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 X4I6262Williams chief technical officer Paddy Lowe believes it is important the team starts to build positive momentum after slipping further back in the pecking order this season.

Having secured two consecutive third-place finishes in the constructors' championship in 2014 and 2015, Williams lost out in a tight battle for fourth place against Force India a year ago. However, 2017 saw Force India achieve more than double Williams' tally as it outscored it by over 100 points, and Lowe is keen to arrest the slide.

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Asked if it is crucial that Williams starts to build momentum back toward the front of the grid, Lowe told RACER: "Yes, because otherwise the momentum will be going the other way and the way momentum behaves – it's a good word – it makes it that much more difficult to attract better partners, attract better employees, even... and drivers.

"Getting a top driver is a two-way thing. It's about being able to pay them, but it's also about being attractive to them because good drivers don't want to drive slow cars. You just have to work every sector of the business and keep improving yourself and be more efficient than the next guy with what you've got, and then you can build your way up with that positive momentum.

"It's kind of a virtuous circle with the way it works. It can go the other way if you get it wrong, so it is very important to be building positive momentum."

Williams said Friday it was delaying a decision on driver line-up for 2018 until January, with Robert Kubica having been close to signing a deal to partner Lance Stroll next season. However, the emergence of Sergey Sirotkin – who brings significant financial backing from Russia – in the Pirelli test in Abu Dhabi has led to the 22-year-old being seriously considered as Felipe Massa's replacement instead.

 

Pruett 2008ALMSLimeRock Fri 143Take a trip back to 2008 with Dyson Racing's Porsche RS Spyder, wearing a retro GTP livery, piloted by Chris Dyson and Guy Smith, as they race around the tiny Connecticut circuit during the American Le Mans Series event. It's Acura against Mazda against Porsche in LMP2, and with Audi's bruising turbodiesel V12 LMP1s unable to flex their muscles on the little track, the P2s more than hold their own in pursuit of overall victory.

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D50 5608BMW Motorsport has announced its full driver line-ups for its works FIA WEC and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship M8 GTE programs in 2018.

For its BMW Team RLL IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTLM program, as was previously announced, American Connor De Phillippi will race, along with John Edwards, Alexander Sims and former BMW Motorsport Junior Jesse Krohn.

Meanwhile, new BMW NA Brand Ambassador Bill Auberlen, Nick Catsburg, Philipp Eng and Augusto Farfus will also drive for the team in the four IMSA endurance races at Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta.

"In Connor De Phillippi, we have brought another absolute GT specialist into the team," said BMW Motorsport head Jens Marquardt. "I am also pleased to see our former BMW Motorsport Junior Jesse Krohn promoted to the works program. At this point, I would like to once again express my respect for Bill Auberlen.

"No other driver has been as closely associated with BMW as he has. Four hundred races for one manufacturer – that is unique."

And for its BMW Team MTEK FIA WEC effort, which will debut the M8 GTE in the FIA World Endurance Championship at Spa next May, the regular drivers will be Catsburg, Farfus (who will also race full-time in DTM with BMW), Antonio Felix da Costa and Martin Tomczyk.

Over the course of the season, they will be supported at individual races by BMW works drivers Tom Blomqvist, Eng and Sims.

"The drivers in our WEC squad have been intensely involved in the development work on the BMW M8 GTE from the outset," said Marquardt.

"The combination of GT experience and race talent means we are ideally positioned to achieve good results in our first season in uncharted territory."

ZanardiBMWAlex Zanardi will contest the 2019 24 Hours of Daytona in a modified BMW M8 GTE.

The 51-year-old's plans were announced in a Tweet from BMW Motorsport on Friday.

For the next year, Zanardi and the BMW Motorsport engineers will work on a new brake system which will allow him to race without his artificial limbs.

“I am delighted that we will be working with Alessandro Zanardi on this new project in 2018," BMW Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt said. "It was his great desire to return to North America for another big race. We are only too happy to make that possible. The fans at Daytona can look forward to a real highlight with Alex and the BMW M8 GTE in 2019.”

One of the heroes of the CART era, where he won back-to-back titles in 1997 and 1998, Zanardi's career was turned on its head when he lost both legs in a massive accident at the Lausitzring in 2001.

He later completed an unlikely return to racing driving modified BMWs in the WTCC, where he picked up four race wins, and more recently in the Blancpain Series. Outside of motorsport, he also swiftly rose through the ranks of international handcycle racing, winning multiple high-profile events on his way to securing four gold medals and two silvers at the London and Rio Paralympics in 2012 and 2016, respectively.

Macau GT1As a sport, we do a terrifically underwhelming job of honoring those who deserve praise and condemnation through special recognition. With ready access to a keyboard and half a brain, I've decided to fix the problem with my first annual Pruett's Entirely Fake Motor Racing Awards.

Starting with sports cars, winners in each category can pick up their awards at the entrance to the bunker behind Level 5's shop in Wisconsin. Be sure to knock twice and use the password "750 percent" to get in.

The STOP AND HOLD PLUS FIVE YEARS Award: Goes to Pirelli World Challenge series driver Rodrigo Baptista who made an almighty ass out of himself at Mid-Ohio by using the grass as a passing lane and knocking out GTS polesitter Fred Roberts...while taking the green flag to start the race! Roberts' poor Maserati was a tattered wreck thanks to being Bap-tized with a cement barrier.

The YOU'RE MAKING THE REST OF US LOOK BAD Award: Goes to Corvette Racing's championship-winning No. 3 C7.R that completed every possible lap in IMSA competition for an entire calendar year. And every lap of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Cut it out, gang. Most of us can't reach that high.

The MOOSE AND MINI-ME Award: Goes to whoever decided the 5-foot-nothing Alessandro Balzan and 6-foot-13 Cooper MacNeil would make for a harmonious driver lineup in Scuderia Corsa's waist-high Ferrari 488 GT3. If the defending IMSA GTD champs want to save time trying to extract the American from the cramped cockpit during pit stops, and ensure his Italian teammate can reach the pedals, I wonder if the series would let MacNeil serve as sports car racing's first human booster seat and let Balzan sit on his lap?

The RETIRING ISN'T AN ACTUAL PROFESSION Award: Goes to Johnny Mowlem, who regularly vows that the next race at __________ will be the final time he races at __________ as part of the winding-down process for his long and illustrious career. Dear Johnny, it's starting to feel like the kid who gives out different dates for his birthday in order to get cake and presents 17 times a year. Last Le Mans...last Daytona...last Sebring...last Petit... Instead of the Farewell Mowlem Tour, maybe we should start the Hello Johnny Tour!

The SAD, BUT INEVITABLE AND SERIOUSLY OVERDUE Award: Goes to Mazda for cutting ties with the underperforming SpeedSource Race Engineering team and stunning the sports car world by signing Joest Racing to take control of the steering wheel for its RT24-P IMSA DPi program. Who saw that one coming? Nobody. Talk about shock and awe, with a giant spike in expectations thrown in for good measure.

The DON'T BOOK YOUR FLIGHTS AND HOTEL JUST YET Award: Goes to the FIA WEC for announcing its intention to take a year off from North America, then return in March of 2019, hold a 1,500-mile race, and have it start at midnight – two hours after the headlining Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring comes to an end late Saturday night.

If you are confident this endurance-race-after-an-endurance-race will actually take place, I'd like to sell you tickets to next year's Jolt Cola 1000 ARCA event, which will take the green flag exactly 22 minutes after the milk is poured over the Indy 500 winner at Indianapolis. Please send credit card numbers to itaintgonnahappenfolks@pruettsinternetscam.com.


FAST galstad

The SERIOUSLY, SOMEONE OVER THE AGE OF 5 GOT PAID FOR THIS? Award: Goes to BMW's Art Car. Using the all-white BMW M6 GTLM as a canvas...and slapping colored dots and an image of the M6 on one door and the word "FAST" on the other had all the appeal of a new refrigerator adorned with bad magnets.

The GOLDEN BOWLING BALL Award: Goes to Macau and its FIA GT Cup qualifying race pileup. Although TGBB is my oldest award, one that started back at SPEED.com, and is always given to a driver who created the most mayhem and destruction, I’m going to make an exception and give it to the track itself. Considering the wideness of modern GT3 cars and the perennial skinny confines of the Macau circuit, the FIA might consider returning in 2018 with 1:12 remote control versions of Audis and Ferraris and Porsches to avoid another Yakety Sax moment between the barriers.

The WE MIGHT BE DUMB, BUT AREN’T AS DUMB AS YOU THINK Award: Goes to the flip-flopping ACO and FIA for wanting to model its next-generation of leading prototypes after IMSA’s DPi formula. Yesterday’s bad American idea is now the perfect concept to dig the French sanctioning bodies out from its LMP1-hybrid implosion? At no point in time would I ever confuse IMSA’s DPis for being as fast or amazing as hybrid P1 cars, but I would also never write off IMSA founder and DPi originator Jim France as an old and unimaginative country boy.

The WORLD IS LESS FUN WITHOUT YOU Award: Is the only one I don’t want to give out, but a few are required. Johnny Stevenson’s death, and the unfortunate circumstances behind his loss, linger like a menacing cloud. Preston Henn, Daytona winner, raconteur, and s***-disturber supreme, lived a full life. Horst Kroll, a fixture in Can-Am and related series, died, as did Electramotive co-founder John Knepp. The beloved Holly Job, an invaluable part of the team she and her husband Alex Job turned into a powerhouse organization, was lost, and Bruce Leven, a central and race-winning figure in IMSA during its greatest era, was also farewelled during 2017. Young British racing journalist Jon Grainger was recently killed in a car crash, robbing a burgeoning voice from our sport. As is always the case with lists like this, it is by no means complete. Please add more deserving names to our memorial list in the comments section as you see fit.

The TITANIUM TRUMPET Award: Goes to Porsche’s new 911 RSR GTLM/GTE machine. By moving the engine forward in the car, room to use straight exhaust pipes created the best-sounding IMSA/WEC car of 2017. A tweak to the exhaust around June made something that was brilliant even better. When a car looks and sounds that good, ultimate success can’t be far away.

The GOLDEN GAVEL Award: Goes to racing’s most famous defendant, Level 5 Racing founder/driver Scott Tucker, whose ongoing legal battles continue to improve with age. Convicted by the feds in October for RICO and TILA act violations, among others, the payday lending tycoon continues to appeal his various indictments, including the civil lawsuit won to the tune of $1.3 billion in 2016 by the FTC.

The HEY, YOU WEREN’T SUPPOSED TO DO THAT Award: Goes to Colin Thompson and his Kelly-Moss IMSA LMP3 team that toppled a field of 816 Ligiers with one wacky Norma MD30 chassis. The odds weren’t just stacked against them – winning the championship in an unproven car where extraordinary efforts were required to machine replacement parts and other sundry items to continue racing sent a loud reminder to the other drivers and constructors that going with the heavily favored product isn’t always a sure thing. If IMSA Prototype teams aren’t looking at this kid, something’s wrong.

The I WANT TO RACE, TOO Award: Goes to the FIA WEC for the chaos and session stoppages at far too many of its 2017 events, including one for a cat on the track at Bahrain, another at Mexico for a baseball on the track, a third for the infamous school bus that wandered onto the COTA circuit during an outing for the SCCA U.S. F4 Championship cars over the WEC weekend, and the best of all, which came at the Nurburgring, when a photographer decided the silly barriers were impeding his view and promptly fixed the situation by gaining more intimate access from walking closer to the whooshing cars as they flew by.

 


 

garciaThe HEY MAN, NICE SHOT Award: Brendon Hartley went from racing and winning with Scott Mayer in a Daytona Prototype to a factory Porsche LMP1 driver, FIA WEC world champion and Le Mans winner, and is headed off to his first full season of Formula 1 after the German marque shuttered its LMP1 program. F1 drivers moving down to sports cars is the one-way ticket we’ve known. A WEC champ moving up to F1? I’d love to see it become a trend.

The CONGRATS, GRAMPA Award: Goes to Prodrive for coaxing its old battle ax, the new-for-2012 Vantage V8 GTE, into retirement with 36 wins and class victory against much bigger factories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The throaty howl of its naturally-aspirated mill will be missed.

The HEY, YOU WEREN’T SUPPOSED TO DO THAT, PART TWO Award: Goes to Corvette Racing’s Antonio Garcia at Sebring (pictured above). A Spanish miracle worker, he is. If there was a better performance by a driver in any IMSA-sanctioned race throughout 2017, I certainly didn’t see it. His Terminator-like focus, in concert with perfection from the team in the pits, made for a thrilling close to the 12 Hour. When the first memory of a major event doesn’t involve the overall winner, and jumps straight to GTLM, you know greatness was involved in the outcome.

The FRIENDS OF EVERYBODY Award: Goes to SCRAMP, the non-profit group that runs Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, for stepping up to continue its management of the facility after it wasn’t chosen to do so by Monterey County, yet went on to produce one of its marquee events, the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, that earned an award for its excellence from the FIA. And in another vote of confidence for SCRAMP, Porsche made the unprecedented decision to have the track host its giant Rennsport Reunion event in 2018. The last Rennsport, held in 2015 at Monterey, was expected to be followed by a move back east, alternating between the coasts has been the norm. Keeping Rennsport at the same track out west for two consecutive installments is a noteworthy statement.

The TWICE BITTEN ONCE SHY Award: Goes to two teams. Visit Florida Racing destroyed a Riley/Multimatic Mk. 30 chassis in opening practice at IMSA’s Long Beach Grand Prix round when a brake failure reportedly caused the prototype to strike the barriers at the end of the front straight at unabated speed. At IMSA’s Detroit race, Kenny Habul’s SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 reached the end of the long straight leading into the hard right at Turn 3, reportedly lost his brakes, and ended up using the replacement Visit Florida Racing Riley/Multimatic Mk. 30 chassis as its barrier, causing extensive damage to both cars. There’s no real lesson or conclusion to draw here, but when it came to brake-related crashes, the VFR team was certainly the most popular target.

The KING KONG AIN’T GOT NOTHIN’ ON ME Award: Goes to Andy Lally and Sage Karam. Boxing fans spent years asking for a match between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquaio, and when it finally happened, they were somewhat old and put on an epic snoozer of a match. Sports car fans were almost treated to an instant classic after the punchy on-track driving exchange between Lally’s Acura teammate Katherine Legge and Sage Karam with the Lexus team. Lally, the MMA practitioner, and Karam, the state wrestling standout, came to social media blows – well, it was more Andy than Sage – and the incident soon blew over. With a strong sense of regret for an opportunity lost, I feel like a follow-up cage match, with all proceeds going to the Camp Boggy Creek charity, needs to happen. Have at it, boys?

The WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MAKE THE HEAVENS MAD AT YOU Award: Toyota. Le Mans. 1994. Toyota. Le Mans. 2016. Toyota. Le Mans. 2017. The plausible ways for Toyota to lose have been exhausted. Who would be surprised if the 2018 Le Mans race featured Toyota leading with one lap to go, but in a real-life enactment from the movie Pacific Rim, gigantic monsters explode from beneath the Ford Chicanes and fight equally enormous robots, and all cars, except for the lone surviving Toyota, avoid calamity and weave their way through the battle to cross the finish line without a scratch? And to be clear, the losing Toyota wouldn’t be stepped on or smashed by falling debris: another piece of intercooler piping would come lose and send the onboard computers into an electronic panic that locks the car in gear beneath the Ferris wheel. 

The YOU KNEW IT WOULDN'T WORK, BUT DID IT ANYWAY Award: This goes to 3GT Racing's Robert Alon for attempting the most daft passing maneuver of the WeatherTech Championship season. Long Beach's hairpin is the one place on the track where, year after year, drivers are warned to ignore their lesser instincts and avoid dive-bombing cars at the last moment. These warnings are given in every series at the event, from amateurs in vintage cars to IndyCar, and yet, despite decades of video proof that the risks outweigh the rewards, someone like Alon sees a narrowing gap, has the little light bulb go on over their helmet, and pretends they see an opening where it doesn't exist. Not only did the Lexus driver destroy his race, but he also turned the outcome of the GTLM finish on its head and transformed Turn 11 into a parking lot. All because an opportunity – a mental mirage – appeared in front of his hood that he insisted was real:

Check back next week for the Fake Open-Wheel Awards.

WickensSchmidt Peterson Motorsports general manager Piers Phillips offered high praise for Robert Wickens after the Canadian got his first taste of the 2018 universal aero kit on Thursday. With teammate James Hinchcliffe acting as his IndyCar coach and mentor at Sebring International Raceway, it would appear Wickens made quite an impression on the Honda-powered outfit in and out of the car.

"It took a couple of runs for 'Wicky' to get settled, and then we went through calibration stuff and some 'basics-of-IndyCar' stuff like fuel saving and other things, but we worked him really hard and he was exceptional," Phillips told RACER.

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"He was quick, and his feedback was phenomenal. He just blew everybody away on the timing stand with the level and depth of feedback he gave, plus, we have the added bonus that he's a really nice guy to work with. From a team point of view, it was an awesome day, the last of the year, and with all the 2018 testing we did with IndyCar leading into this, so it's been busy for us, Honda had a lot of work for us, and James was there, working with him on the intercom, and it was a really good day."

As one of the key architects behind the team-wide refurbishing process commissioned by Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson, Phillips was pleased to see Wickens and the retooled outfit start a new chapter with a positive outcome.

"When Sam and Ric brought me in two years ago, I'd had a lot of success with the Honda brand in sports cars, but when I stepped in to IndyCar, I don't want to say 'stale' is the word, but in so many cases, everybody does the same thing in the same way, year in and year out, and it was clear we needed to look above the trench – into no man's land – and find a different solution," he said.

"One of the key points I spoke with every new member of staff was that was the new culture we wanted, where people are asking how we can be better and make improvements in all areas. We've had 13 changes in the team; that's a huge amount, 25 percent, and you ask yourself if it was too much, but it was all necessary. Yes, I'm already seeing the green shoots of progress, and with those who've come in, it's a fresh mindset."

Phillips and the rest of the SPM team will get some much-needed time away from the shop over the Christmas break. Having found the first hints that everyone's on the right path, the Briton admits that shutting down for the holidays could be difficult.

"We're gaining momentum, and we'll have a few wobbles, but it's up to me and the rest of leaders to build a foundation so we can gather ourselves and keep waking forward," he added. "We relish the challenge, and I'm not expecting to knock doors out of windows at St. Pete, but this momentum has already started.

"And we'll take two weeks out of the office for two weeks, but we'll keep our minds working. It's been a huge strain and workload all year, and I'm looking forward to shutting down the laptop, going home, putting my feet up, and having a beer. But I suspect I might open it up on Monday and send out a few emails ... The work never stops, does it, but everyone here deserves a break and then it will be back at it with 2018 testing."

barnhart ims photoThe Verizon IndyCar Series is close to choosing a replacement for former race director Brian Barnhart.

After three decades with the Indianapolis-based organization, Barnhart announced his departure to take on a new role as president of the Harding Racing IndyCar team at the end of November. The process of identifying candidates for the position is ongoing, and could be completed early in 2018.

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"The main thing is to have that person in place before we open the season at St. Petersburg [in March]," IndyCar competition president Jay Frye told RACER. "If we had to, we have layers and depth internally that can handle the Phoenix open test in February, but I don't think that's going to be necessary. Right now, we have a handful of candidates that we're talking with, and it's looking like we should have someone identified for the job by the beginning of January."

Among the many options available to Frye, promoting one of IndyCar's race steward trio – comprised of Dan Davis, Arie Luyendyk and Max Papis – is possible, and looking outside the series to someone like Beaux Barfield is also believed to be of interest to the series.

Provided the next race director is hired rather than promoted, the timing of Barnhart's exit will require the person to work within a rulebook that has been crafted without his or her input.

"The rules are basically done, so that part's good, and on the competition side, we've engaged our drivers on all the changes we're looking to make," Frye added. "Those should be out soon and I'm confident the race director will be comfortable with what's in the book."

StrollWilliams has delayed a decision over whether Sergey Sirotkin or Robert Kubica will drive for the team next season until January.

The team had targeted finalizing its line-up before Christmas, with Kubica having been the frontrunner to partner Lance Stroll in 2018 ahead of the Pirelli tire test in Abu Dhabi. However, the emergence of Sirotkin – who brings significant financial backing from Russia – during that test has led to the 22-year-old being seriously considered as Felipe Massa's replacement instead.

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With all other teams on the grid having confirmed their race drivers, Williams has no need to rush through a decision that appears to have changed direction since the end of the year. It is unclear if Sirotkin's age – with title sponsor Martini preferring at least one driver over 25 for endorsement reasons – and funding sources have had an impact on the change of timeline.

A Williams spokesperson said on Friday that they "don't plan on any driver announcement until January now," adding that a specific date is "currently not confirmed."

While the ongoing delay would suggest Kubica's chances have lessened, making Sirotkin the favorite for the seat, RACER understands there are still opposing views within the team on who should get the seat alongside Stroll.

It is the second winter in succession that Williams has faced uncertainty over its driver plans, with Valtteri Bottas switching to Mercedes in January following Nico Rosberg's surprise retirement at the end of 2016. On that occasion, the team brought Massa out of retirement in order to have continuity alongside Stroll in the then 18-year-old's rookie season.

Pascal Wehrlein and Daniil Kvyat have also been linked with the Williams seat, with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admitting in Abu Dhabi that Wehrlein's chances of gaining the seat were very slim against Kubica.

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