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Briscoe-lead

Marshall Pruett says…

You’ll have to wind the clock back to 2005 to find the last season Ryan Briscoe went without a visit to the podium. 2005 also served as his rookie season in in IndyCar and, discounting his partial season with Panther Racing last year, 2014’s podium-free return to Chip’s house was as curious as it was unexpected.

It definitely caught me by surprise. Here's a reminder of how wrong I was in my pre-season predictions:

Briscoe’s on his third major team since joining the IndyCar Series (second stint with Ganassi), which speaks BRiscoe-pitstop-Sonomavolumes about how he’s regarded among owners and sponsors. Armed with his former Team Penske engineer Eric Cowdin, who won a little race named the Indy 500 last year with Tony Kanaan, the Aussie has everything he could ask for to rebound from a tough, part-time season in 2013. He has a tendency to fade at times—to be in the race but not part of the action—yet I expect Briscoe to rise to the challenge at Ganassi. Don’t be surprised if he’s splitting the Target cars on a regular basis.

I’m clearly guilty of optimism run amok, or being blind, or maybe a combination of the two, because Briscoe was rarely a concern for the Target cars. Of all those predictions, his tendency to fade was the rule rather than the exception on too many occasions.

And with no disrespect to Sebastien Bourdais, Marco Andretti and Carlos Munoz – the three drivers who finished ahead of Briscoe in the standings – Ryan definitely had greater experience or resources to put them behind him in the championship.

BRiscoe-Milwaukee-panBriscoe definitely rallied as the season went on, and could be counted on for decent results. Ten finishes inside the top-10 was what you’d expect from a veteran, but seven of those top-10s were finishes of seventh or worse. Compare that to fellow Ganassi man Tony Kanaan, who didn’t come into the team with his long-standing engineer, yet captured six podiums, including a win at the season finale.

Like Briscoe, Kanaan rallied as the season progressed, and once he found a place of comfort, the guy used all the human capital, engineering resources and his own determination to make a statement. By the time the season ended at Fontana, I was still waiting for Ryan to make a statement of his own. We’ve seen him do it before, but for a variety of reasons, it failed to materialize in 2014.

Paid drivers are graded on a steep curve at Ganassi – it’s a sheer cliff, to be honest – and with Scott Dixon and Kanaan as the only benchmarks to use, Dixie placing third and TK taking sixth probably says more than any other evaluation of Ryan’s run to 11th.

With his options open, I’d love to see Briscoe return with a smaller team and show the kind of fight that kept him on Roger Penske’s payroll for five seasons. If that doesn’t happen, he’ll have plenty of options in sports car racing.


Robin Miller says…

Ryan Briscoe's second chance with Chip Ganassi had flashes of that old fast form along with some disappointing performances but could best be described as a work in progress. Although he didn’t win or score a podium and only led five laps, Briscoe seemed to be more in synch with engineer Eric Cowdin (BELOW) the second half of the season – Briscoe-Eric-Cowdinespecially on the ovals.

A fourth at Pocono was his best result of 2014 (after starting 10th) and he qualified fourth at Iowa and Milwaukee before finishing seventh in the Fontana finale.

The 33-year-old Aussie looked like he might pick up a victory in the Belle Isle opener as led laps 55-59 of the 70-lap distance but couldn’t catch a caution at the right time and wound up 15th.

The seven-time race-winner in IndyCar spent most of the year in the Top 10 but, other than Detroit, never seriously challenged for a win except during stretches at Pocono and Iowa.

Considering the well-oiled and seasoned Target Ganassi operation of Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan struggled early on, Ryan qualified and raced in the same neighborhood for the first 10 races. The 2012 Indy 500 pole-sitter’s low point probably came in May at the Speedway where he qualified 30th and finished 18th after running all 200 laps.
But, beginning at Pocono, something clicked on the ovals and Briscoe ran near the front where he belonged.


David Malsher says…

Ryan Briscoe finished all 18 IndyCar races this year – yet only 10 of them in the top 10, and only one in the top five. That sums up the stats, but does it sum up his form?

No, because those figures are horrible for a Ganassi driver, and Ryan’s form was never downright bad in 2014. Nor, unfortunately, was it exceptional and, as a result, he spent too much of his time in the midfield mélange. Yes, the team as a Briscoe-Detroit-actionwhole struggled for the first half of the season, and the No. 8 / No. 83 half of Chip Ganassi Racing may not have been fully integrated with the Target half, as they operated out of different shops in 2014, but with Eric Cowdin as race engineer, Ricky Davis as chief mechanic, access to the data and feedback of Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan, and the brain of Dario Franchitti to pick, we all expected more from one of IndyCar’s multiple race winners.

There was only one track where Briscoe appeared to be carrying the car to a better performance than it deserved, or had it honed better than all three of his Chip Ganassi Racing teammates, and that was in Detroit (LEFT) where he qualified fifth for both races and briefly led the first one. Yet it was Kanaan and Charlie Kimball who scored the podium finishes for CGR that weekend.

Not helping his confidence were days when he probably could have done well but had his chances ruined early on. For example, once Will Power was out of the way, I doubt anyone was going to play the fuel mileage game as well as Scott DixonBriscoe-portrait did at Sonoma, but Ryan might have joined him on the podium. Instead, he was 17th having spent his race recovering from being rammed off the track on the opening lap by Sebastien Bourdais. There was nothing wrong with Briscoe’s oval form, but with the exception of the Indy 500 where a top-10 finish was ruined by a clash with Power, he was never top dog of the CGR quartet.

I’m not trying to make excuses for Ryan, but I wonder how much he was affected by the knowledge he was fighting to retain his ride for 2015. Contract time, for a driver who’s had mediocre results in the first half of a season, can work two ways: it can spur him on to think “Nothing to lose now,” freeing him to run hard; or it can cripple him artistically, and his mindset becomes one of, “I can’t afford to have a bad result.” That second attitude simply doesn’t work in current era IndyCar because you’re going to get buried. Better to risk crashing out while going for it than fade away while settling for what you’ve got.

I suspect the increased downforce levels of the forthcoming DW12 aero kit era will suit a driver of Ryan's bravery – look how he shone in the old LMP2 Porsche Spyders – and I still think he has a lot to offer a single-car team who could use his pace and experience to overachieve. But on 2014 form, he can’t expect to retain a Ganassi seat when there are so many promising would-be and yet-to-be IndyCar stars striving for that same chance.

Briscoe-shawl

2014Sebring12hrMarshallPruettThu313 034If you're a fan of the powerhouse Flying Lizards Motorsport team, you'll soon know where to cheer on the hearty band of sports car veterans.

As RACER revealed earlier this month, FLM is evaluating whether to continue in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship's GT Daytona class, or shift its focus to the Pirelli World Challenge series. Team manager Eric Ingraham has been tasked with plotting FLM's next chapter in the sport with its Audi R8s, and based on our conversation on Monday, it appears the team is still in the information gathering phase.

"For us, we're still in the same spot from when we last talked," Ingraham told RACER. "We're still working through the budget numbers and trying to understand the World Challenge option a little bit better so we can make a decision. Hopefully we're in a much more educated position to make a decision, and I'd think we'll have a pretty definitive direction by early November."

It's safe to say FLM's interest in taking its R8s to a different series has been aided by the Balance of Performance struggles they've encountered in GTD. FLM was one of three teams fielding the V10-powered R8 last season, and found the German coupes at the wrong end of the competitive spectrum on numerous occasions. The Paul Miller Racing team won the season finale at Road Atlanta with its R8 – the first of the year for the marque, but it's also worth noting the team used the circuit as its primary testing facility.

That fact does not diminish their accomplishment, but it does point to specific expertise being required at one track to coax the R8 into Victory Lane.

"I know that Audi and IMSA have been having meetings, and the series is working on more [Balance of Performance] stuff – taking a bigger bite of the apple to understand each car in GTD," Ingraham added.

Suggestions of FLM heading to PWC with a three-car Audi R8 effort continue to make the rounds.

"As far as the quantity, the equipment required is much different, and for two trucks, running three cars makes sense, and even four cars would be possible if you're really efficient on your truck packing," Ingraham said. "Three cars is the right number, but making it all work, finding the right folks, making the budget numbers work – all of that is sitting on my desk right now. Looking at the combined World Challenge and TUDOR Championship calendars, the costs, the conflicts, and all of that is where I'm focused at the moment."

2014PLMMPruettSat1004 1703As he noted in our first conversation, a move to PWC wouldn't preclude participating in a few TUDOR Championship events, and vice versa, but as Ingraham explains, switching the cars between full GT3 specifications in PWC and IMSA's hybrid GTD/GT3 settings appears to be a process that holds limited interest for the Sonoma Raceway-based team.

"Switching cars back and forth is not really practical, but there are one or two events – Sebring and Petit Le Mans – that would be easier," he explained. "There are some others where it could be done, but it depends on the interest we receive."

With Turner Motorsport and NGT Motorsport committing to full-season PWC programs in 2015, could FLM bring the GTD-to-PWC tally to as many as eight cars? Stay tuned for news in the coming weeks.​

Douglas Werner Testing-1Brad Pitt’s character Tyler Durden from the movie “Fight Club” has nothing on IndyCar’s aero kit manufacturers, or their teams and drivers.

Just as I expected to find, the first rule of aero kit testing is: You do not talk about aero kit testing. And if you’re wondering, yes, the second rule of aero kit testing is: You DO NOT talk about aero kit testing.

And trust me, when it comes to extracting real information from Chevy, Honda, or any of those involved in bringing IndyCar’s new-for-2015 aerodynamics to fruition, you’d have an easier time making a Mafia boss crack while being interrogated.

Despite working in a profession where knowledge is king, I love that the “Top Secret” stamp is being used in IndyCar for the first time in ages, and I actually don’t mind getting the silent treatment on this topic.

Thanks to a field filled with mostly spec cars since 2005, intrigue had been at an all-time low in IndyCar. Engine, chassis and aero developments were once a steady fixture in the CART Indy car series, but with the migration to spec cars over the last decade or so, there’s been no need for manufacturers and teams to sneak away and test their latest designs.

So if you’ve come to follow IndyCar in recent years, the art of undercover testing, cloak and dagger developments and spying efforts among Indy car competitors had become all but forgotten – a thing of the past. Yet for those who remember, aero kits represent a return to those fun days as Chevy and Honda try to keep their testing efforts hidden from prying eyes.

Intrigue returned to a lesser degree when IndyCar introduced its new turbocharged engine formula for 2012, but with those motors hidden from sight most of the time beneath bodywork, sensitive shots of the 2.2-liter V6s during pre- and post-season testing have been kept to a minimum.

AK Screengrab 1With the external nature of what’s being tested today, the move to aero kits was always going to be a security challenge for Chevy and Honda, and as we saw last week at Circuit of The Americas, the best-laid plans to keep the world in the dark went awry when Chevy’s aero kit came to light on the internet. (LEFT, image from Twitter).

And if you think it was a well-coordinated, professional effort that caught Chevy with its pants down, you might get a chuckle out of what really happened:

Awoken by the sound of cars testing at COTA, the man who captured the images of Chevy’s aero kit isn’t a spy photographer, but rather someone who was annoyed at having his sleep interrupted, had access to the circuit’s fence line and used a Fuji FinePix pocket camera to open the lid on the Bowtie’s most private testing activities. Yep, for $63 bucks on Amazon.com, you too can own the same point-n-shoot gear. To add insult to injury, the photographer told me was unaware he'd taken the first images of an aero kit until IndyCar fans pointed it out on Twitter!

So much for James Bond – this was some straight up Inspector Clouseau stuff happening in Austin.

I spoke with GM Racing director Mark Kent shortly after his brand’s aero kit blanketed social media, and if you were wondering, yes, having the veil of secrecy lifted so soon – and on someone else’s terms – wasn’t received in a positive manner.

“The automotive manufacturer, whether it’s a future production model, or a future racecar, or in this case, a future aero kit, we have significant investment in either the look or the technology and we go to great lengths to protect that from our competitors by camouflaging the car, trying to test in locations that are not announced ahead of time,” he said.

“The last thing we want is to have things get into the hands of a competitor; either the features of the car or to glean the technical aspects they can go try themselves is what we’re trying to avoid. Having our competition being able to react on it or the media to get a look at the car and steal a story we feel belongs to us – we want the unveil to be our story. Every time the media is able to take away a little bit of that ability, it diminishes the value of the investment. That’s why we go to such lengths to go to the levels to protect things like we do.”

Put yourself in Kent’s shoes, and you’d probably struggle to offer such a calm response.


AK Screengrab 2

Chevy opted for the full dazzle camouflage livery at COTA (ABOVE, image from Twitter), and went one step further by having its test drivers – believed to be members of Team Penske – wear nondescript helmets. Venturing to COTA, a track unfamiliar to the IndyCar Series, was another smart move by Chevy, and even with months of planning behind the test, Kent says seeing those privacy steps unraveled by a civilian was a tough pill to swallow.

“We try to think of every scenario, but as you mentioned, the track this was conducted at was conducive to gain what we were looking to learn, but no track is 100 percent secure,” Kent conceded before admitting the poor quality of the shots was the only positive to take from the breach.

“We took as many precautions as we could, and fortunately the photos that were taken were far enough away and grainy enough to prevent any of the details of the design from getting out. It’s unfortunate the shots got out, and we’ll continue to move forward and test at other tracks before we introduce the kit.”

Chevy begrudgingly acknowledged its cars were caught testing at COTA, but don’t believe for a moment that the rest of the testing details were put on the table for discussion.

Which team and drivers, at least officially, were seen lapping the opulent road course? Was it one or all of Penske’s quartet? They were given a prepared statement if asked about COTA: "I can't comment about any of the 2015 testing programs due to the various sensitivities” is the refrain being used right now! Again, you’ve gotta love the return to secrecy.

Knowing the COTA shots weren’t taken by a professional, it’s also worth noting that most spy shots – at least those taken by the manufacturers – aren’t captured by pros hidden behind bushes with big zoom lenses. It’s usually an employee or someone lightly affiliated with the manufacturer hiding in plain sight with a simple camera that blends into the scenery.

lat levitt lbgp-0413 00972Funnily enough, while manufacturers will go to great lengths to keep accredited shooters like myself from taking shots of sensitive items (ABOVE, LAT photo), they’ll happily send their own folks to work in the shadows to shoot the other guy’s new exhaust system, turbo layout, suspension geometry, wicker package or some other technical detail. Or so I’m told.

I wouldn’t dare suggest IndyCar’s engine manufacturers spy on each other (has anyone come up with a 'sarcasm' emoticon I can insert here?), so I asked Mark Kent if he’s heard of such a thing happening.

“You’re not going to see me at a racetrack trying to capture shots of Honda’s aero kit…I might be recognized,” he said with a chuckle. “I think everybody’s doing whatever they can to see what the competition is doing, but I think there also needs to be a level of professionalism with what we’re doing. I wouldn’t expect to see someone from Honda at one of our tests blatantly taking pictures. We’re competitors, but we’re also professionals.”

I also asked Honda Performance Development vice president Steve Eriksen if he’d heard the same rumor about manufacturers going to great length to snap their own spy shots.

“We have heard of it…and I know of some activities that have happened with our competitors in that regard, but for us, it’s not that big of a focus as maybe it is for others,” said Eriksen, who saw the Chevy photos moments after they hit the web. “Our effort is first on making things the best they can be. Once we’ve put everything towards that we can, and there’s some left over, you can put some resources to things like that.

“And we’re in the same vein; you saw the Chevy aero kit pictures show lots of camouflage and I’m sure they did their best to keep that from happening, and our intention is to keep ours under wraps.”


SNE24641

Without naming the series or manufacturers (because it includes more than IndyCar), it’s also fun to recount some of the Top Secret silliness I’ve experienced or come across indirectly.

When one manufacturer learned a reader captured spy shots last year, they reached out to the shooter, asked him to remove the images from the web, and when the reader inquired what it was worth to the manufacturer, he was offered an enticement package to pull his shots. Smart guy.

Clandestine testing photography allowed one manufacturer to capture, diagnose, and email imagery of a rival’s big explosion before the stricken team got the car back to the garage to start their own investigation. You know you’re living in the Digital Age when the root cause of a failure and pictures of that blowup are being shared secretly before the manufacturer who suffered the blowup has gotten a handle on what happened.

Protecting a car while circulating the track (ABOVE, LAT photo) is one thing, and keeping things hidden while it’s in the pits often brings an even greater level of security (BELOW, Marshall Pruett photo).

I had one mechanic – a tall gentleman – tell me he’d been instructed by his team’s manufacturer to stand in front of me whenever I had a camera in my hand. Granted, he told me about this after leaving the team. In hindsight, I always wondered why he was in the way, but it didn’t stop me from getting what I needed.

Sebring 2011 Pruett Thursday 071I had a team go so far as to try and jab me with the pointy end of their car’s sidepod to prevent a photo of the engine bay from being taken. It seemed out of character for the team, so I asked their manufacturer if the conceal-at-all-costs-if-someone-tries-to-take-a-shot directive came from them. It did.

One manufacturer rep had the balls to tell me looking at or photographing their uncovered motor was a breach of the brand’s “visual intellectual property.” I still giggle at that one.

Another manufacturer, with a brand-new engine to hide, not only kept their engine cover on for as long as possible while on pit lane, but also tried to cover their bases by having their technicians hold umbrellas to cover the engine and prevent overhead shots from being taken (by drone or satellite, maybe?). All that was missing were mechanics wearing tinfoil hats. Despite those measures, an independent photographer got a few shots of the engine from an angle the manufacturer left exposed.

I had one crew member, who was with a team that flew over to race in the U.S., reach out and grab my camera to block a shot. We didn't speak the same language, but I think he understood my message that getting physical goes both ways, and cameras heal faster than bones. He was quite friendly after that brief interaction.

At least a dozen more stories come to mind – I’ll save them for a book when I’m old and retired and no one gives a damn.

The art of grabbing a camera to steal shots of a competitor’s car has been going on since the earliest days of motorsport, and at times, the rush to snap a high value photo has been all-encompassing.

flipRutherford and the Chaparral 2K flip at Phoenix in 1980 (video still)“I remember we were at Phoenix many decades ago,” says former Indy car team owner/manager Derrick Walker, “and Johnny Rutherford got upside down in his Chaparral, the Yellow Submarine car. I guess we should have been thinking about his safety first, but the car was so fast – it was kicking our butts, to be frank – that all anyone could think of was to run and grab a camera to take some photos of the bottom of the car!

“Those tunnels worked like magic, and I feel bad thinking about it now, but when we saw the bottom was exposed, there was a whole gaggle of us that scrambled to get a camera and take pictures before they turned the thing over again. You don’t get many chances like that, so you’d better act on it while you can. Rutherford was OK, I believe…”

levitt-overgilDe Ferran and the 2001 "Renske." (LAT photo)Two-time CART champion and 2003 Indy 500 winner Gil de Ferran told me of a time when the nature of his testing crash left photographers with little to see.

“It was in 2001 with Penske when we got the new Reynard, and you know Penske back then – maybe half of the car was still a Reynard and the other half was every trick, every idea the team could think of,” he said. “New aero, new suspension, new everything. They went all-out. The car was just amazing; every little piece they made was like Swiss watch pieces. So we go to Homestead with the first car, it’s gleaming; I spent 30 minutes just staring at it before I drove.

“They let me do five laps to shake it down – I wasn’t pushing, then I pit, everything is fine with the car, so they let me work up to speed with longer runs and soon the car is flying. It’s so fast. Then I had a problem with the right-rear tire and lost it right between Turn 3 and 4 and slammed the wall. There was nothing left of the car. It was an enormous crash.”

De Ferran would go onto set the closed-course lap record at 241mph in qualifying later in the year at Fontana, which might help explain why there wasn’t much to shoot at Homestead.

“Oh my God, we were going so fast…we went so far, I finally came to a rest literally in the middle of the front straight, the car smoking and steaming…” he said with a sense of disbelief. “And I was so angry after that; I was cursing in the car, and the team told me to calm down; they couldn’t understand why I was so mad, but it was because the car was so good, we had all of these amazing Penske parts on the car and they were spread all over a half-mile of the track.

“I hated to see such a great car destroyed when all I wanted to do was go faster. There wasn’t much left to photograph, and I know we wanted all of the bits returned to us that could be found, but there wasn’t a lot…”

And sometimes secret things happen during secret testing. Like losing your driver.


95 DTM DON01

“I flipped the prototype 1995 Mercedes DTM car [ABOVE, LAT photo] in testing at Hockenheim--the short course,” Dario Franchitti told me. “It was all hand-made bits, most of which hadn't been copied for production on the other DTM cars yet. And they let me drive it, which as a junior driver, was unusual.”

What happened next to the future three-time Indy 500 winner and four-time IndyCar Series champion sounds like it was taken from a Benny Hill skit.

“I back-flipped it at an S-curve in sixth-gear, and it was massive,” he said. “There were no intake trumpets left in the motor, it bent the steering wheel and pedals, snapped seat, there were no doors left – I have part of a door in my office – nothing left behind the rear window…

“The team saw the battery voltage drop over telemetry so they sent a crew round to tow the car back, but when they arrived to find the car scattered across several hundred yards, I'd already gotten a lift back to the pits by one of the street cars that regularly tested with us.

“The boys spent half an hour looking for me as the thought I'd run off into the forest in shock! I had a hell of a sore head and neck but drove from Germany back to Scotland that afternoon…”

With the accident kept quiet, Franchitti had to make sure he wasn’t quietly axed from Mercedes’ DTM program.

“Rumor has it I was almost fired for my little indiscretion, so I had to call (Mercedes racing boss) Norbert Haug and (AMG boss) Hans Werner Aufrecht to apologize… a few weeks later I put my new racecar on pole for the first race, so all was forgiven!” he added.

Who knows if we’ll have hilarious and harrowing tales that emerge in the years ahead, but as long as IndyCar manufacturers sneak away to test, there’s always a chance. For now, we have aero kit testing to pique our interests during IndyCar’s long off-season, and if the series handles it properly, it could create some buzz outside of open-wheel’s diehard followers. (BELOW, Marshall Pruett photo).

IndyCar SebringST3812 Pruett  731We know Chevy and Honda won’t make it easy, but with fans spread from coast to coast, we can only hope a small army of IndyCar fans with cell phones and pocket cameras will keep us abreast of aero kit testing developments. Just for grins, I’ve let both manufacturers know I’d welcome high-resolution shots of their aero kits whenever they want to share.

Believe it or not, those e-mails from Chevy and Honda have yet to hit my inbox.

To finish things off back to where we started, HPD’s Eriksen shared another thought on spy shots that will remain true throughout the next few months of aero kit testing.

“As far as I’m concerned, the Chevy kit that we saw was that kit on that day at that track, and nothing more,” he said. “The development rate is going happen at such a rate that the kit you see today likely won’t be the same you see tomorrow, so there’s only so much to take away from one shot – or a series of shots – at any given time.

“My guess is by the time we have to homologate our aero kits in January, whatever you might have seen at COTA or wherever else will be significantly different from what goes into production next year. It’s always a thrill to see cars doing secret tests, but this isn’t a case where the car you see now will look the same when it goes into that first race.”

IndyCar’s Spy Games are back (BELOW, LAT photo), and with more technology on the way in the coming years, I hope they continue. Spec cars make my brain go numb – more numb than usual – and if it’s handled properly, promoting all of the new tech could draw in new IndyCar fans and maybe sell a few more Chevy Cruzes and Honda Civics.

That’s the reason behind all of this, isn’t it?

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Caterham insists team not threatened

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Caterham's immediate future in Formula 1 is not threatened by the Caterham Sports Limited (CSL) company going in to administration, senior management sources insist.

The fate of CSL, which is a supplier to the grand prix team, has been in doubt for a few weeks after bailiffs seized items from its Leafield, UK base to recover debts the company owed.  Now, London-based accountants company Smith & Williamson has been appointed as administrators to try to save it.

Although CSL shares the group name and same Leafield address as the F1 team, it is separate from the business that owns the valuable F1 license, which is Malaysian company 1Malaysia Racing Team Sdn Bhd (1MRT).

It is understood that the majority of Caterham's staff's contracts were recently transferred over to 1MRT to further separate the racing operation. The division of the businesses, which was central to a dispute over who owned items recently taken from the Leafield headquarters by bailiffs, means that what happens to CSL will not have a direct affect on Caterham's F1 plans.

A senior source at the Caterham F1 team, with good knowledge of the situation, told AUTOSPORT he was confident that the F1 team would not be impacted.

"This should not affect the F1 operation because it is a completely separate company," the source said. "That is a fact."

A statement issued by Smith & Williamson suggested it was optimistic a solution could be found that would work for CSL's creditors and the Caterham F1 team.

"The administrators are in dialogue with 1MRT to see whether the previous service arrangements can be continued for the benefit of the creditors of the company," it said. "Positive discussions were held between the administrators and the team manager, Manfredi Ravetto, and also with the financial backers of the team on Friday, October 17 and it is hoped that these will lead to a financially acceptable arrangement for the continuation of the relationship between the Company and the F1 team."

There have been mounting frustrations this year from 1MRT's new owners about having inherited problems they were not expecting. Ravetto said last month that the new owners were having to pull off miracles to keep the business going, even though efforts to improve the car and clear previous debts had been working.

"In this team the surprises never end," he said. "This is not nice because I believe that we restructured things in a way that we could manage the team, and we could live from what we generate in terms of income.

"If we keep having 10 surprises per day then we have to keep doing 10 miracles per day. So my concern is what happens when we run out of miracles."

 

 

Originally on Autosport.com

 

Hinch-MidO-podiumDavid Malsher says…

Another year in which James Hinchcliffe proved he was the thinking man’s Ryan Hunter-Reay. And if that sounds like a jab at RHR, it really isn’t. It’s more praise of the Mayor of Hinchtown who doesn’t take the same chances as his erstwhile Andretti Autosport teammate, and therefore occasionally misses out on the Big Move, but who also doesn’t get himself into as much trouble.

Or at least, not self-induced trouble. Hinch is just a magnet for bad luck and whereas in 2013, his results chart had a Himalayas-style topography, this season was mainly valleys. And it wasn’t from lack of pace. Of the 17 races where grid positions were set by qualifying time (Toronto 2 was the exception), the No. 27 was the fastest Hinch-elevatedof the Andretti quartet eight times and only once was he the slowest, yet he finished behind Hunter-Reay, rookie Carlos Munoz and Marco Andretti in the points standings. A guy who five times started from the front row of the grid ended up with just a solitary podium finish…the irony being, it came on a day when he’d started 17th!

That third place at Mid-Ohio (ABOVE) was poor reward for a season in which Hinchcliffe seemed to disprove the old Penske motto that “Effort equals results.” He was occasionally responsible for his own demise – the crash at Indy 500, while not entirely his fault, was a result of James being atypically bold and not anticipating Townsend Bell squeezing Ed Carpenter down because TB was unaware Hinch had made Turn 1 three-wide. At Pocono and Fontana, Hinch was stung for speeding in the pits, and in the former it lost him a lap, in the latter, it probably cost him another podium finish.

But making three significant errors was about par for the leading IndyCar drivers this year; Hinch’s problem was that his three came in the Triple Crown races, each of which was worth double points. Yet it would be wrong to pretend they were the only reason he finished an unrepresentative 12th in the standings. Being the innocent victim in accidents, suffering reliability issues (including in practice) and some very slow pit stops were what ultimately meant Hinch and race engineer Nathan O’Rourke were unable to fulfill the pace and potential they so frequently displayed.  

I’m sorry to see the Andretti Autosport/Hinchcliffe combo break up after three years of almost-but-not-quite achieving what each expected of the other. However, James’s move to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports will surely add another coating of maturity to his form. Whoever he partners, he’ll likely be team leader, and after being in the shadow of far more experienced drivers – Oriol Servia and then Hunter-Reay – for his first four seasons in IndyCar, this extra sense of responsibility should allow Hinchcliffe to bloom. I suspect SPM will discover he’s a worthy replacement for Simon Pagenaud, and that’s a huge compliment.


Robin Miller says…

The handwriting was on the wall early for Hinchcliffe in 2014. He qualified second in three of the first five races (BELOW, Barber) and only had a seventh place to show for it.

Hinch-Barber-startAnd things never got much better for the guy who scored three wins in 2013 for Andretti Autosport. There was a lone podium at Mid-Ohio but it was mostly a season of bad breaks and bad timing for the 27-year-old Canuck.

Running third at Long Beach he got collected by a crash triggered by his teammate. During a caution at the Indy GP he was struck in the head by a part from another car and knocked out for a second before coasting to a stop with a concussion.

The Mayor of Hinchtown led 14 laps at Indianapolis after starting in the middle of Row 1 when he tangled with Ed Carpenter as they battled up front with 25 laps left. He didn’t have any more accidents the final 13 races but he didn’t have any luck either as mechanical gremlins ruined at least four races.

The spirited drive at Mid-Ohio produced more relief than joy afterwards but being able to storm from 17th to third eased a little of the pain.

Hinch did end the year on a positive note, leading 17 laps at Fontana before finishing fifth but, just like his season overall, it was a classic case of his pace not being reflected in his results.Hinch-Indy-crash


Marshall Pruett says…

James Hinchcliffe spent more time dodging the cartoon anvils that fell from the sky than showing what he could accomplish, and his lack of luck certainly showed in the final championship standings.

Just as Chip Ganassi Racing’s Charlie Kimball was a magnet for Chevy engine problems within his four-car team, Hinch had a bullseye on his No. 27 Honda all season, and if it wasn’t motor trouble, some other silly issue seemed to step up and ruin his chances. Mix in a few driving errors, and for a driver of Hinch’s caliber, 2014 became a season to endure rather than embrace.

And then there were the races where, for obvious reasons, he and new Andretti Autosport engineer Nathan O’Rourke struggled to find the right setup. It’s a common occurrence, and especially after Hinch and Craig Hinch-StPete-HoFHampson had developed such a strong driver/engineer relationship through the years, which made following up on his three wins in 2013 a greater challenge than some might have expected.

The outcome saw Andretti’s No. 2 driver (behind 2012 IndyCar champion and 2014 Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay) close the year at the bottom of the rotation behind RHR,  Carlos Munoz, and Marco Andretti in the championship. He also came away with just one podium visit – a career low since his rookie season in 2011.  

Coming off an impressive eighth-place championship run in 2013, Hinch obviously didn’t forget how to drive in 2014, and he’s lucky to have a change of scenery and the full might of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports behind him as he looks to prove to the world that his final go-round with Andretti was nothing more than anomaly. With so few positives to talk about last season, the best solution for Hinch is to look ahead to what’s in store with SPM.

Hinch-Pagenaud-Milw

lat levitt 500 11314Former IndyCar Series driver Davey Hamilton has lent his name and sponsorship dollars to other teams in recent years, and is getting closer to finally putting a program of his own on the grid next year.

The former IndyCar Series driver concluded a multi-year partnership with Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson, and tells RACER he's finalizing plans to enter a car of his own in conjunction with an existing IndyCar team.

"I have a passion for IndyCar racing from when I was a little kid to today, and there are some things they need to improve that we all know about; but it's something I still want to be involved with, so I've been working hard to put my own program together and it's getting closer every day," said Hamilton.

"I have a show car, two complete racecars, I own a full hospitality unit, and I have a lot of the equipment to be a true co-owner, and I've built that up over the last few years. I have a vested interest in the series and want to continue to invest in IndyCar. I want to use my assets to work with a team and have them make the most of what I can bring with my equipment and my sponsors, and I'm not looking to do it all myself – from scratch – so it makes sense to partner with a team that can achieve all the goals I just mentioned and for me to be a bigger part of what's going on to deliver that success."

hamilton2A few teams come to mind for such a partnership in the IndyCar paddock, and while Hamilton wouldn't be drawn on names, he did mention it would not involve Schmidt. Asked if he would be adding a car to the grid, the Idaho native says his program will keep the series from losing an entry next season.

"It's more like filling a slot with an open spot on a team," Hamilton confirmed. "There are some teams that need a program like mine to complete things, and there's others who lost their second car for whatever reason next year, so we have good options. My program right now, it's a year-long effort and could become a multi-year deal, and the multi-year side would allow us to bring partners together to lay the foundation for years to come."

Hamilton expects to have everything concluded in the coming weeks, with the team and driver nominated shortly thereafter.

"I'd like to have a decision on where I'll be and have contracts and everything done in the next two to three weeks, but as you know, sometimes those things can take a little bit longer," he said. Tech giant Hewlett-Packard supported Hamilton's racing endeavors through the 2013 season, and it's believed he has another Silicon Valley firm committed to his new efforts.

With new growth in the IndyCar paddock close to non-existent, Hamilton's choice to create a new program based on genuine commercial backing is a refreshing change.

"It's all about ROI with the partners I'm dealing with, and after getting hurt as a driver, I really learned how important it was outside the car to make sure my sponsors were being taken care of and getting the return they need to see," he explained. "Fortunately, everything I've told my sponsors they'd receive they've gotten, so that has helped keep them involved with what I'm working on."​

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Robin Miller files his second off-season video feature for The RACER Channel on the 1968 USAC Indy car season, the incredible diversity of tracks, the lengthy schedule, and the amazing volume of drivers who took part in the championship.

 
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lat-levitt-cota-0914 02629Turner Motorsport has confirmed a two-car program in the Pirelli World Challenge GT category for next year. Turner will campaign a pair of BMW Z4 GT3s for the full 10-race season, kicking off in March at Circuit of The Americas.

The decision comes shortly after Turner Motorsport captured its seventh professional sports car racing championship since 2003 in the inaugural season of the IMSA TUDOR United SportCar Championship. Using the success in the BMW Z4 from the 2014 season with four wins and six podium finishes, the team hopes to springboard into the PWC for 2015 carrying momentum.

"I am really looking forward to getting back into Pirelli World Challenge for 2015. For me, it's where it all started," said team owner Will Turner. "In 1998 I competed in my first professional race and in 2003 we won our first championship in World Challenge."

Turner didn't rule out racing in IMSA next year as well.

"This (announcement) does not mean it's the only racing we will do in 2015 but I am happy that we can confirm this program so early... I expect to announce the drivers in a few weeks with the cars shipping from Germany any day now," he added.

Turner said the series structure and rules allowing FIA GT3-homologated cars to run as originally designed by manufacturers were key to his decision to field a full-time PWC team.

"I really like the fact that we can race the BMW Z4 GT3 as it was intended, with traction control, ABS and the proper aero for the car.," he said. "Unlike the GTD rules in IMSA , PWC allows the car to run as it engineered by BMW Motorsport."

Beginning in 1998, Turner Motorsport campaigned their iconic blue and yellow BMWs in World Challenge competition, winning the 2003 and 2004 World Challenge Touring Car Championships. From '98 to '04 Turner Motorsport captured 10 race wins, 40 top-five finishes and seven poles.

The sprint race format of PWC differs from the endurance format of the TUSCC that the team has become accustomed to. PWC race weekends include two 45-minute sprint races, allowing the team to run two entries with conceivably less operating cost.

The Pirelli World Challenge Championship confirmed its 2015 calendar last week. It includes 10 race weekends, with five standalone events.

Video: The Insider Issue

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FROM THE RACER CHANNEL ON YOUTUBE

RACER Presents: Bentley at Sonoma

 

The First 200mph Lap. Episode 5 of "Dan Gurney: All American Racer," presented by Bell.

 

TUDOR United SportsCar Championship: Interviews and insights from Marshall Pruett.

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