American sports

Ravens Trade For Calais Campbell

The Baltimore Ravens stole the sports headlines by announcing a trade for defensive end Calais Campbell. The 33 year-old Pro Bowler was sent to the Ravens from the Jacksonville Jaguars for a fifth-round pick (170th overall).

Campbell has been a premier pass rusher for years now, with Pro Bowl appearances in five of the past six years, along with an All-Pro designation in 2017. The move makes a ton of sense for both parties, with the Ravens massively improving a position of need. The Jaguars also clear $15 million in cap space, as it increasingly looks like their rebuilding.

Campbell was in the final year of his four-year $60 million deal, with the Ravens quickly agreeing to a two-year $27 million extension. The move gives Campbell another two years with a premium salary, whilst it helps lower the $15 million cap hit for the Ravens. According to @RavensSalaryCap on Twitter, this now leaves the team with $17.8 million in cap space heading into free agency on Wednesday.

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Calais Campbell (left) scooped the MVP prize at the 2019 Pro Bowl. Both him and Lamar Jackson (right) are premium players at their positions for the Baltimore Ravens. Photo: SI

Baltimore now have a formidable front seven, with Campbell teaming up with defensive tackle Brandon Williams to provide a big interior presence. The Ravens like to add big defensive tackles, to help with stopping the run. The Ravens recently franchise-tagged linebacker Matt Judon, but he could be traded to improve the salary cap position.

The Ravens will look for a boost from recent draft picks at linebacker, Jaylon Ferguson and Tyus Bowser. The team had already inked veteran linebacker L.J Fort to a two-year $5.5 million extension back in November.

The Ravens defense improved massively throughout the 2019 season, but they have notable free agents this year. They include run-stuffing defensive tackles Michael Pierce, Jihad Ward and Justin Ellis along with linebackers Patrick Onwuasor, Josh Bynes and Pernell McPhee. The front seven position group could experience high turnover in 2020, so signing Campbell eases their concerns massively.

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With the Campbell trade news, does this mean Michael Pierce will be leaving the Ravens this free agency? Photo: USA Today Sports

It’s likely the Ravens will add to this group with a high draft pick this year, as they don’t have massive cap space to sign premier free agents. It’s an excellent move from GM Eric DeCosta, who has now traded two fifth round picks for Pro Bowl talent. Trading for cornerback Marcus Peters made a massive difference to the Ravens defense last season, and now acquiring fellow Pro Bowler Calais Campbell shows the Ravens are in a SuperBowl window and looking to win now.

What do you think of this trade? Let me know in the comment section below and thank you for reading. Find me on Twitter @JWjournalism.

Zacharie Robichon Interview

2019 was the year that Zacharie Robichon emerged on the GT racing scene. The young Canadian was 3rd in the GTD standings with the Pfaff Porsche, in his first year in the IMSA WeatherTech series. He was previously the 2018 Porsche GT3 Cup Canada champion.

It’s tough to improve upon third with two wins in your rookie campaign, but Robichon has a great chance to in 2020. He is partnered with Porsche supported driver Dennis Olsen, and is joined by fellow factory drivers Lars Kern and Patrick Pilet for the Rolex.

Just before race week got underway I asked Robichon some quick questions about the upcoming season.

Can you reflect on what a good 2019 season it was?

The beginning of the 2019 season was a big eye opener for myself and the team. We learnt quickly that to be successful in endurance racing it was as much about being smart as it was about being fast.

Once we settled in, we had a great run to end the year which ultimately finished in the sprint cup championship for myself. Looking back it, I don’t think I ever imagined we would be able to perform at that level by the end of the season but it certainly gives us confidence moving forward.

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Robichon was a revelation for Pfaff in 2019, and is now one of the hottest young talents in the IMSA GTD class. Photo: Motorsport.com

What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the Porsche at Daytona?

The Porsche has always been strong on the brakes and in the infield, I think that trend will continue this year. There are so many questions marks regarding which setup you decide to run so it is hard to say exactly where the car will be at its strongest / weakest compared to the other competitors.

The one thing we do know is that Porsche always provides us with a car capable of winning and I don’t expect anything different this time around.

What is it like being joined by Porsche factory drivers Patrick Pilet and Lars Kern for Daytona?

Anytime you get the opportunity to share the car with drivers of that caliber its very special. Obviously Patrick’s success and experience from this race in the past is something that we will lean on heavily throughout the race to make the best decisions as a team to put us in the best situation throughout the race.

I’m very happy to have Lars joining us once again not only for Daytona but for the four long races this year. He was a great addition to our team last year and I expect him to keep learning and improving as he gets to know the North American tracks better.

Who are your main rivals at the Rolex 24 this year?

It’s so hard to pick any one team. This year in GTD I believe the level has stepped up to another level over last year and just about any car on the grid could win the race with the right decisions and luck!

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Despite this small off at the Roar, the Pfaff team can feel confident going into 2020, starting at the Rolex 24. Photo: Motorsport.com

What are the biggest things the team can improve upon in 2020?

The team has stepped up immensely and grown since this time last year. We are much calmer as a group then we were this time last year and if we can keep that mentality and focus that we finished the year off with last year I believe we have a great chance at success not only at Daytona but for the entire season.

Would you be interested in racing international GT3 events in the future?

I would love the opportunity to do some international races, the beauty of the GT3 platform is that the cars and rules are extremely similar around the world which gives drivers the opportunity to move around in familiar equipment if the opportunity were to present itself.

My thanks go to Zacharie for these great answers. I wish him and his #9 team the best of luck this season! Find me on Twitter @JWjournalism if you liked this article!

Lars Kern Interview

It’s been an interesting path for Lars Kern to reach this point. The 32-year old German has been associated with Porsche for almost ten years now, but is only beginning to emerge in motorsport.

He holds a number of production car lap records thanks to his role as a development and test driver for the German marque. Only in the past three years has he been incorporated in GT3 racing. He has primarily raced in VLN and the 24 Hour series, before making his IMSA debut with Pfaff Motorsport last year.

He returns to Pfaff this year, joining Dennis Olsen, Zacharie Robichon and Patrick Pilet for the Rolex 24. Before the race I asked him some quick questions surrounding his plans for Daytona and the 2020 season.

How happy are you to be back with Pfaff Motorsport for the Rolex 24?

24h Daytona is such a special race. But even if you’re fully prepared it’s a huge gamble. You have to get every little detail right to go for the win. Pfaff is an amazing team and it’s a honor for me to be with them for another year.

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Kern’s role with Porsche has expanded in recent years, including this Intercontinental GT drive in Kyalami late last year. Photo: Porsche AG.

What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the Porsche at Daytona?

I think we have a super reliable and good handling car. We don’t have the best pace i guess but we have a great package.

How was the Roar test for the #9 team?

The Roar Test went super smooth. We just did our program, checked all set-up directions and found a good rhythm.

Who are your main class rivals at the Rolex 24 this year?

Basically every car can win GTD. If you go through the drivers and teams, the quality is incredible.

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Kern and the Pfaff Porsche return in 2020, and will be hard to miss with their plaid livery. Photo: Motorsport.com 

Are you likely to do more endurance rounds with Pfaff this year?

Yes, I’ll do all four endurance Races with Pfaff and my mates Zach and Dennis. And I’m really looking forward to it.

Describe your role as a Porsche test/racing driver?

The role is pretty spread up between racing and testing. Racing is the side job, Testing and engineering is my daily job. It’s important to constantly work on the performance, driveability and Quality of our cars. This sums it up!

What are your racing plans for 2020?

In 2020 I’ll compete in IMSA Endurance and Nuerburgring Endurance Championship incl. 24h Nuerburgring. Let’s see if there are more races but this is already a great program so far.

I would like to thank Lars for giving us these great answers. I also wish him and his #9 team the best of luck this weekend! Find me on Twitter @JWjournalism if you liked this article!

Jesse Krohn Interview

Jesse Krohn has been retained by BMW Team RLL for the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech series campaign. The Finn had a burgeoning career in Formula Ford and Formula Renault in Europe, before being picked up as a BMW junior driver in 2014.

He developed with various customer BMW teams in GT3 racing, with a 2017-18 Asian Le Mans Series GT title along with sporadic IMSA GTD drives. Since 2018 he has been placed with BMW Team RLL, partnering American John Edwards.

Both are hoping to take the next step in 2020, having yet to win in their two years together. Just before he left for Florida I asked Krohn some quick questions to gauge his thoughts entering the 2020 season. I also interviewed team mate Edwards, which you can find here.

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Krohn impressed with Turner Motorsport in GTD across 2016-17 before stepping up with BMW Team RLL in 2018. Photo: Motorsport.com

What has your off-season been like and are you excited to get the season started?

Off season has been less busy than in the last couple of years as I didn’t drive in any of the Asian GT events after IMSA season finished. This has given me a great chance to focus more on training to be fully prepared at Daytona and the coming IMSA season.

What developments have BMW made to remain competitive in GTLM?

At this point it is more about fine tuning what we have instead of introducing any major updates. We have learned a lot about the car over the past two years and now it is all about using that knowledge to get the best out of our package.

What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the BMW at Daytona?

Difficult to say where we might be stronger or weaker compared to our competition as they have new cars which we have not raced against.

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Krohn is partnered by John Edwards for their third season together. Photo: Motorsport.com

How was the Roar test for the #24 team?

Roar was very productive and we managed to get thru our testing program without any issues.

Who are your main rivals in GTLM at the Rolex 24 this year?

There are no weak opponents in GTLM and all team have proven to be able to win any race on any track. I would consider all the cars to be our main rivals.

Could you describe your relationship with the team and John Edwards, you’ve been with the team for a number of years now.

John has been my longest standing team mate and we have a super good relationship. I have a lot of trust in his ability as he has proven to be able to get the best out of any situation.

I don’t have to worry about anything while he is in the car. Over the last few years we have been able to fine tune our team work to the max and we are more ready than ever to get the season started and start winning races.

Are you going to be a part of a potential BMW entry at the Le Mans 24 Hours this year?

Unfortunately I have no knowledge on this topic.

Is IMSA your primary program this year or will you compete in global GT events for BMW also this year?

IMSA is my primary championship but I will also take part in other GT races. I don’t know exactly which ones yet, but that will be confirmed at a later date.

I would like to thank Jesse for taking the time to answer these questions, and wish him and his #24 team the best of luck this weekend. Find me on Twitter @JWjournalism if you liked this article.

 

John Edwards Interview

John Edwards is back for his seventh season with BMW Team RLL, racing the M8 GTE in the GTLM class of the IMSA WeatherTech series. The 28-year old American is partnered with Finnish driver Jesse Krohn for their third year together. 2019 was tough for BMW, outside of a surprise Rolex 24 win.

BMW closed it’s WEC program after one season, but remain committed to IMSA. Augusto Farfus and Chaz Mostert join the duo for the Rolex 24. Edwards has been racing cars since age 12, and was twice a Star Mazda champion before switching to sportscars in 2010. He developed in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, before being picked up by BMW full-time in 2014.

Just before the race week began I was able to ask him some quick questions surrounding his preparations for the 2020 season.

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BMW Team RLL celebrating their Rolex 24 GTLM win last year. Photo: BMW Team RLL.

What was your off-season like and are you excited to get the season started?

This was my best off season yet since I got married the week after Petit! My wife Serena and I had a perfect day and have enjoyed our first few months of married life, but as usual I’m itching to race again and can’t wait to get the season started this week.

Describe your working relationship with Jesse Krohn?

I’ve known Jesse quite a few years as we raced together in Germany prior to him coming over to IMSA. He adapted quickly to the team and we all know he’s got speed.

In endurance racing, it’s always hard to be out of the car watching someone else drive, but Jesse and I have faith in each other so I always know he can get it done in qualifying or the race when I’m watching his stint from the pit box. It’s nice going into the new season with the same co-driver and same engineer as the prior year, as consistency should bring results.

What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the BMW at Daytona?

Power-down traction is probably our weakest point since we are competing against mid-engine cars. But we have good straight-line speed and great handling in the high speed, so we are consistently the quickest in the bus stop, which helps us get a run to make passes in to T1.

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Edwards and Krohn are looking to improve upon a poor 2019 season, with two second places their highlights. Photo: Motorsport.com

How was the Roar test for the #24 team?

The Roar was interesting this year since Porsche and Corvette both have new cars and it was our first chance to evaluate how the compare. From our perspective, it was pretty routine as we got back in the swing of things after a few months off.

Who do you think are your main rivals in GTLM this year?

The great part about GTLM is that anyone can win on a given weekend. We have a small field but it’s deep with talent and we always have to be at our best to compete.

What are the teams expectations for the season?

We showed speed last year, but lacked consistency weekend to weekend. This year the goal is to be in the championship fight by avoiding the up and down results.

I would like to thank John for taking the time to answer my questions, and I wish both him and BMW Team RLL the best of luck this weekend! Find me on Twitter @JWjournalism if you liked this article!

Nick Boulle Interview

Nick Boulle has quickly developed into a very promising amateur driver with the IMSA WeatherTech series. He famously became the first Rolex dealer to win the fabled Rolex watch, after winning the PC class at the 2017 Rolex 24.

Since then Boulle has raced both in the top prototype division along with a year in GTD last year. His day job is with the families Diamond and jewelry business, but he still finds the time to race. He has even competed twice in the Le Mans 24 Hours. Boulle drives this year for PR1/Mathiasen along side Gabriel Aubry, Ben Keating and Simon Trummer.

Before he traveled down to Daytona for the Rolex 24, I asked him some quick questions about his prep and expectations for this years race.

Firstly, explain how the deal with PR1/Mathiasen came about?
I spoke to Bobby a while back and to be honest, I didn’t have much put together, much less plans to be racing at the 24 Hours of Daytona, but we connected in early December and thanks to several of my longtime supporters and some new ones we were able to put together a lineup I am SUPER excited about.
I’ve seen what Simon & Gaby can do through the years and I’ve long considered Ben Keating a great friend and also one of the most formidable drivers of any rating in “Pro-Am” racing scenarios out there. Being in the car with these guys for 24 hours to me, is a pretty ideal scenario.
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Boulle was part of the winning Performance Tech PC class effort at the 2017 Rolex 24. Can he win a second Rolex watch this year? Photo: Motorsport.com

Are you excited to be back in the prototype ranks?
I felt a bit behind on my personal prep at the roar, but I’m catching up and will be fit & fight ready by race time. This was essentially my first time in an Oreca and I was hugely impressed by the PR1 Motorsport’s car. Especially considering the last minute nature of it all, the car ran flawlessly.
What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the Oreca at Daytona?
I would say the only real weaknesses of the Oreca at Daytona are the BOP settings we have to keep us behind the DPi — which is not a criticism of the rules. Compared to any manufacturer of LMP2 car at the moment it’s the only choice if you want a real shot at consistent success. After driving it, I understand why.
How was the Roar test for the #52 team?
The car ran flawlessly and it was really important, for me especially I felt, not only to find a comfortable position in the Oreca, but also to get some time under my belt. I haven’t really driven hard since July so I was shaking the dust off for sure… Simon, Gaby & Ben all performed like pro’s and we really spent time getting to know each other too. I’m even more excited after the roar for what we have put together.
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PR1/Mathiasen won the LMP2 title last year, and return with another strong line-up this year aiming to combat the rise in quality this year. Photo: Motorsport.com 

Who are your main rivals in the LMP2 class this year?
I don’t know that I could name just one… There are so many strong cars this year that I feel like every single car in our class is someone to watch. It’s great to see that for the future of the LMP2 category in IMSA!
Do you have a good working relationship with the PR1/Mathiasen team?
100%. I know how hard every guy & girl that’s a part of the PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports organization works… They aren’t here just for work, they are here to put together a winning car. It was my first time working with engineer, Tim Lewis, at the Roar Before the 24 so that was fun, but I’ve got a great rapport with everyone in the team. Now we just have to see what we can put together at the ROLEX 24!
I would like to thank Nick for his amazing answers you see here, and I wish him and the PR1/Mathiasen team the best of luck for this weekend! Find me on Twitter @JWjournalism if you liked this article!

 

Cameron Cassels Interview

Cameron Cassels and Performance Tech return to a vastly different LMP2 landscape from last year. The team were one of only two full season entries in 2019, with tweaks to the class bringing the entries up to five this season. Performance Tech were mainstays of the previous LMPC class, before switching to LMP2 with their Oreca 07.

Cassels returned to motorsport in 2015 after a long break to start a family, progressing in sportscars. He has raced primarily in the IMSA Sports Car Challenge, Lamborghini Super Trofeo USA and IMSA Prototype Challenge classes before stepping up to IMSA with Performance Tech last year.

As he begins the build up to his second Rolex 24 I asked Cassels about how his preparations are going.

Describe your off-season and does it feel good to get the season started?

Was there an offseason?  Joking of course!  This year I actually had a bit more of an offseason than usual and was able to spend some time with my family during the holiday break.

However, I was still able to keep the rust off by running the IMSA Encore event at Sebring in the LMP3 car just before the Christmas break and the first IMSA race of the season two weeks ago in the IMSA Prototype Challenge event at Daytona in an LMP3 car.

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Cassels has been a part of Performance Tech for three years now, including the teams LMP3 entry in IMSA Prototype Challenge. Photo: IMSA.com

Are you excited to be back with Performance Tech this year, and do you have a good working relationship with the team?

It is always a pleasure working with a group of individuals that are as motivated to succeed as the Performance Tech Motorsports team.  Brent and Gwenn have built a team that competes at a world class level.  I am fortunate to be able to call the owners crew friends throughout my 3 years with the team.

What are your thoughts on the Daytona circuit, are you a fan of it?

Daytona is definitely a special track on our schedule.  It poses challenges in setup and driving styles that are unique to this track with the two horseshoes, bus-stop and NASCAR banking.  The great thing is that it offers ample opportunity for exciting passes.
In 2019 we fought for nearly 24 hours finishing a respectable P2 in the Centinel Spine #38.  Unfortunately the race ended prematurely due to a deluge of rain throughout the morning, otherwise I honestly believe the win was within our grasp.
How was the Roar test for the #38 team?
The Roar is always a great opportunity to throw some setups at the car and give new driver lineups an opportunity to gel before the 24.  We made some great progress on the balance of the Centinel Spine #38 car as well as each driver getting a feel for each other before we get together again next week. It will be a bit of a reunion as Kyle Masson, Robert Masson and I team up again with, a new to Performance Tech driver, Don Yount.
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This is Cassels second year in the teams LMP2 Oreca, looking to improve upon their class podium last year. Photo: IMSA.com

Who do you think are your biggest rivals in the LMP2 class?
Honestly I think it is anybody’s race to lose.  Each of the LMP2 cars have great driver lineups in them again this year.  Even though the race is a 24 hour long endurance race; the engineering, design and technology in these modern LMP2 cars make this race a 24 hour sprint race.  The key, as always, will to be grind it out on track with zero mistakes.
What are yours and the teams expectations for the year?
2019 was a strong development year for us, as was evident when we look at the performance throughout the year as the team brought home the 2019 Michelin Endurance Cup.  We are approaching this year with a focus on not only the Michelin Endurance Cup again,  but also the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
I am excited to get the season underway in the Centinel Spine #38 LMP2 car.  With increased LMP2 car counts it should be great to watch.  As an added bonus, we won an entry into the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans at the Circuit de la Sarthe in France for 2020.  Make sure you tune in this season for some exciting racing!
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Cameron for answering my questions, along with wishing him and the team the best of luck this weekend! Find me on Twitter @JWjournalism if you enjoyed this article!