Pew Satisfied with Le Mans Debut

Photo: Brian Cleary/Michael Shank Racing

By: Kobe Lambeth

IMSA prototype entrant, Michael Shank Racing, had a successful debut in the 24 Hours of Le Mans by finishing 9th in the LMP2 class with their drivers Ozz Negri Jr, John Pew, and Laurens Vanthoor. A category with Nissan-powered Oreca 05’s and Ligier JS P2’s made up the majority of the field of 23. Michael Shank Racing used a Ligier JS P2-Honda, which is the same chassis Tequila Patrón ESM used to win the first two rounds of the North American Endurance Cup, the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Mobil1 12 Hours of Sebring.

The Honda power proved to be an excellent choice as Michael Shank Racing had one of fastest Ligiers in the race. The longtime Michael Shank Racing driver, John Pew, was pleased with his first trip to Circuit de la Sarthe.

“It was a fantastic experience,” said Pew.

“Although not on the podium, for our first attempt at Le Mans, I am very happy with ninth in class and finishing the race.”

A great accomplishment for the American team from Ohio finishing the race on debut at the famous twice around the clock French endurance classic. Instead of going for the overall victory, the team had to battle for class honors. Michael Shank Racing is a full-time entrant in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship, which has completely different rules than the FIA World Endurance Championship. Did Pew have trouble adjusting to ACO rules?

“There are a lot of differences that took some getting used to,” said Pew.

“The slow zones, and having three safety cars, and flashing blue lights to let you know a faster car is coming behind.  Also, pit stops are different with fueling and tires being done separately, which means a driver change doesn’t have the same time pressure. Also, it took some getting used to the LMP1 cars flying by us.”

Along with having to adjust to a different world of racing, the Ligier JS P2-Honda runs in two different configurations in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and ACO sanctioned series.

“The biggest difference is the difference in tire manufacturer, and using a smaller displacement engine otherwise it’s pretty much the same,” explained Pew.

In ACO sanctioned series, teams are free to choose any tire manufacturer such as Dunlop or Michelin, while IMSA prototype teams must use spec Continental tires. On the engine side, the ACO requires a small 2.8 displacement engine, while IMSA allows the larger 3.5 displacement engine.

After a successful debut at Le Mans, do you think Michael Shank Racing will return next year?

“It’s too far in the future at this point to say, but I would love to go at it again,” said Pew.

The American fans would most likely be thrilled to see Pew and the entire Michael Shank Racing team return to Le Mans and battle for the top step on the podium.

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Photo: Brian Cleary/Michael Shank Racing

With the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the rearview mirror, Michael Shank Racing shifts its focus to the upcoming Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen at historic Watkins Glen International. The team continues to ride the momentum from a fantastic result at Le Mans and a victory at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. John Pew only had a few words to say about him and Ozz Negri Jr taking Michael Shank and the entire team back to victory lane.

“It felt great and was overdue,” stated Pew.

After a few setbacks in the past few years, the team was able to put together a complete race, which led them to the checkered flag. Now being stateside for the remainder of the season, what are the expectations from Michael Shank Racing?

“We can’t always control the outcome, but I am very confident in both the Michael Shank Racing crew and the Ligier HPD package for the rest of the season,” said Pew.

Tune in at 10am EST on Fox Sports 1, Sunday, July 3rd, to watch to No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier JS P2-Honda fight for overall victory against the Corvette DP’s, Deltawing, Tequila Patrón ESM, and the Mazda prototypes.

Meet: Ryan Repko

Photo: Mary Repko

By: Kobe Lambeth

This is the first edition of the “Meet” series where I will introduce you to the brightest young stars of motorsports under age 18. First, you will meet rising stock car driver, Ryan Repko, who has his sights set on making it the top level of NASCAR in the future.

“I currently race in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series and part time in the CARS Tour,”  said Repko.

“I began racing at the age of 8 at an indoor karting track in Mooresville. There I met several families who raced at a quarter midget track called NCQMA Speedway which is owned by Bobby Labonte. We bought a car and in our first year we won several races and a championship. My ultimate goal is to one day be a NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion.”

Ryan Repko, a teenager, looking turn heads as he has hopes of driving in NASCAR’s top divisions in the upcoming years. The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is a great place for young drivers to showcase their talent as “you never know who is watching,” according to Repko.

For example, we could see a NASCAR driver like Kyle Busch show up to an event and discover a talented driver like Repko the same way he found Erik Jones. It is good for all young drivers in the lower divisions of NASCAR to try their very best as you could be a lap away from a ride in the top three divisions of stock car racing.

Being a young stock car driver, do you think Repko has a favorite driver or role model?

“My favorite driver is Tony Stewart because he can get in any type of car and be competitive whether it is a sprint car or a cup car,” said Repko.

“My dad is a role model of mine because he pushes me to work toward my goals and to constantly learn and get better.”

It is great that young drivers have a role model in their life to help them strive to be the best they can possibly be on the track. With the inspiration of Tony Stewart and his dad behind him every step of the way, Ryan Repko has a great shot to make the move up the ladder. Away from the track, Repko seems like the typical teenager.

“Away from the track I like basketball, iRacing, and karting,” said Repko.

If you have not heard of Ryan Repko yet, then you definitely will in the years to come as the young teenager pursues his dreams of being a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion.

Cookies and Milk?

Photo: José Mário Dias

By: Kobe Lambeth

This past weekend, the 84th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans took place. One major storyline from France concerns the future of global prototype racing.

DPi vs LMP2

It appears that trouble is brewing between IMSA and the ACO over the future of prototype racing. It was recently announced that IMSA DPi (Daytona Prototype International) cars will not be allowed to race in the LMP2 category. Originally, the American prototypes were going to be balanced alongside the ACO-spec Gibson engine.  No need to worry about this now as DPi cars will not be allowed to race. The idea of DPi and LMP2 competing together for class honors appears to be in a garbage truck heading to a landfill.

The DPi engine ban might change the minds of team owners who want to go to Le Mans. It is known that Visit Florida Racing is looking to race in the twice-around-the-clock endurance classic as early as next year. The main question is, “which LMP2 chassis does the team choose?” They could run a Mazda DPi customer program, return to the General Motors family with a Cadillac DPi, or purchase the ACO-spec LMP2 Gibson. Do you think the DPi engine ban has made it easier for Visit Florida Racing to decide which car to purchase?

We will not see DPi in LMP2, but is there a future in LMP1-Lightweight? This is a very interesting idea to consider in the next few months. IMSA wants to make DPi their top class where you pick one of the four LMP2 constructors (Onroak, Oreca, Dallara, Riley/Multimatic), have the option of running multiple engines, and bodywork which will give the car identity. There is nothing wrong with IMSA’s vision as this will be their top class. LMP1 is where the ACO wants the manufacturers and rightfully so. With the four different chassis and spec engine, LMP2 is the stepping stone for teams wanting to enter LMP1. Once again, there is nothing wrong with the ACO’s philosophy because it works for their championship.

If the 2017 LMP2 regulations were the same as DPi, it would pretty much defeat the purpose of LMP1. It is completely understandable why DPi and LMP2 cannot race together from their point of view. Switching roles, what would the reaction in America be if IMSA used the ACO-spec car as their leading prototype? It would not make any sense for the two prototype divisions to be spec. The DPi formula is perfect for IMSA and they should not let the ACO dictate how they run the show. Two championships, two sets of rules, why can’t we all just get along?

A compromise between the two sanctioning would be a miracle, but anything is possible these days. Close your eyes and imagine DPi cars from the likes of Mazda and Cadillac flying down the Mulsanne straight. All you can do is dream on because this is unrealistic in the ACO’s eyes.

If the DPi cars are not welcomed to Le Mans, then why should ACO-spec cars be welcomed to Daytona? Why is IMSA’s new prototype called “Daytona Prototype International” when there is absolutely nothing international about the formula? Why are we even discussing this topic?

There are so many questions concerning the relationship between IMSA and the ACO. Maybe we need to go old school and have both parties sit down in a room with cookies and milk until a common idea can be reached. The ACO needs IMSA and vice versa. A divorce will not benefit anyone. It will hurt both series, teams, drivers, officials, and everything that makes sportscar racing beautiful. Please, I am begging for the sanctioning bodies to get their act together or we will not like the outcome of the situation. We should definitely be worried about the future of sportscar racing. Do we risk losing the link between America and France?

Will cookies and milk save this rocky relationship? Only time will tell.

 

Fallout from the GEICO 500

Photo: Talladega Superspeedway

By: Kobe Lambeth

The race was fierce at Talladega from start to finish. With a threat of rain throughout the day, the drivers had to race like every lap would be the last. The intensity of this race was remarkable and truly unbelievable. This was one of those restrictor plate races where I did not see the long single file line near the wall at any point during the race which was pretty shocking.

I must admit that the GEICO 500 was the best race that I have witnessed all season long. We had three and four wide action throughout the race. Today’s racing reminded me of spectacular pack racing from the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.

However, it appears that spectacular crashes will overshadow the great racing we witnessed. The first scary incident of the day occurred when Chris Buescher rolled down the Alabama Gang Superstretch. There was nothing Buescher could do as he was a passenger along for the ride.

Next, The “Big One” struck as Kurt Busch got into the right rear of Jimmie Johnson, which took out more than half of the field. Luckily, every single driver walked away. The next accident was only of the scariest yet.

Michael McDowell was giving Danica Patrick a heck of a push, but everything went wrong when she got into Joe Gibbs Racing’s Matt Kenseth as his Toyota Camry was sent sailing into the air, before sliding on his roof and coming to rest on all fours.

For me, Kenseth’s crash was one of the most frightening incidents in recent memory at Talladega Superspeedway. However, it was nothing compared to Austin Dillon’s spectacular crash last July. First, I want to applaud NASCAR for everything they do to keep our drivers safe. It was hard to believe that Kenseth walked away from such a scary crash.

Unfortunately, crashes are a part of racing and they are more than likely going to happen at places like Daytona and Talladega. There is nothing we can do to prevent it. I must admit that I turned my television off on the final lap because I was sick to my stomach. After watching Buescher and Kenseth have frightening accidents, I was afraid of witnessing another spectacular crash coming to the checkered flag.

Naturally, there was a crash and everyone survived thankfully. NASCAR has done so much to make the sport safer, but you are never going to stop cars from flipping over. It is basic science.

I absolutely love restrictor plate racing and hope that it stays around for many years to come. Today, it was almost a little too much for me to watch. However, today’s mayhem will not stop me from watching these events in the future.

Racing is a dangerous sport. Of course, some of the accidents were difficult to watch, but we must move onto a brighter future. The best drivers in the world risk their lives each and every week behind the wheel. Some fans love this form of racing while others believe that it is equivalent to playing with fire.

We might not agree about restrictor plate racing, but we should all be thankful that everyone survived the chaos. Thanks to NASCAR’s improvements, the drivers involved were able to walk away and go home to their families. I am positive that they will continue to search for answers to improve SAFER barriers and better ways to keep cars from going airborne.

I never thought I would say this, but I am so happy that Talladega Superspeedway is behind us and am looking forward to Kansas. The threat of rain caused the sense of urgency today and it produced some amazing pack racing, but the crashes will stick with me from this event. There are better days ahead for the sport and I will be ready when NASCAR returns to the superspeedway in October. Safety is once again the hot topic.

What did you think of the GEICO 500?

 

Talladega: Where Dreams Come True and Chaos Occurs

Photo: Talladega Superspeedway

By: Kobe Lambeth

When some people hear the name, “Talladega,” they think of complete chaos, edge-of-your-seat racing, and destruction. Look at this beautiful photo above and tell me this gorgeous scene is a place where you often see the carnage. If you follow NASCAR often, then you know that “looks can deceiving.”

Many years ago, one of NASCAR’s founding fathers, Bill France Sr, wanted to build a track bigger and faster track than Daytona International Speedway. His dream finally came true as “Alabama International Motor Speedway” was built. As time passed, the track name changed to Talladega Superspeedway.

However, one thing has not changed about this historic superspeedway. This is a place where dreams can come true and chaos is also lurking in the shadows.

Sprint Cup drivers, Brad Keselowski, and David Ragan will tell you about the true beauty of Talladega as both drivers scored unbelievable wins in recent years.

In 2009, Brad Keselowski was battling Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr, and Carl Edwards for the victory when contact between Edwards and Keselowski ended with a spectacular crash as Edwards car went airborne, crashing into the catchfence upside down.

Certainly not the way to win your first career Cup race, but this victory showed the world that Brad Keselowski had the potential to hang with the best in the business. Look where he is today as a champion in NASCAR’s top series.

BK Racing’s, David Ragan, also had a remarkable victory in the 2013 Spring race when he and teammate, David Gilliland, led a Front Row Motorsports 1-2 finish. A great day at Talladega can be huge for smaller teams in the field.

Restrictor plate racing is definitely a unique form of racing, which gives every single driver the chance to pull into victory lane. Drafting is the “great equalizer” and gives underfunded teams an opportunity to have a dream day in the tight, pack racing environment.

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Although Talladega Superspeedway is a unique track that can change your life forever, it can also break your heart. Whenever NASCAR goes to the “superspeedways” Daytona and Talladega, there is always a chance for the “Big One,” which is a multi-car crash that happens almost every single restrictor plate event.

The reason for these spectacular crashes is due to the intensity of the tight pack racing. Drivers try to make the move to the front and things happen. Unfortunately, they are unlucky at times. You could ride along in the pack almost the entire race, but get caught up in someone else’s mistake to end your day. It is safe to say that it might take a little luck to be successful at Talladega Superspeedway. There is nowhere to hide.

Restrictor plate racing is risk versus reward.  The best stock car drivers in the world will take the green flag in the Geico 500 as 40 drivers will battle for glory at one of NASCAR’s fastest tracks. The event should provide great edge-of-your-seat racing from start to finish. Will someone battling for the win on the final lap make a mistake and send the field into flames? Is it worth taking that kind of risk just to get the reward?

Some drivers go into Talladega race weekend with the goal of surviving and others see it as an opportunity to make or break their career. When the checkered flag falls on the Geico 500, will we see the usual suspects from Joe Gibbs Racing or Hendrick Motorsports in victory lane? Can an underdog pull off an upset?

Whoever pulls into victory lane will definitely have earned a hard fought victory. The ingredients to success on restrictor plate tracks: stay out of trouble, be confident, make bold moves, hope that lady luck is on your side, and make smart decisions.

No matter what a driver does, it is extremely difficult to put together a “clean” race at Talladega. 188 laps of intense three and sometimes four wide racing in a tight pack is a recipe for disaster. We have 40 soldiers ready to go to battle. Every soldier has a shot to be victorious and make their dreams come true. On the other hand, others might not survive to see the checkered flag as the “Big One” is lurking in the shadows.

This is Talladega.

 

Krohn Racing Satisfied with Silverstone Result

Photo: Krohn Racing

By: Kobe Lambeth

The No. 38 Jota Sport/G-Drive Racing Gibson 015S-Nissan driven by ex-Formula One driver, Giedo van der Garde, Harry Tincknell, and Simon Dolan claimed overall honors in the European Le Mans Series season opener at historic Silverstone. Although this trio won the Four Hours of Silverstone in dominating fashion, Krohn Racing had plenty to smile about after finishing 4th overall.

Last season, Krohn Racing used Judd power, but switched to Nissan over the offseason as series veterans, Greave Motorsport, has taken over their program. Krohn Racing team owner, Tracey Krohn, had positive words about the first race of the season.

“A great day at Silverstone, our goal was to finish in the top five and we achieved through speed and a great fuel strategy,” said Krohn.

“The engine stumbled at the last corner, so we didn’t waste any, it was very close. The team did a great job, everything went off very well and we are very pleased with how today went. I made one little mistake in my stint, that might have cost a place but otherwise I was very pleased for our first race of the year here at Silverstone and I am looking forward to Imola.”

The tall, Texan gentleman driver drove flawlessly throughout the entire race and gave his co-drivers an opportunity to capitilize on great stints. His longtime co-driver, Nic Jonsson, was also pleased with the finish considering the depth of this year’s LMP2 field.

“A great result for us, especially considering the weather conditions this weekend, a fourth place is a fantastic result for Krohn Racing,” said Jonsson.

“The team has done a phenomenal job, choosing the right tires at the right time and the fuel strategy that we had secured us this result, Lee, our engineer, should get credit for that. Tracy did a great job in his stint after Björn got the car up into the top three both deserve credit. It is a great start to the season and now we must keep the momentum going.”

Bjorn Wirdheim, last year’s LMP2 driver’s champion with Greaves Motorsports, joined Krohn Racing this weekend and provided veteran leadership, which helped the team reach 4th place overall.

“It was a really, really great day, it was a great result for Krohn Racing to finish fourth today,” said Wirdheim.

“A really great performance from the whole team, especially Tracy and Nic. It has been a fun weekend but really tricky because my time in the car before the race was limited. It was only in the first stint that I became comfortable with that and able to push. I had a good start, even though it was a bit chaotic but I was able to take advantage of that. The car was set up really well and the Michelin Tires were fantastic and this helped me advance through the field. We stayed out of trouble and scored some really good points and it has been a great experience being part of the Krohn Racing team.”

The next round of the European Le Mans Series takes place on May 15th with the Four Hours of Imola. Will Krohn Racing ride the momentumn from Silverstone and make it onto the podium? Tune in, next time to find out who will claim top honors in LMP2!

Panoz Deltawing Racing Set to Fight DP’s and P2’s; Future uncertain

Photo: Richard Dole Photography

By: Kobe Lambeth

As the Bubba Burger Grand Prix at the famous Long Beach street circuit nears, Panoz Deltawing Racing is ready to show the world that the Deltawing DW13 is capable of competing with the Daytona Prototypes and LMP2 cars on the historic street circuit.

Earlier this season, Panoz Deltawing Racing showed plenty of pace at Daytona and Sebring. Unfortunately, they did not get the result intended, due to certain circumstances. However, Team Manager, Tim Keene, is confident that his team can turn some heads as the future of the Deltawing DW13 is uncertain.

“Currently, we are focused on this season and continuing the development of the car,” said Keene.

“I have been with the team now for almost 2 years and I feel we now have a good set-up sorted and the car is the best it’s ever been in terms of competitiveness.”

Keene certainly believes that the Deltawing DW13 will have great showings throughout the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship season.

“We have seen some recent success at Daytona and Sebring and our goal is to continue this as the year continues,” said Keene.

“The team works incredibly well together and the dedication and perseverance to understand and develop the coupe is what makes me all the more sure we will be on the podium soon enough.”
As the development of this unique prototype continues, will the Deltawing DW13 have the ability to fight the Daytona Prototypes and the LMP2 cars on outright pace?
“IMSA’s prototype class has some particularly strong players but as our performance has proven, the DeltaWing coupe is a true competitor for the Daytona Prototypes and LMP2 cars,” responded Keene.
As many sportscar racing fans know, there will be a new formula called Daytona Prototype International (DPi) debuting in 2017, which makes us wonder what will happen to Panoz Deltawing Racing.
Will IMSA grandfather the Deltawing DW13 for 2017? Will the car be ineligible to compete? Could Panoz Deltawing Racing remain in the top class, but with a DPi program? What happened to the Deltawing GT project?
Tim Keene could not comment on the future of the team, but offered encouraging words about the direction of the Prototype class.
“With regards to the new DPi regulations, we believe in the idea of unique styling cues defined by the manufacturers for brand recognition.”
Yesterday, Andy Meyrick qualified the car sixth overall with a lap time of 1:16.006, who is co-driving with team regular, Katherine Legge, this weekend in Long Beach, while Sean Rayhall is on European Le Mans Series duties. Look for Panoz Deltawing Racing to have a great day on the twisty, historic streets of Long Beach, California.
*Sending my best wishes to Catherine Crawford and her family as the Panoz Deltawing Racing engineer recovers from brain surgery. I hope to see you back at the track soon Catherine!*

A New Beginning For Ryan Ellis

Photo: NASCAR

By: Kobe Lambeth

On April 24, 2016, Ryan Ellis will fulfill a long-time dream driving for Ron Devine’s BK Racing team in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Richmond International Raceway.

“The deal with BK is something we’ve been working on for several years,” said Ellis.

“Ron Devine and I have been friends for quite a while because we’ve grown up in the same area – Northern Virginia. I knew it would always help to have a bit of sponsorship coming in, and ScienceLogic and I have meshed very well. I am very excited to have brought them together and I really hope we get to run some more races this season and can works towards a full schedule in 2017.”

Ellis made his Sprint Cup debut last season at Phoenix International Raceway where he finished 40th driving for Circle Sport Racing. Despite the finish, there is plenty for Ellis to look forward to as the Trucks and Xfinity Series veteran is ready to take on the best stock car drivers in the world.

“I think my experience in Xfinity and Truck benefits me in many ways,” said Ellis.

Obviously, it helps to have driven similar cars in the past and learning the way they react to certain inputs is beneficial when getting in the Cup car. As different as they are with suspension-travel, power, aero-wise, and overall handling, they are still very close in nature. It helps to have driven these tracks before so I can focus on learning the Cup car and all of the new features they have. I’ve never driven a Cup car with adjustable track-bar and never used the new dash system.”

Despite new features on his No. 93 ScienceLogic BK Racing Toyota Camry, Ellis is ready for the challenge of competing on Sundays and proving that he belongs in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

“I think I’m in a great position with BK Racing with their new equipment and the people they already had, and the people they’ve brought in,” said Ellis.

“Ron has made some great changes to put everyone in a phenomenal position this year and the results have shown that. I want to soak up as much as I can from Matt Dibenedetto and David Ragan. They’re two very different people and two very different racecar drivers. David is a veteran who is very calm and reserved and been everywhere in the NASCAR garage. Matt is a hungry second-year driver who drives on the ragged-edge every lap. I think I can learn off of their contrasting personalities and driving styles and work my butt off to prove that I belong in the Sprint Cup garage.”

Ryan Ellis has a tight bond with his BK Racing teammate, Matt DiBenedetto.

“We’re both very racing-oriented and career-focused so we definitely find that 90% or more of our conversation is racing-based, but can definitely disconnect from that as well,” said Ellis.

“We live about an hour away from each other but the two of us, Tanner Berryhill, and Alex Bowman tend to find time to hang out. I’ll be moving closer to Tanner Berryhill soon so I have a feeling we’ll be spending a ton more time getting into trouble. It’s great to have close friends in this sport because I knew absolutely no one when I moved to NC a few years ago.”

If Ellis has a spectacular season for BK Racing, could he possibly move to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series full-time in 2017?

“It’s hard to say,” said Ellis

“The charter-deal has changed the landscape in Cup so much. I would like to think we could do it, but I’m not involved much on the financial side. It’s definitely something in the back of my mind for sure.”

36 full-time Sprint Cup teams were awarded prestigious Charters, which allow these teams to race every week without the fear of having to qualify on time. However, the third BK Racing entry does not have a charter, so they are not guaranteed a spot in the race if there are more than 40 cars on the entry list. Ryan Ellis had plenty to say about the new Charter System.

“The charter system has changed the landscape in Cup quite a bit,” said Ellis.

“Not as much in the front of the pack, but more-so for the lower-funded or up and coming teams. A year or two ago, our ScienceLogic deal could’ve led to more of a full-season deal or much more, but it isn’t a financially sustainable business model (for most people) to run a non-chartered car without a substantial budget or massive amounts of sponsorship.”

It appears that the Charter System is hurting the smaller teams in NASCAR. Despite the challenge, Ryan Ellis definitely has the potential to overcome every obstacle in his way. Previously, on “The Troubles of Making It as a Race Car Driver Part Two,”  Ryan Ellis told me about his struggles making it to the top levels of stock car racing. It is absolutely exceptional that Ellis has come a long way and not let his financial struggles stop him from achieving his dreams. According to Ellis, it is extremely difficult to survive in NASCAR if you do not have significant financial support.

” It makes everything hard,” said Ellis

You want to focus harder on your career but there are many times when you’re not making enough from the NASCAR-side to even pay rent and food. If you take away focus and work side-jobs like I have over the last three or four years, it can affect your ability to work on sponsorships and get more races. I don’t think there’s a right or a wrong way to stay in the sport, but I’ve been very fortunate to get the opportunities I’ve had. A lot of these drivers are very lucky in that they have the family support to buy a top ride for a few million dollars, but I see my situation as a blessing. I think my position creates a situation where I’m never comfortable, and by never being comfortable, I’m forced to out-work them by a ton to counter their money and/or huge connections. I have great friends and family who help me and have helped me financially from time to time to stay afloat, and without them, I would’ve been forced to give up on this goal a few years ago.”

“The Troubles of Making It as a Race Car Driver Part Two” Starring: Ryan Ellis

https://thescoopwordpresscom.wordpress.com/2015/12/31/kobes-daily-scoop-the-troubles-of-making-it-as-a-race-car-driver-part-two/

 

Greaves Looking to Defend Title; Rojas Ready to Tackle Europe

Photo: John Brooks

By: Kobe Lambeth

As the season opener of the 2016 European Le Mans Series approaches, defending champions, Greaves Motorsport, is ready to take on Silverstone.

The opening round of the championship starts with the 4 Hours of Silverstone on April 16th as many LMP2, LMP3, and GTE machinery battle for glory at the historic circuit. The competition this season will be fierce and intense, so minimum mistakes will be the difference between 1st and 2nd place in the championship.

If Greaves Motorsport wants to be victorious once again, they must be flawless and hold off fantastic competition in the LMP2 class this season. Team principal, Jacob Greaves, is very optimistic about their chances in the European Le Mans Series.

“We are defending European Le Mans Series Champions and are keen to retain our titles, so we go into the season expecting to do so, that is natural,” said Greaves.

“However it is clear that the opposition from last year, Jota Sport (now G-Drive), Thiriet by TDS Racing, and the other teams in LMP2 will be very strong and looking to claim our crown, to beat them we will have to be at the top of our game.”

The pre-season test at the Paul Ricard Circuit certainly gave the team plenty of confidence heading into the 2016 season.

“We went to Le Castellet with a program of areas to test and evaluate, the Ligier JS P2 chassis is new to us even if the Nissan power and Dunlop tires are not,” said Greaves.

“Aside from a few minor issues, the test went to plan and we have data that will give us a good basis for racing. The three drivers really gelled as a team and they were also able to develop a good relationship with the crew, and, perhaps most importantly, they were fast. This leads us to believe that we will be competitive but there will be no easy races.”

It appears that it will be another competitive season for Greaves Motorsport in the European Le Mans Series. Although they have had much success in Europe, could the team be on the move to America with IMSA’s intriguing new Daytona Prototype International (DPi) formula set to debut next season to replace the current Daytona Prototypes and open-cockpit LMP2 cars? Current LMP2 coupes will be grandfathered one year, but it is unknown if they will be competitive against the DPi and ACO-spec cars.

Team principal, Jacob Greaves, had plenty to say about IMSA’s plans for the future of American prototype racing.

“It is difficult to say without seeing the new regulations in detail and they have not been available till just recently. However, we certainly feel that the direction that IMSA and the WeatherTech series is taking is one that will satisfy needs of manufacturers and professional teams in creating a platform for racing that is credible in marketing and financial terms. We also believe that the regulations will generate close competition on these fantastic tracks, that should keep the fans happy, it is a very promising prospect.”

With the exciting prospect of choosing from the four LMP2 constructors, having the opportunity to join forces with a manufacturer, and designing custom bodywork, DPi has the potential to take off in many years to come.

Along with staying in the European Le Mans Series for the immediate future, could we see Greaves Motorsport move to the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship for the full season or a program based around the NAEC rounds?

“It is no secret that we are examining the possibility of adding a North American element to our 2017 season, that much has been reported in the media already,” responded Greaves.

“We would seek to retain our activity in Europe that has been the foundation of the team’s successes to date and build on this in the IMSA series which, as I have already said, is an attractive platform. The program would be based on the aims of our partners and that might be just confined to the NAEC or a full season, it is too early to speculate further.”

How cool would it be for a European team like Greaves Motorsport to join the competitive IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship next season? Hopefully, everything will come together, so many sportscar fans will have the opportunity to watch them race on American soil.

2016ELMSRicardTest_jb_0160

Photo: John Brooks

Long-time IMSA driver, Memo Rojas, will lead the charge for Greaves Motorsport in 2016. After spending time in America, Rojas will make the transition to Europe. Although he might be racing in a different series, Jacob Greaves had many positive things to say about Rojas.

“Memo has a fantastic track record in North America as a multiple champion and a winner at the classic endurance events at Daytona and Sebring, this does not happen by accident,” said Greaves.

“So, we have a champion in the car and he is seeking fresh challenges in Europe and, most importantly, I would suggest, at the Le Mans 24 Hours. We have to respond accordingly and give Memo the car, and the opportunity, to be as successful his side of the Atlantic as he has been before. We also have to do this for his team-mates as well, they also have racing records that command respect including victories and titles. Endurance racing is a team sport and we all have to perform to best of our abilities to succeed, it is part of the challenge.”

Rojas spent the majority of his sportscar racing career driving Chip Ganassi Racing’s Daytona Prototype, and the Deltawing last season in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship. It appears that Rojas is definitely ready for the challenge driving an LMP2 car on European circuits.

Rojas said, “It’s a big change, the European racing culture is very different than the American racing culture, but I really like it!” 

“The biggest challenge will be adapting to the new circuits, but I’m happy to be a driver for one of the best teams which will definitely make the transition easier.”

According to Rojas, an LMP2 car is different compared to previous prototypes that he has driven.

“The Ligier JS P2 is very different from the Daytona Prototypes I had been driving in America,” said Rojas.

“First of all, the car is a full carbon monocoque and it has state of the art technology. The Daytona Prototype had a technology a bit older and was heavier. Both cars are really fun to drive, they are just different.”

Along with running the full European Le Mans Series season with Greaves Motorsport, Rojas will join the team for the 24 Hours of Le Mans this summer. He has very high expectations when it is time for the twice around the clock French endurance classic.

“My goal is to win! I know it will be tough and there are many good teams and drivers but we’ll certainly do our best to achieve that goal.”

Rojas has the talent and Greaves Motorsport has the experience at Le Mans to make those goals a reality when June zooms around the corner!

It was previously mentioned, Greaves Motorsport could join the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship next season with a DPi program. With the experience of Rojas in America, could he be the lead driver if the European squad decides to take their talents across the pond?

“That would be something for me to consider, although it’s still too early to know,” said Rojas.

Life is good if your name is Memo Rojas.

Hildebrand Ready for 100th Indy 500; Optimistic about future

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway

By: Kobe Lambeth

As previously announced, JR Hildebrand will return to the Indianapolis 500 with Ed Carpenter Racing as he will have another attempt at one of the most prestigious prizes in all of motorsports.

“It’s the holy grail, particularly for open-wheel guys but I think really for almost anyone on 4 wheels,” said Hildebrand.

“In doing it, you become aware of just how many ways there are to NOT win, how many things you have to not screw up, let alone things you need to do exceptionally well. But it’s for racing immortality, which makes it all worthwhile.”

The 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 is going to be an epic event. With Hildebrand joining a strong lineup of himself, Josef Newgarden, and Ed Carpenter, look for all three ECR entries to challenge the likes of Penske and Ganassi.

“I’ve had a great experience with Ed Carpenter and his team over the last two years, notching Top 10s in each of my efforts with the team at Indy,” said Hildebrand.

“I know from that experience that I can win in one of their cars, and I think they feel the same way.  Last year we grew the program to include the Angie’s List GP, and we were looking to grow to even more races from there coming into 2016. Everyone was very much on board with that, but as often happens in racing, we had to manage some financial constraints and refocus on getting things at least just lined back up for the same program we ran last year.  So it was an ongoing conversation since Indy last year that I’m very glad finally came together.”

Ed Carpenter Racing is looking to expand JR Hildebrand’s schedule, but will it be possible to add more races? Will Hildebrand return to IndyCar full-time in the immediate future?

“It’s difficult to say – it’s not been for lack of interest, it’s a conversation I have often with teams, but at the end of the day it comes down to funding in most of the situations that have existed recently,” Hildebrand responded.

“I’m confident based on the opportunities that I’ve discussed with people that I can be back racing full-time very soon.”

Although there is a lot of uncertainty about Hildebrand’s plans beyond the Indianapolis 500, he remains focused on the task at hand: winning the Indianapolis 500 and proving that he belongs in the series full-time.

“Well, I feel that I’m racing for a team that can definitely put a car on track capable of winning, with a good crew and good engineers,” said Hildebrand.

“So, my personal expectation is to have a shot at winning the race – we will prepare with that clearly in focus.  I expect the race itself to be one of the most impressive events anyone has ever seen.”

2016 appears to be a special season in the making for JR Hildebrand and where he will head in his young racing career. If he is unable to return to IndyCar full-time soon, what will happen to the talented California-born open wheel racer?

“There’s a lot of interesting racing out there, from the WEC to Global RallyCross,” said Hildebrand.

“I’d jump in just about anything, and am looking forward to opportunities to do so over the coming year.”

This is just pure speculation, but how cool would it be to see an American sensation named JR Hildebrand to have the opportunity to drive in the FIA World Endurance Championship later this season in an American muscle car?

It was recently announced that Larbre Competition will run a driver evaluation program for potential future factory drivers for Corvette Racing. Could this possibly be Hildebrand’s ticket to sportscar racing as a future Corvette factory ace?

I hope to see JR Hildebrand return to IndyCar as a full-time driver, but it would very intriguing to watch him perform in a Corvette C7R on the world stage.

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