Motor Sport: Off Season Thoughts

It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything motor sport related, so this is a kind of hodge-podge of thoughts on things that have come out so far in the off season.

I guess the best place to start is with the upheaval in IndyCar.  As I wrote at the end of October, IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard was unceremoniously dumped by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Board of Directors following what can easily be described as a coup.  At the time, I stated that it was up to IndyCar to prove to my why I should stay a fan and I still stand by that statement.  So far, IndyCar itself hasn’t done much to make me stay.  What little has come out has been more or less along the lines of “all is well.”  On a positive front, rather than simply take the “team positive” approach, DRR’s PR has stepped up attempts to interact with the fans; IndyCar’s PR department needs to do the same thing rather than simply being quiet about all that has happened since Fontana.  Since Bernard’s ouster, there does seem to have been a positive development at IMS – the announcement of Mark Miles as CEO of Hulman & Co.  Miles has a good history with professional tennis and the Indianapolis Super Bowl, hopefully he can be just as successful at Hulman & Co. and there will be a trickle down effect into IMS and IndyCar.

Other IndyCar news in the off season includes an offer at the NASCAR Sprint Cup awards banquet from Roger Penske to Tony Stewart for an Indianapolis 500 ride in 2013.  This has been met with massive approval by most IndyCar fans but I’ve been skeptical about it.  This wasn’t just a spur of the moment thing. It is highly doubtful that Stewart will accept the offer and Penske knew as much when he made the offer.  The question one must then ask is why was the offer made?  It was either a pure PR move designed to get attention or it was a red herring designed to divert attention from something else.  If it was designed to get attention, was it designed to make the team look better or drum up attention for IndyCar?  If it was designed to divert attention, then what was Penske diverting attention from?

A.J. Foyt’s team is apparently close to signing Takuma Sato for 2013.  This was reported yesterday by Marshall Pruett on Speed’s website.  This is truly a WTF move, I simply can’t think of another way to describe it.  Sure, Takuma Sato brings a lot of support from Honda and Panasonic that Foyt needs but just don’t see this as a successful pairing.  Sato was most successful under the calming influence of Bobby Rahal during his stay at RLL, he’s not going to get that kind of handling from A.J. Foyt.  I just don’t think that the chemistry between owner and driver is going to be there for this pairing to succeed but I’ll be quite happy if proven wrong.  I’d like to see both driver and team have success.  In other news at Foyt, Conor Daly will be testing for Foyt at Sebring.  Pruett reports in both of these stories that Daly will be testing for for Foyt in the final test of the year at Sebring on 13 December and that Daly is looking for a “top-tier drive in America for 2013.”  While my friends in the IndyCar ranks will be upset at me for saying this, I’m sad if this means Daly is turning away from his attempts in Europe.  He’s been successful in the F1 ladder series and along with Alexander Rossi seems to be one of the best hopes for a successful United States driver in F1.

Transitioning from IndyCar to sports cars is HVMHVM has announced that they will be partnering with Status GP to run a Lola in the WEC in 2013.  HVM have proved to be a little team that could, battling a lack of funds and quietly suffering with a poor engine provider in IndyCar; it’s no surprise to see them moving elsewhere.  While HVM owner Keith Wiggins has history with Lola, let’s hope the decision to use a Lola chassis doesn’t backfire. I understand that moves are being made to produce Lola spares but will there be enough spares and more importantly, updates to keep Lola teams competitive.  I think it’s safe to assume that there will be no Lotus partnership with the WEC effort…

TRG (The Racers Group) and Aston Martin announced that TRG will be running a factory supported effort in multiple series next year.  Switching from their long time association with Porsche, TRG will be racing Aston Martin Vantages in the Grand Am series, the ALMS, the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Series, and in a single make series utilizing GT4 versions of the Vantage.  While it’s sad to see the hemorrhage of teams from Porsche in 2013 (somewhat Porsche’s on fault), it’s a good thing to see the return of Aston Martin especially when it’s a factory backed effort with a team with a proven track record.

The Aston Martin Vantage GTE car that TRG will be racing in ALMS in 2013.  Photo from ALMS website.
The 2013 Ford Fusion for NASCAR; note he shape of the grille and placement/angle of the headlights.
The 2013 Ford Fusion for NASCAR; note he shape of the grille and placement/angle of the headlights.  See anything similar? Photo tweeted by Penske Racing.

This next thought isn’t as momentous as the TRG/Aston Martin announcement but I figured that the best place to put it is after the Aston announcement.  The 2013 Ford Fusion which will be raced in Sprint Cup next year and the new cars of the 2013 Ford lineup it is supposed to represent come with some strangely familiar styling cues.  The grille in particular and the angle/placement of the headlights are more than reminiscent of the front of an Aston Martin.  It’s sad that on the production car front and therefore on the motor sport front that Ford couldn’t have been more original.  Ford Motor Company may own 15% of Aston Martin but that doesn’t give them the freedom to ape their design cues.

Flying Lizards is stepping down from GTE to GTC in 2013.  With the lack of pace from the aging Porsche’s this is an understandable step and likely a temporary one.  When the new 911 GTE cars come out end of 2013/2014, I would expect to see the Lizards back in GTE.  The biggest question to arise from this is where Patrick Long and Jorg Bergmeister end up at for 2013.

The only NASCAR news really worth mentioning is the announcement that the Truck series will be racing at Eldora and Canadian Tire Motor Sports Park (formerly Mosport).  These are two historic and thrilling tracks for the Trucks to be going to.  Personally, I can’t wait to see them on the dirt at Eldora!

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