2019 SRO Intercontinental GT Challenge (IGTC) Schedule
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On August 5th, 2018, I reached a milestone: 10 years of blogging!
There have been periods of downtime along the way. On and off, I have been writing words about motor sport for a decade. And soon it’ll be 20 years since I first joined a Formula 1 newsgroup, at age 18 at the end of December 1998, which is where it all began. Now I am 38 and I feel very old.
A lot has happened in the last decade. The blog was set up to look at F1, IndyCar, Le Mans and other endurance races, plus whatever else took my fancy.
For one thing the original version was on Blogspot and is still there.
In 2008’s Formula 1 season, on the face of it it looks familiar: the young upstart Lewis Hamilton in a Mercedes-powered McLaren racing the Ferraris of defending champion Kimi Räikkönen and his team-mate Felipe Massa. It would be Hamilton’s first title – and Massa who would take it to the last race and win a legion of fans for his sportsmanship in defeat.
There the similarities end. It was the era of multiple manufacturers: BMW were still with Sauber with Robert Kubica finishing 4th in points (including a race win). Honda and Toyota both still had their own full F1 teams. Fernando Alonso had gone back to the works Renault team after the “spygate” scandal – and this was the year the “crashgate” scandal would unfold. Tyres were grooved and V8 engines screamed and a lot of us complained it wasn’t as good as slick tyres and V10s.
In IndyCar the reset button had just been pressed. “The Split” of the CART/IRL war was over, the two factions had come together for the 2008 season. As it happened late in pre-season with very little time to prepare, the Champ Car teams had to adapt to the IRL cars in less than a month. They looked hopeless at Homestead-Miami as the IRL teams dominated, then just a week later Graham Rahal won at St Petersburg for Newman/Haas, giving hope to those of us who were on the Champ Car side of the fence.
It was a long road to recovery for IndyCar racing after that and it took a lot longer than I think anybody expected. They’re still travelling that road today. It took arguably until 2016 to really make traction. Now though, you have to say that after 10 years the series is in excellent health and has a bright future. The peak of quality was never in question all along, what’s changed is the depth of quality of both drivers and teams is the highest seen in 20 years. In some neat symmetry, Scott Dixon won the 2008 and 2018 titles. Dare I say this year he’s driving better than I’ve ever seen him. And the current cars are cool too, which wasn’t the case in 2008.
In sports car racing, the continual cycle of boom and bust is never far away from throwing in a curve ball.
In Europe we had the Le Mans Series, five races of 1000km with the Le Mans 24 Hours itself being a non-championship race. Audi and Peugeot went toe to toe in LMP1, a healthy field of privateers scoring podium finishes all year long when any of the lead quartet fell off. LMP2 was dominated by the Porsche Spyder which brought LMP1 engineering and reliability to a class previously renowned for cars breaking down.
We still had the glorious GT1s, Corvette C6 vs Aston Martin DBR9 vs Saleen S7-R. And GT2 was the Pro/Am Porsche vs Ferrari class with cars that were much closer to road-relevance than today’s GTs.
There was a defined route from ‘upgraded road car’ to ‘really mega road car on steroids’ to ‘baby prototype’ to ‘fast prototype’. Today we have ‘a prototype that looks like a GT’, then ‘fast prototype’ to ‘even faster really expensive prototype’. It feels like we’ve lost something along the way. I suppose that’s why LMP3 and GT4 now exist.
The good thing is we now have a World Championship – and we kept the European LMS underneath it so we’ve gained a load of racing. We had a great mini-era of LMP1 Hybrid in the WEC which was a joy to watch. The new era though, it all still needs work. Whatever happens to the WEC and LMP1, down at continental level, I’d argue the ELMS should adopt IMSA’s DPi as its top class.
Over in the US, the IMSA American Le Mans Series was at the height of the battle between a nearly equalised Audi LMP1 and Porsche LMP2. It had a strong GT2 field. And yet a rival series in Grand-Am with its own bespoke cars and NASCAR backing. Peaks and troughs in both series led to a merger for 2014. Lessons were learned from the bumpy and rushed IndyCar merger and the new-era IMSA has worked very hard to solve some tricky problems. That 2014 season was itself bumpy. But the recovery is happening very quickly, aided by the DPi concept of upgrading LMP2 cars and tapping into GTE and GT3 resources.
There is still a risk IMSA will take the backward step of having its own rules, Grand-Am style. They should avoid this and work to share platform with the ACO – even if it means running a “dumbed-down” version of the cars. Maybe it would work as a base platform for IMSA and ELMS, then if you want to go to WEC P1 you add a Special Nifty Widget that makes the car faster. (I specialise in these highly technical solutions.)
And then a wildcard. Formula E was launched. Like a cross between A1GP and Scalextric and the Toronto IndyCar track and a good dose of FIA weirdness. I’ve loved it since it started. Not necessarily for the same reasons as everyone else. I think the eco message has a problem when you jet the cars around the world and power them with generators. The tracks need a bit more space. But the racing is fun and frantic, the talent level is top notch and the future of cars is electric so you might as well have a championship for them now. Though I can’t help feeling it should’ve been a touring car or GT series, maybe a silhouette series with a spec chassis underneath and a manufacturers’ bodyshell to make it look like their road cars.
I don’t even have space to talk about the globalisation of LMP3, GT3, GT4 – and the remarkable TCR. All this has made previously national or regional events accessible to others around the world.
I haven’t even touched on MotoGP which year after year is the best racing around.
There’s an obsession with nostalgia in racing. I happen to think we’re in a golden era right now.
I know in my head what I want the blog to be. The same as it was in 2008 – short pieces of snippets every few days, intermingled with a lengthy weekly or fortnighly column. The problem is finding the time or the motivation in the depths of the season. You’ll have noticed I stopped the latest project back in July when the summer got too hot!
The goal is to get people to pay attention outside their own bubble, be that the F1 bubble, or the IndyCar bubble, or the sportscar bubble, or even the Formula E bubble these days.
I’ve tried various formats of race report, showing points progression and including race video, but few people read race reports, and I’m wary of video now due to copyright rules. I think the future of this site is in personal comment and reflection.
The racing e-calendars for iCal and Google Calendar will continue. They are laborious at times, yet very popular and a focal point of the blog. I even considered flipping it, so the calendars are front and centre and you had to hunt to find the blog posts.
As for the future of racing? We are in interesting times. We’re going back to the future.
IndyCar has shown the way. The nail-biting close finishes are gone. Instead we have cars visibly difficult to drive. They may not set lap records compared to last year’s very-high-downforce kits, but they do allow a difference between nailing the setup and missing it. Between top driver/team and those further back. And reducing the wake so cars can get close.
F1 needs to follow suit. It can find a way to do this while retaining the fastest cars. It also needs to go back to tyres that allow drivers to go flat out in a race. Cruising around to save super-ultra-hyper-soft tyres isn’t good enough and makes a mockery of changing the cars themselves to be faster.
Sports cars among GT racing is in rude health. They just need to be careful not to spend GT3 out of existence. In the prototypes there’s a golden opportunity lying just ahead, in blending LMP1 with DPi. If they get it right… well, special things could happen.
And Formula E will be the first of many series with what we presently call ‘alternative fuels’. Fast-charging electric cars are coming. Longer-range batteries are already here, with no need to swap cars in the 2019 season. Other electric series are coming. And elsewhere, hydrogen cars are coming.
The rest of the motor sport world needs to pay attention. If Governments are banning cars powered by fossil fuels from sale, how long will it be before they ban racing other than anything emission-free? 40 years? 30? 20?
The change over the next five years could be bigger than the whole of the last ten.
I have already covered the dates for the main IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship, the headline series among IMSA’s roster. This blog posts covers two of the main support series.
IMSA Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge:
A series of two-hour races for GT4, TCR and ST cars, with a couple of key venues hosting double-length four-hour enduros. GT4 cars within the Grand Sport (GS) class are the headliners, the ST class long providing fantastic racing and TCR promising more.
IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda:
A series of 1 hour 45 minute races for LMP3 and MPC cars. This series last year ran several 45 minute sprint races and introduced LMP3 as its top class. This year the cars can stretch their endurance legs.
IMSA also sanctions many high profile one-make series including the Ferrari Challenge North America, Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America, Porsche Challenge USA and Porsche Challenge Canada. I do not offer calendars for these series but the dates are available to view at www.imsa.com.
Google/iCal Calendar links:
For more championships click here.
The highest level of endurance sports car racing in North America is the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship.
The Championship has three classes of car competing within the same race:
Races include the 24 Hours of Daytona, the 12 Hours of Sebring, the 6 Hours of Watkins Glen, Petit Le Mans and a host of shorter races at such iconic tracks as Long Beach, Road America and Laguna Seca.
It also includes the North American Endurance Cup (NAEC), which is scored as a separate competition made up of the four longest races: Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Petit Le Mans.
For more championships click here.
Sportscar racing is a complicated beast at the best of times, and especially so when two competing series combine into one.
That is what has happened to North American sportscar racing in 2014. I hope this post will help de-mystify this brand new series and will go some way to explaining what is happening.
Name: IMSA TUDOR United Sportscar Championship
Shorter Name: The officials seem happiest with “TUDOR Championship“, while fans and media are referring to it either as “TUSC“, or in a nod to the glory days of the 1980s, “IMSA“. Technically IMSA are the people setting the rules, and not the series itself, so when I say IMSA I mean the people running things.
The TUDOR Championship is a merger of these two series:
– American Le Mans Series (ALMS)
– Grand-Am Rolex Series (GA)
P – Prototype:
Daytona Prototypes from GA are combined with LMP2 cars from the ALMS, and the DeltaWing, all in one single class.
The LMP1 cars have been abolished, as of now you can only see LMP1 in the World Endurance Championship (WEC).
DPs have been sped up with more downforce. P2 cars have been slowed a little with Continental tyres (reckoned to be slower than Michelins & Dunlops used in WEC). The DPs will have an advantage at Daytona, which you would expected of cars called ‘Daytona Prototypes’. The P2s will regain the balance the rest of the year. Pro driver class, as denoted by red screen and mirrors.
PC – Prototype Challenge:
This is identical to the PC class in the ALMS. No changes. A budget class for spec cars to promote ‘gentlemen’/amateur drivers, who hire hot talent to make them go fast. Pro-Am class, as denoted by blue screen and mirrors.
GTLM – Grand Touring Le Mans:
This is the ALMS GT class. Nothing was changed since last year, and this is the only class not running Continental tyres. The specs are identical to Le Mans and the WEC’s GTE class, hence the Le Mans moniker. The only thing new are brand new cars from Corvette and Porsche. Pro driver class, as denoted by red screen and mirrors.
GTD – Grand Touring Daytona:
Ostensibly the old Grand-Am GT class merged with the ALMS GTC Porsches, but with modified – slowed down – GT3 cars added into it. In reality the old-style GA GT cars and the GTC Porsches are gone. This class is 25+ GT3 cars, albeit with a TUSC-mandated rear wing producing less downforce than FIA GT3 rules allow, and without many of the TC and electronics the FIA rules allow. Ferraris, Porsches, BMWs, Aston Martins. With so many cars this is potentially the most fun class. Pro-Am class, as denoted by blue screen and mirrors.
No longer racing:
LMP1 cars from the ALMS, and GX cars from Grand-Am. Neither class has a home in TUSC.
The four endurance races from both series:
Daytona 24 Hours, Sebring 12 Hours, Watkins Glen 6 Hours, Petit Le Mans. Those four endurance races make up the North American Endurance Championship (NAEC).
Add in Long Beach, Detroit, Laguna Seca, Road America, Mosport. This is the most exciting sportscar schedule in the world right now.
P – Chip Ganassi, Extreme Speed, DeltaWing, Action Express, Muscle Milk Pickett, Wayne Taylor Racing, Starworks, Shank, Spirit of Daytona, and even OAK Racing sent a team for a full season.
PC – Starworks, 8Star, PR1/Mathiason, Performance Tech, BAR1, RSR.
GTLM – Corvette, SRT Viper, BMW Team RLL, Risi Ferrari, Porsche North America (run by CORE).
GTD – Dempsey, Magnus, Alex Job, NGT, GMG, Fall-Line, Park Place, Turner, Scuderia Corse.
Dyson Racing is notably absent now – but they WILL be back.
And nearly all the drivers you already know from both series.
I was at Silverstone in April for the European Le Mans Series and FIA World Endurance Championship weekend. I took along a new zoom lens to its first motorsport event, although Saturday was a bit of a washout.
Saturday was very cold and only got colder, until the rain arrived at which point it got even colder but also very, very wet causing racing to be abandoned for the day. I spent the ELMS and WEC qualifying sessions on the grass bank between Maggotts and Village, before ensconcing myself in the Woodcote stand for the 3-hour ELMS race, trying to stay warm. Thermometers may have read 9 or 10C but with windchill it felt like 5C at best, 1 or 2C by the end.
Formula 3 Europe:
I only saw one Euro F3 race but it was good, lots of passing albeit not much of it near me. Harry Tinknell (blue car) is local to me so I was rooting for him, he was leading for a while but fell back to 3rd I think it was at the end.
The ELMS race was good as well. I’d call it a traditional race, not the sort you see very often any more. Everyone had slicks for the start but as the formation lap got under way it started raining! Half the field pitted straight away but mysteriously half of them did not, and it cost them dearly as the Safety Car came out. Big gaps then appeared in the field as the conditions worsened but it wasn’t boring – quite the opposite, over two hours a lot of cars went sliding and spinning off, or had drivers uncomfortable with the conditions, so the order was changing quite a lot despite the gaps.
Eventually the rain got so bad everyone was running around in 2nd-gear to avoid aquaplaning, the Safety Car was called out but even after 20 minutes a lot of the field still hadn’t caught up with it, they were being so cautious! After a good 30 or 40 minutes under SC the red flags came out to end the race half an hour early. At the time, freezing in the stands too stubborn to move while the track was live but so cold I wished it ended, I thought it was a good idea. But looking back I almost wish the SC hadn’t have come out let alone the reds flown, everyone was going slowly for the conditions and it would’ve been interesting to see who made the best of it.
I was sat in the stands with Carole @revs_rule, and after the race was stopped we made a beeline to my car and to Silverstone village for a hot meal and cup of tea in the White Horse pub, which were very nice indeed.
More photos from Saturday are at Picasa. As I say, I was still getting used to the new lens and with the cold and rain it was quite tricky anyway!
My next post is about Sunday’s World Endurance race.
Sebring wasn’t a classic race this year, rather than being exciting as some past years it was a case of being interesting in terms of who was fast, who was slow, who was reliable and who was not. I can’t say it was compelling enough to hold the attention for the twelve hours, or even for the ten hours I watched (there were a few long spells of simple lappery), but in this tough economic climate, and in a transition year before a major change to the race with the series merger you can’t really ask for big grids and close racing in each class.
The prototypes battle fell flat early on and in fairness that was expected before the race started. The focus fell on the two GT classes which did a good job of keeping things interesting, and there was a late battle in the PC class as well. With only an hour or two to go each of these three classes were led by something like 10 or 15 seconds! Tiny margins given the distances covered, a mistake on the track or by a pit crew would’ve turned it around.
I had other commitments in the afternoon and wasn’t able to join the coverage until 90 minutes into the race. I watched the rest, although I also dipped into the Red Bull Crashed Ice finale (I found myself unable to concentrate on that), and the delayed F1 qualifying.
I was watching the ALMS.com feed so their server problems were disappointing – I was happy they had the usual Hindhaugh & Shaw presentation and a solid pit crew. The ALMS Twitter feed claimed this race had 4x the viewers as last year, a statistic I find surprising considering last year’s race doubled as the inaugural WEC round, with a far deeper field. Compared to that race, with the ALMS struggling lately, this year’s race was always going to look a little weak in comparison to 2012’s so the increased viewership was interesting to see.
Audi dominated as everybody expected they would. There was a little fight amongst themselves but it was nothing compared to a battle with another manufacturer team, there was the definite sense they were tiptoeing around each other whenever they were racing – the right thing to do under the circumstances.
The real race in P1 was among the four-car “petrol/independent class” but Dyson Racing encountered problems with their Lola-Mazda, and Muscle Milk Pickett’s HPD was penalised (stop and hold for 60 seconds) following “avoidable contact”, when Klaus Graf and a PC-car collided. This was a shame as they were fairly evenly matched with the two Rebellion Lola-Toyotas, perhaps the Pickett car had the edge (perhaps thanks to their drivers and their circuit knowledge).
So this race was spoiled by a couple of happenings but that doesn’t mean Rebellion didn’t earn it, they were fast and kept their nose clean. I’m glad they’re keeping a car in the ALMS in addition to their two in WEC this year.
The DeltaWing, run by a completely different team to last year and with completely different technical partners, failed to impress after running slower than the PC class pace before an engine failure ended their day early.
Five entries in this class, all top-drawer quality but sadly the race was effectively over by halfway. Level 5’s pair of HPDs were in control, it was always going to be tough to beat their star driver line-up of Marino Franchitti, Simon Pagenaud, and Ryans Hunter-Reay and Briscoe.
Extreme Speed did a good job learning their own pair of HPDs after moving from Ferraris in the GT class, although Ed Brown in particular seemed to struggle with his car with multiple spins and the other, faster car was delayed with mechanical issues. ESM will work on it, they’ll get there.
After splitting the HPDs right down the middle in qualifying, the lone Greaves Motorsport Zytek-Nissan wasn’t able to keep up with Level 5 in the race – which surprised me I have to say. I’m not sure if they encountered any problems.
It was a hard-fought battle in the single-make class, the lead changing handle multiple times throughout the race. Most of this 7-car field was competitive and there wasn’t any way of picking a winner, even when it eventually distilled down to two cars you couldn’t call it, it was still a race as Ostella hunted down Marcelli for the win which is the opposite of what I would’ve predicted! This class is going to be a lot of fun this year.
As expected the GT class proved a dogfight, though I have to say it seemed much cleaner than the wheel-banging of past years, which is impressive given how hard they were all pushing.
The main race was between the Corvettes and the Risi Ferrari, that classic battle between marques. Interloping from time to time were the likes of the Viper, the new BMW Z4 and even the Falken Tire Porsche, which given the struggles of Porsche teams everywhere wasn’t supposed to be near the front. The variety bodes well for a very exciting season.
The Ferrari had better range, the ‘Vette perhaps the better speed over a stint. Despite electrical issues and a penalty for pitlane speeding (caused by temporarily having no limiter) the no.4 Corvette fought back to win by just 3 seconds from the Ferrari, however that was arguably only because Matteo Malucelli’s stellar drive faltered under intense pressure from the yellow ‘Vette.
The Vipers fell back after a while as did the promising new BMW Z4 which had an impressive debut – though as both are running with exemptions for engines that are way too big for the regs, I was quietly pleased they lost (even though they have very cool cars).
Feelgood result of the race was the Falken Porsche, I thought they were a way behind earlier on but they came back to finish 3rd.
Notable absentees were the Aston Martins which suffered car trouble fairly early on and were forced to treat the rest of the race as a test, a very rapid test in which they set the class fastest lap, hinting at what might’ve been.
It is a sign of these economic times that so many top quality drivers – and teams – are in the low-cost spec class supposedly for entry-level entrants. The benefit for the class is the ridiculously close race! When you have Jeroen Bleekemolen, Sean Edwards, Damian Faulkner, Sascha Maassen, and Spencer Pumpelly you can’t say the class is lacking in talent. The result then depends how good the amateur, ‘gentlemen’ drivers are, and if they’re as evenly matched as they are here you have a race on your hands! Even deep into the race the top half dozen were split by 20 seconds or less. It was only in the very late stages that it got a bit split up. An under-reported, much-knocked class (and I’m fully guilty of that) which should continue to see some great racing this year.
I’d never heard of David Ostella or Matteo Malucelli so I was tremendously impressed by their performances. Malucelli put in a near-flawless performance for Risi Ferrari, whenever I looked at T&S he was in the car, his only fault being a little kind to the Corvette as it attacked him in the late stages of the race and that’s just down to inexperience of Sebring. Ostella on the other hand seemed to warm to the race the more it went on, culminating in a fantastic PC-class race-winning pass against Kyle Marcelli, who is no pushover.
If you weren’t paying attention to the laptimes of AMR after their long, long delays, you might’ve missed Bruno Senna’s speed in the car. Some suggested he wouldn’t be suited to GT racing. Wrong!
Kuba Giermaziak seems to be the real deal, too.
There were a few controversial stewarding decisions. Some of the faster guys were a little impatient when lapping slower cars. Some were racing incidents, others were the fault of the slower guy wandering all over the road, yet it was always the faster guy that would get the penalty. McNish was definitely unfairly penalised. Graf’s penalty was less clear cut and both opinions were flying around Twitter – I thought the PC car stayed wide and braked early to let Graf through, which Graf may have misread or not expected – a racing incident but under ALMS rules Graf got the penalty for braking too late, ‘avoidable contact’.
The ALMS moves on to the vastly different challenge of a 2-hour race on the short Long Beach street course, one month from now.
Next year’s 12 Hours of Sebring will be part of the brave new world of United SportsCar Racing.