lepage 180128 day 17867

lepage 180128 day 17867The time deficit in qualifying for the Rolex 24 At Daytona told the story of how far out of the Balance of Performance window BMW's brand-new M8 GTE model was living.

The pair of BMW Team RLL entries, a distant eighth and ninth in a GT Le Mans class with only nine cars, were more than 1.1 seconds adrift from the pole-winning Corvette. Any questions of sandbagging were answered in the race when the Nos. 24 and 25 BMWs were between 1.0s and 1.2s slower than the best managed by the GTLM Fords and Ferrari. Hope for a decent debut was lost well before the race.

Just as the BoP for the Fords erred heavily in the positive direction, the BMWs sank like rocks over 24 hours as their BoP settings relegated the twin-turbo V8-powered machines to the bottom of the GTLM pile.

The surprising BoP variances in IMSA's popular, manufacturer-rich GT class left BMW wholly unimpressed throughout the event. Its desire for corrective measures was expressed in a rather direct statement that was handed out to select members of the press in the final hours of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener:

"BMW and IMSA have been working together for years in a very positive and constructive manner. The BoP system is an integral part of global sports car racing including the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. BMW and IMSA will continue productive and open talks and have agreed to find an appropriate BoP assessment for the upcoming events stating with Sebring, allowing the BMW M8 GTE to show its performance for the benefit of the series, BMW and all of our fans."

Asked to explain how IMSA planned on working with BMW to improve its ability to compete with other GTLM models during this week's test at Sebring, series competition VP Simon Hodgson provided RACER with the following statement:

"IMSA's standard postrace analysis following the Rolex 24 At Daytona involves test curriculums for the Sebring test that can be applied to all manufacturers in a controlled environment. This follows the process that was introduced at Daytona in December. Following [this] week's test at Sebring, IMSA will continue to have discussions with all manufacturers as we work towards establishing appropriate class BoPs for upcoming events starting with the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring."

RD 18 24 1912Looking at the BoP tables issued for the start of testing on Tuesday, the BMWs have lost boost at three points below 4500rpms, which suggests IMSA believes its initial acceleration was more than adequate.

At nine different boost intervals from 5000-7500rpms, the BMWs have received an increase, with the biggest jumps made from 6750-7500rpm, which would suggest top speed – and the related ability to stay close to other GTLM cars to attempt passes under braking – is where the Daytona deficit was found.

At the Rolex 24, BMW and Corvette were tied for the slowest GTLM models in a straight line. The best achieved in the class, a pass through the traps nearing Turn 1 at 183.830mph by the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE, was followed by Ford, Porsche, and then the No.24 BMW and No.4 Corvette at the same 182.193mph. The sister No.25 BMW set the slowest traps speed among the nine GTLM entries at 180.983mph.

Fans of GTLM and the BMW Team RLL entries will have an interesting time following the testing action this week in Sebring as increased scrutiny is applied from the brand to ensure competitive balance is restored.

AP 1UTN4924H2111 newsDaniel Ricciardo has given the Red Bull RB14 its first laps during a promotional event at Silverstone on Monday.

Red Bull launched its 2018 car on Monday morning, with the RB14 the first new car to be seen in the flesh as opposed to the renderings released by Haas and Williams last week. Images of the car in the Red Bull race bays were followed by track action shots as Ricciardo gave the car a shakedown at a wet Silverstone circuit.

On full wet Pirelli tires produced specifically for promotional events, Ricciardo was limited to a maximum of 100km during the filming day. The event was the first promoting Aston Martin as the team's title sponsor, with Ricciardo arriving in a DB11 sporting the same blue and black livery as the RB14 – a one-off color scheme before the race livery is unveiled in Barcelona next week.

AP 1UTMZ35MN1W11 news"It's preferable to finish the car early and deal with any snags now, when the car is on a track a short drive from the factory, rather than using up one of our eight ultra-precious test days doing the same at the Circuit de Catalunya," Red Bull announced when launching the car, before adding that the filming day is a "very valuable exercise" for the team.

Speaking about his personal goals before the new car was launched, Ricciardo says his main focus this season is on maximizing his preparation regardless of how competitive the RB14 proves to be.

"I've got goals that I want to achieve but I don't necessarily say, 'By race three, I want to be on the podium already twice and have pole position,'" Ricciardo said. "I don't set goals like that. I guess the thing for is that I want to be true to myself. Make sure I've prepared as well as I can before the race, and then I know I'll get the most out of it."

1971 JH 95 Bentley WarrenBentley Warren only competed twice in the Indianapolis 500 but we'll always wonder what might have been if he hadn't been hurt in 1971.

A star at Oswego in the big-block modifieds in the late '60s, Warren caught the eye of owner Tassi Vatis and his chief mechanic Bill Finley and they brought the native of Glouchester, Mass. to Indianapolis in 1970. He got bumped on the final day of time trials but immediately impressed everyone by finishing sixth at Langhorne and fourth at Milwaukee.

In 1971, he was badly burned in the IndyCar race at Argentina while battling Lloyd Ruby for third place but recovered in time to qualify 15th for the Indianapolis 500 (pictured) and was moving up before being KO'd by a mechanical failure. 

But, just as people were really starting to acknowledge his ability, Warren suffered gruesome injuries in a July sprint-car accident in Dayton. Both legs and feet were broken and they talked of amputating his right foot. He spent three months in the hospital and suddenly he wasn't on anyone's radar.

Bentley tried running his own low-buck team in 1972 and '73 but had no chance and finally qualified again at Indy in 1975. From that point he concentrated on Oswego where he was a six-time champion, in addition to winning the Little 500 when he was 57 years old. He won his first race at Oswego in 1966 and his last one in 2006 at the age of 66.

alfa SauberSauber team principal Frederic Vasseur has warned against expecting too much progress from the team based on its upgraded Ferrari power unit deal.

Last year saw Sauber using a year-old Ferrari power unit, with the announcement claiming it would allow the team to start work earlier preparing for the 2017 regulations. However, Sauber was often well off the pace and finished bottom of the constructors' championship with just five points.

While a new Alfa Romeo title sponsorship will see Sauber use the latest version of the Ferrari power unit this year, Vasseur says there are other weaknesses that need addressing.

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"I don't know if it's crucial," Vasseur told RACER of the power unit change. "For sure in terms of performance it will be a step forward. That's dependent on the track, dependent on the conditions but it will be a step forward for sure. This step forward will allow the team to be part of the fight and this is important.

"But to be honest, it was not the biggest issue we saw so far. We are working a lot on the aero and we are recruiting a lot in the aero department and we know that we have to do a step forward. I think we are doing it. I don't know if it will be enough but we are improving."

Asked if he sees the aerodynamic department as one of Sauber's weaknesses since he joined the team last year, Vasseur believes circumstances prevented it from showing its true potential last season.

"The issue is that we started the 2017 car quite late due to the situation in the team at the end of 2016. Then it's difficult to catch up when you start the car a couple of months late. It's quite impossible to catch the field up during the season. Then quite early we decided that 2018 will be a crucial season and opted to switch to the new car quite early in 2017.

"At one point of the season when I joined we were 1.3 seconds off compared to the last one and it made no sense to work on the car to try and have a couple of tenths' improvement, because you won't change your position on the grid.

"We were pretty focused on the 2018 car. It will be the first car designed and managed by Jorg [Zander, technical director] but we had too many changes in the past and it was difficult. I think now that even if we started a bit late due to the change of engine we are really focused on the car right now. The team is well-structured and it will be the first car of the new Sauber."

Sauber's 2018 car – the C37 – will be launched online on Tuesday, with Renault also unveiling its new car on the same day.

DWYsTfGX0AALYgt.jpg large

Red Bull has become the first of last season's front-runners to launch its 2018 car.

The RB14 was revealed early to coincide with Daniel Ricciardo driving the car during a filming day at Silverstone on Monday, and was launched in a blue and black camouflage livery featuring white branding. Red Bull has confirmed this is not the color scheme that will be used in testing and races this season, with the race livery to be unveiled when the car rolls out in Barcelona a week from today.

"We're keeping our race-ready paint job under wraps for the time being and will unveil it at the Circuit de Catalunya next week," the team announced. "The unfamiliar shapes under the paint, however, are here to stay."

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The new car features the mandatory Halo cockpit protection device and a reduced shark fin engine cover, along with a more complicated aero arrangement around the slimmed-down sidepod and barge board area compared to last year's launch car.

There is no T-wing visible on the new car at this stage – with teams able to incorporate such a wing much lower and further back on the bodywork in comparison with those used in 2017 – but Red Bull often introduces major aerodynamic upgrades in the final two days of pre-season testing ahead of the first race.

Red Bull confirms the relative stability in the 2018 regulations has allowed the team to launch its car much earlier than in the past, admitting that in previous seasons "it's been not uncommon to have the car finished, fired up for the first time and shipped to Spain for the start of testing all on the same day."

Teams are limited to 100km of running on a filming day – officially titled a 'promotional event' – which takes place on specific Pirelli tires that are different from the race compounds.

Click on the thumbnails for larger images.

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Austin Dillon whittonTwenty years after the No.3 Chevrolet pulled into Victory Lane in the Daytona 500, it returned Sunday night. The driver who climbed out was not the same. The sponsors, crew chief, and other variables were also different.

One thing was the same, however. No, not just the team, Richard Childress Racing.

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A penny on the dash.

Last weekend, Dillon came across a young fan during an autograph session for the Clash. Dillon doesn't think he or those he was with knew much about racing, but Dillon noticed they were enjoying themselves.

"Funny thing is, he had a white Ford hat on. I said, man, you got to take that off," Dillon recalled. "I signed my hat, gave it to him and said, 'Now look, I got to be your favorite driver, right?' He was like, 'All right. Cool. I got you now.'

"He was probably seven, eight years old, about the same age I would have been 20 years ago. The next day he had my hat on, and I was walking through the garage, and I saw him at the fence, and he yelled at me. I turned and ... walked over to him and he was like, 'Hey, I got this for you.' It was a lucky penny. Put it in the car, and it's sitting on the dash right now. It's pretty special."

For those who don't remember, Dale Earnhardt Sr. had what he called a lucky penny glued to the dashboard when he won his first and only Daytona 500. Earnhardt had come into possession of it before the '98 race when six-year-old Wessa Miller gave it to him, saying it would help him finally win the race that had eluded him.

Also in Victory Lane that day? Austin Dillon. Earnhardt, of course, drove for Dillon's grandfather, Richard Childress.

Dillon said his penny would remain glued in the car that will be on display for the year in the Daytona 500 museum.

"I'd like to find that kid, though," he said. "If somebody knows him and could get him to the track tomorrow, that'd be cool."

Bubba MomRichard Petty couldn't find his driver.

Power-walking down pit road at Daytona International Speedway, the team owner was looking for Darrell Wallace Jr., who had just finished second in the Daytona 500. Signature cowboy hat in place but with the sunglasses pulled down, there was a gleam in Petty's eyes as he was clearly overjoyed and high-fived No.43 crewmembers that walked by.

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"Where's our racer?" he asked.

Eventually, Petty turned back around and made the walk to the infield care center since Wallace had to be evaluated after a crash with Denny Hamlin past the start-finish line. Wallace was released uninjured and thus began the media interviews.

"Whoop, whoop," Wallace said when he was introduced as the Daytona 500 runner-up in the media center.

Suddenly, Wallace's mother, Desiree, came into the media center and made her way to the stage. The two embraced and broke down as Desiree told Wallace how proud she was and how long he'd waited for the opportunity. In response, Wallace cracked she was acting like he'd won the race.

Wallace's older sister Brittany also got a hug in. And then Wallace couldn't help but sob and be choked up as he answered what it meant to accomplish what he did. Not only was Sunday a career-best finish for Wallace in his fifth start, but Wallace became the highest-finishing African American in the Daytona 500 history, besting the mark set by NASCAR Hall of Famer Wendell Scott (13th) in 1966.

"It's a sensitive subject but just so emotional over where my family has been the last two years that I don't talk about, but it's just so hard. So, having them here to support me is ..." Wallace trailed off as he tried to contain himself.

"I just try so hard to be successful at everything that I do and my family pushes me each and every day, and they might not even know it. I just want to make them proud. Second [place] is horrible, but still a good day. I just love my family and having everybody here from my mom, my sister, my uncle, everybody here just means a lot."

The finish was the cap of an already out-of-body day for Wallace. Before the race, Wallace was not only followed on Twitter by Formula 1 great Lewis Hamilton, but received an encouraging tweet. It led to a fan-girl moment, Wallace admitted.

lewis bubbaThen, before Wallace climbed into his racecar, team co-owner Andrew Murstein handed the phone to Wallace with baseball legend Hank Aaron on the other end. More good luck was sent Wallace's way.

"There were a lot of close calls out there on the racetrack in just getting experience in my first Daytona 500," Wallace admitted. "We wanted to do two things. We wanted to run a lot of laps and not wreck the car. We came home with one of those. We ran all the laps and got wrecked there at the end. But, that's part of it.

levitt dennybubba

"When you put that aside, what an unforgettable week and a half it's been. Being followed by cameras every day 24/7 for the last three months. Just dealing with that, there was a lot of stress. But I think it's produced great content for my show, 'Behind the Wall with Bubba Wallace.' You can check that out on Facebook Watch. I love coming to Daytona. It's not my favorite track, just because of the circumstances and what happens."

Finishing second did not come by chance. Wallace had a competitive car and ran hard throughout Sunday's event, even contending for the race lead during the first stage. When chaos broke out through the middle portion of the day, Wallace said he played it safe to save his car.

And save Wallace did in the move of the race.

Wallace was running just outside the top 10 when a multi-car crash occurred in Turn 2 with two laps to go. Sliding sideways on the apron and banking, throwing sparks, Wallace managed to avoid any contact to stay in contention for the win.

Restarting sixth, Wallace made all the right moves to find himself chasing his Richard Childress Racing alliance teammate across the finish line.

"The save. Yeah, there's a reason I skipped that. I don't want to talk about it," Wallace smiled. "Woooey. Daytona."

DWKZ QX4AQRrpP.jpg largeAric Almirola was half a lap from winning the 60th Daytona 500. He wound up with a destroyed racecar and making a visit to the infield care center instead.

Leading the field down the backstretch on the last lap, Almirola first threw a successful block on Austin Dillon, who had a run going on the outside. But, still with a head of steam, Dillon forced the issue on the No.10's back bumper and the two made contact going into Turn 3.

Almirola wrecked nose-first (below, Kinrade/LAT photo). Dillon went to victory lane.

 DSC4237"Ha! He's not driving too aggressively, he's trying to win the Daytona 500 just like I was," Almirola told reporters outside the care center. "I saw him come with the momentum and I pulled up to block and did exactly what I needed to do to try to win the Daytona 500. I wasn't going to just let him have it – I wasn't going to stay on the bottom and let him rail the outside.

"So I blocked and he got to my bumper and pushed and I thought I was still going to be OK...and somehow I got hooked. I haven't even seen the replay, so I don't know what happened. I'm just devastated. I really thought we were going to start this relationship off with Stewart-Haas Racing in victory lane, and get [sponsor] Smithfield and Ford and everybody to victory lane."

The situation called for Almirola to block as he reiterated he was trying to win the Daytona 500. Had it happened earlier in the race, Almirola would not have made the same move.

Despite the disappointment, Almirola projected a positive attitude and even smiled. Having run competitively in his first race with SHR, Almirola said he was "still very excited" and wasn't going to get down.

"We've got an incredible race team and I'm going to go to Atlanta and we're going to have good racecars there and we'll have a shot to win next week," he said. "That's something I've not had in my career, where I every week I get on the plane to go to the racetrack I feel like we're going to have a shot to go win.

"This is just one race. It might be the biggest race and this one's going to hurt for a while, but I think next week we'll have another shot."

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