Taylor Holds Off Westbrook for Rolex Pole

Photo: Business as usual for Wayne Taylor Racing: winning at Daytona. IMSA image

Ricky Taylor won the qualifying race yesterday and will start the Role 24 Hour race from the pole next Saturday. Taylor’s Wayne Taylor Racing Acura took the lead after pit stops and held off persistent attacks from Richard Westbrook in the JDC -Miller Cadillac over the final 30 minutes of the race. Westbrook’s car started on the pole for the race. Felipe Albuquerque qualified the car second, but the number 10 started last in class because of a technical violation.

Taylor clinched the victory just after the start of the final lap. Westbrook saw an opening going into turn one which Taylor quickly closed. Westbrook bumped Taylor, then spun, giving the number 10 Konica- Minolta car a clear path to the checkered flag.

Traffic helped Taylor stay in front, but once the contenders were clear, Westbrook closed in quickly. It was a great half hour battle.

Ben Keating and Mikkel Jensen won in LMP2. Keating started on the pole, and he will drive the number 52 in this class and the number 5 DPi Cadillac in the race. Keating has a good shot at a double win.

Jarrett Andretti Wins LMP3 Pole

Jarrett Andretti, son of the late John Andretti, teamed with Josh Burdon to win the LMP3 class in the Andretti Autosport entry. Attrition was high in this group, and is likely to be a factor next weekend as well. The number 36 Ligier started third Sunday.

Close Finishes in GTD Classes

Both GTD Pro and GTD saw close finishes. While the DPi cars battled, the GTD classes each had duels for the lead for the final 30 minutes also. Peacock gave some coverage of the fights, but I wish they had shown more.

In GTD Pro, the Lamborghini driven by Andrea Caldarelli and Mirko Bortolotti took first place. Bortolotti passed the Porsche driven by Alessio Piccarielli with 14 minutes to go and won by 0.475 seconds.

While the GTD finish was close- Lucas Auer and Russell Ward’ Mercedes won by just 0.509 seconds over the McLaren- the team led all but three laps from their outside front row starting spot.

Acuras 1-2 in Practice; Wickens Gets Up to Speed

All Photos in this post courtesy of Vincent Anderson

The DPi class saw the Acuras of Meyer Shank Racing with Curb Agajanian and Wayne Taylor Racing lead the two practices on the first day of The Roar before the 24. Just 0.4 seconds separated the first four cars of the top class. Indycar champion Alex Palou was third quickest in a Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac. The other Ganassi car was fourth with Earl Bamber driving.

Action in the international horseshoe

Tom Blomqvist reeled off a series of quick laps late in the afternoon practice to secure the top spot for the number 60 car, which will have Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud also driving. Felipe Albuquerque had the fastest time in the Number 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura. Alexander Rossi is a team member.

Corvette still looking for speed.

In the GTD Pro class, Mirko Bortolotti led the afternoon session in the number 63 Lamborghini Huracan.

Raffaelle Marciello led GTD practice in the number 75 Mercedes.

Wickens on Track

Robert Wickens returned to the track yesterday and turned the fastest lap of the Elantra tube video shows him leaving the pits.

I admit I got a little choked up watching this.

Today is qualifying for the qualifying race tomorrow. The 100 minute race begins at 2:05 EST and is streamed on Peacock.

Prototype Challenge races today and is on television:

IMSA.TV

Round 1 – Prototype Challenge (Available In The United States On Peacock) 12:05 PM to 3:05 PM ETPeacock

Round 1 – Daytona International Speedway

Wickens Races Again

It has been a long, torturous path for Robert Wickens since that awful July day at Pocono in 2018. He will be back in a race car in two weeks at Daytona, driving a Hyundai Elantra for Bryan Herta Autosport in the Michelin Pilot Challenge Series. The race on January 28 is a preliminary event to the Rolex 24.

It isn’t Indycar, but it is thrilling that Wickens will be back ina race car competing again.

Announcements from the team are below.

The announcement from BHA:

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., Jan. 14, 2022 – Three-time International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) Michelin Pilot Challenge (IMPC) Champions, Bryan Herta Autosport (BHA) and Hyundai Motor North America, announced they have signed international racing star, Robert Wickens to co-drive the #33 Elantra N TCR racecar. Wickens will drive with fellow Canadian champion Mark Wilkins in the 2022 IMPC.

“Today is a monumental day for us as a team and as fans of Robert Wickens,” said Bryan Herta, president of BHA. “We have followed along with Robert’s rehabilitation and marveled at his determination and dedication, along with his many, many fans. To now announce that he will be making his professional motorsports return in one of our Hyundai Elantra N TCR cars is truly incredible. We thank Hyundai for their amazing support and helping us build a path for Robert to get back to where he belongs.”

In May of 2021, Wickens successfully evaluated the BHA #54 Hyundai Veloster N TCR using hand controls. It was his first time driving a race car after 989 days of rehabilitation following an IndyCar accident that left him paralyzed in 2018. Wickens will return to competition, taking the green flag at the IMPC season opener, a four-hour endurance race commencing the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona race weekend at Daytona International Speedway on Jan. 28.

“I’ve spent a lot of nights thinking and dreaming of this moment, and with the support from Bryan Herta and Hyundai it is all becoming a reality,” said Wickens. “I am hungrier now than I was before my accident to compete for wins again! I’m really looking forward to incorporating myself with the entire Bryan Herta Autosport team and finally get my first taste of the Hyundai Elantra N TCR.”

Wickens, a former Formula One test driver, took the American IndyCar scene by storm as a rookie in 2018. He won the pole position and led all but two laps in his first IndyCar race, went on to score four podium finishes and earned the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year honor, all in his first 12 IndyCar races in 2018. Race number 13 of his stellar rookie IndyCar season changed his life forever. Wickens was involved in an accident on lap 7 at Pocono Raceway, where he suffered a thoracic spinal fracture, spinal cord injury, neck fracture, tibia and fibula fractures to both legs, fractures in both hands, a fractured right forearm, fractured elbow, a concussion, four fractured ribs and a pulmonary contusion. Since the accident, Wickens’ perseverance and persistence has led to triumphant breakthroughs in his relentless regimes of physical rehabilitation and therapy that continues daily. Wickens and his team of therapists and trainers have become trailblazers in developing innovative technology and treatment methods for the spinal cord injury community.

The #33 Hyundai Elantra N TCR has been fitted with a custom hand-control system designed by BHA Technical Director David Brown and Development Technician Jonathan Gormley. The system features a custom metal ring connected to the brake pedal by a series of rods specifically tailored to the Elantra. The ring is attached behind the steering wheel that is pulled with fingers to activate the brake. Two linked throttle paddles and shift paddles, all attached behind the steering wheel, allow the driver to accelerate, shift and make steering inputs. The system also features a switch for Mark Wilkins when he takes over the cockpit in pitstops that deactivates the hand throttle. The Elantra will accelerate and brake using the traditional foot pedals when Wilkins is driving.

Wickens and Wilkins join the previously announced 2022 BHA driver lineup featuring six Elantra N TCR entries to defend the team’s trifecta of series titles, and they will vie for Hyundai’s third straight manufacturers title. The 2022 season kicks off with the season opening test days, the “Roar Before the Rolex 24,” at Daytona International Speedway, Jan. 21-23, 2022. Round one of the 2022 IMPC season takes place the following weekend with the BMW Endurance Challenge, a four-hour race during the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona race weekend on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022.

Hyundai Motor America

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Portland Sets Fan Limit; Notes

Photo from Portland International Raceway website

Portland International Raceway announced a fan limit of 25% for all their events this season. This is great news. It means that the Indycar race scheduled for September 12 is a go. Fans who had tickets for the cancelled 2020 race had the option to defer tickets to 2021. Portland is the third track to announce a track spectator limit.

Barber Motorsports Park didn’t set a specific limit, but will only admit fans who park inside the facility. St. Pete has a 20,000 fan limit per day. Mid Ohio is limited by the state of Ohio to 30% of capacity. That should be around 20,000 or so fans.

Still waiting for a figure from Indianapolis Motor Speedway about the fan limit for the Indianapolis 500.

All announced limits are subject to change as the COVID situation changes. Let’s hope all changes point in the direction of more fans allowed.

Indycar iRacing Tonight

The first of three Indycar iracing events takes place tonight at 6:30 pm Eastern time. Tonight’s track is Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal. this should be a fun track for Indycar. The live stream is on Indycar.com/iRacing.

Sebring Broadcast Times

Broadcast times and channels for the 12 Hours of Sebring Saturday:

I’m disappointed at the small amount of over the air television time, but that is less time to hear about Jimmie Johnson. At least the final three hours is on. After sunset is when this race gets crazy. More on Sebring tomorrow.

Rolex 24 is America’s True All Star Race

The Rolex 24 at Daytona kicks off the major league racing season in the United States. Stars from Indycar and NASCAR join the stars of the sports car world to make it the one true All Star race in North America. The entry list features drivers with a combined 12 Indycar titles, and seven Indianapolis 500 wins; drivers with a combined eight NASCAR Series titles, and of course several IMSA champions. When the regulations change to allow the LMDh car in a couple years, the stars from the European endurance circuit may also participate.

49 cars are slated to start the race. A 50th entry, Black Swan Racing withdrew due to COVID-19 issues. For 2021, a new class LMP 3 has been added. This is mainly an amateur class of prototypes. The GTLM class, which has been a fun group to watch, is fading from the series. Corvette is the only full time team. The six entries this weekend is likely the largest field this class will see this season. I’m sad toi see this clas disappear.

GTLM consisted of technology driven sports cars that looked like cars someone could buy if money were no object. Fans could identify with them. There will be a larger group of GTD cars next year, based on the European GT3 model.

New Teams; Same Drivers

Team Penske Acura is no more. Instead, the Acuras are split into teams, Meyer Shank Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing. Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya, who drove for Penske, have stuck with Acura, although as endurance drivers only. Castroneves will drive for Taylor and Montoya for Shank.

Chip Ganassi Racing has assumed the Cadillac entry that Wayne Taylor Racing had last year. he has brought Scott Dixon and Marcus Ericsson from his Indycar team to serve as the endurance only drivers.

A Revised Schedule

The race gets under way at 3:40 pm Saturday, the second new start time in as many years. Sunset is around 6 pm Saturday, so there will be just about two and a half hours of daylight before the 13 hours of night racing begins. NBC will cover the entire race across its various platforms.

The weather forecast is great for the race. Mild temperatures with a low of 53 degree Saturday night. By Rolex standards, that is balmy. Highs are 67 degrees Saturday and 75 degrees Sunday. The race has moved back one week this year, which may be a factor in the improved forecast.

Indycar Drivers

Indycar drivers are in every category except GTLM. Here is a list by category and car number.

LMP1

01 Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson

5 Sebastien Bourdais

10 Alexander Rossi, Helio Castroneves

48 Simon Pagenaud, Jimmie Johnson

60 Juan Pablo Montoya

LMP2

81 Rinus VeeKay, Ben Hanley

LMP3

74 Oliver Askew, Spencer Pigot

GTD

12 Zach Veach

42 J. R. Hildebrand

96 Colton Herta ? (Herta was on the original entry list, but was not on yesterday’s final entry list; he is still on the spotter’s guide)

Entry List

Find the entry list at the following link:

https://www.motorsport.com/imsa/news/rolex-24-hours-entry-list/4995537/

John Paul, Jr., 1960-2020, Won in Two Eras

John Paul, Jr. began winning at 19 years old when he made the SCCA Runoffs, then immediately took IMSA by storm. He won the Daytona 24 Hours and Sebring in 1982 on his way to the IMSA GT championship. In 1983 Paul won the CART Michigan 500, passing Rick Mears on the final lap. I’m hard pressed to find someone else who won a race that way. He raced in two eras of Indycar, and also tried stock cars.

The Muncie, Indiana native had all the makings of a rising star. His career came to an abrupt halt in 1986 when he was convicted on a drug trafficking charge. Paul spent 2 and a half years in prison. When his racing career resumed, the bigger teams and sponsors shied away from him.

He drove in seven Indianapolis 500s, scattered over a period 16 years. Paul’s rookie year, 1985, ended with a lap 164 accident. His best finish was his final 500 when he was seventh in 1998.

Paul won the IRL race at Texas in 1998 driving for Team Pelfrey. He also had a brief foray into NASCAR in 1991.

Paul retired in 2002 after contracting Huntington’s disease.

Sebring- A Race With Many Lasts Could Produce a First

Team Penske could end their time in IMSA with a championship

The Mobil 12 Hours of Sebring, delayed from March, is on for Saturday. Normally the second race of the IMSA Weather Tech Championship, the oddities of 2020 have conspired to make it the last race of the season. Thirty-one cars in four classes will take the green just after 10 am Saturday morning.

This race might play out differently than the race would have at its normal spot in the schedule. In the spring, the race occurs just after the return of Daylight Savings Time. The race is run in just a bit more than two hours in darkness. This weekend, teams and drivers will contend with slightly less than half the race run after sunset, which is around 5:32 pm Saturday. Strange things happen at Sebring after dark, which will make the second half of the race interesting.

IMSA Farewells

Sebring will be the final race for the Team Penske Acuras in the DPi class and the Porsche 911s in the GTLM class. The Porsche team has been a popular mainstay in the IMSA series for a long time.

This weekend also sees some drivers leaving the series. Oliver Gavin is running his final race as a full time drive with the GTLM Corvette. Renger van der Zende and Ryan Briscoe take their final stints in Wayne Taylor Racing’s Cadillac. Taylor will switch to one of the Acura cars next year.

Helio’s First Title?

Helio Castroneves could win his first major series title. He and teammate Ricky Taylor lead the Wayne Taylor team of Briscoe and van der Zende by just two points heading into this weekend’s finale.

Castroneves, who finished second four times in his Indycar career, will have to fend off a familiar nemesis to secure his championship. Six time Indycar champion Scott Dixon is the third driver for Wayne Taylor Racing. Dixon edged Castroneves for the Indycar title in 2008 and 2013.

Castroneves signed with Meyer Shank Racing to run six races in Indycar in 2021, and he is likley to be the extra driver in the endurance races for Shank next season. Shank assumes control of the second Acura prototype in 2021.

Should Castroneves take the championship, at certain Indycar races the grid could feature an IMSA champion, a seven time NASCAR champion(jimmkie Johnson), a three time Australian Supercar Champion (Scott McLaughlin), a four time Indycar champion(Sebastien Bourdais), and Dixon, the newly crowned six time Indycar titlist.

Indycar Drivers in the Field

Several Indycar drivers, current and former, will be driving this weekend, most of them in the Prototype class. By car number-

5- Bourdais

6- Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud

7- Helio Castroneves, Alexander Rossi

10- Briscoe

55- Ryan Hunter- Reay

25- Colton Herta (GTLM BMW for Rahal)

Coverage begins on NBCSN at 10 am, switches to NBC from 3-6, then ends on NBCSN at 6.

Rolex Race Recap and Photo Gallery

A new driver lineup didn’t affect Wayne Taylor Racing as the team kept its Rolex 24 title Sunday. Both of Taylor’s sons have moved to other teams, leaving only Renger Van der Zende as the sole holdover. Taylor signed Ryan Briscoe from Chip Ganassi’s defunct Ford GT program. Scott Dixon and Kamui Kobayashi joined the squad for the 24 hour race. The Cadillac took the lead for good in the early morning hours and ran away from the field. It was the third victory in four years for WTR.

The number 10 car completed a record 833 laps in a race that had less than two hours of caution periods. At one point the green flag stayed out for more than seven hours.  The long green flag stretches took a lot of dram out of the race as trailing cars had little chance to close up to the leaders.

As usual, the best racing through the night was in the GTLM class. The two Porsches had a great battle with the BMW from Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. The BMW eventually prevailed, solidifying its lead after sunrise. Drivers in the winning car were Johm Edwards, Augusto Farfus, Chaz Mostert, and Jesse Krohn. Rahal’s other car won the Rolex 24 in 2019.

In LMP2, Dragonspeed retained its Rolex title.  Drivers Ben Hanley, Henrik Hedman, Colin Braun, and Harrison Newey. Dragonspeed is planning a six race Indycar program in addition to its sportscar plans. The team took the lead when the pole sitting Mathiasen Motorsports had an issue.

A Lamborghini was expected to win in GTD and the marque didn’t disappoint. Paul Miller Racing’s car went to Victory Circle. Drivers Madison Snow, Bryan Sellers,  Corey Lewis, and Andrew Caldarelli took home the watches.

Notes

Sebastien Bourdais finished third in his full time sports car debut. The Mustang Sampling team had reconfigured itself in the JDC-Mille stable after leaving Action Express.

Scott Dixon added to his legacy as one racing’s all time greats with his third Rolex24 overall win, tying him for second on the all time roster.

Perseverance award– The crew of the number 4 Corvette spent most of the night hours attempting to find an engine issue. The engine was in pieces in the early morning hours, and the car returned to the track after sunrise. The team spent six hours to complete the repair.

Keating Loves to Drive- Ben Keating drove the number 52 LMP2 car to the pole, then started the race. He also drove the Riley Motorsports Mercedes in GTD. Just doing the math to figure out how he could split his time between the cars and stay within driver time limits was impressive. Keating also drove in Friday’s Michelin Pilot Challenge race.

GEAR has Misfortune- The all female team of Katherine Legge, Christina Nielsen, Tatiana Calderon, and Rachel Frey had a difficult start to the season. The car slowed on the backstretch around 11:30 pm. It limped back to the pits. Early in the morning, the car caught fire with Nielsen behind the wheel. She was not injured, but their race was over.

The IMSA Weather Tech Championship Series next races at the 12 Hours of Sebring March 21. The WEC series will also be there for a 1,000 mile race on Friday.

Photo Gallery

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