Sportscar racing

2015 Sebring 12 Hours Prototype Preview Part 2

Here is part 2 of my preview of the Prototype class for the upcoming Sebring 12 Hours, the second round of the Tudor United Sportscar Championship. Without further ado, here’s a look at the second half of the Prototype entry list.

#50 Fifty Plus Racing Riley-BMW Daytona Prototype: Jim Pace/Byron DeFoor/David Hinton/Dorsey Schroeder

This Fifty Plus Racing team runs on a slightly different objective to the rest of the field. Whilst the rest are obsessed with winning this team has a secondary purpose of raising money for their HighwayToHelp charity. The charity is linked with the Alzheimer’s association and aims to raise money through donations. As the name suggests the team is made up of drivers over fifty years old. The team will be led by firstly formerly retired ex-pro and American sportscar racing analyst Dorsey Schroeder. Whilst he was retired for a while before returning to the track, expect him to be seriously fast in the car. Leading the team alongside him will be former overall Daytona 24 Hours winner Jim Pace. He has a wealth of experience and will match or even beat the times of Schroeder.

Partnering these two are the amateur drivers Byron DeFoor and David Hinton, both of whom will do a respectable job in the car and bring it home safely for the team. Whilst this team are unlikely to be contending for victory at Sebring, this car will post some fast times with Schroeder and Pace at the wheel. A quiet, reliable run for this team may well bring them into the top eight overall by the end of the 12 Hours.

#57 Krohn Racing Ligier JS P2-Judd: Tracy Krohn/Nic Jonsson/Olivier Pla

Krohn Racing is one of the few teams in the Prototype class fielding an LMP2 class of car, a last remnant from the previous American Le Mans Series. The team ran well in their new Ligier coupe last time out at the Rolex 24 Hours,although an engine problem sidelined the team within the first eight hours of the race. Despite this disappointing run at Daytona the team will be looking to bounce back at Sebring next weekend.

Although the team is only contesting the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup events alongside a full season in the European Le Mans Series, it will look for a good result at Sebring before it ships their Ligier to Europe for the majority of the season. On the driving front the team once again has a front running line up made up of the very quick LMP2 expert and new Nissan LMP1 factory driver Olivier Pla, alongside the very experienced sportscar and former Indycar racer Nic Jonsson to partner team owner Tracy Krohn. This team is very well experienced and will look to put miles on their Ligier coupe to expand their knowledge of the car before the European season. If this car runs reliably throughout the 12 Hours expect this team to challenge for the podium, such is the quality of their driver line up and the pace of their Ligier JS P2.

#60 Tyre Kingdom Michael Shank Racing/Curb/Agajanian Ligier JS P2-Honda HPD: John Pew/Ozz Negri/Justin Wilson

Michael Shank Racing surprised last time out at the Rolex 24 with their overall pace, although reliability troubles limited the team’s overall competitiveness throughout the race. This is not surprising considering their first race with their Ligier JS P2 was the Rolex 24 Hours. The team still finished 9th overall and 5th in class still which shows the pace the team has to build on going into the Sebring 12 Hours.

The team will be hoping for a more reliable run this time out, although Sebring is renowned as a car breaker of a circuit.For this time they have retained their impressive driver line up from Daytona, with the only change being the teenager Matt McMurry has been replaced with Indycar racer Justin Wilson for this race. John Pew only started racing in his early 40’s yet has quickly developed into one of the fastest amateur Prototype drivers in the Tudor United Sportscar Championship. Ozz Negri is a very rapid driver with over thirty years worth of racing experience, and teamed with the rapid Brit Justin Wilson this team will be a contender for victory if the car stays reliable. Whilst this is a big if for the team at this stage it’s not beyond the realms of possibility.

#70 Mazda SpeedSource Lola B12/80-Mazda: Tristan Nunez/Jonathan Bomarito/Sylvain Tremblay

The SpeedSource Mazda team will be hoping to capitalise on the improvements they have made to their Lola chassis and works Mazda engine during the off-season, after a difficult debut campaign in the Prototype class last year. Their Mazda SkyActiv diesel engine proved troublesome all year, and whilst it once again proved problematic, the team did have a chance to show their pace whilst the car was running at least. The team led it’s first lap at the Rolex 24, something the team would like to achieve again at Sebring.

After oil pump problems put this car out at Daytona, the team will be looking for a somewhat reliable run this time out. In terms of driving talent this car has a good line up with the very quick young driver Tristan Nunez complemented by former works SRT Viper GTLM driver Jonathan Bomarito and the quick, solid amateur Sylvain Tremblay. All three drivers have the ability to perform very quick laps consistently over a stint, something the team and drivers will be itching to show during the 12 Hours. If the SpeedSource team can keep the car reliable,expect this team to surprise with it’s pace.

#90 VisitFlorida.com Spirit of Daytona Racing Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Prototype: Richard Westbrook/Michael Valiante/Mike Rockenfeller

After a strong podium last time out at the Rolex 24 Hours, the Spirit of Daytona team will be looking for a repeat podium next weekend in the Sebring 12 Hours. This well run, professional team were not entirely trouble free last time out but were there when it counted to take advantage of the miscalculation at Wayne Taylor Racing, promoting themselves to a distant third overall.

This time out the team will be looking to challenge the leaders throughout the race, and with the driver line up they have this should be no problem. Michael Valiante is a very quick former single seater and sportscar driver, with the sensational former Le Mans 24 Hours winner and DTM champion Mike Rockenfeller alongside him. Completing the trio is factory Chevrolet Corvette driver Richard Wesbrook. This line up is a match for any one else in the Prototype class and with their experience expect this car to stay out of trouble, ensuring the team are in the right place when it comes to the crucial final hour of the race, expect this team to be challenging for the serious positions. A definite car to watch for victory.

#01 Target Chip Ganassi/Felix Sabates Racing Riley-Ford Daytona Prototype: Scott Pruett/Joey Hand/Scott Dixon

The pre-season favourites going into the 2015 season, this entry almost lived up to expectations at the opening Rolex 24 Hours in late January. Whilst the car ran at the front for most of the race, heartbreakingly, in the last few hours on the race the car was forced into retirement with a severe clutch problem. The fact the other Chip Ganassi Prototype entry ended up winning the race shows the pace of the Chip Ganassi Riley-Ford package, something the team will want to prove at Sebring.

The team’s driver line up is of the highest quality with the prodigious experience of Scott Pruett teamed with the blinding pace of Joey Hand and Indycar front runner Scott Dixon. This line combines the ultimate of countless years of sportscar experience along prodigious pace from all three drivers. Whilst it’s hard to predict favourites in a class as competitive as the Prototype class in the TUSC, this Chip Ganassi entry is one of the leading trio of contenders. Never discount or underestimate a powerhouse team like Chip Ganassi Racing, this car will be right at the front for the entire 12 Hours barring mechanical or other issues for the team.

#07 SpeedSource Lola B12/80-Mazda: Tom Long/Joel Miller/Ben Devlin/Sylvain Tremblay

The second of the SpeedSource Lola-Mazda entries is this #07 car, which will be hoping to build on a character building Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona. The car was once again plagued with similar issues which hampered the car throughout the 2014 season, eventually the car being forced to retire with overheating problems. Whilst the works Skyactiv diesel engine is revolutionary for an LMP2 Prototype car, the continual problems will be a source of major frustration to both the SpeedSource and Mazda teams.

The team will therefore be looking for a reliable run at Sebring, hoping to run trouble free throughout the 12 Hours and push themselves up the Prototype order. The car has shown pace when running reliably which is a bonus for the team, and shows the progress the team has made over the winter off-season. The driver line up is a solid one, with plenty of experience amongst the line up of Sylvain Tremblay,and Ben Devlin complementing the youthful speed of Joel Miller and Tom Long. Much like the other SpeedSource entry, if this car can remain reliable throughout the 12 Hours, this car can be a contender for a top six finish come the end of the race.

That wraps up part 2 of my Prototype preview for the upcoming Sebring 12 Hours, the second round of the Tudor United Sportscar Championship. In terms of overall predictions, I would predict that the overall winner will come from either the #01 Chip Ganassi car,#10 Wayne Taylor entry or the #5 Action Express car. On the other hand, the unpredictability of the Tudor series means any number of six to eight cars are realistic contenders for victory, ensuring making a firm prediction of the winner almost impossible. As a final note I just wanted to add a huge thank you to Motorsport.com for their superb photos which accompany this article. Please go and visit their website http://www.Motorsport.com , which provides the latest motorsport news and an absurd amount of high quality photos. Please feel free to read and comment on this article, all comments both good and bad are appreciated!

2015 Sebring 12 Hours Prototype class Preview Part 1

After a thrilling opening Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona at the end of January, next weekend see’s the next round of the 2015 Tudor United Sportscar Championship, the Sebring 12 Hours. This iconic race will be just as tough as the Rolex 24 despite being only half the distance, such is the bumpy nature of this airfield circuit. Sebring is renowned worldwide as a severe test of sportscars, which means that combined with the unpredictable nature of the Tudor United Sportscar Championship, a brilliantly thrilling 12 Hours of racing is almost guaranteed next Saturday.

In the first of my previews of every class racing at Sebring, this first article focuses on the first half of the prototype class which will be fighting to victory for 12 hours straight. Here’s a look at the contenders. Part 2 will be posted shortly.

#0 Claro/ TracFone Delta Wing Racing DeltaWing DWC13-Elan: Memo Rojas/Katherine Legge/Andy Meyrick

The DeltaWing team will be hoping to bounce back from a very disappointing Rolex 24 at Daytona, where gearbox issues hampered the team throughout the weekend and led to an early retirement in the opening hours of the race. A source of comfort for the team will be their competitiveness this year, which is carrying over from the progress they made towards the end of last season.

The car is now genuinely competitive, and if the team can run without major problems during the race expect the unconventional DeltaWing to be challenging for at least the podium. This will be a big ask however for everyone given the brutal nature of the bumps on the former airfield circuit. On the driving front the team has improved their line up this year with the addition of four time Grand-Am champion Memo Rojas to partner the experienced and very quick English duo of Andy Meyrick and Katherine Legge. With their driver line up and the competitiveness of this car a podium or even victory would not be a surprise for this team.

#1 Tequila Patron Extreme Speed Motorsport Honda HPD ARX 04B: Scott Sharp/Ryan Dalziel/David Heinemeier Hansson

The #1 Extreme Speed Motorsport is another car that suffered a difficult start to the season at the Rolex 24. The Extreme Speed team were not expecting a great start to the year as their new HPD ARX 04B car arrived late, leaving the team unprepared for the opening Rolex 24. Their difficult weekend started with the team missing the Prototype qualifying on Thursday afternoon with a bell housing issue forcing them to start from the back of the Prototype class.

During the race the car showed it’s tremendous potential with the car easily running in the top 10 throughout the race and into the night, before a gearbox problem forced the team to retire the car at 5am. The team can be heartened however with the pace they showed during the Rolex 24, alongside the large amount of miles they were able to run in Daytona.

The driver line up of the experienced Scott Sharp partnering the rapid Scot Ryan Dalziel is a very impressive one, even more with the addition this year of one of the fastest amateur drivers in the class with the Dane David Heinemeier Hansson. Watch out for this team to contend for the podium if their reliability problems from Daytona are behind them.

#2 Tequila Patron Extreme Speed Motorsport Honda HPD ARX 04B: Ed Brown/Johannes Van Overbeek/Jon Fogarty

The #2 Extreme Speed Motorsport suffered the worst luck of all the prototype teams at the Rolex 24 in January, with any prolonged running during the Sebring 12 Hours a bonus. The team made quick progress from a lowly starting position, in the opening stint Johannes Van Overbeek rocketed up from 12th to 6th. Going into his next sting Van Overbeek began reporting a drop in the oil pressure, something which forced the car into the garage. From here the team tried to fix the car, however they diagnosed a systems failure that caused a loss of power, forcing the team to retire the car after only 1 hour 45 minutes of the race gone.

Whilst the Rolex 24 was a very difficult race for the team, Sebring will surely be better for the well supported team as they will have a lot greater understanding of their new Honda HPD ARX O4B race car, although the team may still run into trouble with the new car given the reputation Sebring has as being a majorly tough circuit on sportscars.The driver line up is an experienced on with Tequila Patron CEO Ed Brown proving to be a fast amateur driver alongside similarly experienced pro’s Johannes Van Overbeek and Jon Fogarty. If the team can keep this car reliable throughout the 12 Hours, expect this entry to be competing for the top five at the very least.

#5 Mustang Sampling Action Express Racing Corvette Daytona Prototype: Joao Barbosa/Christian Fittipaldi/Sebastien Bourdais

The Action Express Racing team began the 2015 Tudor United Sportscar season in much the same vain in which they completed the 2014 campaign. The team dominated the debut season of the TUSC and once again was a contender for victory at Daytona. The team began the race slowly although they crucially stayed out of major trouble and used the cautions to get their laps back. By Sunday morning it became clear that the race was between the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing entry, the Action Express car and the #02 Chip Ganassi car. With the troubles late on for the #10 car the Action Express entry challenged the #02 car until the chequered flag, finishing a close second only 1.3 seconds behind the winner after 24 Hours of ridiculously close racing.

Going into the Sebring 12 Hours the team will surely go into the race as one of the favourites, based on their form from last year and the opening Rolex 24 Hours. The Sebring track will provide a challenge although the team has a year’s worth of experience with the car, and the team will be looking to win the race as last year this was one of the few major TUSC races the team failed to win.The team has retained it’s mightily impressive line up of professional’s with all three having the holy grail of experience combined with prodigious pace. Look for the team to be contending for victory at the end of the 12 Hours, with anything less a disappointment for this ambitious Action Express Racing team.

#7 Martini Starworks Motorsport Riley-BMW Daytona Prototype: Scott Mayer/Brendon Hartley/TBA

The Starworks Motorsport team will have been disappointed not to finish in the top five at the Rolex 24, with the team forced to retire their Daytona Prototype during the night after 14 hours with an engine failure. Before that the team had struggled through the opening hours with constant understeer issues, although the team was beginning to rectify the problem before the engine failure.

The team will therefore hoping for a much better Sebring 12 Hours, especially after falling behind their competitors who scored highly towards the championship at the Rolex 24. This team has been used to winning in the past few seasons during the Grand-Am era, although struggled in 2014 in the inaugural year of the TUSC. Team owner Peter Barron will be hoping 2015 is the year they return to their usual competitive form, although the team will not be able to call on it’s all star driver line up it had at Daytona.

The team has currently retained it’s quick amateur driver Scott Mayer alongside the ridiculously fast Porsche factory driver Brendon Hartley. At the current moment the team have not confirmed a third driver although it’s unlikely the team will be able to call on the services of the ultimate F1 veteran Rubens Barrichello and former Indycar champion and Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay again as they did at Daytona. Their other driver at Daytona is more likely to remain with the team for Sebring. Tor Graves would bring a wealth of experience and familiarity to the team if he’s given another shot in the Starworks team. Whilst this team won’t be seen as an ultimate favourite going into the Sebring 12 Hours, watch out for this team to spring a surprise in Florida next weekend.

#10 Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette Chevrolet DP: Jordan Taylor/Ricky Taylor/Max Angelelli

The hard luck story of the Rolex 24 within the Prototype class has to be the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing entry, which came within a whisker of victory before a late drive time infringement ruined their chances of victory. The team was a serious contender for victory and led most of Sunday morning in Daytona, and the battle looked set to go to the flag between the #10 WTR entry and the #02 Chip Ganassi car. In the last hour the race fell apart from the team when victory seemed likely for this plucky Wayne Taylor team.

A maximum drive time violation from Jordan Taylor in the final hour forced the team to haul him out the car in the last thirty minutes to be replaced with his brother Ricky. The team made the move under Caution therefore had to serve a drive through penalty once racing resumed, although the team still completed the overall podium in 3rd. After the race IMSA officials reviewed the data and found that Jordan Taylor had already broken the rule, driving 19 minutes over the four hours maximum drive time in any six hour period.The team was subsequently disqualified and lost their points from the Rolex 24.

Based on this the team will be looking for an emphatic response next weekend as they will no doubt contend for victory at the Sebring 12 Hours. The Wayne Taylor Racing team are a highly professional team and know how to win major races in the Tudor series, something the team will want to prove next weekend. The driver line up of the two Taylor brothers and the vastly experienced Italian Max Angelelli is a very potent combination and arguably one of the best driver line up’s in the highly competitive prototype class. Wayne Taylor and his team have every chance of winning in Sebring as they look to recover ground in the championship to their competitors.

#31 Whelen Engineering Action Express Racing Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Prototype: Eric Curran/Dane Cameron/Max Papis

The second of the Action Express Racing entries is the Whelen sponsored car, which had a herculiuan recovery drive during the Rolex 24 with the team finally coming home a very respectable sixth overall and fourth in the competitive Prototype class. The car was forced into the garage in the opening two hours while the team replaced the steering rack on the #31 entry, returning to the track seventeen laps down and 51st overall. Over the following twenty-two hours the team and all four drivers drove heroically to move up the order to their eventually fourth in class and sixth overall.

The team has retained three of it’s drivers from Daytona in Eric Curran, Dane Cameron and Max Papis. “Mad Max” Papis provides a very quick burst of pace alongside an abundance of experience, complimenting the impressive experience of American racer Eric Curran from a decade’s worth of American sportscar racing. Completing the line up is the recent Prototype convert Dane Cameron, last year’s winner of the GTD class with Turner Motorsport and their BMW Z4 GT3 car. Although Cameron has previous Prototype experience, this year marks only the second time he will complete a full season Prototype programme. This team is not necessarily always seen as a contender for victory in the TUSC, although expect this team to surprise over the 12 Hours with a repeat of their Rolex 24 result possibly on the cards for this well drilled team.

That wraps up part 1 of my preview to the upcoming Sebring 12 Hours, part 2 will be posted very soon. For now feel free to comment on this piece good or bad all comments are appreciated. Finally I want to say a huge thank you to Motorsport.com for their amazing, high quality photos in this article. Please visit their website for the best high quality photos and latest motorsport news. The website is http://www.Motorsport.com .

The glory years of F3000

With next month being the 30th anniversary of the beginning of Formula 3000, the junior racing category that between the years 1985 and 2004 catapaulted many young drivers into Formula One, now seems to be an appropriate time to look back on the popular final step to F1. I’m going to focus on the late 1990’s period of the series, when the series was as exciting as F1. At it’s peak there were forty full season entries battling for twenty six spots on the grid. Despite have a spec Lola chassis and Zytek engine package, the series provided great racing during the late 1990’s, before rising costs ruined the championship by the early 2000’s.

The series seemed to take on a new step during the 1996 season, where a new for 1996 spec Lola chassis and Zytek engine package produced a titanic title battle between the RSM Marko driver Jorg Muller and Super Nova racer Kenny Brack. A contentious collision at the final race of the year at Hockenheim settled the title in Muller’s favor, with the series showing itself to be a series on the up going into 1997.


Kenny Brack in action during the 1996 F3000 season at Silverstone. Photo credit goes to unknown from Flickr.com

1997 once again provided a title battle that went on until the business end of the season. Once again it was RSM Marko and Super Nova drivers who were fighting it out for the title, the only difference being the drivers involved as the Brazilian Ricardo Zonta turned the tables on RSM Marko to claim the title by 1.5 points from the Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya for RSM Marko. The series featured a talented crop of drivers as the likes of Jason Watt,Jamie Davies and Max Wilson established themselves as men to watch in their rookie years. 1997 would see the profile of the championship rise as the series gained mainstream television coverage from ITV,further enhancing the profile of the series for the future.


1997 champion Ricardo Zonta in action during the opening race of the year at Silverstone. Photo credit goes to unknown sourced from Flickr.com

For anyone also interested in this period of F3000 racing, EdwinTV9 has kindly posted the 1997 ITV season review on Youtube. The link is below, feel free to view it.

1998 was a stellar season for F3000, the last year of the Lola T96/50 chassis produced a thrilling title battle between Super Nova driver Juan Pablo Montoya and the young German Nick Heidfeld. The profile of the series continued upwards in 1998 as established F3000 teams such as Super Nova, DAMS and Astromega were joined by the likes of West Competition team and the RTL Team Oreca. These were big for the series as the West Competition team was a McLaren junior team to help Nick Heidfeld progress, with the RTL Team Oreca being a BMW junior team also. This showed the growing manufacture influence with the F3000 series.

On the track Juan Pablo Montoya prevailed over Nick Heidfeld after a final round showdown, with the Williams test driver Montoya taking his talents to the highly competitive CART series in America, a title he duly won in 1999 before winning the prestigious Indy 500 in 2000 and returning to the F1 paddock with Williams in 2001. Of the rest Gonzalo Rodriguez impressed in his second year with two wins in the final three races, with Jason Watt once again showing his talents in 1998 for the Den Bla Avis team.

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Juan Pablo Montoya in action during his title winning year in 1998. Photo credit goes to unknown sourced from Flickr.com

Also individual videos reviewing the 1998 F3000 season can be found on Youtube. The coverage come from ITV highlights and the first round link can be found below. Feel free to watch.

1999 was arguably the most successful year for the F3000 series during it’s existence as the new Lola B99/50 chassis produced grids of close to forty cars fighting over twenty six grid spots. The 45 minute qualifying sessions suddenly became like races themselves as everyone fought to get into the main race. By now the series was supporting the F1 races the entire year with every race supporting a European F1 grand prix weekend.

This link to the F1 paddock was now becoming far more obvious in F3000, with the West Competition team fielding Nick Heidfeld again as his dominated the year to comfortably win the title, with Gonzalo Rodriguez finishing third posthumenously in his Benetton backed Team Astromega entry, whilst Stephane Sarrazin impressed in his second year in the category for the Gauloises Formula Prost junior entry. Other teams dipping from F1 into F3000 included Williams with their all Brazilian Petrobras junior team, Sauber with their Red Bull junior/RSM Marko team and the short lived Portman-Arrows team, which only survived three races despite Arrows F1 support.

1999 would prove to be a year of both tragedy and transition for the category, with firstly the tragic death of paddock favourite Gonzalo Rodriguez whilst qualifying for his second CART race for Team Penske at Laguna Seca. Soon after this second place driver Jason Watt was involved in a motorcycle accident during a magazine photo shoot, leaving him paralyzed and therefore ending his single seater racing ambitions. Along with Nick Heidfeld moving up to F1 for 2000, the series was looking for a new crop of talent to come to the fore in the upcoming 2000 season.


Nick Heidfeld celebrating victory in Hungry during his dominant title victory in 1999. photo credit goes to Formula1.com

2000 was largely similar to 1999, the only major difference being a rule implemented before the start of the season to limit the grid to fifteen teams of two entries, meaning several of the smaller team were forced out of the series after poor 1999 seasons. This made the grid a lot more stable throughout the year, which was another classic season of F3000 as third year drivers Bruno Junqueira for the Williams affiliated Petrobras junior team and Benetton backed D2 Playlife Super Nova drivers Nicolas Minassian. Junqueira was the second half of the Williams shootout for a race drive in 2000, infamously losing out to Jenson Button before claiming the F3000 title. The series struggled to produce a crop of incoming talent to F1, as both Junqueira and Minassian taking their talents to Chip Ganassi Racing in the CART series for 2001.

This seemed strange as the series F1 links grew stronger in 2000 with the European Arrows team being set up as a junior squad for the F1 team, with eight F1 test drivers racing in the category in 2000. Behind Junqueira and Minassian rookie’s Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso impressed, with Alonso joining Minardi for the 2001 F1 season, before Webber replaced him for the 2002 season. In retrospect it appears the 2000 season was a watershed moment for the F3000 series, with sadly the series having it’s final days in the sun in 2000 before the series began to implode as rising costs ruined the series.


Bruno Junqueira on his way to winning the 2000 F3000 title in his brightly coloured Petrobras junior racing entry. Photo credit unknown sourced from Paul11f1.wordpress.com

The series lost more back marker teams with the grid reducing from 30 to 26 cars for the 2001 season. The series incorporated a inaugural fly-away round to open the season, supporting the Brazilian Grand Prix. The F1 only grew even stronger this year with Minardi sponsoring the Coloni team to become European Minardi for 2001, although the grid did lose the McLaren junior team after a difficult 2000 season for the team. Coca-Cola also came on board sponsoring the Nordic racing team, showing the prestige the series held at this time.

The Coca-Cola support of Nordic racing was timely as their driver Justin Wilson dominated the series to claim a comfortable title, beating Benetton backed Super Nova driver Mark Webber, team mate Tomas Enge and DAMS driver Sebastien Bourdais. The standard at the top of the grid was as good as ever, although the overall quality of the grid was slipping slightly from the landmark years of the series in the late 1990’s.


Justin Wilson in action during his F3000 title year in 2001. He went on to impress when he could during a short F1 career after this.
Photo credit goes to LAT.com sourced from AtlasF1.autosport.com .

From here the series dwindled in both popularity and relevance to F1 during the next few years, with the only champion between 2002 and the series end in 2004 to get an F1 drive the following year was Tonio Luizzi, and he shared a half season drive with Red Bull Racing in 2005. 2002 champion Sebastien Bourdais took his talents to America, winning the Champ Car series four years in a row between 2004 and 2007, before impressing in flashes with Scuderia Toro Rosso in one and a half years of F1, before being dropped halfway through the 2009 season. 2003 champion Bjorn Wirdheim has never started a F1 grand prix, becoming a third driver for Jaguar racing in 2004, before switching to Champ Car and subsequently establishing himself in the Japanese Super Formula single seater and Super GT series over the last several years.

F3000 was sadly replaced by GP2 for the 2005 season, something which was a shame but ultimately necessary as the F3000 series had simply run out of steam. The series was fantastic whilst it lasted, with it’s glory years surely making the series the most high profile junior category ever. We will likely never see again a grid full of forty cars competing to even qualify for an F1 supporting event, which simply shows the strength the F3000 series once had. It is a sorely missed final step on the ladder to F1.

Any thoughts on this article feel free to post a comment good or bad on the F3000 series.

Japanese racing scene gaining popularity

In the 1990s Japan was a viable career alternative for young drivers who found their options limited in Europe. The resident Japanese F3000/ Formula Nippon and Super GT series attracted well known names such as Eddie Irvine, Tom Kristensen, Jacques Villeneuve and Heinz Harald-Frentzen.

During the late 1990s and 2000s the Japanese racing scene suffered a lull in worldwide attention, although in recent years both Japan and America are seeing a resurgance in interest as young drivers from Europe increasingly look further afield to attain a professional racing career. The racing scene seems increasingly focused on money in the last few years, with several Formula One teams struggling for finance, leading to a situation where increasingly a driver’s ability to bring a budget with him determines who is promoted from the junior formula’s.

In response to this Japan is seeing an upturn in popularity as the best young Japanese drivers are now being joined by accomplished and high profile drivers from Europe in their Super GT and Super Formula single seater series. In recent years the quality of the Japanese racing scene has been proven in Europe as long time Super GT and Super Formula drivers Andre Lotterer and Loic Duval led the Audi attack on the World Endurance Championship and the Le Mans 24 Hours.


Andre Lotterer racing in the Super Formula single seater series last year. Photo sourced from http://www.racingblog.de

Other notable drivers to have turned their careers East to Japan include James Rossiter, Vitantonio Luizzi, Narain Karthikeyan and Andrea Caldarelli. The number of European drivers joining the Japanese scene only looks set to swell in 2015, with rumors that young drivers such as Macau GP winner Felix Rosenqvist, 2009 Formula Renault 3.5 series champion Bertrand Baguette, GP3 race winner Jann Mardenborough and 2013 GP2 champion Fabio Leimer all rumored to be looking for drives in Japan this year. Heikki Kovalainen is the latest driver to defect to Japan as he announced a deal this week to join Team SARD Lexus for the Super GT series this year.

Complementing the increasing European talent is the very best of Japanese driving talent, with the likes of Kamui Kobayashi, Kazuki Nakajima and Takuma Sato returning to race in the Super Formula and Super GT series. Alongside them are the likes of GP2 racer Takuya Izawa and former Indycar racer Hideki Mutoh show that the talent on the Super Formula grid is up there with any grid outside of F1 at the moment.


The Super Formula grid races away from the line at Twin Ring Motegi in 2013. Photo sourced from http://www.supergtbrasil.blogspot.co.uk

Japan is so attractive right now for young drivers as it promises the opportunity to become a professional racing driver rather than struggle to attract finance to continue on the young driver ladder in Europe. Alongside the chance to earn a professional driver there are also copious chances to link up with a manufacture, with Toyota running a LMP1 programme in the WEC, with Nissan joining them in LMP1 this year also. Honda is also returning to F1 and has links with Indycar also, with all of these manufactures assisting or running teams in the Super GT series. Japan is therefore the perfect shop window for young drivers to put themselves in should they wish to put aside their dreams of F1 and become a factory driver for a distinguished manufacture. The future seems increasingly bright for the Japanese racing scene, as it becomes increasingly prominent in international motor sport, returning it to it’s glory days of the past.

What are your thoughts on this article? Please feel free to leave any comments below good or bad.

What now for Jean Eric Vergne?

First of all, Jean Eric Vergne deserves to be on the grid at the next years Australian Grand Prix. Vergne has shown more than enough potential and results over the past three seasons to warrant a place on the grid in 2015. Vergne has simply become a casualty of the ruthless Red Bull young driver scheme.

Whilst Red Bull have backed him from a young age and gave him a shot in F1 for three seasons, if you don’t show the necessary progress you will quickly be replaced with the next young hot shoe product from the Red Bull line up. With the news last Friday that Red Bull junior F1 team Scuderia Toro Rosso would replace Vergne with their latest prospect Carlos Sainz Jr. For now it seems Vergne has few options to remain in F1 next year, so what options does he have to remain racing next year?

The most likely option it seems for Vergne to remain within Formula One next year appears to be with the Williams team. Rumors began during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend as Vergne was spotted spending a fair amount of time in the Williams hospitality area. Whilst both Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa are confirmed to 2015 their reserve driver role is vacant as Felipe Nasr joins Sauber for next year. If this move comes to fruition it’s likely Vergne will get some Free Practice runs next year, and would be well placed to impress as Williams will be looking to replace Felipe Massa in several years time.

It seems the Williams role seems the most likely option to stay in F1 next year, with the only other likely reserve driver role would be with the Red Bull team, although this is unlikely to interest Vergne as there will be very little chance of being promoted to a race drive.

Vergne can be heartened by the thought that he will likely find plenty of offers from other disciplines of motorsport, and can take heart from the example of fellow Red Bull refugee Sebastien Buemi. Vergne was one of the drivers who replaced Buemi at Toro Rosso for the 2012 season, and Buemi became the Red Bull reserve driver before rebuilding his career with Toyota in the World Endurance Championship, where he has shown his tremendous speed to claim the drivers title in the WEC alongside Anthony Davidson.

The World Endurance Championship is growing in significance every year with Nissan joining Audi, Porsche and Toyota in competing for wins next year. Vergne would be able to retain a reserve driver role in F1 with a WEC campaign with a manufacture or privateer team.

Another option for Vergne could be the new Formula E championship. The series has a prestigious line up of drivers and teams and is growing with every race in it’s debut season and would be an attractive option for next year. Formula E would be another series which could inter link with his reserve driver commitments should he find a drive within F1.

Other much less likely options would be for Vergne to swap F1 for Indycar, with his single seater skills would be clearly evident as he would likely become a household name in the series. Vergne once adjusted to the Dallara DW12 Indycar could become a multiple series champion such is his skill. Another option could be a top line career in GT racing with prominent series such as the Blancpain Endurance Series or GT classes within the WEC would be a great chance to rebuild his career after F1.

From here it’s not known where Jean Eric Vergne will be racing in 2015, with several options for him it’s up to him and his agent to decide which is his best option for next year. For me the best option would be a reserve driver role in F1 to keep his face known within the F1 community, with a sportscar campaign the perfect chance to show his considerable talent such as Sebastien Buemi has done this year. It would be a shame if Vergne isn’t racing at all next year, as he’s shown in his 3 years at Toro Rosso he deserves to remain at the top line of motorsport, where his talents belong.

David Grace avenges earlier defeat in second leg of Austin Healey invitational

The final race of both the day and the 2014 Castle Combe motorsport season was the second part of the Austin Healey Invitational Challenge, with this second 20 minute affair set to be a close race based on the earlier race. The grid was based on the first race results which meant David Smithies lined up on pole, with David Grace alongside him on the front row. The first race seemed to have been one of attrition as both 3rd and 4th placed men from the opening race Bruce Montgomery and Jaap Sinke were sadly missing for this second race, leaving row 2 completely empty.

From the start it was David Grace who made the best getaway to take the lead, going on to open a lead of 1-2 seconds at the end of the opening lap. At the front the first six were quickly dropping the rest of the field, although Grace soon made sure he distanced himself from those behind as he built a 5 second lead by lap 4. Behind them David Smithies was unable to focus on closing down Grace for the lead as he first had to fend off the advances of the Jack Chatham entry, who had risen fast from 6th on the grid to fight for 2nd.

Sadly from here things seemed to spread out amongst the first three as Grace, Smithies and Chatham circulated alone by lap 9. From here it was Chatham who came under increasing pressure from the Martin Hunt/Patrick Blakeney-Edwards entry, with the gap between the top 6 and the rest now a staggering 30 seconds also. The final minutes were run out with no further changes in position as David Grace avenged his earlier defeat to claim the victory, from first race winner David Smithies in 2nd whilst Jack Chatham came home 3rd in the iconic Chatham Cars entry. The Martin Hunt/Patrick Blakeney-Edwards entry was 4th from Karsten Le Blanc in 5th and the Chris Clarkson/Ted Williams entry which completed the top 6.

This was a great race to finish the day and the season off with the Austin Healey providing some good race and excitement for the spectators that stayed until the end. In summary, just like the Autumn Classic every Castle Combe season seems to get better, with great support once again for the local championships and some great series who visited the circuit this year. From here the circuit seems to have some exciting plans although will have to find talented people to fill the long standing shoes of the Fawdington’s, long time circuit employees who are sadly leaving at the end of this year. I for one cannot wait for the 2015 season which should provide some exciting racing once again.

Ellis/Fores too fast for rest in Fiscar 50’s Inter-Marque enduro

Next up on track was the 30 minute Fiscar 50’s Inter-Marque affair, which included mandatory pit stops to ensure an endurance feel to this race. The grid was as large as it was eclectic, with the pole man being the shared Lotus Elite of Robin Ellis and Richard Fores, with the similar Elite of soloist Brian Arculus alongside on the front row. Martyn Corfield was 3rd in this impressive Austin Healey 100/4 whilst earlier Jon Goss Memorial trophy front row man Steve Brooks completed row 2.

At the start it was Brian Arculus who made the best getaway to take the lead as the Ellis/Fores entry bogged down on the line. In the early laps the attention was focused on the recovering Ellis/Fores entry as they passed the fellow shared entry of John Ure and Nick Wigley in their Cooper Bristol T24 for 2nd on the pit straight after 3 laps. A lap later and the Ellis/Fores took the lead as the leader Arculus rocketed into the pit lane at the first possible moment to take his mandatory pit stop. He explained the reasoning was to avoid potential traffic during the stop which could cost him time.

Behind them lap 4 also saw the Mike Thorne/Sarah Bennett- Baggs Austin Healey 100M pass the Ure/Wigley Cooper for 3rd on the Dean straight. With Arculus pitting this promoted the Ure/Wigley Cooper back into 3rd, although this didn’t last long as they were deposed again, this time by the flying Simon Hadfield in his under powered Elva Courier on lap 5. From here it quickly became apparent the Ure/Wigley Cooper was dropping away from the top 3 by lap 7. Back at the front and it was clear that the man on the move was earlier Jon Goss Memorial trophy winner Simon Hadfield in the Elva. He passed the Thorne/Bennett- Baggs Austin Healey for 2nd on lap 8 and claimed the lead a lap later as the Ellis/Fores Lotus pitted, losing time as he was held up by slower cars also pitting at the same time.

Also on this lap the Ure/Wigley recovered from their earlier drop in pace to pass the Thorne/Bennett-Baggs Austin Healey for 3rd, which prompted both the Healey but also the 4th placed Martyn Corfield in his Healey 100/4 to pit a lap later. It was at this middle portion of the race that the majority of the pit stops were being made, making it very hard to track who was where in the jumbled up portion of the race. Lap 11 saw the Ure/Wigley Cooper pit from 2nd, with an entertaining scrap taking place a lap later as the recovering Ellis/Fores Lotus Elite bravely attempted to unlap himself from the leading Hadfield Elva.

With almost three quarters of the race gone the final front runners to pit were Hadfield and 2nd man Steve Brooks on lap 14, as Hadfield handed over to his wife Amanda. This reinstated the Brian Arculus Lotus Elite in the lead, whilst the Elva now piloted by Amanda Hadfield plummeted down the order over the final laps as she failed to match the scorching pace set by her husband Simon.

Back at the front and the Ure/Wigley Cooper was flying as it passed the Arculus Lotus Elite for the lead on lap 17. The battle for the lead intensified on the next lap as the rapidly closing Ellis/Fores Lotus finally caught the lead pair. A 3 way dice for the lead going up Avon Rise was finally decided as the Ellis/Fores Lotus blasted through the middle to take the lead on lap 18. From here the lead three remained close although they didn’t change position again as the flag fell at the end of lap 20. The Robin Ellis/Richard Fores Lotus Elite claimed a narrow victory from the solo Brian Arculus Lotus Elite whilst the John Ure/Nick Wigley Cooper Bristol completed the podium. Martyn Corfield was 4th in his Austin Healey 100/4 whilst Steve Brooks and the Andy Shephard/Ted Shephard AC Ace Bristol completed the top 6 in a thrilling Fiscar 50’s Inter-Marque race.

Martin Hunt takes Norman Dewes Pre-66 Jaguar Trophy at Combe Autumn Classic

After a brief break in the racing proceedings, for some high speed demonstrations from the likes Julian Bronson in his Scarab Grand Prix car, a Maserati 250F and other classic racing exotica, it was the turn of the Pre-66 Jaguar grid to form up for their 30 minute Norman Dewes Trophy race. On pole was Martin Hunt in his Jaguar E Type, with Mark Russell alongside him in his similar E Type. Row 2 was made up of well known retired sportscar racer and 1988 Le Mans 24 Hours winner Andy Wallace in an older Jaguar C Type, with Graham Bull completing row 2 in another E Type.

From the start pole man Martin Hunt made a good start to take the early lead, as the rest spaced out behind him in the early laps. The gaps between the top three were now evenly spaced with the only drama in the middle portion of the race being Andy Wallace, who appeared to be struggling to keep hold of 3rd from Graham Bull behind him. After a backmarker spun off on the exit of Camp with his car broadside against the tyres on the pit straight the Safety Car was deployed on lap 16 so the recovery trucks could safely recover the car.

After 3 laps the Safety Car peeled in again on lap 18, as Brian Stevens took advantage of this to dive inside Graham Bull for 4th at Camp after the Safety Car came in. Whilst it appeared a dubious move as both cars had yet to pass the start finish line no action was taken by the stewards after. Anyone who was hoping Martin Hunt would now be challenged for the lead were disappointed as second driver in the queue failed to keep up with Hunt on the re-start, allowing him to open a huge lead again as the other front runners were held up behind slow back markers.

A lap later and things took a turn for the worse for Andy Wallace in 3rd as he was forced onto the grass to avoid a spinning car, dropping him from 3rd to 5th with only a few laps left to recover. From here things remained stagnant for the final two laps as Martin Hunt cruised home after 21 laps to claim victory, with Mark Russell and Brian Stevens completing an all E Type podium in 2nd and 3rd respectively. Graham Bull was 4th in his own E Type as Andy Wallace remained 5th in his C Type with Colin McKay completing the top 6.

Whilst the race lacked in wheel to wheel battling slightly, that’s to be expected with the value and age of the machinery on the track, something that still fascinates me to this day. The Safety Car leveled things out although this race has just enough of everything to ensure this was a great race for the plentiful spectators.

Simon Hadfield dominates Combe Aston Martin Jon Goss trophy

Race 3 of the Autumn Classic meeting at Castle Combe was for historic Aston Martin’s, with a short 20 minute race for the Jon Goss Memorial trophy. On pole was rapid historic racing proponent Simon Hadfield in Wolfgang Freiderichs Aston Martin DB3S, with Simon Brooks alongside him on the front row in is DB3S. Row 2 consisted of David Reed in his DB2 with Chris Jolly completing the row in his similar DB2.

From the lights Hadfield rocketed away into an early lead as the rest jostled for position behind him. After the first lap it was clear Hadfield was on a mission as he seamlessly built an opening lap lead of around 5 seconds over the rest. Behind him too, 2nd and 3rd placed drivers David Reed and Chris Jolly were beginning to distance themselves from the rest also. By lap 3 it was clear barring mechanical problems that Hadfield would dominate this race as he was stretch his lead by 5 seconds a lap at the front.

With the lead now at 16 seconds by the end of lap 3, Hadfield kept stretching the lead as the rest of the top six were now evenly spaced also. On the fringes of the top six things almost changed as Steve Brooks almost fell out the top six after spinning on lap 9 at the Esses, although he re-joined still in 6th. It was clearly a tough race for Brooks as the spin showed he was struggling, especially as he had quickly fallen down the order from the 2nd spot on the grid.

In the later stages the race came alive somewhat, as Paul De Havilland, in his invitational Jaguar XK150, passed Chris Jolly for 3rd on the penultimate lap. A lap later, on lap 15 Simon Hadfield completed the final lap to take the chequered flag a staggering 56.482 seconds ahead of David Reed in 2nd after only 20 minutes of racing. Paul De Havilland completed the podium with Chris Jolly coming home 4th. Gordon McCulloch and Steve Brooks completed the top six with 5th and 6th respectively. Whilst this race didn’t have many battle it still provided excitement and intrigue at the skill of Simon Hadfield’s driving, a true display in how to hustle a historic racing car.

Indy Lights on upward trend

After years of struggling with a old car and a decreasing grid, the Indy Lights finally looks to have turned a corner next year with the announcement of a new Dallara race car which has sparked a resurgence in interest in the series. The feeder series to Indycar now appears to have restored itself as a haven for young North American open wheel racers, whilst simultaneously being a viable alternative for frustrated talented young European drivers.

It’s only the middle of October yet already the series has confirmed 10 teams have already agreed to run in the series next year, with likely two cars from each team producing a likely grid of 15-20 cars. This is easily an improvement over the past few years where then entries have been around 10-14 cars. Those already confirming their orders are powerhouse team Schmidt Peterson who have ordered two cars for their Indycar feeder team. Other existing teams to place orders are 2014 front runners Juncos and Belardi racing who have both ordered two cars also. New team McCormack racing have also confirmed their commitment to their series, whilst sportscar team 8star motorsport has confirmed one entry, with the potential for a second also.

Indycar racer Tristan Vautier developing the new Dallara IL15 racer in August.

Existing teams Andretti Autosport and Team Moore are some of the team likely to have placed orders but yet to go public with their intentions to run in the series next year. On the driving front, it appears the quality of the grid will be greatly improved next year. Championship runner up this year Jack Harvey is working on a deal to return to the series next year. He will be keen for the title but will face stiff competition from the likes of 2014 Pro Mazda champion Spencer Pigot, who is likely to move up to IndyLights . Others likely to be returning are 2014 front runners Zach Veach, Matthew Brabham and Luiz Razia. 8Star are also keen to run promising sportscar racer Sean Rayhall if they can find the budget, with young racers Alan Sciuto and Parker Kligerman potentially earning themselves a seat next year after impressive post-season tests so far.

Finally leading the European racing influx so far for next year is Puerto Rican racer Felix Serralles, the only confirmed driver for next year so far. He will join the 2014 champions Belardi racing for next year after some difficult years in the European F3 Championship. Serralles previously proved his considerable talent in the British racing scene, and expect several more racers abandon the cut and thrust money dependent European racing scene for a fresh start at stardom in Indycar.

The final rung on the Mazda Road to Indy scheme is already creating plenty of buzz around the series with an influx of new teams and a new Dallara racer for next year. From here the future looks bright for the Indy Lights series with the support from Mazda providing young drivers the support to move up from the bottom rungs to Indycar, such as with 2014 champion Gabby Chaves and for Spencer Pigot next year. The series will hopefully entice plenty of European racers across to the series with the promise of a part season in Indycar including the a chance at the Indy 500 for the champion surely enough to tempt those disillusioned with the funding required to step up the European single seater echelons below F1. I for one will be eagerly keeping track with the revamped Indy Lights series next year.

For more information on the series please visit the link below
http://www.indylights.com/about/2015-indy-lights