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Hamilton takes lead with superb win

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Lewis Hamilton claimed the lead of the Formula 1 world championship by dominating the Singapore Grand Prix, as Mercedes teammate and title rival Nico Rosberg retired with technical problems.

Rosberg led Hamilton by 22 points coming into the 14th round of the 2014 F1 season, but now trails his rival by three after a disastrous race.

After Rosberg narrowly missed out on pole to Hamilton by just 0.007 seconds in qualifying, the expectation was for another close fight between the Mercedes duo. But Rosberg's problems began before the start, when his team discovered a glitch on the W05 and was forced to swap its steering wheel. The German then had to start the race from the pitlane when he found he could not pull away from the grid for the formation lap unaided.

Hamilton sprinted into an immediate lead from pole, chased by Sebastian Vettel (who passed Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo into Turn 1) and Fernando Alonso. The Ferrari briefly rose to second but Alonso outbraked himself into Turn 1, used the runoff area, and handed the place back to Vettel.

singapore2Rosberg made little progress during the first stint, failing even to pass Marcus Ericsson's Caterham as he battled problems that were affecting his DRS, energy recovery systems and his gearbox, and eventually retired at his first pit stop on lap 13 – after another steering wheel change – when the car refused to re-engage first gear.

With his main rival removed from the race, Hamilton looked set for a comfortable win, but his superiority came under threat when the safety car was deployed for debris following the collapse of the front wing on Sergio Perez's Force India, following a brush with Adrian Sutil's Sauber, at the midway point of the race.

Mercedes decided not to pit Hamilton (yet to run the soft-compound tire) under the safety car, requiring him to stop again under racing conditions, so the 2008 world champion began hammering in fastest laps following the restart on lap 38 of 61, in order to open a big enough gap to the chasing pack to get in and out of the pits with his lead intact.

However, the chasing Red Bulls of Vettel and Ricciardo were attempting to make their first set of soft tires last to the end of the race, easing the pressure on the leader. Hamilton stretched out more than 25sec over Vettel before making his final pit stop with nine of the scheduled laps to run, but this was not enough to keep him ahead.

Hamilton just fended off Ricciardo into Turn 3 as Vettel claimed the lead, but with far fresher tires Hamilton easily retook the place and drove on to win by a comfortable 13.5sec margin as the race ran past the two-hour limit with a lap of the scheduled 61 to run.

Having jumped Vettel at the first round of stops, Alonso conceded track position to both Red Bulls by pitting under the safety car. The double world champion sat behind Ricciardo waiting for his rivals' tyres to fall apart, but the Red Bulls held on to score their first double podium finish of the season, with Vettel bagging his best result of a difficult year in second spot.

Felipe Massa's Williams repassed the fast-starting Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen for fifth at the first round of stops and raced on to a lonely finish, while Jean-Eric Vergne (twice penalised five seconds for exceeding track limits) scored a season's best sixth after gambling on a third pit stop after the safety car and using his fresher soft tires to pass a train of cars in the closing stages with some bold late-braking moves.

Perez recovered from his wing breakage to execute a similar strategy to Vergne and finish seventh as the tires on the cars around him gave up the ghost toward the end.

Raikkonen paid dearly for his earlier loss of track position, and trailed home eighth despite pitting for fresh tires under the safety car.

Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen rounded out the top 10, as the tires on Valtteri Bottas's Williams – which ran as high as sixth at one point – gave up on him. The Finn trailed home a pointless 11th.

McLaren's Jenson Button also looked on course to score points, after a fine start and good strategy carried him from 11th on the grid to seventh, but the 2009 world champion's car broke down seven laps from the finish.

RESULTS - 60 LAPS/TWO HOURS:

PosDriverCarGap
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes -
2 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull/Renault 13.534s
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 14.273s
4 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 15.389s
5 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 42.161s
6 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso/Renault 56.801s
7 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 59.038s
8 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m 00.641s
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India/Mercedes 1m 01.661s
10 Kevin Magnussen McLaren/Mercedes 1m 02.230s
11 Valtteri Bottas Williams/Mercedes 1m 05.065s
12 Pastor Maldonado Lotus/Renault 1m 06.915s
13 Romain Grosjean Lotus/Renault 1m 08.029s
14 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Renault 1m 12.008s
15 Marcus Ericsson Caterham/Renault 1m 34.188s
16 Jules Bianchi Marussia/Ferrari 1m 34.543s
17 Max Chilton Marussia/Ferrari 1 Lap
- Jenson Button McLaren/Mercedes Retirement
- Adrian Sutil Sauber/Ferrari Retirement
- Esteban Gutierrez Sauber/Ferrari Retirement
- Nico Rosberg Mercedes Retirement
- Kamui Kobayashi Caterham/Renault Not started

Drivers' championship

PosDriverPoints
1 Lewis Hamilton 241
2 Nico Rosberg 238
3 Daniel Ricciardo 181
4 Fernando Alonso 133
5 Sebastian Vettel 124
6 Valtteri Bottas 122
7 Jenson Button 72
8 Nico Hulkenberg 72
9 Felipe Massa 65
10 Sergio Perez 45
11 Kimi Raikkonen 45
12 Kevin Magnussen 39
13 Jean-Eric Vergne 19
14 Romain Grosjean 8
15 Daniil Kvyat 8
16 Jules Bianchi 2
17 Adrian Sutil 0
18 Marcus Ericsson 0
19 Pastor Maldonado 0
20 Esteban Gutierrez 0
21 Max Chilton 0
22 Kamui Kobayashi 0

Constructors' championship

PosConstructorPoints
1 Mercedes 479
2 Red Bull/Renault 305
3 Williams/Mercedes 187
4 Ferrari 178
5 Force India/Mercedes 117
6 McLaren/Mercedes 111
7 Toro Rosso/Renault 27
8 Lotus/Renault 8
9 Marussia/Ferrari 2
10 Sauber/Ferrari 0
11 Caterham/Renault 0

 

Originally on Autosport.com

 

MuddyKart2The two rounds of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series in Las Vegas, as the penultimate event in the series, are often where at least a couple of champions are crowned. Although two championships – Brian Deegan in Pro 2 and Chad George in Pro Buggy – are all but sealed because both drivers need only a start to clinch – the other title battles were left as muddy as the track that the racers would have competed on on Saturday night.

However, they didn’t. Thunderstorms that moved through the area not only left the racing surface a muddy mess, but also the accompanying lightning put the fans in the grandstands, officials and television crews at risk. With more promised for the next day, Round 14 has been postponed to Lake Elsinore in October, so fans only got one night of racing on Friday night, plus some Trophy Kart racing on Saturday night –Jr. 1 and Jr. 2 karts ran in the dry, but the Modifieds took to a messy track after the first rainstorm. But those that came for Round 13 were treated to some excellent racing.

Pro 4 was full of action, but it was mostly the type of action that took out the frontrunners. First Ricky Johnson was out front, pursued by Rob MacCachren, Carl Renezeder and Kyle LeDuc. Then Renezeder spun, collecting LeDuc in the process. Renezeder was done, but LeDuc put his head down and started back toward the front. Then Johnson biked and hit the wall. MacCachren clipped him and cut a tire, forcing him to the pits. Doug Fortin was now up front, but he would soon have LeDuc to deal with, had LeDuc not been having problems. First he got held up behind Greg Adler spinning, and then he spun on his own, collecting his brother Todd in the process.

MacCachren, with a fresh tire, was charging up through the field, passing first Jerry Daugherty, then Corry Weller and Curt LeDuc. He muscled his way by Adler with a lap-and-a-half to go and set off in pursuit of Fortin. He finally saw his opportunity in the final corner and pushed his truck inside Fortin, but made some contact in the process. Officials decided the contact was more than incidental, and penalized MacCachren, leaving Fortin the winner in his No. 96 General Tire/Toyota of Escondido Toyota, his second victory of the season. Kyle LeDuc finished three positions and six points ahead of MaCachren, extending his points lead by six to 40 with two rounds left.

Creed

The Pro Lite contenders had about as topsy-turvy, up-and-down race as possible. Brian Deegan, entering Round 13 with a one-point deficit to Sheldon Creed (ABOVE), jumped out to the lead from fifth on the grid. Meanwhile, Creed’s window net wasn’t cooperating, and he had to make a call to the pits to put it back up, dropping him all the way to the back of the field. He naturally charged through the back of the back, but the farther forward he got, the more his advance slowed.

Meanwhile, on a restart, Casey Currie, pursuing Deegan, got into Deegan coming over the little tabletop out of Turn 4, sending him sideways, blocking the track and causing another truck to roll. Thanks to the “last completed lap”rule, the order was reset to where it was and Deegan reassumed his spot in the front. That wasn’t good news for Creed, but he benefitted from the same rule a short time later when, as an early green came out for a restart, he went wide off the last turn in a melee of trucks, went up on the berm and put the truck on its lid as gently as could possibly be done.

Again the field was set back to its order before the yellow. But while that was being done, Deegan’s truck was steaming. It seems his fans were knocked off in the earlier incident, and the engine temperature was climbing. On the final lap, as Creed was charging closer to the front, Deegan bicycled, allowing Jerett Brooks through, and then Deegan’s engine gave up and he started sliding backward. Brooks had an amazing run in his No. 77 Cooper Tires/Maxima Racing Oils Nissan in his return to the series after a long absence. After a mechanical infraction disallowed his qualifying time, he had to race his way into the final through the Last Chance Qualifier, then make his way through the field. Creed was second, while Deegan ended up ninth, and amazing turn of events in favor of Creed given how things looked mid-race.

“I was sitting 20th on lap 2,” said Creed. “I thought we were done. I just put my head down and went to work. Then I found Jerett and we were like 16th and 17th and we went to the front together. It was fun.”

Chad George has dominated Pro Buggy all season, and demonstrated that dominance in Las Vegas, simply running away with the victory in his No. 42 Mickey Thompson/ASL Builders Funco. Heading into the race with a 65-point lead over defending champ Steven Greinke, he extended that lead by another 20 points because Greinke parked his buggy early in the race.

BryceMenziesBrian Deegan might have been upset that his closest title rival, Bryce Menzies (LEFT)), dominated the Pro 2 proceedings in his No. Red Bull/GoPro Ford at Las Vegas, but as Deegan finished third, it didn’t have any big implications for the championship given Deegan’s huge lead – even with third-place points contender MacCachren finishing second. Like George in Pro Buggy, he basically needs one start in the next two races to clinch the championship.

“It’s the best I’ve been sitting going into a Pro 2 championship,” said Deegan. “To come out and have such a good points gap coming into Vegas…Vegas is always the most stressful race every year, because this usually decides the championship here. Coming in here with the Pro 2 with such a good lead–and that was the plan all along because we were starting with a good truck; the year before we tried a bunch of new stuff and it just didn’t work. The last race last year, I think we won, I said, ‘All right, let’s do the same truck next year.’ So we came out swinging. And bam, the other guys were still figuring stuff out, and we built a big points gap.”

So Deegan and George will have to wait until Lake Elsinore to claim their titles, just as whoever ultimately turns out to be Pro 4 and Pro Lite champions. The exact schedule is yet to be determined, but the Lake Elsinore event on the third weekend in October will include two points-paying rounds in addition to the big-purse, Pro 4 vs,. Pro 2 Lucas Oil Challenge Cup.

Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series
Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Nev.

Round 13 Winners
Pro 4: Doug Fortin
Pro 2: Bryce Menzies
Pro Lite: Jerett Brooks
Pro Buggy: Chad George
Modified Kart: Cole Mamer

Round 14 Winners
Modified Kart: Christopher Polvoorde
Junior 1 Kart: Mason Prater
Junior 2 Kart: Ricky Gutierrez

AudiLEAD-REPORT

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In years to come, the statistics books will show what appears to be a crushing display of Audi dominance at Circuit of the Americas. But the WEC's second visit to the 3.427-mile track in Austin, Texas, was anything but a straightforward affair for Audi Sport – or any of its rivals. In the end, Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer triumphed over their teammates Loic Duval., Tom Kristensen and Lucas di Grassi.

The race started with the Toyota TS 040 Hybrid of Sebastien Buemi bursting to the front and accruing a near-30sec lead, despite a time consuming spin, while the Audis took 45mins to get ahead of the two Porsches. But Lotterer was being super aggressive and he and Duval double-stinted which vaulted them ahead of the Toyota No. 7 of Alex Wurz, Stephane Sarrazin and Mike Conway to grab second and third.

At the 90-minute mark, rain fell hard and with most cars trying to push their luck on slicks, several cars were left stranded in the gravel, which brought out the red flag. Nicolas Lapierre, who'd taken over from Buemi, was one of those victims, and he was narrowly missed by the aquaplaning No. 20 Porsche of Timo Bernhard. That effectively knocked the Porsche out of contention.

However, after the race was restarted with 3hrs18mins left to run, some truly scintillating driving from Buemi, Lapierre and Anthony Davidson, meant No. 8 Toyota recovered to become Audi's strongest opposition by the end and finished third.

While the track was wet, Neel Jani in the No. 14 Porsche was magic and pulled out a half-minute lead on the Audis, but the No. 2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro, with Lotterer on board, was a match as the track started drying, and as the dry line became established, he reeled in the Porsche 919 HYBRID and had the edge over the final hour. Jani, Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb drove hard, but eventually the No. 1 Audi got ahead as the strategies played out, and Buemi's blistering pace in the final two stints pushed the Porsche drivers out of a podium position.

LMP 2 saw victory for KCMG's ORECA-Nissan, driven by Tsugio Matsuda, Richard Bradley and Matt Howson, followed by SMP Racing's similar car of Nicolas Minassian, Maurizio Mediani and Sergey Zlobin. But it was Extreme Speed Motorsport who stole the show, with Scott Sharp driving aggressively throughout the first hour of the race, Ryan Dalziel lapping 5-6sec quicker than the opposition during his stints, and Ed Brown bringing home the HPD-ARX03b in one piece and in third place at the end.

GTE Pro featured a fine and race-long battle between the Porsche of Patrick Pilet/Frederic Makowiecki and the Aston Martin Vantage of Stefan Mucke and Darren Turner. In the end, it was the British marque that prevailed. The second Porsche of Nick Tandy/Jorg Bergmeister should have been right up in the mix, too, but late in the race, the car took forever to refire after a pit stop, which cost it a lap.

In GTE-Am, Christian Ried, Khaled Al-Qubaisi and Klaus Bachler in the Proton Porsche were strong opponents for the Aston Martins, and held an 80sec lead at the mid-point of the race, but in the final 10 minutes, it was the AM Vantage of Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla-Lana and Christopher Nygaard that prevailed by one second, ahead of teammates Richie Stanaway, Kristian Poulsen and David Heinemeier-Hansson.​

Click here to read the play-by-play rundown of the race.

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RESULTS - 157 LAPS:

PosClassDriverTeamCarGap
1 LMP1 M.Fassler/A.Lotterer/B.Treluyer Audi Sport Team Joest Audi 6h01m52.122s
2 LMP1 L.di Grassi/L.Duval/T.Kristensen Audi Sport Team Joest Audi 53.016s
3 LMP1 A.Davidson/N.Lapierre/S.Buemi Toyota Racing Toyota 1m03.945s
4 LMP1 R.Dumas/N.Jani/M.Lieb Porsche Team Porsche 1 Lap
5 LMP1 T.Bernhard/M.Webber/B.Hartley Porsche Team Porsche 2 Laps
6 LMP1 A.Wurz/S.Sarrazin/M.Conway Toyota Racing Toyota 2 Laps
7 LMP1 N.Prost/N.Heidfeld/M.Beche Rebellion Racing Rebellion/Toyota 8 Laps
8 LMP2 M.Howson/R.Bradley/T.Matsuda KCMG Oreca/Nissan 12 Laps
9 LMP2 S.Zlobin/N.Minassian/M.Mediani SMP Racing Oreca/Nissan 12 Laps
10 LMP2 S.Sharp/R.Dalziel/E.Brown Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD 16 Laps
11 GTE Pro D.Turner/S.Mucke Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin 16 Laps
12 GTE Pro F.Makowiecki/P.Pilet Porsche Team Manthey Porsche 16 Laps
13 GTE Pro G.Bruni/T.Vilander AF Corse Ferrari 16 Laps
14 LMP2 R.Rusinov/O.Pla/J.Canal G-Drive Racing Morgan/Nissan 16 Laps
15 LMP1 C.Bouchut/J.Rossiter/L.Auer   Lotus/AER 17 Laps
16 GTE Pro J.Bergmeister/N.Tandy Porsche Team Manthey Porsche 18 Laps
17 GTE Am P.D.Lana/P.Lamy/C.Nygaard Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin 19 Laps
18 GTE Am K.Poulsen/D.Hansson/R.Stanaway Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin 19 Laps
19 GTE Pro D.Rigon/J.Calado AF Corse Ferrari 20 Laps
20 GTE Am C.Ried/K.Bachler/K.Al Qubaisi Proton Competition Porsche 20 Laps
21 GTE Am L.P.-Companc/M.Cioci/M.Venturi AF Corse Ferrari 20 Laps
22 GTE Pro A.MacDowall/D.O'Young/F.Rees Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin 20 Laps
23 GTE Am G.Roda/P.Ruberti/J.Segal 8 Star Motorsports Ferrari 21 Laps
24 GTE Pro R.Taylor/J.Taylor/T.Milner Corvette Racing Chevrolet 22 Laps
25 GTE Am T.Krohn/N.Jonsson/B.Collins Krohn Racing Ferrari 22 Laps
26 GTE Am S.Wyatt/M.Rugolo/A.Bertolini AF Corse Ferrari 24 Laps
27 GTE Am F.Perrodo/E.Collard/M.Vaxiviere Prospeed Competition Porsche 46 Laps
- LMP1 D.Kraihamer/A.Belicchi/F.Leimer Rebellion Racing Rebellion/Toyota Retirement
- LMP2 K.Ladygin/V.Shaitar/A.Ladygin SMP Racing Oreca/Nissan

GANASSI-WINNER

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Scott Pruett held on by 2.336sec to win the IMSA United SportsCar Championship's Lone Star Le Mans race and score Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates' first win since Long Beach back in April.

The veteran champion and his teammate Memo Rojas had been in fighting mood from the very start of the race at Circuit of The Americas (see photo gallery, BELOW), when Rojas went three abreast with Wayne Taylor Racing's Corvette DP and OAK Racing's polesitting Ligier JS P2 Honda. While OAK's Yacaman bundled Ricky Taylor into the run-off area at Turn 1, Rojas was up to second, and remained in touch with the leader.

Action Express Racing duo Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa were also in the lead mix from the start, and slightly differing pit strategies saw Barbosa emerge ahead of Brundle. But both were chasing Pruett, as Ganassi had elected to go for just two pit stops. (Pruett would finally run out of fuel on the slow-down lap.)

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Although Brundle swiftly hunted down the DP pair, he was struggling in traffic, whereas Pruett squirted the Ganassi Riley-Ford Ecoboost smartly ahead of traffic, and always seemed to have at least a 1.5sec cushion between himself and Barbosa, and sometimes it stretched to three times that much.

In the final 15mins, Barbosa got held up by the battling GTLM BMW Z4s just enough to allow Brundle to muscle his way past into second, but it was too late for the OAK car to catch Pruett.

Another car that should have been in the mix was the Spirit of Daytona Racing Corvette DP, but when Michael Valiante spun Yacaman following the restart after the race's solitary caution period, he received a drive-through penalty from which the team never recovered. They finished sixth behind Ed Brown/Johannes van Overbeek (ESM Racing HPD ARX-03b) and Ozz Negri/John Pew (Michael Shank Racing Riley-Ford Ecoboost).

In the Prototype Challenge class, polesitters Sean Rayhall and Luis Diaz conquered for 8Star Motorsports but their race was not without its hitches, as it got spun around mid-race. However, the team's day was saved by some typically strong driving from both its drivers and problems hitting some of its strongest opposition - RSR Racing and Starworks Motorsport. The latter scooped third, courtesy of Renger van der Zande and Mirco Schultis, but it was the No. 54 CORE autosport team of Jon Bennett and Colin Braun who came out the biggest winners – second place sealed the PC championship title one race early.

VIPER-WINNERMOPAR fans had their day of days, as Jonathan Bomarito and Kuno Wittmer headed Marc Goossens/Dominik Farnbacher in a 1-2 finish for the Dodge SRT Viper GTS-Rs in the GT Le Mans category, while Jeroen Bleekemolen and Ben Keating took their second GT Daytona victory of the season in the GT3-R Viper.

Right from the drop of the green flag, the Vipers and Porsche 911s were evenly matched at the front of GTLM – and in a class of their own. What appeared to have decided the race was the caution period, since the lead Porsche of Nick Tandy and Jorg Bergmeister had stopped already whereas their opposition had not. And so from the 1-hour mark until 20 minutes before the end, they held an apparently solid 40-second lead. However, a mechanical failure in the closiing stages rendered this talented pair as a DNF.

This handed the Vipers the advantage, as the second Porsche of Pat Long and Michael Christensen, an early leader after ducking around Wittmer, was 20sec adrift at the checkered flag. Bomarito and Wittmer have now unofficially moved into the lead of the GTLM Drivers' Championship

In GTD, Ben Keating did a fine job in the early stages of the race to hold onto a car which had been rendered loose by over-correcting an understeer issue during practice and when he handed over to Jeroen Bleekemolen, he was running fifth, albeit some way off the pace of the Alex Job Racing and Snow Racing Porsches. However, Bleekemolen started eating into the lead of the Turner Motorsports BMW Z4 of Dane Cameron and Markus Palttala, which had led the first stint.

Bleekemolen moved into the lead with half-an-hour to go and never looked back. Meanwhile Cameron also lost second place to the Magnus Racing Porsche 911 of Andy Lally/John Potter in the closing stages.

Click here for full results.

Click here for play-by-play rundown of the race.

 

 

SusieSebastian copyTony Kanaan figured out the fast line on the last lap and held off James Hinchcliffe to win Saturday’s Dan Wheldon Pro-Am Memorial go-kart race at Mark Dismore’s nifty road course in New Castle, Ind.

Watched by Dan's widow, Susie [ABOVE, with their son Sebastian], 13 former or current IndyCar drivers participated for the second year in a 15-minute sprint benefitting Alzheimer’s research. And Wheldon’s longtime friend and former teammate claimed his second straight victory.

TKHinch“It was a lot of fun and I want to keep racing,” said the 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner who also captured the Verizon IndyCar season finale at Fontana last month. “It’s great to see all the guys turn out for this and honor Dan’s memory. He loved karting and I think he’d be happy to see all his buddies out here.”

Hinchcliffe, currently being pursued by Schmidt-Peterson and KV Racing for 2015, led about half the race before T.K. got by and he refrained from using the “chrome horne” to get a win although it was close [ABOVE].

“I thought about parking him, of course,” said the 27-year-old Canadian breaking into a grin, “but I was thinking I could pass him clean on that last lap because I’d been running flat out and he hadn’t figured it out. At least I didn’t think he had but he did, dammit!”

RobinHollyDixieScott Dixon finished third and praised all the participants, which included Marco Andretti, Ed Carpenter, Ryan Briscoe, Josef Newgarden, Sebastian Saavedra, J.R. Hildebrand, Sage Karam, Conor Daly, Jay Howard, P.J. Chesson plus Matthew Brabham, Spencer Pigot and Mark Dismore Jr.

“It’s a fantastic event and a great way to remember Dan,” said Dixon. “It didn’t get as ugly as I thought it might on the last lap but it’s always fun.”

Holly Wheldon [RIGHT, with Robin and Dixon], sister of the two-time Indy 500 champ who lost his life in 2011, flew in from England to drive in her brother’s honor and did him proud by knocking a couple of fellow karters out of her way.

“Yeah, I think DW would have approved,” she smiled. “It means a lot to see all the support this race gets and I’m just thrilled we’ve had it two years in a row and I hope it keeps going.”
       

lat-levitt-cota-0914 10591THE TIMES ARE A CHANGING: Speeds have been a point of interest so far this weekend with cars from all three sports car series that raced at Circuit of The Americas together in 2013 at the same event in 2014. The 2013 Rolex Series Daytona Prototype pole went to Jon Fogarty in the No. 99 Corvette DP at 2:00.179 and the Rolex GT pole went to Alessandro Balzan in the No. 63 Ferrari F458 at 2:08.846.

With the numerous DP performance upgrades in mind, the No. 10 Corvette DP piloted by Ricky Taylor qualified second in the TUDOR Championship Prototype class with a 1:58.643, a full 1.536 seconds faster than the best DP one year ago.

Qualifying for the ALMS series was wet last year, making a direct comparison between P2 pole laps a challenge, but if we look to the race, the winning No. 555 HPD ARX-03b driven by Ryan Briscoe and Scott Tucker posted a best lap of 1:58.099 on Michelin tires. The 2014 TUDOR Championship Prototype pole went to the Continental-shod Ligier JS P2-Honda of Alex Brundle whose lap of 1:57.809 was set in conditions that weren't ideal.

For the sake of comparison, the World Endurance Championship LMP1-H pole set by the No. 8 Toyota TS040 Hybrid on Friday night included an impressive individual lap of 1:48.993 on a mostly dry track, just shy of the 1:48.355 average set by Audi to earn the COTA pole in 2013.

The best individual lap from the pole-sitting No. 26 Ligier JS P2-Nissan in qualifying yesterday was a 1:55.752 on Dunlop tires, 2.057 seconds clear of Brundle's TUDOR Championship Prototype pole lap.

Toyota's WEC P1 pole is 9.65 seconds faster than the best DP qualifying lap, 8.816 seconds clear of the best TUDOR Championship pole set by a P2, and 6.759 seconds faster than the WEC P2 pole.

Interesting stuff...

2014COTAMPruettWed917 142PIT LANE LOGJAM: With 51 TUDOR Championship cars entered, 51 Continental Tire Series entries and 29 more from the WEC, pit lane looked like a wall-to-wall clearing house for refueling tanks, timing stands and air hoses. Cramming the necessary endurance racing equipment from three different series into a single pit lane had an element of comedy to it as the inevitable logjam took place from the moment practice began on Thursday. Prior to the Conti race on Friday, as many as five teams shared space normally reserved for two to three, yet with their event now completed, IMSA and WEC teams will have a bit of breathing room thanks to one series packing up their equipment and heading home.

NEW AK FOR PORSCHE: The Porsche 919 Hybrids appeared to lack the final bits of downforce needed at the opening WEC rounds in England and Belgium, and the Germans have used the three months since Le Mans to come up with a new body kit that made its debut this weekend. The differences are subtle, with rear treatments standing out above everything else to help plant the car's light powertrain.

2014COTAMPruettWed917 100


photo a

TOUGH START FOR PARK PLACE: The Park Place Motorsports GTD team was a victim of the nasty weather that besieged the track Wednesday and early Thursday. The team's aluminum canopy structure was badly damaged, bending the long poles into U shapes. Fixing the structure was impossible, leading the Porsche entrants to rent a tent that was erected for the weekend.

COOP'S NOT SURE: College student and Alex Job Racing Porsche GTD racer Cooper MacNeil tells RACER he's not sure how much he'll drive next season. The team's new Porsche GT America will enter 2015 as a lame duck; IMSA is adopting full GT3 regulations for 2016, and for MacNeil, it's thrown a considerable curveball. "I'm not sure how much I'll drive, we're not sure what we're going to do, and it sucks with buying a Porsche that was made for [the GTD class] that won't be eligible after next season," he said.

THREE TEAMS FOR HPD? Chatter this weekend at COTA from a well-placed source says three teams could run HPD's new ARX-04b P2 coupe next year. Of the six cars being built, two have been bought by Extreme Speed Motorsports, and two single-car entries could be on the grid in IMSA. The other two are expected to race in the WEC

BIG NUMBER FOR WILL: BMW entrant Will Turner is reaching a milestone this weekend at COTA: His turner Motorsport team will complete its 300th race using products from the German brand.

2014COTAMPruettWed917 008SMALLER BRAKE DUCTS FOR AUDI: The electric motors used at the front of the Audi R18 e-tron quattros to harvest energy under braking are so powerful, the team has reduced the size of brake ducts at the front of their cars due to the reduced workload required from the carbon discs and pads.

STEF TO PC? Indy Lights veteran Stefan Wilson says he's close to going racing in the Verizon IndyCar Series next year, and wants to add some sports car racing to his schedule: "I've been talking to some PC teams this weekend, and I really think the class is perfect – a real driver's car – that works well with a pro driver and a gentleman driver. I've had some good discussions and I hope they work out to get me in a car at some races next year."

McNISH ON THE GAS: Three-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Allan McNish is at COTA in his official capacity with Audi, and has also been giving guests rides around the circuit in one of the brand's R8s. He enjoyed himself so much Thursday night, he actually ran out of fuel and was stranded on track with a passenger in the car...

DELTAWING DEVELOPMENT DELAYED: The DeltaWing team raced its DWC13 coupe for the first time at COTA last year, yet decided to skip this year's event to concentrate on numerous updates that will appear at the season finale in two weeks at Petit Le Mans.

CHARLIE PUTNAM INCIDENT: Fall-Line GTD Audi R8 driver/sponsor Charlie Putman had a scary incident just prior to COTA that forced the team to withdraw from the event. A crash while off-roading saw Putman stranded for approximately 20 hours with a number of broken bones. He was eventually found and rescued and is said to be recovering with no recollection of how the incident was triggered. The team could miss Petit Le Mans unless funded replacement drivers are found.

FIRST HPD ARX-04b TEST APPROACHING According to HPD vice president Steve Eriksen, the firm's new P2 coupe will run in November. "That's what we're shooting for. You've got to be ready for Daytona so you need as much track time as you can. The car will be going together – we've got guys over in the UK right now doing the wiring on the car, the wiring layout and all that. The first car will go together in the UK in October. Then go across to ESM, ESM will then take it back apart, do a beautiful job of putting it back together to be race ready and then we'll go to the track."

ONROAK WELCOMES P2 COST-CAP INCREASE: Says Oak Racing team principal Jacques Nicolet: "Most of the current open LM P2 chassis are from the LM P1 chassis, and so it was possible to work with a cost cap of 370,000 euros [$475,000] excluding tax, as most of the development costs had been distributed over time and across the LM P1 and LM P2 models. The new generation of closed LM P2 chassis are 100 percent new creations, with specific developments: this required an adjustment of the cost cap [to 450,000 euros/$577,000] to cover the price of these new cars."

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The most recent meeting of the FIA's World Motor Sport Council revealed an interesting cost-cutting initiative that will be implemented at the start of 2015.

"Introduction of cost management measures have been agreed as from January 1, 2015 including limitations of testing and tire limitations per category," the WMSC briefing stated. "Further details will be included in the 2015 Sporting and Technical Regulations."

Speaking with WEC CEO Gerard Neveu at Circuit of The Americas, the Frenchman told RACER the series can make some cost-cutting changes on their own, but sizeable reductions can only come if and when the manufacturers and team owners are in total agreement.

"I really believe that this is a responsibility for each member in the paddock to control the situation we're facing," he said. "We have to be reasonable and take into consideration the financial side. Probably 10 years ago it wasn't the case, but this is the real true world now. What we try to do as a promoter is to provide all the right conditions to help the members of the paddock work in a better financial way.

"A few weeks ago we created a working group and we include all the different members of the paddock to say: What can we do to help you reduce the costs and to make sure that you have good visibility and that you have a good return in the future? But we have to take into consideration all the different people in our paddock. Huge teams, private teams, big manufacturers, promoters, staff, everybody. The idea is if everybody is working in the same direction, that we have to control the costs, it can be a big help. That is the target.

"But we cannot make the decision for them. The manufacturers and everyone must want to agree. For example, I'm in charge for the organization, so logistics and transportation is a very important side. I'm looking after that. But regarding the cost to develop an engine or a new chassis, I cannot control that directly. Only the WEC's regulations can help for that. We just make sure that all the technical department, the people create the future regulation, never say people can do whatever they want. We have to make sure that all the new rules take into consideration the fact that we cannot spend money like this."

Audi pitIn the most affluent portion of the paddock, LMP1 giant Audi is rumored to spent more on its WEC program per year than many Formula 1 teams, and according to its LMP project leader, expanding cost-cutting beyond the limited scope outlined by the WMSC would not be welcome.

"For me, I'd rather talk about cost efficiency," said Audi's Chris Reinke. "There's one thing to bring costs down and, the other side, to get more out of the money you spend. There are two ways of approaching it and I like to do the dual way. Yes, we've got to seize it, we've got to make sure that the cost doesn't sky rise. On the other side, there's a lot to do to get more out of the product, more marketing wise, better publicity. So there are two ways of approaching it.

"At the moment, yes, there are talks going on how we make sure that the cost doesn't rise any further. And there are small wheels to be turned. We have already the test restrictions confirmed for next day to limit them to 50 days. We're discussing tire limitation; things which shouldn't matter in the final racing, shouldn't limit us in proper preparation, but it shouldn't rise any more costs."\

Asked if he was concerned about LMP1 costs spiraling out of control, Reinke offered a forthright response.

"Too expensive would mean that it doesn't make sense for Audi to spend these budgets to run here," he said. "We are here. We have a confirmed program. Therefore, for us it does pay off. On the other side, we do realize that the competition gets harder, therefore we would like to be wise enough to foresee what might come up and try to freeze to a level that everybody can afford."


2014-6-heures-du-Circuit-dia-DSC-0049.JPG hdAudi LMP1 rival Toyota has worked from a limited budget since the Japanese manufacturer returned to prototype competition in 2012. Toyota Racing technical director Pascal Vasselon has a different view on the topic, and sees the possible benefits of working from a cost reduction agreement.

"We are extremely favorable to this initiative from the ACO and the FIA simply because we need to, I would say, to make sure the costs stay under control," he said. "Of course, already the baseline car costs a lot, now we have to make sure that all the items where you can buy performance are under control.

"What do I mean, we are buying performance? We know that the more we test, the more we develop the car, we know that the longer we spend in the wind tunnel, the better the performance is. All these items you could just buy performance. And this we have to keep it under control, otherwise it could kill the series. So from our side, we are extremely favorable to this cost saving initiative and we are determined to really contribute to it."

Vasselon holds the view that without more comprehensive cost cutting in the future, P1 manufacturers could elevate budgets to unsustainable levels.

"This is exactly the point," he added. "In our opinion, LMP1, as it is at the moment, the perspective to have a cost explosion would not be sustainable. At least for us, it is a condition that costs become under control to stay in this category. So the there is a risk, the series is facing a risk; with this cost savings working group we have a good chance to avoid this risk."

amrWithin the GTE paddock, Aston Martin Racing has excelled at creating programs where a blend of manufacturer funding, corporate backing and paying drivers has allowed AMR to field four cars across the Pro and Am categories. Its position as a works entrant with privateer entries gives AMR boss Dave Richards a unique perspective the issue of costs, and as the veteran team principal shares, the WMSC's efforts could be in vain.

"The first issue is that you will never control costs because costs are a direct ratio to value," said the Briton. "So as the championship increases in value, so people will spend the money on it because that's – I am quite convinced if you took a Formula 3 car and gave it to all the Formula 1 teams, their budgets wouldn't change at all. They would just spend it differently. Right?"

Looking up from the GT paddock toward the cash-rich LMP1 entrants, Richards believes the cost-cutting initiative, while intended for every class, will have a more meaningful impact in the WEC's marquee category.

"I think I can only speak for GT racing, and I don't think it's a particular issue in GT racing," he noted. "Yeah, you can control certain aspects of it but I don't think today there's any great problem. You've got to control the number of races, that's a factor of how much it's going to cost. The travel arrangements, another factor of cost. But if those things are managed properly I don't think the technical side of it is out of control at all.

"I can see why the FIA might wish to change some of the things with the LMP cars and the costs around those. We've looked at it, and it's prohibitive for a car company like Aston Martin to even consider competing with a prototype at the moment in the current rules. But I think GT racing has got a great formula about it, this balance of performance. I have always joked with my engineers and my guys and asked why I should go spending a fortune over the winter months, increasing the performance of the engine by another 20 hp to have another 10 kg of [Balance of Performance] lead put on the car?"

Rather than continue down a path of reducing test days and other assets that are valuable to teams, using BoP adjustments, in Richards' estimation, could be the best cost-cutting tool the WEC has at its disposal.

"I think performance balancing is the best form of cost containment that you've got in any form of motorsport today if it's done properly – and over the years it's become more and more refined," he said. "The early days there were big disparities, but you don't hear too many gripes about it today. Occasionally, we get it a little bit wrong, but generally, it's just fine tuning of it now. I think that's the way to go.

"That inhibits people from spending ridiculous amounts of money on the cars themselves. What they should be doing is spending money on marketing the activities, bringing spectators to here, getting the dealers engaged in the championships. That's the way to go."

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The RACER Channel catches up with Porsche's Mark Webber who speaks on Formula 1, sports cars, and his favorite part of the COTA circuit."Formula 1 from about 2009 to '13 was a bit of a dinosaur, the engine was very old, that's why they had the engine freeze like that, to try and control costs.

"Formula 1 is very advanced now, as is this category," said Webber. "Obviously the technology that we're using, we're on a very steep learning curve. The stuff we've learned just in the last six months is quite impressive – obviously chasing weight, chasing more power, more reliability. What's exciting for me is I know some of this stuff will be going into the road car...."

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Audi Sport engineer Brad Kettler takes The RACER Channel through the interesting hybrid charging and systems check process performed by the team prior to the unit's use.

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