Ford

2018 Rolex 24 GTLM Preview

The GTLM class is arguably the most competitive of all classes in the IMSA WeatherTech championship, and 2018 should again see no quarter given as nine cars from five factory supported manufactures will do battle. Last year saw Ford claim the spoils, with seven cars finishing on the lead lap showing how competitive this class is. This year see’s renewed input from BMW and Porsche, with choosing a winner for this class virtually impossible. If you have missed my first two prototype class previews, you can find them here. Part 1  Part 2

Let’s look at the class field, which may lack in numbers but certainly not in overall quality.

#3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: Antonio Garcia/Jan Magnussen/Mike Rockenfeller

The defending GTLM class champions return with an unchanged line-up this year, unsurprisingly. The Pratt & Miller run Corvette racing programme are one of the slickest operations in the IMSA paddock, and have been a competitive factory GT outfit since the turn of the millennium.

Three wins last year, including the Sebring 12 Hours, secured the GTLM title for this #3 crew, something they will look to repeat this year. Both Garcia and Magnussen are vastly experienced in the C7.R and and have the pace to challenge at the front in the class. Audi DTM racer Mike Rockenfeller returns once again after joining the team last year, and provides added pace to an already strong line-up.  Fifth in the pre-race test for Antonio Garcia does not indicate strong pace, but Corvette racing should recover come race week.

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#4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: Oliver Gavin/Tommy Milner/Marcel Fassler

2017 was a down year for this always successful #4 crew. Full season drivers Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner only secured one class win, but should bounce back in 2018. Their previous success has meant GM has retained the duo for this year, with Swiss Audi factory driver Marcel Fassler returning once again to bolster the endurance line-up.

Gavin looked impressive in the pre-race Roar test, securing the second fastest time, 0.3s quicker than their team mates. Both the Corvette Racing entries are formidable opponents for their rivals, and their consistently strong results year after year show this team is one of the best in business.

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#24 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE: Jesse Krohn/John Edwards/Nicky Catsburg/Augusto Farfus

BMW have a much increased involvement in GTE class racing with a new M8 GTE car for this year. They have expanded into the WEC for this year, alongside their long running IMSA GT factory programme. The team have encountered some expected new car troubles, but the team will not be using that as an excuse during the race.

John Edwards has been a long-term BMW factory IMSA driver, and for the full season is joined by Jesse Krohn, who has impressed in the GTD class in recent years. Joining them for Daytona are WEC racers Nicky Catsburg and Augusto Farfus. All four are very quick drivers, the only question mark for this team in a highly competitive class is their new M8 car.

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#25 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE: Alex Sims/Conor de Phillippi/Bill Auberlen/Philipp Eng

The second of the factory BMW entries has another all-star cast of factory drivers, with Alex Sims joined by new signing Conor de Phillippi for the full season. Sims was very quick in the old M6 last year and Phillippi was a standout in the GTD class in an Audi R8.

Long term factory pilot Bill Auberlen has stepped back into an endurance-only role this season, and Philipp Eng has proved very quick with various customer teams in the GT3 spec M6. As with their other entry their result will depend on the new M8 GTE and its reliability. Ford hit the ground running with their GT several years ago, so anything will be possible for the German marque.

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#62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE: James Calado/Toni Vilander/Alessandro Pier Guidi/Davide Rigon

This family run factory supported team return for a partial campaign this year, after an abrupt end to their 2017 season after the Le Mans 24 Hours. They return to Daytona after finishing a close third in the Rolex 24 last year.

On the driving front the team have 2017 WEC GTE Pro champions James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi, with fellow factory drivers Toni Vilander and Davide Rigon  completing the line-up. Rigon was a late addition and missed the pre-race test, but he has enough experience of the GTE spec Ferrari.   This is a seriously strong line-up of Ferrari GT talent, although they did appear to struggle for ultimate pace at the test. The fact this is a one-car team may hinder them against their well stocked factory opponents, but this team will be pushing them all the way in the race.

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#66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT: Sebastien Bourdais/Joey Hand/Dirk Muller

The factory Ford GT programme enters its third year, but already has claimed some major honours. This #66 car claimed GTE Pro victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours in its debut year, and claimed the GTLM Rolex 24 class victory last year.

The team retain an unchanged line-up, of full season drivers Joey Hand and Dirk Muller, with Indycar racer Sebastien Bourdais joining them for the endurance rounds. All three are very quick in this Ford GT, and with Bourdais having firmly put his severe Indy 500 practice accident behind him, the team will be hoping their good form can extend into a third year. A fastest time at the Roar test is a good omen for this #66 team.

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#67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT: Ryan Briscoe/Richard Westbrook/Scott Dixon

This #67 crew have been forced to watch on as their teams other entry has claimed major successes across the world for the past two years. They seem to have attracted the majority of the teams bad luck in that time, because in a straight fight they are evenly matched with their intra-team rivals.

Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook are a very talented pairing, with multiple Indycar champion Scott Dixon a very strong third addition to the team. Ryan Briscoe set the third fastest time at the test, and with the top six cars separated by only a second this class battle will be on for the entire 24 hours.

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#911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR: Frederic Makowiecki/Patrick Pilet/Nick Tandy

This CORE Autosport led factory Porsche GT outfit enter the second year of their new mid-engined Porsche 911 RSR car. With their withdrawal from the LMP1 class Porsche have put renewed investment into their GT racing across the world, something that is shown with their IMSA programme.

Patrick Pilet returns, but has a new team mate this year with LMP1 racer Nick Tandy moving across to replace Dirk Werner, who likely moves across to the WEC. Joining them for the long distance rounds is WEC GT racer Frederic Makowiecki. Last year this team were the closest challengers to the winning #66 Ford entry this year, and with a renewed emphasis on GT racing can they go one step further this time around.

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#912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR: Earl Bamber/Laurens Vanthoor/Gianmaria Bruni 

The #912 car in the hands of Earl Bamber was the fastest of the two Porsche’s at the pre-race test, showing they are definite contenders for victory. The #912 crew struggled last year, with only two class podiums and no wins across the year.

The team retain the very quick Belgian Laurens Vanthoor for his second season with the team, with former LMP1 factory driver Earl Bamber coming across to IMSA as his new full season team mate. Italian Gianmaria Bruni rejoins the team for Daytona after a truncated 2017 season.

That wraps up my preview looking at the fiercely competitive GTLM class. It’s not an exaggeration to say that any one of the nine entries could win this class, and expect the class lead battle to go on for the entirety of the race.

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I want to say a massive thank you for anyone who has read this article and I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, feel free to comment, like or share. I have to say a final massive thank you to Motorsport.com for their high quality photos which grace this page. For all the latest motorsport news please visit their website.  You can find me on Twitter @brfcjordan95.

Coming up next is a two-part preview of the GTD class. Stay tuned!

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Hoad shocks Formula Ford paddock with easy victory

The Castle Combe Formula Ford championship fired back into life this opening bank holiday Monday, with the grid improving in quality over the off-season. The championship has been a fan favorite since it’s inception in 1969, and still runs strong in 2015.

With an influx of returning star drivers it was somewhat of a surprise to almost everyone when sporadic Castle Combe Formula Ford racer Jonathan Hoad took pole position in his ex-works Duckhams 1990 Van Diemen RF90. Hoad has spent all winter preparing the car, and spent lots of time testing the car also, which helps to explain his pole position. The resurfaced track was clearly to everyone’s liking as the pole was was only fractionally off the lap record, set in 2008.

Roger Orgee came come to winning the title last year, and started this year from 2nd on the grid, whilst the returning Felix Fisher and Nathan Ward completed row two.At the start it was the returning and seriously fast Josh Fisher that made the best start, rocketing up from 5th on the grid to challenge for the lead going into Quarry on the opening lap.

By lap 2 it appeared all the off-season work was paying off for Hoad as he quickly built up a lead of several seconds over the chasing pack behind, with a five car train behind him fighting over 3rd position in the early laps. Lap 5 saw the fight for 3rd splinter into two separate fights, with Fisher, Ward and Orgee fighting over 2nd, whilst ex-champion Ed Moore, reigning double champion Adam Higgins and Luke Cooper fought over 5th position.

A lap later and the breakthrough was made in the fight for 2nd, with Nathan Ward passing Fisher, who dropped to fourth a lap later after being passed by Orgee. At this halfway stage of the race Hoad was comfortable out front, with a lead of 2.9 seconds over the rest, who were squabbling for positions themselves. The two separate battle for 2nd and now 6th were still going on, with Higgins managing to bridge the gap and join the battle for 2nd.

Sadly for Higgins, just as he joined the battle for 2nd, Orgee distanced himself from the bunch as he solidified himself in 2nd place, which in turn splintered the battle for 2nd into smaller battles for the lower placings in the top six. Into the final lap and Jonathan Hoad cruised home to a dominant lights to flag win in the opening round of the 2015 Castle Combe Formula Ford Championship, 3.3 seconds clear of Roger Orgee in 2nd. Nathan Ward completed the podium whilst Josh Fisher was lucky to survive late race contact with a back marker on Dean Straight on the final lap, as he could have easily lost a wheel after touching another car. He survived however and came home 4th,although Fisher can at least take solace from the fact he broke the long standing Class C lap record by a huge margin, beating the time set by former front runner Matt Rivett, set remarkably in September 2001. Adam Higgins and Felix Fisher will be slightly disappointed with 5th and 6th places respectively.

This opening round was a dominant masterclass from Jonathan Hoad, although with both Josh and Felix Fisher promising to return for more of the championship this season, alongside Adam Higgins, Nathan Ward and Roger Orgee who will look to knock him off his perch this season, Hoad will have his work cut out to remain on top as the season progresses. It shall be very interesting to watch how the season unfolds. For more information on this exciting championship please visit http://www.ccracingclub.co.uk/championships/formula-ford-1600/

HSCC Formula Ford 2000 Championship Castle Combe 04/10/14 report

After the exciting opening race for the Monoposto series, next up on track was the HSCC Formula Ford 2000 series, who lined up for the first of their double header races to round out their season. The title was still up for grabs amongst three drivers and it was the 2nd man in the points, Ben Tusting, who claimed pole from title leader Ben Simms. The title outsider Andrew Park line up 3rd with frequent race winner and local favourite Nelson Rowe completing row 2 in 4th.

At the start of their opening 15 minute stanza it was 3rd man Andrew Park who shot into an early lead and at the end of lap 1 it was Park and Nelson Rowe who were making a small break at the front from the Ben Simms and Tom Smith, up from 5th, behind them. A lap later and Park began opening a gap to Rowe in 2nd also as Park looked very strong in the opening minutes. Things were going slightly pear shaped for title leader Ben Simms as he lost 3rd on lap 2 to Tom Smith, with the outside bet for the title Andrew Park streaking away up front.

By lap 3 the top four of Park, Rowe, Smith and Simms were now well clear of the rest of the field, which was bad news for the pole man and 2nd in the point Ben Tusting, who seemed to be struggling with the much drier conditions now compared with the extremely wet track they faced for the earlier qualifying session. A lap later and Simms re-took 3rd from Smith, with the top 4 now evenly spacing themselves out at the front.

From here it seemed Andrew Park was destined for a lights to flag comfortable victory, however he suffered a difficult moment on lap 10 as bad traffic for him halved his gap to Rowe to 2.4 seconds, however after this minor blip it was plain sailing for the final two laps for leader Andrew Park, who claimed a dominant victory to boost his title chances going into the final race of the season. Nelson Rowe came home 2nd whilst title leader Benn Simms claimed the final podium place. Tom Smith was 4th whilst pole man Ben Tusting and Andrew Storer completed the top 6 respectively, in a great opening race for the HSCC Formula Ford 2000 Championship as the title was set to be decided in the final race of their season later on in the afternoon.

Much later on in the afternoon the HSCC Formula Ford 2000 series ventured out on track again for their final race of the season, with an earlier accident in the resident Castle Combe Saloons series relegating this race from 15 to 12 minutes because of the previous long stoppage. With dropped scores the title was realistically between title leader Benn Simms and race 1 victor Andrew Park. The grid was based on second fastest qualifying times and therefore it was again Ben Tusting who claimed pole, with title contender Andrew Park alongside him on the front row. Nelson Rowe and title leader Benn Simms completed row 2. From the start again Andrew Park made a great getaway to lead as Benn Simms was right in his wheel tracks off the line.

The opening lap was tight as the field were very close with one another from the start, and the first to make a mistake was local man Nelson Rowe, who ran wide at Bobbies on the opening lap and dropped from 3rd to 7th in a matter of meters. His recovery was swift however as he made up a number of places in the ensuing laps to rise to 4th by lap 4. Both pole man Tusting and Rowe were now closing back up to the leaders. Rowe was on the move again on lap 6 as he passed Tusting for 3rd at Folly, and was soon challenging Park for the lead later on in the lap. The battle for the leader was now between title contenders Benn Simms and Andrew Park with local man Nelson Rowe the interloper in 3rd.

The two title rivals Simms and Park were constantly changing positions, with Rowe now getting in on the act as he passed Park for 2nd at Quarry on lap 8, as he then passed Simms for the lead at the Esses a lap later. This move was then followed by a brilliantly opportunistic move by Park as he passed Simms for 2nd around the outside at Old Paddock, which is a move rarely tried by drivers let alone a move that is completed. From here the status quo remained as ex Historic Formula Ford champion Nelson Rowe claimed victory at his local circuit, with the two title contender Andrew Park and Benn Simms completing the podium.

Pole man Ben Tusting was 4th whilst Tom Smith and Graham Fennymore completed the top 6 respectively. After frantic calculation both from the championship coordinator and the two circuit commentators it was announced that after dropped scores Benn Simms was the champion by 4 points from Andrew Park. Both were in good spirits after the race when being interviewed, which shows the camaraderie amongst the drivers in this thriving HSCC Formula Ford 2000 Championship. This series provided two great races at the Championship Finals race day here at Castle Combe, and I hope the Formula Ford 2000 community is welcomed back to Castle Combe next year. For more information on the series please visit the link below.

http://www.hscc.org.uk/championships