Friday, August 11, 2017

Lewis vs Bottas: the hidden war

During the Hungarian grand prix Lewis Hamilton yielded 3rd place back to Valtteri Bottas after promising to do so if he could not make up positions. Bottas was running in 3rd but Lewis closed on him and seemed faster and asked to be let by. The way we see it, it was unprofessional from the Mercedes team to make him have to give back the position. Even if he promised. He is the team points leader and the team owes him one for the headrest snafu in Azerbaijan.

Their cars can no longer finish a race 20 to 30 seconds ahead of the pack. They're no longer fighting each other for the title. Ferrari is in the mix, and at the right tracks like Hungary so is Red Bull. If the team really believes it's giving each driver an equal chance at the championship it's instead forcing them to fight with one arm tied behind their back. Compared to Vettel who has his whole team and teammate pledged to support his title bid Mercedes simply looks amateurish.

Had Verstappen overtaken Lewis Hamilton while Bottas was going by, it would have been a major embarrassment.

There are a few telling reasons why Lewis himself was compelled to cede the position back besides his inability to pass Raikkonen. He was probably well scolded behind closed door after last year's final race, Valterri Bottas' longtime billionaire supporter Antti Aarnio-Wihuri might really be splurging on the team and might have an equality clause for his sponsored driver. You have probably noticed the "Wihuri" patch that used to adorn the Williams uniforms is now proudly but inconspicuously displayed on the right arm of the Mercedes uniforms and both drivers' helmets. Bottas is an F1 team's prototypical driver: Fast, and connected in high places. Lewis' last teammate with similar circumstances was Fernando Alonso. Bottas is also Lewis' boss' personal project. If Bottas makes it, Toto Wolf will also be regarded as someone with an eye for great talent.

Just as Lewis was Ron Dennis' find, and made sure to give him equal footing against Alonso, Lewis shouldn't be surprised if in the second half of the season, Toto develops a penchant for Bottas.

From the team's point of view, now that Bottas is used to the car he can be a threat to Ferrari. But the true wisdom is that if Bottas was truly a better driver than Hamilton we would have seen it in the first 5 races. Pre season testing should have been plenty for him to adapt to the car.

What's the indication of who truly is the better driver when a new driver moves to a new team?

When Lewis moved to Mercedes in 2013, against Nico Rosberg who had been there for 3 years before him, it was clear who the new team leader was. Lewis outclassed Rosberg, even when he got borred midway through the season.

When Vettel moved to ferrari he had his way with Raikkonen. When Alonso went to Ferrari he had Massa in check. Pretty much no matter who is already in a team, so long as the incoming driver has had preaseason testing, he will get the hang of the car if he is the better driver.

It's not at the midway point that the team should start changing strategy to allow the secondary driver to fight for the title because he has worked himself into the hunt.

So barring catastrophic failures, in the first 4 to 5 races the better driver in the team is usually the leader in points. In Mercedes' case Lewis is the de facto and de jure #1. He is the proven winner.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The "meh" Grand Prix

The Hungarian Grand Prix showed some of the worst aspects of Formula 1 racing. It summed up everyone's complaint about the sport. It was so devoid of any meaningful racing action that one of the podium hostesses inadvertently stole the show.

The race was mostly such a procession that the broadcasters' focus was on the leading cars. Among the top 5 cars there wasn't a single genuine pass. Given their pace and the tight nature of the track, the leading cars couldn't get enough of a run to make clean passes on their teammates. And given their lofty positions no one wanted to make a daring move for fear of damaging their tires or worst their car.

The drivers all blamed the track, but it's rather the F1 honchos, since they decide the car design parameters. F2 had a very entertaining session at this same track.

When you compare the action here to Indycar, or even the F2 race earlier in the day, F1 was rather boring, predictable, and lacking in any taut racing.

On average Lewis Hamilton was the fastest man on track. In a normal racing environment Raikkonen would have passed Vettel, then Lewis would have made quick work of Bottas, Vettel, and then battled it out with Raikkonen for the win.

So why can't F1 cars overtake each other on this track And have a hard time at most other tracks? This track is even so short that even the DRS gimmick doesn't give pursuing cars enough time to make a pass.

Formula 1 cars' reliance on aerodynamics to make speed and downforce is their long standing problem. Compared to Formula1 cars,  the F2 cars that raced earlier or even Indycars and Super Formula machines rely more on mechanical grip for handling and speed. Meaning the design of the chassis, suspension geometry, tire, weight distribution, ride height all are used to keep the car holding onto the road. There is still aero involved, in F2, Indy and Super Formula, but it's less of a factor compared to F1, and vice versa.

Aero grip is advanced, near space age technology. The higher the speeds the better it works. It really provides quite a show on acceleration and fast sweepers. Its development cost is stratospheric, it has limited real world application, and as witnessed in Hungary, it requires undisturbed air and does not allow for much close racing in confined quarters.

Mechanical grip is closer to real world road car technology, its development cost are more manageable, it allows for close racing as you see in Indy and F2. It is considered a step down from aero grip development and the cars tend to look unsophisticated compared to F1 machinery.

In my opinion if an Indycar were to be fitted with either the Mercedes or Ferrari engines used in Hungary, the same tires and with a competent driver, it would have over taken the leading pack and easily kept the lead by making quick work of lapped traffic. The reason so, is because it would be able to draw close to cars, since its body work makes do with more mechanical grip than aero grip.

If cars with higher mechanical grip than aero would provide more racing action, why doesn't F1 scrap their current rules book and adopt a whole new concept frame? The answer is one of exclusivity, and control.

F1 has been very lucrative for the established teams. Over the years they have amassed nearly unsurmountable knowledge about aerodynamics as it applies to racing vehicles. This knowledge alone is golden. It sets the established teams apart from any new entrant. No matter how much a new entrant is willing to spend to be competitive, or the caliber of the firm they choose to subcontract design work to, overcoming the challenge of years of aero knowledge is a task measured in hundreds of millions. In the case of a savvy new entrant like Haas, the aero curve defficiency makes them dependent on an established team. In the effort to keep themselves as the players in the sport for as long as possible, the F1 establishment will simply not budge to move the sport's chassis design language from a aero dependent grip to a mechanical grip dependent platform. The sport is lucrative, exclusive and the big players want to stay in charge of it. End of story.

As a side effect this has also ensured that only a small crop of heavily backed drivers can truly contend for a driving seat in Formula1. All lower formulas (Indylights, F2, FV8 3.5, etc) and all other types of racing, have mechanical grip dependent or dominant chassis. When drivers graduate from there, unless they were heavily sponsored to have used a team's simulator and test drive the latest F1 cars regularly, they will struggle to adapt, and F1 teams simply won't hire drivers who do not test drive regularly.

Formula1 can be made racier with more passing. However the desire to maintain a solid grip on the sport and only attract well heeled newcomers (drivers and teams) to add to the pot has kept the sport from truly being as entertaining as it can be.


Friday, July 28, 2017

The "Great" dilemma

Or the "Magnus" dilemma. It's really the same thing. Since leaving the Weathertech championship, Magnus Racing has been fielding 2 cars in Pirelli World Challenge. An R8 LMS for team owner John Potter in the GTA class, and another for Audi factory driver Pierre Kaffer in the all professional GT class, where many other brands have their works drivers battling it out. But Kaffer has a few European race conflicts with PWC such as this weekend when he is at Spa for the 24hrs. Enter Spencer Pumpelly.

The team's part time driver Spencer Pumpelly, who has driven less rounds than Kaffer is placed higher in the driver standings. Any significant results he achieves in this weekend's double header round at Mid Ohio could give the team something to think about. Pumpelly could possibly land on the podium or finish in the top 5-10 in either or both races. 

Pierre Kaffer is no slouch, he has been relied on by many quality or well funded racing outfits; driving an Audi R8 LMP1 at Le mans in 2004 with Allan McNish and Frank Biela, a driver for Risi Competizione, and AF Corse under their PeCom racing moniker, and before this year the Bykolles WEC LMP1 team. Audi, Risi, and AF Corse appearing on his resume almost leaves you with no question of Kaffer's caliber. 

This year as an Audi factory driver he has been assigned to Magnus Racing in their factory supported #4 R8 LMS in Pirelli World Challenge, with full intentions on a championship assault (if BoP permits). The season started with some difficulty for Kaffer, finishing 19th and 15th in St Petersburg. He then finished 8th in Long Beach, an improvement over the frst 2 rounds. But not enough for a proud team working hand in hand with Brad Kettler at Audi Sport customer racing (and looking to prove that they're better than what the Weathertech championship gave them credit for).

In the Sprint X races, Kaffer was paired with Spencer Pumpelly, himself a consumate professional on the level of Kaffer, but unlike Kaffer he doesn't have factory gigs lining up his resume. Instead he has made a career of loaning himself out to wealthy racing enthusiasts and privateer team owners for Pro-Am championships jaunts.

Together Kaffer and Pumpelly have finished 28th and 5th in the VIR double header, and 5th again at CTMP (the Mosport name is better). The kicker was that when Kaffer was on his European racing duties for Audi in Blancpain, the team drafted in Dane Cameron for the Lime rock Sprint X double header. There they finished 2nd and 1st, the best points haul for any team that weekend, and no doubt reminding themselves they're one of the best groups out there. If Pumpelly distances himself substantially from Kaffer in the points standings this weekend, the thought of finishing out the season with him will surely cross the mind of some in the team. For those dramatically inclined Dane Cameron does not have Cadillac DPi duty for the next 2 Sprint X rounds in Utah and Texas.

In truth it will not be that easy to simply boot Pierre Kaffer out of the #4 car. There are contracts and agreements in place that must be taken into consideration. 

The results are better when Kaffer pairs up with Pumpelly, even better when Pumpelly pairs up with Cameron. Now the team will get to see how pumpelly gets on solo in the car. If he gives the team very solid results or a reason to celebrate in either race, Kaffer's return to the Magnus racing paddock could be quite awkward. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Indycar Toronto notes.

Packed grandstands

Two weekends ago, the indycar race in Toronto was one mightily entertaining affaire. One thing we noticed that the TV commentators did not seem to comment on was that the grandstands were full. It's either there were not that many grandstands and spectators had to pack into the stands availablr, or Indycar just has a fabulous Canadian following. In either case it would be wise to have a second race. Perhaps revive Edmonton, or even at CTMP (formerly Mosport).

James Hinchcliffe finishing on the podium was a plus for the series. He is just as competitive as anyone in the top teams. If Bernie Ecclestone ran Indycar he would pressure Chip Ganassi to drop Tony Kanaan and pickup The Mayor of Hinchtown. It's a win-win on all fronts: for fans, Chip Ganassi, Indycar, and it keeps Canadian fans loyal to the series.


Free Kanaan!

Despite his desire to keep racing, Tony Kanaan no longer has the burning desire to launch a sustained attack on the Indycar championship. He should be let go.

It's really not fun advocating for someone to be let go from their job. Given that i had a similar tidbit about Helio Castroneves, and now Kanaan, some might believe i'm just out to badmouth the series. Yet the reality is that there are younger drivers coming up the ranks who can be as good or better, but who simply need a chance.

The argument that drivers such as Helio and Kanaan are very popular with fans, and loosing them could decimate the fan base does not hold water. Rather Indycar is struggling for fans, so letting the younger generation into the series will bring novelty and boost attendance and viewership.


Carlos and Connor

What seemed like very promising careers last year has not delivered this year. In 2016 Carlos Munoz finished second in the Indy 500 behind teammate Alexander Rossi (if it had not been for a late call to pit...), and was the highest placed Andretti Autosport driver in the final driver standings. Connor Daly in his rookie season last year, dazzled with his passing and his ability to make opportunistic strategies work.

Now here they are at A.J Foyt Racing this year. No sponsorship to bring to the team, only their "A" game. But so far neither Munoz or Daly have been able to bring their "A" level game according to the team, and perhaps onlookers. This has got A.J Foyt frustrated. 

But from my observations over the years, i can say that unless you're bringing sponsorship to help the team along like Takuma Sato did, your season is doomed to mediocrity..maybe even your career. I did have hope to see either Munoz or daly score at least a couple top 5 results by now, yet sincerely these results are not their faults. An Indycar Connoisseur knows what the drivers are capable of. It's the team that's letting them down. The team should instead focus all resources on their engineering talent, strategy making and pitwork, similar to what Dale Coyne did in the last off season. The team's biggest assets now are these 2 drivers.


Saturday, July 15, 2017

F1 Live in London notes

Missing Hamilton

Lewis was repeatedly questioned about not being at the F1 Live in London fan event during the Silverstone drivers' press conference. The press had it out for him to let him know they were not at all happy. They were speaking on behalf of the fans. They had a point. Lewis is a tireless globetrotter. It's almost a let down to not show up for an event that benefits his career industry. His facebook account has documented his many escapades. Sometimes it seems he even parties less than a day before a race weekend, and is still able to hoist the winner's trophy on Sunday. Being the ultimate showman this was a golden opportunity to once again showcase his "brand" to a public that was going to cheer him on more than any other driver there.

What the reporters and no one else didn't realize is that the appearance of all the other drivers made the event mundane for Lewis. There was no excitement for him to be there. His persona is built on being different, exclusive, and controversial. He thrives in such circumstances. Skipping the event made him an even more valued commodity. 

Unless it's a competitive event, he doesn't just want to be one of many, where his run in Trafalgar Square would have been compared to that of other drivers. When it's a fan event where people's personal judgements are involved, he wants no contest, he wants to be the clear favorite.

The only way to make up for not showing up is to win the British Grand Prix. Preferably in convincing fashion.


Ricciardo on Bottas

During the driver's Thursday press conference Daniel Ricciardo said Bottas did not represent his country well. Since Riciardo's run was no contest the best and the bravest, with well placed doughnuts and burnouts, he was probably expecting Valtteri to be drifting the car around the streets as if rallying. It would have been eye catching to drift one of those F1 monsters on a city street, but required supreme car control with flawless execution.


The rivalry is real

When all the drivers had gathered on stage and Bottas came out with the mother of all champagne bottles and began to spray it on the crowd, he turned to spray it on the drivers and Kimi Raikkonen was the only driver to run away from the stage to avoid the spray. It seems like an innocent enough reaction, but it's not. Similar to how Lewis Hamilton ducked out from the champage shower during Nico Rosberg's championship celebration with the team. Kimi wants nothing to do with Bottas. As far as Kimi, they're simply racing rivals no countrymen brotherhood to celebrate.


F1 two seater

It was actually refreshing to see Formula1 roll out with their own two seater. A two seater has been a staple showcase for years in Indycar. Imitation is flattery. But a few improvements are in order: it looks cramped even though Naomi Campbell somehow managed to fit in the Silverstone winner's trophy. Also, they should make the two seater stall proof. It doesn't have to be operated like an F1 car. It just has to feel, look, and accelerate somewhat close to one.  It didn't look good when Jensen Button a former champion stalled the showcase piece with a VIP guest in tow. 


Thursday, July 13, 2017

18 years in racing heaven

Helio Castroneves won the Indycar race in Iowa, and has dislodged his reigning champion teammate Simon Pagenaud in second place. There is starting to be talk that it would be ironic if he was to be replaced after winning the championship this year. Throughout his hall of fame career that has been the only knock on Castroneves' career - not winning a championship.

But the notion of Helio being ousted from Indycar is not of course without merit. Ever since Penske Racing moved to Indycar from CART, the only multi year full time drivers not to win a title for the team are Ryan Briscoe - whose moment of inattention after a pit stop at Motegi cost him the title in his second season with the team in 2009, and Juan Pablo Montoya who would have won the title had it not been for the double points at the last race of the season at Sonoma in 2015. All other drivers have won at least one crown for the Captain, Sam Hornish, Will Power, snd Simon Pagenaud. Joseph Newgarden is lining up for his ring fitting in the next few years.

Helio is in his 18th season with the team. He has become a very popular driver in the series and has won 3 Indy 500 races. Those accolades has enabled him to remain firmly entrenched in the Penske organization. Perhaps that confidence in his racing future has also worked against him. Maybe he played it safe sometimes instead of attacking, since he almost always approached the end of the season knowing what was next for him the following season.

Before the question of why should he be let go if he wins the title is answered, the question that should first be asked is should be allowed to win the title? Despite being second in the championship, can he be trusted or counted on to really mount a charge to deliver results in the crunch against Scott Dixon?

We already have our answer from 15 competitive seasons out of 18 for team Penske. Helio has had his chances. If he were to win the title, we think Helio himself should retire on a high note rather than be forced out. In case he isn't able to sustain his championship charge he should do his best to make sure Pagenaud or another Penske driver wins it for his beloved boss.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Wearthertech championship 6hrs at the Glen

As hollowed a racing circuit as Watkins Glen is, I would suggest changes that I think would make it even better. The bus stop should go. Let that back straight be a flat out stretch. However turn 5 at the end of the back straight should be made a bit more squared exactly like turn one. Leading off turn 5 you would have a run off area, and a set of spaced out tire barriers. Tire barriers will damage a car while catching it, and gravel or sand traps would stop the car while preserving it. But a car coming back on track from there will leave a mess, reducing the racing line, and possibly causing other on track issues. That simple change to the track would do wonders, simply and brilliantly.

It was refreshing to see a mix of prototypes in the hunt for the win. However we could not help wondering. Had Rebellion been here, would they simply walk away with this thing and ride into the sunset triumphantly? At Sebring, Rebellion was close in performance to the Cadillacs, even though Neel Jani had to be on the ragged edge to keep the pace, but it was pretty close. The JDC/Miller Oreca 07 at the time was not on the pace of the Rebellion Oreca. The team is just not  on the level of Rebellion at setting up a P2 car. The Cadillacs were slowed after the sebring test, before Long Beach and then again before Detroit. Only then was the JDC Oreca starting to get a sniff of glory. 

At Watkins Glen, the PR1 Mathiassen Ligier JS P217 received assistance from Onroak and they also brought in Olivier Pla. The effort showed because the car was setting fastest laps during the race, and could have won it overall had it not been for a strategy blunder. Judging by 24hr of Lemans performances, we can assume that whatever performance achieved by a 2017 spec LMP2 Ligier, a 2017 spec LMP2 Oreca can outmatch it. Given that a Ligier was the fastest car in the field here, the Oreca at least in Stephen Simpson's grasp should have been faster. But it wasn't. Had rebellion shown up with an Oreca 07 fully on song (which they have the means to do), it would have blown away the whole field. Rebellion's 2 cars ran 1-2 at LeMans for the majority of the race before hitting troubles, so they have no lack of strategy and efforts. The cadillacs should be able to keep up with an Oreca 07 in optimum race trim.

We believe the Cadilac's have been pegged back too far. They should be taken back to their Detroit balance of performance adjustments, or just slightly below their Sebring performance level. Let the others do the work to catch up. We should not forget that Cadillac put in a lot of effort get these cars to their performance. Don't reward other's mediocrity. It should not be easy to win in the top category of a top rung championship. If or when Penske and Joest racing jump in the fold, they would be doing so with no shame of making their intentions clear, and no shyness about flaunting their racing resources. 

At Petit Lemans we hope not to see Rebellion or Penske with expertly set up Oreca 07's blowing away hobbled Cadillac DPi's. Long time entrants should not be left vulnerable to part time or new entrants coming in to wreak havoc. Unless of course those new part time or new entrants have also done a very good job. Until then free up the Caddies a bit. Their strength gives prestige to the series.

The BMW M6 finally has a win with Bill Auberlen and Alexander Sims. This car has been plagued by its size. We don't think many in the team thought they would have a win. Next year they will have a BMW M8. In spy shots of the road car testing, it seems to be as big if not bigger than the M6. Unless it's extremely efficient in other areas besides aerodynamics, it too will have trouble being competitive and getting its first victory.

During an interview of Will Turner, owner of Turner Motorsport (#96 BMW M6 GT3), while talking about the speed of the Acura NSX's, he kept referring to them as Hondas. Honest slip up or underhandedly putting them down? Sure they are made by Honda, but they are the luxury brand, competing with BMW in the marketplace.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

A pair of aces

Gianmaria Bruni is making his IMSA debut this weekend with Laurens Vanthoor as his teammate. This is one stout line up. Name wise this would have drawn so much attention in a Blancpain race somewhere in Europe. 

In essence Gianmaria has been considered the best factory GT driver over the past few years and Vanthoor has been considered the best hired gun available when you have cash and need a fast freelancer. Well it's arguable...this all a matter of opinion and public opinion is strong on those claims. The average IMSA fan might not be keen on them, but all GTLM drivers know about the reputation these two have built over in Europe. 

With all due respect to the WEC's GTE Pro class, and anything Blancpain has to offer, the close lap times, the close battles, and the all professional nature in GTLM has us thinking IMSA's GTLM class is the best GT racing in the world. With all their accolades overseas, they will be expected to earn their stripes all over again here in IMSA to salvage their carefully built reputations. Fellow competitors and even their own teammates (Pilet/Werner) in the sister #911 Porsche will be looking to take a bite out of this highly regarded pair.

While they will both of course work on achieving victories, Gimmi Bruni being the eldest, and to justify the trouble endured by Porsche in acquiring him, would quickly want to achieve success.

Call me Gimmi
At Sebring in 2012 when the WEC shared the Sebring and Petit LeMans races with the ALMS, Joey Hand who was leading the GT class and battling the #71 AF Corse Ferrari, was bumped by a Gianmaria Bruni in the #51 AF Corse that was several laps down. Gianmaria was attempting to give a hand to his teammates. The #71 AF Corse took the lead but had to slow down with a puncture before the checkered flag and that allowed Joey Hand to rightfully regain his P1 position. 

The ALMS GT class was being scored separately from the WEC's GTE Pro class. Meaning Joey Hand's car would have earned first place points for the ALMS and the #71 AF Corse would have earned first place points for the ILMC no matter in which order they had finished. But as racing drivers, everyone wanted that ultimate victory, because only the class winners would actually get the Sebring class winner's trophy. Joey Hand had some harsh words for Bruni in the post race interview and Bruni's car was excluded from the results. 

Aside from that blemish, with the WEC becoming as strong a championship as the ALMS/USCR, Bruni's status as a top factory ace rocketed, and he became the de facto #1 at AF Corse, a globe trotting and multi series competition winning outfit. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

F1 Azerbaijan

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix was one of the most entertaining races of the year. We usually reserve that honor for the Canadian Grand Prix but the drama in this one give it the nod. Unless something else comes along. This races was famous for more fractured relationships than make ups.

The juiciest chain of events was the Vettel Hamilton row. At the beginning of the season it was almost a drag to hear each of them talk about how it was an honor to be able to fight each other fairly for a title. They were more like karate students in the same dojo than the vicious ninjas in feuding clans they really are.

The Vettel Hamilton relationship before the Azerbaijan Grand Prix was what the Rosberg Hamilton relationship should have been. Lewis Hamilton prefers fighting someone from an opposing team because he believes it will lead his team to favor him more rather than if he was fighting a teammate.

Drivers such as Kimi raikkonen, Sergio Perez, Max Verstappen, and Felipe Massa, lost out on what could have been productive races. Despite finishing above all of them the biggest loser in the race was actually Lewis Hamilton who finished 5th. He qualified first, he had a flawless and faultless race. Well Sebastian Vettel would not quite agree that it was faultless, but it was certainly flawless racing.

Despite all those good things from Hamilton, the person who sought to rile him ended up finishing ahead of him. Sebastian Vettel bumped into Lewis Hamilton while behind the safety car, and damaged his own front wing. Vettel believed Hamilton had brake checked him. To show his frustration he pulled up alongside Lewis and bumped into him sideways. Imagine you are Lewis Hamilton doing your best to have a good race and win and in less than a 10 second period you are bumped twice by the same person.

Vettel eventually got a 10 second stop and go penalty. In normal circumstances that delay should have given Hamilton an advantage over Vettel and allowed him to really close up the point deficit in the championship. But the decision to have Vettel serve the  penalty was given after Lewis Hamilton himself was ordered to stop to fix a headrest that was coming loose. This is part of the vehicle's crash protection structure, so a very serious malfunction.

So why wasn't Vettel's penalty more substantial, and why was it called after Hamilton's headrest issue even though it happened earlier. This is where the entertainment nature of the sport took over. The stewards clearly knew they had to penalize Vettel, but they did not want to be the ones to impact the nature of the championship, because this 1-2 was what everyone - including the stewards themselves - wanted to watch. Vettel was deliberately penalized just enough to allow him to still be able to battle Hamilton. Yet the 10-second stop and go was less than what it took for Mercedes to change Lewis' headrest. Hamilton came out behind Vettel.

In the grand scheme of things the stewards actually helped Vettel. For wanting to keep the fans glued to the race they allowed him to actually leave the race with a bigger championship lead than he arrived with. Penalties should not take into account the nature of the driver being penalized. Perhaps another non-championship contending driver would have had a much harsher penalty.

The FIA has realized the stewards' mistake in Baku and made a statement on Wednesday that the incident will be reviewed on Monday. Is there really a reason why they had to announce they would review the incident before reviewing it? And why wait till Monday. They could have made a decision on the incident and simply announced their decision today or tomorrow without having to announce a review date.

As most F1 connoisseurs know, the FIA president Jean Todt was Ferrari's principal for a number of years. There could be dynamics still at play there. Not only that but the stewards are again considering the ramifications of their decisions on the championship battle.

A weak decision could give Sebastian Vettel the confidence to romp his way through races knowing that he is a protected commodity valued by the higher ups. A strong decision could shackle Vettel and arm Lewis Hamilton to run unchallenged to the title. With Valtteri so far not quite Lewis' match the stake holders are weary of having an unchallenged championship run. Adversity is the spice of good sports entertainment, and so far only Vettel has the fire power to match Hamilton.


Scott Dixon vs the Penske Juggernaut

It was expected that the Penske Brigade will certainly be taking the top spot. With 4 fast cars it would be hard for anyone to break through. How could they loose? It was not an option. Especially with the Captain himself not being around, There's no greater sign of loyalty than doing right by your boss behind his back. Helio Castroneves, Joseph Newgarden, Will Power, and reigning Champion Simon Pagenaud each wanted to be the one to bring victory home to the Captain.

While Scott Dixon the Championship leader could have been counted on to possibly get on the podium or even spring an upset - which he did, in this race it's really not what he did, but how he did it

Dixon defied the odds and won, not through strategy as he often does, but in this case it was just a case of out driving everyone else, especially the Penske cars that were heavy favorites. He was ruthless, daring, fast, and deliberate. Nearly all the spots he made up to get to the lead were acquired on track. Despite a Joseph Newgarden hot on his pursuit in the last stint Dixon did not waver. He made no mistakes. 

The Penske crew have to be wondering to themselves what happened, how was he able to get past all four of them to get to the lead. Does he simply have more fight in him?

It's rather an intangible factor, a subconscious programming the Penske drivers have in mind that Dixon seized upon. In the Penske camp they're jostling to be the one who at the end of the season Roger Penske will decide to back for the title run. Only then will the Captain throw his weight behind the intramural winner.They will fight just to the limit, to keep themselves from wrecking out of a race, and stay in the points hunt. But even then as proved last year, and previous years, even when someone is mathematically eliminated, they're usually still allowed to go for wins if they do not take out the title challenger....which has always made us scratch our head.

This strategy of self preservation makes Penske's fantastic four team vulnerable to Scott Dixon. Having been at his Ganassi team for the 15th year in a row, he is the team. He is clearly the #1 option until he proves otherwise. His team owner, mechanics and strategists have thrown their full weight behind him since the first race of the season. His bold moves in the race were taken with the team's unanimous approval. Armed with the knowledge that the Penske cars are still fighting for #1 status it opened the door for him to romp through their defense for the win.

As other examples you might notice that when Pagenaud and Newgarden raced for Sam Schmidt and Ed Carpenter respectively, they were more daring and decisive, because at those teams they were the undisputed #1's.

The mindset of a driver fighting for #1 status is rather different than from one already established as the only resort.

Friday, June 23, 2017

F1 Azerbaijan notes

Hamilton hammered
--Lewis Hamilton seems pretty inconsistent. Between the Monaco Grand Prix and now at Azerbaijan Valterris Bottas seems to get more out of the car than the 3 time champ. Hopefully qualifying and the race will be less bumpy. Singapore will have the same characteristics, so he will have to get on top of the gremlins pronto. 


Ocon the real deal?
--Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon will be closely watched, especially if they qualify close to each other. Esteban Ocon will be feeling this is his chance to prove himself, so he really can not hold back any longer. So, we can blame Perez all day for the Montreal drama, but what should have Ocon done once he realized he was not going to be let through? The 4 time champion Vettel showed him the way loud and clear.

If anyone does not let you through you force your way through. In the end it comes down to that...the best make their own way. Since it would have helped Hamilton and Mercedes, Toto Wolf would have really taken notice, had Ocon been able to hold off Vettel or got by Perez and went after Ricciardo. Anything that would have limited Vettel's points haul. Ocon's expectations have just been raised.


Max vs Daniel
--As flashy and crowd pleasing and ruthless as Max Verstappen is on the race track, Daniel Riccardo has been getting the best of him lately. Ricciardo's 3 consecutive podiums just can't go unnoticed. When there are 4 faster cars and you are coming in 3rd for 3 races in a row, you are in the zone. Whether it's simply good luck for Daniel, or bad luck for Max, to truly be considered an elite, he will have to learn to snap Ricciardo's run of success with his own more successful finishes. The end of year result will matter. Max's crowd pleasing drives need to be tested for more serious endeavors.


Lance's Canadian stroll
--It seemed like a victory when Lance Stroll scored his first Formula 1 points by coming in 9th in Canada. However thing move fast in top flight sports. Everybody is looking forward to the next success. The whole team is wondering when he will score next. I mean, he can't just score when he feels good. if the car wasn't good enough it would be understandable. But Felipe is scoring consistently, and deep down the team knows that there are drivers who could achieve even more with the car than Felipe.

The real question is why did Lawrence Stroll bankroll his son into the team as soon as he could get an FIA Super License? Would it have hurt him to go to Formula 2 or World Series Formula for at least a year? Sure he was the European Formula 3 champion at the time, but since Stroll Sr was bankrolling his career instead of hoping for a team to sign him couldn't they have taken it a bit slower to make sure he was ready ? 

There is the possibility that in F2 or Formula V8 3.5 he might not crack the top 10 in standings, so that could drop teams' view of him, but he could have become champion as well. That's not the real issue.

Seats in F1 are so limited that even with funding, next year there might not be a seat available with a team of Williams' caliber that would take his millions. With a car such as a Sauber, Haas or a Renault an inexperienced youngster could find it impossible to score (see Jolyon, Esteban). In essence Stroll Sr had to get his son the ride at Williams when he did. The other 2 desirable teams were Force India and Torro Rosso, but Mercedes and Red Bull have their eyes on those for their own young drivers. One year too late and Stroll could have had to settle for Sauber, or Haas, whose cars do not work well on all circuits. Yes it's early in his career, but at least it's a real shot. 




Thursday, June 22, 2017

Risi at Le Mans

During the 5th hour of the Le Mans 24hr Mathieu Vaxiviere swiped the Risi Ferrari into the wall. At the time Pierre Kaffer was in a drag racing duel against an AF Corse GTE Pro 488 Ferrari.  The team TDS racing got a 7 mn stop and go penalty. How did the ACO come up with 7 minutes. Would it have been too much to round it to 10 minutes. So essentially he ended the race for a class podium contender and barely lost 2 laps himself. A trade anyone would take any day.

That TDS car should have sat for at least 10 minutes or more. I would also say the driver should have been excluded but it would have put too much strain on the other 2 drivers since it was only the 5th hour.

Not only Risi was taken out, but if you're state side and your main series is IMSA you have lost a top flight competitor. No GTLM Ferrari at Watkins Glen this weekend. Hopefully that changes in the entrt list but as of now, this is where we stand.

Can't they outfit one of the Scuderia Corsa cars in GTLM updates and show up to the race ?  We even hear their GTLM 488 never left shop and was not the car shunted at Le Mans. Come on Giseppe give us something.

Still dreaming of F1 or a sportscar factory drive Mathieu ?  Well it won't happen this way. You have a lot of making up to do in your next few races...whoever you race for and wherever you race.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

2017 LeMans 24hr reaction

GTE Am
It could have happened exactly as we had predicted it, were it not for that
exploding Dunlop tire on the 98 Aston Martin.

We completely overlooked the JMW team. We just did not expect Will Stevens to do the lion's share of the driving. Even then he was flawless. He's auditioniong
for a factroy drive. LPM1/DPi, and GTEPro/GTLM managers take notice. But the
Scuderia Corsa #62 was also in the mix as we predicted.

GTE Pro
Corvette should have won. They did not. When we saw Jordan Taylor get in the

car for what seemed like the last stint we didn't care who was in any other car
we began celebrating as if corvette had already won. He is the real deal. But
then they put in Magnussen. He probably wasn't doing the same lap times as
Taylor, so they then put Taylor back in. Jordan Taylor should have never got out
of the car. with all respect due to seniority, they messed up Jordan's rhythm
with the switch. What's that?...oh...yeah. We had heard a while back that Jordan Taylor was daunted by the prospect of having to fight off a Scott Dixon in the last stint of the Daytona 24hrs. But that was a few years ago. He has matured right? Or did Jonathan get to him?

No.

As proof Johnathan Adam in a faster Aston Martin was unable to keep in front of Taylor, and even lost ground to him. But then a "racing incident" happened. Corvette Racing fans should just be happy that their team was able to prove its mettle once again on the world stage.

Would Garcia or Mags have splashed the C7R in the gravel? They know the car's
outer limits more than Jordan Taylor, so we're pressed to say no, but they would first have to get past Adam in the rocket ship Aston. Could they have
gotten past him? The Corvette brain trust thought Taylor the better closer given how the race unfolded.

GTE Pro lived up to the billing as the most entertaining class...as we called
it.

LMP2
In Daytona the Riley had no issues. At LeMans the mechanics got into a rhythm

repairing issue after issue. What gives? It may be that updated parts that were
meant to increase the car's pace just weren't reliable, and still yielded poor
pace. A double whammy.

Did we menton that Jackie Chan DC Racing and Rebellion and Alpine would be
fighting for top honors? Check.

Well G-Drive shot itself in the foot with both cars; but both of their cars had the lineups, and organization to fight up front.

Whenever we looked a the timing and scoring, Felipe Albuquerque was in the United Autosport car. He probably drove the maximum hours he could. But it worked for them. They almost made the podium. Ligier, Dallara, and Riley should begin development work for next year already. Or they would just have to be happy servicing Nissan, Cadillac, and Mazda DPis in IMSA. Because come next year if the pace doesn't pick up, some of the best funded non Oreca teams (SMP, United, Keating,...) will switch to Orecas for Lemans.

With an Oreca, United Autosport could have been on the overall podium given their 5th place overall with a Ligier.

Our personal gripe is that once the ACO saw the higher top speeds at LeMans
for LMP2 car they should have restricted them further. But then the teams might grumble at why they have to have a special restrictor just for Lemans which would be another expense for them. Those without machining capabality at the track would have to subcontract the task to fellow teams or an independent contractor...$$$.

LMP1
This was just an unworthy display. What's the point of spending tens of millions

on a car that barely outdoes a car costing half of a million. Sure, in a shorter
race the P1's would have no trouble against the LMP2 brigade. But this was 24hrs and everyone knew this coming in.

The car we really feel for is the #9 Toyota. Lapierre drove too fast on his way back to the pits after his puncture. Had he put on the pit speed limiter and lost about 2 laps coming back to the pits, we think Toyota would have won it. But he knew about the fierce nature of the #1 Porsche's drivers. They put pressure on him to get moving. He wrecked the car. 

The #9 Toyota was far ahead of the #2 Porsche. The #1 would have retired later on and yielded first place to Toyota. Sure clutch problems could have crept up, but having fixed it on the #8 car they would have been ready, and done it faster.

It's ironic that when Mark Webber retires, his car finally wins the race...with another Australian in his place. Just his luck.

It sounds good coming from the the FIA president, but don't believe it. It's not good for LMP2s to share the overal podium with LMP1 cars. What if an LMP2 car had won it overall? None of the P1 teams would be happy.  It would mean the P1 regulations were a total failure, and a waste of resources.

Friday, June 16, 2017

2017 24h of Le Mans preview - LMPs

LMP2

In LMP2, the battle will be all Orecas all the time. This glaringly demonstrates why all the WEC teams opted for the Oreca chassis. When you have a guaranteed spot for Le Mans you want the name that has won it in back to back years. Despite Ligiers having the numbers advantage the past 2 years, Orecas have won it on the trot and are looking to repeat.

Aside from an anomaly in the form of Indycar driver Mikhail Aleshin lodging his SMP Racing #27 Dallara between the Orecas in 10th place in P2, the first Ligier is 15th in the LMP2 qualifying and 4 seconds off the pole time.

Is there a chance there could be anything but Orecas on the podium? Well anything is possible, but the Oreca teams are some of the best prepared, with top drivers, and well funded teams. For most of them this is a round of the championship not just a one-off race for prestige. They will make sure there isn't nothing but Orecas on the podium.

How about the lone "Proud American" in P2. What are their chances? Daytona was impressive with a podium debut for the Riley chassis. They can bank on that same reliability to finish...mid pack. For a podium they would have to pick up the pieces if Orecas, Ligiers and Dallaras get tripped up. They would have to stay flawless (fuel and tires only), and be fast. However in all honesty unusual circumstances have to be present for any other brand aside Orecas to land a podium. It has to be a terminal malfunction that starts affecting a good number of the Orecas.

So who among the Orecas can taste Champaign? Well our favorite lineup is the G-Drive #22. Not only they have an Oreca, but their "Silver" driver, Jose Guttierez was dicing it up for a few laps with none other than Ricky Taylor who was driving the all-conquering Dallara-Cadillac during the Sebring 12hrs.  The rest of their line up is made up of memo Rojas who should really be ranked Platinum instead of Gold, and "Gold' ranked Ryo Hirakawa. Our other favorites are both Alpine cars, both Rebellions, the Manors, and the Jackie Chan DC racing cars. We figure any of them to be running for prominent places.


LMP1

The #1 Porsche has an eye catching lineup. It's almost like the Dream Team car Audi had with Capello, McNish and Kristensen, and then later on with Fassler, Lotterer and Treluyer.

Toyota is faster, but this Porsche will put pressure on the Toyotas to keep the pace up, and maybe even force them into errors. Another eye catcher is Nicolas Lapierre in the #9 Toyota. He wasn't brought back into the Toyota fold to make up numbers for the 3rd car. He has won the race back to back in LMP2 with different teams since he was sacked from Toyota. He has mastered the Le Mans "feel", and the secrets to winning the race. Toyota wants in on that success. I feel they will do it.




2017 24h of Le Mans preview - GTs

GTE am

My first memory of the lemans 24h was in 2006. I did not attend the race and
didn't even watch it. I did not even know about the race at the time. I lived in Detroit, and one day while driving past the GM headquarters, they had a
sign announcing their victory at LeMans in the GT1 class with the all new C6R.
Once home I looked up the information and the rest is history.

If you're reading this article, chances are you are not such a novice at the
sport. But everybody needs a guide sometimes. So here it is.

In GTE Am, we do not quite see any other team with more preparedness, more
experience, and stability than the Aston Martin Racing #98, A.K.A the Dalla Lana car. The have a competitive lineup, more experience together, a competitive car, a very experienced crew, and having mastered the race and suffered devastating heartbreak, we believe they have the ingredients to get "the feel" that would take them to victory.

Last year's defending champion, the Scuderia corsa #62 doesn't quite pack the
same punch this time around with Cooper MacNeil replacing Jeff Segal. But they
still are a very solid lineup (probably even better funded too). We have to say
the #65  Ferrari 488 being in the same team as the #62 makes them another contender, especially with their level of performance in the Weathertech championship.

The Larbre competition corvette is not entered in any season long championship, however this a team that has won the event 3 times in class and our gut feel is telling us they will be there if others have trouble. Unlike last year the Corvette in GTE Am seems to have the pace. Clearwater Racing's #61 car is also a  well rounded team. They lead the WEC championship in GTE Am. But we couldn't overlook their second car with a certain Alvaro Parente lurking in the crew.


GTE PRO

In GTE Pro, the balance of performance is closer than last year. But we feel
IMSA would still have done better than the ACO. 

All teams are strong and the drivers are all stars. Ford is only here to win it and nothing else. Having watched the Chip Ganassi team over the years, they're just too clever, too well prepared, and equipped to not have a hidden advantage. They live for big races. With 4 cars and plenty of race permutations available, there won't be having any of the "Force India at the Canadian Grand prix" incident going on. The best strategy for victory will play out. 

Aside from the Fords however, the Corvettes and Ferraris with solid experience,
and years of strategy analysis at this race are our picks if Ford can't deliver. Aston seems fast, but we feel the race will yield a weak spot in their 8 years old chassis.

The GTE pro battle will be the one to follow for the biggest entertainment value. P1 has too few cars, P2 too many cars and unrecognizable teams, GTE Am will have a few bumbling deep pocketed guys who might make you think twice about the prestige of the race.  

GTE Pro regroups the best characteristics of the other 3 classes, and none of the drawbacks. The cars are easily recognizable, the drivers are the best anywhere in the world, and any team can win.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

2017 Daytona 24hr preview: Prototype

Mazda Motorsports 70: Hinch is here. Quite some star power outside of Jeff Gordon. They have the same chassis as the #55 Mazda and Visit Florida. We expect reliability issues.

Mazda Motorsports 55: Fast drivers, but we have begun to question their race craft, and pit wall decisions. The chassis remains to be proven.

VisitFlorida Racing: Very good crew, but we're just not sold on the Riley P2 car. Given the suspension troubles they had at the roar there could be more gremlins waiting to be exposed by the race.

PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports: On pace alone there's no way they finish ahead of the 3 teams we have placed them above. But we believe having a Ligier places them above the Riley chassied teams. We believe those teams will have lengthy delays back in the paddock. To make the most of other's misfortunes, RC Enerson and especially Tom Kimber-Smith have to log some serious time behind the wheel.

DragonSpeed: This car wouldn't be here without Henrik Hedman deciding to come. But without him in the car we would have ranked them higher. However he is bringing some show stoppers with him. They came to win. The practice crash has also dampened their expectations and torpedoed their ranking. The car might still not be 100%. But what a lineup still.

Tequila Patron ESM 22: Ed Brown has to drive 2 hrs in the race to be eligible for points, and most of the attention will be focused on their #2 car. But it's still the Oak operation with Bruno Senna and Brendon Hartley in tow.

JDC-Miller Motorsports: A very good crew for the Prototype Challenge class. They could have won Daytona again in LMPC with this crew. But this is the main class now, so the pool runs deeper. Aside from Mathis Beche they all border on being barely "gold drivers" or "super silvers".

Wayne Taylor Racing: Being second the past 2 years is getting old for them. But we don't have good news. Having two guys looking forward to retirement isn't the best recipe to win this race. We assume Max Angeleli will get the last couple stints for a final hooray. But it really should be Jordan Taylor.

Whelen Engineering Racing: The sheer presence of Mike Conway here will push Dane Cameron to try to reach for higher limits of perfection and speed. Dane Cameron has done well for himself, but Conway has achieved some of the things Cameron once dreamed of, while coming up the ranks. Seb Morris can be fast but he has a lot of adapting to do.

Tequila Patron ESM 2: This is Oak racing making the strategy calls here. They have proven to be very adept at making strategy calls, and have the confidence of having won the race last year. Let's see if the Nissan engine is as good as the Honda. We don't believe so, but they will make the most of it.

Mustang Sampling Racing: Ever since Dane Cameron joined the #5 sister car in 2015, a fascinating intra mural scrap has added flavor to the top class, and has only been settled with the winner carrying the championship home. Last year Barbosa and Fittipaldi seemed to be giving up hundredths or thousandths of seconds to the #5 car whenever Dane Cameron was driving; but we believe their steady lineup and camaraderie between the drivers can take them far...barring any issues encountered during the test days.

Rebellion Racing: They have a full pro lineup, and are endurance race specialists. Having stood against giants like Audi, Toyota, and Porsche, nothing will rattle them. They came with full respect for the race by bringing in the best drivers available to them, and making their intentions clear. They feel they're the best and have layed down their cards.




2017 Daytona 24hr preview: GT Lemans

BMW Team RLL 24: Fast but new lineup at Daytona

BMW Team RLL 19: They have the edge over their teammates, but that's not saying much. They still do not beat the rest of the cars.

Corvette Racing 3: We simply like the #4 car's lineup better. All fast guys but that really doesn't always win the big races.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing 66: They won LeMans, but Joey hand as the "franchise player", they were expected to outdo Westbrook and Briscoe in the other car.

Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK 68: Given that Mucke and Pla are in the prime of their careers we were rather shocked to see them outmatched by and aging warrior like Priaulx and a young gun like Tinknell,  in the later half of the WEC season. In our opinion they're both making the most of being in the prime of their careers with extra curricular activities. Too much freelancing for other teams can be distracting.

Porsche GT Team 911: Much testing, but it's still a new car among other proven cars by other manufacturers who can spend just as much.

Risi Competizione: Pressure, pressure. The Petit Lemans victory was a much needed gust of fresh air. But expectations are still high. As the only single car team some options on race strategies are simply not available to them, and even a speed advantage won't be enough to regularly be a threat for victory.

Corvette Racing 4: The perfect lineup for endurance racing. Fairly fast and well experienced.

Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK 69; Tony Kanaan might disrupt the chemistry a little bit, or bring something new. But they outclassed their highly touted teammates in the WEC after LeMans.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing 67: In our humble opinion this is the speediest and bravest of all in Chip Ganassi's stable. In Daytona's customary last stint dash to the flag, there's not many we would pick ahead of Scott Dixon, and Richard Westbrook.

2017 24hr of Daytona preview: Prototype Challenge


BAR1 Motorsports 20: They have Gustavo Yacaman, but it's more of a discovery mission for a few of them.

Performance Tech Motorsports: It's a bland lineup. No known name. Which pretty much sums up the last year for this class.

BAR1 Motorsports 26: Johnny Mowlem out of retirement for one last hurrah, or is it to stay?

Starworks Motorsport 8: With Sean Rayhall and Connor Daly in this car. It's a heavy favorite as far as the lineup is concerned. But last minute line up are not the best for endurance racing. There's one little caveat: Conor Daly has a penchant for crashing PC cars. Unfortunately with the nature of the Daytona road course, we can see this happening. So they can win it by 5 laps over everybody or be out at the 23hr mark. Hero to zero.

Starworks Motorsport 8: We can see why Ben Keating is in this car. They can win it, baring an unexpected occurrence. But for Ben Keating he simply has to not be last or next to last to get a podium finish. So nice gamble to ran in 2 cars. But even those are part of the event in racing. But they should have the pace over everyone.

2017 Daytona 24hr preview: GTD

GTD

Change Racing: This car has a healthy dose of big time sponsor decals on it sides. So it is rather surprising they do not have...lets say, a Spencer Pumpelly do lead the charge.

DAC Motorsports: Zach Claman is the only one who can keep any sort of pace with the leaders. Even then he is out of his element in a sports car, much less a 4hr race. But it's a nice step in a possible future carer direction for him.

Konrad Motorsport: A solid globe trotting squad, but mainly here for the exquisite experience.

Manthey Racing: In Europe they're Porsche's dedicated factory team in various championships. Here however they're running a GT3 car for a customer. Secretely they would like to finish ahead of all Porsche teams especially Core autosport's GTLM entry. Despite their supreme expertise with Porsche vehicles their lineup might not quite allow much beyond a respectable race. But Sven Muller will dice it up with anyone that tries to get by.

Stevenson Motorsports: Nice team, nice lineup. But the driving squad is built on camaraderie rather than performance.

SunEnergy1 Racing: Last year they took refuge in one of Stevenson's Audis, and beat the Stevenson lineup. We're not sure having their own squad will be as effective as Stevenson's crew, but as long as Tristan Vautier is doing the lion's share of the driving again, they'll have pace when they need it. Oui, oui.

Alegra Motorsports: They have Michael Christenssen from Porsche factory driver fame, but all the Porsches have a factory driver, and all the big players have their own factory drivers as well. But Daniel Morad the in-house hot-shoe can make a difference.

Dream Racing Motorsport: Despite the Lamborghini Huracan's sultry looks, and prowess and high speed circuits, it hasn't quite set the Weathertech championship ablaze. But we have a more cheerful prognosis for the other 3 remaining Huracans.

Spirit of Race: Just as Manthey is here running a car for a customer this team is actually AF Corse running a 488 GT3 for Peter Mann.

Park Place Motorsports: Patrick Lindsay and Matt mcMurry are the perfect example of Silver rated drivers. This car will chug along at a steady pace. If Super Silvers or Sneaky Silvers did not exist they would be ranked higher.

CORE Autosport: Their titles and accomplishments in Prototype Challenge suggests they should be ranked higher. And their intimate bond with the Porsche brand gives them intimate knowledge of the car. but The owner is used to being the slowest thing on track.

Turner Motorsport: They're planning to win it, but endurance races aren't usually kind to last minute crews. And we personally do not think the M6 has the nimbleness of the cars.

TRG: the dark horse of the race. They have been out for a year, but have come back with a solid lineup. Their Porsche expertise is unquestioned, they could spring a surprise.

Alex Job Racing: Rescue project for Alex Job. But there has to be a reason no one is signing up with such a storied group. Others are getting...gasp...better?

Riley Motorsports - Team AMG: This would have been higher ranked i it were not for the main man Ben Keating also running in Prototype Challenge, and Jeroen Bleekemolen also being listed in te Weathertech car. The lineup in the PC car in which Mr Keating is to drive is where his real chance of victory lies. They're simply running for points here. But with some factory backing this is still a threat for a podium.

GRT Grasser Racing Team 61: They share 2 drivers with their sister #11 car but we think that car has a slight edge with 1 less amateur.

GRT Grasser Racing Team 11: Ezequiel makes the difference for us. here.

3GT Racing 15: We do not have much faith in Paul Gentilozzi's squad because we felt they underperformed in Prototype Challenge, and they fumbled that Jaguar GT2 project years back. But it's a new era now.

Scuderia Corsa: A heavy favorite to win it. But let's see how the drivers handle the pressure of being among the elites contenders.

Paul Miller Racing: We think this is the best Lamborghini crew. Not because of speed, but because of its steady lineup and proven stability.

Michael Shank Racing 93: They could be there at the end but reliability can be an issue.

Michael Shank Racing 86; The presence of Jeff Segal and Hunter Reay here makes us give them the nod over the sister car.

Montaplast by Land-Motorsport: Even the team's livery hints at their speed, because they're all fast here. It's just that the teams above them have drivers, and crews who have more intimate knowledge of Daytona.

3GT Racing 14: only because Scott Pruett is here. There's esoteric knowledge of the race in this car.

Aston Martin Racing: Well balanced squad and very experienced

Riley Motorsports - WeatherTech Racing: The combination of the drivers, team, and car says to us they have the overall best package. But anything can happen.