IMSA: Monterey notebook

IMSA: Monterey notebook

IMSA

IMSA: Monterey notebook

P2 SWITCH FOR PC CHAMP?

Defending PC champion Mike Guasch won the PC class last year on the final lap of the Monterey ALMS race in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen entry, and is here again this weekend, but won’t be taking part in his home race. The Bay Area resident came into 2014 with a curtailed driving schedule, intending to do only the four Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup events, and after two tough races at Daytona and Sebring, he says it’s possible that number could be further reduced.

“I was going to do the NAEC, but I actually might not do that now,” said Guasch. “It’s kind of up in the air right now if I want to continue with the rest of the year so I’m just going to take a little break. I could return for Petit Le Mans, but I’m probably going to focus my energy on next year.”

With the 2013 ALMS PC title on his resume, a change in classes could be in store for Guasch in 2015, provided parity is established in the Prototype category.

“For now, I’ll take my energy and put it towards business, see where it all ends up at the end of the year, and then next year we’ll go P2 racing as long as they get the balance right,” he said.

REMEMBERING IMOLA

On this weekend 20 years ago, Action Express Racing’s Christian Fittipaldi was racing at the San Marino Grand Prix in Imola, Italy. The young Brazilian, in his third year as a Formula 1 driver, experienced the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna, and reflected on the memory two decades later.

“I’m still, in some ways, in shock,” said Fittipaldi, who posted the fifth-fastest lap in qualifying today. “The two worst weekends of racing for me was Imola and then the Zanardi weekend at Lausitzring. They were really tragic. When Roland was killed, I was in the pits and they shut down the track, so I never saw it. And when Ayrton hit the wall, I went by a couple of seconds after that, but I never imagined he got killed in that accident. I went by, saw his car, thought he maybe broke an arm or a leg and he’d be back in 30 or 60 days, but it never, for one second, crossed my mind it would be so tragic. When I drove by Zanardi’s crash, the scene…it was devastating and you knew how bad it was. With Ayrton, that wasn’t the case. When I saw his car, it wasn’t that bad.”

With Senna, the most beloved Brazil driver now gone, the torch was passed to two young chargers – Fittipaldi and Rubens Barrichello – who weren’t quite ready to step into the giant shadow cast by his loss. Looking back two decades later, Fittipaldi is thankful to have lived through the experience at Imola and to continue writing new chapters in his storied career.

“My mind was not even in that place when we got to the next race at Monaco; we felt so empty,” he added. “No one was prepared to take over that spot he held in our sport. He was so big, and I always had a thought of him as being immortal. I always had this vision he would race for another five or seven years and never imagined it would come to an abrupt halt.

“I thought he’d quit as the greatest driver ever, but God wrote the story a little different. Motor racing goes on, it continues, and here I am 20 years later still racing.”

MORE FOR TURNER?

The Turner Motorsport GTD team is keeping itself in a constant state of readiness these days. Veteran Turner driver Paul Dalla Lana, whose cars and backing have been instrumental to the team’s racing endeavors in recent years, has chosen to concentrate on the World Endurance Championship in 2014, leaving Turner’s GTD effort more fluid than solid.

A promising run at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, which included Dane Cameron earning pole in the Dalla Lana-owned No. 94 BMW Z4, was followed by the team converting the car back to its full GT3 specification to take part in the Pirelli World Challenge season opener at St. Petersburg. And with the car reverted to GTD configuration to run this weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (pictured, TOP), Cameron and co-driver Markus Palttala are ready to race, but it’s too early to say how many other races they’ll contest this year.

“I really have to thank Paul for all he’s done this year and it’s my job to be prepared to race, wherever and whenever that is,” said Cameron, who qualified 10th in GTD. “Paul changed his plans for the year and is racing this weekend at Spa, so to be here with the Turner Motorsport team still racing with Markus says a lot about his character and commitment to the team. I’ll go wherever they say to go and I keep my gear packed and ready.”

Cameron stepped into the Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 GT Le Mans car at Round 3 in Long Beach, impressing team owner Giuseppe Risi with his performance after a last-minute call up. Depending on his availability – if there are any open or non-conflicting TUDOR Championship events – it’s believed Cameron could spend more time in the red No. 62, and possibly add some testing into the mix.

RETURN FOR MUSCLE MILK PICKETT RACING…KIND OF

As RACER revealed late in April, Muscle Milk Pickett Racing opted to withdraw from the TUDOR Championship in favor of making a future return in a series to be determined. Most of the ace team behind MMPR, however, will stay busy this month as they head to Indianapolis and run the No. 63 Dallara-Honda driven by Pippa Mann.

Mann, who will try and make the field for her third Indy 500, will have MMPR team manager/engineer Brandon Fry, crew chief Daryl Fox, and many of its other Indy car veterans looking after the Susan G. Komen-sponsored Dale Coyne Racing entry.

“Working with Pippa and Dale Coyne Racing for the Indy 500, while Muscle Milk Pickett Racing takes a break, is a great opportunity which we are looking forward to,” said Fry. “Dale has a great group, many of our guys know and have worked with the guys at DCR previously and I engineered Pippa in 2011, so much familiarity already exists. The partnership with Susan G. Komen provides support and awareness to a great program which is something that we are proud to be a part of. Our group can’t wait to see this beautiful pink car on the track in a week!”


HOTTER’S BETTER

IMSA’s ongoing efforts to balance P2s and DPs will never reach a point of perfection – the cars are too dissimilar to match every facet of how both styles of prototypes make speed, corner, decelerate, produce downforce and drag, and so on.

That hasn’t stopped the series from trying to draw the contenders within the Prototype class as close together as possible, but there’s one area – the spec Continental tires–where a marked advantage remains that cannot be readily addressed by BoP tweaks.

Due to the extra weight carried by DPs, Continental’s Prototype tires come up to temperature at a faster rate during the opening laps of a race and again after pit stops are made. The lighter P2s, accustomed to softer compounds designed specifically for their lighter weight, take longer to build the same temperature, and during that phase – a few extra laps – the gap built by DPs has become hard to erase.

It’s hard to fault Continental for a tire that was designed for DPs and has been asked to accommodate P2s for the first time in 2014, but that doesn’t change the disparity at hand. Adding 300 pounds to P2 cars isn’t feasible from a performance or safety standpoint (unless IMSA reintroduces the “riding mechanic” to motor racing using NFL linebackers as live ballast), and taking 300 pounds off of the DPs would be impossible without incurring painfully expensive modifications.

With P2 drivers waiting for cold tires to get up to temp and watching their DP rivals pull away during that period, would going to different DP and P2 compounds solve the problem?

“Absolutely – you’re reading our minds,” said Extreme Speed Motorsports P2 co-owner/driver Scott Sharp, whose cars qualified first and third at Monterey. “We definitely feel that we’re racing a ‘DP’ tire right now and have racing tires that are therefore designed for a 300-pound heavier car with power. And I really think Continental can do it. They asked us to come test as the fall started to loom, as the merger started to loom, I should say, towards the end last May.

“They had us do a tire test for them with our P2 car in Atlanta. And they brought quite an array of different tires and compounds and constructions. And it was pretty impressive – they could definitely go softer if they wanted to. That would certainly help us a lot to try to get equal to the DPs.”

Allowing tire warmers could be the easiest solution of all, and the topic has been raised as something to consider for next year.

“It’s something that came up and we’ll consider,” said Scot Elkins, IMSA’s VP of competition and rules. “It did come up in the Manufacturers’ meeting we had at Long Beach and we said we’d look into it, but we didn’t say whether it would or wouldn’t happen.”

Elkins also indicated going to separate DP and P2 tire compounds would be highly unlikely, leaving this topic open for future remedy.

TWO FOR CORSA?

Scuderia Corsa is back with two cars this weekend – the first non-endurance event for the GT Daytona class – and has retained the No. 64 Ferrari F458 to run alongside the full-time sister No. 63 entry.

Ferri Formula 1 veteran Stefan Johansson and Canadian rising star Kyle Marcelli are sharing the No. 64 this weekend, and as Scuderia Corsa co-owner Giacomo Mattioli told RACER, the California-based outfit hopes to keep the two-car program going for the rest of the season.

“The goal is to have the No. 64 at every event,” he said. “I don’t have a confirmation for that yet, but we’re working with a couple of drivers and have a lot of interest. This is our home race, we have about 60 guests this weekend and we definitely like having two cars to represent Ferrari and our team.”

2013 Grand-Am Rolex GT champion Alessandro Balzan had (ABOVE) a tough time in the closing moments of the Monterey last year when the back of his No. 63 Ferrari was used as a punching bag, leaving Mattioli with mixed emotions about the team’s last visit to Monterey. Coupled with a frustrating start to the TUDOR Championship season – Balzan and teammate Jeff Westphal sit 13th in the Drivers’ standings while their No. 63 holds eighth in the Team’s championship, Mattioli would love nothing more than to have a solid finish in front of their sponsors and friends.

“This year we’ve had a rough start to the season and we’re looking for redemption here,” he added. “The new BoP has penalized us, but I think Laguna Seca will be OK for us. It’s very close to our heart; it’s the first race we did two years ago and it’s like our home track. It will be challenging; there’s not much track time before the race, but we will do our best and want to have a clean race tomorrow.”​

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