RD LS 17 245

RD LS 17 245Spending 14 years with the Michael Shank Racing team feels like a lifetime to Ozz Negri, and after a change in the program's status from factory-backed to Pro-Am, the Brazilian is on the hunt for a new home in the IMSA paddock.

Shank's need to take on funded drivers and the pros of their choosing has led to the unfortunate end to one of the sport's longest partnerships, and for the renowned racer and driver coach, there are no hard feelings.

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"These 14 years with Mike; they've been the best time of my whole career, my whole life," Negri told RACER. "We won the biggest races together at Daytona in the Rolex 24, we won Petit Le Mans, and then I got to finish my time with Mike as one of the factory drivers when he got the Acura deal, so, OK, I'm very sad, but I can say I'm very blessed. But there is a change now for me and this is what I'm concentrating on."

As one of the more popular and accomplished drivers to span the former Grand-Am Rolex Series and its successor, the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Negri hopes to land another driver in IMSA.

"Maybe I've been too quiet about this; I'm not the type of guy with a big [ego] shouting all the time to get attention, but I am working very hard to crack some doors open," he continued. "We led races this year with Jeff [Segal] in GT Daytona, and if I can stay and race in that class, I would like to. And I am talking to teams in Prototype about going back there, because it's the place where I've had the best success."

galstad RATL 1017 267442The chance to maintain his dual role as a rapid pro who mentors and teaches from the cockpit would please Negri as he adjusts to life after MSR.

"I cannot tell you how hard we worked this year with the Acuras to make them capable to win races, and this gives me quite a lot of satisfaction, but I also like just driving as fast as I can go and working with guys, the gentleman drivers like I did with John [Pew], to achieve big things in motor racing," he said. "That part is something I love so much. I'm talking to a few teams, I'm mega-fit, I'm still fast...just let me drive."

2017 24h Daytona AT1 5563Michael Shank says his former Acura NSX GT3 factory program is close to returning as an independently-run effort in IMSA's GT Daytona class.

Along with the confirmation of an expanded presence as an entrant in the Verizon IndyCar Series, Shank expects to make a formal announcement for his Ohio-based team at December's Performance Racing Industry show in Indianapolis.

"Sports car is absolutely my backbone to my business," Shank said in a visit to the Week in IndyCar podcast. "It put us in a position to do what we did this year at Indy, and it will put us in a position next year to be in the IndyCar Series.

"Our goal is to have two have two NSXs in the IMSA GTD category for 2018, of which I can tell you, one is totally done, that deal is done. We're not allowed to have full-factory deals, so we're putting the puzzle pieces together with budget."

With the granting of a one-year exception for Acura (and Lexus) to compete in GTD as full-fledged works programs, Michael Shank Racing, along with the 3GT team behind the Lexus RC F GT3 effort, will return as privateers in the Pro-Am class.

Under the Acura banner with full financial support from Acura, MSR won two WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD races in 2017 with factory drivers Andy Lally and Katherine Legge, while teammates Ozz Negri and Jeff Segal produced a number of strong finishes in the sister entry.

Under IMSA's Pro-Am edict, the removal of Acura's factory support has led to a 100 percent change in MSR's driver roster as 2018 approaches. Andy Lally signed to drive for Magnus Racing, Jeff Segal signed with Scuderia Corsa, and both Legge and Negri continue to search for drives.

levitt PHX 1117 16429The number of crew members who can go over the wall during a pit stop next season has changed from six to five. The new requirement is part of the standardized at-track rosters NASCAR will use beginning in 2018. The details were announced Wednesday morning and detailed by NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O'Donnell during a media teleconference.

What this means is that teams in all three NASCAR national series will have a standard number of individuals who can work on the cars each weekend. It will be at the team's discretion how to make up its roster, which will be made public to fans and media before each weekend.

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As part of the requirements, each roster member will also be assigned a number/letter based on his or her position and it will be required that it is visible at all times. Also new beginning next season is that the fueler will no longer be allowed to perform any other duties during a pit stop, such as making a chassis adjustment.

The rosters have three categories: Organizational, Road Crew and Pit Crew. Here's a breakdown of how many members will be allowed per each category.

Organizational: Three for teams who are a one- and two-car operation. Four spots for those who are three- and four-car operations. This is where individuals such as the competition direction, team manager, technical director and IT specialists would slot in. In the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series, they will be allowed one member.

Road Crew: 12 members for the Cup Series with seven in Xfinity and six in the Truck Series. This position is for crew chief, car chief, mechanics, engine tuners, engineers and other specialists, as well as the team's spotter.

Pit Crew: It will be five crew members for teams in all three national series. of course, these are the individuals who perform over-the-wall duties during a race.

There will be slight exceptions to the road crew position as NASCAR will allow teams one extra person at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the three road courses in the Cup Series, since a second spotter is often employed. In the Xfinity Series, teams will be allowed an extra road crew spot for 10 races while it will be five races for teams in the Truck Series.

 31I2940Fernando Alonso hopes this weekend's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix marks the final time that he is not fighting at the front in Formula 1 after three tough years for McLaren-Honda.

Since Honda's return to the sport in 2015, McLaren has failed to score a podium as the power unit supplier has struggled for both reliability and performance. This year the team is set to finish ninth in the constructors' championship – ahead of only Sauber – and Alonso is keen for a new partnership with Renault to start in 2018.

"One race to go, another season is coming to an end, a season that, for sure, was complicated and hopefully it will be the last race in which we'll have to race in these conditions," Alonso said.

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"We'll see next year. Renault has been the best engine company in the last 15 or 20 years, if you see all their titles, so we are confident for next year."

While Alonso prepares for life with Renault, Honda will switch to Toro Rosso next season and the Japanese manufacturer's head of F1 project, Yusuke Hasegawa, doesn't want to set his target only on catching Renault.

"With the current chassis downforce level it is difficult to tell, but I think we are closing the gap," Hasegawa told RACER. "We just haven't closed the gap yet, not enough.

"Obviously we hope we will be able to close the gap over the winter, but they are not staying where they are, either. But definitely we need to catch up with Renault and try to overtake them."

Asked if catching Renault is Honda's target ahead of 2018, Hasegawa replied: "No, much higher! Even higher. Yes [we set targets compared to other manufacturers] but at this moment we don't want to disclose our plans."

phpThumbWelcome to the Robin Miller Mailbag as presented by Honda Racing / HPD. You can follow the Santa Clarita, California-based company at: hpd.honda.com and on social media at @HondaRacing_HPD and https://www.facebook.com/HondaRacingHPD.

Your questions for Robin should continue to be sent to millersmailbag@racer.com We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you. And if you have a question about the technology side of racing, Robin will pass these on to Marshall Pruett and he will also answer here.

Q: About an hour before the start of last weekend's NASCAR finale, I was in the paddock area near the media center when Josef Newgarden, the newly crowed 2017 IndyCar Champion, walks through the crowd wearing a crisp white polo shirt with the Penske name emblazoned on the upper left and accompanied by two other gentlemen also clothed in Penske attire. And not a single person noticed the newly minted IndyCar champion in their midst. As JoNew proceeded toward the garage area I, being the IndyCar apologist which I am, felt compelled to shout out "Hey, Josef, congratulations on the title, great work and good luck in 2018," to which Josef smiled and thanked me for my support. Almost immediately, my fellow NASCAR fans asked, much to my chagrin, "Who was that dude, does he work for the Penske organization?" I explained that yes, JoNew works for The Captain piloting an Indy car and that he just took the series' crown just a few weeks ago in Sonoma, to which some in the crowd replied: "Never heard of him, is he from the US?"

Robin, I simply shrugged off the lack of knowledge by the NASCAR crowd and continued to enjoy my afternoon but it begs the question: Why has IndyCar failed to promote Josef, its Great American Hope, following his taking the title just a few months ago? I guess the NASCAR crowd would be equally hard pressed to identify the likes of Vettel wandering through the facility, but IndyCar is an American series, not some foreign series contested far away, which leads us to the following: IndyCar has taken no effort to promote Josef Newgarden because (A) The series has no resources to dedicate to this type of activity;
(B) The series only cares about promoting its crown jewel, the Indy 500, and advancing the overall series remains superfluous; or
(C) The series has a secret plan of action to promote its well-spoken, good-looking, American champion but has yet to reveal the same to the world. What say you?

Neil Rubin, Miami, Fla.

RM: Of course it's sad to hear your story but not surprising since most IndyCar champions tend to be nameless faces. Not sure there is one answer to your question but clearly IndyCar doesn't spend the money necessary to give the drivers a national platform. The best advert for JoNew was the Shell commercial with Vettel, Logano and himself and it's exactly the kind of big-time promotion that needs to be used in the off-season. I know IndyCar PR plans on taking Newgarden to the Detroit Auto Show and other winter stops and marketing may have other plans but it's the same audience every winter. That's why spending money on national TV spots is paramount but likely won't ever happen.

Here's IndyCar's response:

We're excited that INDYCAR fans are passionate about Josef as the series champion. We see his success as an incredible opportunity to hail a new generation of future legends and speak to that ever-sought-after millennial audience. As you know, immediately following the race we organized a four-day media whirlwind that included stops in San Francisco, NYC, Nashville and Indy and hits on Sportscenter, CNN, Sports Illustrated, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio, NASCAR America and many others. It is important to us to keep that momentum going into the offseason, and Josef has been the epitome of a gracious champion in accommodating our many requests. We arranged for him to be featured in the NBCSN broadcast of the Austin F1 race, where he did the grid run with Will Buxton, and this week was featured in a Bloomberg Businessweek's Pursuits feature.

We have many fresh opportunities leading up to the start of our 2018 season including appearances at the Detroit Auto Show and other activities. While we can't publicly reveal the many details yet, there is a video/social media-based project in the works targeted toward young adults that will heavily feature our reigning champion.

Q: I have to say I really don't care if Danica "closes" out her career at the Indy 500. It may bring some additional publicity but nothing near what Alonso brought this year. You say that nobody in IndyCar did anything to keep her which is true, but as an IndyCar fan, I've long since moved on from "Danica-mania." I knew she would never have any real success in NASCAR but I guess she now has a multi-million dollar nest to retire on. I just have the feeling of "Who cares?" And wondered if I was in the majority?

Jim Doyle

RM: There is little doubt she's become yesterday's news in NASCAR but the Indy swan song should generate a decent buzz because it was her best track and people will want to see if she can still be competitive. I think we were all a little surprised she wanted to get back in an Indy car but it's her best chance to go out as a racer and it shows me she's still got (in her own words) big ovaries.

Q: Danica's return to Indianapolis will light the place (and the series) up even more than did Fred.

Chuck Lynch, Greenville SC

RM: It will be a bigger deal here, but not internationally. Alonso garnered worldwide attention while Danica will get a nice ride from the American media.

Q: What do you think about Indy becoming a showcase event that takes on a life beyond the IndyCar series? Alonso then Danica...I think it's great. Let's keep that going. The health of the Indy 500 is the health of the series, so anything that can be done to boost the 500 is a great thing.

Clint, Chicago, IL

RM: Indy has always been the showcase and focus – so much so that the rest of the schedule is invisible. Obviously, having the biggest, single-day sporting event help keeps IndyCar afloat and sponsors engaged, but let me give you an example. Charlie Kimball brought some friends to Indy a couple years ago and after the race they asked him what he did the rest of the year. That's the problem with IndyCar – it's a well-kept secret other than May.

lat webb ind5656Q: Given the big story going around that Danica wishes to retire from racing with the 2018 Indy 500, how that makes me excited to have already reserved my ticket for the race. I have some suggestions that, even though they'll probably never happen, would definitely improve attendance and ratings. 1. Bring back Paul Page for TV commentating and get rid of Cheever and Goodyear. 2. Have ABC Sports show us the starting field in the manner that they used to do back in the early '90s with the music called "Europe" by Tom Blades. In that case, Paul would briefly share some insight on each individual starting driver from last to first.

Aaron, Media, PA

RM: No idea what ABC has planned for 2018 but don't get your hopes up about sweeping changes or bringing back Paul Page. Of course if this is ABC's final Indy 500, then maybe it would get a little nostalgic and give us one more volley from Uncle Bobby/Sam/Paul.

Q: Andretti says they are full for the Indy 500. They have their normal four and Stefan Wilson. Last year they ran six. Will they stay with five this year? If not who would be their sixth?

Paul, Indianapolis

RM: No clue, but if Carlos Munoz finds some money I imagine he could persuade Michael to add another car to go with RHR, Rossi, Marco, Veach and Wilson.

Q: Tony Kanaan obviously still has the fire to compete and I'm hoping he can bring Foyt & ABC Supply at least one win next season. How do you think it'll affect him to have a rookie teammate in the form of Matheus Leist? Is Kanaan going to spend a lot of time getting Leist up to speed or do you think he'll be concentrating on just getting good results?

Dave von Falkenstein, Janesville, Wisconsin

RM: TK has brought along longtime engineer Eric Cowden so that will greatly enhance his cause, but he won't get much help from a rookie that's trying to find his footing. I'm sure he'll offer his wisdom to Leist but getting A.J. some results is his priority.

Q: Watching Homestead last weekend, including all the tributes to Junior, reminded me of how unusual it is for a third generation driver to hold up the family name. Dale Jr. hasn't come close to his father's (admittedly incredible) record but has been able to win some of the time. Plus, he seems so humble and grateful that you can't help but love him. Kyle Petty ditto. Graham Rahal is certainly a threat. Are there any other third generation IndyCar drivers who were legit? Marco seems like the poster child for the arrogant, entitled third gen driver who just doesn't have the hunger. Please Marco: hand your car to Conor and all will be forgiven.

Lee Robie, Cincinnati, OH

RM: The Unsers have to be right there with the Pettys with Louie leading things off, then passing the torch to Jerry, Bobby and Al before Little Al took over and kept on winning. Billy Vukovich III was a good little racer before losing his life while Dane and Cole Carter showed flashes of their famous father and grandfather. But Little E won 26 times (plus the Busch title) and certainly did his family name proud on and off the track. Marco is a mystery but I still think he's got talent.

Q: Does Chip Ganassi really not believe that American drivers are up to the task? If so, did Chip Ganassi the driver believe he had the talent to excel in a top ride? He would've said yes. So does that mean Chip Ganassi the owner wouldn't give Chip Ganassi the driver a chance? Chip doesn't strike me as a guy who likes to be wrong. And by definition, one of those Chip Ganassis is wrong!

Mike, San Francisco

RM: I think his hiring speaks volumes. Besides Bryan Herta, Jimmy Vasser and Memo Gidley (14 races), no other Americans graced one of the Target cars from 1995-2016. Sure, Graham Rahal, Sage Karam and Charlie Kimball all had Ganassi rides but had to bring sponsorship, and Chip has made it clear he doesn't rate Yanks in open wheel. Would he have hired himself? Depends on how much money he brought.

Q: I've read your stuff (or listened) regarding IndyCar and IMSA at Watkins Glen. Why would the latter refuse to share the date? They would only have the benefit of more eyes on the event and by way of more viewers going for the weekend, increased gate. If the complaint this year was the price of the ticket without supporting events (and the date) then wouldn't it work to have IndyCar hold a race on the Saturday and IMSA on Sunday? It's not like people who would go to the IMSA race anyway are going to skip the Sunday because they saw driving the day prior. What was IMSA's issue, or maybe that idea was proffered by IMSA and it was actually IndyCar that declined?

Cody from Hillsboro, OR

RM: All I can know is that IMSA is owned by the Frances and I imagine the thought of helping out IndyCar doesn't go down well. I think the sports car guys enjoy running in front of crowds at Long Beach and Detroit with IndyCar and it's not like IMSA draws a lot of people at The Glen. But I know IndyCar and The Glen both liked the idea of a doubleheader because it was a date and a promotion that made sense.

JGS 0979 1Q: I'm not sure if its even possible to gauge at this point all of the racing line differences that may come with the new aerodynamic elements of the Indy car in the 2018 season. But, is there any indication whether or not the cars will be able to break the draft/pull away a bit more naturally than has been the case with the aero kits? With the previous aerodynamics on the DW12, I never really liked how the cars came off of Turn 4 at Indy - almost immediately ducking down low toward the pit wall to cover the inside groove and force an outside pass. Not only was it odd to look at, I was just waiting for someone to T-bone the pit wall trying to make a last gasp attempt at an inside pass. I'm hoping the reduction in downforce will allow the cars to maintain their line closer to the outside/middle of the track (like pre-2012) and use pure acceleration as their attempt to maintain position. Hopefully this will make the racing a bit less artificial as well. While I'd prefer not watching a race where the lead driver is able to open up a 20+ second lead, the snake-like parade with cars not being able to gap even a single second on the trailing car is a bit much.

Daine C., Noblesville

RM: Let's let Marshall answer this one: "The new UAK18 bodywork has made it easier to pull up closer in the draft and go by, but I don't think it's going to be a warp-speed maneuver. Check out what Scott Dixon recently told RACER about the differences from 2017 to 2018. Cars have been pulling to the inside off Turn 4 for decades to try and spoil the tow for the trailing car(s), so that's nothing new or specific to the DW12. I haven't seen anything with the current car that leads me to think the racing at Indy was artificial."

Q: Finally read the 11/8/17 mailbag and saw Jenson Button was friends with and competed against Dan Wheldon. I suspect his death impacted his thoughts about racing on ovals in IndyCar?

Jamie A. Carr, Lebanon, Ohio

RM: I don't know that to be true but I do know a lot of F1 drivers, past and present, had no desire to run 200 mph up against walls. I think Wheldon's death did affect a couple of IndyCar drivers that never ran again and at least one NASCAR champion changed his mind about running Indianapolis, but not sure Button ever had any desire.

Q: I was able to get to the IMS museum a couple of weeks ago and see my hero's amazing exhibit. There is just no describing it, like there's no real way of appreciating just what a bad ass Foyt really was. I wish they could have had the 1967 Le Mans winner there but we can't have everything. I watched your three-part video on the exhibit last night on You Tube and that was great also. I had one question, in the video you mentioned that AJ had not seen the crashed Lola tub from Elkhart Lake for something like 25 years. Does he not still own it? Do you know the story behind it? I remember watching on live TV when that happened and to see how bad the tub was and how they had to cut it apart made me appreciate his injuries and comeback even more. And at 55 years old! Nothing short of amazing.  

Mike Bray, Flower Mound, TX

RM: Obviously the front of the car was destroyed so I'm sure it was stored somewhere in the shop and AJ simply mentioned he hadn't seen that tub since the accident. I do know this: I spent three days with him in Houston while he was recovering and I knew right then he was the toughest son of a bitch I'd ever seen.

Q: Was wondering after all these years. Is it true that A.J. and Derek Daly actually got into a fight one May many years back when Derek's hand was bandaged up while doing time trials at Indy for ESPN? I figured A.J. would be more than willing to go at it. But Daly doesn't seem the type to me.

Al Schonberg, Rockford, IL

RM: Derek was a very brave F1 and IndyCar driver but he wasn't crazy and, no, he's never picked a fight with A.J. or even considered it. But I do know one person DD punched and would likely do it again if the situation arises. He's tougher than you might think.

Q: Since it's the off-season I decided to go into the past and watch some old Indy 500s, and watching the drivers drive down all the way onto the apron to make passes and to see a driver wrestle an ill-handling car around the track was a real pleasure. I didn't think much about IMS repaving the apron until I saw a few articles from 2014/2015 saying that bringing the apron back was a sure thing. What happened? I understand why IMS got rid of the apron in the first place, however the cars are more than safe enough to bring back the apron. I couldn't imagine how these last several Indy 500s could be any better but with the draft the cars get on the straightaways into the turns, having the apron could only lead to even more passes throughout the race and bringing more excitement to watching the drivers drive. Do you think the apron will ever make its way back to the Speedway or is it a long dead cause?

Kevin, North Carolina

RM: The apron was another groove for passing (check out Michael Andretti and Rick Mears in 1991 below) and also a safe haven if your car was pushing, but IMS got rid of it because it was convinced it created bad angles for crashes. Bulls**t. Then a few years ago NASCAR figured out it could be the one thing that actually gave the Brickyard 400 a chance to have some action but it was quickly tabled for some reason. I haven't heard a word about it lately and I imagine it's never returning.

Q: Will the new Indy car stay on the ground when turned backward at high speed? Just curious what steps IndyCar took to prevent a repeat of what happened during Indy qualifying a few years back. They seemed to solve the problem for the last two seasons. Did they apply what they learned to the new body kits?

George, Lafayette, IN

RM: Marshall says: "It's all there, just packaged differently without the rear 'Kardashians' attached. The same flaps have been moved to the tops of the underwing tunnel exits, and in a nice advancement by IndyCar's Tino Belli and the design team from Dallara, the same spin stability has been achieved without using a dome skid beneath the car (which drivers disliked at Indy in 2016-'17)."

feistman watkins glen 17 09 03 1799Q: I was thinking about watching Bud Tinglestad get his only Indy car win at DuQuoin in 1966. My brother took me over there for the doubleheader — USAC stock cars on Sunday and Indy cars on Monday of Labor Day weekend. Have you ever considered him for a "tough guy" episode? (Or have you done it and I missed it?) He beat Atkins, Bobby Unser, Branson, Leonard, Foyt, and McElreath that day (Andretti blew an engine). Seems like he had a lot of good drives in the '60s – especially on dirt – and usually stuck a car in the field at Indy, with some Top 10 finishes.

Tom Hinshaw

RM: Tingy is definitely on my list along with Roger McCluskey, Bill Cheesbourg, Jud Larson and some other old-timers. And he was always competitive, especially on the dirt, but didn't have the best IndyCar rides except for 1969 when he filled in for Al Unser.

Q: Why don't Indy car teams use the "arms" for air hoses used in F1 pit stops? It can't be due to cost: Amateurs running the 25 hours of Thunderhill use them. It seems it would be much safer: It would eliminate pit crew's throwing heavy air guns across the path of the car, and it would eliminate the penalty for running over an air hose.

Bill Branagh

RM: Over to Marshall Pruett: "Having an air hose gantry system for a race where 24 hours of pit stops are required makes sense. In a series where almost every race is between two and three hours, it's not as obvious of a need. Infractions for running over hoses are rare, just like instances where gantrys are snagged by an errant hose and ripped down by the departing car are rare. Both still happen, though."

Q: Well Robin, one of the greatest Championship comebacks in the history of motor racing was completed last Saturday night when Chris Windom edged out Justin Grant to win the USAC national sprint car championship by a measly six points! This despite Windom being behind Grant by 96 points in August and not leading the points until eclipsing Grant during the Western World two weeks ago at Arizona Speedway. What saddens me though is despite having some of the best racing in the world and some fantastic young talent like Windom, Grant, Chase Stockton, Brady Bacon, etc. (The top 5 in points were all under 30), there was hardly any coverage at all. Even National Speed Sport News only had a quick blurb about Windom's triumph. Robin, what's it going to take to get this series the coverage it deserves and spread the gospel of wingless sprint car racing?

Ryan Casillas, Mesa, Arizona

RM: USAC sprints and midgets remain as good as it gets with four wheels, but with no television package like Thursday Night Thunder they're pretty much anonymous. Windom has been one of the top drivers the past few years and Grant came roaring onto the scene last year, so it's fitting they battled to the end. I'm going to try and catch up with Windom at PRI and do a video for RACER.com but I should have written something before you prompted me.

Q: It would figure that when a long time friend asks me to be one of the groomsmen in his wedding, that it would be the same weekend as the Indy 500. Hell-bent on bumping my streak to eight years in a row, I had spent countless hours figuring out how to do both. As if driving 700 miles nonstop for opening day at Road America didn't seem crazy enough, now I find myself planning to drive from the Finger Lakes in New York six hours home to catch a 5AM flight from Pittsburgh to Indy (unless you can talk your buddy Chip into sending his personal jet for me). I think it is safe to say that 40 years down the road, I will be able to be like today's old timers at the Speedway, telling of some of the great lengths that they went through just to get into the speedway just to witness the history that unfolds there. I suppose after the mud bath that was the Coke lot last year, fate would need me to one up myself and prove that I will go whatever length necessary to make it to the race that my life revolves around.

Alan Bandi, Butler, PA

RM: Tell the groom-to-be this is really testing your friendship and he's lucky you are making time for him on the most important weekend of the year. But you are just the kind of crazy, passionate, loyal fan that IndyCar needs and doesn't have enough of, so thanks for being like that.

Q: Robin, I cannot believe that F1 is dropping NBCSN for ESPN! Are they NUTS? I remember when ESPN had covered FORMULA 1 and it sucked big time with races being shown at 2:30 in the morning! Horrible coverage! Thank God the SPEED Channel came along and saved us from ESPN's coverage. Then some moron decided to get rid of the SPEED Channel all together! NBCSN has done a great job covering FORMULA ONE and should continue doing so. I was sooooo disappointed when I read about the coverage change.

Dennis Studer

RM: The easiest explanation is that F1 gave it to ESPN (no production or talent costs and no rights fee) because I think the long-range plan is to make F1 all streaming on ESPN's app.

Q: I've shown video and talked up IndyCar to people in France for the last two weeks. In doing so it occurred to me that I might be speaking to the most apathetic motor racing fan base in the world. I showed them Johncock and Mears, Unser and Goodyear, RHR and HCN, Chicagoland 2008 and Sato/Newgarden/Hinchcliffe at Sao Paolo in 2013. I even showed them my own videos from Grandstand A. None of it has made a difference. They talk football and rugby and could care less about motorsports. The name Bourdais was met with blank stares which is patently ridiculous. The most positive thing I heard was "at least you use a manual transmission when you turn left all the time." Whatever was the cause of the Schmidt/Calmels deal falling through, it's probably for the best. There simply isn't a way to turn heads in this country without recreating the magic Alonso generated. I think that probably goes for any European country, short of Vettel or Hamilton taking a shot at the Brickyard, which we all know is about as likely as Lola making the new monocoques.

Sacre Blue!

Dan W., Paris, France

RM: That's too bad Bourdais didn't resonate, but maybe they're simply waiting for the next Alain Prost before they start caring again.

 W6I0018Sauber team principal Frederic Vasseur is expecting his team to make a clear step forward with its chassis next season even before it receives a boost from Ferrari.

Having faced financial constraints for a number of years, Sauber opted to use a year-old Ferrari power unit this season and focus on trying to optimize its chassis for the new aerodynamic regulations. Although the team was under new ownership from the middle of last year, Vasseur still believes that wasn't enough time to really impact on the new car and sees major gains to be had with the 2018 chassis.

Asked how much performance he expects to gain from running the latest specification of Ferrari power unit next year, Vasseur replied: "It's a couple of tenths – I won't say more – and on the chassis we will have to do a much bigger step.

"I think we started the project very late last year due to the financial situation and we are really focused on the 2018 car for a long part of this season and I think we will do a much bigger step on the chassis than on the engine."DJ5R8424

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While the power unit plan is known for next year, Sauber has yet to confirm its driver line-up for 2018, having been running Charles Leclerc (above) in a number of FP1 sessions at recent races. Newly crowned Formula 2 champion Leclerc is expected to be one of the drivers, likely partnering Marcus Ericsson, and Vasseur is confident confirmation of the pairing will be made public soon.

"We will do the announcement, I hope, in Abu Dhabi. For sure we'll do it before Melbourne next year and that I won't postpone it each week. But I think Charles is doing a good job; the situation in FP1 is not an easy one because the first target is to avoid crashing and by the way that he's consistent and he always shows a strong pace and he's doing a good job."

Leclerc will not take part in FP1 in Abu Dhabi, having completed four appearances for Sauber so far this year. Instead he will focus solely on the final round of F2 races at the Yas Marina Circuit this weekend.

Mazda1Mazda Team Joest has kept the angry little four-cylinder turbos alight during an intensive testing regimen in Florida with its RT24-P DPis.

The Multimatic-based IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship prototypes have sprinted back and forth between Daytona International Speedway and Sebring International Raceway in recent weeks, often leaving one facility as its rivals at Acura Team Penske are loading in or packing up.

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Although no official lap times have been posted, rumors of speeds at or below the pole positions set at both circuits in 2017 would suggest the program is making the kind of strides it sought after splitting with its former partners at SpeedSource and taking the remainder of the year off to redevelop the RT24-P platform.

"Mr. Joest and I had a chance to be together a few weeks ago in Germany and from what we've seen in testing, with the entire effort Multimatic has put forth with aero, suspension, and cooling optimization updates to the RT24-Ps, we're pleased with all of the work and processes we've seen," Mazda motorsports director John Doonan told RACER.

"We've had drivers giving direct back-to-back comparison of what we had before to what we have now, the car has been completely transformed. We're encouraged we'll be able to fight at the front and vie for wins and championships. This is exactly what we've been planning to do."

Mazda 2Addressing the RT24-P's speed deficits is only part of the overhaul being conducted by Mazda's partners. The search for greater reliability through on-track testing and off-track durability runs has also been part of the Mazda Team Joest reboot.

"We met first with Multimatic about what was needed, and there were some areas that had options for improvement, and one was improving the overall environment the RT24-P's engines live in," Doonan explained. "They did a massive amount of studies and had a lot of input from AER on improving the climate for the engine, and that will help, and AER has done long runs on the dyno to complete Daytona, complete Sebring, and give us the best chance of finishing where we want to be."

The revamped RT24-P program, with the Nos. 55 and 70 entries, will have its driver roster confirmed and other key aspects of the Joest-led effort revealed between the holidays.

"We take what we do in motorsports to tell our story to the broadest audience possible," Doonan said. "And we'll be making an announcement that won't be ready for the Thanksgiving table, but will be here before Santa arrives."

Last year, the RT24-P project was launched at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

AMR ledeAston Martin's 2018 Vantage GTE is new in every sense of the word – it features just five carry-over parts from the previous car.

It's visually striking, more aggressive aerodynamically, armed with a turbo-charged Mercedes engine – and after its performance in testing, Aston Martin Racing believes it will immediately be able to challenge for wins and titles against the ever-growing manufacturer pack in the GTE Pro category.

"I've seen it from its early stages, and the development it's been through... it's become more gorgeous," Jonny Adam told RACER. "It's one of the most beautiful cars Aston has ever produced, and that goes for the road car as well as the race car. It's so different from the current car, it's so aggressive – and when you hear it you'll be surprised by the noise."

Aesthetics aside, Adam feels that the improvements made will put the new Vantage on par with Ford, Porsche, BMW and Ferrari's newest challengers at the top level of GT racing in performance terms, too.

Adam, along with newly signed factory driver Alex Lynn, Darren Turner, Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen, have all tested the car, and had input into the development direction back at AMR's base in Banbury, too.

They've spent extensive amounts of times helping tweak the cockpit design, the steering wheel, seating position and pedal box, ensuring that it's as drivable as possible, and attractive for both professional and amateur racers.


"We've spent quite a few hours with the design team to go through refinements, and helping improve the cockpit, the driveability," Adam said. "Little things like getting in and out of the car. We want it to be easy for pros, and importantly, for customers. You need gents [gentlemen drivers] to be able to get in and out quick, and make it user-friendly inside.

"We're also in these cars for a long time, so we need them to be comfortable. It's important to get that right. It's nice to get involved in that process, and have your opinion heard. We've improved so much from the first initial design stage.

"There's a lot of box-ticking, because as drivers in the Pro class, we can easily forget that customers will be using this soon, so for them, it needs to be easy.

"The way I would pitch the new car to a customer is like this: The visibility is much better. We sit lower and further back compared to the old car, so we feel a lot more in the car. It improves the center of gravity. The vision is out front and through the windows and mirrors is better, we can see a lot more of the apex and a lot more spread through the windows. Even getting in the car, because the seat is so far back, is a lot easier, because of the size of the doors. It's a lot longer, and it means that any Am can get out quick in a driver change.


"Even the dashboard is a lot squarer – it doesn't have a hump like the current car which takes vision out of the windscreen. It also has lit-up buttons and panels, and an adjustable pedal box too, for the first time. It caters for everyone, and will see you be more consistent over a stint as a result. And that's factoring in only improvements to the cockpit."

The move to a turbo-charged AMG-derived V8 is also a big one, after years spent with the meaty naturally-aspirated 480 bhp V8. This is a seismic change in philosophy, one that has spread across GTE, to the point where next year, in GTE Pro and GTLM in the States, only the Corvette C7.R and Porsche 911 RSR will run with naturally-aspirated power units.

New arrival Alex Lynn is pleased with the decision, because coupled with the car's enhanced aerodynamics, he feels it suits his driving style. Prior to climbing aboard the new Vantage, Lynn only drove the outgoing Vantage for a handful of laps at the 2016 Bahrain WEC Rookie Test. However, it was enough to get acclimatized, and he could immediately feel the difference when he first climbed aboard the new car.

AMR page 2 lede"It drives differently to a naturally-aspirated engine," he said. "But the characteristics of a turbo engine suit my driving style, it's like the M6 I drove at the N24 this year, which was a turbo as well. I personally enjoy driving turbo-powered cars. It means that you focus on preparing the corner exit, as you get more back than before, more of a performance gain. It's a challenge, and it rewards a smoother driver.

"But while it is challenging, it's much more drivable than the old car – it's easier and more user-friendly, it meant I got up to speed quicker. It also has more downforce, which I'm more used to in prototypes and single-seaters. It's a big step up in GT terms and it brings AMR on par with the other big factories."

Adam, however, isn't sure just how much of an advantage running a turbo-charged car is in the WEC.

"We saw at Shanghai for instance, how amazing the racing was, between the turbos and naturally-aspirated cars," he said.

"Is it a big advantage? We're not sure yet, but there's certainly an improvement in terms of torque. The key is that it's drivable, you want the throttle input to be good, and in all conditions, wet, dry, cold or hot."


And, of course, by its nature, the new engine produces a very different sound to that of the current Vantage, though Adam was quick to assure RACER that for those who attend the races, the new Vantage will still be a favorite for fans noise-wise.

"In terms of noise, once you hear it in person you'll be surprised, it sounds nice," he explained. "It's a different noise to the old V8, but I was surprised the first time I heard it that it's still got punch. And to be fair, the competition has gone turbo-powered and Aston Martin wanted it that way with their new cars too, so we decided to have that in the car."

The VP (Verification Prototype) development car – the only one currently in existence – that was shown off at the London launch is the latest of many iterations, stemming from the extensive testing program which has seen the car shaken down multiple times in the UK at Turweston and Pembrey, and pushed to the limits at Snetterton, Pembrey, Aragon, Rockingham, Andalusia (where the team completed 30 hours of non-consecutive running), Sebring and for the first time in AMR history, in a 30-hour non-stop run at Navarra.

All of Aston Martin's factory drivers have taken turns behind the wheel during this time, and Beechdean AMR ELMS GTE driver Ross Gunn was also involved in the early stages.

"Darren was part of the first test, he was the first to drive it, and I was there, and I witnessed how happy he was," Adam explained. "It felt like a new era straight away. So much effort went in from AMR, and it was quite nice to see how much it meant to everyone to just get it out and drive it.

"Then I got in, and immediately I noticed just from pulling away how different it feels. It's very nice, though. It put me on a high, and it helped that it ran so well on its first shakedown, too. There's been so many steps since then, right the way up to the test at Sebring this month. It performs and drives better each time.

Lynn, who was involved in the team's 30-hour run in Spain, agrees, telling RACER that so far the new Vantage has proven to be reliable out of the box, as well as fast.

"The mentality at the 30-hour test was to keep it out of the garage while we simulated a full 24-hour race with a few extra hours bolted on," he said. "As you can imagine with a new car, that's difficult. I think when any factory takes on a 30-hour test, no matter how big or small, it's big task, but it went really well.


"We also got a feel for how the car performed at night there, as it was in the winter and the circuit has zero light. It was pitch black, and that was beneficial. The visibility was good, really good, the lights are stunning; I suppose though, that being a young guy helps, too!

"Then we headed to Florida. We didn't do an endurance test at Sebring, but we did lots of consecutive long runs and ensured that the car didn't have to be pushed out of pit lane for checks."

Adam echoed Lynn, telling RACER that during his time in the car, there have just been a few minor issues.

"There were a few niggles, but the actual running of the car has been great, at every test," he said. "The most impressive part is that they've done a 30-hour test already. Reliability-wise we're on schedule. Don't get me wrong, there will probably be niggles along the way, but we feel on top of things. We think we can win races right away with it.

"There's such a good vibe at AMR because of how well this has gone, and I'm sure that'll translate into next year."

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