Thursday, July 26, 2012 13:04
For most of its 100-year history, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been a hotbed of innovation. Cars with four wheels and six wheels, cars with the engine in the front and rear, four-, six-, and eight-cylinder engines, turbochargers and superchargers—just about every type of racecar has lapped the famed oval at one time or another.
But there’s never been a rotary-engined car competing at the Brickyard—until now, when the SpeedSource Dempsey Racing and Team Sahlen Mazda RX-8 Grand-Am GT car hits the bricks for another IMS milestone, the first sports car race on the world’s most famous track.
Mazda, which has racked up wins at other legendary tracks including at Le Mans, Daytona, Sebring, and Spa, hopes to add Indy to its win list. Mazda was the 2010 Grand-Am GT Manufacturers Champion, and after eight of 13 races in this year’s Grand-Am GT Championship is ranked third among eight manufacturers, while Mazda drivers Sylvain Tremblay and Jonathan Bomarito are fourth in driver points, having scored one win earlier this season. Mazda racer Wayne Nonnamaker is ranked second among the Pro-Am drivers competing for the Bob Akin Cup.
Mazda has yet another first up its sleeve for the 2013 season. That’s when the Mazda SKYACTIV-D clean diesel engine will debut in the new Grand-Am GX class. This will be the first modern diesel to race at Indy, and the first diesel of any type to race there in over 50 years.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011 07:00
It’s hard to call yourself The Motor City when you haven’t hosted a professional motorsports event in years. But that’s about to change, because Indycars are returning to Detroit’s Belle Isle circuit in 2012 for the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, June 1-3.
The three-day event will include four races: the Chevrolet Indy Grand Prix; the Chevrolet Detroit Sports Car Challenge, where Chevrolet Daytona Prototypes and Camaros will compete in the first GRAND-AM Rolex Series race held on Belle Isle; the Cadillac V-Series Challenge, where Cadillac CTS-Vs will compete in the second Pirelli World Challenge series race held on Belle Isle; and the Firestone Indy Light Series race, featuring the rising stars of open-wheel racing.
Belle Isle is a jewel of a racetrack, a temporary street circuit on a 982-acre island in the Detroit River between Windsor, Ontario, Canada and Detroit, Michigan. The helicopter shots during the race give a spectacular view of the track, the action, and the amazing setting.
Next year will also mark Chevrolet’s return to the IZOD IndyCar Series with a new twin-turbocharged, direct-injected V-6 racing engine developed by General Motors and Ilmor Engineering. The 2.2-liter V-6 will have an aluminum block and cylinder heads, and will be a fully stressed chassis member supporting the gearbox and rear suspension. Honda has been the sole engine supplier in Indycar since 2006, so look for a great rivalry between these two companies, both with long racing histories.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011 05:00
I am suspending the normal roundup of motorsports happenings because of the tragedy that unfolded at the IndyCar finale in Las Vegas.
Having been around the sport for a very long time, this isn't the first time I’ve felt the “kick in the gut” when somebody dies in a racecar. Yesterday a young mother and two young boys were dealt a catastrophic blow that will take a lifetime to mend. The sense of loss, however, will never leave them.
I worked with Susie, Dan Wheldon’s wife, at a North Carolina marketing agency several years ago. We worked on the Viagra Racing account. Susie was transferred to the Jim Beam account and IndyCar. I don’t think anyone could have anticipated what happened when Dan and Susie first laid eyes on each other. I was tickled when I heard the news they got married…and again when I heard about the birth of Sebastian, their first son, and when Oliver recently joined the Wheldon clan.
Even though Dan was rideless for a time, he and Susie were living the dream. I heard a familiar voice from the past break into the jubilation on Wheldon’s in-car audio after he captured his second Indy 500 win. It was Susie; she simply said: “I love you so much.”
Their life was looking up. The Vegas shot at a couple million and the announcement that Dan signed a deal with Andretti Autosport couldn’t have been better.
Now, I join the multitudes who share their grief. My heart aches for Susie, Sebastian and Oliver.
Anyone, including me, who has ever put on a fire suit and helmet and got belted into a car knows the potential dangers. Cars, driver protection equipment, and the tracks themselves have made racing much less perilous. That said, the danger lurks, like a prowling lion, ready to pounce. Even so, we press on in what has been called “suspension of disbelief.” Drivers figure the hammer will come down on somebody else.
Write what you want about the wisdom of racing those cars in excess of 200 mph at tracks like Las Vegas—it won’t change what happened. I pray that Dan’s life will teach us a lesson.
Monday, October 17, 2011 00:07
Thanks to technology like air bags, crumple zones, and anti-lock brakes, driving a car is safer than it’s ever been. The same goes for racing cars, a sport that routinely sees drivers walk away from truly terrifying crashes. But as safe as racing is these days, the unthinkable still happens as it did on Sunday when two-time Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon died as a result of a multi-car crash at the Las Vegas Indy 300.
Dan Wheldon joined the Indycar series in 2003, winning Rookie of the Year honors that season. He won the Indianapolis 500 and the IRL Indycar Series Championship in 2005, and again won Indy in 2011 when rookie J.R. Hildebrand crashed in the last corner on the last lap, handing Wheldon the win.
Wheldon looked like a driver on the way up, but racing is an insanely expensive sport, and despite his Indy win, he lacked the financial backing to secure a full-time ride this season. He worked as a TV commentator for several races, proving himself as skillful behind a mic as he was behind the wheel, and he test-drove prototypes of future Indycars, including some incorporating proposed safety advances.
But for racers like Wheldon, there’s only one place to be––in a race car––and the Las Vegas Indy 300 might have turned his fortunes around. Indycar CEO Randy Bernard had selected Wheldon to drive in the $5 million Go Daddy Indycar challenge at Las Vegas. Wheldon had to start at the back of the field, but if he won, he would split a $5 million payout with a fan who entered a Verizon Mobile contest. More...
Thursday, October 6, 2011 09:00