Posted at 02:54 PM in Auto racing, Firestone Indy Lights, Formula One, Honda Indy Toronto, Indy 500, IZOD IndyCar Series, James Hinchcliffe, Racing, Robert Wickens, Sports | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Canadian Tire Motorsport Park has announced its major event schedule for 2013 and the really good news is that two of Canada’s finest racing series will be on the program next Labour Day weekend with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
The NASCAR Canadian Tire stock cars and the Canadian Touring Car Series sedans will be sharing the legendary road circuit north of Bowmanville, formerly known as Mosport, with the Camping World trucks, which make up one-third of NASCAR’s top travelling series, the Sprint Cup and Nationwide stock cars being the other two.
The NASCAR Canada stock cars will actually be racing at Old Mosport three times next year. The Canadian Tire Series will headline the annual, traditional, Victoria Day SpeedFest on the road course that will also feature the Trans-Am Series, the Canadian Touring Cars and the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada.
And in addition to Victoria Day in May and Labour Day in September, the stock cars will also race at the Old Mosport oval on June 22.
Other big events at Canadian Tire Mosport Park (heh, heh) next summer will be the American le Mans Series on July 18-21, making its last stop before unification with the Grand-American Road Racing Series the following year; the Canadian Historic Grand Prix on June 14-16 and the Canadian Superbike Doubleheader Weekend in August.
More information and tickets can be found at: www.canadiantiremotorsportpark.com.
Meantime, the Formula 1 Grand Prix du Canada has announced a special ticket package for next June that will allow a person to purchase a reserved seat in a different grandstand for each day of the three-day event.
Quantities are limited, so if you want in you’d better get cracking. Ticket combinations come in three packages - gold, silver and bronze and are on sale for $485, $449 and $267.50, respectively. More information at 514 350-0000 or 1-855-790-1245. Or go to www.circuitgillesvilleneuve.ca.
And tickets for the 2013 Honda Indy Toronto will go on sale next Monday, Dec. 10. And remember, the event will now feature two official, fully-sanctioned IZOD IndyCar Series races, one with a standing start on Saturday and a second with a rolling start on Sunday. Each event will be full length, with full points and full prize money.
The promoters are making changes to some of the grandstands. They plan to build three new “super-structure” grandstands – one at Turn 10 (consolidating three grandstands), a taller structure at Turn 11, and a Turn 3 Grandstand that will see the addition of 15 rows.
According to a release, the switch to larger grandstands will result in an important additional benefit: greater track-side access for General Admission ticketholders and fans who might wander around looking for multiple viewpoints. Tickets start at $35 for General Admission. For more information, go to www.hondaindy.com.
Here’s a change of pace: The Canadian Motortsport Hall of Fame has launched a new, redesigned, website — www.cmhf.ca
This easy-to-navigate website details the history of motorsport in Canada and features biographies, including photos, of more than 150 inductees.
Said general manager Sid Priddle: “Thanks to the development efforts of highly respected freelance journalist (and Wheels Insider) Gary Grant, CMHF is able to bring you this new look. Gary is also responsible for the creation of our Facebook page.”
As is the case with any new project, the website is a work in progress. However, the hall hopes to keep the site informative and current.
And the CMHF is looking forward to your feedback. Just click on “contact” and submit any comments or questions.
Meantime, Andretti Autosport introduced its drivers lineup for 2013 on Wednesday and it’s the same as 2012 with two minor twists. Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay will carry the No. 1 on his car instead of his familiar 28 (although “28” is included in the livery) and Marco Andretti will drive car No. 25, instead of 26. They have their reasons. James Hinchcliffe of Oakville, meantime, will continue aboard the No. 27 Go Daddy car.
Conor Daly, the son of ex-F1 and Indy car star Derek Daly who cut many of his racing teeth on the Ontario Formula Ford circuit driving for Brian Graham, will test for A.J. Foyt's IndyCar team at Sebring soon. Daly had designs on a career in Formula One but the IndyCar test would indicate he’s going to Plan B. He’s smart. You have to be the absolute best and have all the connections and the money needed to get into F1. That’s a triple whammy and very few young athletes have all three. It’s why I really hoped Guelph’s Robert Wickens would have taken a crack at IndyCar a year ago when his path to F1 was blocked. Believe it or not, it might be too late now.
Here’s not very good news. The Star Mazda Series is for sale and whether a buyer can be found in time for the 2013 season is questionable. In a letter to drivers and sponsors, Star Mazda owner Gary Rodrigues said the series would fold if it can’t be sold.
It seems that it doesn’t only cost a fortune to go racing these days, it costs as much or more to build a platform for racing.
Here are the nominees for the Mario Andretti Trophy as the SPEED performer of the year:
2010 SPEED Performer of the Year Sebastian Vettel (F1), Fernando Alonso (F1), Brad Keselowski (NASCAR), Jorge Lorenzo (MotoGP), Casey Stoner (MotoGP), Ryan Hunter-Reay (IndyCar), Antron Brown (NHRA), Kyle Larson (USAC), Sammy Swindell (WoO), Sebastien Loeb (World Rally), Andre Lotterer (WEC), Max Biaggi (World Superbike), Scott Pruett (Grand-Am), Donny Schatz (WoO), Josh Hayes (AMA Pro Superbike) and Ryan Villopoto (Supercross).
Andretti will present the trophy, a 100-pound sculpture created by bronze artist Elie Hazak, as part of a SPEED Center special on Jan. 27.
Any guesses who'll win?
Posted at 07:17 PM in American Le Mans Series, Auto racing, Camping World Truck Series, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series, Honda Indy Toronto, IZOD IndyCar Series, James Hinchcliffe, Mosport International Raceway, NASCAR, NASCAR Canadian Tire, Ontario Formula Ford Challenge, Racing, Road racing, Robert Wickens, Sports, Stock car racing, Truck racing | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
If Danica Patrick wants to survive in NASCAR, she’s going to have to start fighting back.
She’s been wrecked, or nearly wrecked, in every Sprint Cup race she’s started this year.
Saturday night, it was obvious she was just getting too uppity – it was late in the race and she was on the lead lap and closing in on a strong top 20 finish (in the two Cup races she’d actually finished earlier this year, she was no threat to anybody) – so Regan Smith just went up the track and ran into her for no particular reason other than she was there and he felt like taking her out.
Now, NASCAR’s veterans think it’s hilarious to initiate rookies, particularly drivers who aren’t regulars. But it’s time for her to show them that enough is enough.
My advice to her today is simple: the next Sprint Cup start she gets, dump somebody. Pick a target and put him into the wall. Just do it. Send a warning to every driver out there: mess with me and I’m coming right back at ya.
Her boss, Tony Stewart, would approve, I’m sure. He let Matt Kenseth know how he felt on Saturday night. Yes, it was a little over the top when he threw his helmet at Kenseth after the two of them got together and crashed, but you can bet that Kenseth will have second thoughts about getting too close to Tony Stewart again this season.
And yes, I know Matt Kenseth is a tough guy in his own right and Tony Stewart didn’t exactly throw the fear of God into him with his little hissy fit. However, don’t ever kid yourself that Matt Kenseth won’t be thinking from now on about the possibility of getting wrecked every time Stewart goes to pass him or he goes to pass Stewart. Intimidation is the name of the game in big-league stock car racing and everybody has to learn how to play and that includes Danica Patrick.
Of course, if she starts fighting back on the track, that could open up another can of worms in the pits.
NASCAR drivers have been known to get physical. Not often, but it happens. Would anybody be foolish enough to take a swing at Patrick? Would she be foolish enough to take a swing at another driver? It’s not likely to happen – but it could.
And here’s another thing that some of those drivers would be wise to internalize: do any of them really want to be the driver whose deliberate actions result in her suffering a serious injury? Or worse?
The only time NASCAR will ever be on the front page of the New York Times is if Danica Patrick wins a race or, God forbid, what happened to Dan Wheldon happens to her.
I guarantee you that would be a disaster for NASCAR.
It is 2012 and sponsors might want to be associated with car racing on one hand but, on the other, they sure don’t want to be associated with a sport in which people are killed. Ten years ago, or 20, it was okay. Not any more.
IZOD has disappeared completely from the IndyCar series and that came about precisely because of what happened to Wheldon. The only reason IZOD’s name is still associated with that series is because of the contract.
And the same thing could happen to NASCAR if anything happened to Patrick.
Racing is racing and she’s out there taking her chances with everybody else. And when you have cars travelling in a pack at 150 or 200 miles an hour, negative things can and do happen.
But the next time somebody like Regan Smith sees Patrick and figures she’s an easy target, she might be – but to then take advantage of the situation might wind up doing far more harm to the sport than anybody realizes.
Patrick can help herself, and the sport, by letting everybody know now that it's time to lay off.
Oh, yeah: Denny Hamlin survived Bristol to win the Cup race. Jimmie Johnson was second and Jeff Gordon was third. Click here for story and results. There are two races left until the Chase field is set. Time for some people to get serious.
Friday night, Joey Logano won the Nationwide Series race – his sixth in that series this season. Click here for story and results.
Next weekend’s TV schedule illustrates perfectly why Randy Bernard is so keen to get IZOD IndyCar Series races off of TSN and onto one of Rogers Sportsnet ‘s national channels next year.
The Baltimore Grand Prix goes to the post next Sunday at 2:30 p.m. TSN has CFL football on the main channel that afternoon and U.S. Open tennis on TSN2. So they’re full up, it appears.
Rogers has a national channel plus four regional channels and their purchase of The Score this weekend will soon give them a second national channel.
So I will be surprised if all of the Indy car races in 2013 aren’t available live and in colour on one of Sportsnet’s national channels and I trust Bernard won’t sign a contract until he has that guarantee.
Meantime, I will likely listen to the Baltimore race in my car on my XM Satellite radio. Mike King and Davey Hamilton do a good job announcing. I discovered this when I was driving home from the drag races at Toronto Motorsport Park on a Saturday night in June and tuned into the Indy car race from Iowa Speedway.
It was kinda nice that night, bombing along Highway 6 South with the cruise control and the radio both on. The drag races had been terrific, the moon was bright and although I’d hoped to be home in time to watch the race on TV, the King-Hamilton broadcast on XM meant I didn’t miss a thing.
Now, I don’t want to be too critical of TSN. They reacted really well last year when I complained that they had filler stuff on TSN2 the second day of Indianapolis 500 time trials. Low and behold, somebody was paying attention and they threw out all the recorded stuff and put the time trials on live.
And next Sunday, they are televising the F1 race from Belgium in the morning and the very important NASCAR race from Atlanta on Sunday night. So thank you for that.
But do we really need 11 hours of U.S. Open tennis? Starting at 11 a.m. and continuing to 11 p.m. except for an hour of SportsCentre at 6? And this isn’t even the finals. We’re talking the third round here.
Is there no way to sneak in two hours of car racing at 2:30 in the afternoon (we can skip all the pre-race stuff)? Except for the people watching the race, I betcha hardly anyone will notice. . .
Meantime, the race from Sonoma yesterday – which was shown live at 4 p.m. on TSN2 (hooraaayyy!!!) – featured some great driving (winner Ryan Briscoe was perfect from start to finish and his pit crew was even better, essentially winning him the race at the last pit stop), some really sloppy driving (Helio Castroneves clipping Scott Dixon, Alex Tagliani knocking Ryan Hunter-Reay out of contention) and one of the scariest crashes seen in recent years.
Will Power finished second and, with two races remaining in the 2011 season, seems to be heading toward his first national IndyCar championship. He currently holds a 36-point lead over second-place Hunter-Reay with Castroneves five points further back. Dario Franchitti was third and F1 refugee Rubens Barrichello recorded a career-high IndyCar race finish of fourth.
The crash featured veteran Sebastien Bourdais and rookie Josef Newgarden. Bourdais lost his steering and, unable to control his car, essentially pushed Newgarden off the track and into a retaining wall that was protected by several rows of tires.
As ex-racer, team owner and colour commentator Robbie Buhl noted, the combination of the tires and the HANS device likely saved Newgarden from serious harm.
He did suffer an injury to one of his fingers because he held onto the steering wheel instead of letting it go. Remember the ribbing Danica took when she crashed for the first time in NASCAR and an in-car camera showed her letting go? Now they all do, because there’s a reason for it and Josef Newgarden’s broken finger illustrates exactly why.
James Hinchcliffe of Oakville had a rotten weekend and dropped out with mechanical problems. He was credited with 26th place in the 27-car race.
One last thing about the Indy car race. Hunter-Reay was the victim when Tagliani went up the inside during a late-race restart and couldn’t stop, hitting RHR, spinning him around and really hurting his chances for the championship. But moments later, RHR ran into E.J. Viso and spun him around.
After the race, Hunter-Reay went to see Tagliani to "discuss" the incident between them. I was kinda hoping Viso would show up to give hell to Hunter-Reay for running into him – but no such luck.
Oh, Chevrolet clinched the engine manufacturer's championship when Briscoe crossed the finish line and Simon Pagenaud won rookie of the year. However, Pagenaud is a former Champ Car World Series driver and a veteran of the American Le Mans Series so, in my books, he ain’t no rookie.
Other weekend racing:
– Uxbridge native Alex Welsh captured his first career Canadian Pro Superbike victory Sunday at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. It was one of the most exciting Superbike finishes in series history.
Jordan Szoke of Brantford, who won his record eighth national title on Saturday, finished second and Kevin Lacombe of St-Cesaire, Que., finished third.
The three riders went back-and-forth for all 20 laps before Welsh went low on the last turn to squeeze past and take the checkered flag.
Lacombe was later disqualified for a technical violation. Bodhi Edie of Warman, Sask., was elevated to a podium finish.
In Moto GP action at the circuit in Brno, Czech Republic, Dani Pedrosa beat Jorge Lorenzo to the line in another thriller.
By the way, the photo at the top of this report was taken by John Walker and shows Alex Welsh leading Jordan Szoke and the rest of the Canadian Pro Superbike field.
– Canada’s Robert Wickens played bumper cars on the first lap of the German Touring Car Series (DTM) race at Zandvoort, Holland, on Sunday and a 12th-place qualifying effort for Mercedes went for naught.
As Autosport.com reported, Wickens and Miguel Molina collided twice on the run to the first corner; the Spaniard ending up beached in the gravel at the Tarzan turn, while the Canadian was spun by Christian Vietoris two turns later and collected within seconds by Rahel Frey. All three retired.
The race was won by Edoardo Mortara in an Audi. Canadian Bruno Spengler finished sixth for BMW to keep his championship hopes alive.
– Audi won the manufacturers championship in the first year of the new FIA World Endurance Championship when Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler drove their Audi e-tron quattro the 2012 Six Hours of Silverstone on Sunday.
– It’s hardly worth mentioning . . . but Sebastien Loeb won his seventh World Rally Championship event of the season, and his fifth straight, when he won the German Rally for the ninth time at the weekend. When I say it’s hardly worth mentioning, what I mean is: who else?
Posted at 01:39 AM in American Le Mans Series, Auto racing, cars, Danica Patrick, Formula One, IZOD IndyCar Series, James Hinchcliffe, Mosport International Raceway, Motorcycle racing, NASCAR, Racing, Racing on TV, Road racing, Robert Wickens, Sports | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
When I enjoyed my first conversation of the 2012 season with AIM Autosport of Woodbridge team principal Ian Willis, it was in February at the Canadian Motorsports Expo and he was telling me how thrilled he was to be running full-time in the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series with – wait for it – a Ferrari.
Willis and AIM are no strangers when it comes to big-league sports car racing, having campaigned a Daytona Prototype for years with drivers like Mark Wilkins, Bruno Junqueira and Burt and Brian Frisselle.
But the Ferrari deal came out of the blue when an old friend, Grand Am driver Nick Longhi, telephoned Willis to chat.
"I’ve known Nick since he was an instructor at the Bridgestone Racing School," Willis said. "He called to say that he and others were working on a deal to run a Ferrari in the GT class of the Rolex series.
"Nick operated the Ferrari driving experience up at Mont Tremblant and is very well connected within the Ferrari network. He thought of us because he knows we’re capable of winning in the Grand Am series (two Daytona Prototype victories in 2008, for example) and he figured we would be a great fit.
Willis said it wasn’t a slam-dunk, though; that other teams were in the mix. In the end, it was the municipality where their business is located that might very well have sealed the deal for them.
"Ferrari is Italy’s team, it’s Italy’s brand," he said. "Woodbridge, where we're based, is 50 per cent Italian-speaking and that really opened the door for us."
He said he and the drivers went to Italy to get the car and they did a shakedown test at Fiorano, the official Ferrari test track.
"It’s hallowed ground," Willis said. "Emil (Assentato) sent me a note afterward and said it was like a country priest visiting the Vatican. Me? I just kept pinching myself."
So that was in February. The next time I talked to Willis was a month or so ago on Bayview Ave. in midtown Toronto. He and his sweetheart were out for a stroll with their young pup dog in tow, or the dog had them in tow, I’m not sure which. In any event, we talked about the season to date.
"Our goal is to win the championship," he said at the time (as of today, with two races remaining, both in September, Segal and Assentato are in first place in the GT driver standings, AIM is in first place among teams and Ferrari leads all manufacturers ).
"We’re on a one-year contract and our long-range plan is to grow to two cars for 2013. We’re working toward a Canadian sister car for the one we have now, which has an all-American lineup (Assentato is from New York and Segal is from Miami and Philadelphia).
"The nice thing about being Canadian is there are a lot of good Canadian drivers to choose from. Daniel Morad drove for us. There’s also Robbie Wickens, James Hinchcliffe, Andrew Ranger, Jacques Villeneuve, Mark Wilkins. They’re all good drivers.
"But right now, that’s pretty far way. Our focus is to get a championship for this car and our drivers. That’s our priority. Hopefully, the rest will fall into place."
The last race of the Rolex season is at Lime Rock, Conn., the weekend of Sept. 28-29. After that, Wilkins might know more about next year.
I’ll phone him up then and find out. And I’ll bring you up to date, too.
Posted at 11:31 PM in Auto racing, Canadian Motorsports Expo, cars, Ferrari, Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series, James Hinchcliffe, Racing, Robert Wickens, Sports, Sports car racing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Musings, ramblings and confessions after a weekend of auto racing:
– You have to laugh about everything that’s happened to poor Danica Patrick this year, her first full-time season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. She’s done just fine qualifying and the speed is there but Murphy’s Law has never been more clearly defined than when applied to her when she's road-course racing.
Earlier this year, at Road America, she was less than a half-lap from a top five finish when Jacques Villeneuve forgot to brake and knocked her off the track.
Last week at Watkins Glen, she was on the inside going into Turn One when a car that went flying past her on the grass re-entered the track right in front of her and stopped. She had nowhere to go and hit it dead-on, knocking her out of the race.
Saturday at le Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal, she qualified fourth and was leading the race - leading - when somebody threw a shoe on the track and she hit it. I mean, really. She had other mechanical problems but when she hit that shoe her race went south, so the timing couldn’t have been worse.
One of these days, she will win and that will get the monkey off her back. There’s no doubt the talent’s there; she’s just got to get it all together – speed, strategy, race craft and, most important for her, luck.
Justin Allgaier won his first road-course race at Montreal and the third of his Nationwide career, with Sam Hornish Jr. second and Jacques Villeneuve third. Details here
Now, it has been suggested by some that NASCAR kept throwing yellows so that a "regular" could win the race instead of a ringer, particularly if said ringer happened to be the son of the guy the Montreal circuit’s named after.
If not for the phantom yellows that left him low on fuel, or so go the the theories, Jacques Villeneuve would have won the race.
Now, JV denied that he was running out of gas on the final lap (although he did run out on the cooldown lap) and lost the race because Allgaier ran into him. Maybe. But there’s no doubt he was worred he was going to stall out because he was running noticeably slower on the last lap than the eventual winner.
Having said that, Allgaier didn’t have any fuel problems, so if NASCAR was playing fast and loose with the yellows, it didn’t appear to hurt him.
And nobody was shedding any tears for Villeneuve anyway. The Danica punt in Wisconsin was still fresh in everybody’s mind and he turned Alex Tagliani around late in the Montreal race. The fact that he was angry after being hit by Allgaier was really very amusing. Did somebody say it was like the pot calling the kettle black?
Two other quick notes: For the last fillup, Allgaier pitted later than the others, which explains why he had more fuel when the race got down to the short strokes. And why did he do that? Because at Road America in 2011, he ran out of fuel on the last lap. He obviously learned a lesson.
Oh, and Ron Fellows, Mississauga’s most famous athlete, finished fifth a week ago at Watkins Glen and was fifth at Montreal on Saturday. He is an absolutely incredible race driver.
– NASCAR hasn’t got a clue about yellows on road courses, period, as we saw at Montreal, and they sometimes over-react on ovals, too. David Gilliland lost control early in the Michigan Sprint Cup race Sunday afternoon and went flying through the infield grass but then got straightened out and went back on the track, albeit half a lap behind.
But he didn’t hit the wall and there was no damage or debris anywhere. But as soon as he started sliding, the yellow was on and there was really no need for it.
It’s a good excuse to close up the pack, though. Isn’t it . . . ?
– In the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race at Montreal, J.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge won, with Andrew Ranger of Roxton Pond, Que., second and Robin Buck of Campbellville third. Scott Steckly of Milverton was fourth, he’s the defending national champion, and the leader of this year’s championship chase, D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas, finished fifth. Next race is at Barrie Speedway Sept. 8.
- As NASCAR doesn’t have a clue about yellow flags on road courses, neither does it have a clue so far as passes for the lead on road courses are concerned. Their rule is that in the case of a yellow, the order of finish from the last completed lap will be the order for the restart. Fine on ovals, stinks on road courses.
Ranger had passed Fitzpatrick fair and square and was clear and away in front of him when somebody spun at the back of the pack and since they all hadn’t completed the lap, the order had to revert to the previous . . . yada, yada, yada – you know what I’m saying, eh? – and when they restarted the race J.R. was back in first and Ranger was second and that is not fair, not fair, not fair. (I sound like Jack Lemon as Prof. Fate in The Great Race. . .)
– Okay, moving right along, I apologize for making the same mistake over and over. Every time I write anything about Lewis Hamilton, I say he’s won two world championships. Of course, he’s only won one but that hasn’t seemed to penetrate my thick skull. The latest example was in a story I wrote on the weekend that appeared on wheels.ca and in Toronto Star Wheels. I could change it online but not in the paper. Sorry.
It’s like every time I go to write 1996. It always comes out 1969. Why?
– They say auto racing has the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. We saw both in the Sprint Cup race at Michigan Sunday.
With nine laps to go, Jimmie Johnson took the lead in the race and the TV cameras showed his crew chief, Chad Knaus, fist-pumping with delight. Three laps later, his engine let go and Greg Biffle went blowing by him.
Biffle went on to win the race and Johnson drove straight to the garage area. He passed a dejected Knaus, who was walking in the same direction. Details here
Remember that Grand Prix of Monaco a half-dozen years ago, in 2006, when Kimi Raikkonen dropped out while in second place and he got out of his car and was so angry that he kept his helmet on while he walked around the course to his yacht in the harbour, where he disappeared below decks?
Well, Johnson got out of his car yesterday and didn’t take off his helmet. He walked from his car, between several transport trucks and through the hospitality area on the way to his motorhome.
He was obviously so upset that one of his PR aides, a woman, started to follow him and then thought better of it, staying behind in the garage area.
It's not often that you see Jimmie Johnson so browned off.
– By the way, while the Nationwide stock cars were at Montreal, the Camping World Truck Series was the support race for the Sprint Cup cars in Michigan and that race Saturday was won by Nelson Piquet Jr.
Piquet, who was forced to leave Formula One after admitting to participation in the conspiracy to fix the Singapore GP in 2008, would appear to have completed his rehabilitation. Look for him to move up to Sprint Cup before long.
– Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas won the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series race at Montreal on Saturday. Paul Tracy was third (with others). Alex Tagliani finished seventh. John Edwards and Robin Liddell won in GT. Jeff Segal and Emil Assentato driving the AIM Autosport of Woodbridge Ferrari were second in GT. Paul Dalla Lana of Toronto, who was featured in Wheels last weekend and who won the GT class at Watkins Glen a week ago, had a miserable race in Montreal and didn’t finish. There were only 21 cars in the Montreal race – and people can make as many excuses as they want but it’s the border. Americans competing in semi-professionals series like the Grand Am Rolex and the American Le Mans Series and who are field-fillers will run all the races in the U.S. and skip the ones up here. It’s a shame.
– At Road America, where 35 cars showed up for the American le Mans Series race (as compared to 26 that started the ALMS race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park/Mosport in July, see?), the closest finish in the history of the series took place with the P1 Lola-Mazda entry of Chris Dyson and Guy Smith defeating Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr in their Muscle Milk HPD ARX-Honda by 0.083 seconds.
Tony Burgess of Toronto (and others) was third overall. Martin Plowman and David Heinemeier were first in P2, Tom Kimber-Smith, Jon Bennett and Alex Powpow were first in Prototype Challenge (Kyle Marcelli of Barrie, and others, who was on pole in PC, finished third in class and seventh overall), Bill Auberlen and Jorg Muller were winners in the GT class and Cooper MacNeil and Jeroen Bleekemolen were first in GT Challenge.
By the way, P2 driver Scott Tucker finished 11th and 12th overall in the race and third and fourth in the Prototype 2 class. How?
He teamed with Christophe Bouchut in one car – he did the first stint of driving – and with Luis Diaz in the second – he drove the final stint in the second car.
– In Canadian Touring Car Championship action at Montreal, Sasha Annis won the first race in Super Touring, with Jocelyn Hebert tops in Touring Class and Karl Wittmer in B-Spec. In the second race, Marc-Antoine Camirand was the winner in Super Touring, Damon Sharpe won Touring Class and Wittmer repeated in B-Spec.
The Touring Car championship will wrap its season over Labour Day weekend at Calabogie Motorports Park.
– Robbie Wickens of Guelph and Toronto had his best weekend in the German Touring Car Championship since he started his rookie season in the spring. He qualified ninth and finished seventh at the Nurburgring driving for Mercedes. Canadian driver Bruno Spengler won the race in a BMW.
– In World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series action, Sammy Swindell got over his disappointment at missing out on starting the Knoxville Nationals by winning the feature at Grand Forks, N.D., at the weekend.
In other sprint car news, Dustin Daggett of Grand Ledge, Mich., won the Northern Summer Nationals Championship by finishing first in the feature at Chatham-area South Buxton Speedway Saturday night.
- And two weeks out from the Budweiser Oswego Classic 200 for supermodifieds, Joe Gosek won his 42nd feature at the famous northern New York Oswego Speedway, which puts him fourth on the all-time win list behind Eddie Bellinger Jr., Bentley Warren and Jim Shampine.
And by finishing fifth in the super feature, Otto Sitterly of Canajoharie, N.Y., won his fifth Oswego Speedway track championship. I think Sitterly has one of the neatest names in all of auto racing, right up there with Parnelli Jones. I also think Otto has the talent to go to Indy. His sometimes-supermodified teammate, Davey Hamilton, could help pave the way.
Posted at 11:58 PM in American Le Mans Series, Auto racing, Camping World Truck Series, cars, Castrol Canadian Touring Car Championship, Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, Danica Patrick, DTM, Formula One, Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series, NASCAR, NASCAR Canadian Tire, Oswego Supermodifieds, Racing, Racing on TV, Renault scandal, Robert Wickens, Sports, World of Outlaws | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
I don't have a reason to publish this photo (off the Autosport website) except that the smiling fellow whose face is directly to the right of Mark Webber's is none other than Gavin Ward of Toronto, who is Webber's trackside race engineer. The F1 season continues next weekend with the Grand Prix of Spain.
MEANTIME, MARCELLI RELISHES PORSCHE GT3 RIDE; CANADIAN WINS DTM RACE. . . BUT FIRST:
Brad Keselowski won the Talladega 500 Sunday afternoon by scooting away at the last second and avoiding a last-lap slingshot by Kyle Busch.
But even before the checkered flag had stopped waving, people were talking about the race at Darlington next Saturday night in which Danica Patrick will return to the Sprint Cup fold.
TV commercials were intoning "Danica at Darlington" during the ‘Dega race and the timing couldn’t be more perfect because of something that happened during the Nationwide Series race at Talladega on Saturday that has both Danica lovers and Danica haters talking.
At the finish of the Nationwide race, Patrick (she finished 13th) was on the outside of Sam Hornish Jr. (12th) when Hornish says his car blew a right-front tire. Hornish’s car went up the speedway and crunched Patrick’s against the outside wall. As both cars then went into the first turn, Patrick hooked Hornish’s rear and turned him into the wall.
Now, if Kevin Harvick or Kyle Busch or Tony Stewart had done that to Hornish, everybody would have nodded knowingly and opined that Sam got what he deserved. Flat tire or no flat tire, you just don’t put somebody into the wall for no reason.
But because it was Danica Patrick, lightning rod that she is, people were either calling for her head or making excuses for her.
NASCAR, of course, knows a good thing when it sees it, so I don’t think she will be fined or suspended, mainly because she’s a first-time offender. They’ll give her a talking-to, for sure, because what she did – although certainly not as violent – was every bit as serious as Kyle Busch’s attack on Joe Nemechek late last season.
But at the end of the day, it’s good for business because NASCAR is looking for record ratings in prime-time next Saturday night from Darlington and Danica Patrick will probably help deliver them.
And the guy she drives for in the Sprint Cup, Tony Stewart, probably wouldn’t have taken that little love tap from Sam Hornish either. In fact, I bet as part of his tutoring, Tony has warned Patrick not to let anybody push her around.
So she was just showing the Boss that she takes lessons well.
Oh, still wondering about that Talladega 500?
On a green-white-checkered finish, Kyle Busch tucked in behind Keselowski and pushed him around the outside of the field and into the lead. Everybody anticipated that Busch would stick with Keselowski and then duck either high or low and slingshot past him for the win as they approached the finish line.
But something happened to disrupt the scenario: Keselowski went into the third turn high up the track and then dove to the bottom, breaking the connection. He managed to stay clear of his chaser through the checkers.
Matt Kenseth finished third, Kasey Kahne was fourth and Greg Biffle finished fifth.
"Survived" is actually a more fitting word. There were four wrecks in the last 45 laps. Nobody was hurt but there was a ton of property damage.
Full race details here.
A CONVERSATION WITH KYLE MARCELLI
Two weeks from now, during the Victoria Day Speedfest Weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Kyle Marcelli of Barrie will drive the Pfaff Castrol Motorsports entry in the opening race of the 2012 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge.
Pfaff Motors of Newmarket has been a strong supporter of Canadian racing for years and years. Marcelli has raced – successfully – in karts, Formula Ford, U.S. Formula 2000, Star Mazda, the Canadian Touring Car Championship, IMSA Lights and the American Le Mans Series Challenge class.
It’s always been a struggle for him, though. He’s always had to "bring money" – until this particular ride came along.
But I’ll let him tell you about it. I caught up with him last Thursday evening at the Thompson Hotel downtown, where Pfaff held a reception to promote its involvement in the Porsche series.
Norris McDonald: When was the last time you were in a racing car with a roof on it?
Kyle Marcelli: That would have been in ‘07. I drove one race in a Saab 9-3 in the Canadian Touring Car Championship. That was the only time, actually.
NM: Is this going to be a big change for you? You’re an open-cockpit kind of guy. A little claustrophobia maybe?
KM: I love the enclosed Porsche, actually. I was blown away yesterday when I got behind the wheel of the car. It was the first real GT car that I’ve driven; there’s just so much in it, I never even found the limit. I wouldn’t say it’s similar to a prototype (in the Le Mans series) or a single seater because it’s not. It takes a different driving style. You can definitely feel the weight in the car. It rolls around a little bit differently but, all in all, it’s a very impressive car.
NM: Did you call them or did they call you for this gig?
KM: This is the first time that I did not have to pound on the door! The call came to me actually last August. At that time, we were eligible to compete as part of the championship (during the GT3 series’ first season) and collect points. Since then, our eligibility has been denied and we’re going to be racing as a "guest" car.
NM: Explain that, please. Is it because you’re a professional driver (in a series designed for non-professional drivers)?
KM: In a nutshell, yes. The series is designed for, I guess, amateur racers or up-and-comers and there is a ranking system in place – bronze, silver, gold and platinum: every driver has a ranking – I have a gold ranking and I’m denied eligibility because this series is for bronze and silver. Last August, I was eligible but I won a couple of ALMS races between then and now and that’s what has denied us eligibility.
NM: Success is a bugger sometimes, isn’t it?
KM: It still serves as a good marketing opportunity for Chris Pfaff and Pfaff Automotive and it’s a good opportunity for me to be involved with Porsche and hopefully it develops a good relationship.
NM: Compare this car to your ALMS car. Is this more powerful?
KM: It’s about the same horsepower. It’s just as quick – actually, maybe a lttle quicker in a straight line. But in the prorototype we have a lot more downforce, we generate a lot more overall grip, our braking power is stronger so we’d be about 10 seconds a lap quicker in a prototype here (Mosport) but driving the Porsche is still a real thrill.
NM: Are you going to do the whole series – five or six races?
KM: Except one – the Mont Tremblant race is in conflict with an ALMS race so Jeff Pabst will drive that weekend
NM: How is your ALMS season going?
KM: It’s good – I have a seat at the end of the day. It came together two weeks before Sebring and I’m driving in the Challenge class. This is my third season in LMPC and I’m the professional in what’s a pro-am class. I’m sharing the seat with three brothers. They’re alternating race-by-race so we’ve had two races so far and I’ve had two different co-drivers. It’s difficult to get these guys up to speed right away; they’re doing a good job, it’s just a matter of getting them comfortable.
NM: You are a successful race driver. You have won races and showed you have talent. Are you starting to get a little antsy that nobody’s actually hired you?
KM: I am a little bit. I’m still young - I’m 22 - but I do have to get something with a manufacturer. I’m hoping that this leads to something with Porsche. I know I was on the radar with GM over the years but nothing has come together. I do my best when I'm out there. I mean, last year I had three pole positions, three race wins, eight podiums - it was a good year for us and I really thought something was going to come together but it didn’t and we just have to keep on keepin’ on."
Bruno Spengler, a French-born Canadian citizen (Saint-Hyppolite, Que.) won the German Touring Car Championship (DTM) race Sunday at the Lausitz Circuit. It was BMW’s first win in the series in 20 years and Spengler’s tenth trip to Victory Lane (he won his first nine races for Mercedes).
The other Canadian in the field, Robert Wickens of Guelph and Toronto, was running 10th and looked sure to score his first DTM point when his Mercedes ground to a halt with mechanical problems with four laps to go.
Wickens said after the race that he still wasn’t discouraged.
"I have made some progress despite this," he said. "I’ll now focus all of my efforts on Brands Hatch (May 20) and hopefully pick up my first DTM points there."
Casey Stoner won the Moto GP race Sunday at Estoril in Portugal on a Honda. Jorge Lorenzo was second aboard a Yamaha and Dani Pedrosa finished third on a Honda.
Romain Dumas, Loic Duval and Marc Gene finished first in an Audi at the Six Hours of Spa race Saturday in Belgium. Actually, Audi finished top four with the e-tron hybrid versions ending up second and fourth.
I mentioned in my weekend post that Indy car star Davey Hamilton (and now Indy car team owner in partnership with Sam Schmidt) would race at New York's Oswego Speedway Saturday night. Well, he did, finishing second in the first feature of the year behind defending Oswego Classic 200 champion Otto Sitterly. Sprint car star Jessica Zemken was 22nd in the 25-car field.
Sammy Swindell is 56 but you sure wouldn’t know it. He’s leading the World of Outlaws sprint car standings after 15 races.
Two things to note:
One, there is no more intense racing anywhere than on the Outlaws circuit. F1, IndyCar, NASCAR are all walks in the park compared to a 30-lap WoO feature.
Second, the grind of running that circuit is right up there with professional wrestling. The performers (the racers, the rasslers) never get a day off. They are either working on/repairing the cars in motel parking lots, in transit from city to city, or racing.
That is a challenge when you are 25, never mind 55 and Swindell at 56 is a marvel of determination and drive. Sammy’s had some problems in the marketing and PR departments over the years but there’s no denying that he’s a real racer.
Posted at 10:40 PM in American Le Mans Series, Auto racing, Castrol Canadian Touring Car Championship, Danica Patrick, Formula One, Grand Prix of Canada, Le Circuit-Mont Tremblant, Mosport International Raceway, NASCAR, Racing, Robert Wickens, Sports, Sprint cars, World of Outlaws | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
1. Will Power wins IndyCar race – and why isn’t he in F1?
2. Toronto-based team, Ferrari, win big in Grand Am
3. Canadians fail to score points in first DTM race; other racing
Precede: Tom Cotter, one of the world’s most sophisticated PR people, was on Speed TV’s Wind Tunnel program last night and illustrated why he’s so good at what he does.
Guest host Bob Varsha reminded viewers that Bernie Ecclestone had mused at last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix that the New Jersey Grand Prix, tentatively scheduled for 2013, might not happen until 2014.
So Varsha put it to Cotter - who was out of the PR business and writing books before being enticed back by New Jersey race interests: what, exactly, is going on? Cotter, old pro that he is, talked and talked but didn’t answer the question – although, to be fair, he hinted later in the interview at what might be the difficulty when he said they can’t start selling tickets to any F1 race till that year’s schedule is formally issued.
So, although the circuit in New Jersey (across the Hudson River from New York) will likely be ready to go well in advance of spring/summer 2013, a reading of the tea leaves suggests Bernie was hinting that the race might not make it onto the F1 calendar until 2014.
Or maybe not.
1. Power proves (again) he’s in a class by himself
Will Power won the IZOD IndyCar Series race in Brazil Sunday for his third victory of the four-race 2012 season. He’s won two of the four poles so far this season and it was his third consecutive victory in Brazil.
Second-place went to Ryan Hunter-Reay while third went to Takuma Sato, who made it to the podium all the way from the back of the grid where he’d been sent because of an "unauthorized" engine change (see comment below).
James Hinchcliffe of Oakville came home sixth after starting fourth. Hinch had a good race, considering he lost three positions in the early laps because his car wasn’t handling. In fact, he led the race at one point.
He’s third in the standings with 123 points after four races. Power leads with 180, followed by Helio Castroneves (fourth Sunday) with 135. Full story and results here.
– Power is almost unbeatable every time he climbs into an Indy car. Nobody has been faster on pure speed this season and when it comes to race craft, he is a master. He’s a clean racer, too.
I know that F1 is all about the money and that Power is not a ride-buyer. But if talent counts for anything these days, and if given a chance, I have no doubt he would capture attention in F1.
– Speaking of F1, an interested spectator in Sao Paulo was Ferrari driver Felipe Massa, who spent much of the time over the weekend hanging around with ex-F1 star Rubens Barrichello. In fact, Massa accompanied Rubens to a post-session engineering de-briefing. Might Massa be the next F1 driver to sign on with an IndyCar team?
– The rigidity of the people running the IndyCar series continued apace as four more drivers – Sato, Katherine Legge, Sebastien Bourdais and Oriole Servia – were penalized 10 grid positions for "unauthorized" engine changes (you can’t change an engine in IndyCar until it runs x-number of miles, even though this is an engine transition year and teams are swapping power plants left and right because they keep either blowing up or preparing to blow up).
And Justin Wilson’s car – he’d qualified it sixth – was sent to the back at the start because it flunked post-qualifying inspection. Its sin? In IndyCar, you have to have a tiny little TV camera on your car or else a dummy camera and Wilson didn’t. Off with his head!
– Okay, now get this: IndyCar has penalized every driver in the field for an engine change at one time or another this season. They penalized more than half the field at Long Beach, making for all kinds of fun: some drivers were penalized 10 places (Hinchcliffe) and others were only penalized four. J.R. Hildebrand, for instance, only had to go from 16th back to 20th because there were so many penalized drivers behind him that there wasn’t room for him to go back any further. (I mean, how stupid.)
But for the Indy 500, they’ve cancelled that rule. You can make any number of unauthorized engine changes during the month of May but you won’t be penalized. You will only serve the penalties at the race, or races, following Indianapolis.
"We do not intend to apply any penalties that will disrupt the Indy 500 starting field from their qualifying positions," IndyCar vice president of technology Will Phillips said. "We’re not saying there will not be any penalties; the penalties just won’t be served at Indianapolis. They’ll carry that penalty forward to the next event. Likewise, if someone racks up two penalties, they will go forward to the next two events."
Maybe even three, four or five events. If Dragon Racing changes engines four or five times in May (it’s possible; they’re running Lotus’s), Sebastien Bourdais and or Katherine Legge could be penalized 10 grid positions at the Honda Indy Toronto in July!
(Which makes Toronto race fans second-class citizens, when you think about it. They won't penalize drivers at Indy because it's a really important race but they will penalize them at Fort Worth of Milwaukee or Toronto because those aren't really important races.
(If you know what you are doing, you penalize drivers across the board, like they do with jockeys in horse racing. If a jockey is set down 10 days for rough riding, and the Kentucky Derby is five days later, he or she can't ride in the Derby. Think Ron Turcotte and Secretariat's last race in Toronto. Turcotte couldn't ride Big Red at Woodbine because he was under suspension for something that happened at Aqueduct.
(Which is the way it should be. The engine change rule in IndyCar is ludicrous but it is what it is and if you change an engine at Indy, you should be penalized at Indy.)
I’m actually beginning to think the whole IndyCar rules thing is farce.
Here’s another example. John Barnes, who runs Panther Racing and has been one of the most loyal car owners in recent years (one of those guys who – like the late Carl Hogan – spends a lot of his own money to keep his team going) was fined $25,000 and put on probation till the end of the year for Tweeting this: "Today is the day to resolve TURBOGATE! I hope @indcar gets their act together. It has been embarrassing."
Nothing like speaking the truth – but for that, it’s off with his head!
– Turbogate, by the way, came about because Honda, which has been getting its ass kicked by Chevy since the first race of the year, complained to IndyCar that it needed more power, and IndyCar said, sure, go ahead and make changes to your turbocharger. Chevrolet (correctly, I say) then complained that IndyCar was changing the rules after the game had started. The Barnes Tweet referred to the day of the appeal – which Chevy lost, by the way.
So I have to ask: Does Chevy really need the IndyCar series? Really need it? We’re going to find out at the end of the contract, aren’t we?
– There was a great crowd in Sao Paulo, as there was in Long Beach two weeks ago. The IndyCar series seems to be on the upswing. Will that carry through to Toronto? Let’s cross our fingers and hope so.
AIM Autosport Ferrari wins GT Class at Miami race
It was raining so hard Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway that all the animals were running around in pairs. That explains why the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Race received the checkered flag with an hour still remaining in the two-hour, 45-minute event.
Ricky Taylor and Max Angelelli driving a Corvette Daytona Prototype won, with Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas second in a BMW-Riley and Darren Law and David Donohue third in a Corvette.
Big news for Canadian race fans, however, was the first victory for the AIM Autosport of Woodbridge Ferrari 458 Italia Grand Am in only its third race. Jeff Seagl and Emil Assentato did the driving.
Here is a report from Adam Saal:
Combined with a second-place finish one race ago at Barber Motorsports Park and an eighth-place showing in January’s season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, the No. 69 Ferrari team and its drivers have taken an early-season lead in the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series GT Team and Driver Championship standings.
"It was a great day for us," Segal said. "We’ve put a lot of hard work into this program, getting this new Ferrari up to speed, and there’s just been a lot of work behind the scenes by Ferrari and Michelotto, and a lot of hard work by AIM Autosport Team FXDD to adapt to this car. I’m really happy for all of them.
"I’m excited about the direction this program is heading. Obviously, we have a lot of races left to go, but I think everybody is comfortable with the car, we’re comfortable with each other, so we’re hoping that this is the start of a good run this season."
The only other Canadian in the Rolex race, Toronto’s Paul Dalla Lana, finished 10th in GT in a BMW M3.
The day before, in the Continental Tire Series race, David Empringham and John Farano of Toronto finished second in a Porsche Carrera. Dalla Lana was fourth in a BMW M3 Coupe. Ashley McCalmont of Ancaster, who’s being coached these days by Kenny Wilden, was 13th in a Camaro GS.R.
Toronto’s Compass360 Racing team had four cars entered in the ST class and recorded fifth, tenth, 13th and 27th-place finishes. Multimatic Motorsports of Markham had cars finish ninth and 24th in ST and 15th in GS.
3. Spengler, Wickens blanked in Germany; other races
The German Touring Car Series season got going in Hockenheim, Germany, Sunday and the two Canadians in the 22-driver field, failed to score points.
In fact, Spengler, of St. Hypolite, Que., who was fastest in morning warmup in his BMW, was crashed out after only a few laps.
Wickens, of Guelph and Toronto and seen as a potential F1 driver, finished 14th in his Mercedes but was pretty much eliminated early in the contest when he was assessed a drive-through penalty for speeding in pit lane.
The race was won Mercedes driver Gary Paffett.
In Moto GP competition at the Jerez circuit in Spain, Casey Stoner won the race with Jorge Lorenzo second and Dani Pedrosa third.
Ryan Dungey won the Supercross in Salt Lake City.
NASCAR links below.
Posted at 10:40 PM in Auto racing, DTM, Formula One, Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series, Honda Indy Toronto, Indy 500, IZOD IndyCar Series, James Hinchcliffe, NASCAR, Racing, Robert Wickens, Sports | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Wonderful news from Germany this morning.
Robert Wickens, the only Canadian racing driver to hold a Superlicence that would allow him to race in Formula One, has been signed to drive for the new Mercedes-Benz Junior Team in the German Touring Car Championship (DTM) in 2012.
And the team will be coached by seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher.
Wickens has been a rising star in the world of motorsport from almost the moment he stepped into a racing go-kart. A move into single-seaters brought a Formula BMW-USA championship and sponsorship/guidance from Red Bull Racing.
He was Rookie of the Year in the old Champ Car Atlantic Series and then moved to Europe where he finished second in successive Formula 2 and GP3 championships before winning the World Series by Renault Formula 3/5 title in 2011.
Although his move to the DTM was an open secret, Wickens was unable to publicly confirm (or deny) it untiul the team made an announcement, which came today.
Wickens is one of three young drivers who will be given every opportunity to show their stuff with the carrot of an F1 ride at the end of the stick.
It’s interesting that Schumacher will coach the team as he might very well select the driver to succeed him at Mercedes F1 when he retires.
Following is the media release Mercedes-Benz sent out this morning:
Serving as role model and mentor to the Junior Team will be Michael Schumacher. The veteran Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula 1 driver will bring all his experience to bear from seven world championship titles and 91 Grand Prix victories.
Schumacher himself also benefited from the Mercedes-Benz program in the years 1990 and 1991, when he lined up alongside Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Karl Wendlinger with Sauber Mercedes in the Sports Prototype Championship.
Schumacher, Frentzen (156 Grand Prix starts, 3 wins, 1997 World Championship runner-up) and Wendlinger (41 Grand Prix starts) all succeeded in making the step up to Formula One.
Christian Vietoris enters his second DTM season in 2012. The 23-year-old finished his rookie season on four points, his best race result being fifth place in the race at Oschersleben.
Roberto Merhi and Robert Wickens are both about to make their DTM debut this season.
Merhi has been a member of the Mercedes-Benz young drivers program since 2008, winning the 2011 Formula 3 Euro Series title in a Dallara-Mercedes as well as the first-ever FIA Formula 3 International Trophy.
As a reward for this success, he was invited to test drive the new DTM Mercedes AMG C-Coupé at the end of the 2011 season.
Wickens won the 2011 Formula Renault 3.5 World Series championship, posting five victories along the way. Later that same year, he gained his first experience of Formula One in a series of test drives for Marussia Virgin Racing and Lotus Renault GP.
Encouraging young talent in motorsport has a long tradition at Mercedes-Benz. Since the inaugural Formula 3 Euro Series in 2003, 13 drivers have made the breakthrough to Formula One after learning their trade with a Mercedes-Benz Formula 3 engine.
One-third of the Formula One grid for the 2012 season started out in Formula 3 with a Mercedes-Benz engine — reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel and former champion Lewis Hamilton, 2010 DTM Champion Paul Di Resta, Kamui Kobayashi, Romain Grosjean, Nico Hülkenberg, Daniel Ricciardo and Bruno Senna.
Said Wickens (in the release): “The DTM is a fantastic series. You're competing against top-notch drivers. I'm proud that Mercedes-Benz are giving me the chance to show what I am capable of in this environment in the Junior Team. My main aim will be to finish every race and to deliver decent performances.”
Said Schumacher: “I remember clearly the early stages of my career, and what I gained from my time in the Mercedes-Benz Junior Team — both on and off the track. It taught me the best way of working with the engineers and helped me build a professional relationship to the media.
“I'm excited to see how Christian, Roberto and Robert develop, they're certainly going to have a great time, and I enjoyed meeting them in Barcelona to offer a few tips from my own experience. Being selected as a member of the Mercedes-Benz Junior Team is really something to be proud of.
“I will be following the performances of the DTM juniors closely and wish them lots of success.”
Said Norbert Haug, Vice-President Mercedes-Benz Motorsport: “Here at Mercedes-Benz, we have a tradition of nurturing promising young drivers and talent-spotting the stars of tomorrow that goes back almost as far as the earliest Mercedes-built racing cars.
“In 2012, we are sending three highly gifted 20-somethings into the fray as our DTM Junior Team: Roberto Merhi, the reigning Formula 3 Euro Series champion; Christian Vietoris, a GP2 champion who already has experience of DTM racing; and Robert Wickens who won the Renault World Series. All three of them are keen to seize this wonderful opportunity.
“And they have excellent role models in Michael Schumacher, Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Karl Wendlinger, the successful trio who made up the Mercedes Junior Team in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s and who have still not finished making motor racing history.
“Roberto, Christian and Robert have a lot to learn, but that will not be a problem, as they are all three avid learners.”
The first race of the 11-race DTM season will take place at Hockenheim on April 29.