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BW-facesBW-WillieMaysWhen the San Francisco Giants face the Kansas City Royals on Friday night in Game 3 of the World Series, a man by the name of William Behrends will be watching the game while sculpting a tiny likeness of Ryan Hunter-Reay’s face. And there’s a big connection.

Some of Behrends’ other works – four huge bronze statues of Giants legends Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Orlando Cepeda outside the AT&T Park in San Francisco – likely will be featured during cutaways of the FOX Sports broadcast, bringing Behrends’ largest and smallest works together in a most unusual way.

Behrends, who has sculpted some of the most iconic sports figures of our time, is working on his 25th tiny sterling silver face for the Borg-Warner Trophy that honors winners of the Indianapolis 500. An avid Giants fans, he’ll be putting the finishing touches on Hunter-Reay’s likeness while watching the game in his studio in Tryon, NC.

“I’ll definitely be watching the games while I work on it,” Behrends said. “It’s the thing I look forward to while working on the Indy pieces. I often find myself working on a detail with a playoff game or World Series game on in the background. It brings things together for me.”

The day after the 98th Indy 500 in May, Behrends met BW-WillieMays2Hunter-Reay. The meeting was more than just a chance to study a face Behrends was about to sculpt, but a chance to understand Hunter-Reay’s personality and incorporate that into his work. He used the same technique – talking with and understanding his subject - for the four Giants eventually carved in 9?-foot bronze likenesses and mounted atop four-foot granite bases.

“With Willie Mays, I spent the day with him at his home and then met with him a couple of times after that,” Behrends said. “It was very nice, and it gave me a chance to get to know him. He’s an interesting guy. I watched him play when I was a kid, and I remember he was one of the few players I felt like I could recognize without seeing his number. He played with such ebullience. He’s a very gregarious guy, but he has a reserve about him, as well.”

The difference between working large and small is extreme. The Giants’ sculptures each weigh a ton and each took more than 18 months to complete. Hunter-Reay’s intricate sterling silver bust is about the size of an egg and is completed in about six weeks. It will be unveiled as the latest face on the Borg-Warner Trophy during a ceremony at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum in early December.

“Because it’s smaller, you want to strengthen it and make it more vivid,” Behrends said. “The strength of Ryan’s jaw works in his favor. The trick is to get his face to stand out. You want it to be visible from 10 feet away.”

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2015 Dallara IL15 Mid-Ohio Test 2014 6 1Eric Bachelart could be logging plenty of air miles next year with a pair of open-wheel and sports car programs in the works. As the Belgian told RACER on Wednesday, he’s getting close to a GT program in the Pirelli World Challenge series, and has also confirmed Conquest Racing’s return to the Indy Lights series.

Bachelart, who launched his driving career in the U.S. after winning the 1991 Indy Lights title, says his team hasConquest-2014-IndyLightsCar been preparing for new challenges after sitting out most of 2013 and all of 2014.

“We have been active recently – we moved to a new shop, remodeled everything, and we’re definitely going to go racing in Indy Lights next season so the new shop will be perfect for this project,” he said. “We have been involved with Dallara and Dan Andersen with testing the new Indy Lights prototype, and I’m really impressed with the car. We decided it was a good time to go back to open-wheel racing in Indy Lights and we’ve been talking with some promising drivers who want to do the series.”

Conquest joins Indy Lights titans Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, defending champions Belardi Racing, and 8Star Motorsports among those who’ve publically committed to the series. More team announcements are expected in the coming days and weeks.

“Racing is a business for me, and it must make sense first as a business,” Bachelart explained. “It’s a crazy business sometimes, but I like what I see with the new series. Maybe it’s a step to bring Conquest Racing back to IndyCar, but the budgets were too much to continue [with the Dallara DW12]. It’s early days, but I’m confident Indy Lights will become strong like it used to be.”

Next up for Conquest will be taking part in the group Indy Lights test approximately two months from now in Florida.

“That’s what we are working towards, and we should have some good news by then on our complete plans,” Bachelart added.​


Conquest successfully ran Felipe Giaffone (BELOW, LAT photo) in Indy Lights 1998-2000, and also achieved several wins with Graham Rahal (BOTTOM, LAT photo) in the Atlantic Championship in 2006, when it was a feeder series for Champ Car.

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malsher-portraitWhat follows is probably a blend of fact, rumor and opinion and the proportions within the blend are not yet clear. So I advise you treat it as if watching an Oliver Stone movie: the most surprising aspects of the story may be true, but may also have been over-emphasized to suit the motives of its creator.

Last week we heard from former Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo that Fernando Alonso is definitely leaving the Scuderia at season’s end which is as surprising as hearing the moon is not, in fact, a giant peeled Babybel. What Mr Di Montezemolo has done though, is make us wonder anew what’s next for Mr. Alonso: if McLaren is the only obvious choice left, why’s nothing been confirmed yet?

There were suggestions that Alonso might take a sabbatical from Formula 1 and race in the FIA World Endurance Championship – or the 24 Hours of Le Mans, at least. These rumors were lent some credence by another rumor – that former Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali is to join the Audi sports car team to replace Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. Now, however, that second rumor has withered on the grapevine and, from what we hear, the Alonso-to-WEC rumor should never have been believed, anyway.

One of RACER's best insiders has clarified Alonso’s situation, although you’ll appreciate that this remains a moving target. Alonso to McLaren, as of last Friday, was still only 50/50 because the driver wants just a one-year deal, while the team is standing steadfast and demanding a two-year contract with an option on a third. Should no compromise be reached, Alonso may head to Lotus, despite Lotus switching to Mercedes-Benz power in 2015 and despite one of Alonso’s throwaway remarks in Russia which suggested he won’t be piloting a Mercedes-engined car next year.

Should Alonso indeed move to Lotus, that would mean Pastor Maldonado may be the incumbent driver who’s retained as his funding would help pay his team leader’s salary. That would leave Romain Grosjean out in the cold, despite the Frenchman excelling for a second straight year, so unless he was snapped up by McLaren, that would be as big a tragedy as the talented Nico Hulkenberg spending another season in midfield.

The decision, from Alonso's perspective, is not a slam-dunk in favor of the silver rather than black-n-gold team, and for two reasons. One is the car. McLaren's ability to produce a race-winning chassis is not a given, as Lewis Alo-HamiHamilton, Jenson Button, Sergio Perez or Kevin Magnussen could tell you. And however magnificent its Formula 1 heritage, series returnee Honda certainly can’t guarantee its engine will rival Mercedes-Benz from the first green light. Racing improves the breed, and in that respect, M-B has a one-season head start on Honda with the bafflingly complex hybrid power-units. (And whether it’s relevant or not, Fernando will recall that Honda departed F1 with a whimper rather than a roar, last time around.)

In other words, McLaren-Honda is neither more nor less likely than Ferrari to produce a potential championship winner in 2015, so if Alonso has reached “an age when he cannot wait to win again” as Di Montezemolo put it, then exchanging like for like is far from ideal.

The second reason for Alonso’s reluctance to commit to McLaren for longer than a year is the fact that Lewis Hamilton’s current Mercedes AMG contract runs only through the end of 2015. At the moment, it’s hard to imagine Hamilton wanting to leave, but that second Ferrari seat currently occupied by Kimi Raikkonen will become vacant at the same time, and Lewis will surely be tempted by the thought of partnering Vettel in 2016 if the Scuderia makes substantial gains next season. He’s always eager to prove who’s the better driver and resented Vettel having it (relatively) easy over the previous four seasons.


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And so the dilemma Alonso faces is clear. There’s the opportunity to go to Lotus for one year where he can (re-)ingratiate himself with Mercedes, who’d perhaps offer Lotus some sweeteners to keep Fernando in the holding tank ready for 2016 entry into the works squad. It would, after all, suit Mercedes just fine if Alonso’s Alo-Mattitechnical expertise and drive were not helping Honda in 2015.

Or he can fully commit to McLaren-Honda, maybe see out his F1 career there. If that still seems vaguely amusing and amazing to those who witnessed the meltdown in relations between himself and Ron Dennis in 2007, so it now seems a bit more likely. Hulkenberg re-signing with Force India, and Grosjean apparently likely to stick at Lotus would suggest they know there’s no vacancy at McLaren next year.

Can an Alonso-McLaren remarriage work? I think so. Alonso will surely back it down a couple of notches from his typically hardline "my way" stance. New Ferrari president Marco Mattiacci has been unimpressed at how much power Fernando held within the team and, with a letter of intent from Vettel already filed away (or so we understand), was able to say exactly what he thought when he met with his lead driver to discuss the future. At the time, an affronted Alonso was stunned that the boss had played it so tough, but on hearing of Vettel’s departure from Red Bull Racing, suddenly all became clear…and suddenly much of Alonso's bargaining power had gone. So Alo-Dennisperhaps a little humiliation may have led to a little humility.

Ron Dennis, meanwhile, will now be aware that his own naturally autocratic style is not the best way to handle Alonso. Better to let him be who he is, give him a teammate a couple of tenths slower and make him feel loved. One of Fernando’s most admirable qualities is that, whether he’s happy, miserable, angry or chilled, on track he never gives less than his best. But outside the cockpit, for the sake of the other team members and the unity of McLaren-Honda as a whole, it’s surely better to have a contented Alonso who feels truly respected, not merely an employee.

Is he worth the effort it takes to constantly trip around his delicate ego? Yes, absolutely. You could argue the case for two – maybe three – other drivers being as good as or superior to Alonso in a couple of areas, in a couple of circumstances or at a couple of tracks. But as the complete package, I don’t believe there’s a better driver in the world.

So I hope McLaren and Honda convince Fernando they can, year after year, produce cars worthy of his talents…and then actually do it. He won’t let them down, we can be sure of that.

 

2014StPeteWCMPruettSun330 840Amid the ongoing growth with the Pirelli World Challenge series, one marque in particular is expected to see a spike in its presence on the GT grid next season as one AMG Mercedes SLS could turn into five.

Black Swan Racing owner/driver Tim Pappas has been the lone SLS representative in PWC with his distinctive No. 54 entry in the GT-A class for pro-am competitors, and RACER has learned he could be joined by as many as four more of the GT3-spec gullwing coupes in 2015.

"I will have two Mercedes next year, with a potential for a third," said DragonSpeed Racing general manager/driver Elton Julian. "We're a customer racing program, and we want to give our customers the best chance to win, to keep growing, and to help the World Challenge series grow."

Pappas says he looks forward to having more of the thundering German V8s in PWC next year, but also mentioned the increased car count could have a specific drawback.

"If all the extra cars come in, that would be good news, but the bad news part of it is the more people that run it, you get more into the [Balance of Performance] stuff with the series," he said.

It's also believed Conquest Racing is in talks to field an SLS next season as the veteran IndyCar and sports car team looks to branch out into PWC. In addition to racing an SLS in Europe, ALMS champion Klaus Graf has helped AMG with a few connections in America and says the existing GT3 chassis – and its replacement in 2016 – is a great option for PWC.

"The SLS is an incredible machine; it's a great package with power, balance and the right amount of aero for GT3," he said. "And AMG are working already on the new GT3 car that will be for sale when we get to the 2016 season, and it will be even better, so I hope we have more cars coming over to America because they would be perfect in the TUDOR series and World Challenge."​

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Deegan-Creed-PLWell, a lot of this should have been settled by now, but Mother Nature had other plans.

Had lightning and rain in Las Vegas a month ago not forced the postponement of Round 14 – for the pro classes, at least – of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, we could be talking about at least a couple of championships and figuring out what the drivers in the others needed to do to win. But with two points-paying rounds at Lake Elsinore Motorsports Park this weekend, followed by the Lucas Oil Challenge Cup on Saturday night, there’s a whole lot packed into two days.

There are 104 points available on Friday night and Saturday for things to change in the championships. For some classes, that’s probably not enough to change anything. In others, it’s a huge amount.

Pro 2 is one of those classes where it doesn’t really matter. Brian Deegan has a 77-point lead over Bryce Menzies, so all he really has to do is start both races, or have a solid finish in one and skip the other. Menzies, on the other hand, will have to have a good couple of races – about 15 hours apart – to hold off Rob MacCachren for second in the championship. Likewise, Carl Renezeder and RJ Anderson are neck-and-neck for fourth. Deegan may be able to cruise and save his truck for the Challenge Cup if he so desires, but no one else can.

Chad George can coast as well, thanks to his five victories, 11 podiums and 81-point gap to Dave Mason in Pro Buggy. But then only 21 total points separate second through fifth – Mason, Steve Greinke, Garrett George and Kevin McCullough – so those spots are definitely up for grabs among those four players.

While hardly a sure thing, things would have to go pretty disastrous for Kyle LeDuc for his 40-point gap to MacCachren in Pro 4 to disappear. Given the typical size of the Pro 4 fields – although a couple of additional entries are expected this weekend because of the Challenge Cup – it would be tough for LeDuc to finish 20 points behind MacCachren in both races. Behind MacCachren, it’s another 18 points to Ricky Johnson then another 18 to Doug Fortin. It would be quite possible for some place-swapping to happen among this three, plus Renezeder, who is only 11 points behind Fortin.

Pro Lite is the one class where thing could really change. Sheldon Creed has only a 14-point advantage over three-time champion Deegan, and Deegan has come from behind in the final races to win the class before, plus he’s always fast at Lake Elsinore –although Creed left there earlier in the season with more points. As big as the Pro Lite fields are, 14 points is nothing in two races. Deegan may have a distraction, though…word is he’s adding a Pro 4 to the stable this weekend. If there’s any consolation, it’s guaranteed that Creed and Deegan will finish first and second, in whatever order, in the championship, because RJ Anderson is a long way behind in third. Anderson he will have to fight Casey Currie to retain that spot, as there is also only 14 points between the two.

The kart classes got to run their races at las Vegas on the night the pro classes were cancelled – although the Modified Kart teams had a lot of cleanup to do afterward – so those championships are settled, or practically so. The Modifieds have one more race to run, but Brock Heger has a 47-point, virtually unassailable lead over Christopher Polvoorde. Dylan Plemons is the 2014 Junior 2 Kart champion, and Mason Prater has claimed the title in Junior 1 Karts.

Challenge Cup: Pro 4 vs. Pro 2

For some, the final stages of the 2014 championship are but a prelude to the Challenge Cup races. With two points races and the Challenge Cup races in the space of two days, it will make for a a very packed schedule and could spell real trouble for anyone that seriously damages a vehicle.

Each of the kart classes, Pro Buggy and Pro Lite will have their own big-prize Challenge Cup races. But the highlight will be the Pro 4 vs. Pro 2 battle that caps off Saturday night. Not only is it an all-out war between the two classes, with the Pro 4 drivers starting an appropriate distance behind, but each class is inverted based on points. If a Pro 4 driver wins the thing, it means he or she had to drive through not only all the Pro 4 competitors, but every last one of the Pro 2 racers as well. And it’s always interesting to see which truck those that race both classes will choose.

Last year it was all Pro 2 as the top Pro 4 competitors struck trouble. Deegan came away the winner, no surprise as he tends to do quite well at Lake Elsinore.

There will likely be some surprises. Two champions from the Midwest, Johnny and CJ Greaves, have been testing out at Lake Elsinore. And, of course, this is the time of year when many who are looking to change classes try to get a feel for what they’ll be running next year, so look for people in new trucks this weekend.

Gates open at 12 p.m. on Friday and 11 a.m. on Saturday. Round 15 racing gets underway at 7:30 p.m. Friday, while the make-up races for Round 14 start at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday. The Junior 2 Karts kick off the Challenge Cup races at 6 p.m. on Saturday, with opening ceremonies at 7:30 p.m. followed, by Mod Kart, Pro Lite, Pro Buggy and Pro 2 vs. Pro 4, which is scheduled for 9:45 p.m.

 RD48657Moving from strength to strength, 2014 IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Champions Action Express Racing will stage a full-season two-car entry in the 2015 IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season in the premiere Prototype class.

The Denver, N.C.-based organization will field the No. 31 Whelen Corvette Daytona Prototype for Whelen Engineering. The Coyote-chassied machine powered by ECR Engines will run alongside the 2014 TUDOR Championship-winning No. 5 Corvette Daytona Prototype of Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi.

The No. 31 Whelen Corvette DP will feature an all-American driver lineup with drivers Eric Curran and Dane Cameron joining forces. Curran campaigned the 2014 TUDOR Championship for Whelen while racing under the Marsh Racing banner.

Cameron has Prototype experience that stretches back to 2007, including a full season at the Prototype level in 2013 that saw him score multiple pole positions and run at the front in many races. He has also proven to be a quick study in GT competition, as he claimed the 2014 IMSA TUDOR GTD Driver Championship title.

The Curran and Cameron pairing is a deeply talented and experienced one, as Curran first joined the IMSA ranks in 2000 and has four Rolex Series race victories to his credit including two behind the wheel of a Whelen Engineering Corvette (Road America 2011, Lime Rock Park 2013) and 15 Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge victories. He has made over 70 IMSA starts between his time in the GRAND-AM Rolex Series, the GRAND-AM Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Series, and American Le Mans Series.

"I'm extremely excited to be moving into my second year in a Daytona Prototype in 2015," said Curran. "This will be my ninth year with Whelen Engineering and working with Sonny Whelen. I'm especially excited to be moving our whole Whelen Motorsports program over with Action Express who just won the IMSA TUDOR prototype championship in 2014. Whelen Engineering is a great American-based company so to be joining together with a successful American team with two American drivers is just great."

26-year-old Cameron not only enters the 2014 season as the reigning GTD Champion, his championship ways date all the way back to 2005 when he won the Jim Russell Championship Series in California. He went on to win the Palmer Audi Winter Championship in Europe in 2006 and then won the 2007 Star Mazda Championship here in the United States. Cameron was just the second first-year Champion in the 18-year history of Star Mazda.

"It's a tremendous opportunity to step back into the premiere category in the TUDOR Championship and to do so with the reigning prototype champion," said Cameron, who moved to North Carolina last year and has spent time visiting the Action Express Racing shop. "Partnering with Whelen and Eric (Curran) is a great match all around."

The No. 31 Corvette DP team will operate out of Action Express Racing's Denver, North Carolina race shop.

"This is an exciting opportunity for Whelen to align with an organization like Action Express," said Sonny Whelen. "Their record speaks for itself, and I think that Dane (Cameron) is an exciting American talent who will be a great match for Eric (Curran), who we've known for such a long time and has been a great driver for us. Hopefully we can not only enjoy some success on the track, but also continue to raise awareness about the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research by campaigning our Team Fox Corvette DP with our partners at Action Express."

"This is a tremendous addition to the team, and I think it reflects the incredible hard work and preparation that everyone on this crew has delivered since we first came together in 2010, as well as the leadership that Elton and Gary provide for this team," said Action Express Racing Team Owner Bob Johnson. "We have known Sonny (Whelen) for a long time and it is great to have that relationship develop into a partnership like this. Dane (Cameron) and Eric (Curran) are both highly sought after for what they can do, and I'm excited about having them become part of the Action Express Racing family."

Curran and Cameron tested with Action Express Racing earlier this week at Virginia International Raceway in the No. 5 Corvette Daytona Prototype. The two were joined by Action Express Racing championship-winning driver Joao Barbosa at the test and logged over 650 miles at the track.

"Joao (Barbosa) and the Action Express team invited me and Eric to come share a two day test at VIR this week," said Cameron. "This team just hasn't stopped working as the whole organization looks to build a one team, two car program. We are all getting along well. It's not very often you get to go testing with the team and driver that just won the championship. It was an incredible opportunity."

"The test was great, I don't think in all of my years of racing, I've ever done a test within two weeks of finishing a season," added Curran. "It's really important to just understand personalities and meet people so it was great for Dane (Cameron) and I to come in and meet all the guys on the team and get some communication going on the car. It was hugely beneficial to do the two day test. We learned a lot about how the car works – even just the simple things like where the switches are and what it's like to communicate with the team. It was very beneficial and a big jump start on 2015 so we're all really excited."

The 2015 IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season opens with official testing at the Roar Before the 24 on January 9-11. The Rolex 24 at Daytona kicks off the 2015 TUDOR Championship race season on January 24.

Caterham buyer: Fernandes still owner

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Caterham's new buyer insists it has fulfilled all its conditions to purchase the Formula 1 team from Tony Fernandes, as a dispute rages over ownership of the squad.

After a strongly worded statement issued on Wednesday hit out at Fernandes for not having transferred his shares in the company to Swiss firm Engavest, the Leafield, UK-based outfit's former boss hit back.

On his Twitter feed Fernandes suggested that the situation was not as clear cut as had been made out. He wrote: "If you buy something you should pay for it. Quite simple."

But Engavest issued its own response on Thursday, saying that it had honored its agreement with Fernandes. It also made clear that it holds Fernandes entirely responsible for the team's current activities.

"On 29 June 2014 Engavest SA signed a Sale and Purchase Agreement with Tony Fernandes and the Caterham Group to acquire the shares of 1Malaysia Racing Team/Caterham F1," said the statement. "Engavest SA has fulfilled all the conditions precedent, including paying the purchase price for the shares.

"The shares have not been transferred and therefore Mr Fernandes remains the owner of Caterham F1 and is fully responsible for all its activities."

It is expected that Fernandes's lawyers will issue their own statement later, clarifying his position regarding ownership of Caterham.

 

 

Originally on Autosport.com

 

DaneCameron-AwardHe can’t say where he’s headed, but new TUDOR Championship GT Daytona title winner Dane Cameron tells RACER he’ll be back in IMSA next year with a new team in a different class. Cameron captured the GTD championship in his first season with Turner Motorsport driving a BMW Z4, and with Monday’s announcement regarding Turner’s return to the Pirelli World Challenge series, the Californian ended any speculation about where he's headed in 2015.

“It’s great to have everything in place for me to return to the TUDOR Championship in a different category so soon after the season ended at Petit Le Mans,” Cameron said. “I really have to thank Will Turner, Paul Dalla Lana, the whole Turner Motorsport DaneCameron-Z4team and my teammates for everything we achieved this year, and I know Will’s going to have a lot of success returning to the series where he made his name. For me, I get to concentrate on a new challenge with a new team, and I’m coming back with the goal of earning another championship.”

Cameron’s fortunes have changed considerably over the past 12 months. He concluded 2013 Grand-Am season with a year left on a contract to lead Team Sahlen’s Daytona Prototype effort, but he found himself without a job late in the off-season when the team shut down its DP operation.

A scramble to find a new home coincided with Turner’s need for a pro driver to partner with Dalla Lana, and despite the late nature of the deal, the union was immediately effective and produced four wins which led to the GTD championship.

For a driver with experience in DPs, P2s, PCs, in GT Le Mans and GTD, change has been a constant for Cameron, yet with his services being secured right after the close of the 2014 season, he’s hopeful the next chapter will offer greater stability.

“I’m headed to an amazing team, and for me, sports car racing has been where I make my living; all I’ve ever wanted is a chance to deliver for a team and hopefully have an opportunity to build a long-term relationship with them,” he explained.

“Once I decided sports car racing was where I was going to dedicate my future, it’s been everything to me, and being able to continue in the TUDOR Championship is all I really wanted after last season. I’m excited that I can stay there and it’s great to know we can get a head start on next year. Things really could not have worked out better for me.”

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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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