No. 743,
April 16, 2014

About The Autoextremist

Peter M. De Lorenzo has been in and around racing since the age of ten. Because of his extensive background and deep interest in the sport he advised clients on racing and motorsports marketing throughout his 22-year advertising career. Since the creation of Autoextremist.com, he has continued to advise corporations, racing organizations and marketers on racing and the business of motorsports. He is considered to be one of the most knowledgeable, influential and visionary voices commenting on the sport today.

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Fumes


Sunday
Jan052014

The New Reality.

Editor's Note 1/15: Peter will return with a new "Fumes" column next week. - WG

 

By Peter M. De Lorenzo

Daytona Beach. The pretesting for the Daytona 24 Hour sports car race went down over the weekend (the Rolex 24, excuse me), and yes, it was jarring to see the two formerly warring road racing fractions (ALMS vs. Grand-Am) on the same track together. But that lasted for maybe about five minutes or so, then it quickly became business as usual as The New Reality - aka the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship - for major league sports car racing in America took hold.

The big news in the Daytona Prototype class was the fact that Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates announced its "big gun" driver lineup for the Rolex 24, which the team has won five times. Veteran Scott Pruett (a five-time Rolex 24 winner) will be joined by regular co-driver Memo Rojas, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular Jamie McMurray and 2013 Indy Lights champion Sage Karam in the No. 01 Telcel/Target Ford EcoBoost/Riley. IndyCar champion Scott Dixon and 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan will co-drive the No. 02 Target/Telcel Ford EcoBoost/Riley, joined by NASCAR driver Kyle Larson and ALMS veteran Marino Franchitti. 

The choice of Karam and Larson was eye-opening to say the least. Karam is The Kid from Nazareth (he's still in High School, by the way) who was brought along by Andretti Autosport. And Larson is The Kid from NASCAR who went toe-to-toe with Kyle Busch last season and not only lived to tell about it but sent a convincing message that he belonged. Larson is young, talented and super aggressive, and Karam is young and talented too. Hopefully these two young chargers will take the opportunity to listen and learn from some of the best in the business during their Daytona adventure. Needless to say, it should be interesting.

One development that was more than a little noteworthy was the fact that the Ganassi team packed up a day early after teething problems with the new Ford EcoBoost 3.5-liter Twin Turbo V6 engines emerged. These engines actually use 70 percent of the components from the production Ford EcoBoost V6 engines, which is a strong message from the manufacturer that they are going to race what they sell in the TUDOR Championship, and that is commendable. But it's also fraught with uncertainty. Setting a closed course record with the race-prepared EcoBoost V6 is one thing, but running - and winning - in a major league sports car endurance race is quite another. The Ganassi and Ford contingent have their hands full, needless to say, although Jamie McMurray did pace the Prototype drivers with a lap of 1:38.980 (129.481 mph) in the No. 01 Telcel/Target Ford EcoBoost/Riley on Saturday. Then again power and speed clearly aren't the issue with the new Ford EcoBoost-powered entries (Michael Shank Racing is using the engines as well). Speed with reliability will be.

Other notes? The Porsche 911s in the two GT classes were quick, but then they're always quick. The Audi R8s showed well in GTD. The BMW Z4 GTLMs - the resident "funny cars" of the class - had more body tweaks, which make them even more outrageous and funny looking. The Corvettes were blistering fast and fantastic looking (and sounding) in their optic-art camo wrap, but even though many observers commented that they should just leave those wraps on for the season, the Corvette C7.R will make its official debut - in yellow - at the Detroit Auto Show on January 13th, when the new Corvette Z06 street machine is unveiled.  

All the talk in the garage area centered around the looming Chevrolet Corvette vs. SRT Viper showdown in the GTLM class (Jan Magnussen led competitors in the class in Saturday’s session, running a lap of 1:46.010 (120.894 mph) in the No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R), but Porsche, Ferrari, Aston Martin and BMW aren't going to curl up in the fetal position and say "Thank you sir, may I have another?" Instead they will be there, too, and they'll run strong and hard and have plenty to say about the battle in GTLM in three weeks' time as well. 

Make no mistake, there are plenty of positive developments about the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, with the unified schedule being one of the most visible positives. But let me be very clear here and there's no need to sugarcoat it: It's obvious that the "performance balancing" that went down since the merger was announced has been executed with the thought that the Daytona Prototypes will be faster than the former ALMS P2 cars. I would go so far as to say it has been preordained by Jim France, because it was so obvious as to be almost laughable. I mean, we all get it, don't we? Jim France wrote a $20 million check (or thereabouts) for the ALMS, Road Atlanta, the rights to Sebring (and other prizes), and anyone who thought that the P2 cars would stand a chance after the "balancing" took place was kidding themselves. 

If I had just invested serious cash in a P2 team - and believe me at this level it's all serious cash - I wouldn't be just pissed-off, however, I would be stark-raving livid. And I would be permanently camped on Jim France's doorstep demanding substantive and serious action right now. For the sake of the integrity of this new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship series - and the integrity of the sport of road racing in this country itself - this situation must be rectified, preferably before the Rolex 24 and definitely before the 12 Hours of Sebring in March, or it will be the biggest travesty in this young new racing year.

(John Thawley  ~  Motorsports Photography @ www.johnthawley.com  ~ 248.227.011)
IndyCar champion Scott Dixon and 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan will co-drive the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Target/Telcel Ford EcoBoost/Riley in the Daytona 24 Hour, joined by NASCAR driver Kyle Larson and ALMS veteran Marino Franchitti. 

(John Thawley  ~  Motorsports Photography @ www.johnthawley.com  ~ 248.227.011)
Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen – ALMS GT champions with three victories in 2013 – will team again in the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R. Ryan Briscoe will join the No. 3 lineup for the longer endurance races in 2014.

(John Thawley  ~  Motorsports Photography @ www.johnthawley.com  ~ 248.227.011)
The No. 55 BMW Z4 GTLM from BMW Team RLL will be driven by Auberlen/Priaulx/Hand/Martin. See more in "The Line" and a gallery of John Thawley's images here. 

 


Publisher's Note: As part of our continuing series celebrating the "Glory Days" of racing, we're proud to present another noteworthy image from the Ford Racing Archives. - PMD

(Photo by Dave Friedman courtesy of the Ford Racing Archives)

Daytona Beach, Florida, February 7, 1966. The No. 98 Shelby American Ford Mk II 427 driven by Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby makes a late-night pit stop in the Daytona 24 Hour race at the Daytona International Speedway. Things may have been a little more casual back then in terms of pit lane clothing and safety requirements, but the racing was no less intense. The Miles/Ruby duo would dominate the race in convincing fashion, sitting on the pole and winning the race going away (by eight laps) while leading a 1-2-3 Ford sweep. The No. 97 Shelby American Ford Mk II 427 driven by Dan Gurney and Jerry Grant finished second, and the No. 95 Holman & Moody Ford Mk II 427 driven by Walt Hansgen and Mark Donohue finished third. See more Dave Friedman images from that race weekend here.

 

Publisher's Note: Like these Ford racing photos? Check out www.fordimages.com. Be forewarned, however, because you won't be able to go there and not order something. - PMD