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Wickens Returns to Full-Time Racing with Hyundai
in Michelin Pilot Challenge Program
Paralyzed Driver Will Use Hand Controls
in Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai Elantra N TCR

 
January 14, 2022
By Jeff Olson
IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – For the first time in almost three and a half years, Robert Wickens will return to racing.
 
Wickens, paralyzed in an IndyCar crash at Pocono Raceway in August 2018, will team with fellow Canadian Mark Wilkins in the No. 33 Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai Elantra N TCR for the 2022 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season.
 
The car, equipped with hand controls, will open the season Jan. 28 with the BMW M Endurance Challenge, a four-hour race at Daytona International Speedway the day before the 60th Rolex 24 At Daytona.
 
“There’s a lot of emotions,” Wilkins said Friday afternoon during a livestreamed news conference. “... A lot of times during my recovery I thought it was possible (and then) thought it wasn’t going to be possible. It took a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication, but I wouldn’t be here without the support of a lot of really good people.”
 
In May 2021, Wickens tested a BHA Hyundai Veloster N TCR equipped with hand controls, the first time he’d been in a race car since the crash. Wickens' injuries included a thoracic spinal fracture, a spinal cord injury, a neck fracture, tibia and fibula fractures to both legs and fractures in both hands.
 
Wickens has documented his recovery on social media, generating encouraging responses from thousands of followers. The possibility of a return to racing was his underlying motivation for countless hours of rehab and training.
 
“I know I’m a competitor,” Wickens said. “If I don’t give myself a level of competition, I felt like I wouldn’t possibly work hard enough to get to the level where I am today. I don’t put myself in any category above anybody else who’s recovering from an injury or a setback in their life, but it’s been quite the ride. Here we are, and I’m happy to be here.”  
 
A former Formula 1 test driver, Wickens joined the IndyCar Series in 2018. He led all but two laps of his first race, was named the Rookie of the Year at the Indianapolis 500 and finished on the podium in four races.
 
At Pocono, Wickens’ car went airborne and struck the catchfence. After an extensive hospitalization, Wickens began a lengthy rehabilitation process. He is able to stand with assistance, but he said Friday his progress has plateaued.
 
“I’m not regaining any more muscle function,” Wickens said. “Unfortunately, it looks like I’ll be in a chair for the remainder of my life as long as modern medicine and science stays where it is. But it’s a great life. I was able to regain a lot of function. I can stand with support and take a couple of steps with support. But in terms of leaving the chair permanently, I don’t think that’s in my pipeline right now.”
 
The car is equipped with custom hand controls similar to those used by Michael Johnson, also a paralyzed driver who used hand controls in the No. 54 BHA Veloster N TCR in Michelin Pilot Challenge races last season. It was Johnson’s car that Wickens tested last year at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. BHA technical director David Brown and development technician Jonathan Gormley designed the hand control system.
 
“Hand controls are an open book as far as what you need, and every driver is different,” Wickens said. “We’re trying to make small improvements and trying to make it a little more comfortable and more consistent.”
 
The system uses a metal ring on the steering wheel connected to the brake pedal by a series of rods. Throttle and shift paddles also are located on the steering wheel, allowing Wickens to accelerate, brake, shift and steer with his hands.
 
The Michelin Pilot Challenge runs as companion events to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, and drivers occasionally compete in both series. Wickens indicated he would be interested in advancing to the WeatherTech Championship or return to IndyCars if circumstances made it possible.
 
For now, Wickens wants to prove to himself that he can race again.
 
“Once we can tick that box, I think nothing is out of the question,” he said. “It would be awesome to race in the Indy 500. At the same time, I’m interested in exploring new avenues. I’ve never really done any sports car driving. Racing at the highest levels of IMSA in the WeatherTech series would be amazing.”
 
The season kicks off Jan. 21 with the Roar Before the Rolex 24, a three-day test session at Daytona that concludes with qualifying races. The BMW M Endurance Challenge streams live starting at 1:35 p.m. ET Friday, Jan. 28 on Peacock.
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“It’s Like Looking At A Picasso”: Auberlen Loves New BMW M4 GT3

Turner Motorsport is swapping its successful but antiquated No. 96 BMW M6 GT3 for a spanking new BMW M4 machine, which arrived in this country by air freight from Germany just two days before a shakedown test last month at Daytona International Speedway.

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Hardpoint Porsche Back In 2022 With Ferriol, Legge

Hardpoint is back for a second full season of IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition in 2022, with Rob Ferriol and Katherine Legge rejoining as the full-season drivers of the No. 99 Porsche 911 GT3 R.

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BMW Team RLL Ramping Up For GTD PRO And Beyond

BMW Team RLL is pushing all the chips to the middle of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD PRO table in 2022.

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WeatherTech Championship Team Tracker, Vol. 7

Austin Cindric, announced as part of the driver lineup for the No. 15 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3; CORE autosport returns in 2022, Sean Creech Motorsport is planning for a full-year campaign; Wright Motorsports rounded out its Rolex 24 driver lineup with Porsche factory driver Richard Lietz.

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01-02 Punch: Chip Ganassi Racing Unveils Potent Rolex 24 Lineup

Chip Ganassi Racing, the eight-time Rolex 24 At Daytona winning team including six overall victories, has put together a formidable two-car lineup as it chases another conquest in 2022.

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How High Will The First-Ever 2023 Corvette Z06 Go?

When the 2023 Corvette Z06 was unveiled, the performance car world was shocked at its astronomical power numbers.

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Join Skip Barber's Inside Line Member Program And Take 5!

Exclusive member events, VIP track experiences, Alumni Weekend Celebrations, Brand Partner discounts, and a year-round 5% program pricing incentive on Skip barber's legendary bucket-list programs: 1 Day Racing School, Intro to Racing, 3-Day Racing School, Hagerty Driving Academy, and our Teen Safe Driving Program.

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'It's Like a Picasso': Auberlen Loves New BMW M4 GT3
Even a Shakedown Test Has IMSA's All-Time Winner Excitec

 
January 13, 2022
By Godwin Kelly
IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Turner Motorsport is swapping its successful but antiquated No. 96 BMW M6 GT3 for a spanking new BMW M4 machine, which arrived in this country by air freight from Germany just two days before a shakedown test last month at Daytona International Speedway.

 
“The crew took it all apart, then put it back together and put different gears in it for Daytona,” said Bill Auberlen, the veteran BMW driver who wheeled the M6 for six years. “We did a soft, gentle, no-pressure rollout and it ran pretty perfectly. The team is very happy with it.”

 
That bodes well for Auberlen and the Turner Motorsport outfit as they prepare to embark on the 2022 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season in earnest, beginning next week with the Roar Before the Rolex 24 that precedes the Rolex 24 At Daytona by a week. Auberlen is teaming for the full season again in the No. 96 with Robby Foley. Michael Dinan and Jens Klingmann join them for the 24-hour opener.

 
Getting the chance to turn even a few laps on the Daytona International Speedway road course in the M4 on Dec. 7-8 put the team miles ahead of where they were expected to be.
 
“We were supposed to get our car in early January,” said Auberlen, IMSA’s all-time winningest driver with 64 victories in the top-tier series. “(Another team) pulled out of getting a car that was going to Dubai, (so) we got ours more than a month in advance.”

 
“Once that happened, team owner Will Turner told me, ‘I think we can make the Daytona test’ and put us on the roster. It was tight. The car landed in a cargo plane in Orlando on Dec. 5. They trucked it here and everybody on the team is looking at the car like it’s a new Christmas toy – figuring out how to start it.”

 
Turner Motorsport will again compete in the GT Daytona (GTD) class. BMW Team RLL will use the same M4 GT3 for its two-car effort in the new GTD PRO class.

 
“We were at Daytona with the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing factory team and we interacted during the test and everything worked real well,” Auberlen said. “This car takes us to a whole new level of precision.”

 
The M6 served Turner Motorsport well and leaves Auberlen with fond memories. But it’s time to move on.

 
“We love that car. That car has done us very well,” Auberlen said. “You are always looking for the new kid on the block and the new awesome technology that comes down the road. Now we are in the M4 GT3. The bodywork looks beautiful. When you pull the bodywork off, it’s like looking at a Picasso. It is all new technology. It is beautiful. This comes out of Formula One, IndyCar, anything these BMW engineers could think of, they stuck it in there. It’s amazing.

 
“When you first drive it, you are almost intimidated by it because you don’t want to be the first person to put a scratch on it. My first impression is it has cured most of the ailments the M6 had: traction and hard on tires. Their objective? Get through a stint and be as fast as you can on the last lap as the first lap. That was the objective. It looks like it will do that.”

 
Auberlen has been with the BMW brand for 27 consecutive years, which he described as “unheard of” in the racing world.

 
“I have been racing cars professionally since I was 17,” he said. “I’m 53 now. I’ve won seven championships. (In 2020), I became the winningest sports car driver in history. I love those milestones. Now it’s ‘how many times can we win Daytona? How many times can we win Sebring?’ Records are made to be broken and I’m happy to be the guy to break them.”
Mega 61-Car Field Entered for Roar Before the Rolex 24 At Daytona
Largest Entry List Since 2014 Set for Final Tune Up Before 60th Rolex 24 At Daytona

 
January 12, 2022
By Mark Robinson
IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Each year, the international motorsports scene waits with great anticipation the arrival of the Rolex 24 At Daytona – the annual green flag for the racing season around the globe.
 
The eagerness is even greater in 2022, with the historic 60th running of the iconic 24-hour race at Daytona International Speedway on Jan. 29-30. A whopping 61 cars have been entered for the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test session that precedes the race by a week. It’s the most entries since 2014.
 
Roar Before the Rolex 24: Entry list; Weekend schedule
 
“The racing world turns its eyes to the Rolex 24 every year since it typically kicks off the season for everyone in the industry and draws such an immense amount of international driver and team talent together,” IMSA President John Doonan said. “That’s even truer in 2022 with more cars on the grid than we’ve seen at Daytona in the last eight years. It shows that the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and sports car racing around the world continues to grow and thrive. We’re very excited for what should be a memorable 60th Rolex 24 At Daytona and the season ahead.”
 
The Roar Before the Rolex 24 from Jan. 21-23 features two full days of on-track testing at Daytona’s 3.56-mile road course, followed by the 100-minute qualifying race on Sunday, Jan. 23 (livestream at 2p.m. ET on Peacock) that sets the starting grid for the Rolex 24. The talent pool is deep within each of the five competing classes, with more than 50 past Rolex 24 winners in the field. It means each team must take advantage of every minute of track time during the Roar to be prepared for the marathon that is the Rolex 24.
 
A glance at the classes shows just how competitive they shape up to be:
 
Daytona Prototype international (DPi): Seven cars, the same number as in 2021, are in the DPi field this year, in what is the final season for the class before it switches to the LMDh platform in 2023. The No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 claimed the class and overall Rolex 24 victory a year ago and three of its drivers – Filipe Albuquerque, Ricky Taylor and Alexander Rossi – are back along with newcomer Will Stevens.
 
The No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R won the qualifying race during the Roar last year, what proved an important step on the Action Express Racing entry’s route to the season title. Pipo Derani and Mike Conway are back in the No. 31, with Tristan Nunez replacing Felipe Nasr as Derani’s new full-season teammate.
 
Other DPi entries of note include Chip Ganassi Racing expanding to a two-car Cadillac effort and the No. 48 Ally Cadillac that includes seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and two-time Rolex 24 winner Kamui Kobayashi returning for the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup races.
 
Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2): The LMP2 field remains the same, 10 cars, as it was a year ago and is again full of international flair. The No. 18 Era Motorsport ORECA LMP2 07 that won the 2021 Rolex 24 returns fully intact with Dwight Merriman, Kyle Tilley, Ryan Dalziel and Paul-Loup Chatin, as does the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA lineup of Ben Keating, Mikkel Jensen, Scott Huffaker and Nicolas Lapierre that won the qualifying race on its way to the LMP2 championship.
 
DragonSpeed USA dipped into the IndyCar field for drivers Pato O’Ward, Colton Herta and Devlin DeFrancesco to team with Eric Lux. International flavor is added by entries from teams including G-Drive Racing by APR, High Class Racing, Racing Team Nederland and United Autosports.
 
Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3): The number of entries grows from six to 10 this year as the LMP3 class embarks on its second season of WeatherTech Championship competition. The No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320 won last year’s Rolex 24 and went on to win the season title for the team and driver Gar Robinson. He’s back to defend and will team with Felipe Fraga, Kay van Berlo and Michael Cooper at the Roar and Rolex 24.
 
Muehlner Motorsports America is back with a pair of Duqueine D08s, including the No. 6 headed by driver Moritz Kranz that won the 2021 qualifying race. Other LMP3 teams and names to watch include newcomer AWA with the No. 13 Duqueine for drivers Orey Fidani, Kumo Wittmer, Lars Kern and Matthew Bell, the No. 54 CORE autosport Ligier with Colin Braun, Jon Bennett, George Kurtz and Nic Jonsson aboard and four-time Rolex 24 winner Joao Barbosa in the No. 33 Sean Creech Motorsport Ligier.
 
GT Daytona Pro (GTD PRO): The new class that replaces GT Le Mans (GTLM) is loaded with 13 entries and eight manufacturers. Corvette Racing bears watching as always, but in particular as it shifts from the GTLM platform to the GT3 specification the GTD PRO falls under. The No. 3 Corvette won last year’s Rolex 24 and the driver trio returns with Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor and Nicky Catsburg. The No. 4 Corvette won the 2021 qualifying race and is back on a one-off for the Rolex 24 before taking on a full season in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
 
BMW Team RLL was the 2019 and 2020 GTLM winner at the Rolex 24 and brings back two entries with the new BMW M4 GT3. WeatherTech Racing has three entries using two manufacturers (Porsche and Mercedes-AMG). Pfaff Motorsports moves to GTD PRO with the plaid No. 9 Porsche 911 GT3R after claiming last year’s GT Daytona (GTD) championship.
 
Other manufacturers for the debut of this highly anticipated class include Aston Martin, Ferrari Lamborghini and Lexus.
 
GT Daytona (GTD): Now running under the same specs as GTD PRO but with the requirement of having Bronze- or Silver-rated drivers as part of the lineup, the GTD class continues its unrivaled popularity with 22 entries – up three from a year ago.
 
Mercedes-AMG finished 1-2 in last year’s Rolex 24 and both teams are back, the winning No. 57 Winward Racing with half the drivers (Russell Ward and Philip Ellis) returning and runner-up No. 75 Sun Energy 1 bringing back three (Kenny Habul, Luca Stolz and Raffaele Marciello).
 
With nine manufacturers entered in GTD, the competition is wide open as usual. Never overlook all-time leading IMSA winner Bill Auberlen and Turner Motorsport co-drivers Robby Foley, Michael Dinan and Jens Klingmann. The No. 96 won last year’s qualifying race and, like BMW Team RLL in GTD PRO, will race a new BMW M4 GT3 this season.
 
The Heart of Racing Team finished third in the 2021 GTD championship, won the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup and finished fifth in the Rolex 24. Drivers Roman De Angelis, Ian James and Darren Turner are back for the Rolex 24, with Tom Gamble filling the roster. With the semi-retirement of longtime Porsche driver Patrick Long, the No. 16 Wright Motorsports entry takes on a slightly different look this year with drivers Ryan Hardwick, Jan Heylen, Zacharie Robichon and Porsche works driver Richard Lietz.
 
Andy Lally has the most Rolex 24 wins of any driver entered (five). His No. 44 Magnus Racing team bears watching with its switch to the Aston Martin Vantage GT3 this year. Others to watch include Crucial Motorsports and inception racing, which both bring the McLaren 720S GT3 back to the Roar and Rolex 24.
 
The Roar schedule calls for two test sessions Friday, Jan. 21 and a third on Saturday, Jan. 22 ahead of qualifying for the 100-minute qualifying race later that afternoon. The qualifying race starts at 2:05 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 23.

 
WeatherTech Championship Track Records
Qualifying:
DPi:      Oliver Jarvis, Mazda DPi, 1:33.685 / 136.799 mph, January 2019
LMP2:  James Allen, ORECA LMP2, 1:35.904 / 133.633 mph, January 2019
LMP3:  Moritz Kranz, Duqueine D08, 1:42.384 / 125.176 mph, January 2021
GTD PRO: new class for 2022
GTD:    Marcos Gomes, Ferrari 488 GT3, 1:44.541 / 122.593 mph, January 2019
 
2021 Rolex 24 At Daytona Qualifying Race Winners:
DPi:      Felipe Nasr/Pipo Derani, No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R
LMP2:  Ben Keating/Mikkel Jensen, No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsport ORECA LMP2 07
LMP3:  Moritz Kranz/Laurentz Hoerr, No. 6 Muehlner Motorsports America Duqueine D08
GTD PRO:          new class for 2022
GTD:    Bill Auberlen/Robby Foley, No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3

 

Conwright Recipient of First IMSA Diverse Driver Development Scholarship
Californian Will Race in 2022 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 6, 2022) – Jaden Conwright doesn’t want to be remembered as the first winner of the IMSA Diverse Driver Development Scholarship. He wants to be the first in a long line of recipients who help open the door to people from all backgrounds interested in pursuing a career in sports car racing.
 
IMSA named Conwright the recipient of the inaugural Diverse Driver Development Scholarship today. It helps provide the 22-year-old from Newark, California, the opportunity to race in the 2022 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.
 
“Jaden Conwright is an extremely worthy recipient of the first IMSA Diverse Driver Development Scholarship,” said IMSA President John Doonan. “He has been persistent in climbing the motorsports ladder, showing his talent at all levels along the way. There were many qualified candidates who could have won this scholarship, but when it came to his experience, his knowledge and his ability to manage the financial side of the business, Jaden stood out. We’re confident that with the assistance of this scholarship, Jaden can take his career to the next level in the WeatherTech Championship.”
 
Conwright was among 10 finalists selected from scholarship applicants, with criteria based on drivers having a strong desire to compete in IMSA, outstanding previous race results and/or proven on-track potential in junior racing categories and the ability to build a compelling business plan for securing the remaining funding needed to compete for a full season in 2022. Support for the scholarship comes from IMSA and partners including Michelin, VP Racing Fuels, OMP, RECARO and LAT Photo USA.
 
“It’s definitely a big deal,” Conwright said. “I’m super grateful and happy to be the first recipient. I’m just looking forward to working with everyone and trying to create something that will be long term and something that will help introduce more people into IMSA.
 
“In 15 years, it could be that the recipients of the scholarship can become IMSA ambassadors as a whole and provide insight into the series,” Conwright added. “They could be somebody to look up to and give young drivers something to aim for in IMSA.”
 
A racing career that began at age 7 in karts and quarter midgets saw Conwright gain his first experience in a race car in Formula 2000 when he was 14. He competed in the Formula 4 Italian Championship at age 16 and went to Asia when he was 18 for FIA F3 Formula Regional Asian Championship competition, finishing in third. He returned to Italy in 2019 to drive in Porsche Carrera Cup Italy, his first experience in a GT car, and was named rookie of the year with 9 podiums in 14 races, before advancing to Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup in 2020.
 
Conwright made his WeatherTech Championship debut in 2021 in impressive fashion at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen. Driving for NTe Sport, he qualified third in the GT Daytona (GTD) class and, along with co-drivers Don Yount and Markus Palttala, finished fourth. The trio also placed ninth in the Motul Petit Le Mans to close the season.
 
An announcement regarding Conwright’s 2022 WeatherTech Championship team will be made in the coming days. However, in addition to becoming the inaugural IMSA Diverse Driver Development Scholarship recipient, Conwright also has been named a Lamborghini GT3 Junior Driver for 2022. Giorgio Sanna, Lamborghini Head of Motorsport, is pleased to add Conwright to the manufacturer’s lineup.
 
“I would like to congratulate Jaden for this important step in his career,” Sanna said. “He showed strong performances in the last few years and collected valuable racing experience both in Europe and in America. This award is for sure a well-deserved achievement. Lamborghini Squadra Corse cares a lot about the growth of young drivers as our commitment in Youngster Programmes demonstrates. I wish Jaden a bright 2022 IMSA season at the wheel of our Huracán GT3 EVO.”
 
Doonan said this first scholarship is just the beginning of what IMSA is striving to become: a more diverse and welcoming paddock for anyone – not just drivers – with a passion to work in the sport.
 
“IMSA is working with teams and partners to find ways to foster and communicate and allow the next generation to understand what motorsport can be for them,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is create an ecosystem where the mystery is taken out and the barriers have been reduced so that people can come into motorsport if they’re interested – especially in sports car racing – and have an opportunity if they show the talent, the promise and the determination to be successful.”
 
Conwright and his fellow WeatherTech Championship competitors will get their first official on-track activity of the 2022 season on the weekend of Jan. 21-23 at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 At Daytona. The season officially gets under way with the 60th Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 29-30.
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Upcoming Events
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WeatherTech Racing To Field Porsche And Mercedes In GTD PRO At Daytona

WeatherTech Racing announced plans Monday to enter the No. 97 Mercedes-AMG GT3 and the No. 79 Porsche 911 GT3 R in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD PRO Class for the 60th anniversary of the famous endurance race Jan. 29-30.

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Feature Story
WeatherTech Championship Team Tracker, Vol. 6

The Heart of Racing Team is expanding to two fulltime cars for 2022; PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports to field a pair of LMP2 entries for the upcoming season; Turner Motorsport has something new up its sleeve for its GTD entry in 2022; Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian rounded out its driver lineup for the Rolex 24.

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Feature Story
Paul Miller Racing Switches To BMW, Returns Drivers Sellers, Snow

After finishing second in last year’s GTD championship, Paul Miller Racing returns for the 2022 season with the same full-season drivers – Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow – but in a new car, the BMW M4 GT3.

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Pleasant Surprise Puts Barnicoat
In Lexus Seat

Ben Barnicoat may be mostly unknown around these parts, but he’s almost sure to become a driver of recognition during the 2022 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

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Feature Story
Ganassi Reloads With Sports Car Superstars

Earl Bamber, Sebastien Bourdais, Alex Lynn and Renger van der Zande are a formidable two-car DPi lineup.

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Feature Story
Conwright Recipient Of First IMSA Diverse Driver Development Scholarship

Jaden Conwright doesn’t want to be remembered as the first winner of the IMSA Diverse Driver Development Scholarship. He wants to be the first in a long line of recipients who help open the door to people from all backgrounds interested in pursuing a career in sports car racing.

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Feature Story
IMSA's Memorable Year:
Best Races Of 2021

There was so much incredible racing across the IMSA spectrum in 2021 that it’s nearly impossible to choose just one as the best of the year.

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Feature Story
These Five Alfa Front-Drivers
Never Made It Stateside

In the United States, enthusiasts tend to associate Alfa Romeo with tail-happy rear-wheel-drive hysterics—a Mediterranean alternative to BMW, perhaps. Across the pond, the company is just as well-known for offering a long line of humble front-wheel-drive cars with flat-four engines.

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Premier Dining Event Of The 60th Anniversary Rolex 24 At DAYTONA

Join The NASCAR Foundation at The Taste of the 24! This unique dining experience combined with non-stop racing, entertainment, and a blend of food from the area’s best restaurants is a can’t miss event. Showcased during the 60th Anniversary Rolex 24 at DAYTONA® from the Midway Suites of Daytona International Speedway, make sure to get your tickets.

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SkipBarberHagertyVPTaste of the 24

 

 

Pleasant Surprise Puts Barnicoat in Lexus Seat
He Joins Fellow Brit Hawksworth Fulltime with Vasser Sullivan in 2022

 
January 6, 2022
By Godwin Kelly
IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Ben Barnicoat may be mostly unknown around these parts, but he’s almost sure to become a driver of recognition during the 2022 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
 
Barnicoat was plucked out of the European GT ranks to run the full WeatherTech Championship GTD PRO season with Jack Hawksworth in the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3. Kyle Kirkwood will join them for the endurance races.
 
“I was coming off a great 2021 season and was lucky enough to get a call from Lexus,” said Barnicoat, who recently turned 25. “It did come as a surprise, to be honest. I had a very good year and I was hoping people were looking at me.
 
“For the call to come from America, when I had been racing in Europe, that was a little bit of a surprise. America is the place I’ve always wanted to race and be here fulltime. As soon as that phone call happened, it was an opportunity I didn’t want to let slip.”
 
Barnicoat started racing go-karts in England when he was 8. He did that for five years before getting his first big break in motorsports.
 
“When I was 13, I was very fortunate to be picked up by a good sponsor, Racing Steps Foundation, which funded young British drivers who had the ability but not the funds,” he said. “There have been several drivers who have come through that organization, like James Calado, Jack Harvey and Oliver Rowland. The organization took me from British go-kart to international go-kart.
 
“I was able to do well and prove myself and that took me into single-seaters in Europe. I did two years of Formula Renault, where I won the championship then moved into Formula 3 in 2016. When that program stopped, I started racing GTs.”
 
Barnicoat spent four years as a factory driver with McLaren and most recently competed in the GT World Challenge Europe, where he earned one pole position last season. He also made his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut this year, as well as his first WeatherTech Championship start in an Inception Racing McLaren at the Motul Petit Le Mans.
 
“We are taking Vasser Sullivan Lexus to the next level and building this bench of exceedingly competitive drivers is the next step to producing the kind of results we expect,” team principals Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan said in a joint statement. “… Ben’s ability and competitiveness in the world of sports cars has proven he belongs with us.”
 
During his tenure with McLaren, the Chesterfield, England driver played a key role in development of the 720S GT3, finishing second in the car’s debut at the 2020 Bathurst 12 Hour in Australia.
 
His experience isn’t limited to GT cars, however. Barnicoat has also competed in the European Le Mans Series and finished runner-up in the Asian Le Mans Series racing in the Le Mans Prototype 2 class, earned multiple race wins in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship and the Formula Renault Eurocup.
 
“It was an easy transition from Formula to sports car racing,” Barnicoat said. “When I drove for McLaren, we had some good results. Saw some highs and lows. I did well enough to earn my place here on the Lexus team. I raced mostly GTs in Europe. I did a brief spell in LMP2 in 2019 when I did the Europe Le Mans and Asian Le Mans series with Carlin Motorsport.”
 
Barnicoat said the bonus is working with Hawksworth, who has been with the Lexus program since its inception and is entering his fourth season with Vasser Sullivan. Both grew up in the same region of the United Kingdom.
 
“I’m very happy to be here and have a teammate like Jack Hawksworth – another Brit! – and that works well,” Barnicoat said. “We call ourselves ‘Team Northern England.’ This is an amazing opportunity for me. It’s amazing to see the direction Lexus is going with its motorsport program and to have a teammate like Jack, you can’t ask for more.”
Ganassi Reloads with Sports Car Superstars
Bamber, Bourdais, Lynn and van der Zande a Formidable Two-Car DPi Lineup

 
January 6, 2022
By David Phillips
IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – With Earl Bamber, Sebastien Bourdais and Alex Lynn joining a returning Renger van der Zande for its expanded two-car Cadillac DPi assault on the 2022 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Chip Ganassi Racing added the speed and savvy that comes with a pair of overall and class wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts – not to mention four IndyCar titles – while retaining the services of an IMSA Prototype Challenge champion and Motul Petit Le Mans winner.
 
However, the drivers’ resumes only got their driving boots in the CGR door. In assembling a quartet to vie this year for the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) title while developing Cadillac’s challenger for the LMDh class debut in 2023, the team looked at more than race wins and championships.
 
“Drivers that we’ve always employed have followed what Chip believes,” says Mike Hull, managing director of CGR. “He wants to hire ‘big picture’ drivers; drivers with enormous talent who are totally unselfish with their teammates. Bamber, Bourdais, Renger and Alex all represent that very clearly.”
 
Given what’s on their plate, totally unselfish teammates are more paramount than ever at CGR. First, there’s the addition of a second Cadillac DPi to the program and all that entails, starting with developing chemistry among and between the driver pairings and crews, as well as with Cadillac. Then there are race wins and a championship to pursue even as CGR and Cadillac develop the new LMDh package.
 
It’s a dual challenge Bourdais embraces.
 
“We’ll be racing the full season with the DPi car and developing a new car, so it’s going to be a lot of fun,” he says. “Obviously, I’ve done full IMSA seasons with Cadillac (in 2020 along with the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup races in 2021) and have a familiarity with the car. It’s a series I enjoy and a car I enjoy driving.”
 
Perhaps best known for his four consecutive IndyCar championships and 37 race wins, Bourdais also gained a wealth of experience developing and racing prototypes with the Peugeot, Pescarolo and Dome works teams at Le Mans and elsewhere.
 
“It’s something I very much enjoy, trying to sort out the character of the car, optimizing the performance,” the 42-year-old Frenchman says. “I’m from an engineering background and it’s fun to try to tie the (engineering and driving) together; try to feel what’s going on and find solutions.”
 
And lest we forget, Bourdais was a key player when CGR spearheaded the Ford GT effort in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class from 2016-19. Although they parted company at the conclusion of the program, CGR certainly didn’t delete Bourdais’ number from their contacts.
 
“I was so impressed with (Sebastien) from the very first test we did with him in the Ford GT project,” says Hull. “He has this unique ability to be right 99.8 percent of the time in reading the car. Not only can he read the car, he can set direction on the car very clearly. He is not only very precise, he is very direct. So, he fits us well because we’re very direct people. And his teammates pick right up on that, whether they agree with it or not. Then the communication channel is wide open.”
 
Like Bourdais, CGR’s interest in Bamber stems from the Ford GT days, though as one of the fiercest competitors (with Porsche) rather than as a teammate. The New Zealander left an impression, one enhanced by two episodes at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta last fall.
 
Although an impressive test for CGR in October secured a ride, Bamber confirmed that selection when he was pressed into service at Motul Petit Le Mans in place of Kevin Magnussen, who fell ill on race morning.
 
“He tested the car two weeks prior to Petit, but there was no plan for Earl to race there,” Hull recalls. “So, his audition was a 10-hour race in front of everybody including his fellow teammates and Chip. Chip said at some point, ‘Man, that Bamber guy is pretty good.’ And I said, ‘Chip, remember we talked about that. That’s why we hired him!’
 
“Earl is a really terrific, knowledgeable race car driver. It was evidenced by what he did for us at Petit, but we knew that before. By the mere fact that he’s won Le Mans twice in a prototype car (2015 and ’17 in Porsche 919 Hybrids) is certainly a good résumé item, but we need to continue to fill that résumé up. So that’s what we’re planning to do.”
 
He’ll get no argument from Bamber on that front.
 
“Chip Ganassi Racing is one of the teams that you want to drive for in your career,” Bamber says. “It’s refreshing to be here. I followed Scott Dixon (CGR’s long-time IndyCar driver and fellow Kiwi) through most of my junior career, and now it’s amazing to be able to work with Scott and just learn from guys like both the Mikes (Hull and team manager O’Gara) and obviously Chip. We fought against them for many years in GTLM and it’s exciting to now see the ‘other’ side and how they do things. It’s a place I can learn and grow as a driver.”
 
Bamber may well have put his finger on another commonality shared by CGR’s choice of its WeatherTech Championship lineup.
 
“Hiring a race driver, it’s about the match-up at a moment in time,” Hull says. “You have to forecast that moment in time when you’re hiring drivers to where they potentially will be with their contribution at the end of a program or at the end of their contract before talking about contract extension. Not where they’ve just come from or what they’ve just achieved; it’s what they can achieve with our team going forward.”

 

 

 

Let’s Do It Again: Johnson, No. 48 Cadillac Back in ‘22
Seven-Time NASCAR Champion Teaming with Kobayashi, Rockenfeller, Lopez
for Michelin Endurance Cup Races

 
December 28, 2021
By Godwin Kelly
IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – He’s back.
 
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson will make another run at the Rolex 24 At Daytona and IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup in 2022 with support again from an all-star roster of drivers from around the world.
 
Action Express Racing announced Tuesday that, in conjunction with 14-time NASCAR Cup Series champion team Hendrick Motorsports, it will enter the No. 48 Ally Cadillac DPi-V.R in the four endurance races on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship calendar, beginning with next month’s Rolex 24 and including the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts in March, the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen in June and the Motul Petit Le Mans in October.
 
Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Rockenfeller return to the No. 48 lineup from this year, with Jose Maria Lopez the fourth driver. Kobayashi and Lopez teamed with Mike Conway – the endurance-race driver for Action Express’ No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac – to take the overall win at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
 
“This is a phenomenal team,” Johnson said of the 2022 lineup.
 
Johnson, Kobayashi, Rockenfeller and Simon Pagenaud finished second in this year’s Rolex 24, 4.704 seconds behind the winning No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class. It wound up their best result in the four endurance races. The aim is to improve on that.
 
“Last season we finished second just a few seconds back,” Johnson said, who will make his ninth Rolex 24 start next month. “It’s hard to imagine that a 24-hour race is only decided by (less than five) seconds. We didn’t have the speed we needed on our final run.

 
“I’m really excited to be back with Kobayashi, plus Mike and Jose,” he added. “We have such a strong lineup, it just blows my mind. Two of the four guys I will race with at Daytona are champions of the (FIA World Endurance Championship). This is a huge opportunity for me.”
 
Lopez has one past IMSA start (at Sebring in 2007) and the Rolex 24 in January will mark his only appearance in the No. 48 in 2022. Johnson, Kobayashi and Rockenfeller will carry the car forward at Sebring International Raceway, Watkins Glen International and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
The addition of the No. 48 Cadillac lifts the number of DPi entries for the Rolex 24 to seven. Gary Nelson, team manager at Action Express, believes the No. 48 crew and drivers are up to the challenge of taking on six full-season DPi foes.
 
“It’s good to have Jimmie back leading the driver lineup in the Ally Cadillac for the four endurance events in 2022,” Nelson said. “We have a little more time to get up to speed this time for the Rolex 24 in January. The team showed a lot of promise last year, finishing second at the Rolex and showing strong pace at Sebring.
 
“We will be working closely with Rick Hendrick’s group led by Chad Knaus. Jose Maria is new to the car this year. He is a Le Mans 24 winner and WEC champion, and I am sure he will be up to speed very quickly when he steps in the Ally Cadillac.”
 
Lopez chuckled when the 38-year-old Argentinian thought of himself as being a “rookie” for the Rolex 24.
 
“It’s good to be a ‘rookie’ after 30 years of motor racing,” he said. “I’ve been trying to (race in North America) for a long time. I always liked IMSA and American racing. Finally, this year I’ll be part of an IMSA team.”
 
Lopez has captured the past two WEC championships with Kobayashi and Conway – in Le Mans Prototype 1 in 2019-20 and in Hypercar this year. The 38-year-old from Argentina is just as excited be partnering with Johnson as Johnson is with him.
 
“It’s really cool because, as a big fan of racing, I’ve been following Jimmie for a long time and now to be sharing a car with him is very nice,” Lopez said. “I have a lot of respect for him and I’m really happy to have him as a teammate.”
 
Rockenfeller felt the same.
 
“I’m very happy to be back and being with the team again, doing Daytona and finishing second, just missing the victory,” he said. “Very happy to be back with the team for the four endurance races and to race with Jimmie. I enjoy working with the team. I didn’t know Jimmie that much, but I have been following his career for a long time.”
 
Kobayashi is a two-time Rolex 24 winner, in 2019 and ’20 driving a Cadillac with Wayne Taylor Racing. The 35-year-old from Japan thinks the No. 48 will benefit from the experience of last season.
 
“This will be my second year with Jimmie,” Kobayashi said. “We will come into 2022 with the goal of winning races. I know Jose Maria quite well as my teammate in the WEC with Toyota. He will need a little time to get used to the Cadillac DPi-V.R, but he will be a fast addition to the team.
“Mike knows the car and the tracks in America. It is good he will be with us for the season. We had a lot of lessons to learn in 2021, as a team, which only makes us more confident for 2022.”
 
Johnson, who will drive a full IndyCar Series season in 2022 in addition to his WeatherTech Championship endurance schedule, is looking forward to absorbing as much as possible from his thoroughbred sports car co-drivers.
 
“I’m very honored to be part of this crew,” he said. “This is helping me in this high-downforce world that I have very little experience in. It’s great to have such fast drivers to help us get to victory lane and also such friendly drivers to help teach me and help grow my craft.”
 
On-track action for the 2022 WeatherTech Championship season begins with the Roar Before the Rolex 24 from Jan. 21-23 at Daytona International Speedway. Rolex 24 race week runs Jan. 27-30. The 60th edition of the famed 24-hour race starts at 1:40 p.m. ET Saturday, Jan. 29.

 

 

 

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Mazda Shifts Focus to Grassroots following Epic DPi Swansong
Manufacturer’s IMSA Involvement Remains Strong in MX-5 Cup

 
December 17, 2021
By John Oreovicz
IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Excitement and anticipation are building for the 2023 season, when BMW, Audi and Porsche will enter the future LMDh category in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship along with prototype holdovers Acura and Cadillac. But one traditional prototype competitor won’t be joining those marques for IMSA’s next era.
 
Mazda Motorsports announced in February that its successful RT24-P that competes in the current Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class would be retired at the end of the 2021 season.
 
Mazda is realigning its motorsports involvement, focusing on its role as a North American leader in grassroots racing. That includes the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by Goodrich Tires, the exciting and ultra-competitive entry-level sports car series that featured 10 races decided by less than 0.6 seconds this season in its first year under IMSA sanction.
 
The Mazda DPi program, along with operational partner Multimatic Motorsports, went out on a high note. After falling three laps behind while diagnosing and repairing a faulty spark plug, Harry Tincknell took the lead in the season finale, the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, with just 22 minutes remaining in the 10-hour endurance classic last month. The No. 55 Mazda co-driven by Oliver Jarvis and Jonathan Bomarito went on to take the checkered flag and win its final race.
“That was not an easy win, but we raced hard until the very end of that race,” said Mo Murray, who stepped into the leadership role at Mazda Motorsports prior to the 2021 season. “It was really almost like a fairytale way to end the program – the way we won the race, the way we came from three laps down thanks to the leadership on the pit box from (Multimatic Vice President) Larry Holt and (engineer) Leena Gade. It was just an exceptional way to end the program – very gratifying and rewarding.
 
“‘Don’t ever give up’ absolutely resonates with the Mazda brand the idea that you do not take your foot off the gas until you’ve passed the checkered flag.”
 
Mazda has always marched to the beat of a different drummer – or more accurately, a different powerplant.
 
Mazda’s sedan-based racers in the 1970s and the RX-7 and RX-8 that were mainstays of the GTU category all utilized rotary engines, and the prototype Mazda campaigned from 2014-2016 was diesel powered.
 
The attractive but more conventional RT24-P prototype debuted in 2017, and after a difficult initial campaign, Joest Racing took over mechanical development of the car in 2018 and ‘19. Bomarito and Tincknell scored Mazda’s first DPi win at Watkins Glen International in 2019, and the RT24-P achieved an additional six wins in IMSA competition. Multimatic has served as Mazda’s engineering partner since 2020.
 
John Doonan, now IMSA’s president, was director of Mazda Motorsports from 2011-2019. He paid tribute to the Mazda’s North American racing heritage at Michelin Raceway.
 
“It’s bittersweet,” Doonan said. “I grew up a Mazda fan from when I was a little boy and had the opportunity to work with the brand I fell in love with. There has been a Mazda in almost every race in the 51-year history of IMSA, with so many great moments … the first win at Lime Rock in 1973, through the RS days, the GTU days and eventually prototypes.
 
“So, I’m sad to see them end the prototype program, both from a personal and an IMSA standpoint,” he added. “The MX-5 Cup puts on a great show every weekend, and I’m glad we’re keeping that in our portfolio. It shows they’re not going away forever.”
 
Murray is a native of Ireland who has worked in two- and four-wheeled motorsports since the 1980s. After starting out in a mechanical role, he moved into a series of marketing and managerial positions, giving him the perfect skill set to take over direction of the Mazda DPi program while refining Mazda Motorsports’ future direction.
 
Mazda officials are extremely proud that, on any given weekend, there are more Mazdas racing (and winning) than any other automotive brand. According to the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), Mazda makes up 55 percent of all cars racing on any given weekend.
 
That’s why Murray says Mazda’s retreat from the prototype ranks in no way reflects a lessening of the brand’s commitment to racing.
 
“This is not a strategic withdrawal or backing away from motorsports,” Murray said. “It’s simply a tactical decision, that the relationship of the prototype program to our brand is now being outweighed by the relationship with other programs – MX-5 Cup and our grassroots program – and what the brand needs, which are around creating a community of people living their best life through motorsports.
 
“That’s so important to Mazda,” he continued. “That’s the real core of why we do this. Mazda has a deep belief that through all its initiatives, but certainly through motorsports, we have an opportunity to allow people to live out their dreams, to live out their best life. For people that want to drive a race car, we want to be the enabler of that dream, the brand that allows them access to go chase their dream.”
 
Doonan, who spent 16 years working for Mazda, believes the marque will eventually return to the WeatherTech Championship.
 
“I think it’s ‘goodbye for now,’” he said. “Mazda appreciates the love of driving, and how motorsports can leverage that brand and help it grow, especially among the enthusiast audience. The size of their brand in the marketplace is no comparison to their heart and their passion.”
he Big Reveal: Porsche Shows off LMDh Car Photos,
Names Factory Drivers
Cameron, Nasr Join Prototype Project; Pfaff Motorsports to GTD PRO;
Heylen Named Porsche Cup Recipient

 
December 18, 2021
By Mark Robinson
IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Porsche fanned the flames of the future Saturday by unveiling the first images of its LMDh car that will compete in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship beginning in 2023 and naming multi-time IMSA champions Dane Cameron and Felipe Nasr as factory drivers for the project.
 
The announcements came during Porsche’s annual Night of Champions honoring the German marque’s global motorsports accomplishments for the current year and previewing the season ahead. The event was held virtually due to the ongoing pandemic.
 
In addition to the LMDh news, Porsche revealed that the 2021 WeatherTech Championship GTD title-winning team, Pfaff Motorsports, will compete in the WeatherTech Championship’s new GTD PRO class in 2022, running a Porsche 911 GT3 R for full-season drivers Matt Campbell and Mathieu Jaminet. Nasr will join the No. 9 “Plaid Porsche” for the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup races.
 
And Jan Heylen, who laid claim to a pair of IMSA championships in 2021, was awarded the prestigious Porsche Cup that goes to the most successful private Porsche driver of the year.
 
Volker Holzmeyer, the new president and CEO of Porsche Motorsport North America (PMNA), also announced that Troy Bundy was named PMNA’s Motorsport One Make and GT Sports Manager. In the role, Bundy will assume responsibility for series oversight of all one-make operations, including the Porsche Carrera Cup North America Presented by the Cayman Islands and multiplatform GT programs in IMSA.
LMDh Anticipation Ignited with Car Photos, Naming of Drivers
 
Photos of Porsche’s LMDh were highly anticipated since they are the first images of an actual race car from any of the five manufacturers committed to competing in the WeatherTech Championship’s new top-tier prototype class when it debuts in 2023. Porsche is partnering with Team Penske and chassis manufacturer Multimatic on the project under the Porsche Penske Motorsport banner. The team will compete in both the WeatherTech Championship and the FIA World Endurance Championship.
 
"We are working all out with our partner Penske on the development of the new LMDh prototype and collaborate closely with the chassis manufacturer Multimatic at all times," said Thomas Laudenbach, manager of Porsche Motorsport. "In January, we will begin intensive testing to ensure that we are optimally prepared for our 2023 competition debut."
 
The team will have a pair of championship-winning drivers at their disposal in Cameron and Nasr. Cameron, the 33-year-old from Newport Beach, California, is a three-time titlist in the WeatherTech Championship. He won the GTD title in 2014 with Turner Motorsport, the 2016 Daytona Prototype international (DPi) crown with Action Express Racing and the 2019 DPi championship driving for Team Penske. He has 15 career IMSA race wins.
 
Nasr won DPi championships for Action Express Racing in 2018 and 2021. The 29-year-old from Brasilia, Brazil, who also raced in Formula One in 2015-16, has seven career IMSA victories. He is ready to get started on his Porsche journey, beginning with the upcoming season with Pfaff.
 
“I’m very excited to be joining the Porsche family and team Pfaff ahead of the 2022 season,” Nasr said. “I always love going to Daytona and having a shot of winning the Rolex 24; this time will be completely new to in the GTD PRO class. Hopefully, it will a smooth transition and a fast learning process with the help of my well-experienced teammates Matt and Mathieu.”
Pfaff Ready to Move on up after Taking GTD Title
 
Pfaff Motorsports is moving to the new GTD PRO class after conquering GT Daytona (GTD) in 2021, when co-drivers Zacharie Robichon and Laurens Vanthoor had a sizzling finish to the season – winning three of the last five races and finishing second in the other two – to take home the driver and team titles. It was quite the turnaround for the team that missed nearly all of the 2020 WeatherTech Championship season due to travel restrictions from its home base in Canada.
 
“2022 will be just our third full season in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship,” said Chris Pfaff, team president and CEO, “and in that short time, I’m incredibly proud of what the whole Pfaff Motorsports team has accomplished, winning four races and the GTD championship in 2021. We’re excited to be taking the next big step and are grateful for the confidence that Porsche has shown in us. With an amazing driver lineup and a great team behind them, all of the ingredients are in place for a successful season.”
Heylen Takes Home Prestigious Porsche Cup Honor
 
Heylen was named recipient of the Porsche Cup after winning the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge championship and being part of the lineup with Patrick Long and Trent Hindman that captured the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup GT Daytona (GTD) title in the WeatherTech Championship. Presented annually since 1970, the Porsche Cup goes to the most successful private Porsche driver and includes a new personal Porsche for the winner valued at 150,000 Euros in addition to the prized trophy.
 
“Not many people have won the Porsche Cup (racing) with just one team in one country,” Heylen said. “It’s just been a special year between GTD and winning the Endurance Cup and then the GT4 championship, which was a lot of fun; I really enjoyed racing in the Michelin Pilot Challenge.
 
“You can only win this championship if the opportunity is given to you and you’re in the right cars and with the right team and teammates. So, I’m really grateful, not just for winning this but for being part of Wright Motorsports. It was really a special year and to end it with winning the Porsche Cup is really, really cool.”
 
Heylen said he will rely on his good friend Long, the longtime Porsche factory driver who recently announced his retirement from fulltime racing, for advice on which Porsche model to choose.
 
“For me to have a chance to have a car like that is really cool because it’s something that I would never get for myself,” Heylen said. “It’s a really unique gift; it’s just super cool. Racing 911s, they have a lot of good cars, but I’d really like to have a 911. I’m talking to Patrick to see what the better car would be.”

 

 

 

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December 14, 2021
By John Oreovicz
IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Bryan Herta put together a quietly effective career as a driver in Indy cars and sports cars. These days, he’s making a lot more noise as a team owner.
 
Best known for victories in two of the most historically significant Indianapolis 500s (the 100-year anniversary of the first running and the actual 100th Indy 500), Bryan Herta Autosport (in association with Curb-Agajanian) just notched its third consecutive Touring Car class (TCR) championship in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.
 
Michael Lewis and Taylor Hagler drove the No. 77 Hyundai Veloster N TCR to the class crown, while BHA’s No. 98 and No. 33 Hyundai Elantra N TCR entries finished second and fourth in the standings, respectively. Hagler became the first female driver to claim a Michelin Pilot Challenge title, while Lewis added a second championship as a Hyundai driver to his 2019 class triumph.
 
“We had a great year again in the Michelin Pilot Challenge in IMSA,” said Herta. “This year we introduced the Elantra N TCR, alongside our venerable Veloster N TCR. So we had a dual program, with two Elantras and two Velosters going, and we were able to bring home the driver’s championship, the manufacturer’s championship and the team championship.
“They don’t always go as well as this year did, so we’re definitely trying to enjoy it as much as possible.”
 
Maybe, but Herta’s team has been impressive since joining the series – taking the TCR driver and team titles in 2019 (missing the manufacturer crown by a single point) before sweeping all three championships the past two seasons.
 
BHA started out running a single Indy Lights car in 2009 before entering a car for Dan Wheldon in the 2011 Indianapolis 500. That small but mighty effort ended with a surprise second Indy victory for Wheldon. After five years on his own, Herta forged a partnership with Andretti Autosport, and the Andretti/BHA with Curb-Agajanian car driven by Alexander Rossi claimed an even more remarkable victory at Indianapolis in 2016.
 
Herta drove for Michael Andretti’s IndyCar and IMSA sports car teams from 2003-08 (including a class victory in the 2007 Twelve Hours of Sebring), and he credits Andretti’s expansive vision as a team owner as a huge influence to diversify BHA into sports car racing with Hyundai.
 
“I take a lot of inspiration from Michael in that regard,” Herta said. “He runs cars in multiple disciplines, and he’s built a really substantial business by having a very diverse motorsport platform and offerings. So I’m inspired by that, but I’m also a little bit daunted by it, because Michael is really good at it. We’re trying to evolve in a similar sort of way.
 
“I’m lucky to have great people in the team, top to bottom. Sean Jones and Eric Chase are partners on the IMSA team, but you don’t hear that much about them and what they do behind the scenes.
“We have a tremendous partnership with Hyundai; we’re very fortunate to be aligned with that brand in a really significant way,” Herta continued. “We want to continue to grow that business. We’re going to have six TCR cars on the grid next year in the Michelin series (including those that BHA prepares and supports for other teams). … Those are cars we built from the ground up. We literally bought Elantra N cars from our local dealer, stripped them out and turned them into racing cars. I’m really proud of that project, so we want to keep doing a great job for Hyundai and growing that.”
 
Clearly, Herta is not afraid to dream big. But he’s also pragmatic enough to chase growth at a manageable pace.
 
“If we had tried to do what we’re doing today back in 2009, I’m certain I would have failed miserably at it,” he admitted. “But I’ve learned and continued to evolve, and we’ve grown a bigger staff that’s allowed us to do the things that we’re doing now. And we keep trying to do bigger and better things.
 
“I’d like to do something in the WeatherTech Championship, possibly with Hyundai. We have a great group of people, from the engineering and the management side, and I believe if we rolled any car into the work bay right now, they could operate it at a very high level.”
 
Herta continues as a co-entrant with Andretti Autosport in the Indianapolis 500, but his more significant interest in the IndyCar Series is his 21-year-old son Colton, a six-time race winner (two more than Bryan managed in his career) and 2022 championship favorite. The senior Herta serves as his son’s strategist during races.
 
“I have a lot of awe for what he’s doing,” Bryan Herta said. “It’s an incredible time in my life because I get to be on the radio with Colton. That’s a unique thing to be able to share with him, and I know it’s not going to last forever, so I’m trying to savor every minute of that.”

 

Moment Arrives for Nunez with Move to Action Express
Endorsements from Fellow Drivers Helped Seal the Deal

 
December 13, 2021
By Holly Cain
IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The smile was unmistakable. And unmovable. Even as Tristan Nunez made his way around the paddock at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta preparing for the Motul Petit Le Mans season-ender, the young driver couldn’t help but think about the opportunity ahead.
 
As the final checkered flew, Nunez was set to join Action Express Racing in 2022 – the same organization that drove to the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) title in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with its runner-up result at Michelin Raceway on Nov. 13.
 
Nunez will co-drive with Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R in the 2022 season that begins in little more than a month. They shared the car for the first time in a test last week at Daytona International Speedway.
 
Following a successful five-year DPi class tenure with Mazda Motorsports from 2016-20, when he earned a victory at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in 2019 along with 11 podium finishes. Nunez competed this year for WIN Autosport in Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2), claiming a win at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen in June.
 
“It’s honestly life-changing,’’ Nunez said of his move to the reigning DPi champion team. “Action Express has been a team that I’ve really looked up to for my whole racing career. They’ve always been in the fight. They execute races beautifully. And I’ve always looked up to that.”
 
It began innocently enough. Nunez’s phone rang. On the other end was Gary Nelson, Action Express team manager.
 
“Honestly, when I was sitting and having lunch that one day, and I got the call from Gary, my jaw kind of dropped,” the 25-year-old Floridian said. “I didn’t really know what to say. Just really life changing.
 
“And I think the timing was perfect as well. I feel like I’m just now starting my career, which is funny because I’ve been in professional racing for eight years. But I feel like I’ve been, this whole time, getting ready for this moment. I’ve almost been getting my master’s (degree) in racing, if you will. 
 
“I’m thankful to Mazda for giving me the opportunity that groomed me into the driver that I am today. And I look forward to winning races and championships with Action Express and Cadillac.”
 
Nelson’s decision to hire Nunez was well contemplated. Ultimately, Nunez received high praise even from drivers who also wanted the Action Express seat – a rarity in the racing world.
 
The long-term outlook of adding a young, highly motivated talent like Nunez to the team was an especially attractive part of the partnership, Nelson said. Nunez is replacing Felipe Nasr in the fulltime lineup as Action Express gears up to become one of Cadillac’s pillar teams in LMDh, the new prototype replacing DPi in 2023.
 
“We found out we were going to lose one (driver) because his contract had run out and he’d made a deal with another group,’’ Nelson explained. “So that left us searching for a driver, and in the process, the sport grew some long-term prospects with 2023 LMDh coming. So, all of a sudden, the whole landscape changed and we wanted long-term agreements. 
 
“We started looking at all the drivers and obviously, there’s the brand-name guys everybody talks about. But somehow, someone mentioned Tristan Nunez. He was on our radar but not really up there, so I asked our folks to look at his record and talk to people that had worked with him. I gave him a call and talked to him, and all of a sudden, I moved him to the top of the list.
 
“Then after I called him,’’ Nelson recalled, shaking his head, “I started getting calls from people who he had worked with as co-drivers. And one of them called me and said, ‘I heard you talked to Tristan.’ And he said, ‘I’d love to have the ride with Action Express and I think I could do a great job for you, but you picked the right guy.’”
 
Nunez is certainly grateful for this chance with a team that is firing on all cylinders. In the last three years Derani has driven for Action Express Racing, it has earned six DPi victories – beginning with the 2019 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts wins – 17 podium finishes, a championship runner-up (2019) and then the title this year.
 
Nelson believes the addition of Nunez not only ensures the continuity of high competition but raises the level of expectation. And his new hire is fully on board with that.
 
“I’ve been in professional racing for eight years and I think my age is a big selling point, in that I have a lot of experience but I’ve still got a long ways to go,’’ Nunez said. “The past couple years I’ve really come out of my shell and feel like I’ve been one of the top guys out there. And it’s nice those guys have seen that.
 
“You know how racing is. You have some bad luck and you feel as a driver you aren’t getting the exposure you need to pursue your career. Those guys look beyond just results. They look at everything.
 
“Whatever they found, they liked.’’
 
Nelson agrees.
 
“The guy is just committed,” he said. “He takes the job so seriously. He’s going to find a way to get better.
 
“And that’s really what we do. We’re not a team of superstars, we’re just a bunch of guys who have the commitment to win. We want to get trophies.”

 

How One Race More Than Four Years Ago Led
to a Top IMSA Ride for Alex Lynn
A Winning Debut at Sebring in 2017 Put Alex Lynn
on Chip Ganassi Racing’s Radar

 
December 9, 2021
By David Phillips
IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Although Chip Ganassi Racing’s selection of Alex Lynn to join a newly expanded two-car Cadillac DPi program for the 2022 IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship might seem to have come out of the proverbial blue, the relationship has actually been a long time coming.
 
“I first raced in IMSA in 2017 at Sebring with Wayne Taylor Racing and we managed to win,” recalls Lynn. “Then my career took a different trajectory in Formula E, but to be honest I really loved that experience in IMSA and I’ve always wanted to come back.”
 
By no means coincidentally, Lynn has been on CGR’s radar since a few hours into that same Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts, when he teamed with brothers Jordan and Ricky Taylor to seize the overall win.
 
“I first watched Alex firsthand when he drove for Wayne Taylor and saw what he did at Sebring,” says Mike Hull, managing director for Chip Ganassi Racing. “I thought he really helped to drive that team to victory there.
 
“I love watching races from our timing stand. I watch guys to see what they’re doing for an entire segment. Are they fast at the beginning and do they slow down? What’s their average speed? Are they maintaining good pace in the last laps of their segment? I watched the whole race, particularly when Alex was in the car, and I thought, ‘Man, this guy’s pretty good.’
 
“Since then, I developed a communication relationship with him and just followed what he was doing, when he went to Mahindra Formula E and so on. I thought, ‘If there’s ever an opportunity, we at least want to try and get together.’ And we have.”
 
What Hull saw was the former FIA GP3 champion and Williams Formula One development driver doing stellar work as a factory driver for Aston Martin in the World Endurance Championship as well as for the Virgin, Jaguar and Mahindra teams in Formula E. How stellar? Co-driving the Aston Martin Vantage to a GTE Pro win in the 2020 24 Hours of Le Mans and scoring a popular win in the London ePrix, among other successes.
 
But, thanks to a dozen successful (and enjoyable) hours at Sebring in 2017, Lynn kept his sights on a return to the WeatherTech Championship, particularly with the introduction of the LMDh prototype on the horizon. Lynn was rewarded in October when he – along with Renger van der Zande, Sebastien Bourdais and Earl Bamber – were named to drive CGR’s two-car Daytona Prototype international (DPi) attack in 2022.
 
“I loved that first experience in IMSA and I’ve always wanted to come back,” the 28-year-old Brit says. “And I would definitely say the way that the sports car racing landscape is changing, I was really looking to coming to race in IMSA fulltime to join this new wave of sports car racing. For me, this is the perfect opportunity.”
 
If Lynn had any doubts about the quality of that opportunity, they evaporated the moment he walked into the CGR shop in Indianapolis. 
 
“I’m someone who really loves the heritage of the sport,” he says. “So when you see the trophy case and the trophies around the shop from 20 or 30 years ago, you understand this is a proper team. They only go racing to do one thing: that is to win. And to represent not only Cadillac as a brand but Chip Ganassi Racing is really an honor.”
 
Lynn joins CGR at an exciting time in the team’s sports car racing evolution. Not only have they added a second Cadillac DPi-V.R to the 2022 program, the coming “new wave” of sports car racing will feature introduction of LMDh, using hybrid powertrains mated with internal combustion engines, in 2023.
  
“When you add a hybrid powertrain and an electrical element to any racing car, there’s now a whole new amount of performance that can be unlocked,” he says. “Obviously, the combustion engine has its limitations. The more you can do now with a hybrid powertrain and a hybrid rear axle – or any axle, for example – there is an unlimited amount of tools available to a team to add performance to the car. So there is going to be a lot of crossover between (Formula E and LMDh), and I think that was maybe part of the process in my selection for the team.”
 
It figures to be a fascinating season for Lynn and CGR in 2022 as they ramp up to a two-car program and strive to win races and the final DPi championship even as they prepare for LMDh. It figures to be a season fraught with challenges or, as Lynn sees it, opportunities.
 
“I see it as an opportunity because the team is scaling up from one to two cars (and) every procedure we put in place for next season will be carried on into 2023,” he says. “So if we can get it right first time, there’s an opportunity to win the championship next year and the races that come with it and be fully prepared for 2023.”
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Castroneves Eager to Build on Success with New Team
The Reigning Indy 500 Winner Settles Right in with Meyer Shank Racing
at Daytona Test

 
December 8, 2021
By Godwin Kelly
IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The 2022 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season unofficially started Tuesday with testing at Daytona International Speedway for the rapidly approaching Rolex 24 At Daytona.
 
Among the 20 teams in the garage area was the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura ARX-05 DPi featuring motorsports favorite Helio Castroneves, who as usual had a big smile on his face, glad to be back in the saddle again.
 
Only 24 days separated the 2021 season finale at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta and this test session. No matter. Castroneves was in his favorite element – at a racetrack with a race car.
 
“This is always great,” the 46-year-old Brazilian driver said. “I’m actually surprised how many cars are here, to be honest. Arriving (Monday), I thought it would be just a couple of cars, and all of sudden, full grid.”
 
IMSA and Daytona have helped re-energize Castroneves’ racing career. It started in 2020 when he captured his first professional championship after more than two decades as a driver, wheeling a Team Penske Acura.
 
That momentum carried over to 2021 when he co-drove Wayne Taylor Racing’s Acura DPi to an overall win in the Rolex 24. He doubled down in May and captured his record-tying fourth Indianapolis 500 driving a Meyer Shank Honda. Now, that stirring one-off performance has turned into a season-long IndyCar Series contract with MSR for 2022, along with a ride in the team’s Daytona Prototype international (DPi) Acura for the WeatherTech Championship endurance races next year.
 
“There’s no question that Daytona for me was a beginning of a great season with Wayne Taylor Racing, with my former championship teammates (Ricky Taylor and Alexander Rossi), because in 2020 we won the series,” Castroneves said. “For me, it was real cool to get that unfinished business with Ricky.
“Now with MSR, what a great opportunity to start creating another chapter, not only my chapter but in Mike’s chapter. We are looking forward to hoping to continue our success in this amazing young team. The sky is the limit.”
 
The “Mike” he was referring to is co-owner Michael Shank, who has always taken the hands-on approach. He is deeply involved in every facet of the team. From time to time you will catch him in the garage with a wrench in his hand.
 
“Not only Mike’s passion for racing, but his history he has in racing and where he has come from,” Castroneves said, “and having a relationship with Jim Meyer, who is co-owner of the team. Those guys, the way they are building this, there is so much we can create.”

 
Castroneves will have two new co-drivers next season with Oliver Jarvis and Tom Blomqvist, but he expects the magic that started two years ago to continue – and that began with this two-day test scheduled to end on Wednesday.
 
“Always learning,” Castroneves said with a grin. “Especially now that I have new teammates with Oliver and Tom. Basically, we all want to improve and that’s what it’s all about. Get yourself better. Improve yourself, so you can keep going faster.”
 
Asked if he wants to collect another Rolex watch presented to all class winners in the Rolex 24, Castroneves didn’t hesitate. “Absolutely,” he said, “I have two arms. I can use both.”
The Big Picture: IMSA Manufacturers Talk Present and Future
Sports Car Racing Is Special to GM, Ford, Toyota Leaders

 
December 8, 2021
By John Oreovicz
IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – December used to be a quiet time in the racing world. Not anymore. Cars aren’t on track throughout most of North America, but the industry is abuzz.
 
The second annual Online Race Industry Week webinar presented by EPARTRADE and RACER magazine last week included an array of guests from the motorsports spectrum. Of particular note to sports car fans, IMSA President John Doonan and FIA World Endurance Championship CEO Frederic Lequien were featured speakers on the opening day.
 
Another day was devoted to auto manufacturers, including representatives from IMSA participants General Motors, Toyota and Ford. Each had interesting takes on the landscape.
 
Jim Campbell – Vice President, GM Performance and Motorsport
 
Campbell noted that GM Racing was highly successful in 2021, with Chevrolet winning championships in NASCAR (Cup and Xfinity), NHRA and IMSA (Corvette Racing’s second consecutive GT Le Mans (GTLM) class title with drivers Jordan Taylor and Antonio Garcia), while the Action Express Racing duo of Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani earned the IMSA Daytona Prototype international (DPi) crown in a Cadillac.
 
Campbell added that GM’s new 134,000-square foot technical center is nearing completion near Charlotte, North Carolina. The facility utilized by GM-affiliated stock car and sports car teams will include multiple full-motion simulators and stationary simulators.
 
“You can take nothing for granted in racing,” Campbell said. “You have to have a certain amount of paranoia: Are you doing enough versus the competition?”
 
Campbell confirmed that 2022 will be a transitional season for GM as it splits its Corvette effort between the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the FIA WEC. GM intends to be well positioned for 2023 when the introduction of LMDh will also allow its top-level Cadillac IMSA prototypes to compete for overall victory at WEC races, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
 
“It was a big decision, but it’s the right decision to have Cadillac go for the overall win at Le Mans,” Campbell said. “Obviously, we’ve been doing just that in the IMSA series, and have won at the top level in DP (Daytona Prototype) and now DPi. So, Cadillac going for the overall win (at Le Mans) is the right thing to do, and it’s a big effort. We’re all in on it, and we’ll have a partnership with Chip Ganassi Racing, Dallara, and we’re doing the powertrain out of our facility in Pontiac, Michigan. We’re focused on racing in North America for the overall win, and in WEC, where obviously Le Mans is a big part of the equation.
 
“It’s a big job, but we’re looking forward to it and actually it’s going to be super exciting,” he added. “The work that (IMSA Chairman) Jim France has done, and Pierre Fillion of the ACO, has been incredible to bring those two categories and race series together so we can race globally. It’s really an amazing thing.”
 
Campbell also acknowledged changes within the Corvette program that will send the Corvette C8.R driven by Nick Tandy and Tommy Milner abroad to compete in the WEC in 2022. The C8.R is being developed into a GT3 specification for 2024 that will be offered to customers worldwide for the first time.
 
“A lot to learn for us there, but I’m really looking forward to it,” Campbell said. “Certainly, we’ve had a great run with Corvette Racing since we debuted it in 1999. I was honored to be part of the group that brought that program to the racetrack.
 
“We’ve had a lot of success with that program over the years, winning drivers and manufacturers championships in all the North American series, but also eight Le Mans wins in our class. It’s also been a win taking those learnings from the track back to the showroom Corvette. Both vehicles are better … it’s our gold standard in terms of tech transfer, for sure.”
David Wilson – President, Toyota Racing Development
 
Wilson’s long career at Toyota Racing Development started in sports cars, working with Dan Gurney’s All American Racers on the legendary Eagle Mk III program.
 
“On a personal level, sports car racing is near and dear to my heart,” said Wilson. “IMSA racing was always part of my makeup. As a 28-, 29-year-old engineer newly hired by Drino Miller at TRD, I had the great honor of being an engine engineer on what I still think is one of the finest sports cars that ever raced.
 
“When I started 32 years ago, it wasn’t too much of an exaggeration to say that TRD was a Southern California ‘speed shop’ for Toyota,” he added. “Yet we’ve come so far.”
 
TRD now has two facilities. Company headquarters in Costa Mesa, California, is what Wilson called “engine and powertrain centric, along with all our manufacturing operations.” A newer location in Charlotte specializes in vehicle dynamics and simulation.
 
While Toyota no longer runs a prototype in IMSA competition, its Le Mans Hypercar swept every race on the 2021 WEC calendar, including Le Mans. Toyota has chosen to highlight its Lexus brand in the U.S., running two RC F GT3 entries in the GT Daytona (GTD) class of the WeatherTech Championship with Vasser Sullivan Racing.

 
That changes slightly in 2022, with one Lexus moving to the new GTD PRO class and the other remaining in GTD. Toyota also joined the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge in 2021 with its Supra GT4.
 
“With the Lexus brand, we’ve had these fits and starts over the years with racing,” Wilson said. “Honestly until now, there wasn’t a clear mission statement. I think it’s so important for any racing program, from a manufacturer perspective, to have a clear idea of why it is we’re racing.
 
“Today, what makes me very happy, is Toyota as a brand fully recognizes why they race, and why it’s important for Lexus to add motorsports and racing to their DNA. It’s about adding performance as a brand attribute to Lexus. They obviously have luxury, quality and all that nailed. Now the focus is on performance. Wait ‘til you see some of the product coming down the pipeline. It is so exciting!”
Mark Rushbrook – Global Director, Ford Performance
 
No car manufacturer has a longer continuous history in motorsports than Ford.
 
“We’re founded and based on motorsports, and we plan to keep doing that into the future,” said Rushbrook.
 
Ford hasn’t had a factory racing presence in the WeatherTech Championship since the successful GT program that ran a dual IMSA/WEC program from 2016-19. The company does build a GT4 version of the Mustang that is a race winner in the Michelin Pilot Challenge. A hopeful segment of the Ford sports car fan base hopes and wonders if the legendary American pony car could be produced in a GT3 spec to go head-to-head with Corvette and other marques from around the world in the future.
 
Rushbrook resisted moderator attempts at confirming Ford could return to sports car racing soon, but he certainly left the door open.
 
“We are always looking at what our different options are in racing, and as you can see, we are active in so many different series right now,” he said. “We’re always trying to make it meaningful, in terms of the relevancy and the technology. We’re in it to win, telling the story, so we’re always studying different series and what makes sense for us.
 
“We love all forms of racing as long as we have a good technical story and relevance, and we’re reaching the right customer,” Rushbrook added. “Sports car racing is even more relevant because the car doesn’t just look like the car, in most cases, it is the car. Especially in GT3 and GT4 class, it’s the production body-in-white and a production-based engine that you start with. So in terms of direct relevancy, it doesn’t get any better for that opportunity.”

 

 

 

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The Next Chapter: Long Looks Ahead, Not Back
The Long-Time Porsche Star Relishes the Racing Memories while Focusing on the Future

 
December 1, 2021
By David Phillips
IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Perhaps the most difficult decision any successful athlete faces is when to call it quits, or at least enter the next phase of their career.
 
For every Tom Brady who taps into the Fountain of Youth, there’s a Johnny Unitas who hangs on that little bit too long only to become a shadow of his former self. Still others like Parnelli Jones or Nico Rosberg sense it’s best to bow out at or near the peak of their powers to focus on the next chapter of their autobiographies.
 
To that last list, add Patrick Long. Having accomplished everything he dreamed of during a career that saw him win most of the world’s classic sports car races, Porsche’s lone American “factory” driver revealed the 2021 Motul Petit Le Mans with Wright Motorsports would be his final start as a full-time race driver.
 
“I had a personal goal that I would finish my career with Porsche and evolve into something else,” says Long. “I’m trying to manifest that in what I want professionally and personally. We all have different paths. We all have different goals and we all have things that make us internally fulfilled. And racing is such a large part of that for me but it’s not my whole world. And I have to be honest with myself.” 
 
Anyone being honest with themselves would be hard-pressed to name an American driver who has achieved more success around the world across a greater variety of platforms than Patrick Long.
 
Consider that, in addition to 28 IMSA wins (including the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and Motul Petit Le Mans), Long’s lengthy list of triumphs includes the 12 Hours of Bathurst, the 24 Hours of the Nurburgring and the Bahrain FIA GT as well as the first victory for the Porsche 911 GT3R Hybrid in the 1000K at Zhuhai. What’s more, his resume also includes a class win in the Baja 1000, an ARCA win at New Jersey Motorsports Park and a pair of NASCAR K&N Series victories at Portland and Miller Motorsports Park.
 
Selecting one or two from that list is akin to picking a favorite child, but Long opts for what might be called bookend wins in a career hearkening back to the era of the great “all ‘rounders.”
 
“Going to Le Mans in 2004 as a rookie and being in a big battle in GT was certainly a big memory,” he says. “Certainly, the final race of 2020 … to go into a finale at Sebring and into the dark, just a crazy restart and the final 30 minutes was an absolute sprint against guys much younger and every bit as hungry – that was a really fun one.
 
“And then opportunities to race and win in different disciplines; my heroes were always the guys who raced three different kinds of race cars in the same weekend, (so) I had an aspiration to learn and experience new crafts in stock cars, touring cars, off-road, etc.”
 
Above and beyond the victories were the relationships he established during his long associations with some of the best teams in racing, some better known than others. 
 
“There were a number of multiyear periods with teams that allowed me to be an embedded part of the organization and build relationships,” Long says. “Certainly, Flying Lizard was a group that I grew, personally, inside of.

 
“Three years driving with Penske and winning Petit Le Mans in the LMP2 car for Roger, that was really special. A couple of years with Alex Job in Daytona Prototypes, one of the rare periods of my career where week-in and week-out we were racing for overall wins. I did five or six 24 Hours of Le Mans with Proton, and those were fun.
 
“Then to end my career – my full-time sports car career, I should say – with Porsche was a big goal of mine. This team (Wright Motorsports) I’ve been with since 2016, for 95 percent of my racing, is not as big of a name. But it’s that perfect scenario of going racing with a team of your friends – people you truly believe in but also enjoy spending time with and also finding success with. Living inside the organizations is the best part.”
Long has not driven his last race, but he plans to branch out into other activities. Make that continue to branch out, given that he co-founded the Porsche Young Driver Academy eight years ago and also took the lead in establishing a charity karting event to benefit Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg. He proudly notes the event is one of the leading contributors to the hospital and takes pains to add that Sebastien Bourdais has taken over a leadership role organizing the event following Long’s move back to his native Los Angeles. 
 
Then there’s Luftgekühlt, a series of “experiential car culture events” celebrating all things air-cooled, most especially air-cooled Porsches from the Pre-A 356 through the 993, which Long founded in 2014 together with Southern California creative director Howie Idelson.
 
“Creating something from scratch is always daunting,” says Long. “But from Day 1 we said the brand would make the decisions for itself based on demand, passion and people subscribing to what we’re doing. It’s opened the floodgates to a new type of car show which I describe as ‘a hipster coffee shop-meets-car gathering.’”
 
This new type of car show has grown to the point that a recent Los Angeles Luftgekühlt filled the Universal Studios back lot with Porsches. Nor is it restricted to the uniquely Southern California car culture, witness September’s successful Luftgekühlt in the Bottleworks District of Indianapolis
 
“It’s a great way to celebrate and introduce new people to the world of Porsche,” says Long. “And it’s a lot of fun to continue telling the story about a great company that’s given me everything.”
 
Not to mention a great way for one of America’s successful sports car racers to continue the journey into the next chapters of his life.

 

Andretti Autosport Returns in LMP3 for 2022, Eyes LMDh Program
Michael Andretti Is Eager for His Team to Be Part of the New Prototype Class

 
November 30, 2021
By Jeff Olson
IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Even as the team announced plans to continue competing in the Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) class in 2022, Andretti Autosport is still pursuing a manufacturer to participate in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s planned LMDh category, team CEO and chairman Michael Andretti said Monday.
 
“We definitely want to do it,” Andretti said during an interview for Online Racing Industry Week presented by epartrade.com and racer.com. “Obviously, it wouldn’t be a (2023) program. It would be a '24 program. We’re very interested in it and hopefully we can put something together soon.”
 
In the meantime, Andretti Autosport announced Tuesday that Jarett Andretti and Josh Burdon will be the 2022 full-season drivers of the No. 36 Gallant-sponsored Ligier JS P320 in the LMP3 class. Gabby Chaves and Rasmus Lindh will join them for the season opener, the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
 
LMDh will replace Daytona Prototype international (DPi) as the series’ top division in 2023. Five manufacturers and four teams have committed so far to the hybrid-based class. The series’ specifications are in line with Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) specs, allowing competitors to race LMDh cars in other series and events in addition to the WeatherTech Championship, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
 
“They did a great job working together with the FIA in Europe to come up with a package that you’ll be able to go and run Le Mans,” Michael Andretti said. “I think that was very important that we have equal rules for that.”
 
Andretti Autosport has programs in seven racing series, including its LMP3 program in the WeatherTech Championship. It has won the Indianapolis 500 five times and has four IndyCar Series championships.
 
Michael Andretti’s storied racing career includes four attempts at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In addition to IMSA, his team currently competes in IndyCar, Indy Lights, Formula E, Australian Supercars, Extreme E and Mexican Super Copa.
 
The structure of the LMDh program is attractive to his team’s future, Andretti said.
 
“I think they did a great job,” he said. “It’s very cost-effective for a manufacturer to come in now, where before it was a ‘he who has the most money is going to win’ type of thing. Now it’s going to be limited as to what they can spend and do. I think it’s going to make for a better series. There’s going to be a lot of interest.”
Jarett Andretti Anchors LMP3 Program
 
Andretti Autosport debuted the LMP3 program earlier this year in the IMSA Prototype Challenge, then moved to the WeatherTech Championship at mid-season. Jarett Andretti finished eighth in the final LMP3 standings.
 
The LMP3 program was a promise Michael Andretti made to his cousin John Andretti, who died of cancer in January 2020. Jarett Andretti, John’s son, is in charge of the operation.
 
“I’m there to support him,” Michael Andretti said. “I promised John I would support Jarett in whatever he was going to do. Also, it’s been good for us to learn for when we do get into the series in a bigger way. It’s been a good learning experience from that standpoint.
 
"Basically, it is Jarett’s program. He gets 100 percent credit for what’s being done there. We’re trying to support it as much as we can, but it’s his baby.”
 
Jarett Andretti’s best finish in 2021 was fourth place in the IMSA WeatherTech 240 at Watkins Glen International in July. Burdon joined the team for the season finale, the Motul Petit Le Mans, where they retired early and finished 10th in class.
 
“I’m looking forward to the experience,” Jarett Andretti said. “I think we have a great driver lineup and the team is ready. This is a historic competition and we are all excited to be a part of it.”
 
Chaves is the 2020 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge co-champion in the Touring Car (TCR) class. He has 10 career WeatherTech Championship starts, all in prototypes including in an LMP3 in this year’s Rolex 24. Lindh finished fifth in the LMP3 standings this season with a pair of second-place finishes driving for Performance Tech Motorsports.
 

 

 

Hagler Makes IMSA History

Second-year Driver Becomes First Female Champion in IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge History

 
November 29, 2021
By Godwin Kelly
IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Taylor Hagler’s first “a-ha moment” in racing happened at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course when she took pole position for the 2020 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race in the Touring Car (TCR) class.
 
It was a shock because Hagler was midway through just her second season of racing. Before 2019, she had no familiarity with motorsports. No go-karts. No quarter midgets. No tiny dirt bikes. Her only previous experience with horsepower was riding horses in show jumping competition.
 
She stunned herself and many in the paddock this season by winning the TCR championship with co-driver Michael Lewis. The two shared the No. 77 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Veloster N TCR. They all but clinched going into the season finale at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, where they claimed the title by taking the green flag in the Fox Factory 120 on Nov. 12.
 
Hagler, 26, made history as the first female driver to win a Michelin Pilot Challenge championship.
 
“This is monumental,” Hagler said. “It’s a big honor. For me and the team, this wasn’t an expectation or requirement. This year was supposed to be getting used to the new car, the new co-driver, the team and engineers. We had planned to go slowly, learn new things and set up for winning a championship next year. For this all to happen in one year, I think we are all thinking this is over expectation and that’s definitely a happy thing.”
 
Hagler’s achievement was praised by IMSA President John Doonan, who with most others has tracked her progress that included a first TCR victory at Lime Rock Park in July.
 
“I’m extremely happy for her and her family,” Doonan said. “She not only has horsepower today, but she rides horses away from the racetrack. Taylor has done this in a very organic manner. She’s had the right developments from driver coaches to the manufacturers she has driven with, so I’m really proud of that.
 
“We have talented, young females coming up through our levels of IMSA, but I’m really proud of Taylor and I’m excited for her.”
 
But how did this championship come together? When Hagler claimed that 2020 pole with another team and manufacturer, it caught Herta’s attention and he immediately began an inquiry into her 2021 availability.
 
“When we saw that kind of speed out of her, we were really impressed and felt like this is someone who continues to show improvement and would be a great fit for Hyundai and our team,” Herta said. “Really, the discussion started last year at Mid-Ohio about ‘how do we get Taylor in a Hyundai?’”
 
Hagler and Lewis ran off four straight podium performances this year before the Lime Rock victory that for Hagler was like a nitro shot of self-assurance.
 
“Lime Rock was a turning point,” she said. “When we won that race, it gave me the confidence boost I needed. I think it showed the team I was capable of doing this and that put a little bit more pressure on. Sure, I can handle pressure, but I can’t handle stress. When we won Lime Rock, I felt like, ‘Yeah, we can win this championship.’”
 
Hagler gives special credit to Lewis, who won the 2019 TCR championship with Mark Wilkins in a BHA Veloster. Coupled with the championship won by Gabby Chaves and Ryan Norman last year, it’s given the team three straight TCR driver and team titles.
 
“Michael has been great,” Hagler said. “He’s been very patient with me. He has definitely taught me a lot. I’m not the most positive person. One of the things he has taught me is positivity. He says, ‘You know what you’re doing. Get out there and you will be fine.’”
 
And Lewis was fine letting the spotlight of this championship shine on his teammate.
 
“This was a 50-50 effort – she does her job and I do mine,” Lewis said. “We did this as a team. To have a female driver win a championship is pretty awesome. It makes me feel good because I was part of the team to make it happen.”

 

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  gt celebration

 

 

 

  sportscar vintage racing association 

www.svra.com

 

SUMMIT IS NOW THE OFFICIAL PERFORMANCE PARTS COMPANY

OF TRANS AM and SVRA

 

SOUTHLAKE, Texas (January 4, 2021) – Parella Motorsport Holdings (PMH) announced today that Summit Racing Equipment is now the “Official Performance Parts Company” of its Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli, and Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) properties. For more than 50 years, Summit has grown into the go-to parts source for racers and high-performance car owners around the globe.

 

"Summit has earned its reputation as the World’s Speed Shop for gearheads everywhere,” said Tony Parella, CEO of PMH.  “I particularly enjoy rolling out the red carpet for new partners who are squarely in the middle of our wheelhouse. I know we can help them create business opportunities in the SpeedTour ecosystem."

 

PMH officials share that Summit is already an excellent source for high-performance parts for Trans Am and SVRA teams. This partnership takes Summit's profile in the SpeedTour paddocks to a much higher level of visibility and engagement.

 

“All of us at Summit are amped-up to have the chance to make a splash in Tony’s SpeedTour paddock," said Jim Greenleaf, Motorsports and Event Manager. "In 1968, we started as a small performance parts business for drag racers. Since then, we have expanded to become an international business with a product line from more than 1,500 manufacturers. We are excited to formalize our partnership with Trans Am and SVRA as we have done with numerous high-profile racing sanctioning bodies around the world.”    

 

The SpeedTour paddock is packed with business owners and corporate executives responsible for customer satisfaction. Parella's strategy with partnership agreements is to create a B2B ecosystem that delivers tremendous value for everyone involved.

 

SpeedTour's nationwide platform is at the heart of the organization's growth strategy. Summit Racing Equipment joins other top-brand companies on the growing list of partners highly visible at SpeedTour event weekends, in SpeedTour Quarterly magazine, and various SpeedTour websites and social media platforms. Among these partners are Lucas Oil, NetJets, Sunoco, Avis, Big Machine Vodka, TireRack.com, RACELOGIC, Mission Foods, Hawk Performance, F.A.S.T., Marathon Coach, WeatherTech, and CG Detroit.

 

About PMH:

Parella Motorsports Holdings (PMH) owns four major road racing series and hosts racing festivals across the United States under the SpeedTour brand name. PMH will exceed 5,500 entries throughout the 2022 season.  Between the racing, concerts, and car shows, PMH events often attract more than 25,000 spectators. Trans Am, FR Americas and F4 U.S. are all sanctioned by SCCA Pro Racing. Many of the events can be live streamed, starting with Sebring in February. Check SpeedTour websites and social media platforms for availability.

About the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli:

Trans Am is the longest-running professional road race series in the United States. Trans Am was founded by racing factory pony cars in the late 1960s. To this day, Mustangs, Camaros, and Challengers are being sold 50 years after their launch, and Trans Am played a major role in their success. SpeedTour events will also host the professional race series Trans Am at 16 of the 2022 season events.

About Sportscar Vintage Racing Association:

SVRA is the largest vintage racing organization in the world. A typical event has several hundred vintage race cars representing over 100 years of automotive history on the track.  The drivers of these race cars are high net-worth, prominent professionals. In 2022, SVRA will host 22 events at some of the most iconic race tracks in North America, including Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Sebring International Raceway, Watkins Glen International, WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Sonoma Raceway, and Circuit of The Americas, among others. This nationwide footprint has over 312,000,000 Americans living within 200 miles of our events.

 

 

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sportscar vintage racing assoc. gt celebration racing series

2022 SVRA/SpeedTour Schedule

 

1.     Auto Club-February 4-6

2.     Sebring-February 24-27

3.     Charlotte-March 17-20

4.     Road Atlanta-March 24- 27

5.     NOLA-April 8-10

6.     Laguna Seca-April 21-24

7.     Sonoma-April-28-May 1

8.     Road America-May 19-22

9.     Lime Rock-May 27-30

10. Ridge-June 10-12

11. Indianapolis Motor Speedway-June 16-19

12. Mid-Ohio-June 23-26

13. Portland-July 2-4

14. Watkins Glen-September 7-11

15. VIR-October 6-9

16. Utah Motorsport Campus-October 14-16

17. CoTA-November 3-6

 

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