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May 29, 2014 - 06:15 AM
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IMSA News And Notes: Chevrolet Sports Car Classic At Belle Isle Park
Posted by: newsla on May 29, 2014 - 06:12 AM
USCR News
IMSA News And Notes: Chevrolet Sports Car Classic At Belle Isle Park


Much like the recent event on the Long Beach Street Circuit, this weekend’s event on Detroit’s Raceway at Belle Isle carries undeniable prestige for the inaugural TUDOR United SportsCar Championship schedule. And, also like Long Beach, it vividly represents the “best of both worlds” mantra that served as the over-arching guidepost for the landmark sports car merger that created the TUDOR Championship.

 

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Racing in Detroit offers added across-the-board value, as it’s home to many of the auto manufacturers participating in the TUDOR Championship plus numerous supplier partners. As far as the schedule goes, it’s sort of a “must.”

Belle Isle previously was on the schedules of both the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón and the Rolex Series, with those two series racing in conjunction with the IndyCar Series. This weekend, the TUDOR Championship’s Chevrolet Sports Car Classic Presented By Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers combines with IndyCar’s Detroit Chevrolet Belle Isle Grand Prix.

Belle Isle is a 982-acre island located in the Detroit River between Detroit and Canada, which officially became a Michigan state park earlier this year. As far as racing goes, the original plan was for Formula One to move the U.S. Grand Prix from city streets to the park starting in 1989. When that plan didn’t pan out, the old CART open-wheel series came to the island in 1992.

The ALMS raced on Belle Isle in 2007 and ‘08; the Rolex Series had a two-year run that immediately prefaced the merger, in 2012-13.

GT Daytona: Ferrari Leading Production-Based Euro Showcase

The TUDOR Championship is bringing its headlining Prototype (P) class to Belle Isle, along with its ultra-competitive production-based GT Daytona (GTD) class. Those classes will combine in Saturday’s one-hour, 40-minute race — the fifth event of the season.

GTD is a combination of two previous classes: GT from the Rolex Series and GTC from the ALMS, as well as select GT3-spec machines. It has produced as expected, with large fields and close racing that is attractive to both core and casual fans, in large part because the cars raced are also the cars you can see on the streets — with the requisite modifications, of course.

And while the class may have a “made-in-America” label, GTD is a showcase this season for European excellence, with Ferrari, Porsche, Audi and BMW occupying the top 10 spots in the team championship standings. The first American machinery is the No. 33 SRT Viper team fielded by Riley Motorsports, currently 19th in points. The GTD manufacturer points: Ferrari (95), Porsche (95), Audi (94), BMW (91) and SRT (52).

The driving championship is co-led by Ferrari drivers Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler and Porsche drivers Andy Lally and John Potter, with 87 points. Third with 83 points are Audi drivers Nelson Canache Jr. and Spencer Pumpelly, who are coming off the crushing disappointment of dominating the preceding race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, only to have their No. 45 Venezuela/eSilicon Audi R8 LMS run out of gas on the final lap with Pumpelly at the wheel.

Clutch Performance: ZF-HPD Partnership Announced For North American Sports Car Racing Efforts

A technical partnership between ZF Friedrichshafen AG and Honda Performance Development (HPD) was recently announced, which has resulted in HPD implementing ZF's high-performance clutch and shock-absorber technology in a variety of North American racing series where HPD is active, including the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

The two companies, both with long records of success in motorsports, will work together to investigate other potential performance-enhancing technology, utilizing their respective engineering and R&D strengths.

In addition to this latest partnership, ZF has many others throughout the automotive and auto racing industries. An interesting byproduct is the transference of technology from race cars to street cars.

The biggest technology transfer ZF is seeing is based on the use of alternative light-weight materials, such as an increased use of organic materials in clutches and a piqued interest in suspension components made of materials like carbon fiber.

One example of this transfer is a ceramic clutch that was developed for a LMP in Le Mans was used in the Porsche Carrera GT.

ZF’s reach is extensive, to say the least. The company’s current torque converter customers include many of the world’s top automotive manufacturers:

Alpina; Audi; Aston Martin; Bentley; BMW; Chevrolet; Chrysler; Dodge; GMC; Jaguar; Jeep; JMC; Land Rover; Lincoln; Maserati; RAM; Rolls-Royce; Volkswagen.

ZF’s shock/damper technology is used by the following manufacturers:

Acura; Audi; Alfa Romeo; BAIC Motor; BMW; Buick; Chevrolet; Chrysler; Citroën; Dacia; Dodge; Fiat; Ford; GAZ; GW; Honda; Hyundai; Infiniti; Jeep; Kia; Lancia; Lexus; Maserati; Mercedes-Benz; Nissan; Opel; Peugeot; Porsche; RAM; Renault; Samsung; SEAT; SGMW; Škoda; Subaru; Volkswagen; Volvo.

Road To Detroit Went Through Indy For Bell, Davison

TUDOR United SportsCar Championship regulars Townsend Bell and James Davison are coming to Detroit after competing in this past Sunday’s Indianapolis 500.

Bell had a roller-coaster ride in his eighth career Indy 500. After starting 25th in the Robert Graham/KV Racing Technology Chevrolet, Bell worked his way up to the top three – only to see his day end when he hit the wall in Turn 2 with only nine laps remaining.
Bell leads the GT Daytona (GTD) driver championship standings, sharing the AIM Autosport Ferrari 458 Italia with Bill Sweedler.

“It was loose all race,” said Bell, offering a broad-brush description of his Indy experience.

Some specifics: Bell brushed the wall early in the race after a close call with 2013 500 champion Tony Kanaan, and had contact with Ed Carpenter later in the race running three-wide in a battle for second on a Lap 176 restart.

“In the end, I was just trying to go for it, to see if we could get to the front,” Bell said.

“You don’t get these chances very often. Unfortunately, the left rear took too much pounding during the day to make it work, and it got away from me. I hate to end that way. That was a pretty good hit.”

Davison finished 16th in his first Indy 500, driving a Chevrolet fielded by KV Racing Technology.

The driver of the No. 007 TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage in the TUDOR Championship’s GTD class had his closest call on the opening lap, when he was nearly taken out by fellow New Zealander Ryan Briscoe.

“I feel we deserved a 12th-place result, based on who we were sitting behind prior to the last restart,” Davison said. “I got jammed up there into Turn 1, and three cars went by me. That’s the way it goes. … I’m just very thankful to [have been at Indianapolis] … hopefully the first of many for me.”

Also serving as a “representative” for the TUDOR Championship at Indianapolis was Alex Tagliani, who drives for RSR Racing in the Prototype Challenge (PC) class.

Running in his sixth Indy 500, Tagliani led three laps late in the race. He went on to finish 13th driving for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing.

Tagliani’s next TUDOR Championship race will be at Kansas Speedway on Saturday, June 7, joining Chris Cumming in the No. 08 ORECA FLM09.



Chevy-Laden Atmosphere at Belle Isle Provides Natural Motivation For Jordan Taylor



Motivation will be no problem for Jordan Taylor and the other Chevrolet drivers competing in Saturday’s Chevrolet Sports Car Classic presented by Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers at Belle Isle.

If the many billboards and banners are not enough, the sight of the Renaissance Center overlooking pit road are constant reminders for the 23-year-old two-time Detroit winner that the General Motors World Headquarters is taking an extremely close look at the performance of the “Bow Tie Brigade.”

“It definitely puts on a lot more pressure when you have all the GM. executives watching,” said Taylor, who is paired with his older brother Ricky in their father’s No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Konica Minolta Corvette DP. “We always have a big team meeting with all the Chevy people up in the Renaissance Center before the race, where they tell us the importance of this event. On our schedule, Detroit is definitely one of the big races that we want to win, right up there with Daytona and Sebring.”

Taylor has enjoyed success in the Motor City, winning both of his races in GM cars on the 2.360-mile Belle Isle circuit, both in the GRAND-AM Rolex Series. He won the GT class in 2012, co-driving a Chevrolet Camaro GS.R with Paul Edwards for Autohaus Motorsports. Last year, he won overall with Max Angelelli in his dad’s Corvette DP.

“I’ve got a 100-percent winning percentage – which I have nowhere else,” Taylor said. “I also feel confident going in with the great work of our team, with three podiums in four races. As long as we keep executing like we’ve done for every race, I think we’ll be in good shape.”

This weekend, he will look to extend his success on the tight 14-turn temporary circuit.

“If there’s a secret, it’s having a good car and good stops in the pits,” Taylor said.

“Fast pit stops played a major role in both victories. Belle Isle can be a difficult place to pass, and with both teams I drove had great pit stops that put us in the lead. That set the tone for the race. Once you’re in front, it’s a lot easier to defend.”

Any post-race celebrations will go by quickly for the Taylors. The brothers have about two hours from the checkered flag to drive to the Detroit airport, where they will take a flight to Paris.

From there they’ll take a train to Le Mans, arriving around midday in order to participate in Sunday’s lone test day for the upcoming 24 Hours of Le Mans.



TUDOR Championship Notes …



In addition to the Taylors, a number of other TUDOR Championship regulars will be testing Sunday at Le Mans, starting with a host of drivers from the championship’s GT Le Mans (GTLM) class, which is not involved in the Belle Isle weekend. Those guys get a head start on heading to France.

That group starts, in terms of overall notoriety and 24 Hours of Le Mans-winning potential, with the Corvette Racing two-car team and the following drivers: Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner. They’ll be waiting for their one-off teammates Jordan Taylor and Richard Westbrook, who will depart Detroit on Saturday after racing in the Prototype (P) class.

Other TUDOR Champion drivers expected to make the trans-Atlantic trip this weekend:

· GTD drivers Patrick Dempsey and Joe Foster and GTLM driver Patrick Long, who are teaming for the second-straight year in the 24 Hours’ LM GTE Am class, co-driving a Porsche 911 RSR;

· GTD driver Jeroen Bleekemolen, who also will co-drive a Porsche in LM GTE Am;

· GTD drivers Spencer Pumpelly and Seth Neiman, set to drive a Ferrari 458 Italia in LM GTE Am;

· P class driver Olivier Pla, who’ll co-drive an ORECA 03/Nissan in the 24 Hours;

· GTLM Porsche drivers Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy and Richard Lietz, all part of a two-car Porsche LM GTE Pro effort in the 24 Hours.

In addition, two TUDOR Championship competitors from the Prototype Challenge class are expected to test at Le Mans — Tom Kimber-Smith and Sam Bird. Kimber-Smith will co-drive a Zytek Z11SN/Nissan in LMP2; Bird will race a Ferrari 458 Italia in LM GTE Am.



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