2107 Bathurst 12hr – Team Castrol Vodafone BMW M6 GT3

For the first half of the race, the number 7 Team Castrol Vodafone BMW M6 GT3 was the most competitive of the BMW entries.  Others had crashed, encountered problems or dropped back on pace.  The driving line-up was superb – Aussie standouts Mark Skaife, Russel Ingall and Tony Longhurst joined ex-F1 ace Timo Glock who was making his first visit to the Mountain.

Glock qualified the car in 7th and took the green flag in the darkness.  With the early caution, he got a chance to enjoy a Bathust sunrise in his first visit.  After five hours, the #7 was in third place overall – only seconds behind the leader.   Just before halfway, Ingall was trying to set up a slower car for a pass when he ran out of racetrack and hit the inside wall in the Esses quite hard.  Severe damage was inflicted on both the front and rear wheels and broke steering, suspension and hub bits.  The incident forced retirement and the car spent the remainder of the race in the garage.

This car was one of the most striking and photogenic in the field.  Big kudos to the livery designer.  Enjoy the pics!


Getting back into the groove…

After an absence from these pages, it is time to get back to it.  The good news is that there is much to talk about.  For starters, let’s include a variety of links:

Motorwerks Magazine – check out the story on page 96 written by Morgan Haber leading up to the Bathurst 12 hours.  Morgan would drive a BMW M6 in the race.  The issue was somewhat delayed, so the preview story ended up coming out just after the race.  Fortunately, we were able to contribute some photos in support of the story.20170203-076a9563

The Southwest Star – 1Q 2017 – Rabbit the First, a story of a Benz-Mercedes in the midst of an engine restoration.    What a fascinating car and story.  Special thanks to Jay Leno for the tour of the car and some of its historical documentation.


The Southwest Star – 1Q 2017 – Travelogue from the 2017 Bathurst 12 Hour race.  A truly remarkable event.  If you have the slightest inclination of attending, read this story for some thoughts and tips.  We expect to have a photography tour of the event shortly.



BMW M6 at Turn 3 – Rear View

076a4233The first full season of BMW M6 has been bit of a struggle in the GTLM class.   There are plenty of debates whether a larger car like the M6 is truly has a home within a GT sportscar class, but BWM certainly has a proud tradition of sportscar racing.  Rumors persist that the driving line-up is due for a shakeup and the car is due for a revision in 2018 with GTE regulation changes and a new LeMans initiative.

Regardless, the M6 car still cuts a distinctive silhouette.  The quick and violent transition over Turn 3 gives the photographer situated from the outside of the track a good look at the stability of each car through the turn.  Some cars leap over the curbs and other cars carefully cut around them.

This shot of the #25 BMW M6 isn’t terribly dramatic.  It doesn’t show a wheel in the air or a car out of control.  A close look at the left rear, however, shows the amount of body roll and stress imposed on the left side of the car mid-corner.   The car compresses and slides through the corner as it sets up for the run downhill through the esses.

Unfortunately, the BMW team did not have a good Petit Le Mans.  The #100 car suffered from early contact and an alternator problem.  The #25 car retired with two hours to go with steering rack problems.

Camera Settings – 1/800 shutter speed, f/5.6, ISO 100, 420mm.

Turner BMW Emerging at Turn 5


Television doesn’t do justice to the elevation changes at Road Atlanta.  The elevation change down through the esses is matched only by the steep climb up to Turn 5.  There is curbing at the corner exit, but it is low and there is a lot of asphalt beyond, so cars quickly power up the hill and drift wide at the exit.  The esses are often single file, so this is also the first opportunity faster cars have to make use of their superior torque and grip to pass slower cars.

Inside of 15 minutes from the start, the faster prototype cars at the front of the grid started to catch the GTD cars.  (Of course, “fast” is a relative concept when all of the cars in the Petit Le Mans were quite quick by any ordinary measure.)

In this shot, the #51 Action Express Corvette Daytona Prototype edges to the inside of the #44 Magnus Audi and the #96 Turner BMW.   The curvature of the track is evident as the BMW emerges up and over the crest of the Turn 5 hill.  The shot is also noteworthy because of the debris in the front grille of the BMW with the race barely underway.

Camera Settings – 1/2000 shutter speed, f/4, ISO 100, 420mm.

Auberlen on Road Atlanta Pit Lane


The start of a practice session when all the cars are lined up nose-to-tail can sometimes provide interesting photo opportunities.  In this case, the initial idea was a chance at capturing the two team GTLM BMW entries together amidst the sea of other cars on pit lane by focusing on the black and white banners at the top of their windshields.  Driver Bill Auberlen made it a more interesting photo by quickly approaching the car and climbing in.  In a split second, the shot materialized and then disappeared.

Camera Settings – 1/500 shutter speed, f/7.1, ISO 100, 420mm.

Murillo Racing BMW Turn 3

076a3251The curb at the top of Turn 3 at Road Atlanta is significant.  This is certainly not the best photo from the corner.  Others were able to get this shot with far more clarity.  It is included here for three reasons.

First, this is the #65 Murillo BWM in the Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge series driven by Brett Mosing and Tim Probert.  No idea who was driving at the time, but handling the curbs is clearly a driver by driver preference regardless of the series.  Some drivers scoot around it, some drivers bound across it, and some drivers find their cars launched sideways across the corner.  It is an interesting corner to watch.

Second, it is one of the handful of photos from that corner with the most violent right side lift-off experience.  Few others have both right sides quite so far off the ground.  Not sure whether that deserves credit for being aggressive through the corner or caution for risking damage, but will let the teams and drivers have that debate.

Third, the photo is an encouragement for next time.  As I mentioned elsewhere in this blog, sometimes poor shots or near misses will be featured for what wisdom they can impart.  The shot is wonderful if it can be captured.  I look forward to trying again.

Camera Settings – 1/250 shutter speed, f/6.3, ISO 100, 420mm.

Michael Johnson BMW Crash


Sometimes getting to the start line can be the biggest challenge.  The BMW of Michael Johnson sustained a hard crash in Thursday qualifying for the Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge support series.  The car nosed into the barriers to drivers right at speed with enough force to push the barriers back several inches.  The track workers winched the damaged car onto a rollback truck and delivered it to the team’s spot in the paddock.

The photo was taken just as the car came off the rollback (which can still be seen in the background) and the team was getting their first look.  The damage was extensive and the team withdrew and was unable to make the race on Friday, ending their season in the paddock rather than on the track.

With apologies to Michael Johnson and JDC Motorsports who are likely pained by the state of their race car and the lost weekend, the only story isn’t always the one told in victory lane.  Usually, these types of setbacks are part of the journey.  As one crew member told me in a matter of fact manner as they were packing up, “Next race is Daytona.”

As if keeping a racecar running and avoiding accidents wasn’t difficult enough, Johnson is paralyzed below the waist.  The car has both hand controls and traditional controls and the teams switches between them as drivers switch.  It is a magnificent example of engineering, endurance, and persistence.  Motorsports is full of engaging stories and teams and drivers like this can always use extra support, so stop by and say hello at a future event.

Thanks much to the team for the friendly invite to take a close look at the hand controls in the car.

Camera Settings – 1/320 shutter speed, f/6.3, ISO 100, 80mm.

Rolex 24 GTLM Class – A Deeper Look

Endurance races have multiple layers and there are a multitude of plots and sub-plots, unseen stories and angles and facts that get filled in later.  The Rolex 24 at Daytona had plenty of storylines that grabbed the headlines, but the days and weeks after the race provided an opportunity to have a closer look.  The GTLM class had only 11 entries and some of the closest racing of the event.  With that, some observations and nuggets through the GTLM field at the Rolex 24:

  • Nick Tandy was the star in his #911 Porsche. He not only logged the most green laps of any GTLM driver (241 – 4th most of any driver in the race overall), but the fastest driver in either of the Porsches based on average lap time.  Did we mention that Tandy set pole time in GTLM in wet conditions?  How about that Tandy’s pole lap time was the fastest of all – including the prototypes?  Clearly changing conditions had something to do with that, but the GTLM cars and their Michelin rubber clearly favored the Porsche.  Tandy’s endurance and pace was a “what could have been,” as the car suffered a driveshaft failure with just over 5 hours to go and went back to the garage for repairs.  The repairs cost about an hour and 36 laps. 20160130-30125717920160130-3020213674IMG_20160131_100828331 IMG_20160131_093612570
  • The #912 in the hands of Fred Makowiecki qualified in second and the car ran a trouble-free race to finish third in GTLM and ninth overall. Earl Bamber lost second with 22 minutes to go as a charging Antonio Garcia in the #3 Corvette nudged by.  New Zealander Bamber went from Daytona to Bathurst and finished first in Class-B in a Porsche 911.  Fastest times were close, but Bamber was the fastest in the #912 and just a shade off of Tandy’s times in the #911.20160130-3020142961 20160130-30125602120160130-30213015170 20160130-3019583611 20160130-30125602120160128-2808550784
  • Notably, the Porsche pair ran together for most of the race. The entire GTLM class seemed content to run consistent laps, stay on the lead lap, and avoid trouble until the end.  The Porsches, however, appeared to run a dedicated strategy of pacing each other and protecting each other’s flanks.20160130-30144816247
  • BMW will likely look back at the Rolex 24 as a reasonable debut, but with a need to find more speed out of the car (and potentially some Adjustment of Performance help as well). The BMWs were respectable in the turns, but lagged where horsepower was needed as evidenced by top speed numbers at the bottom of the class.  The whole class is tight and there were times where the BMWs were close, but the BMWs never consistently challenged for the top positions during the race.  The BMW M6 is a very different car than the Z4 used in 2015.  It will be interesting to see if the handling qualities give the BMW an advantage at Sebring.20160130-3020125258 20160130-3012592020 20160128-28085924123 20160128-28090731163
  • The #100 Anniversary car was returned to the BMW garage on the back of a flatbed at 3:15am after a suspected right front disc failure put Lucas Luhr into the outside wall at the end of the front stretch and beyond turn one.  The damage was severe and the car was retired.  Luhr was the fastest driver in the car and was uninjured.20160131-310318261 20160131-310321113 20160131-31031932283
  • A needed splash of fuel in the closing minutes put the #25 Heritage BMW into fifth place in class after running between fourth and fifth of the last few hours. An early puncture suffered near the bus stop dropped the car down two laps, but Bill Auberlen expertly brought the car back to the pits after a long and slow lap with no damage.   The margins between the drivers for average fastest lap were amazingly minimal – 9/100 covered all four drivers in terms of average lap times.  Farfus and Spengler tied for the most laps among the #25 drivers – each ran 169 green laps.20160128-28090727161
  • The new Ferrari 488 was represented by three cars – #62 Risi, #68 Scuderia Corsa, and #72 SMP Racing. The car was brand new.  Risi ran some shakedown laps at Fiorano in Italy before shipping the car to Miami and having it delivered directly to Daytona on Tuesday before the race.  The Thursday morning practice session were the first laps turned on US soil.  The wet practice and qualifying sessions meant that the team had very little dry running to work on setups before the race start.  Risi clearly missed valuable testing time at the Roar where it would have resolved issues like basic setups and driver comfort among the multiple drivers.  The car ran flawlessly and stayed close to the top but had contact with other cars on the track.  Olivier Beretta served a drive through penalty at the 13 hour mark for avoidable contact with the #3 Corvette.  Later contact with a Ford damaged the diffuser which ultimately led to a stop to remove it completely.  Repairs took place in the garage under green which cost four laps but the team had no spare. The Ferrari ran without a rear diffuser at all for the last six hours of the race which hampered its pace further.  Risi’s post-race press release proudly noted that the crew had no penalties and only one driver-caused penalty during the race.  A 6th place in class must be a frustrating result after a very strong race with no mechanical issues for the new car and the only problem caused by contact with another competitor.  Watch for Risi at Sebring.20160128-2808523368 20160130-30203016111
  • Likewise, the #68 Scuderia Corsa team had a strong debut for its 488 after a clean run on the pits and on the track. After four hours of running, the team incurred a 3m 30 second penalty for multiple violations (including running a red light at the end of pit lane).  The penalty cost three laps, but the team regained the laps and finished fourth in class.  Primat served another penalty during the night under green for speeding on pit lane as well.  The 488 appears to balance the infield and high speed bits of the track to assemble its lap times.  Alessandro Pier Guidi was the leader of the Scuderia Corsa team.  Not only did he average the fastest time among the drivers, he ran the most laps (tied for fifth most of all drivers in all classes with 232 green laps).20160130-3012590014 20160128-2808521166 20160128-28091533240 20160130-30204617120 20160130-30213316180
  • The #72 SMP Racing Ferrari had an unfortunate qualifying session, ending up sliding through a wet turn one and making contact with the tires at the outside of turn one. Some racers tape, a new rear fascia and some rear wing work solved the problem and the car made it out for Friday practice and the race with good pace.  After staying in touch with the leaders for most of the race and running at the front at times, the car was retired just before the 19th hour mark with engine troubles and some left front body damage.  James Calado and Gimmi Bruini were the stars of the driving line-up and will make excellent teammates for the 2016 WEC season.  It must be said, however, that the SMP Ferrari and the two Ford GT cars need to coordinate on getting more distinctive liveries as they all have too much similar red, white and blue to easily distinguish at a glance.20160130-30214338228 20160130-30213559202 20160130-30144301199 20160130-3020252592 IMG_20160131_101315767
  • Speaking of the Ford GT program, the glare of the spotlight must have been hot on Rolex weekend. The team had so much advance publicity and expectations between the new entry, the Ford presence, the GT heritage, the backing of Chip Ganassi Racing, the driver line up, etc.  Somehow in all the testing miles, the electronics in the gear linkage never surfaced as an issue, but hampered both entries.  The team worked to get both cars back in the event and run as many miles and laps as possible.  Silver linings?  Both cars make speed on the straights.  Ryan Briscoe in the #67 set the fastest average top speed times of any GTLM car at over 185mph.   Next fastest?  Joey Hand in the #66 at a touch over 184mph.  Mucke and Muller were close behind.  As you might expect from a professional driver line-up, all the drivers averaged very close lap times to each other.  Despite the early problems and repair delays, both cars ran a lot of laps.  The #67 logged 429 green laps and the #66 logged 534 green laps.  If the Fords can resolve their reliability and trade some of their top speed for grip in the corners, they will be a threat for wins.  Sebring will be a major test.20160128-28085819108 20160128-281441331120160130-3013000724 20160130-3013001326 20160129-290841476020160130-3019584312 20160130-3020085852  20160130-3020163570 20160130-30213612204
  • What more can be said about the Corvette effort? The closest winning margin in Daytona history of 0.034 seconds after the Corvette team let both of their cars run for the win?  The stuff that legends are made of.  Oliver Gavin in the #4 just edged Antonio Garcia in the #3.  However, the win looked out of reach with a puncture at speed earlier in the race coming out of NASDCAR Turn 4 and then incurred a penalty on the pit stop.  The team recovered, charged to the front, and then suffered a stop plus a 60 second hold penalty for Marcel Fassler with only 3 hours to go after running the red light at the end of pit lane.  Not only did Gavin post the fastest average lap times in the #4, he ran the most green laps of the three drivers in the car (214).20160130-30144631230 20160130-30213420186
  • Jan Magnussen noted that the #3 had a fueling problem which resulted in an extra stop – and possibly cost the race. The car had earlier drama with 11 hours to go when Olivier Beretta in the Ferrari spun the #3 Corvette in the infield on a restart.  IMSA penalized Beretta, but the spin put the Corvette near the back of the GTLM field.  Garcia was the hot shoe in the #3 with the fastest average lap time and the most laps in the car.  He was too fast on pit lane with just under 7 hours to go, earning a drive through penalty for speeding on pit lane.20160128-2809054915820160130-3012595923 20160130-30143756162 20160130-30144447210 20160130-30203041112
  • Like the Porsches, the Corvettes also ran in tandem when possible during the race. Looking back through the notes during the race, it is remarkable how little went wrong for the Corvette team.  They should be very proud of their 1-2 accomplishment.
  • How hard were the Corvettes pushing at the end? They posted their fastest laps of the race on laps 702 for the #4 and 707 for the #3.  The winners covered a total of 722 laps, so that means the fastest Corvette laps were within 20 laps of the finish.

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  • Two Corvette drivers had quiet, consistent, quick and clean races – the two Audi factory drivers. Marcel Fassler and Mike Rockenfeller are no strangers to endurance racing or standing on the podium.  LeMans and Sebring winner Fassler had never driven at Daytona before, but had run with Corvette in 2009.  However, Daytona was not his first 24 hour win in a Corvette – he won the 2007 24 Hours of Spa overall in a Corvette as well.  Rockenfeller won Daytona overall in 2010 in a Porsche powered Daytona prototype and had run for several years in Corvette DPs, but 2016 was his first ride in a Corvette GT car.  Both have amassed a very impressive career and will run with Corvette at the Sebring 12 Hours as well.  Full credit and kudos to Audi for permitting them to run.20160130-30144111186

How close was it at the end?  A fraction of a second for the win and three cars on the lead lap with two more a lap adrift.  All the teams appeared to try to keep a consistent pace, let attribution winnow the field, and save the hard racing until the end.  Sebring will offer less room to log clean laps and wait for the end.

Rolex 24 GTD Class – A Deeper Look

Endurance races have multiple layers and there are a multitude of plots and sub-plots, unseen stories and angles and facts that get filled in later.  The Rolex 24 at Daytona had plenty of storylines that grabbed the headlines, but the days and weeks after the race provided an opportunity to have a closer look.  The GTD class had the most entries in the race, some of the most significant changes to teams, cars and drivers, and some of the closest racing.  With that, some observations and nuggets through the GTD field at the Rolex 24:

  • The #22 WeatherTech/Alex Job Porsche looked like a strong contender for the win. Shane van Gisbergen in particular was electric.  Better known for his Australian V8 Supercar exploits, he set 24 of the top 25 fastest laps for the car throughout the event.  With 75 minutes to go, the rear wing mounts failed and the wing laid further back. He later said that he could see the crippled wing in the rear view mirror going into turn 1.  Regardless, he charged into the infield and went flat out through the kink where the lack of rear downforce sent him and into a spin across the grass.  The team tried to secure the rear wing and sent him back out.  Incredibly, he charged into the kink at full speed again and repeated his off course excursion in almost the same tire tracks.  A colleague described van Gisbergen as a grenade – pull the pin, stick him in the car, close the door and BOOM.  He further proved it by claiming an electric pole and spearheading a three driver team to take the win at the Bathurst 12 hour the following weekend.


  • The Lamborghini badge made its first appearance in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and let the chance for a debut victory get away despite clearly having the fastest GTD cars in the field. The #16 Change Racing entry and the #48 Paul Miller entry took each other out of the lead and both sustained major suspension damage.  The #11 O’Gara car suffered a variety of electrical maladies before the third hour.  The #28 Konrad Lamborghini took the lead with under 10 minutes to the checkered flag, but knew fuel would be marginal at best.  The team gambled in an effort to claim the win, but ran out of fuel with only 3 minutes to go and lost out on a podium position.




  • Daytona is unique, but the Lamborghini performance was sufficiently dominant that the marque may find itself the subject of a future Adjustment of Performance. The fastest average lap time for a Lamborghini (and GTD overall) was set by Madison Snow and was a full second clear of the fastest average time for the fastest non-Lamborghini car (Jorg Bergmeister in the Park Place Porsche).  How fast were the Lamborghinis through the speed traps?  Several cars had faster average top speeds that ALL of the GTLM cars and ALL of the PC cars.  Yes, they gave some of it up on the infield to the GTLM and PC cars, but less to the rest of the GTD field.  It is easy to understand the frustration of other GTD cars after seeing the Lamborghinis easily whistle past on the banking.


  • Change Racing and Franz Konrad managed to get some extra preparation time by entering the Lamborghini Huracan in the HSR Classic 24h race at Daytona in November. Change Racing was familiar with the Lamborghini Huracan after having run in the 2015 Super Trofeo series, but appreciated the additional time to adapt to the GT3 specification.  The car run by Konrad at the HSR Classic event was shared by multiple teams and drivers at the open IMSA test in November.  Perhaps a brand new Lamborghini Huracan GT3 is not strictly a “classic,” but kudos to Change Racing, Konrad and the HSR team to get the new car some track time during the classic event.20160130-3020465112420160130-30213048173
  • The Lamborghini crews worked a full day on Wednesday before the Rolex as fresh engines arrived at 6:30am for all the teams. It was quite a sight to walk through the garages and see all the Lamborghinis with empty engine bays.  Perhaps evidence of the Huracan as a new car, several teams had technical manuals within arm’s reach as they worked through the installations.


  • The Magnus victory was the first win in the US for the new Audi R8 LMS. The team first tested its new arrival on December 7 and announced Marco Seedfried and Rene Rast as drivers a month later to join Andy Lally and John Potter, but it was a bit of a challenge to adjust to seeing Magnus in an Audi after so many years of running Porsches.  Rast, Potter and Lally were also on the winning squad when Magnus won in 2012.  The victory was Lally’s fifth class victory at the Rolex which puts him in rare company (prior wins were with Archangel Motorsports with Nissan Lola, twice with TRG Porsche, and Magnus Porsche).  Rene Rast won a fuel strategy battle which was ironic after coming up just short in a fuel strategy race in 2013.  He managed his lead masterfully, running laps several seconds slower than the oncoming Nicky Catsburg in the Black Swan Porsche and Damien Faulkner in the #92 “Don’t Mess with Texas” Viper.

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  • The third place #93 ViperExchange “Don’t Mess with Texas” entry was also the winning GTD chassis in 2015. With their third place in class, the team came only seconds shy of giving the chassis another victory.   Team owner Ben Keating found the tires late Saturday night in the #33.  The excursion cost 10 laps between the time for the safety crew to recover the car and the subsequent repairs, but pushed ultimately finished only 3 laps down at the end.  Damien Faulkner in the #93 not only was the fastest driver in the car, but drove the most laps of any driver in the car and GTD overall, logging 195 laps.20160130-301132235120160128-2808560392
  • The #33 ViperExchange entry was the only car to completely miss the final Friday practice before the race. A clutch issue that took a lot of methodical effort to chase, diagnose and fix on Friday prevented participation.  The problem was fixed, but the team was denied a hardship lap prior to the race which meant the green flag was the first time the team could evaluate its repairs.  Likewise, the #93 team car had a brake issue in the final practice and it only got 6 timed laps.  The Friday practice session was the only dry practice session which meant that the race start was the first dry running for the #33 car at all, making the 6 laps logged by the #93 quite valuable for the team.


  • The ViperExchange team had several drivers doing “the double” between the Continental BMW Performance 200 support race on Friday and the Rolex 24 over the weekend. In the #93 Viper that finished 3rd in GTD class and 16th overall, drivers Eric Foss and Jeff Mosing won the ST class in their Murillo Racing Porsche Cayman.  On the #33 Viper that finished 10th in GTD and 24th overall in the Rolex 24 after running into problems, Marc Miller finished third in the CJ Wilson Racing “Darth Cayman” GT4 and Jeroen Bleekemolen finished sixth the Muehlner Motorsports Porsche Cayman in the Friday race.


  • Stevenson Motorsports brought two current spec Audi R8 LMS entries to the Rolex. Fans have been used to seeing Stevenson running Camaros in the Continental series.  The #6 Audi was the car that Audi brought to the November test for teams to try out and Stevenson took it home after that test.  The Rolex 24 was its first outing.  After running consistently in the top 5 in class, damage with four hours to go cost several laps that couldn’t be recovered and the car finished 15th in class and 32nd

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  • The #9 Audi was run by the Phoenix team at the Nurburgring 24 hours in 2015 at the debut for the revised R8 LMS platform. Unfortunately, a power steering problem ended up requiring removal of the gearbox to fix and the team missed the qualifying session.  The #9 also suffered an electrical/battery problem at the start of the Rolex 24 which cost two laps at the outset.  Once running, however, the #9 Audi ran a clean and consistent race but just didn’t have the outright speed to challenge for the lead.  The car finished 8th in class and 22nd overall, 2 laps off the class lead.  Dion von Moltke had the fastest average lap times, but Tristan Vautier ran the most laps (190) by far of any driver in the car and the second most laps of any GTD driver in the race.

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  • Frikadelli brought its “Fastest Meatball in the World” to Daytona for the first ever race for the team beyond the Nurburgring. Frank Stippler and Porsche Junior driver Sven Muller were clearly the fastest of the drivers in the #30 Porsche.  Queen of the Ring Sabine Schmitz never could get comfortable enough to match their speed.  Klaus Abbelen, the butcher whose business is the basis for the meatball theme, showed pace that was reasonably close to Sabine’s speed.  The Frikadelli team didn’t have the outright pace, but ran a very clean race to finish 12th in class and 27th  Coming to Daytona has been Abbelen’s dream for years and he drove the car for its last stint to the checkered flag.

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  • The #45 Krohn Racing/Flying Lizard Audi was a fan favorite during the Rolex weekend judging by the crowds gathered around its garage space. It never threatened for the lead, suffered through contact with a prototype that damaged its splitter, and ultimately retired with a gearbox problem with four hours to go.  The team will return at Sebring for the 12 hours in the older spec Audi R8.  The chassis was the same car that placed second in class at the 2014 Rolex 24.

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  • Turner Motorsport brought its pair of BMW M6 GT3 cars for their maiden run in the US. The blue and yellow pair of cars had 16 engineers looking after them, making the Turner team look like something out of NASA Mission Control.  The #97 had a very solid run and the best run of the two, placing 6th overall and 2 laps off the class lead.  The #96 replaced the gearbox and then later suffered nose damage after a tire blew out and required time in the garage to repair.  Oddly enough, the #97 suffered a tire failure in Friday practice as well, but suffered no damage.   Neither car had the top speed to compete at the front of the field.  The team will be hoping that Sebring fits the car better (and/or looking for changes to the Adjustment of Performance).

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  • The #73 Park Place Porsche sat on pole after a stellar wet qualifying lap by Norbert Siedler and ran very well throughout the race and into Sunday. However, gearbox woes struck on Sunday morning and deprived the team of a strong finish.  Driver Patrick Lindsey lost drive coming out of turn 5 and pulled off the track at turn 6 just before the banking and steered the car slowly through infield traffic back to the garage.  He had the media center in stitches recounting his voyage weaving between passenger cars, pedestrians and track shuttles.  He commented on the irony of getting all kinds of attention for the unusual drive through the infield – more than winning Petit LeMans. The team lost its shot for a win, but got the car back out later to let its season-long drivers meet their minimum drive times for points.

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  • Scuderia Corsa ran a Ferrari 458 in GTD and a brand new Ferrari 488 in GTLM. The team won the 2015 GTD IMSA championship with a completely different driver line-up.  The 2016 version ran a clean and consistent race and kept close, but finished two laps down 7th in class and 21st overall.  The car wasn’t involved in drama and ran competitive lap times which usually is a recipe for a higher finish.  The team should be proud of its run, but will likely be disappointed to miss out on a podium for the final run of the team’s 458 which is expected to be replaced with a shiny new 488 GT3 car.  Scuderia Corsa was also busy fielding three cars in the Ferrari Challenge support races over the weekend as well.20160128-2809172925920160130-301304225620160130-30215119239
  • The #23 Spirit of Seattle/Alex Job Porsche finished 9th in class and 23rd overall.  They raised in excess of $147,000 for Seattle Children’s Hospital based on pledges per lap run.  Wolf Henzler joined the team after the Falken Porsche team ceased operations at the end of 2015.  The team ran strongly in the top few spots throughout the night before problems with a shock and then a loose rear diffuser in the last few hours slowed things down a bit.  A strong run with the new Porsche car should be an encouraging sign for the team.20160128-28092033292 20160130-30204724128
  • Perhaps the reward for the invisible car of the race goes to the AF Corse operated Spirit of Race Ferrari 458. The entry barely featured in pre-race coverage and ran a quiet race.  They finished 11th in class and 26th overall, 5 laps off the class lead.   It was delayed by damage incurred through contact with another car near the halfway point but otherwise ran under the radar until a flat tire with under 19 minutes to go in the race garnered some television time.  Pace was consistent with driver Raffaele Gianmaria clearly the fast shoe behind the wheel with average lap times among the non-Lamborghini GTD leaders.


  • The #007 Racers Group Aston Martin ended its race the late Saturday night/early Sunday morning after side by side contact with the #21 Lamborghini in the bus stop at lap 371.  The Lamborghini was a customer car and not a threat for the lead.  The contact put both cars out. Formula One driver Sergio Perez was on site to support his brother, Tono Perez, who drove for the team.  With Mexican drivers, sponsors and coverage and 100+ guests, there was plenty of buzz all weekend near the TRG garage.  Before the race even started, the Aston Martin was the victim of a tire blowout on the front stretch in the second practice session which did significant damage to the right side of the car.  While such an issue is never good news, it could have been a lot worse.

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  • Lexus has announced plans to enter the IMSA GTD class mid-season with veteran Scott Pruett relative newcomer Sage Karam as drivers. The team is testing in the early part of 2016 and hopes to race by Laguna Seca or Detroit.  The news is noteworthy in light of the theoretical distinction between GTLM being a factory class and GT3 as a customer class.  However, another factory entry was at the Rolex 24 in the form of a works supported Aston Martin squad with some very experienced pilots.  Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda, Paul Della Lana and Richie Stanaway comprised the driver strength.  The #98 ran strongly and relatively free of trouble and incidents, staying near the top of the GTD leaderboard consistently.  The team finished an impressive fourth, but a late stop for fuel win under 15 minutes remaining cost the team a podium finish.

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  • Perhaps the winner in the GTD livery contest was the #540 Black Swan Racing Porsche with is electric green and chrome wrap. The IMSA entry marked the return for team owner Tim Pappas who had been running in the Pirelli World Challenge series recently in a Mercedes SLS GT3 and a Viper GT3.  It also marked a return to Porsche for the Pappas.  The team plans to run the entire season with Pappas and Patrick Long as full season drivers and Andy Pilgrim and Nick Catsburg joining for the enduros.  Pilgrim was a late addition in December after parting ways with the Cadillac World Challenge.  Somehow, Pilgrim is ranked as a Silver category which gives the #540 a very strong driver line up as evidence by the impressive second place GTD finish.  Rene Rast’s fuel saving skills in the Magnus Audi is all that stood between the Black Swan team and the top step of the podium.20160128-280837473920160130-3013051262 20160130-30143432143 20160130-30204009116

Arguably, the Rolex 24 was a successful debut for new GT3 cars. Multiple Lamborghinis in the field, multiple new Audis, multiple new Porsches, and new BMW M6 entries put on a show.  The Ferrari 488 is coming soon.  The Viper and Aston Martin are unlikely to see new versions.  The Lexus should show up mid-season.  Mercedes will likely be on the grid in 2016 as well.  It is a good time to be a GT racing fan.  Sebring provides a very different setting with a very different race, but should be fun.


Observations on the Rolex 24

Doing some preparation for the Rolex 24 at Daytona and ended up with a bit of an overview/preview.  The more one looks, the more interesting angles there are to the race.  While prototypes may be the fastest and most likely to compete for top honors, the story for the 2016 Rolex 24 Hours is the GT cars.  Opinions on that score may vary, but it still is a compelling race even if your view differs.  2016 is the last year for the Daytona Prototype formula as we know it and the Prototype Challenge class is usually more of an intramural affair.  The driver line-ups in the big prototype cars are impressive but much of the chatter revolves around what 2017 will bring in that class.

Why is GT the story?  New cars in both GTLM and GTD, teams changing cars, and drivers changing teams and cars.  We’ll get to GTLM in a moment, but this is the first race with the full GT3 specification available to customer teams in IMSA.


There are 22 GTD cars on the preliminary entry list.  Sadly, the AMG GT3 and the McLaren GT3 offerings are not in the field but Porsche, Audi, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Dodge Viper, BMW and Aston Martin provide the variety.

Porsche 911 GT3 R, Alex Job Racing: David MacNeil, Cooper MacNeil, Leh Keen, Shane van Gisbergen, Gunnar Jeannette

Times looked reasonably tight at the Roar with most cars within a second of each other.  Clearly that is only testing and Daytona is a unique track, but the GT3 platform and prior balancing experience helps to keep things tight.  Perhaps most interestingly, however, the sector times from the Roar appear to show that different cars make their speed at different parts of the track – even among similar manufacturers.  For example, the #48 Paul Miller Lamborghini was very fast in the infield and slowest on top speed but the #11 O’Gara Motorsport Lamborghini showed almost the opposite.


IMSA was watching as well and issued an Adjustment of Performance bulletin on January 21, 2016 with tweaks for every car in the GTD field.  The Aston Martins got the most help with the new Audi R8 LMS and the Lamborghini Huracan losing performance in the form of weight and restrictor.CZWh0HJWwAIb_1Q

It still is a bit of a shock to look around at all the change in GTD.  Five Lamborghinis?  Magnus in an Audi?  Stevenson appearing with no Camaro, but rather two Audis?  Bell and Sweedler moving to an O’Gara Lamborghini from Scuderia Corsa and then Neilsen moving from the TRG Aston Martin to take one of those vacant Ferrari seats?  Kuno Wittmer moving from the TRG Aston Martin to the GTLM BMW? Pumpelly released from Park Place Porsche and landing with Change Racing in a Lamborghini?  World Challenge Cadillac ace Andy Pilgrim released and landing alongside Patrick Long, Nicky Catsburg and Tim Pappas in a Porsche?  What about seeing ex-Falken GTLM Porsche drivers Sellers and Henzler in GTD with Sellers in the Paul Miller Lamborghini and Henzler in the Team Seattle Porsche?  Arguably, the defending GTD winning Viper team has the most stability in terms of car, driver and team.  Alex Job would also be a strong bet with his deep experience and talented driver squad and a brand new 991GT3R.33-roar-2016-dx2_8328

Dark horse?  Hard to call the Frikadelli Porsche a dark horse with so much experience at the Nurburgring and talent in the driver’s seat, but this will be their first race away from home.  Daytona is much different – arguably much less perilous than the Nurburgring in terms of traffic, weather, bumpiness of the track.  They did very well at the Roar so keep an eye on the Queen of the Ring and her team.

Porsche 911 GT3 R, Frikadelli Racing: Klaus Abbelen, Patrick Huisman, Frank Stippler, Connor De Phillippi, Sven Mueller

GTD is likely to be slightly slower in 2016 than 2015 due to the greater downforce and drag on the cars.  Fastest race lap in 2015 was about 1:47 compared to a fastest Roar time of about a second slower, but the field may be tighter in 2016.  We’ll also have to wait and see what impact the Adjustment of Performance will have.


The big off-season story in IMSA is clearly the appearance of the Ford GT program with Ganassi Racing.  The two car team will be part of an 11 car GTLM field.  That means there will be 33 GT cars on the grid of the total 54 entries – about 60% of the field.  It is a good time to be a GT racing fan.CYNybJiWMAASGFX

The driving line-up in the Ganassi entries is stellar – perhaps rivaled only by the line-up in Ganassi’s prototype cars, but that’s a separate story.  Porsche brings two revised 911RSR cars back along with BMW with two brand new M6 cars (in place of the now-retired Z4 platform) and Corvette with two cars.  Scuderia Corsa, who ran two Ferrari 458 entries in GTD in 2015, splits their effort for 2016 with one car in GTD and another in GTLM.  Scuderia Corsa joins SMP Racing and Risi Competizione with the brand new 488 GTE platform for the car’s first outing.  The car is so new that Risi shook its car down at the factory before shipping it to Miami to have it delivered directly to the track in the days prior to the race.3810.06-Fiorano

2015 saw some epic battles in GTLM, so what did the Roar tell us about 2016?  Who knows?  Nobody has any faith that any of the times were representative of anything.  (For example, the two Porsches were together at the bottom of the chart with the two new BMWs closer to the top.) With that said, however, times were all within a second and, like the GTD cars, different cars appeared to make time in different parts of the track.  The Fords had a few incidents at the Roar which caused damage and cost time, so the Ganassi team will be hoping that the test got the accidents out of their system.

The Adjustment of Performance Bulletin on January 21 also contained from presents for the GTLM class with changes to boost ratios, fuel capacity and refueling flow restrictors.  Nobody has any incentive to show any more cards any earlier than is necessary.

Corvette and BMW finished one-two in 2015 on the same lap – no reason to think that 2016 won’t be just as close.  The BMW is a new platform, so reliability is the big question for that team.  The winning Corvette is back with Magnussen and quiet fast guy Garcia.  Factory Audi driver Mike Rockenfeller joins in place of Ryan Briscoe who moved to the Ford GT program.2016_WTSC_Roar_10

One potentially interesting angle worth watching during the race is the gaps between GTLM and Prototype Challenge.  While the GTLM cars are likely to be three to four seconds a lap faster than the fastest GTD cars, the gap could be minimal to the slower PC cars – particularly when the full factory hotshoes are in the GTLM cars and the amateur drivers are piloting the PC cars.  It wouldn’t be surprising to see GTLM cars making some aggressive moves to avoid getting held up.  The GTLM cars appear faster in a straight line, but the PC cars are more nimble in the twisty bits.


In some ways, the Prototype class looks like the most stable class, but there are a variety of sub-plots to watch.  Michael Shank wants badly to taste success with his P2 car, particularly has he prepares to make a run at the 2016 24 Hours of LeMans.  His P2 has been fast, but sometimes fragile.  Amateur John Pew has continued to get faster, but he’s still in a class going up against full professionals.  Teammates AJ Allmendinger, Oz Negri, and Olivier Pla (now released from factory Nissan duty) will likely keep this entry at the sharp end of the field.CYZUXXKUAAAUijn

ESM will have its own P2 in the field.  ESM and Shank were at the top of the charts at the Roar, but the bulk of the prototype class was only separated by about a second.  The Ligier P2s were rewarded with additional weight via an Adjustment of Performance while the SMP team got a modest weight break.

In other news, the Ganassi team has two strong cars with fairly strong driver lineups.  Austrian and recently retired WEC driver and F1 veteran Alex Wurz makes his Daytona debut along with factory Porsche driver and new Ford GT WEC driver Andy Priaulx.  Young Lance Stroll completes the line up as the weak point – less experienced than the others by far (as perhaps evidenced by his crash on cold tires during the Roar).   The other Ganassi car is the defending race winner – the Indy/NASCAR entry with Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson.  Enough said.  Two strong bullets in the Ganassi gun.2016_WTSC_Roar_3

Mazda may be one of the more interesting stories in prototype after dropping the diesel engine in favor of a two liter inline four cylinder turbocharged gasoline engine.  The team maximized the potential of its prior diesel, but making a racing engine out of a production diesel engine was a tall ask.  Over 4000 miles of testing and a very strong showing at the Roar suggests this team may have some promise in the race.  Mazda has a lot of history at Daytona and 2106 is the 25th anniversary of its famous overall win at LeMans.  If the new Mazda engine can stay reliable in its debut, the young quick drivers like newcomer Spencer Pigot and his all American fellow drivers can be a threat.Roar Before the 24 2016

Scott Pruett moves down pitlane to join the Action Express team in search of yet another Rolex 24 victory.   Action Express has had a lot of success over the past several years and the team of Christian Fittipaldi, Filipe Albequerque and Joao Barbosa will likely run a steady and brisk pace with the goal of staying close at the end and then going racing.  This car finished second in 2015 and would like to move up a step on the podium.

The VisitFlorida team is all different with Ryan Hunter-Reay joining Ryan Dalziel and Marc Goosens in the Corvette DP.  The team finished third in 2015 with a completely different set of drivers.  (Rockenfeller will be running with the Corvette squad and Richard Westbrook joined the Ford GT program, both in GTLM.  Michael Valiante appears not to have landed a seat – at least not yet.)

Taylor Racing sees no changes, but perhaps spent some time in the off-season focusing on the driver time calculator after running into problems late in the 2015 Daytona 24 hour race costing the team a podium finish.011016_ROAR_BC_157053

The plucky Delta Wing appears to have found some funding and assembled an interesting driver squad.  The car showed well at the Roar, the fastest in the infield sections of all cars.  Mechanical gremlins in the gearbox have sidelined the car in previous endurance events, so reliability will the biggest challenge.

Russian SMP Racing brings their BR01 chassis which is another interesting story, but more about them further below.

Prototype Challenge

The headline for PC is the same as usual – fast enough to mix things up, but not fast or reliable enough to challenge for the overall.  In 2015, the top PC cars finished 8th and 10th overall.  CORE looks to improve, bringing back most of its driver lineup and looking to experienced engineer Jeff Braun to help steer the ship.

Times within the class are likely to be variable and the margins between cars and lap times wider than other classes.  Remember also that the GTLM cars may be mixing it up amongst the PC cars with the PC cars stronger in the infield.RD46553

The two Starworks entries from Peter Baron, the CORE entry, and the PR1/Mathiasen defending class winner have the depth and experience to be the strongest.  CORE in particular has several years of consistent strength.  Others may have spurts of speed and could make things interesting but the pace at the Roar suggests that they’ll have a difficult task.RD44747

What else to watch?

European Teams on the Entry Again

In the 1980s and 1990s, European teams would often head to the US for the Daytona 24 and Sebring 12 hours.  They bulked up the fields, added some additional flavor, and brought interesting cars.  There was a lot more overlap in those days with the 24 Hours of LeMans.  Without revisiting all of the gory history of Grand-Am and American LeMans Series, the European presence at Daytona has been sparse for the last decade plus.

The presence of teams and people like Franz Konrad will be a welcome sight.  Franz is no stranger to Daytona and is bringing two GTD Lamborghini entries.  While it seems a little odd to see the Konrad colors on anything other than a Porsche, he does have modest history with other marques including a brief dalliance with a Lola prototype and Saleen S7-R.  (If memory serves, the Lola had a spectacular engine failure at the Rolex 24 in 1999 and retired early to the garage.)24hDubai16_40

As noted earlier, the German Frikadelli team is making its first visit beyond the Ring.  The fastest meatball in the world started a Twitter account during the roar and quickly amassed several hundred followers.  The team is such a sensation on home soil, they may relish the chance to race slightly outside the spotlight.  Sabine Schmitz is certainly well known to Ring fans and Klaus Abbelen (a butcher, business man who has the meatball connection), but the rest of the drivers include Frank Stippler, Patrick Huisman and Sven Müller.  Huisman and Stippler are well known but young Sven is a driver to watch.  He is a Porsche factory Junior driver and has run German Carrera Cup, Supercup and WEC races.  Another reason to keep an eye on Frikadelli as a potential threat.     With perhaps the most interesting combination on the entry, Russian SMP Racing will be running a BR01 Nissan powered P2 prototype in the top class and a Ferrari 488 GTE in the GTLM class.   This will be the IMSA debut for the BR Engineering prototype, but the team has run at Daytona previously.  In 2014, they finished fourth in a Ferrari 458 run in cooperation with the ESM team.  The 488 program will be run with partner AF Corsa who has plenty of experience with the GTLM class and Ferrari GT cars in general.  The driver line-up may not be familiar to US fans, but Andrea Bertolini and Viktor Shaytar won the GTE-Am class at the 2015 24 Hours of LeMans (and Shaytar won the championship in class).  They’ll be joined by Gimmi Bruni who has three LeMans GT class wins to his credit since 2008 and is generally synonymous with Ferrari GT racing over the past 8 or 9 years.  Brit James Calado rounds out the driving strength, bringing years of single seat and AF Corsa Ferrari GT racing experience along with him.   If you’re looking for a GTLM darkhorse, the SMP Ferrari 488 entry may fit the bill.2016_WTSC_Roar_5

The team may run at Sebring as well, but has not yet announced their intentions.  The prototype will be obsolete after 2016 with regulation changes, so hopefully the team can get the most mileage and racing activity out of the chassis while it can.CYI7IcgWAAAkSHw (1)


Long term forecasts are fickle, but there aren’t a lot of indicators of anything other than an average January Florida weekend.  Mid-60s F during the day, high 40s F overnight, and no major rain to be seen.  Given the IMSA weather experience in 2015 at places like Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta, average would be just fine.

Outstanding Driver Combinations

There is an impressive list of drivers from multiple disciplines and multiple places and some really impressive combinations of drivers in cars.  There are experienced veterans and fresh novices.  There are sportscar specialists and those that make their living in other forms of motorsport or even outside motorsport in the case of some of the amateur drivers. CX4ZxZjUsAAeO-_

Some drivers have already seen action in 2016 at the Dubai 24 and a handful will head from Daytona straight for Australia to run the Bathurst 12 hour.

Lots of Reasons to Watch

A total of 54 cars with two-thirds in the GT classes.  Some very close times within classes and intriguing overlap between classes.  A chance to see how changes of drivers, cars and teams work out.  Potential spoilers in the form of teams like Mazda who have been patient and hungry and are ready to play at the front of the field.  Stellar drivers with remarkable backgrounds.  New hardware like the Ford GT and BMW making their race debut.  Factory efforts like Porsche looking to erase the memory of a difficult 2015 race.  Cars with strength at different parts of the track could make for interesting battles as the advantage ebbs and flows.StartFinishLine_620w

As usual, full coverage from the Radio LeMans team via IMSA Radio.  Many teams and drivers on Twitter and other social media combined with outlets like Dailysportscar.com make it easier to keep up with events.  Doubtless many more reasons to watch, but those ought to be enough for any motor racing fan.  Enjoy!

Photo credits: IMSA, BMW, Porsche, Mike Hull, ViperExchange, Shank Racing, Mikhail Aleshin, CORE, Wayne Taylor Racing, Action Express Racing, Risi Competizione, Konrad Racing