Let’s start the Weekend Racing Preview with a commercial.
Wheels.ca, for the first time in its history, has prepared and published a comprehensive auto racing preview section that can be found here.
Canadian F1 expert Gerald Donaldson tells us what to expect this year in Formula One, John C. Bassett has written about INDYCAR, Star sportswriter Mark Zwolinski examines Jimmie Johnson’s quest for a sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, Sylvia Proudfoot previews the ALMS and Grand Am sports car racing seasons and I’ve prepared a guide to Southern Ontario racing in general (did you know Tony Stewart will be racing a sprint car at Ohsweken Speedway in July? Against his girlfriend? Well, you do now.) And retired Star sportswriter Rick Matsumoto interviews Paul Tracy and James Hinchcliffe on the subject of money, and how hard it is to get it in order to go racing.
So go to SPECIAL SECTION: AUTO RACING 2011 for everything you would want to know about what’s coming up this season.
You won’t be disappointed.
Robbie Wickens lands a ride
Good news for Canada’s only Superlicence holder, Robert Wickens of Guelph.
The driver, who finished second the last two years in European development series Formula 2 and GP3, has been signed to drive this year in the European World Series by Renault.
He’ll drive for the British team Carlin Motorsport with support from Marussia Motors LLC. Wickens’s teammate will be British F3 champion Jean-Eric Vergne.
Marussia has taken Wickens on board to develop his talent as it builds toward a long-term future in Formula One, the company says in a release. The driver development project, founded in 2005, is led by Marussia Motors president Nikolai Fomenko, a former international GT racer who has twice competed at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is now the host of the Top Gear Russia TV series.
The World Series program will see Wickens reunited with Carlin, who last ran him in 2008.
Last year, Wickens, 21, scored Marussia its first international single-seater win when his Marussia-branded GP3 car won the German Grand Prix support race at Hockenheim. He went on to score other wins at Spa-Francorchamps and Monza.
Wickens and Vergne will test this weekend in Spain. The Renault World Series will open for the season next month.
You require a Superlicence to race in Formula One and Wickens is currently the only Canadian to hold one.
With this news, it looks like Wickens will get the guidance and support he needs to get to the top rung of auto racing’s world ladder.
Other news of note
— Ana Beatriz became the third woman to land a full-time ride in this season’s IZOD IndyCar Series when she signed this week with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.
Beatriz joins Simona de Silvestro and Danica Patrick as full-time drivers in the series. Several other women — Pippa Mann, for instance — are said to be close to deals for part-time work.
“Bia” will be sponsored by the Brazilian petroleum distributor Ipiranga.
Hear that, Petro-Canada? I have some names of drivers you might consider sponsoring . . .
— First it was Juan Pablo Montoya and Jeff Gordon trading cars at Indianapolis - Montoya in Gordon's stock car and Gordon in Montoya's then-F1 Williams. Good stuff.
Then it was announced that Tony Stewart and Lewis Hamilton would trade places this summer. Okay . . .
Now, Jamie McMurray is going to drive Scott Dixon's Indy car and Dixon is going to drive McMurray's stock car. This is getting tiresome already.
— Word from Europe is that F1 hopes to run the Grand Prix of Bahrain as the final race of the 2011 season.
— NASCAR is moving its Hall of Fame induction ceremony to January from May, starting in 2012. Reason? To give the fans some “news” in the off-season, says CEO Brian France. Real reason? The Hall of Fame in Charlotte is pretty much a bust. Nobody’s going through it (an exaggeration, but attendance really is coming in way below expections) and nobody’s been really paying any attention to the induction ceremony itself.
Prediction: The next move will be to leave the Hall in Charlotte but hold the induction in Daytona, New York or Las Vegas. Like the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, nobody wants to go there so they hold the induction in New York in order to get media attention. Looks like the NASCAR Hall is going the same way.
— Both NASCAR races from Las Vegas this weekend can be seen on TSN2 — the Nationwide Sam’s Town 300 at 2:30 Saturday and the Sprint Cup Kobalt Tools 400 at 2:30 Sunday. Both will get the green flag at or about 3:15 p.m. Eestern, according to racefantv.ca
AIM aims for good Miami finish
AIM Autosport of Woodbridge’s Daytona Prototype team arrived at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Thursday to compete in this weekend’s Grand Prix of Miami.
Invigorated with a renewed sense of optimism following a productive off-season and the addition of Dinan-tuned BMW engines, AIM says in a release that it hopes to begin its 2011 campaign with a podium finish in Saturday’s race.
En route to Florida, the team stopped at Roebling Road Raceway near Savannah, Ga., to shake down the team’s BMW-Riley No. 61. Having missed all the off-season test sessions and being unable to participate in the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, the test was the first time AIM had run its Daytona Prototype since the end of last season.
“The deal came together late and the guys only had two weeks to fit the engine,” said AIM team principal, Ian Willis, also in the release.
“It turned out being more work than anticipated, but we’re fortunate to have a very talented crew and they were able to do an excellent job.”
Drivers Mark Wilkins of Toronto and American Burt Frisselle are back and have high hopes for the 2011 season, which will include a stop at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal in August, a race the team won several years ago.
You can watch the Grand Prix of Miami and see how Wilkins and Frisselle make out starting at noon Saturday on TSN2.