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Throughout The Car Industry

Categories: Racing

Ganassi/BMW Dominates Sahlens 6 Hours

On: Mon, Jun 7, 2010 at 1:09PM | By: John Welch

Ganassi/BMW Dominates Sahlens 6 Hours test 1-1

Though we are in the midst of six straight weeks of televised Grand Am, this past weekend's Sahlens 6 Hours of the Glen puts a cap on the busiest week of the season. On Monday the teams practiced, qualified, and then raced at Lime Rock, Connecticut. Four days later they did the same at Watkins Glen New York, only this race was six hours long. Brutal.

The Telmex/Ganassi team ran afoul of the Gainsco Chevrolet on the first lap at Lime Rock. Front bodywork smashed to pieces, they were forced to park the car and watch the Lime Rock race from the pits. That incident lit the proverbial fire under the Tlmex team's collective asses, and they returned this weekend ready to conquer all comers at the Sahlens 6 Hours.

Conquer they did; Scott Pruett turned a blistering lap in qualifying, giving the Ganassi BMW the pole by a full second over the Gainsco car. The race played out in about the same fashion; the No. 01 TELMEX BMW Riley scoring its third consecutive victory in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen. The Ganassi team's biggest rival throughout the race was the No. 99 GAINSCO Chevrolet Riley of Jon Fogarty, Alex Gurney, and four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson. The two teams combined to lead 179 laps. Gurney was gaining on the Bimmer from third position, but spun out his Chevrolet with 15 minutes remaining, resulting in a sixth-place finish. "This was probably the best the GAINSCO Auto Insurance car ever has been at Watkins Glen," said Fogarty, who drove the opening three hours, seven minutes of the race before turning the car over to Johnson. The reigning NASCAR champion ran second behind Rojas for his entire hour behind the wheel.

Two Races In Four Days: Grand (Am) Insanity

On: Fri, Jun 4, 2010 at 3:38PM | By: John Welch

Two Races In Four Days: Grand (Am) Insanity test 1-1

Last week, the race was at Lime Rock, this week Watkins Glen. Using the word "week" to describe Grand-Am's recent schedule is a wee bit excessive. The Lime Rock portion of this cavalcade of road racing madness took place last Monday, Memorial Day. While the rest of us ate pork and drank Schlitz, Rolex Sports Car teams were dueling each other on a new (to Grand-Am) circuit. Afterwards, while we were faking sleep on the couch to avoid dishes, these teams were driving 18-wheelers filled with racecars and race paraphernalia north, to Watkins Glen New York. Where, after just four short days, they will unload and begin terrorizing the Catskills countryside with the sounds and tremors of 40 angry, dinosaur-fueled sports cars. Almost makes a person forget about that whole "oil spill" thingee. Almost.

Though domination by the Ganassi BMWs was every knowledgeable know-nothing's prediction (yours truly included) the blue and white Riley was crippled two laps into the race—the outcome of a scuffle with the championship-contending No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Chevrolet. This incident left the door open for the SunTrust/Wayne Taylor Racing team, who were starting the race from the pole position. Max Angelli drove a smooth race and brought the SunTrust Dallara its first victory of the season.

A video review of Lime Rock and a preview of the Sahlens 6 Hours at the Glen inside the post . . .

. . . And Just In Case You Can't Wait For Saturday

On: Fri, May 28, 2010 at 12:36PM | By: John Welch

. . . And Just In Case You Can't Wait For Saturday test 1-1

CBS will broadcast last week's American Le Mans Series Race tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. EST. The program will feature a documentary format, similar to 2008's "Truth In 24".

If you just can't wait until tomorrow afternoon, or you (like I,) want to witness every nanosecond of the 6-hour Grand Prix of Monterey, the entire race can be viewed courtesy of the ALMS and TodoCast.

TodoCast is a new system for professional videographers, event producers, content owners and organizations looking to reach their fans with Live Internet Broadcasts. Fortunately for us, the American Le Mans Series is one of those event-producing organizations! The race is split into three parts: hours one through three, hours four and five, and the final hour. Simply fill out the requisit "login" information, complete your free registration, and you're ready to consume six hours of motorized madness.

I have taken advantage of this service already, spacing the race out over several evenings. Even a casual fan might get lost in the intense action, action that doesn't lose pace over the course of six hours. The first two hours feature a hellacious duel among the LMP competitors, and the final four is a non-stop, fender crushing, teeth gnashing, GT brawl. The top four cars are often four different makes, and the lead changes hands so often you might think it was every lap.

The CBS broadcast has it's place. The drama and excitement of a Le Mans-style enduro might not be immediately obvious to an uninitiated observer, and the high-style documentary (ala NFL Films) is an excellent way to introduce the series. For the previously aware, however, the ability to view all of the pulse-pounding action from the Grand Prix of Monterey is a blessing from God, or Buddha, or Xenu Warrior Princess or whoever you donate your ten percent too.

Grand Am Gears Up For Busiest Week Of The Season

On: Fri, May 28, 2010 at 11:26AM | By: John Welch

Grand Am Gears Up For Busiest Week Of The Season test 1-1

After four weeks of heel cooling and relaxation, the Grand-Am Series revs back up this weekend, at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. The Lime Rock circuit has never hosted a Grand-Am event; series regulars are excited about the opportunity to race at the historic venue. Scott Pruett, Ganassi/BMW Racing driver: "I feel it's going to be a unique opportunity for everyone. It's a one-day event, which means as a team you have to be ready to roll right when you come off the truck - and the Ganassi team continually shows a lot of ability in that respect."

How’s this for a crammed schedule: The teams practice, qualify and race on Monday. After the race, they will pack up and head straight to New York for the Sahlens 6 Hour at Watkins Glen. The next weekend. Yikes.

That race, a six-hour endurance race at the famed Watkins Glen course, will feature star power in the form of Hendrick Motorsport's Jimmie Johnson. More on that next week; right now we are focusing on the Connecticut farmland and Lime Rock Park. This race at the 1.5 mile Lime Rock circuit will be a one-day event. Practice begins at 9 a.m. ET, with qualifying at 11:55 a.m. and the green flag waving around 2 p.m.


RSR Jaguar XKR GT Completes Its First Enduro

On: Mon, May 24, 2010 at 11:21AM | By: John Welch

RSR Jaguar XKR GT Completes Its First Enduro test 1-1

May 29th. That is the day we will get to view the Monterey Grand Prix. Which took place this last weekend. Blame insufferable television schedules for the delay in coverage. Instead of the race, CBS treated me too an informative (sic) infomercial involving a rotisserie and geriatric joint cream. By some cruel twist of physics Ronco has figured out how to provide the modern senior with an entire Lemon Pepper chicken (white meat only, of course) and pre-warmed Chondriotin-infusing skin cream . . . all on the same plate!! After an hour I was "oohh"ing and "awww"ing right along with the compensated studio audience. Apparently the joint medication doubles as a fine horseradish sauce! Ain't science grand?!

While this shameless advertisement was filling my head with notions of fully-cooked birds in under five minutes, there was a little race going on in Monterey. Maybe you couldn't care less what the results were. Maybe endurance racing isn't your thing. Maybe if I told you the results it wouldn't effect your day one way or the other. And that's fine.

There are some people who will avoid SPEED and ESPN all week because they would like to see the race before they know the results OF the race. I respect those people. Long ago, I was one of them. A tape-delayed race meant complete media shutdown for me, until the day network television got around to broadcasting the affair. I can no longer avoid the results of a race through total computer/television blackout. However, I still respect those who do. I won't ruin the race for you, Comrades, some other website can have the guilt.

I will report on a car that had little to do with the points battle, but whose presence in the ALMS is greatly appreciated. The RSR Jaguar was featured in the 'Shopper blog last year, and we have been anxiously following its development since. Unfortunately, that development has been slow and painful. Completing only a handful of laps in 2009, the Jag was all but absent fro this year's Sebring race. Out in the first quarter of Long Beach, it appeared that the eighth manufacturer in the ALMS GT class was going to be a memory by the middle of the season. These factors conspire to make a 13th (in class) finish seem like a serious victory. A victory for Rocket Sports Racing, for Jaguar, for the AMS, and for us fans.

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly: Six Hours In Monterey

On: Fri, May 21, 2010 at 3:51PM | By: John Welch

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly: Six Hours In Monterey test 1-1

We haven't enjoyed an American Le Mans Series race since the weekend of April 18th, when the ALMS parade put on an excellent show in Long Beach. That race was won on a last lap pass, an astounding move by Simon Pagenuad in his formally LMP2 ARX-01c. Remember, the Le Mans Prototype classes have been combined this season. Performance equalizers have been put in place to ensure fierce, competitive racing between the powerful, heavy LMP1s and the nimble but less powerful LMP2s. The car Pagenaud dusted off for the win, Adrian Fernandez's Lola/Aston Martin, is powered by a 6 liter V12. Pagenaud's Acura sports a tiny, wheezing HPD (Honda Performance Development) V8. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand the advantage the Aston might have over the Acura. This sort of competitive parity is found only in the ALMS (the European Le Mans Series still separates LMP1 and 2) and it makes for some fantastic finishes.

As far as the points battles are concerned, 2010 is a stellar year for fans of razor-thin margins. Two, I repeat, TWO of the four classes are tied at the top, and these classes just happen to be the two top classes—LMP and GT. In LMP there are eight teams within ten points of each other. The ALMS proves time and time again that its formula for parity is unrivaled in top-level motorsports the world over.

There are no European teams competeing in the Monterey Grand Prix this weekend, which is a significant disappointment. That means the Audi drought continues and no oil-buring French-Lions. For the first time this season there will be no Prodrive/Gulf/Lola/Aston-Martin prototype to lust after. I think the embassment of being defeated by an inferior marque/car may have put the gorgeous AMR Lola back in Europe for good. I sure hope not; that thing is baby-blue candy-coated sex on wheels and it would hurt me deeply if I was never given the opportunity to hear its twelve-cylinder siren song again . . .

Stupid CBS and your stupid delayed programming. The Monterey Grand Prix takes place this weekend, but will not be seen on television until May 29th. Let's be honest, if this is the only "Ugly" thing I can find to gripe about then the ALMS must really kick ass. Seriously, the ALMS absolutely flattens ass and then rearranges ass's molecules. Throws ass in the dryer right after wringing ass's neck. Beats ass with ass's own sister. Tases ass while curb stomping ass. You get the picture. The American Le Mans Series is pretty sweet.

Americans Impress At Nurburing 24

On: Wed, May 19, 2010 at 1:51PM | By: John Welch

Farnbacher Ferrari F430 test 2

Too bad we don't have any serious endurance races here in America. Shyeah, Sebring is a rough track, and the race is 12 hours. Right, Petit Le Mans is a thousand kilometers and takes place near crummy 'ole Atlanta, but that really isn't that bad either. There are plenty of amateur 24-hour events, but the Daytona 24 is the only true 'round the clock race . . . even it is contained inside the cushy confines of Daytona International Speedway. Which translates to: almost zero elevation change . . .

No, by "serious endurance race" I mean 24 hours, hundreds of feet of elevation change, 220 participants and thousands of ess-faced Germans trying to scrawl dirty limericks on the actual racing surface with sidewalk chalk . . . while people are racing! And did I mention that this racing surface is nearly 16 miles in length? The Nordschilfe makes Sebring, at a little more then 4 and a half miles, almost seem small! That is the reputation that comes with being the mightiest race track in the world; The Nurburing Nordschilfe.

The annual ADAC Nurburing 24 was held last weekend, and the over-all victory went to a factory BMW very similar to the Rahal/Letterman M3 GT2s campaigned in the American Le Mans Series. More interesting to us, as Americans, are the Grand-Am regulars who scored class victories at the storied event. Leh Keen, driver of the No. 41 Team Seattle/Global Diving/Dempsey Racing Mazda RX-8 GT in the Grand-Am Series was able to capture first in the SP7 class. His No. 43 Hankook Ferrari F430 GT was the only car able to mount a challenge against the race-winning BMW towards the close end of the event. Shane Lewis, a common sight at Grand-Am races, was able to bring his No. 70 Gotz Motorsport Audi RS4 to the flag, first in the SP 8T class for big-bore touring cars.

BMW M3 GTS-R - Perfect For The Track, Yet Officially Road Legal

On: Tue, May 18, 2010 at 8:44AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

BMW M3 GTS-R - Perfect For The Track, Yet Officially Road Legal test 1-1

BMW “M” division vehicles were originally designed to be lightweight power houses, and although the “M” model SUVs certainly fit the bill where power is concerned, many people wonder about the lightweight aspect, until now—with the M3 GTS-R, which BMW describes as a car that is great for the track, yet “officially road legal.”

The M3 GTS-R is the most powerful version of the M3 coupe. It can reach 62 mph in just 4.4 seconds and peaks at a top speed of 189.5 mph. This iconic two-door has about 450 hp and 324 lb-ft of torque from a high-revving V8 boosted from 3,999 cc to 4,361 cc. The M3’s V-8 engine has been enlarged from 4.0 liters to 4.4. As a result, the GTS-R makes 444 hp compared to 414 hp in the base car. And all that power is contained in a vehicle that weighs only 3285 pounds. So how did the German engineers cut down on all that weight? Titanium mufflers, a lightened center console and door trim, and the exclusion of superfluous features, such as rear seats and air conditioning. The windows are made from extremely lightweight Makrolon plastic.

Grand-Am Post-VIR Update

On: Thu, Apr 29, 2010 at 3:31PM | By: John Welch

The Famous Tree at Turn Twelve test 2

The Grand American Road Racing Series started the season off with a tremendously entertaining Rolex 24 at Daytona. A brand new team, Action Express, won the race. Utilizing a passenger SUV-derived engine, and a cast-off Riley chassis from Brumos Porsche, Action Express fought off the might of the Chip Ganassi BMW Rileys all night and into the next morning. After twenty four trips around the dial, Action Express was on top of the podium, and a spectacular season was underway.

The Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge is the support/feeder series for Grand Am. Think of it as GP2 for American sports car racing. They raced in Daytona and at every Grand Am date since. The series is comprised of road-going GT machinery, divided into two classes, Gran Turismo (redundant anyone?) and Street Tuner. GT and ST from here on.

The last race weekend, at Virginia International Raceway (or VIR) featured heart stopping excitement around every corner. The Rolex Series is covered in this post, Continental Challenge in Part Two . . .


The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

On: Fri, Apr 23, 2010 at 3:13PM | By: John Welch

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly test 1-1

BMW hasn't been actively involved in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters series since the early Nineties. They're considering making a come-back. I'd love to see a Rahal M3 with its doors and fenders all chopped up, and crazy aero-thingees hanging off its muscular flanks.

Toyota has hit the proverbial "Crack-smokin', alternative-lifestyle hookin', eating-Ramen-at-every-meal" rock bottom this week; their credit rating has been reduced to that of a college student. Oh, how the mighty have fallen on their smug, insultingly boring car-producing faces.

Ken Block is planning another viral video sensation:; Gymkhana 3. The first two Gymkhanas were films involving Subarus with horribly ugly paint-jobs. This new edition will feature a Ford with a horribly ugly paint-job. *Yawn* . . . boy, do I have a hankerin' for a sugary can of nearly carbonated hyper-juice right about now . . .

The Long Beach Weekend

On: Mon, Apr 19, 2010 at 12:11PM | By: John Welch

The Long Beach Weekend test 1-1

This past weekend, April 17th and 18th, we had the most televised racing available to us so far this season. To say that I was "sedentary" this weekend would be like saying "gators eat Cocker Spaniels only if they really have to." A gator will devour a Cocker Spaniel at given any opportunity, and I have La-Z-Boy-sores. Similar to bed sores, made worse by constantly dusting the wounds with Dorito flavoring and spilled beer for a solid 36 hours. The odor was pungent when I finally separated myself from the soggy lounge-chair; I had become one with the dyed, seemingly donkey-derived leather.

These are the hardships that I suffer for you, brave readers, in an attempt to explain and describe the wonders of high-dollar racing to you and your contemporaries. It's hard work, but somebody has to do it. I suppose I can be that "somebody". Never have festering, gooey sores been so much fun to cultivate; never. Inside the post we cover the Long Beach Weekend (ALMS, Formula D, and the IRL*bleech*), and the F1 Chinese Grand Prix will get its own post. If you care, the NASCAR race in Texas was rained out . . . good thing I don't really care . . .