No. 881
January 25, 2017

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The Line


JANUARY 25, 2017

(Race Of Champions)
Juan Pablo Montoya (above) put in a stunning performance to eclipse sixteen fellow stars of motor sport to earn the title "Champion of Champions" for the first time on a thrilling afternoon of action at Miami’s Marlins Park during the Race Of Champions. The individual portion of the Race Of Champions pitted many of motor sport’s biggest names in identical cars on a brand new figure-of-eight track. On a hot and sunny day in Miami, the best-of-three Grand Final boiled down to a battle between Montoya and "Mr Le Mans" Tom Kristensen, with Montoya getting the measure of Kristensen in two straight heats to become Champion of Champions in front of 15,000 race fans. Team Germany celebrated a record seventh win in the ROC Nations Cup after Sebastian Vettel delivered an emphatic victory all by himself on Sunday. Vettel went through the entire day’s action unbeaten, but he had to first beat Team Colombia’s pairing of Gabby Chaves and the individual Champion of Champions from Saturday, Juan Pablo Montoya, in two straight heats. Then, Vettel beat Team USA's NASCAR representatives, Kyle and Kurt Busch, in the final. The two American brothers delivered excellent performances too, winning a series of tight battles on the unique track twisting around Marlins Park but they didn't have enough for the German. Vettel said: “The Race Of Champions is a great competition, but yesterday I went out very early. So I wanted to make sure I didn’t leave the States empty-handed. I started on the wrong foot but it helped me to take it a bit more seriously. Today I just wanted to get some more time on the track. I found the rhythm straightaway and it felt pretty good. Unlike yesterday, I got along with all the cars today. But that’s the way it goes: sometimes you wake up and it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”
(Race Of Champions)
Sebastian Vettel is flanked by Kyle and Kurt Busch after the Nations Cup at the Race Of Champions on Sunday.
(Red Bull/newspress)
Frenchman Sébastien Ogier (No. 1 M-Sport World Rally Team Red Bull Ford Fiesta WRC) eased through the final leg in the mountains above Monaco to claim his fifth WRC Monte Carlo Rally by 2min 15.0sec. Jari-Matti Latvala (No. 10 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota Yaris WRC) finished second on the Japanese manufacturer’s return to the WRC after a 17-year absence. Final day engine problems for Ott Tänak (No. 2 M-Sport World Rally Team Red Bull Ford Fiesta WRC) denied M-Sport a one-two as he slipped to third, a further 42.8sec behind. “I was hoping to win but to take it from the first rally, after only one month together and with so little preparation, feels really amazing,” Ogier said. “The conditions didn’t make our life easy this weekend, starting first in the snow on day one and finishing with more and more snow.” More snow and ice is expected at the next WRC event - Rally Sweden - February 9-12.
(Red Bull newspress)

(Ford Performance)
Ford Chip Ganassi Racing will field its entire four-car Ford GT team in the GT Le Mans class (GTLM) at the Daytona 24 Hour race (Rolex 24), the opener of the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season. Joey Hand/Dirk Müller/Sébastien Bourdais will be in the No. 66 Ford GT; Ryan Briscoe/Richard Westbrook/Scott Dixon will wheel the No. 67 Ford GT; Stefan Mücke/Olivier Pla/Billy Johnson will be in the No. 68 Ford GT; and Andy Priaulx/Harry Tincknell/Tony Kanaan will complete the Ganassi Racing lineup in the No. 69 Ford GT. In 2016, the Ford GT program won six races and started from the front of the grid eight times, with victories coming at Laguna Seca, Watkins Glen, Mosport, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Fuji and Shanghai. Chip Ganassi is the only team owner in history to win the Indianapolis 500, 24 Hours of Le Mans (in the GTE-Pro class), 12 Hours of Sebring, Daytona 500, Daytona 24 Hours and Brickyard 400. “Overall, when you look back at 2016, I would say ‘mission accomplished’ when it came to debuting this program with Ford,” Ganassi said. “We won races, competed for the championship in both IMSA and WEC and of course won in Le Mans. Like any new program, you’re going to have some growing pains as we did here in Daytona but we have worked through all of those and finished 2016 strong. This year is a totally different scenario. Not only do we have four cars instead of two, we also have a 24-hour win under our belts and a season’s worth of experiences with this car. I can’t wait to see what this year’s race brings.” Ford Chip Ganassi Racing will again campaign four Ford GTs full time for its second year of competition – two in the North American IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, and two in the global FIA World Endurance Championship. Practice for the Daytona 24 Hour race begins on Thursday morning, January 26th. The race gets the green flag on Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m.

(McLaren Automotive North America)
Alvaro Parente will return to the USA in 2017 to defend his Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) title with McLaren customer team K-PAX Racing. Parente will be part of a three-car assault on the championship with the McLaren 650S GT3. Parente - a McLaren factory driver - hammered the PWC regulars, winning six races of the 11 races during the 2016 season, finally capturing the title with a win in the last round at Laguna Seca. Parente also scored five pole positions and three podiums in his debut racing season in America. The Portguese driver will compete in the 2017 season with two new teammates as K-PAX Racing aims to help secure McLaren the Manufacturers’ Championship for the second year in a row. American sportscar veterans Bryan Sellers and Mike Hedlund will steer the No. 6 and No. 98 650S GT3s for the Californian team respectively, up against what is set to be yet another ultra-competitive GT and GTA field. The 2017 Pirelli World Challenge season is set to start with a pair of 50-minute sprint races on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, on March 10-12, as part of its 11-round calendar.

(RRDC photo)
Neil Verhagen, a 15-year-old high school student from Mooresville, N.C., has been named the 46th recipient of the RRDC Mark Donohue Award. This unique award is presented annually by the Road Racing Drivers Club for outstanding performance, competitiveness and sportsmanship during the SCCA National Championship Runoffs. It is voted on by RRDC members attending the Runoffs and/or viewing them live on the Internet.
Verhagen became the youngest SCCA National Champion in history, winning the Formula F class during the SCCA Runoffs at the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, in September. Before this win, IndyCar racer Graham Rahal, a full year older than Verhagen, was the youngest when he captured the Formula Atlantic National Championship at Mid-Ohio in 2005. The teenager also claimed the SCCA Super Sweep Award, winning his U.S. Majors Tour Conference, the national points championship, a key regular season race, and, finally, the Runoffs. Driving in his first Runoffs in the No. 3 K-Hill Motorsports/Hoosier Mygale SJ11/Honda, Verhagen started from pole position and built a 15-second lead before a full-course caution brought the field back on his tail. He quickly moved ahead after the restart and took the checkered flag with a 5.51-second margin of victory. He covered the 21-lap race, which was shortened to a 40-minute time limit, at an average of 77.266 mph. His fast lap of 1:30.133 (90.187 mph) topped the field by nearly a second. Verhagen will be officially presented the award at the annual RRDC members’ dinner at the Rolex 24 At Daytona on January 25th. RRDC president Bobby Rahal, a Runoffs champion (’74 B Sports Racing and ’75 F Atlantic) long before he won the 1986 Indianapolis 500, emphasized the RRDC Mark Donohue Award is “about personal spirit and performance behind the wheel. Those qualities are more important for this award than winning the race. The RRDC honors Neil not only for his outstanding drive to win, but for his natural ability and skill at such a young age to safely win a championship against other outstanding drivers and cars in the field.” UPDATE (1/18): It was announced today that Neil Verhagen was named to the 2017 Red Bull Junior Program and will drive in the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup series on the MP Motorsport team.