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newgarden barberIndyCar fans could get a good look at next year's universal bodywork in road course trim and learn more details about the partners involved with the project later this week.

"We're hoping in the next week to put out some renderings," IndyCar competition president Jay Frye told RACER. "We hope we can put out renderings that are 99 percent what it is. And we're hoping at that point we can start to talk about manufacturers, who's going to build it. Talk about who's going to test it and the process, how we're going to do it, that type of thing. So we're close, real close."

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After revealing the superspeedway renderings of the car earlier in the year, Frye and the rest of IndyCar's competition team can't wait for the public to see the fruits of their road course/short oval labor.

"It appears there's great enthusiasm for the universal car," he said of the new bodywork and approach to generating downforce that will replace the current aero kits in use. "Again, so far, it's all been aesthetics. Everybody, it appears, really likes the look. There's been no pushback in any way on the actual look. That's been really what we've had at this point. At some point, the next thing we're going to have to have is the actual car. Then the performance, the track testing piece, will be coming up shortly after that."

Tentative on-track testing for the new-look Dallara DW12 is expected to commence in July.

"The wind tunnel [data] has been very good," Frye continued. "It's exceeded expectations. I think we've been in six or seven times with scale cars. The numbers are coming back really well. But again, until you actually get on the track, in my opinion, you don't really know. That will be coming up this summer."

Part of the thinking behind the switch from Chevy- and Honda-built aero kits to spec universal bodywork has been to reduce the giant road course/short oval downforce numbers produced today. An estimated loss of 800 pounds of total downforce should allow drivers to corner with great speed while allowing bigger top speed figures.

new car"It should perform, we think, at a very high level, and It should be fast," Frye said. "It should have the downforce in the right places. It should be racier. It should be where there's not all the turbulence that comes off the back of the car as it is now. There's a lot of performance enhancing gains. The safety piece of the car's better. We're really excited about it. So again, until we actually get the car on the track, we're hesitant to say what it will do, but we're confident it will be good."

smiles at andretti mclaren mpMentioning the name "McLaren" to Michael Andretti was once a surefire way to put the IndyCar legend in a defensive stance.

"I could literally write a book about it," he said in 2013 on the 20th anniversary of the painful, partial season of Formula 1 he spent with the team. "But in doing so I'm going to expose a lot of people, in doing so I'm going to sound like sour grapes. And that's the only thing. You know, it was never going to work."

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His role as McLaren's second driver alongside three-time F1 champ Ayrton Senna in 1993 was, as many recall, an exercise in futility, and at the heart of Andretti's frustration was former McLaren boss Ron Dennis. Many chapters could be dedicated to all that went wrong when the 1992 CART IndyCar champion crossed the pond to take on F1 with one of its top teams, and as we've seen this month at Indy, a warmer epilogue is being written.

Brown MPThe unexpected turnaround only became possible when Dennis was replaced late last year by Zak Brown (pictured). Decades of disenfranchisement toward the Grand Prix team has been eased in large part by Brown's insertion, and without Dennis' departure, Andretti says there's no way he would have considered partnering with his old nemesis to run Fernando Alonso in a join Andretti Autosport/McLaren entry for the Indy 500.

"Absolutely; I had gone from being not much of a fan of McLaren to being one of their biggest fans," he told RACER. "It is so cool that Zak got in there and what he is doing. I'm so excited about our association with them. I'm hoping there's a future with all of us together."

Although Dennis won't be receiving an invite from the defending Indy 500 winners to attend Alonso's IndyCar debut, the name "McLaren" actually brings a smile to Andretti's face when it's raised.

"It is funny," Andretti continued. "McLaren just replaced one guy with another guy and look at how a whole company can change. It's great to see that in McLaren. You can see it with the people, everybody just feels ... it's a lot happier environment than it used to be."

Brown shared similar thoughts about Andretti from McLaren’s perspective. “He’s a racer, as big a racer as you get; his dad’s great, [and] his team has made us feel so welcome with Fernando,” he said.

Asked if the happy new relationship with McLaren could open the door to invitations to sample some of its vast vintage racecar collection, including the McLaren MP4/8-Ford he drove in 1993, Andretti closed the conversation with a self-deprecating laugh: "I would never fit in it!"

Alonso will start fifth on Sunday in the No. 29 Andretti-McLaren Honda.

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Fernando Alonso's appearance at this year's Indianapolis 500 has been heralded as a step towards an attempt by the Spaniard to become the second driver ever to win racing's Triple Crown. But as this piece, first published in the July, 2017 issue of RACER (No.285), reminds us, the definition of what the Triple Crown actually consists of is far from clear ...

It took Graham Hill a decade to accomplish the achievement that sets him apart from any other racing driver in history. Or maybe just nine years... The racing world is united in recognizing the suave Brit as the only holder of racing's Triple Crown – but less so over what that actually entails.

Conventional wisdom holds that the honor belongs to a driver who can win the Monaco GP, the Indy 500 and Le Mans. Hill, famously, made Monaco his playground: he scored five wins in the Principality. But where things get tricky is that Hill himself defined the Triple Crown differently.

"It's the World Championship for drivers, the Indianapolis 500, and the Le Mans 24-Hour race," he told a British TV host in early 1975. He cemented his stance with the follow-up, when he was asked which of the three titles meant the most to him.

"Indianapolis (MAIN) produced more loot than the others," he said. "Le Mans was very nice to win after so many years of trying, and that's the one that meant that I did win the Triple Crown, but out of all of those, one has got to say the World Championship, because it's a whole series of races over a complete year."

68MON08It's a purely academic point, because regardless of where you draw the Triple Crown line, Hill still qualifies for the honor. His two world championships came six years apart – the first in 1962, when he gave BRM its only title, and again in '68, this time as Lotus's rock and leader after teammate Jim Clark's death at Hockenheim in April. (He also won Monaco in 1968, RIGHT). Those titles bookended his Indy win, which he earned as a slightly embarrassed rookie in the 1966 race, when a third of the field was eliminated in a crash at the start.

All were achieved by a driver in his prime – a description that was becoming increasingly difficult to associate with Hill by 1972. That year marked his 10th visit to La Sarthe (BELOW), and he made the trip amid increasing speculation over his future in F1, where the 43-year-old veteran was struggling miserably with Brabham.

But if Henri Pescarolo was worried about sharing his Matra MS670 with a driver in decline, he was in for a surprise. Hill may no longer have been able to dance on a knife-edge, but Le Mans back then demanded mechanical sensitivity at 95 percent effort, and that suited Hill just fine. He took the lead just after midnight, and later that afternoon, Hill's special place in racing history had been secured.

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RACER.com's F1 writer Chris Medland swapped hats last week and made his first visit to Indianapolis Motor Speedway – indeed, his first visit to any IndyCar event - to soak up some of the Alonso excitement. He's currently tangled up in what he describes as "a huge travel nightmare" involving rental cars running out of gas and consequent missed flights while making his way from Indy to Monaco for this weekend's Grand Prix.

 

I arrived at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway feeling a little bit of trepidation when it came to broaching the subject of Fernando Alonso with IndyCar drivers. Those who race Stateside all year long and fight for the IndyCar championship as well as the Indy 500 were getting bombarded with questions about the Spaniard, and I didn't want to seem ignorant to their own qualities and value to the event.

But there's no getting away from the huge interest Alonso has brought to Indy, with fans crowding the garage of the No.29 car at IMS. That interest is a far cry from the scene outside James Hinchcliffe's garage as we sit uninterrupted on his golf cart for a long chat during practice week, but the Canadian's initial reaction to the stir caused immediately puts my mind at ease.

"It's awesome, I'm jealous," he says.

"When you think back to your racing hero as a kid, he was probably a guy like Mario Andretti or Jim Clark who got to race in a bunch of different cars all over the world all year long, won in everything and was just a badass. The sport has evolved - and it's nobody's fault, it's just the way of the world - that doesn't happen anymore. You pick your genre, you stick to it until you're either kicked out or you decide you want to change.

"Then you can go from here to sportscars or some guys have tried the stock car route or whatever, but nobody gets to do it all at the same time anymore."

04CJ6889Hinchcliffe is clearly a fan of Alonso, but the 2016 Indy 500 pole sitter is also pleased with what his arrival - and the excitement it has created - says about the race itself.

"The fact that we've got a guy who is not just in the conversation, he's probably the conversation for greatest living racing drivers. If you were to poll fellow drivers globally, his name would come up probably more often than anybody else's.

"Missing their hallmark event [Monaco], which in a very unique set of circumstances is the event where he's most likely to get a good result based on the team and the car, the fact that he's willing to miss that shows how important this race is to people who haven't even done it. It shows the pull that this event has on motorsports fans and racers globally."

Alonso - who will start Sunday's race from fifth place - has already said he is likely to return to Indy in order to try and win the 500 if he fails to do so this year, but the example of F1 drivers racing competitively elsewhere are few and far between. Nico Hulkenberg successfully did so at Le Mans in 2015 (BELOW), and Hinchcliffe is hoping more follow suit.

"The fact [Alonso's] team let him do it is mind-boggling for so many reasons. But it's awesome, I hope this really sets the trend. Obviously there's not going to be a lot of situations where guys can miss a race, but if there's a championship where there's a gap and you have an off week, come and race Watkins Glen or whatever. I love that, I think it's amazing. I think the fact that we've got one of the best of the best from the pinnacle of motorsports coming here to do it, it will hopefully open a lot of guys' eyes and open a lot of doors."

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An obvious question to ask Hinchcliffe - even before Alonso's qualifying performance - is: "Can he win?"

"Absolutely," he says. "Alexander Rossi won as an F1 rookie on the very same team one year ago. Anybody can win this race, that's what's so cool about it."

But in that answer, Hinchcliffe flags up a problem. This is a one-way street for many drivers. One-off appearances are so rare in F1, with replacements coming from a team's existing driver line-up or being drafted in for financial reasons, a la Rossi at Manor in late 2015.

When asked if he would like to go the other way and take part in an F1 race, the 30-year-old Canadian starts off with an assured response before reality tempers his enthusiasm.

"Absolutely. There aren't a lot of events in F1 where guys get one-off deals, so it's a little bit of a different landscape, but I would just love to test one, to be honest. I've made my career over here, I'm happy with that, I love the racing over here.

2017 24h Daytona AT2 0230"Racing in F1 is such a unique thing. As a guy that's been at the top level of a competitive series for so long, I don't know if I could go to a place where I knew that 12th was the best I was going to do every morning. I'd find it really hard to motivate [myself] to do that, and that's why the IndyCar series is such an amazing series for me. Any given weekend, any guy can win. The first race of the season, the guy from the smallest-budgeted team won from last on the grid. That's awesome."

Ross Brawn has already mooted the idea of non-championship races, and perhaps that is the sort of change in landscape that F1 would need to allow a driver from another series to make a one-off appearance. Ultimately, in order to make an Alonso-esque switch in the opposite direction more attractive to more drivers, Hinchcliffe believes the sport itself needs to become more competitive at the front.

"At least in F1 we've got two teams that can win races this year. I find myself infinitely more interested than I was last year – and it's still only four guys! I would love to try it, if there was a way to do a race, absolutely.

"There's some stock car stuff I'd love to do. I've been doing some sportscar stuff (including this year's Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, ABOVE), I want to do more of that. I got to do an Aussie V8 race a couple of years ago, I'd love to go back and do more of that - that was probably some of the most fun racing I've ever done! I'm one of those guys, I'm a racer. If it's got four wheels and an engine, chuck me in it. Let's go."

Alonso has started the debate and will have piqued the interest of a number of IndyCar drivers. Clearly IndyCar needed a big story this year to follow the 100th running of the Indy 500, and the counterargument is whether F1 needs to go down such a path or not.

If Liberty Media are looking to expand in North America, they could do worse than finding a way of attracting the Indy 500 winner to race in a grand prix. But such a scenario is a long, long way off.

Then again, who would have foreseen Fernando Alonso skipping the Monaco Grand Prix to race at Indianapolis?

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Vettel Hamilton smile dunbarSebastian Vettel believes his relationship with Lewis Hamilton will endure their title battle this season because they only share a common passion for racing.

Hamilton lives a very active lifestyle, often appearing at high-profile events and documenting his experiences in detail on social media. Vettel, by contrast, is not publicly on social media and attempts to keep his personal life separate from his racing career, and the championship leader says their similarities are largely confined to the track.

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"I think we have a great common passion – we love racing," Vettel said. "Outside the track we are not best friends, I have known him for a long time but I don't have a problem with him. I think we are very different but I don't think that matters. It shouldn't matter.

"[In Spain] I didn't want him to win, I wanted to win, so not entirely happy but at the same time I have nothing to complain or moan about as he drove past us on the track and they did a better job as a team. He did a better job as a driver so there is nothing we can do about it now.

"I am here to race; that is what I enjoy. Off the track I don't see a reason why you cant have a good time. We are not best friends but I think we are very different. I think we have a very strong connection as we both love racing. We all do sitting on the grid – that is what should connect us."

Hamilton himself believes the respect between the two is dependent on the way they race each other, with Vettel having forced the Mercedes driver wide on one occasion during their Spanish Grand Prix battle.

"It is difficult to say," Hamilton said. "It was a very close battle [in Spain] and if it had gone in a different direction, it would have been different between us.

"You know how racing goes. If he had hit me in Turn 1 and had won the race, it would not have been 'great job, Sebastian.' It was aggressive but it was still able to remain in the fight, fortunately. Ultimately, I avoided the collision, but I love a tough fight. I love a challenge.

"He was respectful, and still that respect stayed the same but I think you could sense he was angry. He said he was angry. He drove a fantastic race, but I can also understand how he feels. You are never happy if you finish second. If he finished second and was happy, I'd be concerned because that is not what we exist to do."

44 magnusDane Cameron and Andrew Davis will join Magnus Racing for this weekend's fifth and sixth rounds of the Pirelli World Challenge SprintX championship at Lime Rock Park.

In its usual unusual fashion, Magnus Racing gave them a proper team welcome.

Cameron will join Spencer Pumpelly in the No. 4 Audi Tire Center Audi R8 LMS, while Davis will join John Potter in the the No. 44 entry. Two of Magnus' regular drivers, Pierre Kaffer and Marco Seefried, are racing this weekend at the Nurburgring 24-hour race.

"It great to bring two very well regarded drivers to the team for Lime Rock," stated Magnus Racing team owner and co-driver John Potter. "Andrew Davis is actually a team alumni from several years ago, and has since gone on to a number of great accomplishments, while Dane Cameron is new to us, but his résumé speaks for itself. Lime Rock is always such a challenging track to visit, we're glad to have two veterans with us. It's been a track of mixed fortune for us, but one of our greatest Audi highlights of 2016 came there, so hopefully we can continue where we left off."

Joining the No. 4 entry, Dane Cameron will make his Magnus debut. The 28-year-old California native is the reigning IMSA WeatherTech Championship Prototype champion and also took the same honors in the series' GTD category in 2014. Prior to that, Dane had a remarkable junior category career, winning the Pro Mazda championship, Formula Palmer Audi championship, as well as Formula Russell championship. 

"I'm extremely thankful to Magnus Racing for bringing me in this weekend," stated Cameron. "The team is one of the most known in the scene, and their performance on track has been really impressive in recent years. I'm excited to learn how things operate within the group, and being able to team up with a driver like Spencer, one of the best GT guys out there, is something I really look forward to. Lime Rock is always a tricky place to visit, but I'm confident the Audi will be really strong there. I look forward to experiencing all that the team and series has to offer."

Davis is making a return to the No. 44 entry. The 2011 GT champion in the former GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series also won a second championship in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge GS category in 2015. In 2010, he joined Magnus Racing for their Petit Le Mans debut, and he currently competes full-time with the Audi R8 LMS in the IMSA ranks.

"It's great to be back with Magnus," Davis said. "I've known most of the guys in the team for a long time, and it's a great group. Joining John for the latest rounds of SprintX competition should be pretty intense, Lime Rock is always a track you have to be very heads up at, but the team has had great success there. This is my second year racing with an Audi full time, and while the tire is very different there's still a lot that can translate. It should be a fun weekend."

SMP Racing Dallara Monza KubicaEx-F1 and World Rally Championship driver Robert Kubica has been pictured testing this morning at Monza in SMP Racing's Dallara P217 (courtesy Fausto Mattei), along with Viktor Shaytar and Maurizio Mediani.

This comes after Kubica was originally slated to drive for ByKolles in the World Endurance Championship's LMP1 class this year, before quitting just days away from the opening Silverstone race.

There is no news yet as to whether Kubica is planning to drive with the Russian team – which will race at Le Mans with the Dallara and the remaining European Le Mans Series rounds before racing in LMP1 next year with a new BR Engineering/Dallara chassis. The team has confirmed an all-Russian lineup of Sergej Sirotkin, IndyCar driver Mikhael Aleshin and Viktor Shatter for Le Mans next month.

RACER understands that the Dallara chassis SMP will race at Le Mans is a brand-new build. It is notable that the Dallara pictured is running its Le Mans-spec low-downforce aerodynamic package; the team is not the first to run the low-drag Dallara kit though, as ELMS team Racing Team Nederland ran a P217 with it at the Prologue back in April.

2016LM24 MarshallPruett 619 5143 copyThe Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team knows the clock is ticking to find a replacement for Sebastien Bourdais at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Frenchman, a first-time winner last June in his home town with the class-winning Ford GT GTE-Pro entry shared by Joey Hand and Dirk Muller, is out for the rest of the year as he recovers from a brutal crash on Saturday while attempting to qualify for the Indy 500.

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With pre-race practice coming up in just a matter of week at Le Mans, and the race less than a month away, identifying a substitute for Bourdais has become a new priority for FCGR.

"We don't have anybody at this point lined up, and out of respect to Sebastien, we'll give it a couple of days," team managing director Mike Hull told RACER.

Although there are many candidates to consider, the search could be rather academic. RACER continues to hear CGR IndyCar driver Tony Kanaan, who raced with the FCGR team earlier this year at IMSA's Rolex 24 at Daytona, is atop the list of candidates to step in for Bourdais. Provided the 2004 IndyCar champion and 2013 Indy 500 winner gets the nod, he would make his first start at the legendary French endurance race on June 17.

"We don't have a dedicated reserve driver, but our expectation is we'll have a driver of merit who represents everything that Sebastien Bourdais has brought to this organization," Hull said. "His replacement will have big shoes to fill, but we will help them in every way possible to contribute immediately to the success of the Ford program."

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