O Opinions & Commentary

George’s News and Notes – January 18, 2019

The second round of the current Formula E season was run at Marrakesh in Morocco last Saturday and it may turn out to be the best race of the year for them. At the start John-Eric Vergne, who should have won the first race in Abu Dhabi but for a technical error which saw him penalized, came charging into the first corner from second place on the grid and he looked to have the speed to take the lead from polesitter Sam Bird. But he was going way too fast and he spun, dropping to the back of the field.

Bird led for the first nine laps of the 31-lap race before he was passed by both of the BMW/Andretti machines. Now these two – Antonio Felix da Costa and Alexander Sims – held the lead one-two and they looked to have the race result sewed up but, with six laps, Sims made a move on his teammate and the two came together and went off course. Da Costa, who had looked like a for-sure winner, was unable to continue. This handed the lead over to Jerome d’Ambrosio just as the safety car came out freezing the field. It took so long to clean up the mess that the race ended under yellow with d’Ambrosio the winner. Robin Frijns was second and Bird third. Sims was fourth and Vergne fifth, another amazing run up from the back of the field.

Two things stood out here. First, Vergne’s performance and apparent speed advantage over everyone else. If he can stay out of trouble for the entire race after this, he looks like being the dominant figure in the series this year. The other was the Marrakesh circuit. I had not seen a race here before but, looking at the track map, it looked different from the other Formula E street circuits. This track had two or three open corners in contrast to the standard ultra-tight corners we usually see and a couple of decent straights. As a result the racing in these parts of the circuit much more closely resembled the ‘real racing’ style than what we usually see. Perhaps as the Formula E cars get faster and more competent as race cars, we will see them more often on this open style of race circuits - maybe even one day on a proper race circuit like the real race cars use.

Click HERE for the full results of the Marrakesh E-Prix

NASCAR Euro General Tire CopyNASCAR Euro General Tire car at the International Autosport Show (Malcolm Griffiths/www.malcolm.gb.net)

At the recent Autosport International show in England, General Tire presented a NASCAR Euro race car in General Tire livery to draw attention to the fact that General Tire will be the spec tire in this series in 2019. This is a bit of a departure for NASCAR which has been using Goodyear tires exclusively in the National Series – and the Canadian Pinty’s Series – for many years. General Tires have been the spec tire in ARCA for the past few years, replacing the Hoosier brand in that series. Continental Tire owns both the General and the Hoosier brands so, when it comes to racing tires, any one of these three brands can be assigned to their tires. It is a matter of which brand they want to promote. I assume that the General tires used in the Euro series will draw a lot on the Hoosier/General experience in the ARCA series.

In Europe, the NASCAR Euro cars race on road courses except for one venue, a half-mile oval in Venray, Holland. In the Pinty’s Series here in Canada, they use a single spec of Goodyear bias-ply tire for all the road course races and they use this tire on the right side and a different, smaller and more grippy, tire on the left side for the ovals. In addition, Goodyear provides a rain tire which would be used on the road courses if needed. Presumably the General Tire being supplied in Europe will follow the same pattern. BTW, Jacques Villeneuve and Bobby Labonte are both planning to contest the full NASCAR Euro season this year.

This week INDYCAR announced that they had found a new sponsor to replace the former series title sponsor, Verizon. The new sponsor is NTT, a Japanese data company which has been a sponsor on a Chip Ganassi car - making the series name NTT IndyCar Series. The IndyCar teams were at Sebring for a day of testing this week. While not every driver was present, James Hinchcliffe emerged as the fastest for the day.

The IMSA WeatherTech Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway will be held next weekend starting mid-day on Saturday. As things stand at the moment, I do not know for sure how a race fan in Canada will be able to watch a broadcast of this significant season-opening race. Despite this, I am hopeful that we will soon hear word of how we can watch this race on some cable channel which we (or most of us) can get via our particular television service provider here in Canada. Beyond that, I think it is probable that you could stream the live broadcast via imsa.tv on the internet. I am pretty sure that it will be available live via streaming on Motor Trend Direct – a subscription service that we can watch here in Canada. Beyond that, I think that all the IMSA races become available on YouTube a few days after they are broadcast via television. When I know more for sure, I will pass it on.

As for IndyCar F1 and NASCAR the plans for television availability in Canada have yet to be announced. That usually comes only a few days before the first race of the season. I do know that the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series (the former Camping World Truck Series) will be on the Fox Sports Racing channel in Canada while I fully expect that the Xfinity and Cup series races – as well as the full F1 season – will again be broadcast on TSN. As for IndyCar, the switch to NBCSN in the USA this year raises question about which Canadian-based channel will have the rights here because there is no obvious tie-in between a Canadian channel and NBCSN. My bet is that the IndyCar races will still be on SportsNet here in Canada this year. All this will become clear as we get closer to the start of each race series. However it all shakes out, I will be doing my best to keep you informed of the race television programming planned for each week via ‘George’s Race Fan TV Listings’ on this website. Look for the first instalment of this weekly service by mid-week next week. (Click on TV LISTINGS at the top of the web page)

The entry lists for the Rolex 24 and the Michelin Pilot race (the new name for the former Continental Tire race) are posted on the IMSA website. There is a good field of 11 DPi cars entered for the race. This year the LMP2 cars are split off into a separate class. There is some concern that few car owners will want to run cars in this ‘runt’ class. For Daytona there are only four LMP2 entries and you have to wonder if this number will shrink after Sebring. Toronto’s Paul Dalla Lana is back in GT-Daytona, this time driving a Ferrari 488 after all his years in an Aston Martin – teamed as usual with Pedro Lamy and Mathais Lauda with Daniel Serra making a fourth for the 24-hour race. Katherine Legge is back in a Meyer Shank Audi NSX but this time she is teamed up with three other women drivers – all strong competitors – including Christina Nelson who was a former class winner in a Ferrari.

The Daytona IMSA Michelin Pilot race will be a four-hour race run on the Friday (January 25). This race has a big entry of the GS cars, 34 in all. There are several Canadian drivers running in this race. Scott Maxwell continues to race in one of the Multimatic Mustangs as a mentor to a pair of Ford development drivers. Kenny Wilden is in a KohR Mustang with Kyle Marcelli is in the second KohR Mustang, Scott Hargrove and Orey Fidani are paired in a Porsche Cayman, and Kumo Wittmer is in the Compass Racing McLaren GT4.

Last year, the new-to-America TCR (Touring class) had a small entry dominated by Audi RS3s. This year we already have a much larger entry – 14 cars from four different makes of which only five are Audis. This should make this a much more interesting class this year.

Glen Wood, the patriarch of the famed Woods Brothers racing team died this week. He was 93-years-old. After WWII he and his younger brother Leonard co-founded the racing team in 1953 in the small town of Stuart, Virginia. Wood raced the car for a few years, winning four times during an 11-year race driving career (1953 to 1964). The team is still in operation and is the oldest active team in NASCAR. In their 65-year history, they have scored 99 race wins. Glen, along with his brother Leonard and the rest of their pit crew, were as asked to come to Indianapolis to form the pit crew for Jim Clark’s Indy car in 1965 – and they played a key role in Clark’s win that year. Wood was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2012.

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