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rpm nhra fans d1 800x450I have a two-year-old daughter. She loves Peppa Pig, dinosaurs, scary robots, and pasta. And as I suspect is the case with all two-year-olds, she has no real concept of limitations. If she can think of something, she assumes that there's some way that she can do it. Now, as a parent, that can be terrifying – toddlers are basically tiny Evel Knievels – but at the same time I deeply hope she retains that optimism and ambition, tempered with some vague sense for self-preservation, as she gets older.

In short, I hope she does not grow up thinking like Carmen Jorda.

If you hadn't heard of Jorda until recently, it's probably because she's not a very good racing driver. There's no shame in that. Most people are not very good racing drivers. What sets Jorda apart is her apparent conviction that the reason for her lack of success is that she's female. And that's a problem, because she has just been appointed to the FIA's Women in Motorsport Commission.

Basically, the point of the Commission is to advocate for women in racing. Its website speaks of the need to "show that the door is open to women in all aspects of motorsport" and to "support and accompany current female drivers; to encourage the participation of new young drivers and officials; to promote the involvement of women at all levels of motorsport and to highlight where women are successful thus strengthening their participation."

One thing that sets motor racing apart from the vast majority of other sports is that women can, and do, compete against men at the professional level, and have done so for decades, is something to be celebrated. Jorda? She has spent the past couple of years calling upon the FIA to establish a separate Formula 1 championship for women because she doesn't believe they can race against men. Here's what she told ESPN last year:

"They think because we are driving a car we are on the same level as men, which is completely not true because we will never be the same as them. I have had to fight through many things to get to the top of this sport, just because I am a woman, and that is not fair."

59c47c8c0a29e1ef66626302247090e9In another interview, Jorda claimed that women can't summon the physical strength required to match a male in a racecar. I've watched Simona de Silvestro drive a lot of laps in an IndyCar without the benefit of power steering. She seemed to be doing just fine.

Jorda's argument that she has "had to fight through many things to get to the top of this sport, just because I am a woman, and that is not fair," also looks shaky under a microscope. On the contrary, the closest most drivers with her CV get to Formula 1 machinery is posing for a photo next to a show car in the Fan Village.

Jorda has held development driver roles with Lotus (pictured above) and Renault. It's a largely symbolic job that often amounts to little more than standing around in a team shirt waiting for occasional turns in the simulator, and some – including perhaps Jorda herself – pay for the privilege. But it's still more than her raw results warrant, and at risk of sounding unnecessarily unkind, a glance at her career statistics suggest that it's not Jorda's gender that has been holding her back here.

But her lack of speed is not the issue. The problem is that her regressive view of the sport renders her entirely unsuited to serve as an advocate for the advancement of females in racing, and her appointment undermines that work done by those for whom gender really was a barrier to be overcome – Lyn St James, Michelle Mouton, Janet Guthrie – as well as those who are already competing, and succeeding, as we speak.

Just this year, Christina Nielsen won her second IMSA GTD title on the bounce alongside Alessandro Balzan, while Katherine Legge combined with Andy Lally in the same class to deliver two wins and two additional podiums. The Force sisters, along with Erica Enders, have been delivering for so long in the NHRA that gender ceased to be part of that conversation years ago.

As my daughter gets older, she's going to find that there genuinely are some limitations in life. But there are also artificial barriers that she'll hopefully find a way around. And whatever career path she chooses to follow as she gets older, I hope that she looks to people like Nielsen and Legge, or engineers like Leena Gade, as inspiration for what she can do, rather than the likes of Jorda trying to impose their perceptions of what she can't.

 ONY8328Cyril Abiteboul says Carlos Sainz has had a major impact on Renault's future on top of helping the team secure sixth place in the constructors' championship.

Sainz was brought in as a replacement for Jolyon Palmer ahead of the United States Grand Prix, with Palmer having scored just eight points in the first 16 races of the season. Sainz duly returned a further six points on his debut for Renault, with Nico Hulkenberg's sixth place in Abu Dhabi ensuring the team leapfrogged Toro Rosso in the constructors' standings.

AN7T2293Assessing the impact Sainz has had since joining the team, Renault managing director Abiteboul (pictured, with Sainz) says the Spaniard has also been a valuable addition when it comes to car development for 2018.

"He's clearly brought lots of energy, he's brought his motivation, his willingness to continue to progress and to continue to show what he's capable of outside of the sort of Red Bull environment which is a very good environment but sometimes also a strong environment for a driver to cope with," Abiteboul said.

"So he's done that, he's also scored some points. But also he's shown some very useful directions for the development for next year, because he's coming from a different environment. He was capable of bringing some ideas, suggestions.

"He's got a very good understanding of the mechanics of the car, the fundamentals of the car  and it's coming at a time when things were not complete for next year, so that's very useful and we are happy to have made that decision."

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Sainz's season ended frustratingly as he was forced to retire in Abu Dhabi when a wheel wasn't properly fitted during his pit stop, and Abiteboul admits the failure is an area of focus for the team during the off-season.

"Pit stops have been one of the two big problems for the team this year, as well as reliability. That's one of the focuses of the winter. We are changing the organization a bit to really focus on that. The wheel nuts for next year are already designed because we don't want any of that anymore."

Sainz is currently contracted to drive for Renault in 2018, with Red Bull retaining control of the 23-year-old. At present only Max Verstappen is under contract beyond next year at Red Bull, with teammate Daniel Ricciardo keen to weigh up his options once the new season gets underway.

LAT levitt ipoc 02341Pippa Mann says that she has been buoyed by the response she has received since speaking out against the FIA's appointment of Renault F1 development driver Carmen Jorda to its Women in Motorsport Commission. Jorda, whose place on the Commission was announced on Friday, has been a frequent advocate for the creation of a separate Formula 1 world championship for females on the grounds that she does not believe that they can compete on equal terms with men. When news of the Spaniard's new role broke, Mann responded with a tweet expressing her disappointment:

Among those who responded was Leena Gade, who has three 24 Hours of Le Mans wins as a race engineer to her credit, and who currently serves on the Commission.

"Honestly, [the response] has been really surprising," Mann told RACER. "This was obviously something that mattered too me quite deeply personally, as I fought fairly hard to take a stand on this. We saw a lot of other female racers stand up earlier this fall when Carmen made her comment that she does not believe women can be equal.

"Obviously that's not what most of us feel in the sport, however to see someone with that opinion elected to this position to represent women in motorsport on the FIA Womens' Commission was disappointing.

"It's a very, very difficult situation. I think the best thing that has happened since this appointment has been how strongly many of us – and not just female racers, but women who work in the sport and many male and female fans – have also stood up and said, 'This is not a good appointment for this position, for this reason.'

"To me, the most worrying thing is whether this is a reflection of the beliefs of the FIA towards female athletes in motorsport in general. It's not personal with Carmen. It's that someone who holds those beliefs should not be put in a position of power where the mission statement is the opposite of those beliefs."

levitt WG 0617 22461According to Mann, the timing of Jorda's appointment is made all the more incongruous by the success that female drivers have enjoyed across the sport this year.

"When we look outside of the Formula 1 blinkers, this year Christina Nielsen claimed her second IMSA GTD drivers' championship," Mann said. "Katherine Legge (at right, above) and her co-driver [Andy Lally] were multiple race winners. This year I actually became the first female in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history to turn a 230mph lap. Tatiana Calderon fought for points in GP3 and became the first female racer on the podium in a World Series V8 race.

"So against this backdrop of female talent that's actually out there achieving, that's why it's so disappointing to see the FIA take this step, because there are female racers out there right now who are competing."

RD USA 0076Wright Motorsports has announced it will be returning to IMSA competition in 2018 with a full-season WeatherTech SportsCar Championship entry. Sharing the seat of a GT Daytona (GTD) class Porsche 911 GT3 R will be reigning two-time GTD champion Christina Nielsen and Porsche factory ace Patrick Long.

"I am really looking forward to being back in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship and I'm absolutely thrilled that we've come up with such a strong combination with Wright Motorsports and Porsche," said Nielsen, who won the last two GTD drivers' crowns with the Scuderia Corsa team's Ferrari, as well as placing second in 2015. "I've had a great run for the last three years, but it won't be easy to do what I've already done. For me the biggest thing is to go into 2018 without relying on any previous results. We'll start from scratch beginning with Daytona and go from there.

"I'm also really looking forward to being back with Porsche. I've known [team principal] John Wright since 2014 when I raced against him in the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge. We've always tried to put something together, but there was never the right opportunity. Luckily an opportunity came up for 2018 and we were there to both grab it. I know I'll be working with some very experienced and competent people who know what it takes and I can't wait for the season to start."

wright"I am very pleased to have this great opportunity come together in such a short time. It is a tremendous opportunity to be heading back into the endurance racing arena with such a strong program," said team boss Wright. "In my experience, I haven't seen too many driver combinations better to compete for a championship then what I think we will see in Patrick Long and Christina Nielsen.

Long (pictured at left, above, with Nielsen) will be entering his third consecutive season with the Wright group. Fresh off of his 2017 Pirelli World Challenge championships with the John Wright-led team's Porsche 911 GT3 R (pictured, top), the Californian has proven to be tremendously competitive in the Porsche 911 GT3 R.

"I'm also very happy to have Patrick back for the 2018 season," continued Wright. "Coming off this year's championships, our momentum could not be stronger than it is now. I am looking forward to working with Christina and seeing her back behind the wheel of a Porsche. We have tried to make something happen in the past, but due to different circumstances we were never able to pull anything together. The stars have aligned to make it possible for this year and hopefully years to come."

In his 15 years as America's only Porsche factory driver, Long has seen victories at some the world's most prestigious endurance events including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the Bathurst 12 Hour, the Twelve Hours of Sebring, and Petit Le Mans.

"I am thrilled to continue my journey with Wright Motorsports for the 2018 season," said Long. "We will have our work cut out for us starting the season with two of the biggest international endurance races in sports car racing, the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring, but I am confident in the group's ability. Christina has been on an amazing run with her two titles over the last two years and I want to blend that momentum with our 2017 title and aim for victories right out of the box. I'm very excited to get things started at Daytona."

911 PorschenewsPorsche's annual Night of Champions event is a treasure trove of news for the forthcoming season, and with tonight's announcements, driver lineups for the German marque's IMSA and FIA WEC campaigns were revealed.

In the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the return of overall Le Mans winners Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy should help the Porsche GT Team in its pursuit of its second GT Le Mans Drivers' and Manufacturers title.

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Patrick Pilet, who took the 2015 Drivers' championship, will have Tandy as his full-time teammate in the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR with Frederic Makowiecki joining in for the four North American Endurance Cup events. The sister No. 912 entry will pair Laurens Vanthoor and Bamber, and add Gimmi Bruni for the NAEC.

Porsche will also make a four-car assault on Le Mans by relying on its IMSA team to field Pilet, Tandy and Bamber in the No. 93, and Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Sven Muller in the No. 94 as a complement to the two WEC 911 RSRs.

In the WEC, the No. 91 car will be helmed by Bruni, Makowiecki and Richard Lietz when its 'super season' launches in May. The No. 92 911 RSR will carry Kevin Estre, Michael Christensen and Vanthoor (Belgium).

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Works drivers Dirk Werner, Dumas and Makowiecki will contest all rounds of the Intercontinental GT Challenge in addition to Porsche's support of at least one local team in their 911 GT3R pro-class campaign. The trio will also contest the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup in a 911 GT3R fielded by Manthey-Racing.

abbott indyR 0517 31908The Verizon IndyCar Series' use of double points at the Indianapolis 500 and the season finale at Sonoma Raceway is expected to continue.

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IndyCar's competition department reviews dozens of policies and practices during the offseason, and among them, the hot-button topic of double points has been raised for a rethink on an annual basis since it was introduced during Randy Bernard's tenure as CEO.

According to IndyCar competition president Jay Frye, and to the contrary to other suggestions, it might be wise to buckle in for more double points in 2018.

"We looked at it last year, we look at it every year, and I would be very surprised it anything changes," Frye told RACER. "We look at everything – all the pieces of the puzzle – and we try to improve and come up with something better, and if we can't, we don't make changes. That's the process. Do I anticipate any change in 2018? No."

2017 IMSA Test Dayt AT1 1846Official lap times were not provided during IMSA's two-day Balance of Performance test at Daytona, but most who were in attendance have said CORE autosport and its new ORECA 07 LMP2 Prototype were fastest overall.

And most who were there have also been vocal in their beliefs that sandbagging was rampant among the Daytona Prototype international manufacturers, which would make gauging true speed an interpretive assignment. Whether CORE was up front due to its innate abilities, or because DPi teams were doing their best to stay off IMSA's radar, the outcome was impressive nonetheless.

Having won all there was to win in IMSA's PC class before they moved to GT Daytona with a Porsche 911 GT3 R last season, CORE veteran Colin Braun says the team's speedy debut in Prototype was a welcome sign of what they hope will become the norm in 2018.

"It went really well and we had a great test," he told RACER. "When you buy an ORECA LMP2 car, it's certainly not the first one built...they're so refined, which makes our jobs easier. We didn't have to reinvent the wheel, just drove it, got used to our own comfort with seats, did shock sweeps and bar changes, and it went super smooth."

The pro-grade talent within the No. 54 CORE program on its own would give some DPi efforts a reason to be jealous. Provided IMSA's BoP tables offer a level playing field, Braun, team owner/driver Jon Bennett, and the French pairing of Romain Dumas and Loic Duval can be counted on to give the DPi field plenty of headaches once the Rolex 24 At Daytona gets under way.

"I think the fact that we're in a WEC P2 car is going to be a great thing for Daytona because the race rewards reliability, and obviously, we have really solid co-drivers," Braun added. "At the last test we did at Daytona, Jon did an amazing job, and the five years we did in PC together saw him adapt very quickly to it. We'll do our normal thing of keeping our heads down and work hard. There's a lot of tough teams there, but we're ready for the battle."

2017 IMSA Test Dayt AT2 0034Other Daytona test notes:

  • A private meeting was held on Monday where DPi survey data was reviewed with the manufacturers who participate in the Prototype class. It's believed a general agreement to stay the course with the same DPi formula in the years ahead was made and suggestions of adding LMP1-style hybrid systems were shot down immediately. A general feeling of wanting to leave DPi unchanged described by those who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

  • Compiled from a few informal lists of lap times on the first day of running, CORE and Mazda are said to have run in the low 1m38s range, and other Prototypes were in the 1m39s to 1m40s range. CORE is said to have turned a mid 1m37s lap on the second day, with Mazda once again in the general vicinity of the No. 54 WEC P2. The pole for the 2017 Rolex 24 was a 1m36.9s by Action Express Racing's Joao Barbosa in the No. 5 Cadillac DPi-V.R. The fastest WEC P2 in 2017 qualifying turned a 1m37.1s with Neel Jani piloting the No. 13 Rebellion Racing ORECA 07.

  • Prototype teams were instructed by IMSA to perform three-lap data-gathering runs on the second day, and at the end of those runs, drivers were required to come off the track and go straight to the series' tech shed for the cars to be measured and have the run data downloaded.

  • To the dismay of Wayne Taylor Racing, the engine from the No. 10 Cadillac was impounded by IMSA sometime around noon on the second day. Team principal Max Angelelli was less than enthused by the decision, according to those who witnessed the exchange.

RBCPHo Ho Ho and a Merry Christmas one and all. Being the season of cheer and goodwill, I thought I'd jot down a few thoughts around the 12 days of Christmas, and highlight 12 reasons to be positive and optimistic as the year comes to an end and we look toward the start of the 2018 season. Also because it's been a long year and I think I've exhausted all other avenues, this is literally all my brain can come up with.

So here we go!

1.  The resurgence of Ferrari as a potent race-winning force was THE good news story of 2017. They didn't just come out with a good car, they came out with the best car, and only a combination of an all too familiar implosion while Mercedes got all its ducks in a row to overcome its tricky four-wheeled Diva, denied the Scuderia what would have been a well-deserved title. But 2017 was the proof that Mattia Binotto knows what he's doing and that the team is capable of not just taking the fight to Stuttgart, but of being the team to beat. Looking at the step made between 2016 and 2017 thanks to the wholesale restructuring of the outfit, and then imagining what it could achieve in '18 with a year of experience under its belt, Ferrari could be the team with a massive target on its back come Melbourne.

2.  Unless, of course, that honor falls to Red Bull. By the end of the season it was possible to argue that Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo had at their disposal the best all-around car in Formula 1. Only the still underpowered and decidedly temperamental Renault power unit held back what could have been a season-ending whitewash for the Milton Keynes outfit. Just like Ferrari, Red Bull showed again in 2017 that they have championship-winning potential and can take the fight to Mercedes. All of which tees up 2018 rather nicely, wouldn't you say?

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3.  With Lewis Hamilton confirmed now as a four-time Formula 1 world champion, we go into 2018 in a unique position. Never before in the history of the sport have two drivers fought each other for the honor of a fifth world championship, and yet that is what stands before us. We live in hallowed times, make no mistake. It could be decades, nay generations before such a situation occurs again, and if they were to take one apiece over the next two seasons, just imagine them duking it out for the honors of hitting six. While 2017 wasn't exactly the wheel-to-wheel fight we'd been waiting a decade to see realized on track, we saw glimpses of the bout yet to come. All of which makes next year tantalizing.

4.  With Red Bull putting its backing firmly behind Verstappen to lead its championship charge into the future, we have a fascinating prospect opening up into 2018. Ricciardo is one of the highest-regarded drivers in modern-day Formula 1. A great racer, a clean and fair passer, a brilliant guy and an all-around marketing and media dream, Danny Ric would be a neat fit at any team. He fits the Red Bull mold perfectly, his Italian heritage makes him attractive to the tifosi and Lewis Hamilton has publically stated he'd love him as a stablemate at Mercedes. Meaning that Ricciardo's status as a free agent and the ultimate holder of the key to the driver transfer market is one of the most intriguing aspects of the coming season. Where he ends up will have knock-on effects for the whole sport.

5.  Where Ricciardo ends up obviously influences where the next generation land, but one of the most positive aspects of 2018 and beyond is the strength in depth that exists in that new era of F1 superstars. Of course Verstappen has already stamped his mark on the sport and requires only a consistently competitive car before he can truly announce himself into the big time, but alongside him and waiting to take this sport into the future lie the likes of Esteban Ocon, Carlos Sainz Jr., Lance Stroll, Pierre Gasly and the incomparable Charles Leclerc. These guys have been racing each other since they were in short pants, and it's only a matter of time before they become the headline-makers at the very top of their sport.


Tee 6.  And when one looks beyond them, remember the brace of talent that exists in the junior formulas who are either already on F1 teams books as reserve and junior drivers or who impress every weekend and sit quietly on F1's extended radar. Of course the likes of Lando Norris and George Russell are already known, but looking further down the ladder we have the likes of Pietro Fittipaldi (yes, that Fittipaldi), Enaam Ahmed and Jamie Caroline, not to mention young American talents Santino Ferrucci, Ryan Tveter and Kyle Kirkwood all ready to burst through.

7.  We have France and Germany back on the Formula 1 calendar. The European stalwarts' return and the importance placed by the sport's new owners in maintaining a European presence and ensuring the future of prestige tracks is a hugely positive sign. Ricard will be an interesting one. It's a great test track, but junior formula races have been riddled with track limits violations. Also, there's only one small road in and out of the circuit as it is perched high atop a cliff, so it remains to be seen whether the logistics will work out, but it's in the Bandol wine region so that's reason enough to be cheerful. With Liberty looking at shifting the calendar around with a few new races in new territories, it's great to have confidence that Europe will maintain a strong presence, something which was not assured under the old guard.

8.  And on the subject of racetracks, it's heartening to hear that Ross Brawn and the brain trust at Liberty are aware that circuit design may need something of a rethink in order to improve the racing spectacle. Now I've never been one to take aim at Hermann Tilke, as I actually like the majority of his racetracks. I've always looked at the likes of F2 and GP3 and determined that if they can have good races on Tilke tracks, then it's the F1 cars that are at fault rather than the tracks themselves. For if it were the tracks' fault, then you'd have a boring F2 race. And F2 doesn't do boring. With a little bit of luck, the FIA will start listening not just to Ross and Liberty, but to the racing drivers that have proposed track changes to help end track limits violations and also changes to the geometry of corners to allow multiple lines and better overtaking prospects. The studies and analyses are on their table. All they've got to do is pick them up and read them.

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9.  Which leads us to point nine, and it's an important one. Because for the first time in a long time, the FIA and F1 seem to have found grounds for unity. Having a governing body and a commercial rights holder at loggerheads made nobody's life any better. The petty squabbles created a vacuum into which stepped the teams to absorb more power than they should ever have been granted – power which they didn't know how to handle. F1's political structure and processes became overly complicated and complex, leading to the regulatory mess that we have today. With Liberty and the FIA seemingly agreed on the path the sport should take, and Todt's unopposed re-election as President, we could be set for a period of calm co-operation between the sport's rulers, something essential for the evolution and furtherance of the sport into the modern age.


Mauger10.  The new BFFs have already hit their first hurdle, however, and that is over the proposals for new engine regulations. Of course it is easy to see that the manufacturers are simply using this as a tipping point to assert their authority, but what has been heartening has been to see the reaction from both engine manufacturers and racing teams outside the sport. When car companies reacted positively and started speaking about their potential interest in joining the sport post-2020 should the new regulations come into effect, both Liberty and the FIA could mark one giant tick next to the plans. When the likes of Michael Andretti admitted that the new proposals also piqued his interest, again the sport's rulers can mark up a big tick. Whether these plans bring the new blood to the sport remains to be seen, but they are a step in the right direction.

11.  Another point of controversy of late has been broadcast rights. It's why I sit here writing today without any news to report to you about my plans for 2018, and yet I hold no ill will over how and why the U.S. broadcast rights changed hands. Television is changing. The manner in which we consume broadcast material has never been more direct. You used to go to your big networks to watch the latest drama or comedy series. Not so today. Now, you get it all on demand, as and when you want it, direct. The same will become true for sport. That Liberty has cottoned on to this will, in the short term, led to an earthquake throughout the sport as the notion of what constituted a broadcast rights deal is changed beyond comprehension. But as more and more fans decried the moves under the old guard to put the sport on pay TV, so the opening up of digital channels and the utilization of social media platforms from an official perspective should fill fans with no small level of satisfaction. Two digital options will become available, live and non-live, and both promise unprecedented levels of access. It's a scary time for the big broadcasters, but it could be an exciting one for fans both old and new.

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12.  All of which leads us on to our 12th and most important factor. We have new owners of the sport who have a vision and a path. Some may not understand it. Many will disagree with it. But there is a plan. And it is born of a long-term strategy. The days of short-termism and short-sightedness look to be over. From early on it was clear that the old days of special deals and shady collusion would end, too. In order for the sport and the business to run efficiently, the old ways would have to end and be replaced with clarity, parity and certainty. In order for all of that to work, the new bosses needed one thing above all: a backbone. Liberty's appears to be made of lonsdaleite. Thus far they have played with a straight bat and been steadfast in their position. It is this that has allowed the FIA to partner confidently with them and for both to forge a path together for the furtherance of the sport and all of its players. Ferrari's quit threat has never before been so quickly and easily dismissed, nor with such seeming abandon. And that, in and of itself, is refreshing in the extreme. This isn't the old way. And for that, we can and should all be thankful.

So there we go. Twelve pretty good reasons why 2018 looks great. Sure there's the bloody Halo to have to cope with, but we'll get used to it. Just as we did grooved tires. Remember them? And that funky qualifying system that I tried to defend. Remember that?

The important thing is that the future has solid foundations. The sport is being run properly and with a solid long-term plan. And the wealth of talent, both within the sport and rising through the ranks to play its role behind the wheel, has perhaps never looked more inspiring.

Merry Christmas folks. And bring on 2018. I, for one, can't wait.

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