car, ahead of the winners last time out, Barbosa and Fittipaldi. The No. 31 Curran/Cameron Whelen-sponsored Cadillac performed even worse, so the duo was looking to rebound in the race after an ill-fortuned trip to New York last weekend.

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2017 Six Hours of the Glen – Race Report

2017 Six Hours of the Glen – Race Report

Is Cadillac unstoppable this season?

This year’s Watkins Glen Six Hours was a race to remember with many plot twists and a story of attrition at the top that somewhat echoes that of this year’s Le Mans. Cadillac still won, however, not with the usual culprits and there were more stories down the order – including many awesome one-off liveries since July 4th is around the corner. The margin for pole in qualifying was only 0.162 seconds. The men battling out at the sharp end for the pole, Pipo Derani and Olivier Pla, were not Cadillac drivers as the Dallara-based machines had been hit by another BoP change in form of downforce limitations. It was Derani who got around the Glen quicker, namely in 1:34.405. Cadillac filled the second row of the grid while the Riley/Multimatic Mazdas were at the back of the Prototype group.

The pole for the No. 22 came as very good news to the ESM crew after the sad news that Ed Brown, who was poised to drive in his final Prototype-class race at WGI, would miss the event due to an unplanned back surgery he had to undergo. That’s the precise reason why Derani made his way into that car’s lineup. James French put down another good performance in Prototype Challenge that was remunerated with the team’s fourth pole in 2017. The No. 38’s quickest time was 1:40.049 and it was also the avenue to Performance Tech’s eighth pole in the series thus far.

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2017 24 Hours of Le Mans - Race Report

2017 24 Hours of Le Mans - Race Report

Porsche scores 19th overall win in France!

The 85th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours offered buckets of drama as it underlined the endurance element of the event, Porsche just managing to bag its 19th overall win ahead of a bunch of LMP2 cars after Toyota yet again fell to the wayside. The 2017 edition of the world’s most famous endurance race should have been a success story for Toyota and their better-than-ever TS050 prototype. The car, winner of both the Six Hours of Silverstone and the Six Hours of Spa, was finally bettering Porsche’s 919 Hybrid in most areas and, with three cars, the Japanese giant was confident that it would snatch Mazda’s title as the only automaker from Japan that has won the fabled round-the-clock race.

Toyota first wanted to prove their superiority in qualifying which was divided into three sessions: two in total darkness on Wednesday and Thursday and one, in between, on Thursday afternoon. Toyota was already first after Q1 on Wednesday but ex-Formula 1 racer Kamui Kobayashi felt there was more in the 1000-horsepower TS050. That there was, as he duly showed in Q2, but it was the way he did it that left everyone awestruck. First of all, it wasn’t in Q3 when all the other three pole laps were decided and, second of all, Kobayashi was on medium rubber and on his first flyer. Granted, he got a full clear lap, but that doesn’t take anything from the fact that he was on the ragged edge in each of the 33 turns that make up the 8.48-mile-long track, which he covered in 3:14.791 minutes – a new record.

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2017 24 Hours of Le Mans Preview

2017 24 Hours of Le Mans Preview

A closer look at the cars, drivers, and classes

For the 85th time in history, the crème de la crème in the world of endurance racing gathers in the La Sarthe valley in France for what they call "Les 24 Heures Du Mans". This time around, it’s all about the Porsche vs. Toyota duel for the overall win while Ford seems to have a much harder job ahead if they want to go back to back in GTE-Pro. This year we’ve got again four classes and a 60-strong field with the biggest being LMP2, boasting a 25-car grid. There are only six LMP1 cars, five of which are the works hybrid machines, only one being a non-hybrid "light" prototype. GT cars make up the rest of the 29 vehicles, divided between GTE-Pro and GTE-Am. The former is made up of 13 cars, the remaining racers being entered in GTE-Am which also allows older spec GTE machinery.

The talk of the town is, obviously, the fight between Toyota and Porsche, especially after last year’s heart wrenching story that saw Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Kazuki Nakajima stop on the start/finish straight as there was just one more lap left to go of the 24-hour-long race. The electrical gremlin meant that Porsche scored an unexpected 18th overall win and the second in succession after their 2015 triumph. Toyota is back 12 months later and, this time, it’s all guns ablaze: three cars, nine drivers and a dramatically improved package. Porsche, the defending world champions as well, come with two cars, the German brand still feeling the reverb of the Dieselgate scandal.

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2017 IMSA Sports Car Detroit - Race Report

2017 IMSA Sports Car Detroit - Race Report

Wins for Cadillac and Acura in Protoype and GT-D, respectively

The IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship proved that even in the absence of one of its strongest classes, GTLM, it can put on a good show in the heart of Motor City on Saturday, when three categories went head to head on the Belle Isle street circuit in what was one of the most exciting sprint races in the championship’s history. With the GTLM class not present because most of the teams have flown over to France to take part in the Le Mans Test Day on Sunday, this year’s Chevrolet Sports Car Classic at Detroit’s grid was made up of the Prototype, Prototype Challenge, and GT-Daytona contenders.

It was, however, no bore fest as the 100-minute-long race featured multiple battles, close calls, and even accidents, but the first twist of the tale took place well before the race. Prototype Challenge was a three-car affair with James French again smoking everybody, this time his rivals in the hunt for pole for the death-row-bound category being Tomy Drissi and Don Yount. Drissi was second on the timing sheets but his car failed the post-race technical inspection, and he lost his place to Don Yount. Before PC, however, more excitement was felt by those in attendance during the GTD 15-minute qualifying shootout.

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2017 24 Hours of Nurburgring

2017 24 Hours of Nurburgring

Audi wins, BMW takes second place

The Nordschleife remains the daunting challenge it has always been and last weekend’s 45th edition of the 24-hour-long race held on the world’s longest permanent race track underlined yet again the track’s infamous reputation. It was again a race between the Germans but with as dramatic a twist as they get – although it wouldn’t seem that way if you just read the results.

Sharing the weekend with Formula 1’s crown jewel, the Monaco Grand Prix, and one of the most amazing – if not the most amazing race in the world – the Indianapolis 500 means you will most obviously be outshined. But the Nurburgring 24 Hours is not just another endurance race and the 100+ entry list, amount of factory effort, 200,000+ fans that gather annually tend to prove it. But let’s delve even deeper and look at what the twice-around-the-clock race that takes drivers around the Eiffel Mountains had to offer.

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2017 6 Hours of Spa Francorchamps - Race Report

2017 6 Hours of Spa Francorchamps - Race Report

Toyota seems unstoppable ahead of Le Mans

Some traditions may annoy us, but the fact that the Spa six-hour race has been the final “practice” before the Le Mans 24 Hours is something well established and respected which has been the norm for years. This time round, the battle was as hot as ever with three Toyotas fighting two Porsches at the top. Add to the equation the complexity of managing just four sets of tires (plus two "Joker" sets) for the whole weekend on a track that’s really hard on tires, and you get the picture of a thrilling race.

Toyota cited the stability of the rules as the main incentive for the German-Japanese outfit to bring out a third TS050 to help in their decades-old desire to win at Circuit de la Sarthe. Until then, though, the No. 9 was present at Spa-Francorchamps in the Ardennes and poised to be driven by Nicolas Lapierre, Stephane Sarrazin and Yuji Kunimoto. This car was also fitted with the low-downforce package as was the case for the two 919s from Porsche. The difference was, however, that Spa, with its super fast first and third sectors, is much more fit for a setup with less drag. This meant that Porsche was, in theory, to close the gap on Toyota even more than they did at Silverstone, making for an electrifying six-hour race.

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2017 IMSA Advance Auto Parts Sportscar Showdown at COTA - Race Report

2017 IMSA Advance Auto Parts Sportscar Showdown at COTA - Race Report

You guessed it, Cadillac scored yet another win!

COTA welcomed IMSA’s different breeds of racing cars with hotter-than-expected conditions but, through it all, the end result was the same as at the first three venues of the season. The cliché question of "who can stop the Taylors?" is, maybe, on everyone’s minds now.

The Weathertech Championship was the headliner event last weekend at the Circuit of the Americas, which was because it was the first time it didn’t share the weekend with the FIA World Endurance Championship in what was known as the "Lone Star Le Mans". The series proved it could headline on North America’s only F1 track as on-track action kept everyone on their toes despite the déjà vu result after the near three-hour-long race.

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2017 6 Hours of Silverstone - Race Report

2017 6 Hours of Silverstone - Race Report

New WEC season kicks off with Toyota and Ford winning their respective classes

Under a firm layer of heavy dark clouds, over 25 cars flashed down through Abbey to officially begin the 2017 season of the FIA World Endurance Championship with the traditional Tourist Trophy. Toyota was viewed as the favorite by many but it proved to be a much closer contest at the sharp end, a situation that was echoed all the way down the grid in what can only be described as an exciting six hours of racing.

In the preview I laid down late last week I decided to keep my wits about me regarding Toyota’s advantage against Porsche coming to Silverstone. As I mentioned in that piece, Toyota opted to debut its high-downforce aero package while Porsche brought its Le Mans-ready, low-downforce package. With Silverstone not being anymore the super fast airfield track it once was, Toyota’s added downforce should have given the Japanese-German outfit the upper hand by a clear margin over the reigning World Champions. Qualifying showed that this could be the case but the race was a different kettle of fish.

Toyota Gazoo Racing was coming into qualifying off the heels of dominating all the way through free practice. This was to be the norm in qualifying as well, Kamui Kobayashi managing a a personal best of 1:36.793 to put the No. 7 TS050 in pole. After debutant Jose-Maria Lopez’s turn at the wheel, the car dropped to fourth, but Mike Conway brought it back to P1 thanks to a sturdy 1:37.800 that put the trio’s average at an unbeatable 1:37.304. The other TS050 was close behind, Buemi, Nakajima and Davidson sharing front row with their average of 1:37.593 that surpassed Porsche’s best average by over a second. That time was managed by the No. 1 crew while the No. 2 919 was almost half-a-second behind. If the gap between Porsche and Toyota was to be expected, less so was the huge leap down the order to find the ByKolles – the only non-hybrid P1. Yes, the Nissan-engined car was never thought to be a threat to the front-runners, but it was even beating four P2 ORECAs!

Pierre Thiriet and 2017 Sebring 12 Hours winner Alex Lynn got pole in LMP2 for G-Drive racing, their 1:44.387 average being less than a tenth quicker than that of Nicolas Liperre and Matt Rao who put Alpine on the front-row in the virtually spec secondary prototype divison. Jackie Chan DC Racing’s No. 38 ORECA was third via a 1:44:591 that was below the best that any of the two Vaillante-sponsored Rebellion crews could do.

Ford dominated GTE-Pro qualifying with Priaulx and Tincknell pleasing the home crowd with an unrivalled 1:56:202 average time between the two of them. Sam Bird and Davide Rigon were roughly eight-tenths-of-a-second behind for AF Corse in their No. 71 488 GTE. Third was the venerable Vantage of Thiim and Sorensen who partnered for a 1:57:117 average that would have been slower than that of the No. 66 Ford if Stefan Mucke wouldn’t have had his best lap deleted for exceeding track limits. As it was, Mucke and Co. started fourth in the other GT run by Chip Ganassi Racing UK. It was Porsche who found themselves lacking pace, the new mid-engined 991 GTE qualifying seventh and eight.

Portugal’s Pedro Lamy teamed up with Paul Dalla-Lana for yet another pole position in GTE-Am. This time, the No. 98 Vantage beat the Spirit of Race Ferrari and the No. 77 Proton Racing Porsche.

With the starting order now set in stone or, rather, set on the time sheets, it was all about the race. Under the watchful eyes of FIA President Jean Todt – probably reminiscing of his Peugeot days in the early ‘90s – all cars lined up for the flying start on Easter Sunday; It was an important moment for Toyota.

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2017 World Endurance Championship Season Preview

2017 World Endurance Championship Season Preview

A new WEC season is about to begin and we take a closer look at this year’s grid

This weekend, at Silverstone, will mark the beginning of a new era for the World Endurance Championship. An era without Audi in the top-tier LMP1 category and an era with a brand-new fleet of LMP2 machinery to further compound the mix. Porsche will also debut their new mid-engined 911 in GTE-Pro - that will never see series production. If those aren’t strong enough reasons to make you want to follow the WEC in 2017, I don’t know which are.

Established in 2012 as the natural evolution of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, the World Endurance Championship in its current form is an attempt by the FIA to bring endurance racing back to the position it once occupied – right behind Formula 1, of course.

The sixth season of the World Championship is set to kick off without one of its core teams on the grid – Audi Sport Team Joest. The German manufacturer, heavily hit by the Dieselgate scandal that shook the Volkswagen Group to its core, pulled the plug on its LMP1 program after a staggering 18-year-long stint at the sharp end in sportscar racing. This leaves only Porsche and Toyota to battle it out for overall honors while the whole grid will be made up by no more than 27 cars across the four categories: LMP1, LMP2, GTE-Pro and GTE-Am.

Beyond Silverstone, we have eight other rounds to look forward to, one of which being the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans. The blue riband event is the only one to last more than six hours and is also the one that gathers the biggest crowd and the biggest grid. This weekend’s stop in the UK will be followed by the Spa-Francorchamps Six-hour race on May 6-7, then by Le Mans on June 17-18. The Six Hours of the Nurburgring is next after a month-long hiatus on July 16. An even longer break stands between the German round at the trip across the pond for the American races. First off is the Six Hours of Mexico on September 3. This is then followed by the popular Six Hours of COTA on 16 of the same month. Mid-October brings us the Japanese six-hour race at Fuji on the 15 as the final two races are slated for November. Second to last are the Six Hours of Shanghai on November 5 followed by the season-ending Six Hours of Bahrain on the 18th.

While it seems, looking over the grid size and car count per classes, that the WEC’s growth has stopped, things aren’t as bad as they seem and the future still looks bright for the world’s premier sports car endurance racing championship.

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2017 IMSA Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach - Race Report

2017 IMSA Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach - Race Report

Cadillac and Mercedes-AMG win again!

From the long and wide stretches of Sebring Raceway, the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship motley gang went to the winding streets of Long Beach, California. The shortest race of the season proved to be every bit as exciting as the first two, mixing controversy, drama and some great on-track battles in a space of just 100 minutes between the waving of the first green flag, to the appearance of the white flag.

The streets of Long Beach were as packed as ever come the end of last week as teams from a number of series were preparing for the Long Beach Grand Prix. Indycars were on site, as well as the IMSA crews, the Pirelli World Challenge folks and, last but not least, a group of Can-Am cars. These were slated to run for the first time ever at Long Beach in what was a true spectacle for both the eyes and ears. Such cars as the Shadow DN4, the McLaren M8F or the Lola T70 made their way through the 1.9-mile-long street course for a couple of demo races that got everyone in the mood for the races of the modern cars – maybe not as dramatic but surely not forgettable.

Ricky Taylor proved to be the quickest in qualifying with his 1:13.549 being a lap record for the Prototype class. It was also the second podium in the last three editions of the Long Beach Grand Prix for Wayne Taylor Racing’s driver who was 0.2 seconds quicker than Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 10 Action Express Racing Cadillac. Tristan Nunez was third for Speedsource Mazda, but his 1:14.393 was almost a second off the pole time. It was JDC/Miller Motorsport on the fourth spot of the grid while the third Cadillac of Dane Cameron and Eric Curran qualified fifth. One car did not take part in the Prototype qualifying, precisely the No. 90 VisitFlorida.com Racing Riley LMP2 which was crashed in practice by Renger van der Zande, the Dutch going straight into T1 after he lost front brake pressure, the cause of the failure yet unknown.

Corvette Racing scored the pole in GT-LM thanks to Jan Magnussen’s 1:16.609 which was less than tenth of a second quicker than Joey Hand’s best lap in the No. 66 Ford. Hand was on an even quicker lap with three minutes left to go when his team-mate, Richard Westbrook, spun and crashed his No. 67 Ford GT which caused a session-ending red flag that denied Hand a chance to get pole. Also denied of a chance was Risi’s Toni Vilander whose starting position, third, could have been better as the Finn was quicker on his last flyer on which he spun out. Fourth was the best that Porsche’s No. 912 could do. The other 991 GTE did not take part in qualifying after Patrick Pilet’s shunt in practice that called for a partial rebuild of the mid-engined car. Bill Auberlen could do no better than fifth for BMW Team Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing – thus missing out on the chance to score three consecutive poles at Long Beach in three years.

GT-D pole went the way of Bryan Sellers and Paul Miller Racing. The Lamborghini driver reeled off a 1:19.243 to beat Jack Hawksworth whose bid for Lexus’ first pole fell short by just 0.033 of a second. Daniel Morad was third for Alegra Motorsport while Corey Lewis put Change Racing’s Huracan on fourth, right ahead of Lawson Aschenbach’s R8 entered by Stevenson Motorsport. 3GT Racing’s other Lexus did not take part in qualifying after Scott Pruett damaged the No. 14 quite badly in a practice crash.

With qualifying done, everyone was ready for the race which promised to be more busy than ever as never before had the GT-D cars taken part in the Long Beach round which was, in the past, welcoming only the Prototypes and the GT-LM teams. 34 cars were entered and 33 would take the start on Saturday afternoon.

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2017 12 Hours of Sebring - Race Report

2017 12 Hours of Sebring - Race Report

Cadillac fill podium, Corvette beats Ford to GT-LM win, Mercedes flies to GT-D success ahead of Ferrari

The 65th Annual Sebring 12hrs race proved to be one of high attrition in the Prototype ranks that produced a result that most of us could’ve predicted to a certain extent and, on top of that, amazing battles towards the very end in both GT-LM and GT-D. Weather was fine throughout and, as a contrast to Daytona, there was a clear lack of caution which made it possible for strategies to play out as time went by.

The almighty Cadillacs received a hit in qualifying as Porsche works driver and 2016 WEC Drivers’ Champion Neel Jani slipped past to claim pole for Rebellion Racing and their ORECA 07 P2. The Swiss managed a 1:48.178 which was a record lap time in itself and was also better than Christian Fittipaldi’s fastest lap by only 0.095-seconds. Fittipaldi might’ve bettered Jani’s time with his last flyer but the No. 5 Action Express Racing Dallara-built Cadillac ran out of fuel while out on the track.

However, Fittipaldi still beat team-mate Dane Cameron who started third in the No. 31 Cadillac, ahead of Jose Gutierrez in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Ligier JS P2-17. Fifth sat the highest of the Extreme Speed Motorspot Nissan, specifically No. 22, while Wayne Taylor’s car was sixth. The other Nissan’s times were erased as the team pitted during the 15-minute-long session to fix some boost-related issues which is against the rules.

Gustavo Yacaman of BAR1 Motorsports was the fastest of the four-car Prototype Challenge field, his last lap attempt, a 1:53.506, besting James French’s quickest run on the famed road course. Buddy Rice was third in the sister BAR1 Motorsports entry, but his lap was some 2.5 seconds off pace.

Down the order in GT-LM, Ford set the pace, with two of its three GTs claiming first and second. Ryan Briscoe was the benchmark, his 1:55.939 in the No. 67 Ford also being a new track record in his class. Bill Auberlen held the previous record, his time being nearly 2.5 seconds slower. Tommy Milner was third, beaten also by Dirk Mueller’s Ford. Next to Milner sat Kevin Estre’s No. 911 works Porsche. It was again very close in GT-LM as the top six were separated by just 0.5-seconds.

Mercedes-Benz claimed its first ever Sebring podium as Tristan Vautier stormed to pole in the SunEnergy1 AMG GT GT3 posting the only lap in the 1:59 bracket. The lap time was another record and it was almost 0.8 seconds quicker than the best that Connor de Philippi could do in the Land Motorsport Audi. Corey Lewis was third in the quickest Lamborghini Huracan.

Looking at qualifying, it seemed like it was all to play for, although Cadillac in Prototype and Ford in GT-LM respectively seemed to have a certain advantage over their in-class rivals.

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2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona - Race Report

2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona - Race Report

Cadillac wins maiden Prototype race, Ford off to great start in GT class

This year’s Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona was akin to a waterslide which picked up speed in the last couple of hours, with the big splash being in the very last minutes that decided the twice-around-the-clock race in three of the four classes. While at times lackluster due to the extended periods of rain that put proceedings under lengthy safety car periods, the longest race in IMSA’s Weathertech Sportscar Championship did not fail to deliver at the end in both excitement, drama, and controversy.

Daytona is where we’ve seen many formulas stage their debut. It was where the then-new 3.0-liter open-top prototypes kicked off, as well as the World Sportscar prototypes that replaced the GTPs in 1994. Then, in 2003, the Daytona Prototypes also had their first start at the 24-hour-long race. We were all looking back at the positive debuts and the not so positive ones trying to figure out how 2017’s edition will look. But, if anything, it was very hard to read into these 12 new prototypes. Seven of them were US-bound DPis while five were FIA/ACO-spec LMP2s and, after the December Test and the Roar, it was hard to pick a clear favorite. Certainly, the Cadillacs would be a feature but returning Swiss squad Rebellion Racing were also serious bidders for Victory Lane.

The GT classes were no pool of certainty either, new machinery also featuring in both GT-LM and GT-D. Porsche came with their first ever (or first since 1998, if you wish) mid-engined 911 while, further down, it was Lexus and Acura that debuted new cars. Mercedes-Benz was also on its IMSA debut, facing its first ever 24-hour race at Daytona. Perhaps the only certainty was that the Prototype Challenge was going to start in its last season of IMSA competition and a diminished grid of just five ORECA FLM-09s proved it.

Last but not least, weather was potentially preparing to throw a curve ball to add to the race’s equation in the form of rain between Saturday and Sunday. So, how was it all going to play out? We’d all find out in the course of 24 long hours.

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2017 Daytona 24 Hours Race Preview

2017 Daytona 24 Hours Race Preview

Everything you need to know about this year’s first endurance race!

Little over 50 years since the first Daytona 24-hour race in 1966, a new era in North-American sports car racing is beaconing and, as ever, it will all kick off on the famed Floridian beach where a host of brand-new prototypes will go head-to-head this twice-around-the-clock event. Now at its 55th edition, the race marks the start of the IMSA Weathertech Sports Car Championship season.

After a 13-year life cycle, the Daytona Prototypes (DPs) have been sent to their respective retirement homes, along with their LMP2-spec arch rivals, and in their place a new bunch of sports racers have arrived to thrill the fans. 2017 marks the debut of the DPi formula, as well as the new LMP2s. The first is based off the latter and, as such, they will race together in the Prototype class that will fight for overall honors.

Just below the bona fide UFOs that are the Prototypes we find the Prototype Challenge category which is entering its last season of competition. The spec prototype class has been a staple of American endurance sports car racing for over half a decade but this will be the last Daytona 24 Hours for the ORECA FLM-09s which, as their name suggests, were launched back in 2009. For this year, only a few cars are fielded in this class which once saw entries in the double digits.

Excitement will also be peaking in the top GT class, GT-LM. This category that features ACO GTE-spec cars from Porsche, Ferrari, BMW (not ACO compliant though), Ford, and Chevrolet and the battle is as heated as ever. Porsche has a new car and Ford brings four GTs to topple last year’s winners, Corvette Racing.

The slowest class of the field is, certainly, not the least important, as we’re talking about the GT-D category which is filled to the brim with GT3 cars. Among a plethora of Porsches and Lamborghinis we find brand-new models from Lexus and Acura, as well as three Mercedes-Benz AMG GT3 cars. The total car count for GT-D alone is 27, adding to the 12 P cars, 5 PC and 11 GT-LM for a grand total of 55 cars on the grid on Saturday, January 28th.

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2016 IMSA Petit Le Mans - Race Report

2016 IMSA Petit Le Mans - Race Report

Season finale at Road Atlanta reveals 2016 champions

The 2016 IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship is now in the history books and its last hurrah, the 19th annual Petit Le Mans, was as exciting as ever even though the champions were unofficially crowned early on. In spite of that, the battles for overall and class honors across the board went to the wire. It was also the last race for the entirety of the Prototype field (minus the Deltawing) as new P2 and DPi machinery will be introduced in 2017

Qualifying was a straight-forward affair for Michael Shank Racing on the eve of their 250th (and last) Prototype start. Pla and the No. 60 Ligier had been the pace setters throughout all of the practice sessions, the Frenchman unwilling to relinquish the top spot to the Daytona Prototypes that sang their swan song at Road Atlanta. He set an unbeatable 1:13:061 mid-way through the session which was nearly a half-second quicker than the best that Mazda’s Tristan Nunez could do in the No. 55. Third quickest was championship leader (by a thin one-point advantage) Eric Curran in the No. 31 Action Express Corvette, while the No. 70 Mazda started fourth.

Robert Alon was the quickest in Prototype Challenge, his 1:16:411 being just a tad quicker than Alex Popow’s last flyer which put him next to the pole-sitting PR1/Mathiasen ORECA. Johnny Mowlem was third fastest on his last professional start in the BAR1 Motorsport No. 20 car. Kenton Koch was fourth for Performance Tech, the top four separated by just two tenths of a second.

Three quarters of a second – that was the gap between the pole sitter in GT-LM and the bog last starter in the premier Grand Touring category. To say it was tight is an understatement, Richard Westbrook’s pole time of 1:18:131 being just a tenth and a half quicker than Antonio Garcia’s best effort that put him second. Toni Vilander and Joey Hand filled the second row, while Tommy Milner was only seventh in the championship-leading Corvette No.4. It could have been worse, though as last year’s winner, Nick Tandy, started from tenth aboard the No. 911 Porsche.

Jeroen Bleekemolen slipped through the cracks to claim the first pole in 2016 for the No. 33 Viper in GT-D, this car also on its last start. The Dutchman thus put himself in the best possible position to mount an attack on the championship-leading Scuderia Corsa Ferrari that came to Road Atlanta with a huge gap in the points standings following the disqualification of Magnus Racing at VIR. Bleekemolen’s 1:21:305 was just under a half-second quicker than the best time by Park Place’s Matt McMurry, who qualified ahead of another Porsche, the No. 23 of Mario Farnbacher who was joined on row two by Christina Nielsen who was aiming to become the first female champion in IMSA-sanctioned competition since 2009 when Melanie Snow became champion of the GTC category.

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2016 IMSA Lone Star Le Mans at COTA - Race Report

2016 IMSA Lone Star Le Mans at COTA - Race Report

Corvette DP continues dominance in Prototype class, while Porsche wins GT-LM

On Circuit of the Americas, the U.S. home of the Formula 1 Grand Prix, a new page from the book of stories of the 2016 IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship season was written with 30-odd cars lining up to take the start of the Lone Star Le Mans under the scorching Texas sun. IMSA was at it again with a laid back approach to track limits, as opposed to the WEC’s way, the latter watching very closely over the on-track action as disobeying track limits was particularly enforced during the World Championship round that followed after the IMSA-sanctioned event.

Mazda was the pace-setter early on in qualifying as Tristan Nunez posted a 1:58:715 personal best, the No. 55 Lola-based prototype being followed by the sister No. 70. The Speedsource team did not achieve the front row lockup that seemed to be on the cards as Ricky Taylor found a lot of speed in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Chevrolet Corvette DP and put down the session’s best time, a 1:58:712, which allowed the Dallara-built prototype to eek ahead of both Mazdas. Eric Curran was fourth fastest in the No. 31 Whelen Action Express Racing Corvette, his time on third being short as Joel Miller improved late in the session to start from behind his team-mate.

Being a spec class, Prototype Challenge offered close action during qualifying. Robert Alon walked away with pole position, the BR1 Motorsport driver being the only to go under 2:02 minutes. The BAR1 and Starworks ORECAs were on top before Robert Alon came through to claim the top spot in the shortened 15-minute session that ended early after Don Yount went into the gravel with three minutes to go.

The top spot went from Porsche to Ferrari, and then to Ford during the GT-LM qualifying session. Pilet was the quickest out there for a little bit in the No. 911 Porsche 991 GTE, but his high 2:04 time was soon bettered by Toni Vilander’s effort. Then came Ryan Briscoe with a 2:04:188 flying lap and that was that. Risi’s Flyin Finn did improve to a 2:04:522 but it wasn’t enough to beat Ford’s No. 67 car. The two works Corvettes and the BMWs filled the lower half of the GT-LM field.

Alex Riberas was the class of the field in GT-D, the No. 23 Alex Job Racing/Team Seattle Porsche starting from pole thanks to a blisteringly quick 2:08:568. Lawson Aschenbach shared the front row with Riberas, the Stevenson Motorsport driver posting a 2:08:944, the only other time in the 2:08s.

This was the second-to-last round of the season and, for next year, the event will be moved to May which might mean that it will no longer share the date with the FIA World Endurance Championship.

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2016 IMSA Michelin GT Challenge at VIR - Race Report

2016 IMSA Michelin GT Challenge at VIR - Race Report

Corvette wins after close battle with Ford GT

Four and a half decades ago, the IMSA GT Championship started out as just that – a GT-based series where various Porsches, Chevrolets and others battled on Americas best road courses. Now, most of those road courses are gone, Riverside being just one example off the top of my head, but that spirit lives on in one of the rounds of today’s IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship.

I’m talking about the Michelin GT Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway.

Since its reopening in the early 1990s, VIR has proved to be a popular venue for both pro- and amateur-level race series as it retains some of that lost spirit of pure road racing, a spirit that was lost with the advancement in safety regulations that oftentimes regarded miles of asphalt run-off area as mandatory and the general flattening of the road surface. There’s nothing flat at VIR and, what is more, every mistake is penalized harshly with a trip through the grass that’s guaranteed to fill your splitter with the green stuff. This is why IMSA first visited VIR in 2012 and has, since 2014, hosted a GT-only round here.

This year, the VIR round was rocked by two unexpected announcements from Porsche-running GT-D teams, precisely the no. 22 Alex Job Racing/Weathertech Porsche and the no. 73 Park Place Motorsport cars, both dropping from the series with immediate effect citing BoP inequalities. This dropped the GT-D car count to only 12 for the third to last event on this year’s calendar and cleared the way for some discussions over why those teams really quit, given the respectable performance of the no. 23 Alex Job Racing Porsche that did not leave the series (it has taken a number of poles in 2016 and podiums).

Corvette dominated the proceedings all the way through practice and qualifying on the 3.27-mile-long track, the No. 3 snatching the pole position ahead of the sister No. 4 Magnussen’s blistering 1:41:557 was almost three tenths quicker than Joey Hand’s 1:41:817 that landed the No. 66 Ford on the second row of the grid. Risi’s Ferrari was fourth with the first time in the 1:42s, all nine of the GT-LM cars surpassing Nick Tandy’s benchmark lap time from 2015, a 1:42:532. Tandy himself turned a 1:42:276 to qualify seventh.

1:44:956 was Madison Snow’s unbeatable benchmark time in GT-D, a time that earned the Paul Miller Racing driver his first pole position. Matt Bell’s 1:45:247 was enough to get the Stevenson Motorsport Audi No. 9 on the front row of the class while Dream Racing’s Huracan and Stevenson’s other R8 made up the second row. Making up the top five was Corey Lewis’ Lamborghini which posted a 1:45:372.

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2016 IMSA Road Race Showcase Road America - Race Report

2016 IMSA Road Race Showcase Road America - Race Report

1-2-3 overall win for Corvette DP and class victories for ORECA, Corvette C7.R, and Viper GT3-R

Scott Atherton, president of the International Motorsport Association, gave assurances on the grid that the Continental Sportscar Showcase at the scenic Road America circuit will be a classic and, two hours and 40 minutes later, he was proven right by some frantic fights at the top of the GT-LM ranks, as well as some late-race incidents to top it all. Not to mention yet another case of Mazda shooting themselves in the foot.

Though far from the pace of the LMP2s or LMP1s from half a decade ago, the Lola-based Mazda No. 55 of Jonathan Bomarito was fast enough around the 2.5-mile long road course located near Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, to snatch the pole. Under clear skies, Mazda’s finest set a scorching 1:54:507, over a second faster than anyone else in the Prototype class. Early on, the three Corvette DPs got involved in the fight for pole but, at the end of the 15-minute-long session, Christian Fittipaldi’s best time that put him second on the grid was a pedestrian 1:55:659. It wasn’t all plain sailing, though, as John Pew was back at it again going off in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier which caused a short interruption with red flags being waved as the LMP2 car was rescued from the sand traps of Turn 3. Ricky Taylor was third at the end of it all, just 34 thousandths of a second behind Fittipaldi.

With identical cars in the Prototype Category, it’s always very hard to pick a pole sitter and this time in Wisconsin it was no different, with local James French taking a hotly-contested pole from under Jose Guttierez’s nose. His time, a 1:59:133, was slightly quicker than that of the No. 7 Starworks Racing driver who, in turn, beat Misha Goikhberg’s best effort of 1:59:462.

Porsche was on the prowl for some good results at Road America after a tough first half of the season. The North American works team was looking to rebound after managing to get IMSA’s approval to use the 2015-spec rubber, as opposed to the rest of the field that used medium compound Michelin rubber that’s also used by GTE cars in the FIA World Endurance Championship. Early on, Giancarlo Fisichella and Ford’s Dirk Mueller traded the coveted pole position between themselves in the 2:03 region before Patrick Pilet slotted ahead with a 2:02:912 in the No. 911 Porsche. The Frenchman was, by session’s end, only headed by Mueller who bounced back to set a pole time of 2:02:451. The two works Corvettes and the two BMWs sat rather dejected from sixth to ninth on the grid.

Viper, Lamborghini, Porsche and Audi all fought for pole in GT-D, the times dropping from over 2:10 to under 2:08 by the time Alex Riberas set the pole lap, a 2:07:520. This was quicker than both of Stevenson Motorsport’s Audis as well as the Lamborghinis, and the No. 33 Viper of Ben Keating.

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2016 IMSA Northeast Grand Prix - Race Report

2016 IMSA Northeast Grand Prix - Race Report

Starworks scores overall win, Corvette Racing clinches GT-LM class and celebrates 100th victory

Lime Rock Park in Connecticut was again the host of the Northeast Grand Prix which gathered three of the four IMSA Weathertech Sportscar classes within the premises of the 1.4-mile circuit, and saw Corvette Racing reach some incredible milestones. Under scorching heat, the intense traffic made for contact aplenty, with prototypes and GTs scraping on a track that lacks the endless asphalt run-offs of modern “Tilkedromes” – and thank God it does!

The quickest overall lap time of the qualifying session was set by CORE Autosport’s Colin Braun, the No. 54 ORECA lapping Lime Rock in just 48:824 seconds, a slim margin of 0.016 seconds separating Braun’s time from Robert Alon’s best effort, the PR1/Mathiasen Motorsport car starting second. Kyle Marcelli was third quickest, a tenth off pole, sharing row two of Saturday’s grid with the No. 7 Starworks Motorsport entry. Peter Baron’s other car was at the bottom end of the top five, but had high hopes for race day as van der Zande and Popow had won two of the previous three rounds.

BMW’s Dirk Werner battled for pole with Ford’s Richard Westbrook, the latter sneaking through to post the quickest lap time and take the pole. The Briton’s 50:748 was less than a tenth quicker than the best that Werner could do. The second row of the GT-LM grid was in the 50-second bracket as well, with Tommy Milner starting from third alongside Toni Vilander. Dirk Mueller qualified sixth, two tenths back from Magnussen on seventh. Porsche was again at the back of the pack, the two 991 GTEs starting eight and tenth, although this time the gap from first to last was well under a second.

Change Racing’s Spencer Pumpelly stormed to pole thanks to a blistering 53:148, just 0.030 seconds quicker than Andrew Davis who locked a front-row position in the No. 6 Stevenson Motorsport Audi. The sister Stevenson Audi was third while Alessandro Balzan was fourth in the championship-leading Scuderia Corsa car.

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2016 Mobil 1 Sportscar Grand Prix - Race Report

2016 Mobil 1 Sportscar Grand Prix - Race Report

Action Express/Corvette DP score 1-2 finish at "Mosport"

Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, formerly known as Mosport Park, was the home of the Mobil 1 Sportscar Grand Prix, the seventh round of the 2016 IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship last weekend. The former host of the Canadian Grand Prix offered some exciting racing in just 160 minutes, which is how long the race lasted. All four classes, P, PC, GT-LM and GT-D, were present and made for some pretty tedious moments in traffic but, in the end, we got to see a partial repeat of the Watkins Glen scenario in the form of another 1-2 for Action Express Racing and another victory for the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT — this time through clever strategy work rather than pure pace.

Gloriously wearing the livery of the 1991 Le Mans-winning Mazda 787B, the No. 55 SpeedSource Mazda stormed to pole position, Tristan Nunez clocking an unbeatable 1:10:126, over 0.3 seconds quicker than the best Ricky Taylor could muster in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP.

Pole position was not a new course on Mazda’s plate, the Multimatic-built, Lola-based, prototype sitting on pole for the first time at Laguna Seca this year. This time though, the margin was greater and spirits ran high in the Mazda pit box as a victory seemed within reach. It wasn’t even far fetched if we do the math: The No. 55 retired a little over seven days ago while running third at Watkins Glen after well over five hours of racing, whereas the race at CTMP (doesn’t Mosport sound 10 times better?) only lasts two hours and 40 minutes in its entirety. It should have been easy.

IMSA decided the GT-LM status quo was a matter of force majeure and acted upon it in the week between the Watkins Glen and the CTMP rounds, a never-before-seen move by the sanctioning body. The Ford GT was thus pegged back while the Chevrolet Corvette and Porsche got some help. In numbers, the Ford GT got 33 pounds heavier while also receiving additional boost pressure limits. The Chevy got 22 pounds lighter, as did the Porsche and the American C7.R, also receiving a 0.4 mm larger air restrictor and a revised declared minim lambda. The Porsche did not benefit from these modifications and it mattered dearly during the Canadian weekend with the factory 991 GTEs being the only cars completely off pace.

Up front, Corvette took the pole via a blistering effort by Antonio Garcia with the Spaniard putting the No. 3 car on pole for the first time since 2014. The next six cars behind were all in under 0.6 seconds while the two Porsches were at the very back of the pack, 1.2 seconds and 1.4 seconds, respectively, off the pole lap. It was a performance deficit that neither the No. 911 nor the No. 912 could claw back in the race, despite a gutsy strategy employed by one of the crews in a Hail-Mary attempt to salvage some points.

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2016 IMSA Six Hours of the Glen - Race Report

2016 IMSA Six Hours of the Glen - Race Report

Chip Ganassi’s Ford GT scores yet another GTLM class win

The Le Mans break came to a close for the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship contenders last weekend when they got together at Watkins Glen for what was a thrilling and dramatic six-hour-long race. It was of vital importance, as it was the sixth round of the IMSA calendar and, on top of that, the third in the coveted North American Endurance Cup. As such, all four classes were present, all eager to grab the points that were on offer at the three-hour mark and at the end.

Extreme Speed Motorsport kept their promise of doing the entirety of the NAEC and returned with a single Honda-powered Ligier, which previously saw victory at Daytona and Sebring. Ford also rejoined its GT-LM rivals after a flawless Le Mans weekend that saw the Chip Ganassi-run operation claim top honors in the GTE-Pro category.

Watkins Glen itself looked way different than it did 12 months ago as it greeted the racers with grippy, fresh asphalt that was a certain ticket to new lap records – both in qualifying and during the race. The nature of Watkins Glen was seen as one that would rather favor the LMP2 machines, of which there were four – the two Ligiers and the Mazdas. These cars did prove their speed in qualifying by locking the front row of the grid for Sunday’s event but it was the same old story all over again as multiple yellows in the final 90 minutes helped the Corvette DPs which, being heavier, can get the tires up to operating temperature faster.

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2016 24 Hours Of Le Mans - Race Report

2016 24 Hours Of Le Mans - Race Report

Porsche wins dramatically as Toyota’s leader loses power with five minutes to go

Late race drama for Toyota that saw their hopes of a maiden Le Mans triumph vanish in thin air, only for Porsche to take their 18th overall victory, overshadowed the dominance of American teams over the GT classes in what might be one of the most dramatic Le Mans 24 Hours races to date.

Long-distance racing is often considered the hardest of all circuit-based types of racing and there’s no better proof than last weekend’s 84th edition of the famous Le Mans 24 Hours held on the Circuit de la Sarthe, in France. A record 60-car grid aligned for the classic test of man and machine which gathers the biggest crowds of all European motorsport events (in excess of 230.000 people attended the race in 2016). Everybody was welcomed with some not-so-welcoming weather in the days leading up to the weekend, the overcast sky adding to the somewhat dark tone of the GTE-Pro teams over the never-ending subject of the Balance of Performance.

The BoP, as it’s known, tried to even out cars with very different layouts: from mid-engined turbo’ed models to rear-engined naturally-aspirated ones and, also, the front-engined models as well. It doesn’t take an engineering genius to figure out that after all this BoP work is done some will be left unhappy while other will be quite comfortable with what they’ve got. On the former side stood Porsche, Aston-Martin and Chevrolet while Ferrari and Ford, with their mid-engined turbocharged racers, were the satisfied ones.

For those of you that have not been following endurance racing in 2016, the presence of Ford might come as a surprise, but the American manufacturer followed up on its promise to celebrate its first Le Mans victory, in 1966 with the Mk.II, in grand style by launching the race version of its new supercar – the GT. The car debuted at Daytona earlier in the year and, beyond a myriad of reliability problems, showed enough promise to get the Ford guys excited. Their excitement grew a lot more after the Laguna Seca round of the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship where Ford won in the GT-LM class, not on pure speed, but on fuel efficiency. The WEC rounds followed where Ford was accused of hiding its true pace, some saying it used exceedingly long gears for the second round of the season at Spa-Francorchamps.

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1966 Porsche 906

1966 Porsche 906

Porsche’s last road-going sports prototype

Widely known as Porsche’s last road-going sports prototype, the Type 906, also known as the Carerra 6, celebrates its 50th birthday in 2016 and, given its importance in Porsche’s racing history, a look back is by all means necessary. While not innovative in its own right, the 906 put the brand on a road that led, to the launch of the astounding 917 which, like many success stories, had somewhat humble beginnings.

The beginnings lay in Porsche’s Type 904, which was the last to contest the 2.0-liter GT championship in 1964 and 1965. It was rendered obsolete in only its second year by Ferrari’s Dino 206S. Porsche was forced to step up to the challenge and answered with the 906, which, under different guises, ran in the 2.0-liter class for either sports cars or prototypes. It was also the first Porsche to accommodate a long-tail (lang-heck in German) configuration for the Le Mans race alone. A number of updates kept the 906 popular among privateers up until the dawn of the 1960s at which time it was still competitive in the 2.0-liter class as the championship’s focus had shifted toward the 5.0-liter sports cars and the 3.0-liter prototypes, respectively.

Following Porsche’s ethos of learning from the past and applying it to the future, the 906 carried over the suspension and brakes from the 904. Otherwise, it was a completely new car down to its tubular space frame. In racing terms, the 906 was a success, scoring big from its debut onward, a highlight being the victory in the 1966 edition of the famed Targa Florio, which was run in pitiful conditions with rain and fog all the way.

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2016 USCC Laguna Seca Race Report

2016 USCC Laguna Seca Race Report

The Ford GT scores its first win in the GT-LM class

Racing at Mazda Speedway Laguna Seca is always exciting, so the fact that last weekend not one, but two races were in store as part of the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship round four was a great treat. And, under perfect blue skies, the two two-hour-long races did not disappoint.

Qualifying for the first race of the weekend saw Mazda continue its dominant run that begun in practice by locking up the front row of the grid with their Multimatic-built prototypes. They were the only ones to lap the track in under one minutes and 19 seconds. Although impressive, it’s worth noting that almost 25 years ago, the mighty GTP machines would go around the same track in under 1:12. Behind the Mazdas were the Chevy DPs as well as Michael Shank’s Ligier JS P2 and the Elan-powered DeltaWing Coupe.

GT-LM saw Ford’s party ruined by a magnificent last lap by Daniel Serra who put the No. 68 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GTE on pole, narrowly beating the two Ford GTs. It’s worth noting that Monterey was chosen by Michelin as the venue to debut their new GTE compounds for the IMSA series which are, in fact, the same as those used in the World Endurance Championship. These tires are made with mid-engined cars in mind and, as such, do not favor front or rear-engined machines such as the Corvette or the Porsche 911.

PR1 / Mathiasen Motorsport claimed the pole in Prototype Challenge while the Alex Job Racing-run No. 23 Porsche 991 GT3-R took pole. Spain’s Alex Riberas beat Scuderia Corsa’s Christina Nielsen who put the team’s 488 GT3 in the front row – her best qualifying effort to date.

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2016 Long Beach Grand Prix Race Report

2016 Long Beach Grand Prix Race Report

Chevrolet DP rebounds after Sebring defeat and wins

Long Beach has been hosting races since the mid ‘70s; the enthusiasm showcased over four decades ago seemingly not diminished by the passing of time as the fans of today seem to echo in spirit to those of the days when Formula 5000 was a thing. These fans came in quite big numbers to witness a rather appealing menu: the 100-minute IMSA Weathertech Sports Car race on Saturday followed, on Sunday, by the Pirelli World Challenge round and, to end the week-end on a high, the Indycar Grand Prix of Long Beach. We’ll only be talking about the first race mentioned for it was the third round of America’s hotly contested Sport Car endurance racing series, the only of its kind to blend road courses with street courses.

For the first time since the merger, Prototype Challenge cars were welcomed to join. These spec prototypes last set foot at Long Beach in 2013 under the American Le Mans Series. Accompanying the PCs were the popular GT-LMs and the Prototypes which were, as expected, far thinner in numbers compared to the previous round at Sebring.

Ford’s new GT cars proved to be the center of attention in the paddock as Team Ganassi faced the hardships of street-course racing for the first time. Two other GTs were to face a completely different terrain the following day as the British branch of the outfit took part in the opening round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.

While not being an endurance race as such, the Long Beach round is still completed by two drivers for each squad, the switch happening at mid-point. It’s essential for everyone to not stop at another time as a lap can be easily lost on this relatively short track that once held the U.S. GP West in the F1 calendar.

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12 Hours Of Sebring - Race Report

12 Hours Of Sebring - Race Report

This year’s Sebring 12 hours proves that America’s oldest endurance race can still throw a curveball. This time, rain played hazards for the almost 50-strong grid. It got so bad that a little over two hours of the race were actually spent under red flag conditions, the first time since 1995.

The exquisite Prototype category boasted a strong field of 12 cars, six of which being DPs that were joined by five Le Mans-eligible LMP2 chassis. There was also the lone closed-cockpit DeltaWing that rebounded after a frustrating end to their Daytona 24 Hours race. The DPs proved quicker in the wet due to the quarter-inch larger radius of their front tires (a factor made relevant by the new belt design) but the P2s never gave up the fight.

Lower down in LMPC, the usual culprits were all present to add up to a seven-car grid. The novelty in this category was to be the newly updated electrical system which now offered traction control. This system, though, had not been tested by other teams but for CORE Autosport which was chosen by IMSA to play as chief developer. This meant that some teams declined the offer to run the new system, thus challenging themselves to run without TC. It proved to be a far less daring choice as some might have thought since most of the cars that did run the new electrical problems ran into countless problems such as dozens and dozens of spins.

GT-LM offered the closest ever class finish at Daytona between the two Corvettes and promised just as much excitement come Sebring – the second half of the “36 Hours of Florida.” Ford, BMW, Porsche, and Ferrari were all present and gave Corvette Racing a hell of a run for its money. How close was it? Well, if we are to judge by the qualifying times, very close! Pole-man Bill Auberlen was only 0.8 seconds quicker than the back of the grid.

After being penalized for sandbagging during the season opener at Daytona, the Huracans lacked the edge they’ve previously shown. Instead, Ferrari’s brand-new 488 GT3 shone by taking its maiden pole on debut with Scuderia Corsa. But the opposition proved to be strong, especially from BMW and Porsche, with the final running order being decided within minutes of the end.

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1958 - 1963 Lotus Elite

1958 - 1963 Lotus Elite

Usually, when you think about Lotus founder Colin Chapman, the first thing that comes to mind is innovation. It’s easy to see why as that was the business Chapman was in, the brilliant designer always looking for ways to improve his cars’ performance – usually at the cost of reliability and even safety. This philosophy was carried over when Chapman decided he should start building road cars. The first one, named the Elite (Type 14), was a small but competent two-seater which was, sadly, pulled down by certain choices made in the design department, which meant that the overall quality of the car was not quite deserving of the its own name.

It’s obvious that when you employ a number of innovations into a new product, for example the glass-reinforced-plastic monocoque, it’s bound to take off the ground somewhat harder. The trouble is that some of the Elite’s flaws carried on all the way towards the end of production which ceased in 1963. At that time, little over 1,000 had been produced, but Lotus saw the potential of dropping the GRP monocoque design and returning to a more traditional body-on-chassis construction for the Elite’s follow-up, the Elan. That marked the end of the original Elite’s lifespan but the name would be later revived, although its use for a 2+2 grand tourer always struck as somewhat peculiar.

Away from the road, the Elites featured prominently in circuit racing, both at club and professional level. This comes as no surprise considering that Lotus was heavily involved in racing and used certain Formula 2 components in the building process of the Elite. The car was so good in fact that it won its class at Le Mans no fewer than six times, adding to countless other victories all across the world.

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 Rolex 24 At Daytona - Race Report

Rolex 24 At Daytona - Race Report

A bucket of firsts, twice-around-the-clock excitement in three of the four classes and some breakthrough performances are what have already transformed this year’s Rolex Daytona 24hrs into a classic and the perfect way to remember that, precisely half a century ago, Daytona hosted its first 24-hour race.

It was no coincidence, then, that Ford decided to bring their new GT racing car to Daytona for its international debut, although few expected the going to be as rough as it proved to be for the two Ganassi-run GT-LM entries. At the complete other end of the spectrum, with a clean and trouble-free race, Scott Sharp’s Extreme Speed Motorsport has scored a historical first win for an LMP2 car at Daytona – the first win for an ACO prototype since 2002.

It’s also the Ligier’s most important international victory and, arguably, the biggest win in the team’s six-year history. And, all of it would not have been possible without the massive aid of Pipo Derani – the young Brazilian hot-shoe that proved instrumental in the Patron-liveried car crossing the line in P1.

While the Le Mans Prototype Challenge (LMPC) cars were marred by issues across the board, the most important thing that needs to be put into perspective is the lack of overall pace displayed by these aging cars. The mere fact that the class winner was 20 laps behind the GT-LM Corvettes is one thing, but the fact that the ORECAs were also the slowest of all 54 starters is just as worrying.

Then there’s the GT-Daytona category that’s embraced the GT3 platform for 2016, and the 22-car strong grid proves IMSA right in its choice. Indeed, some pointed a finger toward Lamborghini’s massive top-end speed that is rumored to have been quicker than even the GT-LM cars but, at the end of the day, the Top 7 was comprised of seven different manufacturers. And, at least half of those could have won, given how tight it was at the end.

In a day and age where reliability is part of the status quo, to see two Corvettes battling it out for supremacy bumper-to-bumper after 24 hours of racing may not be that surprising. The fact that veterans Antonio Garcia and Oliver Gavin were given the green light to goose it out like they did is. Porsche was in close vicinity but the woes that sent out car #911 meant that only #912 was left standing and it was no match at the end for the two C7-Rs. Of the 100% brand-new cars, the Corvettes and Porsches being were new iterations based upon older designs, the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 came home fourth and BMW’s IMSA-only M6 GTLM scored fifth.

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Top 10 Best F1 Drivers Of All Time

Top 10 Best F1 Drivers Of All Time

Henry Ford used to say that people started racing from the very moment that they finished building the second car ever. Likewise, they’ve tried to figure out who’s the quickest, most daring, or most talented behind the wheel for just as long. Thus, the question of who is the best in a certain discipline is not new and there are so many tops for the existing formulas within motorsport itself that it sometimes get dizzying when you try to figure out who’s sits where in history in terms of talent, speed and other criteria.

Obviously, many will argue that it is impossible, let alone pointless, to try and rank drivers from different eras. How could you, for example, compare drivers that raced at Indy in front-engined roadsters to those that blitzed the oval with mid-engined ground-effect racers? Or how could you compare a gladiator like Nuvolari with a modern F1 driver who is, seemingly, having to cope with a lot less while driving? It is, indeed, a hard task, as cars and tracks do change as time goes by. But, the core values that describe a great driver do not change, and the same values apply to both Fangio and Senna, or to Bernd Rosemeyer and Schumacher. And, the most important of them all is quite simple to define, because it talks about what each of them did with what they had at their disposal at a given moment in time compared to their opposition.

If we lay our founding stone there, we can easily move on and single out a certain amount of "peak’’ moments for each driver – moments when they have really shone as bright as stars – and based on those peaks we can start to organize a ranking. Indeed, many more elements come into play, but we’re fortunate enough to have had a number of drivers throughout history that were so good that they could probably be quick in any car with a little bit of time to adjust.

The story is the same for Formula 1. With the World Championship being around since 1950 — although the formula itself dates back to 1947 — many drivers and cars have passed but some stand taller than others. Of course, many never did get their big break to show what they are capable of – drivers like Chris Amon, Ricardo Rodriguez or Stefan Bellof were either in the wrong place at the wrong time or they got killed before they could truly make the best of their abilities. But, there are others that have got their break and did what their talent allowed them to – become the best of their time.

These are the men we’ll be talking about in this top 10. The men that stood above the good and even the very good. The first few date back to the ‘50s while the most recent exponent is still racing in Formula 1 today. In spite of how we ranked them here, they are all, without a shadow of a doubt, all-time greats and true artists in the craft of precision high-speed driving.

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1953 Ferrari 340 MM

1953 Ferrari 340 MM

Back in the days when Ferrari developed engines quicker than they could do gearboxes or bodies, as per Enzo’s belief that those who rely on aerodynamics can’t put together proper engines, many memorable roadsters were built using the 4.0-liter Lampredi V-12 as the centerpiece. Other configurations sprouted from this 1951-designed powerplant as the company continued to use this layout all throughout the decade. One of the most emblematic models of the 340 series is the 340 MM, which appeared as an evolution of previous 340 iterations in 1953.

As with other Ferrari cars, MM stood for Mille Miglia, the race for which the car was originally conceived and which its forerunner, the 340 America, had won in 1951. In truth, the MM was the real replacement of the America, being a real step forward from the so-called 340 Mexico from which it evolved.

With only 11 examples built, the 340 MM is an extremely rare car, especially since both Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera and Carrozzeria Vignale dealt with building spyder bodies while Pininfarina crafted the coupes. This means that nearly each example is unique in its own way. Couple this with the racing history of certain chassis and you get part of the reasoning behind the prices for which these cars change hands. One of the many in the myriad of Ferrari ultra-exotic rarities.

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1953 - 1955 Ferrari 375 Plus

1953 - 1955 Ferrari 375 Plus

Nowadays, when you associate Ferrari and motorsport, your mind immediately skips to Formula 1 – the only championship where the Scuderia runs officially. Little over six decades ago, when Ferrari was still a low-volume manufacturer, the Modena-based team would consistently run in both open-wheel and closed bodywork formulas, and their works drivers split between the chores. One such success story away from the dazzling world of F1 is the Ferrari 375 Plus which built on the lessons learned by the factory during the 1953 race season, hence the Plus in the name.

The car, in spite of its short lease of life in works-supported competition, proved to be a force to be reckoned with, even in the company of the newly-launched Jaguar D-Type that went on to become a true legend while history has been far more harsh on the 375 Plus which wasn’t much less of a car. The facts back this statement, as a Le Mans and Carerra Panamericana-winner cannot be considered a bad contender.

Designed during the big-engine era of the World Sports Car Championship, the 375 Plus proved a bit hefty when compared to its direct competition from Jaguar, Maserati and Lancia. The car was routinely out-handled by Lancia’s D24 as well as the D-Type which was famously equipped with disc brakes. But, the brute from Modena never gave up without a proper fight, bringing to the table its gargantuan amounts of power from the meaty 4.9-liter V12 engine.

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1961 - 1968 Jaguar E-Type

1961 - 1968 Jaguar E-Type

When talking about cult icons, adjectives usually stream in an overwhelming fashion, making it hard to discern fact from fabrication. The Jaguar E-Type is one of these cars, earning an invitation to the Pantheon of motoring just as quick as the first journalists laid eyes on it. The long hood belied the size of the white two-door sports car as it was sitting on an exquisite animal print wall-to-wall. The public was elated, so much so that a second car was driven from Britain to Switzerland as Sir William Lyons, the company’s founder, was already receiving orders for the new ,,Big Cat’’.

Such was the initial impact of the E-Type that even the Italians, who were famed for putting together some of the most beautiful cars in existence, were left dumbfounded. One Italian in particular eulogized the styling of Jaguar’s new two-seater. His name? None other than Ferrari founder Enzo Ferrari, who is quoted to have said that the XK-E, as it was marketed in the USA, is "the most beautiful car in the world".

Despite of early reliability issues that pushed the debut date of the racing version further into 1962, the E-Type proved handy on race tracks around the world, especially the 12 lightweight chassis. Away from the track, the first E-Type, known as the S1, was built in far greater numbers, nearly 40,000 cars coming out of the Coventry-based plant between 1961 and 1968. The figure includes all variations, including the less fluid 2+2.

While the E-Type stayed in production until 1975, the S1 is the most distinguishable, as the latter versions lost the headlight covers as well as adopting larger fender flares, on the S3, that somehow messed with the original shape. This is mainly why the first iteration is also the most sought-after, with prices rising each year.

Continue reading to learn more about the 1961-1968 Jaguar E-Type.

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