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pumpelly

pumpellyAcura and RealTime Racing have drafted in sports car veteran Spencer Pumpelly to drive the No. 43 TLX at the next two Pirelli World Challenge GT rounds as its regular driver, RTR owner Peter Cunningham, concentrates on developing the brand's 2017 NSX GT3.

"To be a part of this progression of the NSX GT3 is a tremendous opportunity. Having been the test driver in North America for the first generation NSX race car, I feel a deep connection to this project," Cunningham said. "With the new NSX coming on line, it is a very important program for Acura and I'm honored to be able to contribute. As I focus my energies on the NSX, we knew that we needed to find a top-notch driver for the TLX to bring Acura the best possible result."

RTR found great success with the previous version of the NSX, with Cunningham earning 14 wins during its time in World Challenge. The addition of Pumpelly should make for a quick and easy fit within the team as he and Ryan Eversley, who pilots the No. 42 TLX, are close friends away from the track and bring an instant bond to the program, evidenced by his reveal on social media.

"I am thrilled to be joining RealTime Racing this weekend in Ohio and excited to become part of the Acura family," said Pumpelly, who will also race in Cunningham's place on Aug. 12-14 at the Utah Motorsports Campus (formerly known as Miller Motorsports Park). "The team and brand have achieved tremendous success in the series and it's an honor to be able to work with all the people involved. The Acura TLX is an amazing car which should do well around the tight turns of Mid-Ohio. The team has been a huge help in getting me comfortable in the car and I'm eager to get on track with it."

In addition to the driver change in the No. 43, Acura revealed Wednesday that the public debut of the NSX GT3 will take place today and Friday during practice for the PWC event at Mid-Ohio. Dutchman Peter Kox will drive the car both days before it is parked and put on display in the paddock.

Formula E wings

Formula E has revealed the first official images of the new front wing it will introduce for the 2016/17 season.

The "futuristic" front end has been tested on track in recent weeks by a number of teams, with Mahindra sharing photos of the design on Twitter.

As revealed by Autosport in March, the electric single-seater series will feature a new nose shape and front wing design for its third campaign.

The new kit is being introduced for aesthetic reasons, not aerodynamic gain.

FE CEO Alejandro Agag said: "Formula E aims to be different, and this new front wing creates a look that's different to every other car out there.

"I think this is a great addition to our car and further emphasizes the fact that this is a modern, forward-thinking championship that is taking a completely different approach to all other racing series."

FE champion Sebastien Buemi said he liked the new wing, the top tier of which can be seen from inside the cockpit.

"It looks a little bit more futuristic, and from inside the car you can see the top part of the wing, so visually for the driver there is also a small change," he said. "We want Formula E to look different and be different, and the new wing is a good way of showing that."

Other changes for the 2016/17 campaign include upgraded, lighter Michelin tyres and a new steering wheel, although a mooted upgrade to a button-based brake-bias adjustment system has not come to fruition.

The appearance of the cars will take a more dramatic shift when a new chassis comes in for season five.

FE and the FIA have yet to announce who has won the tender for the single-chassis supply.

Formula E wings

Originally on Autosport.com

Jensen ButtonHonda is working on proving the durability of its next Formula 1 engine upgrade and is encouraged by the numbers on the dynos back at its base in Sakura.

The Japanese manufacturer spent two development tokens on an internal combustion upgrade for McLaren ahead of the British Grand Prix and has 11 remaining.

Though Honda chief Yusuke Hasegawa told Autosport earlier this month the firm is planning to wait four or five races before introducing its next update, he said that timescale was flexible depending on progress, with signs encouraging at present.

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"We always keep developing so as soon as we can prepare something, there is no reason to wait to introduce it," he told Autosport.

When asked about the numbers on the dyno at the factory for the next upgrade, Hasegawa said: "We saw some elements are good. We just have to prove that it is OK as a package and also we need to complete durability confirmation. There is no end for the development.

"We have some room to improve, especially from an ICE point of view. I think we will spend all tokens for this year."

Though this weekend's German Grand Prix venue Hockenheim requires strong top speed, Hasegawa is optimistic about McLaren's chances of scoring again.

"At Silverstone we were not very weak but in the midfield, so I expect to challenge for points in Hockenheim as well," he said. "In Spa or Monza, it will be very tough, but I expect to get some points at Hockenheim."

McLAREN NOW FOURTH FASTEST?

Fernando Alonso finished seventh for McLaren-Honda in Hungary last weekend, a result he declared "best of the rest" behind the "out of reach" Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari.

Williams currently occupies that fourth spot in the constructors' standings, with McLaren 56 points further back in seventh.

But Williams technical chief Pat Symonds acknowledged that McLaren was probably now among its rivals at every race.

"The fact is I still believe that we are the fourth-quickest car but it's getting really tight now," he said. "Even McLaren are fighting to make that claim. But between ourselves, Force India and arguably McLaren, I think we are scrapping for fourth.

"Then Toro Rosso will have their good days like they did in Hungary and they will say that they're fourth."

BEST OF THE REST IN 2016

Alonso called the race behind Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari a 'mini-championship.' Here's who has been coming out on top in it at each race so far this year.

RACE       TEAM         DRIVER           RESULT  GAP TO 1ST
Australia  Williams     Felipe Massa     5th     +59s
Bahrain    Haas         Romain Grosjean  5th     +1m18s
China      Williams     Felipe Massa     6th     +1m16s
Russia     Williams     Valtteri Bottas  4th     +50s
Spain      Williams     Valtteri Bottas  5th     +45s
Monaco     Force India  Sergio Perez     3rd     +14s
Canada     Williams     Valtteri Bottas  3rd     +46s
Europe     Force India  Sergio Perez     3rd     +25s
Austria    McLaren      Jenson Button    6th     +38s
Britain    Force India  Sergio Perez     6th     +1m17s
Hungary    McLaren      Fernando Alonso  7th     +1 lap

 

CONSTRUCTORS' CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

PosConstructorPoints
1 Mercedes 378
2 Ferrari 224
3 Red Bull/Renault 223
4 Williams/Mercedes 94
5 Force India/Mercedes 74
6 Toro Rosso/Ferrari 45
7 McLaren/Honda 38
8 Haas/Ferrari 28
9 Renault 6
10 Manor/Mercedes 1
11 Sauber/Ferrari 0

 

Originally on Autosport.com

target ledeThrough the years there have been some really solid relationships between IndyCar owners, drivers and sponsors. Roger Penske had a 21-year-run with Marlboro and Phillip Morris that produced 71 wins, four championships and seven Indianapolis 500 victories. Kmart sponsored Newman/Haas, the Andretti family, Nigel Mansell and Cristiano da Matta through 13 years, 46 wins and three titles, sharing space with Texaco/Havoline for 10 of those seasons. Copenhagen funded A.J. Foyt for 12 years and Miller Brewing backed Bobby Rahal's team for 10 years. ABC Supply has been with Foyt since 2005, which is a lifetime nowadays.

But the longest and one of the most successful sponsorships in IndyCar history also launched a neophyte owner into the rarified air that only The Captain breathed.

The 27-year-run of Target with Chip Ganassi garnered 101 victories, 11 championships and four trips to Victory Lane at Indianapolis and was a partnership that likely will never be seen again.

dixon"They were the greatest sponsor ever," Ganassi said on Wednesday afternoon, a few hours after it was revealed that Target was ending its IndyCar association after five more races. "And they were with us for all these years because it made sense for their business and because it was good for their company. They changed my life."

It all started in 1990, when Ganassi started his team after buying Patrick Racing. "A girl that Danny Sullivan knew worked for Target and they expressed some interest in IndyCar racing," he recalled. "That's how it all started and nobody could have imagined we'd be together for almost three decades."

What people might not remember is that it was not an overnight success story in terms of the on-track product. The Target/Ganassi colors didn't fly in the winner's circle until the fifth year, when Michael Andretti won twice.

But those were the beginnings of CART's golden years in terms of attendance, awareness, television ratings, manufacturers and prestige, and Target, which made the most of using its vendors, was delighted with the exposure.

"It was a way for Target to enhance its marketing through vendor participation," Ganassi said. "It enhanced good relationships with good partners and the vendors found a lot of value."

Beginning in 1996, Ganassi Racing found its groove and Target found its red Reynard/Hondas with lightning bolts getting maximum exposure as Jimmy Vasser took the CART championship and newcomer Alex Zanardi took people's breath away with his aggressive driving.

It only got better as Zanardi claimed back-to-back CART crowns in 1997 and 1998 (on the strength of 12 wins) only to head to Formula One and be replaced by a rookie that was even more breathtaking: Juan Montoya, who rang up seven wins and Ganassi's fourth consecutive championship.

Target was good for Ganassi, but even better for CART because it produced clever national TV commercials using Vasser, Zanardi and Montoya in addition to running full-page ads in USA Today and other publications.

It was the first time since the glory days of Foyt, Andretti, Parnelli Jones and the Unsers that open-wheel racers had a national presence – and that was without the Indy 500 because of the split in 1996.

But that all changed in 2000 when Chip crossed the picket line during May and Montoya mopped up the Indy Racing League regulars with a masterful triumph at IMS. Target blanketed newspapers and magazines with its celebration ads.

2006 Chicago LAT copyScott Dixon has been the face of the No. 9 Target car since 2002, scoring 38 wins, four IndyCar titles and one Indy 500, while Dario Franchitti delivered 14 wins, three championships and a pair of Indy 500s in the No. 10 Target car.

Only Penske's 32 years with Miller Brewing (28 in NASCAR and four in IndyCar) can top the era that will end Sept. 18th in Sonoma.

"It was a helluva run for Chip," said Don "The Snake" Prudomme, drag racing icon and one of Ganassi's best friends. "I had Skoal for 20 years and that was an eternity, but 27 years is just hard to fathom."

Of course, all the experts are claiming poor TV ratings, the disastrous attempt to expand in Canada and the security breach of credit cards as the reasons Target is leaving, but let's get serious here, folks. Maybe after 27 years it was simply time.

Ganassi is humbled by the amazing partnership, but sounds prepared for what's next.

"It's been so much bigger than just a sponsor and I've developed so many great relationships through the years," he said. "I've still got Target in NASCAR (for Kyle Larson) and I still plan on running four cars in IndyCar. We'll be fine."

And, as long as they've got Dixon, Ganassi Racing will still have a target on its back – just not on the sidepods.

Click on the thumbnails below for larger images.

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13603787 10154259681917410 5634668544688908271 oAcura and RealTime Racing will debut the Acura NSX GT3 on Thursday and Friday during official Pirelli World Challenge testing and practice sessions at Mid-Ohio. The twin-turbo V6-powered supercar has been given permission by PWC to share the track prior to qualifying and gather track data with the rest of the cars in its GT category.

Dutch GT veteran Peter Kox was also announced as the official development driver for the Acura NSX GT3, and after his testing duties are completed on Friday, the NSX development chassis will be displayed in the Mid-Ohio paddock during this weekend's combined PWC and IndyCar event.

“Based on a very successful test program, we’re taking the next logical step in seeing how we stack-up against the competition,” said Art St. Cyr, president of Honda Performance Development. “Mid-Ohio seemed like the perfect opportunity, given the demands it places on a racecar and its proximity to NSX R&D and manufacturing.”

St. Cyr confirmed the car will be shipped to France in September for official FIA homologation testing at the LaDoux circuit, and reaffirmed the plans by Acura and HPD to campaign the car in at least one North American sportscar series in 2017.

"Right now we're still in the stages of determining the who's and the what's of where we're going to run in 2017," St. Cyr told RACER. "All I can confirm right now is that we absolutely are running it in 2017. As far as which series, which teams, and that kind of stuff, we have some finalists but we haven't had final approval, so we're not ready to announce that at this time, but that will be coming fairly shortly."

St. Cyr also said he does not expect to see the NSX GT3 race before the end of the year due to its lack of FIA homologation.

It's believed RealTime Racing will field a PWC GT program for Acura/HPD in 2017, and it's also understood that a list of potential candidates to run the NSX GT3 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Daytona class has been narrowed down to two teams.

little team3NASCAR Sprint Cup racing's current era is dominated by multi-car teams. So why are so many of them getting beaten up by the solo Toyota Camry of Furniture Row Racing and Martin Truex Jr.?

It didn't take long for driver Martin Truex Jr., crew chief Cole Pearn, and the rest of the Furniture Row Racing team to make their bones with new-for-2016 partners Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota.

After the final Happy Hour practice prior to the season-opening Daytona 500, there was an all-hands competition meeting at the track with David Wilson, president of TRD, U.S.A., his top lieutenant Andy Graves, and the drivers, crew chiefs and assorted personnel from the two NASCAR race teams.

"We had a plan," says Wilson, the brilliant Toyota leader and former U.S. Army Ranger. "When we went out in practice Saturday afternoon, the five Toyotas lined up. We were at the top of the timing and scoring. We realized that our five cars working together could truly do something special on Sunday."

little team4Of course, as Mike Tyson is fond of saying, everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth, and Daytona is a place where a lot of racers get punched, metaphorically speaking.

"Think about how many plans you put in place before the race as momentous as this," says Wilson. "You can't control what you can't control. Most of the time those plans go by the wayside.

"But our teams and our drivers had the discipline and the trust in each other to execute that plan to an absolute 'T.' To come all the way to the white flag, 1-2-3-4-5, and then it was a race."

Ultimately, Denny Hamlin's JGR Toyota crossed the start-finish line 0.010sec ahead of Truex, with JGR's Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards finishing third and fifth, respectively. It was the biggest single race in Toyota's history and it was a seminal moment for Furniture Row: They'd earned their place on the roster, with Truex and the four JGR cars now functioning essentially as one five-car team.

"Cole and Martin full well understood. They had to prove themselves and it was going to take time," says Graves, the group vice president, technical director for TRD. "But in all the meetings we had in Daytona, and then to go win the '500' and have all five of our guys work together the way they did, I think immediately when we left Daytona everyone just said, 'OK, this is pretty powerful. We need to keep it going.'"

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The FIA may have to force the halo through on safety grounds to get the cockpit protection device on Formula 1 cars in 2017.

The latest Strategy Group meeting takes place in Geneva on Thursday, with the halo's potential introduction one of the main items on the agenda. The indication is the vote will go against the halo unless FIA President Jean Todt can allay concerns the device lacks maturity and is being rushed through, despite passing tests.

Under the regulations its introduction now requires a unanimous vote from the Strategy Group, which is only an advisory body, before being referred onto the F1 Commission, where again unanimity would be required.

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Todt and F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone possess six votes each in the Strategy Group, while the six teams involved have one vote apiece. It only requires one dissenting voice within the Strategy Group, and again within the F1 Commission where all the teams are represented, for the halo to be shelved.

The FIA could decide to play its trump card in such situations and declare the halo will still be a part of the technical regulations for 2017 on safety grounds.

Ecclestone is believed to be among those in opposition, and that behind the scenes he has been lobbying the teams to vote against it. Ecclestone would appear to have support from Red Bull – prime mover behind the alternative aeroscreen concept – as team principal Christian Horner recently suggested he is not in favour of the halo.

"I'm not a big fan of the halo and the limitations that it has. I certainly wouldn't vote in favour at the moment," he said.

Force India is believed to be another team poised to say no, while McLaren and Williams are also understood to have considerable reservations. Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff admitted recently he has yet to make up his mind.

"Whatever can be done for the safety of the drivers needs to be done, even if it looks disgusting," said Wolff. "I don't think it looks Formula 1, and I don't think it makes the sport, the cars and the drivers appear spectacular. But all that doesn't count because safety comes first. Is it the safety tool we need in order to protect the drivers more?

"My personal opinion is we need to look at all the studies, discuss them and come to a decision that it is either a good thing, or it's a good thing but not where it should be yet, or we don't like it for safety reasons."

Lewis Hamilton, who previously derided the halo as "the worst-looking modification in F1 history," has softened his stance. A FIA presentation for the drivers at last weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix impressed Hamilton, who revealed the halo would improve safety "by 17%."

He added: "It looks terrible, but if one of us is going to have a 17% better chance of surviving in a serious incident..."

 

Originally on Autosport.com

lat galstad TOR 0716 3419One of the longest serving sponsors in IndyCar racing is on the way out, as Target – which has partnered with Chip Ganassi Racing since 1990 – will exit the series at the end of the season.

Confirmed by the team Wednesday morning, defending series champion Scott Dixon will complete the year in Target's famous red livery before bidding farewell to the department store as his primary sponsor. According to a Ganassi spokesperson, Target will remain with its NASCAR program going forward. The team also said it intends to remain with four Indy cars in 2017 as it searches for a new primary sponsor to replace Target on Dixon's No. 9 Chevy.

"I can't thank Target enough for their partnership on and off the track over the years," Dixon said. "They have been with the IndyCar team for an amazing 27 years, which is unheard of in professional sports, and on the car I've driven for the past 15 seasons. I have nothing but great memories and much thanks for Target being great partners for so long. I'm looking forward to being in the 9 car for years to come and fighting for more wins and championships with Chip and the team."

Team owner Chip Ganassi added: "It's the greatest sponsor in racing, ever. They've been nothing but good to me. They developed me personally and professionally. I've developed lifelong friends and relationships. It is unfortunate they will be leaving the IndyCar Series but rest assured that the No. 9 Chevrolet and the reigning IndyCar Series Champion Scott Dixon will still be in the IndyCar Series next year and beyond, the car will just have different colors on it. We are working through some of those options now.

thumbnail 1990 249 23 Eddie Cheever"Also, we are happy they will remain in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with Kyle Larson and the No. 42. I understand things change and people have different marketing efforts. It's one of the longest-running sponsors in racing and they delivered for me and the team, and the team delivered for them."

In a statement, Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles thanked Target "for its exceptional commitment to open-wheel racing and to Chip Ganassi Racing for its stewardship of the partnership for the past 27 years."

"The Target brand will always be an integral part of our sport’s history as the number of race victories, championships and Indianapolis 500 wins that occurred in the iconic red livery were unprecedented," the statement continued. "We’re confident that the No. 9 will have new colors to carry in the near future as the team continues its success in the Verizon IndyCar Series.”

The loss of a bedrock brand like Target is expected to have wider implications in the IndyCar paddock. Rumors of Target's departure began in April and have increased in recent weeks to the point where other teams have been forming plans on how to prevent it from spooking their sponsors. 

The longstanding tie between CGR and Target was bolstered by a close relationship between Ganassi and the company's former CEO, but with a change atop Target's management team in 2014, the first cracks in the IndyCar sponsorship program formed that season as Target reduced its commitment from two cars to a single entry for Dixon.

The retail giant entered IndyCar as the primary sponsor for the CGR entry driven by Eddie Cheever (pictured) during the team's formative years in CART and went on to sponsor its open-wheel programs in the Indy Racing League and its modern version, the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Under the Target Chip Ganassi Racing banner, its first championship was earned in 1996 with Jimmy Vasser, and subsequent titles with Alex Zanardi, Juan Montoya, Dixon, and Dario Franchitti were captured in the company's livery. 

Dixon's car has featured the return of Target's popular "bolt" livery this year, and starting this weekend at the Honda Indy 200 in Mid-Ohio, fans will have five races left to enjoy its presence.

Click on the thumbnails below for larger images.

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