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Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Jerez F1 testing February 2015

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New Ferrari signing Sebastian Vettel topped the first day of 2015 Formula 1 testing at Jerez on Sunday. (Larger image gallery below.)

The four-time F1 world champion first moved to the top of the times in the afternoon with a short run, returning to the track after a long delay caused by telemetry problem on the SF15-T.

Sauber's Marcus Ericsson closed to within less than a tenth of a second of that benchmark on a soft-tire run later in the afternoon, but Vettel went quicker still on a set of mediums in the final 20 minutes of the day.

Nico Rosberg had led the way for double 2014 world champion Mercedes for much of the day before Vettel's quick laps were set, and the F1 W06 comfortably completed the most laps on the first day. By the end of the day Rosberg had completed 157 laps – including several long runs – while the next-highest total came from Ericsson and Williams's Valtteri Bottas with 73 laps each.

Daniel Ricciardo's Red Bull spent the morning as Rosberg's closest challenger, but his morning running was brought to a smoky halt. The Red Bull did return to action later in the day, but by the checkered flag the RB11 had only completed 35 laps – with his running curtailed by a battery problem that overheated the rear brakes.

That was not the lowest total on the day though, as the McLaren-Honda completed just six laps in the hands of Fernando Alonso. Those were broken up into three installation laps, followed by a three-lap run that included the only timed lap set by the MP4-30 all day.

While Williams recovered from a late start to log 73 laps with Bottas, the Lotus E23 failed to appear on track at all as it spent the day in transit from the team's Enstone, UK factory.

The day was only affected by two red flags – the first when Ericsson spun in the morning, and the second late in the afternoon when Carlos Sainz Jr. stopped on the backstraight in the Toro Rosso.


1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m 22.620s - 60
2 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 1m 22.777s 0.157s 73
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m 23.106s 0.486s 157
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 1m 23.338s 0.718s 35
5 Valtteri Bottas Williams/Mercedes 1m 23.906s 1.286s 73
6 Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso/Renault 1m 25.327s 2.707s 46
7 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Honda 1m 40.738s 18.118s 6

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Originally on

Red Bull's 2015 car in testing livery

Red Bull's 2015 Formula 1 car emerged for the first time in a camouflage livery as Jerez testing began on Sunday morning.

The four-time champion team chose not to carry out any form of official launch or car unveiling for the Renault-powered RB11, instead heading straight out of the garage in the surprise color scheme without ceremony.

Daniel Ricciardo is behind the wheel for the first day of running at Jerez. Toro Rosso graduate Daniil Kvyat replaces Ferari-bound Sebastian Vettel as his teammate for 2015.

Red Bull's chief engineering officer Rob Marshall, who has stepped into the new role following Adrian Newey's change of emphasis, said that the majority of changes from the 2014 would be hard to spot, but that significant steps had been made.

"There are some changes that affect the shape of the front of the car but beyond that most of the changes are under the skin," he said. "We've identified the areas where we can make improvements and we've worked hard on these.

"There won't be a lot that's visible to the naked eye but a lot of hard work has gone into the bits that are hidden."

There had been suggestions in the build-up to the test that Red Bull was struggling to be ready in time, but the team confirmed to AUTOSPORT on Saturday that the final crash tests had been passed, and it was among the first to hit the track on Sunday morning.

Team boss Christian Horner had previously admitted that Red Bull had opted for its tightest-ever car build programme in order to ensure that maximum developments were on the RB11.

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Jerez F1 testing

Originally on

Canc Tex01banksRobin portraitBeen quite a stellar week for IndyCar. The exciting news that TGBB was returning for another run as race director (and to overwhelming show of support from the fans) was followed rapidly by the cancellation of the season opener in Brazil.

The second headline means that it will be almost seven months between Will Power winning the 2014 championship and the start of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar series in St. Petersburg, Fla. unless a replacement race can be thrown together. But, in the process, Mark Miles has now joined an elite fraternity and a trend that began in 1980 adds another victim. This is at least the 11th CART/Champ Car/IndyCar race to get red-flagged before it had even happened, leaving open-wheel racing red-faced.

Of course Miles shouldn’t feel any worse than John Frasco, Andrew Craig, Joe Heitzler, Chris Pook or Randy Bernard because they all got burned trying to do something big or creative for the series they ran at that time. Politics, wildfires, G forces, naivety, stupidity and the almighty dollar all conspired to shut things down before a wheel was turned, with one exception.

So let’s take a quick tour of the races that were run only in our imaginations.


In 1980, Carl Haas was approached about helping stage a Formula 1 race in the Windy City by the man who was instrumental in starting the Taste of Chicago. Not yet a co-owner with Paul Newman in CART, Haas was fielding a Can-Am car so he suggested a doubleheader with CART and Can-Am rather than F1.

A cool 2.7-mile road course was drawn up by SCCA biggie Burdie Martin and Haas that incorporated Lake Shore Drive, and Mayor Jane Byrne, who died just last November, loved it. In September of 1980, I attended a press conference that included Roger Penske, Rick Mears, Patrick Tambay and Haas as Mayor Byrne [RIGHT, with Mears, Chicago Tribune photo] announced the inaugural Chicago Grand Prix would be held the Fourth of July weekend in 1981. It was the shot in the arm CART and Indy cars needed.

And, of course, it was too good to be true. A backlash of public sentiment, led by Chicago columnist Mike Royko, blindsided Byrne and, six weeks after posing for pictures in Tambay’s Can-Am car, she pulled the plug. I’ve still got the press kit though.


The brainchild of Rich Rutherford (no relation to Lone Star J.R.) and David Grayson, the Hawaiian Super Prix was set for Nov. 7-14, 1999, in Honolulu. The top 12 in the FedEx CART point standings at the end of the ’99 season (plus four other invited racers from other disciplines) would race for an unprecedented $5 million to win from a total purse of $10 million. The polesitter was to get $250,000. The three-hour event (two heats) would also be shown on Pay-Per-View with one lucky viewer winning $1 million.

Canc Hawaiian“This will be an incredible way to end the millennium,” predicted Craig. The race supposedly had the full blessing of Gov. Benjamin Cayetano, who gushed about all the revenue that tax and charity dollars and tourism would bring Hawaii. Ah, but just 25 days prior to its scheduled running, the HSP was cancelled by the promoters.

It fell to pieces in more than one way, and the biggest reason came down to the flawed funding scheme they came up with. It wasn't the first time an Indy car program was supposed to pay itself through subscribtions, but that's exactly where the promoters figured all the income to host the event and pay the giant prize money sums would come from. Millions, they figured, would stream in through Pay-Per-View purchases. It never happened. Not even close. So few people paid in advance to see the Hawaiian Super Prix, it was sunk before it ever started.

Most of us had wanted to bet it would never happen but Vegas was too smart – there wasn’t a line.


Texas Motor Speedway opened in 1997 and Tony George’s Indy Racing League finally had a hit on its hands with big crowds and close racing. CART decided it wanted to get in on a good thing and scheduled a race for April 29, 2001. But the IRL cars had a lot less horsepower and a lot more drag Canc Tex01 BrackPolethan CART cars and, even after a few teams tested at 225 mph, there were concerns about the 24-degree banked corners and G forces on the 1.5-mile oval.

Tony Kanaan ran 233 mph in morning practice on April 27 while Dario Franchitti’s trap speed crested 238 mph. Mo Gugelmin clouted the wall in Turn 1 and wound up in Turn 4 after an impact of 113Gs and withdrew with bruised shoulder and ribs. On Saturday morning, Paul Tracy turned a lap of 236mph and it was both breathtaking and frightening to watch him go through the corners. Kenny Brack won the pole at 233mph (Tony Stewart had the IRL mark of 224 mph) and the average speed for  the 25 cars was 229 mph.

In a 23-second lap, drivers were sustaining 5Gs for 14-16 seconds and some complained about being dizzy or not being able to walk in a straight line after getting out of their car. After 21 of the 25 drivers admitted some kind of disorientation, Dr. Steve Olvey contacted a former NASA flight director who said the human body could not sustain more than 4.4Gs and suddenly, Houston (OK, Fort Worth), we’ve got a problem. On Saturday night CART officials talked about removing the rear wings, taking off the turbos or even putting a chicane in the backstretch to slow the speeds but it was decided to call off the race.

Marlo Katz and I announced it on ESPN’s Sports Center before it became official and track president Eddie Gossage lambasted CART in a press conference and sued CART for damages (and won a multi-million dollar settlement). But CART otherwise earned universal praise fromCanc Fontana03 around the motorsports world for protecting its drivers. The letters C-A-R-T were permanently removed from Gossage’s computer and he fined any employee for even mentioning go-karts.


The 2003 CART season was supposed to end at Fontana but ended up being cancelled due to wildfires in the area [RIGHT, ash coating the area] . Even though some of the CART safety workers aided the locals in fighting the blazes, it still ended with hard feelings. CART boss Pook issued a statement that said: “CART regrets the event had to be cancelled and we offered to explore every possible avenue, including running Monday or Tuesday at Phoenix International Raceway or running California Speedway [as it was then] sometime next week.”

But California Speedway president Bill Miller countered by stating: “Our release definitely said it was postponed, meaning we have the ability to reschedule. CART elected to cancel the event.” And PIR boss Bryan Sperber added: “I never talked to anyone from CART and wouldn’t have considered it anyway.”


Set for the fall of 2004, Champ Car scrapped it two weeks before it was supposed to run when it was learned that track construction was woefully behind schedule.


Canc Chrnelich KK DE


Scheduled to be Oct. 16, 2005 on a 1.9-mile road course 45 minutes from Seoul, Champ Car axed it on Sept. 28 because “the promoters were not prepared enough and not sticking to the requirements that are needed, based on our contract,” according to Champ Car VP Joe Chrnelich [LEFT, with Kevin Kalkhoven and Dick Eidswick]. And Champ Car officials told Mike Harris of the Associated Press that postponing Ansan for a year was a small setback and, besides, things were looking good for a street race in Otaru, Japan, for 2007…


The seldom discussed but legendary Triple Toss was, ironically enough, in the record books for Champ Car’s final season. The Grand Prix of Denver [RIGHT] was cancelled on Feb. 1 for reasons I cannot remember but apathy rings a bell. Prior to the season opener in downtown Las Vegas (on the best street course ever) on Easter Sunday in which there were more painted eggs than paying customers, Champ Car announced the Grand Prix of China (whose original May 20 date had been postponed) would not be taking place after the FIA rejected its replacement date (Christmas Eve?).

Finally, in late August, the inaugural Grand Prix of Arizona (set for the fall) was terminated by the promoters who lost millions in Las Vegas three months earlier. But at least the standing starts Canc Chinaworked quite well.



A race initially negotiated in 2010 was inherited on Randy Bernard’s watch and scheduled for Aug. 19, 2012 in Qingdao, China. [LEFT, This was as close as they came. Photo: Taiko Hattori]. The promoter was backed by the Mayor in power and it was full speed ahead with the track and ticket sales until that Mayor was upset in a 2012 election. The new boss wanted no part of a race so Bernard announced it was off the schedule in June of 2012. It was suggested he sued China and he’s still laughing about that.  


The latest IndyCar race to be Xed out sounds like another political landmine. According to an AP story, public prosecutors warned that it would cost the local government too much ($100 million to renovate Nelson Piquet Autodromo) and waste public funds. They added it was “not in the best interest of society.”

Brasilia is also in the midst of a serious financial crisis and the government has been unable to pay salaries to many public workers, the story continued. MotoGP had already been cancelled at the track.

Miles claims ticket and suite sales were good and that IndyCar won’t get hurt financially. But, like everyone before him, he’s hopefully learned a valuable lesson about foreign races, promoters and governments. And having one international race is tough enough, let alone the pipe dream of a series.

pete4The Verizon IndyCar Series is trying to answer a few key questions after the season-opening race in Brazil was cancelled on Thursday.

With the March 6-8 event unexpectedly wiped from the calendar, IndyCar can either look to replace the race at an alternate site – somewhere in North America – or wait until St. Petersburg (pictured) on March 27-29 to effectively turn Round 2 into Round 1.

RACER has confirmed the series has spoken with Circuit of The Americas, which is set to host the Pirelli World Challenge opener on the same weekend Brazil was meant to take place, as a possible venue to start its season. Other circuits have also been contacted to gauge their interest and availability.

"Once the news broke coming out of Brazil, we immediately began speaking with tracks to see what their schedules might allow," said IndyCar's president of competition, Derrick Walker. "We're working to come up with answers on what we will do and have communicated with our teams and partners that our goal is to have our options and direction in place early next week. If nothing comes from making another race happen, we'll go as planned with the next race on the schedule at St. Pete."

The most immediate changes and impact from the loss of Brazil could come with an accelerated timeline for teams to start testing aero kits. IndyCar's rules for aero kit distribution call for one complete set to be received by teams (who placed their orders on time) no later than March 1. If Chevy and Honda are able to distribute complete kits to all their teams at an earlier date, and a replacement for Brazil is not found, Walker says the series would allow teams to begin aero kit testing sooner than March 1.

"That date could be brought forward because teams could get them at the first of the month and test sooner than they'd planned from being away at Brazil. If everything is ready earlier than that, everybody has a kit to use, we would gladly bring the testing window forward," he confirmed.

"Manufacturers have always had the ability to deliver the kits earlier than March 1, but teams were not allowed to test before that date, and with Brazil in mind, we'll react to opening the testing window once we know more about our options."

660x440 LEDE BRETZMAN 2014BarberSpringTrainingMPruettMon317 372Chip Ganassi Racing has been busy retooling its staff during the long Verizon IndyCar Series offseason, and coming off a year where the rival Team Penske organization dominated the championship, the changes have been made to recapture their position atop the field.

The most surprising change has taken place with Scott Dixon and the No. 9 Target Chevy. After earning three championships and the 2008 Indy 500 victory, the Kiwi and his engineer Eric Bretzman (left to right, ABOVE) have been separated after 12 years. Bretzman has been re-assigned to Ganassi's NASCAR operation and should bring new and interesting perspectives boost the program's championship aspirations.

SIMMONS and TK 3 2014SonomaMPruettSun82414 016In his place, Chris Simmons (near left, RIGHT), who engineered former Ganassi driver Dario Franchitti to three championships and the 2012 Indy 500 win, has been moved over from Tony Kanaan's entry. Kanaan, who has changed colors from the Target-sponsored No. 10 Chevy to the No. 10 NTT Data Chevy, will have Todd Malloy in charge of engineering. Malloy left Bryan Herta Autosport, where he won the 2011 Indy 500 with the late Dan Wheldon, to take the position with Ganassi.

A key management change has also taken place as Barry Wanser, who shared management of the Target cars, will oversee all four IndyCar entries which are now being run under the same roof. Ganassi's Scott Harner will also have a different role during race weekends.

"It's no real change; I worked with Chris before," Dixon said of the revised engineering lineup. "It's been a long time for myself and Eric. When I first heard the news it was hard, and with Chris, it was an easy transition. It will be interesting to see how it evolves. [I'm] definitely looking forward to the season."

"I think it's going to be great," Kanaan added. "We shuffled things around the team to make things better. I worked with Todd the first couple of tests that we did and obviously we didn't send anybody home.... It's still the same people. They just shuffled who you talk to directly."

Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull explained the reasoning behind the infrastructure alterations.

"We made changes because what we wanted to do is we wanted to freshen the mindset," he told RACER. "That's really the reason why we did it. It wasn't that the mindset that we had was off course, it's just that we wanted to create a different perspective for the drivers. First of all, at least for Tony and Scott, it was looking at how to approach what we do in a slightly different manner. It's not a huge, huge transitional step here, let's face it. But how do you solve problems on and off the racetrack as a driver, engineer combination?

"We felt like Chris Simmons and Scott Dixon would be a good match, at this point with each of them in their respective positions in their career. Todd Malloy came to us from the outside so he has a completely different way of looking at things, which is good for us. We really enjoyed that. It's to get a fresh understanding about how to run a racecar. That is why we did it."

lat levitt tor 0714 11191ABOVE: More than just color changes for the Ganassi cars in 2015. (LAT photo)

HULL 2014GPofIndyMPruettTHU5814 098With Dixon now working together with Simmons, the adjustment is less of a change than for Kanaan and Ganassi newcomer Malloy. Hull (LEFT) expects the two to form a fast and effective relationship, despite the need to jell during pre-season testing.

"Todd to us represents the kind of engineer that loves to work with a race driver who loves to feel the car, that natural guy – that guy that has the ability to be crossed up all the time and still be fast," Hull noted. "That's why we did what we did there. It is to create fresh perspective for Tony and create fresh perspective for us as a team. We've already learned quite a bit by doing that. Just when we hired Eric Cowdin it was the same way, we learned a lot about ourselves by hiring Eric to work for us. That drives the decisions that we've made over time with people, and it's simply just trying to get the most out of a culture that listens.

"The proof will be in the result here. We'll find out together how it's going to work. We've had good tests so far this winter by doing it. We've been on this thing for a while now. We're getting ready to do this next test with these people and their new role so we will see how it goes."

Cowdin, who remains with Ganassi after engineering Ryan Briscoe last season, is a prime candidate to engineer the car driven by Sage Karam, if and when that entry is confirmed.

With Bretzman moving from open-wheel to stock car, Hull is confident Ganassi's outfit in North Carolina will feel the impact as soon as he gets a feel for the change in engineering disciplines.

"I think they're in a position to be able to work with someone like Eric who can define for them more clearly what is actually happening," Hull explained. "Eric's duties there will be defined a little bit more as we go forward, but I know a lot of it has to do the test program, a lot of things to do with Nationwide, things like that at the beginning so he can get his feet wet. And then move on through the system there.

"What he brings to them is a clear determination to really answer questions and solve problems. Find a clear and direct answer and direction for everything that goes on, on a daily basis. That is what an engineer at Chip Ganassi Racing does best; he takes that cultural mindset with him when he goes to work with our people in North Carolina."

BARRY WANSER 2015Daytona24 MarshallPruett Sat124 203The move to place Wanser (LEFT) in charge of managing Ganassi's IndyCar effort should also reap some rewards as the team prepares for the new season.

"When we chose to put all four racecars under one roof, we thought it was the right thing to do for our team to put Barry in charge of the competition side of all four cars," said Hull. "The way the system works here is he has a crew chief that's in charge of the car itself. So the management scheme is that Barry sits over four crew chiefs, and then he works in tandem with the chief engineer for each driver to make sure that the spec on the car is correct and the car has everything it needs to go to a test event or a race event.

"Barry is our team manager for competition at Chip Ganassi Racing. That title says exactly what he does. It's all about the competition side of the racing cars."

Ganassi's Scott Harner, who also manages a significant portion of the IndyCar program, has been moved from his familiar position as a spotter during race weekends, and will be relocated to pit lane.

"We decided that we're going to put Scott on one of the four timing stands to manage a timing stand during the race because he has been a spotter for a long time on the race weekends," Hull added. "Being a spotter is like getting a degree in raceway management, because when you're sitting there on the timing stand – I spotted for a long time and it really helped me – because when you're sitting on the timing stand, the way that you look at it is not a landscape view.

"It's not like terrain view, not what's in front of you. In my mind, I look from above, I look at the track map, and I watch what's going on. So I think that Scott has a leg up on a lot of people that are given the opportunity to win a race because he has been up there a long time and studied that and understands it."

IndyCar2018kTwice a championship runner-up in USF2000, Spencer Pigot has carried on up the Mazda Road To Indy, and won the Pro Mazda title last season. That earned him a scholarship for the 2015 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires series, and so he heads into the 2015 season with widely respected junior formula team, Juncos Racing, and armed with the sexy new Dallara IL15 and its 500hp Mazda AER engine.

So who knows? Spencer may be in the Verizon IndyCar Series as soon as 2016, but he already has clear ideas of how he wants the series to be in 2018.


Pigot portraitDoes the 2018 IndyCar need more power?

Obviously I’m speaking without experience of the current car, but yeah, I’d say so. Ten or 15 years ago, the cars had a ton of horsepower and not a lot of downforce compared with, say, a Formula 1 car and they were spectacular to watch. More horsepower and less downforce helps the really talented drivers to stand out, not just because of car control but also they have to work hard to preserve tires over a whole stint and also avoid mistakes.

One of the things I really like about American tracks is that you do get punished for your mistakes. On street tracks and ovals, it’s pretty obvious you’re going to hit a wall or a tire wall if you get a corner wrong, but also the road courses like Mid-Ohio, Sonoma, Road America… they don’t let you get away with anything: you’re going to end up on grass or dirt or a sandtrap, and I think that’s the way it should be. So many of these new tracks being built all over the world have asphalt run-offs so it doesn’t hurt you to make a mistake – Pigot mistakesit may even help you because it opens up the corner! – and that’s not right.

Is it important to listen to potential new manufacturers about what types of engine to run, and therefore should IndyCar be thinking in terms of hybrid engines for 2018?

I think making the engines relevant to street cars is a good way forward. A lot of manufacturers are making small turbocharged 4-cylinders to replace their old V6s, and turbocharged V6s to replace their V8s. I think IndyCar needs a third manufacturer so giving the chance for a company to prove their technology on track, and take stuff from their track engine and apply it to their street car engines has got to be a good way to go. America is a massive market for just about every manufacturer, which is why you see a lot of factory teams in the TUDOR Championship. But you don’t see hybrid engines… I don’t know if it’s possible yet to build hybrids to race standard for a reasonable price; those F1 engines and WEC engines would be too expensive for most teams in IndyCar. As long as the engines are powerful and the cars are fast, I don’t think it’s a big issue what type of engine it is, so I think letting manufacturers themselves be your guide is a good plan.

Which brings us neatly onto another hot topic – spec cars or not?

I like spec cars because it’s then down to the driver and the engineer: it’s not necessarily down to who has the biggest development budget. You look at Formula 1 and a lot of the time you see teammates side by side on every row because there are big gaps between teams. You don’t know if the guy who’s qualified 16th is maybe more talented than the guy who’s sixth. The great thing about IndyCar is that you have Pigot underdogssmaller teams challenging Penske and Ganassi every week – maybe not the same smaller team each time but there’s always someone with a smaller budget mixing it with the big teams at every race. Everyone has a chance, and it’s better racing. [RIGHT: Dale Coyne Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing mixing it with Team Penske and Andretti Autosport at Long Beach, 2014.]

And how about team development? Should teams be allowed to do more to the cars? How spec is “spec” in your view?

I think IndyCar is probably a bit too strict at the moment: there are too many areas where the teams can’t do anything to adjust. I think the series should be opening the boxes a little to allow more development, because being able to lead a team in a particular technical direction with what’s basically a spec chassis used to be one of the skills of the best IndyCar drivers. And engineers, actually.

Should the Indy 500 be a more open-rules race in order to attract other teams?

Hmmm… I kind of think the opposite; that if the Indy rules were opened up, everyone would know the big teams were going to do whatever it took, and so that would be the one race where a small team or a team doing a one-off couldn’t win. So I doubt if it would attract extra teams. I like the Indy 500 as a championship race, the biggest in the series – the world, actually – and everyone runs the same stuff, except for the engine and aero kits. Everyone’s basic potential is the same, so anyone can win, in theory.


Pigot ovals

Interesting take… and you’re the first person to point out that opening the rules for that race might put off as many people as it attracted. Regarding ovals in general, the junior formulas on the Mazda Road To Indy don’t get to run on all the ovals because of their lower speed. As a rising star trying to reach IndyCar, how important do you feel it is to keep a bunch of ovals on the schedule?

I’ve got to say, I think it’s essential to keep ovals because the track variety makes IndyCar unique. Oval racing is such a different challenge. When I started racing, I thought it wouldn’t be that difficult, and now I’ve done them in USF2000 and Pro Mazda, I realize it’s incredibly hard to get the car setup and driving style just right. Thankfully, I’ve never raced an oval where you’re just flat-out all the way around; you have to really drive the car, and it’s a challenge.

And I think the races are really exciting to watch, really good for the fans: some of IndyCar’s races at Texas Motor Speedway [ABOVE] and Iowa have been awesome, and it amazes me more people don’t go to watch it. I hope the ovals never go away, and I do believe it’s really important for us to grow up racing on them because they are so challenging and different. Thankfully this new Indy Lights car is going to give us a lot of good preparation, because without that experience in your background, I imagine a full IndyCar around some of these ovals would feel pretty sketchy!

IndyCar 2018 - Closed cockpit or open cockpit?

It’s a weird subject because you never want to see someone get hurt but for me, open-wheel racing means also open cockpit. I’m sure IndyCar will keep on pursuing safety in terms of the cockpit, and the cockpit surround, but I hope we don’t go to a fully-closed cockpit. I liked Will Power’s idea – some overhead protection but not fully enclosed. Plus, I think it’s sad for the fans that they can’t see anything of the driver except the helmet, so I think it’s important to at least keep that view and more easily identify the driver.

Do you think there should be any alteration to the format of the races – More double-headers? Split Pocono into two 150-mile events? that kind of thing – just to mix it up?

I’m not sure the double-headers – one on a Saturday, one on a Sunday – really works. Detroit on Saturday last year looked kind of dead. Sunday will always be bigger. I know it wasn’t deliberate, but having two slightly shorter IndyCar races on the Sunday at Toronto, I thought, worked really well. I think if you have a really good support-race package to go with IndyCar practice and qualifying on the Saturday, having two IndyCar races on the Sunday might be a better format. I mean, it’s not like the crowd are there on Sunday to see the USF2000s, are they? Doing a double-header of shorter races at Pocono or Fontana might also work, but if someone crashes in the first race, they may not make the second race because oval crashes are higher speed so there’s more damage done.

You’re half my age and about one-third of the age of the decision makers in IndyCar, so you Pigot Wilson youngfansremember being 10 years old a lot better than many of us. What first attracted you to the sport and how can we make 10-year-olds into longterm fans?

Well I was at race tracks a lot because my dad used to work on Autocourse’s CART Indy car yearbooks, so I was always around it. And to be honest, I think that’s the trick: getting people to experience it in person. Every kid I talk to at the track loves it, and that means the races they can’t go to, they’ll watch on TV. But there has to first be that experience of it for real in order to appreciate the speed and the sound; standing there at Long Beach or St. Pete as they go by at 180mph, it’s a real sensation blast, real energy. That’s the only way to get someone hooked for life.

I think a lot of the city street races and also Milwaukee are very good at having facilities for the whole family, so that gets people through the gates, and it offers people more for their money. But if you want to make a connection that lasts forever, you’ve got to get the people to love the main event, too. That’s why Barber and Mid-Ohio have decent crowds. This country’s classic tracks like Road America [BELOW] would also get a good crowd, I believe. IndyCar can’t just look after the spectators who’ve come to enjoy a fairground ride or whatever. You’ve got to make it appeal to the fans who’ve come purely for the love of racing. And I think having massive power to make the cars spectacular and difficult would be a big part of that.

Remember to keep sending your thoughts and ideas to

Pigot roadamerica

660x440 LEDE 1985 Henns Swap Shop Racing Porsche 962 GTP 8 Daytona Winner cWith the 2015 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in the books, let's look back and weave our way through the wild tale of the 1985 SunBank 24 Hours of Daytona. 30 years later, some of the details are still hard to believe.

The polesitter had to be bailed out of jail on a $125,000 bond before he could dominate time trials, the winning team relied on a feisty, flu-ridden Frenchman, a borrowed Belgian, a man known as "Super Tex," another simply known as "Senior," and just for kicks, a NASCAR star decided to pass 14 cars on the opening lap – before pitting moments later and handing everything back to Daytona Beach's sun-tanned racing gods.

And it didn't stop there.

Buried within the 76-car field, a young punk from Northern California was busy opening his endurance racing account at the 24 Hour. One of his fiercest rivals in the years to come would also make his Daytona debut, lasting all of 12 laps before retiring – the first car out of the race. Fathers raced against sons, legends of Indy car and stock car battled in a diverse array of untamed IMSA GTP machinery, and we even had the birth of a new class that survives in modified form today.

State-of-the-art IMSA cars weren't dressed or constructed from carbon fiber in 1985, nor were they connected from end to end by electronics. Data acquisition was in its infancy, telemetry sounded like an obscure form of math, and no one had heard of the Internet or cell phones. It was an analog time in America, and our longest endurance race fit perfectly within those pre-digital days.

It was tubeframe GTUs carrying small-displacement engines that were lovingly low-tech and highly reliable. Their big brothers, the tubeframe GTOs, were hulking creations that belched flame from unrepentant V8s, V12s, and tightly-wound turbos.

IMSA's biggest draw, the Grand Touring Prototypes, was peaking in terms of car counts and interest, and thanks to Porsche's decision to build the 962, the turnkey chassis was the closest thing to a surefire win at Daytona. The rest of the GTP class was filled with offerings from Jaguar, March, Lola, Royale, Alba, and engines from Buick, Chevy, along with a few holdover silhouettes like the Porsche 934 and 935. Half were ticking time bombs, and the other half couldn't be killed. Reliability, for many GTP teams, was an abstract term measured in hours, and they rarely added up to the number 24.

Marshall Pruett Archives 182 Lights Winner 1985 Daytona cAnd then you had GTP Lights – better known today as Camel Lights, in deference to IMSA's longtime tobacco sponsor – which came to life with minimal fanfare. The 700-kilo prototypes (RIGHT) used the same trusty 1.3-liter twin-rotor Mazda engine that powered most of the GTU cars, and with the fastest Lights entry lapping a full 20.2 seconds shy of the GTP pole, the little cars prepared for two days of potential trampling.


 1985 Conte Racing March Buick 45 Daytona Pole Winner Pruett Archives cBy the numbers, 29 GTPs, 3 GTP Lights, 27 GTOs and 17 GTUs took the start at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2, but the fun started well before the green flag waved.

To get a feel for the raw power and speed demonstrated by the GTP and GTO cars, Lew Price's brand-new Lee Racing V8-powered Lola Corvette was merely the 14th-fastest GTP car in its class, yet still managed to crack 205mph entering Turn 1. We know this precious fact because that's the speed that Price achieved when the rear wing tore off the car and sent the Englishman for the scariest ride of his life during pre-race testing.

Once it came to a stop – minus most of its fiberglass bodywork, Price looked like he was strapped into a shaved aluminum cat. The turbocharged Porsches and Buicks were capable of greater top speeds, and as we'll learn a bit later, the best GTO cars were even faster on the banking.

What an absolutely terrifying race to attempt in the slower classes.

The GTP pole went to General Motors and its rabid, when-will-it-blow Buick turbo. Strapped into the back of Conte Racing's March chassis (ABOVE), the new production-based 3.5-liter V6 was always a candidate for self-ventilation, but while it lasted during time trials, the semi-nuclear mill could move mountains. And on the odd occasion when the engines remained in one piece, their transmission-shattering torque left numerous Buick drivers idling into the race results as a DNF.

While IMSA's Daytona Prototypes and P2s squabbled over pole position last week – fighting for fractions of a second until Ozz Negri claimed the top spot by 0.108 seconds, let's take a moment to celebrate the pole-winning lap set by John Paul Jr. in 1985 where he put a full 1.7 seconds between himself and second place. Fifth was 3.9 seconds arrears.

The fact that Paul Jr. was free to sit in the car, much less earn the pole, was newsworthy at the time. Jailed after being indicted for a number of crimes associated with his drug-trafficking father John Paul Sr., it took $125,000 handed over to the great state of Florida by Phil Conte to pry Paul Jr. from his holding cell.

The embarrassed 24-year-old rewarded Conte's faith with a stellar performance in qualifying, and a reported audience of 33,000 watched as Paul Jr. led the field into Turn 1 and held the point for the first hour of the race. Deep in the GTP pack, NASCAR legend Bobby Allison – a surprise name on the entry list – spooled up Buick's fearsome hand-grenade – and rocketed from 19th to fifth by the end of the 3.5-mile lap. Two laps later, the eldest member of the Alabama Gang brought the Pegasus Racing March to pit lane in search of remedies for its electrical woes.

Out front, Paul Jr. was on a mission, but later, a blown tire with co-driver Bill Adam at the controls would cause enough bodywork damage to rob Conte's team of a meaningful result.

The lead changed hands and it wasn't long before the central theme for the 1985 race began to emerge. The armada of bullet-proof Porsche 962s might have lacked almighty pace over a single lap, but their pounding, machine-like march in the race was beyond anything the rest of the GTP runners could match. Not for hours on end.

1985 Holbert Racing Porsche 962 GTP 14 Daytona cHolbert Racing's Lowenbrau-liveried 962 was the closest thing Porsche had to a full works program, and once Conte's March-Buick blinked, the trio of Al Holbert, Derek Bell, and Al Unser Jr. locked onto the lead and dared their rivals to set off in pursuit.

Few, if any, were truly up for the task, but that didn't stop a fellow 962 team from giving it a shot. If the Lowenbrau Porsche was driven by three hunter/killers, Preston Henn's Swap Shop 962 was staffed by, well, an eclectic mix of aging open-wheel legends in A.J. Foyt and Al Unser (who was making his 24-hour debut), and the supremely talented sports car ace Bob Wollek.

Marshall Pruett Archives Bob Wollek c

Pitting Wollek (ABOVE) against any of the Lowenbrau drivers was like sharpening steel on steel. Pulling the Frenchman out of Henn's 962 meant softer grades of metal was subjected to Holbert's scything driver rotation.

With no disrespect to Foyt, the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans victor and 4-time Indy 500 winner, or his friend Unser, then a 3-time Indy 500 winner and a complete newcomer to endurance racing, the team needed a bit more speed to keep the Lowenbrau 962 from disappearing into the night.

And here, friends, is where the real amusement begins.

Backtracking to how the Lowenbrau and Swap Shop lineups were formed, New Mexico's first family of open-wheel racing could have ended up in different 962s.

"Al Holbert called me up and asked me to be his third driver," Unser Jr. said earlier this week. "Of course, I accepted because of his performance in the past and I knew the team was really good and I knew they had a real shot at winning. And then a couple of weeks went by and A.J. called..."

Being asked to drive with Holbert was an honor, but a request from a certified, deified Brickyard hero like Foyt left the young Indy car star caught in a bind. Was reversing course with Holbert an option?

"I told him that I had already committed to Al Holbert and couldn't go back on my word, and that took every ounce of strength I had, but I said what about my father?" said Jr. "A.J. goes, 'Really? Do you think he would do it?' I said, 'I don't know, but I could call him and ask him.'

"So I called my dad and he goes, '24 hours? I can't stand it and it's a long race. Chances of winning are slim to none....'

"Dad just went on and on. I said, 'Dad, I'm going down there with Al Holbert. Foyt just called me. Come on down. Drive for Foyt, I'll be in another car, and we'll do it together. He finally gave in."

foyt pruettFoyt (LEFT), who'd won the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1983 with Wollek in one of Henn's Porsche 935s, says he was pleased with his matchmaking abilities for the 1985 race.

"Bob Wollek was known to be one of the best Porsche drivers around the world, and we'd driven together already," he said days after his 80th birthday. "And Al and I go way back. I had no doubts that he could do the job and do it quite well and probably better than 99 percent of the other guys that I knew. If he was still racing, that is definitely who I would want right beside me. It was great to be partners with both of them. Wollek was known to be far better than me or Unser or anybody in those cars, so we knew he would be the fast one on our team."

With Foyt and the elder Unser in the Swap Shop 962, Henn and crew chief Mike Colucci had two of the most famous names in motor racing at their disposal, but history and a combined 7 Indy 500 wins meant little to the Lowenbrau drivers who were lapping 2-3 seconds faster than the open-wheel legends.

Already a few laps down because of the speed disparity, and with Holbert's team threatening to run away with the race before darkness fell over the field Saturday night, a Hail Mary was needed. Enter the borrowed Belgian.

Marshall Pruett Archives 177 Thierry Boutsen Arrows F1 1985 cArrows Formula 1 driver Thierry Boutsen (LEFT) was hired to drive for Bruce Leven's Bayside Racing Porsche 962 team in 1985, and while he and his teammates factored in the early stages of the race, a blown engine after 100 laps left the wiry, determined man from Brussels with nothing to do as nightfall approached. Enter Wollek.

"The thing was the first car broke down from Bayside very quickly, and we were done," Boutsen said from the office of his Monaco-based aviation business. "I had already packed and put my stuff in the rental car. I was leaving the paddock to go to the airport when Bob Wollek stopped me!"

1985 Henns Swap Shop Racing Porsche 962 GTP 8 Daytona Winner 2 c

As time has gone on, the popular version of how Boutsen came to drive for two different 962 teams paints Iron Man Wollek as increasingly weak, and Boutsen as the perfect support system to carry the load – to ease the strain on his ailing friend.

While there's no doubt that Wollek's flu became the entry point for Boutsen to join the Swap Shop team, the affable Belgian admits there was a secondary motive at play.

"Bob said, 'I'm driving with two drivers that are going very slow and I would need some help,'" the 3-time F1 race winner admitted. "Before Daytona, I drove as a replacement driver in a Porsche 956 with Bob in the 1000km of Monza. We won that race, so that is where the relationship got started. When he told me he said the car is good enough to win the race, but I need your support, I said, 'Great, let's go.' I went back to the parking lot, got all of my gear, changed and went from one car to the other."

A steady rain started to fall around 6 p.m., and persisted throughout the night. For the two European road racing aces on the team, rain was seen as an opportunity to claw back time to the Lowenbrau Porsche. Their American counterparts held differing views on the topic.

"The interesting thing I remember very well was that I did a double stint, came out of the car and Foyt went in, and then it started to rain," Boutsen recalled. "He came right away into the pit, and said, 'Well, I'm not driving when it's wet. I happened to be there so I put my helmet back on and went for another double stint, I believe. It was quite an adventurous race."

The Boutsen-Wollek combo was frighteningly effective, paying immediate dividends, and with the two sports car specialists on a hunt for the Holbert 962, Henn's driver rotation started to veer in an obvious direction.

1985 Bayside Porsche 962 GTP 86 Daytona Thierry Boutsen cWollek's flu was a genuine issue – a limiting factor that diminished his endurance, but not his speed, and with his energy depleting, Boutsen (shown left in his Bayside car) became Swap Shop's workhorse. Brilliant Bob and Terrific Thierry drove 15 of the final 18 stints in the 1985 race, with nine of those 15 belonging to Boutsen.

His relentless efforts were even more impressive considering he'd driven the car for the first time – and gotten a feel for its handling characteristics – during the race.

"I was ready physically and I knew the Porsche very, very well, even though I had not driven this car before," said Boutsen. "I needed five seconds to understand that car and the setup, and I just went for it. I was doing double stints all the way after that."

Boutsen's lap times were borderline ridiculous, but with the team's compromised pace before his arrival, and a lengthy pit stop for mechanical repairs, the Swap Shop car was more than a dozen laps behind by Saturday night. Up front, the Lowenbrau Porsche continued extending its lead, and was sitting pretty in the early Sunday morning.

"It was somewhere around 3 or 4 a.m., and we must have had a 25-minute lead over Dad's car just past the halfway point in the race," said Unser Jr. "We had it covered so bad that we were just gone. We had checked out. We weren't even driving that hard by then because we were so far ahead. I mean, Al had the car prepared so well, and with Derek Bell, it was just a great team to be driving for. The car was just super fast, and we were commanding the race easily."

Boutsen was Swap Shop's Hail Mary, and he more than matched the lap times set by the leading car, but there was no way he and Wollek would bridge the enormous gap to the leader in the 12 hours left on the clock. What happened next must have felt like divine intervention.

"A little while before sunrise, we started having problems," Unser Jr. noted. "Then we slowly watched our lead disappear."

The Lowenbrau 962's motor was off-song, lap times began to suffer, and by 9 a.m., the team's 13-lap lead over Boutsen and Company was in jeopardy. Clogged fuel filters were targeted as the cause of the problems, and even with a quick exchange from old to new filters, four laps were surrendered. The problem reappeared around noon, and another round of filter changing was required. The lead was down to six laps when Holbert pulled out of the pits.

Henn's team has finished second at Daytona in 1984, and found no valor in racing for another runner-up result. With Boutsen and Wollek in full attack mode, and their main rival having blinked Sunday morning, Colucci turned up the boost on the Swap Shop 962 and gambled on the outcome. With 3.5 hours left to run, Boutsen and Wollek turning 1:50s with ease, and the Holbert Porsche struggling to maintain its pace as fuel delivery problems continued, the extra engine power was making a difference.

Marshall Pruett Archives Derek Bell cBy 2 p.m., the Lowenbrau juggernaut was now limping its way around the circuit. A pit stop to adjust fuel pressure actually made the problem worse. With Bell (LEFT) in the car, the Englishman ventured out and could do no better than a 2:09 – nearly 20 seconds adrift from Boutsen on the same lap.

Within the Holbert Porsche camp, throwing more replacement parts at the fuel system seemed futile. The problem, it seemed, was more electrical than anything else. With insufficient voltage making it to the fuel system, Porsche's Alwin Springer called for the voltage box to be replaced. The new unit acted as a cure-all; Bell ripped off a 1:49, demonstrated the 962's regained speed, but their lead was down to two laps with one hour left to run. Could the Holbert team hold onto their hard-fought, hardly-there advantage to win their first SunBank 24?

"I was coming out of the chicane, I believe, and it just shut off with absolutely no warning," said Bell. "I coasted to a stop – out in the middle there somewhere on the grass."

He lost a lap when the 962 fell silent, coaxed it back to life, but it coughed one more time and everyone knew the voltage box was to blame. A swift replacement by Bell could save the day.

"I was trying to change the electrical box to get it going again, and I'd got my helmet on because you have to your helmet to listen to what they're saying over the radio," he continued. "Sweat is pouring down your face. I wasn't at my best after 23 hours or whatever it was.

"I've got Alwin yelling in my ear, 'You've got to stick the yellow lead and the red lead and the blue lead and the green lead and the pink lead in this spot and that spot. But I said, 'The trouble is, Alwin, there are eight holes to stick them and I've only got five bloody leads! Where do I put them?"

It takes 1440 minutes to complete a 24-hour race. Bell, Holbert and Unser Jr. moved into the lead after approximately 120 minutes, Lorded over the event until the 1390-minute mark, and were powerless to halt Henn's Swap Shop 962 from sweeping into the lead just 50 minutes shy of the finish.

It was, as Unser Jr. explains, hard for the Lowenbrau team to accept.

"When A.J. and Dad passed us for the lead, it was just heartbreaking," he said. "I remember when the race was over and I was leaving the racetrack, and we were all so tired. I was just so tired. We were stuck in traffic trying to leave, and the emotions just came over me. We were so close to winning that thing. I was so overcome, we just got out of the car and walked to our hotel. I just couldn't be there any longer."

After the race, Holbert – the perfectionist's perfectionist – pointed to "finger trouble" for the voltage box's failure. "We replaced our voltage box, but we didn't replace it thoroughly," he said in a masterful construction of understatement. They had the speed, the had the right car, but good fortune was in short supply.

By 1985, Foyt and Wollek had found a happy medium that worked for both men, but during their first encounters, the strong-willed racers were borderline enemies. In his weakened state, and with the last stint left to run, Boutsen handed the Swap Shop 962 over to his friend for the final hour. It was a small gesture at the time, but 30 years later, it still resonates: Foyt, done with his duties behind the wheel, could have followed Unser Sr.'s lead and headed back to the transporter to pack his gear, but he chose to stay in the pits, held Wollek's helmet as he donned his suit to take the Porsche to the finish line, and then held his gloves as the French ace finished dressing.

Foyt's known for his toughness, but on this day, in that moment, kindness was the only aspect of A.J.'s character on display.

"It took a while, but Bob Wollek and I turned out to be good friends, and he was a hell of a race driver," Foyt declared. "It was a great honor to race with him."

The 1985 Daytona race was Foyt's final 24-hour win. His reluctant friend Unser came away from the race with a perfect winning record in 24-hour races.

"Yes, that was my first 24-hour race, and we won it, which doesn't happen often, I'm sure," he said with a laugh.

After putting up such a fight to try and skip the race, you might say Foyt padded the truth a little bit in order to get his pal Unser in the car.

"Well, Foyt told me, 'We'll go out and win it and it'll be the greatest victory that you'll ever realize,'" Unser continued. "I say, 'Really? Better than Indianapolis?' He said, well, yeah, it will. I said, 'OK.' We won and it wasn't any better than Indianapolis... Indianapolis is still superior to me. I'm not sure where A.J. got that idea, or if he even believed it himself, but that's what he told me to get me to go..."

Combined with his Daytona win in 1983, Foyt's endurance racing record in Florida continued to expand.

"It was a great day that we had out there, and we were fortunate enough to win it twice. I miss not being there," he said.

The 1985 SunBank 24 was Foyt's final win at Daytona, but is wasn't his last endurance racing triumph: He closed that chapter of his career in March of '85 with Wollek at the Sebring 12 Hours, handing IMSA's two biggest prizes to Preston Henn in a span of six weeks.

1985 Roush Mustang 65 Daytona Winner Pruett Archives c

Behind the first seven GTP cars, Jack Roush and Charlie Selix watched as Wally Dallenbach Jr., Doc Bundy, and John Jones claimed GTO honors in the No. 65 Roush Protofab Mustang (ABOVE).

It's challenging to adequately describe the difference between the top GT cars at Daytona in 1985 and the emasculated creations that run in GTLM today. Take your production-based GTLM Corvettes and Ferraris where manufacturers are forced to turn performance levels down to comply with the regulations, and compare them to the tubeframe, silhouette GTO Mustangs where every facet of the car was turned up.

Horsepower limits were governed by reliability, rather than air restrictors, and with a lightweight chassis and giant, gumball tires to handle extreme acceleration and cornering speeds, their sheer ferocity made some of the GTP cars look tame.

"In '85, that was really my first year with Roush Racing and Protofab," said Dallenbach Jr. "One thing that stands out was the horsepower that we had. Jack was making some huge numbers in those cars. We were well over 200 miles an hour in the GTO cars. I remember passing the 962s on the back stretch... Al Holbert came to our pits one time, grabbed Charlie and said, 'What the hell is in that thing?'

"We were over 200 on the banking and that was the time where you had great tires, all that horsepower, and there was nothing more fun to drive because you could 'cowboy' them. If you stepped on the gas pedal, you'd better have a handful of steering wheel because that thing was going sideways. That was the hardest thing, probably, with those GTO cars back then, was to keep telling yourself to drive straight off the corners. You really had to take care of the tires because you could burn the tires off those things really fast if you wanted to."

Rocketing through such a large field with so much power came with inherent risks. Whether it was unexpected contact with another car, or a mechanical problem that appeared, Roush had a plan on how to start the recovery process.

"The traffic was pretty difficult, and you really had to stay on your toes the entire time," Dallenbach Jr. explained. "I remember right before the race Jack got together with all the drivers and gave each of us a $100 bill to put in our uniform. We were all looking at each other like, what the heck is this? He said, 'Listen, if anything happens during the race and you guys pull off or whatever, this hundred dollar bill is to pay whoever can get you back to the garage area. If you have to bribe a tow truck guy or you need fans to push you back, just do it...spend the money...'

"I thought that was a great idea. That is pretty good thinking because a lot of times back then if you broke and they could push you off into an opening, that was it. You were stuck there until your team got you, which could eat up a lot of valuable time. I had to use that $100 bill more than once racing for Jack and it saved our bacon."

The No. 65 Mustang won GTO by a full 38 laps, and for the son of former Indy car racer Wally Dallenbach, the victory set his career in motion.

"That whole deal really put me on the map, winning the 24-hour like that," he affirmed. "What those racecars go amazes me that anybody finishes that race. I think that was our strong point back in 1985 – it was the preparation of our cars for those endurance races. We were pretty much unbeatable that year in the endurance races in IMSA, and everything took off for me afterwards."

The 1985 race launched Dallenbach Jr., and in the bottom-tier GTU class, another future star was making his endurance racing debut – and a case to join the Roush team in 1986.

Marshall Pruett Archives 174 Mazda RX 7 Pruett Example d"I was there making my first start in a little Mazda RX-7," said Scott Pruett, who just celebrated 30 years at Daytona. "It's so much different from then to now. It's how you approach the race and what you do. When I was 24 years old and going there for the first time, it was more of a gentlemanly race. We slept in the back of a van at the track in a parking lot. You ate whatever you could find. No joke.

"It wasn't this regime of what you do now with motorhomes and dozens of people supporting you. It was a group of guys on zero budget kind of winging it and having fun while doing our best. Drivers today would be shocked to try and do it like we did in '85."

Pruett, Paul Lewis, and Joe Varde placed second in the No. 42 Mike Meyer RX-7 (similar to the No. 71 at left), and as he tells it, the young karting ace wasn't sure whether his breakout performance would lead to bigger things.

"We came very close to winning that race, which was incredibly exciting, but as a new guy, you have no idea what was ahead of you, all those opportunities that would come, or the wins that would follow. No clue. That race was the start for me, really, a huge start to my professional career," he said.

Pruett would go on to earn championships and wins for decades, and continues to race today for Chip Ganassi in the IMSA-sanctioned TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. Of the other memories that emerged from the 1985 race, Pruett credits the SunBank 24 for learning to survive in traffic...and some twin-rotor hearing loss.

"You had to drive all the time with one eye in your rearview mirror and one eye looking forward because you didn't want to get run over by somebody else who was going a lot faster than you were in the other classes," he said. "And, two, the other part that was incredibly horrible about that car was how loud the Mazda was.

"That rotary engine just killed you, on the best day, with the noise it made. I probably lost the majority of the hearing loss that I have right now in that race because the muffler fell off about halfway through. I couldn't wish that on anybody. It was almost too painful to drive."



 Marshall Pruett Archives 175 Al Unser Jr and Sr 1985 c

In hindsight, the 1985 SunBank 24 at Daytona served as the final trial for Holbert and the Lowenbrau 962 team. They'd return in 1986 with the same lineup and beat Foyt and the Swap Shop team by less than two minutes. With Chip Robinson added to the team, Holbert scored back-to-back wins in 1987, leading Walter Brun's 962 to the finish with a comfy eight-lap margin.

Even with a pair of Rolex 24 wins to his credit, Unser Jr. (with his dad, ABOVE) still laments the 1985 loss and the missed opportunity to score a Daytona hat trick.

"I had the car, I had the team...I mean...we had led the whole thing," he said. "No one was going to touch us unless we broke. And that is what ended up happening. I still want that win... But if I broke, then the next person I would want to win would be my father, because he had never won there. He did, it was great, I was really happy for him. I was just distraught for Al Holbert and the Lowenbrau team. That's the way it goes. We came back in '86 and '87 and got it done, though."

For Boutsen, a miserable and early end to the race turned into the most improbable outcome thanks to Wollek. The lowest of lows followed by the highest of highs. Of all the experiences that came from jumping teams in 1985, he says one of the most valuable and enduring gifts he received is part of his life today.

"The most amazing thing has nothing to do with racing; it's my relationship with Preston Henn," he revealed. "I'm now in the aviation business, I sold one of his airplanes a couple of years ago and we have had very good contact through my business. I used him to win the Daytona 24 and he used me to sell his airplanes! The continuation of the relationship is really great. He's a really great man. I admire everything he has done.

"And he gave me a chance in 1985. 1984 was a bad year for me, and winning Daytona really changed many things for me. That is what life is all about. You're not a part or a machine; you are a human being and when you can get something out of racing with a long relationship and friendship, it's much better than anything else."

  • A special thanks goes to Jonathan Ingram and the incredible 17-page race report he wrote for On Track magazine that serves as an invaluable historical account of the 1985 event.

MX5Lead2The Skip Barber Mazdaspeed Pro Challenge has become a proving ground for aspiring professional racers.

Running as a support series alongside the SCCA Pro Racing Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires since the 2012 season, the Skip Barber Mazdaspeed Pro Challenge has already turned out some very talent drivers. Perhaps the most notable grad of the Pro Challenge is 2014 MX-5 Cup Champion Kenton Koch, who is on his way to IMSA Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda. Koch won the Pro Challenge 2013 championship.

In 2014, Drake Kemper went after the Pro Challenge championship, and the highly coveted prize that accompanies it. "It was the Mazda Ladder system," says Kemper (center, BELOW)of the carrot that drew him to the series. "That is absolutely the best deal in professional racing. You can start just above the grassroots level, and go all the way up racing a prototype if you keep winning."

MX5KemperCenter2The Pro Challenge is essentiality an extension of the Skip Barber Racing School, and utilizes the same Mazda MX-5 that is found in the MX-5 Cup series, with a few minor differences. As part of the program, drivers receive guidance to help them get to the front of the field. "Phenomenal value," says Drake. "The Mazdaspeed Pro Challenge is a really good learning curve into pro racing; you get free data analysis and coaching; you learn how to set up your car."

Having successfully reached his goal in 2014, Kemper now graduates to the MX-5 Cup series for 2015. "I will be using my Mazda scholarship to race in the MX-5 Cup," says Kemper. And while he has a team lined up for his 2015 season, "It has not been announced yet," he says.

During the 2015 season, the Pro Challenge will share dates and venues with the Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires, allowing its drivers to get a close up look at the MX-5 Cup series, and the prize they are chasing.

To catch the latest in racing action from the 2015 MX-5 Cup series, or news on upcoming Global MX-5 Cup series, visit

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Mercedes has completed the first shakedown of its 2015 Formula 1 car, the W06, and released the first proper images of the car with which it will defend its titles.

Both Nico Rosberg and world champion Lewis Hamilton tried the F1 W06 Hybrid during 18 laps of running at an icy Silverstone. The session, which was classified as a promotional event under F1 testing restrictions, was brought to an early end when a blizzard set in.

Mercedes had earlier released teaser videos showing the car in action on its Twitter feed. The car will be formally unveiled in the Jerez pitlane on Sunday morning, ahead of the start of the first 2015 F1 tests.

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