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indy2015 leadThe Verizon IndyCar Series recently closed a hectic 2014 season that started on March 30, featured 18 domestic races spread across 15 weekends, and concluded on Aug. 30 – a scant 153 days after it started.

IndyCar’s new 2015 schedule extends its season as promised, adding a single visit outside the U.S. to start its championship in Brazil on March 8. No mention was made of the missing Dubai street race that had been penciled in for a mid-February date.

With Brazil as the starting point, IndyCar has concocted another abbreviated schedule that follows its 2014 plan with its domestic opener on March 29 and season finale on Aug. 30. Although the span of the 2015 season has been moved out to 175 days’ worth of a media footprint due to Brazil, it’s almost identical once teams return home from Autódromo Internacional Nelson Piquet.

Within that 154-day span, 16 races will be held on 15 weekends, and there’s been plenty of movement with where events fall on the calendar.

After Brazil and St. Pete (March 29), the next three rounds will have the IndyCar circus crisscrossing America on three consecutive weekends as teams race at NOLA Motorsports Park in Louisiana (April 12), sprint to the West Coast for Long Beach (April 19), and then hightail it back to the Southeast for Barber Motorsports Park (April 26).

Teams will have a similar break between Barber and the Grand Prix of Indianapolis (May 9), yet with practice for the Indy 500 starting the next day (May 10) – just as it did in 2014 – teams are in for another tiring stretch with the GP of Indy launching seven weekends of action in an eight-week span.

Qualifying for the Indy 500 (May 16-17), the Indy 500 (May 24), the Duel in Detroit (May 30-31), Texas Motor Speedway (June 6), and the shifted Toronto (June 14) and Fontana events (June 27) will have IndyCar teams and drivers breathing a sigh of relief once they return from Southern California.

Fontana marks a tasty stretch for oval racing fans as it ushers in the first of three events after a short break. Milwaukee (July 12) moves up more than a month from its 2014 date, and Iowa (July 18) completes the oval trifecta.

Another slight pause follows Iowa as teams have almost two weeks to prepare Mid-Ohio (Aug. 2), and then an even bigger pause takes place before the final oval of the year at Pocono (Aug. 23) also serves as the penultimate round.

The IndyCar Series has held its championship finale on ovals since its inception as the Indy Racing League, yet the bold decision to move the 2015 finale to a road course has been made and Sonoma Raceway is the venue (Aug. 30).

lat masche 140629-3385Looking at the entire 2015 schedule, a few big items stand out.

2014 featured three double-headers, but with the loss of Houston and Toronto reverting back to a single round, only Detroit will host two rounds on the same weekend. Moving the championship decider from Fontana to Sonoma also comes with plenty of collateral adjustments.

IndyCar experimented with awarding double points at its three 500-mile races in 2014, and while that practice could continue next season, it leaves the series with some thinking to do on what to do with points for its new finale at Sonoma.

Double points at Fontana raised the stakes for such a long event, but with a more processional road course as the venue for its closer, IndyCar president of competition Derrick Walker told RACER the subject of points for Sonoma – and the season as a whole – is still being considered.

“The subject of championship points and manufacturer points is being worked on at the moment,” he said. “We have double points at the speedway races last year, but with a different configuration of the schedule next year that ends on a road course, we have to consider other points systems to fit the schedule. We’ll be announcing a different points system very soon.”

Fan turnout for the last three season finales at Fontana could easily be described as minimal, and with Sonoma Raceway’s sprawling circuit rarely filled for anything other than its annual date with NASCAR, IndyCar’s problem with thinly subscribed finales could continue.

“That’s going to be a 10-month campaign to grow awareness for the event,” said Sonoma Raceway President Steve Page. “We need to build excitement and awareness around the event, we’ve seen incremental growth each year with IndyCar, and things are growing rather than shrinking, which is important. It’s exciting for Northern California to have an Indy car season finale back – it’s been a while since that happened – and we’re prepared and IndyCar is prepared to make it a big event.”

The biggest imprint on IndyCar’s 2015 schedule is the continued avoidance of the NFL. Shutting the season down prior to September achieves the goals established by the Boston Consulting Group, but also sends the series into another long and quiet winter where NASCAR, Formula 1, the World Endurance Championship and the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship feed racing fans with months of additional content.

Breaking from the pack to try something different is always worth trying at least once. Time will tell whether locking IndyCar into its second rapid-fire season was the right move or the repetition of an ill-conceived experiment.

lat nelson 14son2765The 2015 Verizon

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IndyCar Series schedule will featuring 17 race events, two new race venues and a total of six ABC and 13 NBCSN event broadcasts, the series announced Thursday. The calendar features six ovals, six road courses and four temporary street circuits, and includes a total of 14 markets making a return to the calendar from 2014 – but makes a significant change for the season finale.

"The Verizon IndyCar Series calendar represents another step forward in our strategy to grow the series," said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., the parent of IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "There were several factors that led to the positive momentum we experienced in 2014 and we will continue to execute on those initiatives – continuity in our broadcast schedule, strategic growth of our schedule and improvements to how we promote our events. The continued support from our television partners at ABC and NBCSN, and the ongoing collaboration with promoters, teams and sponsor partners gives us a lot of confidence about our future."

The season opens with the series' first visit to Autódromo Internacional Nelson Piquet in Brasília, Brazil (March 8, NBCSN) and will be followed by a return to the streets of St. Petersburg (March 29, ABC), its debut at New Orleans' NOLA Motorsports Park (April 12, NBCSN) and a return to Barber Motorsports Park (April 26, NBCSN).

"It's great to see the Verizon IndyCar Series going back to Brazil and expanding internationally," Andretti Autosport team owner Michael Andretti said. "Having a presence outside of the U.S. is important for the health of the series and a necessary part of growing the visibility and awareness opportunities in our industry."

Sonoma Raceway will host the Verizon IndyCar Series' season finale (Aug. 30, NBCSN), marking the first time in six years that an Indy car championship will end the season on a road course, dating back to the 2007 Champ Car finale at Mexico City.

"Sonoma has always been a great circuit for the Verizon IndyCar Series," said Scott Dixon, a three-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion and Indianapolis 500 winner. "People always ask what my favorite track is and I often say 'the last one I won at' so it's perfect for me and Team Target. It's a very technical and challenging track and the site of the biggest Target weekend each season from a partnership perspective."

The Month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will kick off again with the Angie's List Grand Prix of Indianapolis (May 9, ABC) and will be followed by Indy 500 qualifications (May 16-17, ABC) before the month culminates on Memorial Day weekend with the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 (May 24, ABC) on the famed 2.5-mile oval.

Pocono Raceway (Aug. 23, NBCSN) returns to the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule at the tail-end of a summer four-race oval swing that is highlighted by a 500-mile race at Auto Club Speedway (June 27, NBCSN) as well as short oval events at the Milwaukee Mile (July 12, NBCSN) and Iowa Speedway (July 18, NBCSN).

"Returning to Pocono in 2015 is great news," said Tony Kanaan, 2004 Verizon IndyCar Series champion and former Indianapolis 500 winner. "The 'Tricky Triangle' is a very challenging racetrack for us and it provides great racing and excitement for the fans. Continuity is the key word to rebuild our fan base for that region and IndyCar and Pocono are working very hard and thankfully making it happen. I'm obviously happy to be able to return in 2015 and finish the strong race we had in 2014."

The Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix returns as a double-header event (May 30-31, ABC) and is followed on the calendar by a night race at Texas Motor Speedway (June 8, NBCSN). The race on streets of Toronto has moved (June 14, NBCSN) to accommodate the Pan American Games, and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (Aug. 2, NBCSN) returns to its familiar date on the calendar.

All races will be broadcast on radio by the IMS Radio Network through its affiliates, including SiriusXM Satellite Radio.

2015 Verizon IndyCar Series Schedule

Date

Race/Track

City

Venue

Network

March 8

Autódromo Internacional Nelson Piquet

Brasília, Brazil

3.4-mile road course

NBCSN

March 29

Streets of St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg, FL

1.8-mile street course

ABC

April 12

NOLA Motorsports Park

Avondale, LA

2.7-mile road course

NBCSN

April 19

Streets of Long Beach

Long Beach, CA

1.968-mile street course

NBCSN

April 26

Barber Motorsports Park

Birmingham, AL

2.38-mile road course

NBCSN

May 9

Grand Prix of Indianapolis

Indianapolis, IN

2.4346-mile road course

ABC

May 16-17

Indianapolis 500 Qualifying

Indianapolis, IN        

2.5-mile oval

ABC

May 24

Indianapolis 500

Indianapolis, IN        

2.5-mile oval

ABC

May 30

Raceway at Belle Isle Park

Detroit, MI

2.35-mile street course

ABC

May 31

Raceway at Belle Isle Park

Detroit, MI

2.35-mile street course

ABC

June 6

Texas Motor Speedway

Fort Worth, TX

1.5-mile oval

NBCSN

June 14

Streets of Toronto

Toronto

1.75-mile street course

NBCSN

June 27

Auto Club Speedway

Fontana, CA

2-mile oval

NBCSN

July 12

The Milwaukee Mile

Milwaukee, WI

1-mile oval

NBCSN

July 18

Iowa Speedway

Newton, IA

.875-mile oval

NBCSN

Aug. 2

Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

Lexington, OH

2.258-mile road course

NBCSN

Aug. 23

Pocono Raceway

Long Pond, PA

2.5-mile oval

NBCSN

Aug. 30

Sonoma Raceway

Sonoma, CA

2.385-mile road course

NBCSN

Schedule subject to change

F1 cost crisis - What happens next

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The absence of Caterham and Marussia when Formula 1 regroups at Circuit of The Americas will force the sport's leaders to ask whether its financial problems are an isolated blip or a longer-term malaise.

Earlier this year it seemed a major breakthrough had happened with the FIA and teams backing the idea of a cost cap. Then the dramatic plan was railroaded a few months later when the big teams on F1's Strategy Group vetoed it, citing the reason that it could not be policed.

With the way the sport's governance processes work, their resistance left the FIA with little hope of pushing the cost cap through and it reluctantly abandoned the concept. That prompted fury from F1's smaller teams, who time and again warned that grand prix racing faced a financial crisis if nothing was done.

It is only now, amid Caterham and Marussia's problems, that there has been a bit more soul searching.

F1 cost crisis - What happens nextAnalysis: Why small teams can't afford F1

Whatever the two teams' ultimate fates, of more importance to F1 is if whether sport's bosses accept there is a need to respond.

LOWDON: SORT THE ECONOMICS FIRST, NOT THE SHOW

Marussia's sporting director Graeme Lowdon has deliberately stayed away from speaking publicly about his team's situation since it went into administration, but in an interview last month he offered a fascinating perspective on the sport's financial woes. He suggests there is a danger that the troubles at the back of the grid could lead F1 down a path that makes it no longer attractive to fans.

"Our view, which is the long-term view, is that based on the enormous fanbase, this is an inherently valuable sport both in sporting terms and in business terms as well," he told AUTOSPORT. "But it is bit like a journey down the river in a canoe: every so often you are going to hit some rapids. And at the minute we are in some very, very severe rapids – and everybody is suffering.

"Nobody can afford to sustain this level without damaging the sport and the spectacle – we risk losing the one asset that this sport should treasure, which is the fanbase.

"So the objective has to be to try to find a strategy that everyone can adopt and that can help grow the sport, give the fans what they want and move the teams into calmer waters of more sustainability. And then we can focus on the show."

COST CUT PROMISES NOT KEPT

Amid the backdrop of teams coming under pressure, and the prospect of third cars, Marussia's Lowdon argued that the biggest problem was not costs right now, but the lack of a long-term strategy to bring them down in the future.

F1 cost crisis - What happens next

"I think the sport is worse off if we don't have an environment that at least allows sustainability," said (Lowdon pictured at right with Marussia team principal John Booth). "One of the key elements that happened after we joined was that costs would return to the level that they were in the early 1990s. That was explicit [in the original budget cap plan].

"For a business like ourselves, we have to attract investors. And one of the key things that investors look for is stability, integrity and delivery on promises.

"I think it is really important that the industry does not forget the fact that it needs to make itself attractive to investors. The finances of most of the teams in F1 are very transparent and very open, they are publicly filed documents, and it is quite easy to see that nobody is creating an enormous return at the moment."

These are the very issues that F1 chiefs and top teams are going to have to think long and hard about now. The warnings from the small teams appear to be based on solid foundations: but will F1 react in a way that ensures a brighter future, or plow on in the belief that nothing is really wrong?

 

 

 

Originally on Autosport.com

 

GREG-leadFifteen years ago, Greg Moore perished in a brutal crash during the CART Indy car season finale. He was just 24. Here, in a story taken from the November 2009 issue of RACER, friends and colleagues told Robin Miller about Greg’s blazing talent and magnetic personality.

Tomorrow, the actual anniversary of Greg’s death, James Hinchcliffe will pay personal tribute to his hero.

Greg-Max-Dario

 

His favorite band was named Tragically Hip, which holds its own irony given that his time on this earth was shockingly short. But so long after his death, Greg Moore’s memory now elicits more smiles, adjectives and stories than sadness. It’s not that his good friends, family and fans won’t always mourn the fact that he left us way too soon. It’s just that time has healed the worst pain and now it’s about reflecting on the exhilaration this gifted Canadian gave open-wheel racing during his short yet brilliant run.

The five victories he scored in CART Indy cars 1997-’99 [BELOW, final win at Homestead in ’99] belied the fact he never had the strongest package or even the best team. Yet that was all about to change.

Greg-Homestead99-pack“When I think about what Greg would have done with Roger Penske’s cars, and the support of that team, it’s hard to imagine how many races he’d have won,” muses Dario Franchitti who, along with Max Papis [ABOVE, flanking Greg],  Tony Kanaan and Jimmy Vasser, were Moore’s partners in bachelorhood, camaraderie and fun back in CART’s heyday.

“Greg would have won at least three championships and three Indy 500s,” declares Kanaan. “We would have been talking about him like we do Rick Mears and Al Unser Jr.”

Papis concurs. “Greg would have won everything Helio [Castroneves] has and more. And now he would be in NASCAR kicking everybody’s ass.”

Penske, who had  signed Gil de Ferran and Moore a few weeks prior to the 1999 season finale at Fontana, sums up what everybody knows. “To me, Greg Moore was a young, aggressive racer with the skills that we needed,” says The Captain. “I think he was a world-class talent who could have been one of the great Indy car drivers. But, unfortunately, he never got the chance to compete at the level he wanted.”

Greg-with-JimmyVThe plaudits of Moore’s former rivals aren’t just kind words from his old gang; they’re a testament to his ability and the respect he created in his four-year career in Indy cars. The awe still remains in their voices today, just like back in 1996 when this gangly, goofy 20-year-old Canuck came bursting onto the CART scene. He had dorky glasses, a big smile and the balls of King Kong.

“He sure didn’t look like a badass – kinda like when you first saw Paul Tracy,” says Vasser [RIGHT, with Greg at a charity softball game]. “The first memory I have of Greg was in the season opener at Homestead in 1996. I was leading and on my way to my first win when this blue car suddenly appeared in my mirrors. My guys told me not to worry, he was a lap down, but I was pulling away from second place and yet here comes this rookie. He went around me on the outside of Turn 3 and I was real glad he wasn’t on the lead lap.”

BELOW: Greg's first IndyCar win came at Milwaukee in 1997, having dominated the race along with compatriot Paul Tracy.

Greg-Milwaukee97


Greg-Milwaukee99

Franchitti, still a year away from making his open-wheel debut in North America, was competing in DTM in Germany in March 1996, but he sat down to watch that CART opener on television with Mercedes-Benz’s Norbert Haug.

“I saw this blue car passing people on the outside,” he recalls, “and you could see the car was snapping loose and the driver kept catching it and was really hanging it out. I looked at Norbert and said, “Holy s***, who is this kid?!”

We all found out soon enough. Moore had come into CART after destroying the Indy Lights field in 1995 with 10 wins Greg-Lights-LB95in 12 races. Before that, he’d been USAC’s F2000 champ and a Formula Ford front runner from the age of 15. Through it all, he had Steve Challis as his engineer/advisor/friend.

“I had an auto shop in Vancouver called Gasoline Alley because my dream had always been to win the Indy 500,” says Challis. “Ric Moore was a customer and started talking about helping his son in Formula Ford and, a couple years later, they talked me into closing my shop and going racing with Greg full-time.

“You could see right away he got the hang of going fast and he wasn’t afraid. He was very brave and I liked that. After he cleaned up in Lights, he got a call from Player’s and Forsythe Racing and it was perfect timing. Greg was ready to move up.”

Even though open-wheel racing was divided in 1996, CART’s credibility was never higher. That potent mix of American, Canadian, Brazilian and Euro stars combined with multiple manufacturers made for an ultra-competitive environment.

As Vasser alluded to above, Moore wasted little time in impressing everyone from Andretti to Unser. After fighting Greg-LennyKravitzback to finish seventh in his debut at Homestead, he qualified fourth at Rio and stood on the podium at Surfers Paradise, in only his third outing. A couple weeks later, he ran second to Michael Andretti at Nazareth, added another podium at Cleveland, and finished the year ninth in the points standings. His initial win came at Milwaukee in ’97, followed by another victory at Detroit, but Greg’s legacy was really defined in ’98 at Brazil and Michigan.

With four laps to go in Rio, he and leader Alex Zanardi went either side of a lapped car, and Moore cut to the high line to blast past Zanardi and into Victory Lane. At MIS, Moore used the slingshot to beat Vasser and Zanardi on the last lap.

“I think Greg was the best guy I ever raced on an oval,” states Franchitti. “He was smart, brave and could drive the car unbelievably loose. I can’t imagine how bad he might have made us look if he’d had a Honda.”

While Vasser, Zanardi and Juan Montoya captured four consecutive championships for Chip Ganassi Racing with Reynard-Hondas, Moore managed to win races and hang tough with a Reynard-Mercedes.

“The Mercedes engine was very powerful but it was such a handful because it had no driveability,” says Papis. “That’s why it was only good on ovals.”

TOP: On his way to second at Milwaukee in ’99. ABOVE RIGHT: Dominating the 1995 Indy Lights season, heading for victory at Long Beach. ABOVE LEFT: With friend and fan Lenny Kravitz. BELOW: Greg expressing his joy at Juan Montoya's track ethics, Michigan ’99.

Greg-Montoya-bird


Greg-Homestead99-podium

Moore’s mastery of ovals is well documented – “The outside line was his friend,” as Vasser puts it – but you might be surprised to learn how he finally got comfortably on left-turn-only tracks.

“To be honest,” says Challis, “Greg was having problems on the ovals after two years of Indy Lights. He was brave but he didn’t drive the car correctly and always wanted the rear end stuck. I told his dad we needed to take him ice racing so he could get the feel of running loose.

“Well the first race we were dead last and an older girl with curlers in her hair to make sure her helmet fit tighter ended up beating Greg. He was devastated, and didn’t sleep well that night, but the next day, it finally clicked. He started winning everything and that coincided with his breakthrough on the ovals.”

Greg-Portland97Aside from his talent, the other great things about Moore were his spirit and love of life. It’s what kickstarted the day and turned out the lights.

“My God, we had so much fun!” recalls Kanaan. “We went boating, sailing, chasing girls, and just doing silly stuff. None of us had any money but that was such a great time because we were living a life people would love to have.”

“Greg was the youngest but he was still the instigator,” says Franchitti. “He was the voice and soul of the party, and he had that go-and-grab-it attitude toward life – every day.”

Papis recalls waking up on the grass at Siebkens pub in Elkhart Lake following a bender, sharing bus trips and bringing his pals to his home in Italy. “Ayrton Senna had stayed with me when we were kids, and Greg said he had to sleep in Senna’s bed because that was his hero. I still think about all the crazy things we did and I’m so thankful I got him to Italy.”

Vasser, who hosted Moore at his Las Vegas home (much to the concern of Ric Moore) remembers his pal was responsible for the best of the good times. “Greg was the one who started the Sunday night driver parties and got everyone together,” says the 1996 CART Indy car champ. “He was the leader of the Rat Pack or Brat Pack or whatever we were. It was a very special time.

And Moore left his friends with some indelible feelings. “He was a super good guy and a good friend and I still think about him every day,” says Challis. “We didn’t know it at the time, but it was the time of our lives.”

TOP: Victory at the season opener of the ’99 season ahead of Michael Andretti and Dario Franchitti. ABOVE: On his way to fifth at Portland in 1997. BELOW: The high line was his friend but it all went horribly wrong for Greg just moments after this picture was taken.

Greg-4wide-Fontana99


Greg-Dario-Kristensen

Kanaan, meanwhile, isn’t sure the mold wasn’t broken. “I’m not saying this just because he’s not here, but I don’t think we’ve found a person like Greg since. He was a real good guy, and had everything going for him. He was going to conquer everybody.”

Vasser simply says: “He was a racer through and through, and a super person, but he would give you no quarter on the race track, and even raced his friends harder.”

Papis, who kept a recording of Moore’s voicemail that he still listens to, learned a valuable lesson from their Greg-Milwaukee97-podimfriendship. “Greg said you can beat the opposition with a smile on your face. I never knew that before I came to America and met him. I thought you had to hate your opposition. But nobody could get mad at Greg; it wasn’t possible. I miss racing with him, talking with him and laughing with him.”

Franchitti [ABOVE with Greg and Tom Kristensen] has pictures of Moore and the boys all over his house, and appreciates the connection they had with each other that remains to this day. “I hope the younger fans don’t forget him or who he was,” he says. “You just don’t meet people like Greg – he was a one-off. And I’m talking about as a human being.”

Greg Moore résumé

Born – April 22, 1975, Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada

1989 – Won North American Enduro Kart Championship

1990 – Won North American Enduro Kart Championship

1991 – 4th in Formula Ford 1600 and Esso Protec Rookie of the Year

1992 – USAC Formula 2000 West Champion and Rookie of the Year

1993 – 9th in Indy Lights Championship

1994 – 3rd in Indy Lights Championship (3 wins)

1995 – Won Indy Lights Championship with 10 wins from 12 races

1996 – Graduated to CART Indy car with Forsythe. Scored three podium finishes on his way to 2nd in the Rookie standings and 9th overall

1997 – 7th in the championship, with two wins – Milwaukee and Detroit. The first one made him the youngest ever Indy car winner at that time. Scored three other podium finishes.

1998 – 5th in the championship with two more wins, at Rio de Janeiro and Michigan (the U.S. 500), four other podium finishes and four pole positions

1999 – Took his final win and his final pole at Homestead, the season opener, and scored two more podium finishes. Signed to drive for Team Penske for 2000, but was killed in a crash at Fontana.

Greg-tongue

lat-levitt-plm-1014 21463If you read the headlines last week, there's every reason to believe the TUDOR Championship is in the early stages of a mass exodus with its GT Daytona class.

To quickly recap, the first big shot came from GTD champions Turner Motorsport who were crowned on Oct. 3, and by Oct. 20, announced they were packing their bags and ditching IMSA in favor of the Pirelli World Challenge series. NGT Motorsport followed Turner's news, confirming their switch from GTD to PWC later the same day, and Flying Lizard Motorsport is close to joining them.

If all three are confirmed, four cars will be lost from the GTD grid, and provided their expanded PWC plans come to pass, those three teams could turn around and add between seven and eight cars to PWC's GT class alone. NGT also has designs on entering PWC's new Porsche Cup class with a few cars, bringing the potential PWC gain to 10 cars.

And they aren't alone. There are other GTD owners who weren't ready to speak publically, but have told me they are strongly considering some level of PWC participation in 2015. In fact, it took quite a few calls to find a few GTD owners who aren't interested in PWC.

14PLM1nk06114Based on a series of conversations I've had with GTD team owners over the last 10 days, everything from leaving IMSA altogether to race in PWC, to running a full-season of PWC interspersed with IMSA's crown jewel events at Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen, and Petit Le Mans have been mentioned as possibilities.

With the GTD class accounting for almost 40 percent of IMSA's TUDOR Championship entries, there's a genuine reason for the series to be concerned about losing more cars and teams to PWC. And is the grass truly greener over in PWC? I started by asking members of the GTD paddock to list the main reasons PWC has become the go-to series for disenfranchised owners and drivers, and a few themes quickly emerged.

"I'm pretty sure the unanimous factor in teams looking at the Pirelli World Challenge is budget, pure and simple," said Magnus Racing owner John Potter. "Sprint racing is cheaper. If you add up the combined run-time of all races on the 2015 PWC schedule, you won't even match TUDOR's season-opening Rolex 24... let alone the other nine races. Between that and lack of pit stops, you're not spending anywhere close to the same on tires, consumables, car wear, and without pit stops you can get away with less crew and pit equipment.

"The budgets for GTD in 2014 went beyond everyone's expectations, so it should be no surprise that the customer-driven teams would gravitate towards a series that can run similar cars for significantly less. One key thing to note on this, however, is the teams who have either announced or are seriously evaluating PWC participation, are primarily customer-driven teams."

NGT Motorsport owner Ramez Wahab added a few budget numbers to the GTD-vs.-PWC equation.

"To do the full GTD season, to do it right, you're talking $2 million," he said, referring to a single-car program. "That's a lot of money, and some guys out there spent more. We work with a lot of [Porsche] GT3 Cup drivers, and when they're spending $350,000 for a season, it's a big jump to $2 million. You have a hard time finding those guys who want to spend that kind of money overnight. How many clients can you convince to do that?

"These guys made themselves successful in business, and they are smart; they aren't going to throw money away. Even if I quote them $1.7 million, or $1.5 million, it's very hard to sell [GTD] to my customers now."

Eric Ingraham runs the Flying Lizard team, and with a move to PWC looking like a probability, he's spent a lot of time running the numbers to quantify the costs differences their customers would face.

"With World Challenge, I think you're looking at a worst-case [budget reduction] of 30 to 50 percent for one car compared to GTD," he said. "The good news with World Challenge is you get to go racing 19 times (with double-headers) for a fraction of the money. The good thing with TUDOR is with that budget, you'll do more racing by the end of January than you will all year in World Challenge. Depending on which budget model fits your needs, you know what you'll be getting in return."

Combining the big ALMS and Grand-Am endurance races gave TUDOR Championship competitors an amazing schedule of events, but it also caused a significant budget increase. As the GTD-to-PWC migrations continue, IMSA's dream calendar could end up being the root cause behind many of those moves.


14PLM1nk06854Whether it's a reduced number of regular two-hour and 45-minute races for GTD cars, or leaving one or more of the costly enduros off the calendar, a change of some sorts is needed to reduce the financial burden on the TUDOR Championship's entry-level class.

TRG-AMR team owner Kevin Buckler is in the unique position of fielding full-time programs in GTD (ABOVE) and PWC, and with both options to offer his clients, he says the price differences make choosing GTD or PWC much easier than it was heading into 2014.

"There are several attractions to PWC, but as I have said all along, the number one thing is cost," he noted. "This is what we should be preaching to both series – cost containment. It's almost like GTD has just gotten too expensive to run an entire season, and for those still want to remain in racing, voilà, there's PWC."

FPW14D02DIS-LAT-1078Ben Keating had a successful year in GTD with his Riley Technologies-run Dodge Viper (LEFT), and as someone who funds his racing endeavors through selling Vipers, you could say he fits the 'I'm willing to spend the extra money if I'm going to get something in return' model. Based on his response below, I'm not sure he received the value he was looking for in GTD.

"I love endurance racing; however, if the politics of BoP make it unrealistic for a one-car team or a one-car manufacturer to be competitive, then I have to go where a GT3 car can run in full GT3 trim. I'm sure everyone is also speaking of budget. As the lone Viper entrant in all of TUDOR now, if I am not able to remain competitive against the political powers of Porsche, Audi, Ferrari, etc., then it becomes a waste of money," he said.

"In order to win in endurance racing, everything has to go perfectly and it rarely does. However if it does go perfectly, I at least want to know that I have a chance of winning. If I am out there just for fun, then the shorter, cheaper sprint racing format becomes more appealing. I've heard good things about the PWC BoP process, and when SRT ran [PWC] in Toronto they had nothing but great things to say. My principal goal is to sell cars, and I'll go wherever that makes the most sense."

It's an interesting viewpoint, and one that focuses on the bottom line. As Potter mentioned, GTD teams that rely on selling seats to funded drivers are the ones with the greatest interested in PWC. The inaugural TUDOR Championship season cost far more than most GTD teams expected, and it's possible we're now seeing a backlash of sorts by owners and drivers who want to race in a series where affordability isn't a concern.

Many of the people I spoke with mentioned a desire to spend next season racing in PWC combined with dropping in for the TUDOR Championship's marquee events. Racing for 10, 12 or 24 hours certainly isn't cheap, but with their endurance racing roots, not to mention numerous GTD drivers moving to PWC with their respective teams, contesting some or all of IMSA's Tequila Patron North American Endurance Championship could be a "best of both worlds" proposition.

"I think the long events will continue to be attractive, regardless of where you race on a full-time basis," Ingraham added. "I think, in general, that the Sebrings and Daytonas and Petits will always be on your radar each year, and if you have a car you can run there, those are the kind of events that attract worldwide interest."

With budgets ranking as the No. 1 problem/solution between GTD and PWC, driver Mike Hedlund, who races in both series, listed what I consider to be No. 2 and 3: Headliner TV status (and at standalone events), and single-driver competition.

"Being in GTD you're by far the slowest class in terms of lap time. To the drivers in every other class you're just a moving apex, and it doesn't matter how fast you are relative to your class. The series doesn't really care about you as you're just seen as field filler. You'll almost never have TV coverage. In PWC, you're the top class. And possibly even more important, the series officials and marketing folks treat you like you're the top class and give the impression they're happy you showed up – it's crazy, I know," he remarked.

"And most of the gentleman drivers in TUDOR are really trying to get better. It's very hard to do this during TUDOR race weekends or have it as their only focus. If they want to be a good GTD teammate and win, their job is to keep the car on the lead lap and not hit or get hit by anybody. Once you reach a certain speed level, all you do is cruise around. The only important part is the end of the race when the 'pros' are in the car. During a PWC weekend, the driver has to drive at 101 percent every time in every session. That's a better recipe for improvement and 100 times more fun for the paying driver."

Hedlund's comments on PWC's single-driver focus and the ability for GTD teams to move from IMSA's lowest class to PWC's top-tier category were shared by a handful of GTD owners, as well.

Put it all together, and those in GTD can race at a significant discount in PWC, but with the understanding they are trading the track time that comes with endurance racing for a season filled with 50-minute sprint events. There's no car sharing involved, and with PWC GT as the featured class, they will be the headlining cars when the series isn't part of IndyCar's undercard, and will almost always be the focus of each television broadcast.

 RD43835K-PAX Racing PWC team owner Jim Haughey, who could end up having Flying Lizard Motorsport run his fleet of new GT3-spec McLaren 650 S GTs (RIGHT), shared another aspect GTD owners might want to consider: Flexibility.

"When I was looking for a place to bring an all-wheel-drive Volvo with an inline turbo 5-cylinder engine, World Challenge was the only series that welcomed me," he said. "It's a lot easier if you have a GT3 car because it fits right into the [PWC GT] regulations, but if you want to try something different, they'll work with you. Some people want to do their own thing, and you have options [in PWC] that you probably won't find elsewhere."

It might not be enough to make a GTD owner want to leave IMSA for PWC, but if they have a client that wants to build something different or show up with a something they bought that doesn't have a logical home elsewhere, PWC has a long history of welcoming almost anything onto its grid.

Turning the conversation in the opposite direction, asking GTD owners and drivers why IMSA might be a better fit than PWC also returned some interesting responses.

Park Place Motorsports co-owner/driver Patrick Lindsey spent his formative years on the pro racing trail with PWC before moving into endurance racing with the Grand-Am Rolex Series. His two-car GTD outfit is also a customer-based program, and with a firm grasp of the pros and cons of both series, he raised a few red flags that were encountered during his time in PWC.

"The real issues I experienced over in World Challenge – and I'm a huge fan of the format and the people over there – is it's not officiated in the manner you'd want as an owner in what you'd consider a true championship. Even with the struggles IMSA had with BoP and homologation of some cars like the [GTD] Viper, I still feel it's a more professionally-run organization," he said.

"World Challenge doesn't have the same budget to attract the same officiating talent as IMSA has, and WC Vision, which is the group of [PWC team] owners who are also competitors, subcontract SCCA Pro Racing to run the series. Indirectly, owners pull the strings over the sanctioning body, so there's a conflict of interest to consider."

Lindsey also cited the depth of talent in GTD as one of the reasons he's staying in IMSA.

"With Turner [Motorsport] headed over there, and maybe Flying Lizard, you'll probably see some really good drivers added into the field. Right now, they've got Mike Skeen, who's been the best guy over there, and a few other guys who are really good, but you also have a lot of pro-am type drivers by themselves in those cars," he added.

"The talent's sharp at the top, but widens out pretty quick after that. I think the talent is deeper in GTD because you have more pro drivers there, and if that changes, I'd have an interest in looking at World Challenge again; but I know that when I ran there, I was able to finish in the top-5 when I had a pretty good run, and I wasn't a pro. I want to be wherever the deepest pool of talent is racing, and right now, that's GTD."


 

Dole LAT STPete14112While many GTD owners listed specific reasons for considering PWC over GTD, the reasons to stay in GTD revealed a more diverse array of concerns about PWC.

"Pirelli World Challenge seems to have a great amount of momentum, and there are some great parts to the series, but for now it doesn't interest me," said Potter. "The majority of races run as a support series to IndyCar, where you're an afterthought, or as a standalone race with no heritage that few fans attend. A lot of the vitriol you see on the internet towards TUDOR seems to benefit PWC, but I've yet to see any merit when it comes to argument based on pure spectacle and quality of 'the show.' Yellows seem to be proportionally just as long if not longer; there's proportionally far fewer pro drivers, and despite all of the criticisms of TUDOR drivers... none of them hit a pace car this year, which PWC can't say.

"The poor television package that World Challenge holds works to their benefit, because very few people actually get to watch the reality of this. We're fortunate that we have the budget for TUDOR in 2015, and I can't blame the teams leaving who can't continue on like this, but I'd much rather be at events such as Daytona and Sebring where there's real heritage, pit strategy, and against a tremendously talented pool of teams and drivers."

PWC, which has been on NBCSN and is said to be headed to the CBS Sports Network for 2015, received a fair amount of criticism for its production quality. It's unclear whether there will be any changes to its television production next season.

IMSA, which partners with FOX and its FOX Sports 1/ FOX Sports 2 cable outlets, took plenty of heat for the lack of readily accessible live broadcasts at some events, yet scored big with rebroadcasts from COTA and Petit that ran following Sunday NFL games.

"We put up a great show the last two races in IMSA; the rating was very big, even though GTD didn't get enough coverage in my opinion, but this was very good and ended the season with very impressive figures. I don't know if you will get these kinds of numbers elsewhere," added Scuderia Corsa team owner Giacomo Mattioli who will add a two-car PWC GT effort to complement his lone GTD entry next season.

14PLM1nk07454Leaving the TV packages behind, Hedlund threw a few more pro-GTD suggestions into the mix.

"For some guys, the complete team aspect of endurance racing is the biggest draw. I love that part of it too, but for some gentleman drivers that's the biggest reason they race – not necessarily to get better or faster. Being able to work closely with a good Professional co-driver is also a big reason to stick it out in GTD," he said.

GTD team owner Alex Job echoed Hedlund's viewpoints.

"Some people prefer and want to stay with the endurance racing format, the multi-driver format, and know that it costs more but they prefer it over sprint racing. It's cheaper to do sprint racing, but I don't base where I race on where I can find the biggest bargain. It has to make sense, of course, because this is a business for me, but I'm an endurance racing guy; that's what I love, and that's where you'll see me competing." he said.

Drawing on his GTD and PWC experience, Buckler took issue with PWC's standing starts, limited commercial opportunities and the general treatment he's found in the lesser-known series.

"The standing starts in PWC are a big turnoff to any of the top professional teams... There is absolutely no reason, except for the benefit of PWC's TV deal, to be subjecting 20 or 30 half-million-dollar cars to standing starts every weekend where inevitably something bad is going to happen. It can completely blow up somebody's season budget and is irresponsible for the series to continue like this," he said.

"And I still have a better ability to activate with my sponsors in the TUDOR paddock; particularly at the stand-alone races. And we do not like being put out in the weeds at the PWC races when we are racing with another series."

Due to the shortcomings encountered by many GTD teams in 2014, PWC has seen its standing change from a small-time rival to a surprisingly popular destination for 2015. Most of GTD's deficiencies, which were illustrated in concise terms by those I spoke with, need to be addressed immediately by IMSA.

I'll close this piece with some wise words shared by Alex Job, who reckons PWC has been like a mirror reflecting and exposing the shortcomings in GTD.

"Going forward, they know they need to bring the costs down considerably so the class is more sustainable. It's the entry-level class, which is customer-based and where owners like myself make our living. They need GTD to be a success because it speaks to business owners and drivers about whether the series is worth investing in. If GTD is healthy, IMSA is healthy. When your entry-level class is over $2 million, and that's just the operating cost – that doesn't include buying the car or the spare parts – it's a lot of money to consider. It's actually making some people consider racing elsewhere, which we're seeing to some extent right now," he said.

"In the second season, I think they'll do a better job, and it's important for them to do a better job or else they'll lose more cars again. If they do a better job, I think the numbers will increase. As a competitor, if someone's doing a better job than you, it's your job to work harder to beat them. IMSA shouldn't be worried about trying to crush the competition; they should be worried about doing a better job than they have been doing, and if they can do that, the problem will fix itself."​

Fall14 feature leadIt's a strange paradox that while no sport embraces technology quite like racing, it's treated as a dirty word by some motorsport fans who associate it with spoiling the action, making life too easy for the drivers, or making it too complicated to comprehend. Well, let's first of all point out that Miller Indy cars, Lotus F1 cars and Chaparral Can-Am cars incorporated cutting-edge technology, and yet we cherish rather than despise them for that. Secondly, you don't have to be a professor of physics to appreciate technology's constant and profound effect on racing. And that's what much of this Technology Issue is about.

The 2015 IndyCar aero kits will be far more radical and distinctive than many expected, and ferociously efficient, too. However, they're no match for the amazing Dunlop Future Racecar which former Brabham and Benetton designer Sergio Rinland has penned for us in this issue. It uses tech that he insists will be mature enough to render aspects of his concept viable in as little as five years. There's some stunning blue-sky thinking in that story alone...

But if you're still trying to grasp the present, namely those new-for-2014 F1 power units, and how Ferrari and Renault (and Honda) can ever catch up with Mercedes, it's all explained in the Technology Issue of RACER, on sale now.

We're not slaves to technology, however; we appreciate the humans in the cockpits, too, which is why this issue contains an interview with Verizon IndyCar Series champ Will Power, a tribute to former Indy car ace Paul Tracy, and an analysis as to why Red Bull feels Max Verstappen is ready to race in F1 next year at the age of 17.

David Malsher
editor@racer.com

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cota2As it prepared to host the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix for the third time this weekend, Circuit of The Americas launched a promotional effort lauding the $897 million in economic impact to the Austin, Texas area generated by the track in 2014. The figures were detailed in a study prepared by New York-based Greyhill Advisors that was commissioned by the circuit.

The analysis represents all COTA events, activities and annual operation for FY 2014, defined as Oct. 1, 2013, to Sept. 30, 2014. The time period captures one full cycle of COTA's major annual events, including the 2013 Formula 1 USGP, 2014 MotoGP Grand Prix of the Americas and ESPN's 2014 X Games, as well as track rentals, and concert and events at Austin360 Amphitheater. The full report is available here.

The timing of the report coincides with a legal effort being undertaken by COTA to reduce the amount it pays in property taxes. The track was built in 2012 for between $300 million and $450 million, according to various reports, but a story this week in the Austin American Statesman revealed, "Government appraisers say [COTA] is now worth $271 million, based on the recent construction cost, an assessment that would come with a tax bill of just more than $7.1 million." The Statesman says COTA executives contend the value has already dropped to about $100 million, which would mean a bill around $2.8 million.” COTA executives contend that construction costs should not be part of the track’s valuation.

COTA's tax dispute underscores the challenges facing such state-of-the-art facilities in maintaining financial viability, as they tend to lose much of their value as soon as construction is finished. The Statesman quotes Formula Money editor Christian Sylt as saying that the economics "call into question why investors would agree to fund construction. Maybe investors are not always aware of this destruction in value before they commit their money to a project … which costs around 20 times more than it will be worth.”

cotaAlong with its construction costs, COTA must pay a hefty sanctioning fee to host F1, which reportedly amounted to $22 million in the first year with an undisclosed annual increase, until the 10-year contract expires. The track pays for that and associated costs with incentives from the state of Texas, which The Statesman reports amounted to about $29 million for each of the first two F1 races.

Austin city officials noted the positive impacts the are has gained from the development of COTA, whose facilities extend beyond the racetrack itself.

"COTA has turned out to be much more than just a racetrack," said Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell. "It's a job creator, a revenue generator, and a destination for quality, year-round entertainment. These benefits to taxpayers result from racetrack construction that was solely funded by private investment. I commend COTA for its positive impact on our community and its contribution to Austin's emergence as an international city."

According to the commissioned study, there were 1.1 million attendees across all COTA events in FY 2014, leading to $731 million in economic impact. An additional $166 million is attributed directly to COTA operations.

Over the course of the year, COTA hosted six motorsports and other major sporting events, 18 concerts and 110 track rentals and other events.

cota3Formula 1 generated $507 million in economic impact for the Austin metropolitan area. All other major sporting events, including ESPN's X Games, generated $161 million in economic impact. Concerts and events at Austin360 Amphitheater (ABOVE) generated $49 million in economic impact. Track rentals and other miscellaneous events generated an additional $14 million in economic impact, according to the report.

COTA's annual activities and operations combined to support 9,100 jobs in the Austin metro region representing $306 million in annual payroll for Austin-area workers. Direct visitor spending injected into Austin area business establishments such as restaurants, bars, hotels and retailers totaled $423 million.

"COTA is a thoughtfully designed facility that has helped Austin successfully compete for and host events that put our city in the global spotlight," said Bob Lander, Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO. "We attract over 21 million visitors annually – three times as many as only a decade ago. Tourism has a substantial impact on the Austin economy providing nearly 54,000 jobs and $6.2 billion in direct traveler spending. World-class facilities like COTA greatly enhance our ability to attract new international audiences and markets that widen our spectrum of business."

Since it was announced in 2010, COTA's cumulative economic impact on the Austin metro area has been $2.8 billion, with an average annual impact on the Austin area of nearly $700 million per year, according to the report.

Included in the cumulative impact was construction of COTA's 1,500-acre campus, which supported more than 7,100 jobs representing $350 million in annual wages. The economic impact from construction was $918 million, the report said.

"We built COTA to be a part of the economic and cultural fabric of Austin," said Circuit of The Americas Chairman Bobby Epstein. "We've created a place where Austinites can enjoy world-class sports and entertainment, and it's gratifying to see the enormous benefit to local businesses big and small."

AARONQ-7512-2 800x533Aaron Telitz, 22, from Birchwood, Wis., produced an impressive performance at last weekend's 43rd Formula Ford Festival. Here's his account of the weekend:

 

AARONSHOOT-7375 533x800That’s a pretty weird title, right? Don’t worry, it’s going to make a lot more sense soon!

I do believe we left off at the end of testing at Brands Hatch for the Formula Ford Festival. So Saturday dawns and brings with it – much to everyone's surprise – a bit of sunshine and warm weather! The track was still a little damp from an overnight shower when I made my way out for qualifying but I quickly figured out where the damp patches were and how to avoid them and then put in a quick lap amongst all the traffic. I used to complain about traffic in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda but I don’t think I’ll be able to do that anymore after experiencing 30 Formula Fords on a 1.2-mile track!

I knew my time was pretty good but had no idea if it would hold up until I came around the last lap of qualifying and saw the Cliff Dempsey guys holding up my pit board with “P1” on it. So, step one complete! If anyone would have asked me if I was going to qualify on pole my first time at Brands Hatch I probably would have told them “of course!” but, in reality that would've been a bit of a stretch!

Heat 1 was right after lunch for me. It was time to put my standing start skills to the test! Luckily, no one was actually grading my standing start because it would of gotten a C – at best. I had too much wheelspin and instantly dropped to second by the first corner. I got a lap to gather myself up and then made a charge for the lead. Coming into Clearways (the last corner) I made a nice move up the inside to take the lead and then sailed off for the win from there. So just like that in my first day of racing in the UK I grabbed pole position and a win! Winners at the Festival get these Christmas wreaths of different colors. Which is a cool and different idea instead of just trophies! After a fun night with the team I headed to bed to be ready for the big day.

Sunday again was a weird weather day for the UK. It was a super-nice warm day (I wasn’t complaining!).

I started my Semi-Final from pole position and this time improved my standing start about two full letter grades. I held first place and only had to do some defending for the first lap. As much as I don’t like how you’re allowed to defend your position over here I have to say I was a huge fan of it while I was leading! Basically, if you don’t want someone to pass you, you’re allowed to do pretty much whatever you want. So I held my position and began to pull a nice gap on the rest of the field.

Then we had a safety car. You never want to see one of those while you’re way out front. Luckily, I was watching the other heat race from Saturday and saw how they handle cafety cars. When the lights go out on the safety car it tears off for pit lane. The big difference is that over here the safety car does this about halfway through the lap. This leaves the pace completely up to the leader. So when the safety car pulled away I just slowed right down and waited on the back straight 'til it got far enough away that I wasn’t going to catch it by the time I got around to the front straight. I put the hammer down at the end of the back straight and by the time I got to Paddock Hill Bend I already had a nice gap.

Then with three laps to go we got another safety car! I felt like I was in NASCAR because we then had a “green, white, checkered” finish. I could nearly hear Darrell Waltrip getting all excited and saying “Boogity, Boogity, Boogity Boys!” I had another great restart and won comfortably. This gave me a guaranteed front row starting position for the Final. Sadly, the other Semi-Final only had one safety car, which meant that their total race time was faster than ours, so I would be starting P2 for the final!

I got a really good start in the final and instantly began to challenge for the lead. I was just sizing up first place to see where I might be able to make a move. Because of the extreme levels of defending here you either have to try something silly or wait for them to make a mistake. Because hindsight is 20/20 I can tell you the latter is probably the better choice.

On lap 4 I had great run onto the front straight and drafted alongside the leader into Paddock Hill Bend. I was on the outside and braked a bit too late which sent my car into a big slide. Just when I was gathering it up I got into the marbles and spun off into the gravel trap. My race and my shot at winning it all my first time in Europe was over.


As I was sitting  in the gravel trap watching the rest of the race I realized I basically lived Ricky Bobby’s motto from Talladega Nights – “If you ain’t first, you’re last!” – to a T this weekend. I qualified on pole, won both my heat race and my Semi-Final. Then instead of being more patient and waiting for an opportunity or settling for second in the Final I went for it all and lost. I’m not extremely proud of it, but it’s a funny comparison nonetheless.

I had so much fun this past weekend and learned a lot about racing and myself. Thank you so much to all the Team USA Scholarship supporters for making opportunities like this possible. And thank you to everyone at Cliff Dempsey Racing for giving me an amazing car all weekend. I’m sorry you’ll be picking rocks out of it all week. I can’t wait to bring all that I’ve learned to Silverstone next weekend for the Walter Hayes Trophy.

Thank you to all the readers as well who have been keeping up with my adventure!

-Aaron

Video: The Technology Issue

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FROM THE RACER CHANNEL ON YOUTUBE

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Robin Miller's IndyCar "fireside chats"

 

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

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