This weekend was the *true* start to the racing season for many fans, as North America (and the world) was treated to one of the greatest endurance racing events of the year, the Rolex 24 at Daytona. The self-described “World Center of Racing”. Every year this race is a favorite of mine, and it seems that every year the racing gets more intense and the finishes get closer and closer. This year, the GTLM class victory was mere fractions of a second. The GTD victory was determined by just a few drops of fuel in the tank. In Prototype, it seemed like everyone was having problems at one point or another. In PC, everyone *did* have problems at one point or another.
There were all kinds of new cars. There were all kinds of new racers. This endurance event is one for the proverbial ages! There was an F1 test session at Paul Ricard. There are a few key seat changes in F1 also. Legendary broadcaster Barney Hall passed away. Some Indy news. Some changes in PWC. Well deserved inductions to the Motorsport Hall of Fame! Just be aware of the fact that this post is filled with spoilers. Giant carbon-fiber, multi-element, DRS-equipped, Gurney-flapped, Spoilers!
24 Hours of Daytona, obviously
What the Hell is a Pipo?
F1 Test at Paul Ricard
Pastor out, K Mags in
Remembering Barney Hall
Blancpain says no to COTA, PWC unaffected
Motorsports HoF inductions
Daytona 24 Hour Race
The opening round of the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship was a resounding success by all accounts, except perhaps the accounts of those who didn’t find success, that is. The race started at 2:40 PM Eastern, the earth completed one full rotation of its axis, and the race ended. What happened in between was just superb. Let’s go over it.
The DWING program was working better than it ever had before. The car was started off by Katherine Legge from the last position of the Prototype grid (They didn’t qualify during the torrential downpour, instead choosing to save the car and settle for a lower position), and immediately stormed toward the front. Whatever they’ve done, they got it working right this year, and the thing was mega quick. Making short work of the field, Kat took the car straight to the front, and it stayed in touch with the leaders the whole time she was in the car. The Deltawing led the Daytona 24 on outright pace a total of three times for 29 total laps. Andy Meyrick hopped in the car at about sundown, and during the 4th hour of the race, this happened.
As you can see, a prototype challenge car was parked pretty much on the apex to turn one for over a full minute. The crew was shouting on the radio to Meyrick to ‘stay high’ at turn one as he entered the corner, but Andy claims he never heard anything. There is a track flag man to the inside of the corner frantically waving a local yellow flag, but I imagine that’s difficult to see when you’re braking from over 180 miles per hour down to about 40 for turn one. Once Meyrick sees the stranded car, he tries to go to the inside, realizes there probably isn’t enough room there for his car to fit, and then changes his mind to try to make it around the outside of the car. Obviously that doesn’t happen. Let me know what you think in the comments, but I contend that this probably should have been a full course yellow. It’s a damn shame that the DWING was taken out so early, as they really had potential to run at the front. Here’s hoping for better at Sebring. Too bad, Skitter, you had a good one!
The Ford GTs
It’s a bit sad to hear, but both Ford GTs had issues early in the race that dropped them out of contention. The 67 car had a transmission issue that took several minutes to fix and dropped them a number of laps within the first hour. The other car, #66 moved into the lead. During the car’s next stop, the team apparently tore a brake line when removing the left rear wheel, which unfortunately cost them a number of laps re-bleeding the system. Neither overcame these deficits, but they both returned to the track to run what amounted to a lengthy test session. Hopefully they’ll learn from this going forward toward Le Mans.
Mike Shank Racing
The Shank racing team has suffered a number of times throughout the years, but this year was just as bad as any of them could have been. While leading the race just after midnight, Ozz Negri was cutting some incredible laps when his HPD turbo V6 cut out and exploded in relatively un-dramatic fashion. Obviously they went from potential winners to retired in the snap of a connecting rod (or whatever it was that actually broke). This was Honda’s new 3.5 liter unit, instead of the 2.8 liter V6 used last year.
BMW found out just how long the service life is on one of their carbon brake rotors at about the 12 Hour mark. Lucas Luhr’s #100 BMW M6 GTLM came flying into turn one, got the rotors nice and orange, and then the left front exploded in dramatics and fanfare. The rotor ended up taking the upright and the wheel with it when it separated from the car, and Luhr’s BMW turned sharp right up into the wall where it came to an end. The car could not be fixed, and did not return to the track. The #25 BMW team took that very moment as an opportunity to come in for a brake rotor change, probably wisely.
The Lamborghini teams in GTD were gifted with an excellent Balance of Performance formula, as their cars were about a second a lap faster than any of the class competition. The Paul Miller car and the Change Racing car were checking out from the field in the middle of the night. As they were braking for the turn in to turn 1, coming down off of the tri-oval, they had a coming together and they both smashed into the wall and skidded to a stop at the runoff to 1. You can see the resulting damage in the video below. Check out how close they came to taking the #55 Mazda prototype with them, as it was exiting the pit lane.
Alex Job Racing
The AJR #22 car suffered from a very strange failure that dropped them out of the lead of the GTD class. I’d had a great time watching Leh Keen run in the lead for a very long time, and when he swapped out for mega talent driver Shane Van Gisbergen, I knew that the fireworks would be lit. Not long into his stint, though, it was obvious that something was wrong. SVG had an off at the kink between horseshoe 1 and horseshoe 2. The car was brought in to check things out, and it was evident that the rear wing was very loose in its fitting to their Porsche. The upright bolts had backed themselves out or sheared off or something. The team attempted to affect repairs with various ratchet straps and so-called “200 mile per hour tape”. It did not work. Like the Shank car and the Deltawing, this car failure was most sad because they really had a chance at the victory in class!
My personal theory for the cause of the failure? Well, the #22 was quite clearly running a very trimmed out car, with their rear wing angle of attack at nearly zero in order to give the car a higher top-speed. It’s unlikely that they were creating much in the way of downforce, and in certain circumstances, like the transition from the infield to the banking, it’s possible that the wing was actually creating minimal and manageable levels of lift. With some 22 hours of that happening a couple of times per lap, the bolts affixing the wing stanchions likely started to back out of the body. If that is the case, it could have been fixed with about 30 cents worth of loctite. It’s something the engineers didn’t plan for, but they certainly learned their lesson quickly, and in a very bad way.
So Who Won?
Prototype (and Overall victory)
The #2 Tequila Patron Extreme Speed Motorsport Honda Performance Development Ligier JS P2
Drivers – Scott Sharp, Ed Brown, Johannes Van Overbeek, and Luís Felipe “Pipo” Derani
How – The ESM car was strong all day, but it wasn’t until well after sundown that the car’s true potential really started to show through. Early in the running, the #2 car was even involved in some contact up the back from the Mike Shank car at the bus stop chicane, which ended with both cars spinning and continuing on. It wasn’t really until after they’d gone down a lap thanks to a Scott Sharp-earned penalty (for running the red light at the end of pit lane), that their luck started to change. Shortly after the penalty, there was a full-course caution period which saw them get the ‘wave around’ back onto the lead lap. Sharp started to eat back toward the lead, and handing over to Derani, who started ripping toward the front. The kid is quick, and while it takes a whole team to win a race like this, they likely wouldn’t have come anywhere near that victory if it hadn’t been for Pipo. For the last two and a half hours of the race, Pipo was let loose again and he stormed off, making quick work of the Wayne Taylor Racing machine ahead of him, and then opening a 25-ish second lead, where he stayed.
- Ed Brown ran 4 laps, because he’s slow, but that’s all it takes to get a Rolex.
- Pipo Derani ran 293 laps of the car’s total 736.
- This was Honda’s first Daytona victory ever.
GTLM (7th Overall)
The #4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R
Drivers – Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, and Marcel Fassler
One of my four predictions came to fruition in the shape of the #4 Corvette. Somehow they managed to do ‘the double’ by winning the Daytona 24 two years on the trot. I bet on them last year, and figured they’d repeat. With nearly everyone else running a brand new car, it was the safe bet (either them or the Porsches, which finished in 3rd) in GTLM. Like last year, the Corvette just ran its own race for the first 20 hours or so, just staying out of trouble and staying on the lead lap. As attrition started to hit, they slowly moved toward the front. Then in the final couple of hours, they just lit the wicks and ran with it. Watching them slowly eat into my favorite Porsche’s lead was painful, but inevitable. When the 4, and eventually the 3 Chevys eventually went past the 912, I knew a Porsche victory would be difficult. Then it came down to which Corvette would win it. Luckily for fans, team boss Doug Fehan decided to allow the 3 and 4 to race each other for the final 20 minutes. And what a 20 minutes it was! This is how close they were at the flag!
GTD (14th Overall)
The #44 Audi Tire Center Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3
Drivers – John Potter, Andy Lally, Marco Seefried, and Rene Rast
Following the wing failure of the Alex Job Racing car, the #44 no longer had any real competition. The team was on a tight fuel schedule to the end, but they were confident (hopeful?) that they would make it to the end without running out. There was a Konrad Motorsports Lamborghini which did make it past the Audi for the lead, but quickly ran out of fuel with a couple of laps remaining in the race. There was also an Aston Martin that was running a close third, but pitted for a splash-and-dash. A handful of seconds back the road was a confident Black Swan Racing Porsche with more than enough fuel aboard to make the end pushing. With Audi Ace Rast aboard, not only did he find a way to conserve fuel, he found a way to make it quick and efficient at the same time. There was a brief stumble on the high-banks that had everyone on the edges of their seats, but at the end of the day (literally) the #44 made it home with just enough fuel to run out completely almost immediately after the checkered flag fell on their final lap.
PC (18th Overall)
The #85 Hi-Tide Boat Lifts/Red Line Oil JDC-Miller Motorsports Chevrolet Oreca FLM09
Drivers – Chris Miller, Mikhail Goikhberg, Stephen Simpson, and Kenton Koch
The LMPC category was an absolute joke this year, but that doesn’t really take away from the JDC-Miller team’s victory. Everyone in this class failed miserably, but they failed a bit less than everyone else. At the 15 hour mark, the car had a spin on cold tires at the hands of Koch, but it didn’t really matter, as they already had a 19 lap lead. The team then decided to run a slower pace and just make it to the finish. They eventually would still win by 4 laps over the next closest classmate. LMPC really needs to die off already. I say replace this class with the new LMP3 category that is doing so well in Europe. Those cars are much more technologically advanced. The Oreca FLM09 is based on an already 7 year old chassis. I mean, come on!
Who is Pipo Derani?
Derani is a young Brazilian star that started racing in 2003 running karts at 10 years old. By 2005, he was already a champion, winning the São Paulo Junior Menor Championship.
2009 – started running Formula Renault 2.0. Two podiums and 13 points-scoring finishes later, and he finished 7th in the championship.
2010 – stepped into German Formula Three alongside Kevin Magnussen and Jimmy Eriksson at Motopark Academy Team. 10th in points.
2011 – moved to the British Formula Three Championship with Double R. Fifteenth in points with a podium to his name.
2012 – Switched teams to Fortec Motorsport. Improved to 8th in the championship with a pair of wins.
2013 – Stayed with Fortec. Moved to FIA European Formula Three, finished 8th in points with 3 podiums.
2014 – For the first half of the season, Pipo ran the Pro Mazda championship with Team Pelfrey, scoring a podium. For the latter half, Derani joined Murphy Prototypes in the European Le Mans championship LMP2 car.
2015 – Moved to the World Endurance Championship in LMP2 with G-Drive racing. Scored a victory at Spa, and 6 further podiums.
He’s stupid quick, and his lap times are indicative of a very competent driver, showing not only pace, but also consistency. It won’t be long before he is snatched up by one of the major LMP1 factory teams.
F1 Test At Ricard
Pirelli was conducting a wet weather test at Paul Ricard for their new compound tires. Vettel’s Ferrari was fastest with a 1:06.750 (134 laps). Daniil Kvyat of Red Bull Racing was second quickest with a 1:06.833 (113 laps). And the only other player on the track was McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne who laid down a 1:07.758 (127 laps). It’s good that McLaren got some good laps in, but they don’t appear any quicker than last year. I still haven’t decided if I’m going to watch F1 at all again in 2016… I guess we’ll see.
Changes At Renault
Speaking of F1, the butt of all jokes, Pastor Maldonado has finally been fired and former McLaren driver (and son of Jan) Kevin Magnussen has been hired to replace him.
Barney Hall Passes Away At 83
NASCAR broadcaster and general badass, Barney Hall, died last week. He was known as the “Voice of NASCAR” and had been calling the races literally for decades. I remember listening to him when I actually cared about NASCAR, and recall his talents to be quite a bit larger than life. His passing was related to complications after a recent surgery. Useless though they are, thoughts and prayers are welcomed.
Blancpain Cancels Endurance Event At COTA
There was a plan to have a 1000km race at the Texas circuit to be part of the new “Intercontinental GT Challenge”, and the race was scheduled for March (you know, just over a month away…). Blancpain Endurance boss Stephane Ratel, said that the race was cancelled due to a lack of support from European teams. The idea has been shelved for a potential replacement in October of 2017. The event was supposed to share a weekend with the SCCA’s Pirelli World Challenge. PWC officials say this does not change their plans to run their event solo on the 6th of March at the F1 track.
New Motorsports Hall of Fame Inductees
Recently inducted into the HoF:
Chip Ganassi, Team Owner
Bob Sweikert, 1955 Indianapolis 500 Winner
Sam Posey, Former Driver, Current TV Personality, and Eyebrow Hair Farm
Richard Childress, Team Owner
Everett Brashear, AMA Dirt Track Motorcycle Racer
Gary Gabelich, Water and Land Speed Record Racer, Funny Car Driver, and Apollo Test Astronaut
Dave McClelland, Announcer, “The Voice of NHRA”
[Daytona photos: HotRod.com/Alex Wong, Racer.com/Marshall Pruett. Other photos: Motorsport.com/Racer.com]