Tag Archives: 24 Hours

Spa 24 Hours

Audi continue success at the Spa 24 Hours

Spa 24 Hours 2017: Review

Travel Destinations guests at the Spa 24 Hours were blessed with good weather for this year’s race and the action on the track didn’t disappoint either. There was a close run race and plenty of talking points for our man in the stands to discuss afterwards. Here are some of the highlights from that discussion.

Another one in the books for Audi
Team Sainteloc’s victory in last weekend’s Spa 24 Hours was nothing short of spectacular. The team’s trio of Markus Winkelhock, Christopher Haase and Jules Gounon battled through sunshine and the showers, day and night, fending off the best that Bentley, Mercedes, Ferrari and Porsche had to offer to score Audi its fourth Spa 24 Hours win.

Spa 24 HoursAs remarkable as the French factory-blessed team’s win was, what was more impressive, was the performance of the car. The Audi R8 LMS, which to many, will still feel like a new kid on the block, is actually well into its life-cycle, and continues to impress on almost a weekly basis around the world, but consistently in longer races. The win means that the R8 LMS has won both big European 24-hour races in 2017, following Land Motorsport’s emphatic Nurburgring 24 Hours triumph. The R8 LMS almost won the Rolex 24 Hours GTD category too, after a late charge by the aforementioned Land squad at the end of the race.

It’s portfolio continues to pad out, as does Audi Sport customer racing. With BMW already bringing an evo kit to market for the new M6 GT3 this year, and Aston Martin developing a new GT3 model, Audi is sticking to its guns. As the R8 LMS fifth season approaches, it looks just as good as it did on its debut back in 2014, when it stormed to victory at the Nuburgring. It is an incredible car, which will go down as one of the most successful in GT3 history.

Bad luck for Bentley
Another year and another near miss for Bentley. Once again, the British marque finished just shy of the win, but in very different circumstances to last year when weather at the end of the race cost the team its lead. This time around its lead Continental GT3 charged into the fight for the win in the closing stages due to good pit work, and incredible driving for Maxime Soulet, Vincent Abril and Andy Soucek. It was a hard pill to swallow for the M-Sport crew, to again miss out on winning the car its first big endurance race, but nevertheless it was a promising performance.

Spa 24 HoursSoulet at the end of the race piled the pressure on the leading Audi, closing the margin to just seven seconds in the final minutes, but the traffic,  which is always a factor at Spa, played a big part in deciding the final outcome. On raw pace there was really nothing between them. The Continental GT3’s tenure as Bentley’s marquee GT3 is clearly coming to a close, and despite numerous attempts to win the Spa 24 Hours, Nurburgring 24 Hours and Bathurst 12 Hours, it has yet to sit on the top step at any of them.

Maxime Soulet, Vincent Abril and Andy Soucek now lead the Driver’s title race, and the M-Sport team now leads the Team’s Championship in the Endurance Cup. A big championship win in what will likely be its final season is now likely the only chance left of a fond farewell to the Crewe-based marque’s first GT3 project which has been a fan-favourite from the get go.

Team Bernhard has a future
In the Pro class, Porsche had just one team representing it. It wasn’t the usual Manthey, or even Herberth Motorsports for that matter. No, it was Team75 Bernhard making its 24-hour race debut with its 911 GT3 R. Driving the car were works drivers Michael Christensen, Laurens Vanthoor and Kevin Estre, and they were predictably superb. The team though, was an unknown going into the race. Owned by Timo Bernhard (Le Mans winner and all-round top talent) the team had only competed in ADAC GT Masters sprint races in Germany heading into the weekend, but with Porsche’s support they were on fine form, and kept the Stuttgart-based marque in the running for the win all the way to the finish, eventually finishing third overall.

Spa 24 HoursThey genuinely could have won it too, as without a three-minute stop-go penalty for causing a collision in the early stages, they would have been almost a lap ahead of the field. There looks like a real future for Timo’s team, which is aiming to become a full factory squad in the years ahead.

Misery for McLaren
While Porsche, Audi, Mercedes and Bentley all had good to great runs in the Spa 24 Hours, McLaren’s effort was much the opposite. Strakka Racing brought its quartet of 650S GT3s, and last year’s Endurance Cup Champion Garage 59 brought another, to make it a five-pronged attack for the Woking brand. But none of them featured in the running on pace throughout practice and Qualifying, and in the race only briefly looked competitive.

Spa 24 HoursFour of the five failed to make it into the final third of the race; Strakka’s entire fleet retiring for one reason or the other, leaving a delayed Garage 59 650S GT3 in the AM class to bear the flag for the marque. But Chris Harris, Alexander West, Bradley Ellis and Chris Goodwin could only do so much, after a problem in the pits and a collision out on track left them over 10 laps down on the other Am class runners. In the end the quartet came home last in the class and second to last of the classified runners.

It’s been an extremely tough season for Strakka Racing, which is still clearly adapting to GT racing after years in prototypes. It is not the drivers, as it’s stable is littered with McLaren GT’s young guns and factory drivers, instead it has appeared to be a mixture of rotten luck, and a struggle to work with the current Pirelli tyres, which has left the team flailing. Thankfully there is still a couple more chances this season to score a good result. A win, or even a podium before the end of the Blancpain season would go a long way to keeping the morale up.

There is life in the old Aston yet
Leading early, and eventually finishing second, the Oman Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage of Euan Hankey, Le Mans-winner Jonny Adam, Ahmad Al Harthy and Salih Yoluc enjoyed a whirlwind of a week at Spa racing in the Pro-Am division. Much like its GTE brethren, the GT3 version of the Aston Martin Vantage has been around a long time, lacking customers globally now, as the brand prepares for its next GT3 machine to go to market. But with its incredible build, performance, and design, coupled with today’s Balance of Performance, it is still competitive. Scoring Pro-Am Pole and staying in the fight for the Pro-Am victory throughout was a sight to see, the Oman Racing squad run by TF Sport running like clockwork throughout the event.

Spa 24 HoursNot only was the podium a success in itself, but the strong run also sealed the Blancpain GT Series Pro-Am Drivers’ title for Adam and Al Harthy and the Teams’ title win for the Oman Racing Team with TF Sport. A great effort for this retiring Aston.

The Spa 24 Hours will return from the 26th – 29th July 2018. Travel Destinations will have hotel and camping offers available for the race. Please register now via info@traveldestinations.co.uk to receive more information.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

 

Le Mans Classic

Le Mans Classic returns for 2018

Le Mans Classic returns for 2018

Le Mans Classic 2018Le Mans Classic
6th – 8th July 2018

After a year’s break the Le Mans Classic returns in 2018 for another weekend of motor racing nostalgia. As the Le Mans 24 Hours is the pinnacle for modern endurance racing, then the Le Mans Classic is the ultimate in historic motorsport. The Le Mans Classic brings together only cars that once raced during the Le Mans 24 Hours, back to their spiritual home for another performance in front of a huge crowd at Le Mans. And this isn’t a parade. This is proper racing on the full Le Mans circuit. Professional and amateur drivers going head to head, in machinery designed and prepared specifically for Le Mans.

Le Mans ClassicThere is a full 24 hours of racing. Even the traditional Le Mans start is recreated. However it would be impossible to race 1920s cars against those from the 1970s or 1980s, so the cars ares split into different grids depending on the era in which they originally raced. Traditionally the Le Mans Classic has comprised of six grids covering the years from 1923 through to 1979. For the Le Mans Classic 2018 there will also be an additional “guest grid” featuring the Group C cars that dominated at Le Mans during the 1980s. Each grid will appear on the circuit multiple times throughout the 24 hours, enabling spectators to see racing through dusk, evening and night, through dawn and back to day again.

This is why no other historic motorsport event can compete with the Le Mans Classic. Where else can you see a Jaguar D-Type glisten in the sunrise as it sweeps under the famous Dunlop Bridge? More than 120,000 spectators already agree, and expect that number to rise in 2018.

There is more to the Le Mans Classic than just the on-circuit action. This event has become a mecca for car clubs from around Europe. The infield is turned in to a classic and sports car car park for more than 8 thousand vehicles of all ages and manufacturers. This magnificent display is worth the entry fee alone. In addition there are anniversary displays, a classic car auction, memorabilia stores as well as food outlets and even a cinema, all with a vintage theme.

Le Mans Classic official ticket agentTravel Destinations is an official ticket agent for the Le Mans Classic. This puts us in the privileged position of being able to offer our customers the best options for travel, tickets and accommodation for the Le Mans Classic 2018. Travel Destinations has a number of exclusive options including private trackside camping, glamping and a pop-up hotel all on the famous Le Mans track, so you can’t stay any closer to all the action.
Travel Destinations has two different trackside campsites for the Le Mans Classic 2018. Both offer 24 hours security, fully serviced showers and toilets as well as a hospitality marquee serving food and drinks throughout the weekend. The difference is in locations and the view. Our Hunaudieres campsite is located on the inside of the Tertre Rouge corner, overlooked by the football stadium (the MM Arena). The campsite is surrounded by a wall, but there is a public viewing bank overlooking Tertre Rouge corner just outside the campsite entrance. Our Porsche Curves campsite is our traditional camping location for the Le Mans 24 Hours. This campsite has a unique and exclusive private viewing bank that overlooks the famous Porsche Curves. Both locations are hugely popular and have sold out in recent years, so booking early is recommended.

Le Mans Classic
Travel Destinations Event Tents at the Le Mans Classic

The Travel Destinations Event Tents are another very popular option. Located near to our Porsche Curves campsite, the Event Tents are our pre-erected glamping option for those not wishing to pitch their own tent. Each tent is 5 metres in diameter and coming fully carpeted, with mattresses and all bed linen, giving the perfect environment for camping at Le Mans. The Event Tents are erected in their own private campsite, with 24 hours security, fully serviced showers and toilets and a hospitality marquee. There is plenty of room for car parking too, enabling people to travel in their sports cars and park in a secure area in-sight of their tent. This option was another sell out for the last Le Mans Classic in 2016.

Le Mans Classic
Travel Destinations Flexotel Village at the Le Mans Classic

For those that don’t wish to camp, the Travel Destinations Flexotel Village is the perfect solution. We build this exclusive pop-up hotel in the centre of the circuit, to enable guests to have their own private bedroom within walking distance of the track. Each room can sleep two people in proper beds supplied with all bed linen. The Flexotel Village is located within its own private paddock (not on grass) with plenty of room for car parking. Guests can choose between a standard room or one with their own shower & toilet room. There are also separate shower and toilet blocks for guests and a hospitality marquee on-site. All guests at the Flexotel Village will also receive a full picnic basket for the Saturday of the Le Mans Classic.

Travel Destinations have a number of off-circuit options too, including hotel rooms, B&B properties and private camping areas all within a short drive of the Le Mans circuit.

Le Mans ClassicAll Travel Destinations offers include general entrance tickets as well as access to the Le Mans Classic paddock. Grandstand seats, circuit laps & other optional extras can also be added on request.

You can book your place at the Le Mans Classic NOW! Prices for all our travel & ticket options are available on this website and bookings can be secured with a small deposit. Please call our knowledgeable reservations team now on 0844 873 0203 to discuss the best options for you and to reserve your place the Le Mans Classic 2018.

Nurburgring 24

Nurburgring 24 Hours 2017 Preview

This time of year the major events in the motorsport calendar come thick and fast. Having just had a great time with hundreds of Travel Destinations customers at the Spa Classic this last weekend, we are swiftly moving on to the Nurburgring 24 Hours this weekend. Once again we are looking after lots of our customers at the circuit for this amazing event. Our man in the stands has taken a look at what our guests can expect to see this weekend.

It is that exciting time of year again, where over 150 cars take on the Nürburgring Nordschleife for 24 hours in an attempt to conquer the world’s toughest circuit through night and day, sun and, most likely at some point, rain! The classification of cars taking part can appear complicated and the garages are certainly crowded, but this all adds to the spectacle.

The SP9 class for GT3 cars; which will almost certainly produce the winner, features no less than 34 of Europe’s best GT teams this time around, spanning seven automotive brands. The marques with the most this year are BMW and Mercedes with ten and seven apiece respectively.

Nurburgring 24BMW will be looking to extend its record of 19 N24 overall wins with the M6 GT3 returning for its second crack at the ‘Ring with Schnitzer, Falken, ROWE, Schubert and Walkenhorst. The driver lineups are stellar across the ROWE, Schnitzer and Schubert entries in particular, with a good mix of N24 veterans and rookies providing the backbone for its effort. It’s been a tough start to the year for the M6 racing on the Nordschliefe though, with its best finish 10th in VLN 2. That won’t necessarily translate to race-week at the Nurburgring though, with Balance of Performance always a factor all the way up until the flag drops on Saturday. The car, while still in its infancy, notably won the Spa 24 Hours last year too, after a disappointing run at last year’s Nurburgring 24. Look out for the Falken team, which is racing with BMW for the first time in its 17-year history at the Nurburgring 24 – and Schnitzer, which took the win back in 2010 for BMW (its last victory) and is back racing in GTs after a handful of seasons in DTM.

Nurburgring 24Mercedes meanwhile, is looking for another dominant run to the finish at the Nurburgring 24 much like in 2016, when its AMG GT3s finished 1-2-3-4 in their first attempt at the race. Globally the AMG GT3 is one of, if not the strongest car in the GT3 ranks, with great speed and reliability, both which are of the utmost importance for the Nurburgring 24. HTP, Black Falcon and Haribo Racing are all back with Mercedes cars, and with another stellar set of drivers are looking to score the Stuttgart-based brand’s third overall victory.

Don’t count out Audi or Porsche though. The other two German marques head to the Nurburgring 24 with the best run of form. Nurburgring 24 stalwarts Manthey Racing bring arguably the strongest lineup to the race, with reining World Endurance Champion and Le Mans winner Romain Dumas and fellow Porsche factory drivers Fred Makowiecki, Patrick Pilet and Richard Lietz driving its No. 911 Porsche 911 GT3 R which won VLN 1 and 2. Local favourites Frikadelli Racing and Falken Motorsport make up the remaining teams racing with Porsche in SP9.

Nurburgring 24At Audi, perennial Blancpain frontrunner and 2015 Nurburging 24 winner WRT will bring two R8 LMS GT3s, as will Land Motorsport, which won Germany’s premier GT series (ADAC GT Masters) in 2016 as well as multiple VLN races. Phoenix Racing, which won Audi’s first N24 back in 2012 returns with a single GT3 entry for the Four Rings too, though without factory backing this time. It did win the N24 Qualification Race earlier this month though, and has a formidable quartet of Dennis Busch, Nicolaj Moller Madsen, and Audi stalwarts Mike Rockenfeller and Frank Stippler.

The other three brands are lower in the car count, but will be just as interesting to follow.

Bentley are looking to score a landmark result as the Continental GT3’s lifecycle begins to reach its end. They will race with three Abt entries packed with factory drivers and regional specialists. This year Abt has opted to switch up its tyre partner and race with Yokohama, which could well prove an advantage in certain conditions. It must be noted that Bentley has had a positive start to the season, with second and fourth place finishes in VLN 1 and 2. Everyone back at programme HQ in Crewe will be hoping it can challenge with the frontrunners until the end.

Single Ferrari and Lamborghini entries bring the total to 34 in SP9, with Konrad racing a Huracan GT3 and Blancpain regular Rinaldi Racing operating a Wochenspiegel Team Monshau 488 GT3 for the car’s Nurburging 24 debut.

Nurburgring 24Outside the main interest, there is, of course, plenty of other oddball entries to keep an eye on during the race as well. Two Glickenhaus SCG003Cs will race in SPX against a pair of brand new Audi R8 GT4s run by the aforementioned Phoenix Racing crew. Aston Martin will also compete. Whilst not in SP9 as in recent seasons, the Aston Martin Lagonda team will run two SP8 class Vantages – a  V8 with factory drivers Darren Turner and Nicki Thiim – and a V12.

Nurburgring 24 HoursThe Kissling Opel Manta, with its own cult following is, as ever, on the list, racing a pair of Opel Calibras in SP3 and a pair of Toyota Gazoo Racing Carollas; one of which will be driven by four Thai drivers!

Predicting a winner is always impossible when it comes to the Nurburgring 24, partly because there’s usually 30 cars capable of crossing the line first, and also because the circuit and local climate throws up so many variables. It is strength in numbers though, which is why the German factories come armed with a fleet of their latest kit each year! That’s what makes the Nurburgring 24 a special event. It is pure automotive bliss, supported by the most influential car brands in Europe.

The Nurburgring 24 Hours is a rolling motor show and a week-long festival for the locals, who refuse to let the event become stale, and continue to party in the Eiffel Forest like its 1979.

The Nurburging 24 Hours 2017 is a sell out event for Travel Destinations. However, you can pre-register now for the 2018 Nurburgring 24 Hours by calling 0844 873 0203. You just have to be there!

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar.com

 

Nurburgring 24hrs

Why go to the Nurburgring 24 Hours?

We asked Stephen Kilbey from Dailysportscar to try and explain why going to the Nurburgring 24 Hours is a must for all race fans. Stephen has lots of experience of visiting the best circuits around the world so is the ideal person to give his opinion.

“To me, the best event of the year is the Le Mans 24 Hours, but the best race of the year is the Nürburgring 24 Hrs.”

“24-hour racing on the full Nürburgring Nordschleife was always somewhat of a hidden gem outside of Germany before the early 2000s, but that’s quickly changed. The evolution of GT regulations in recent years has meant that it’s become an increasingly more internationally recognised motorsport mega-event year-on-year, featuring racing supported by a plethora of manufacturers and top-class drivers.”N24

“The Nürburgring 24 Hours sees everything from an Audi R8 LMS GT3 race on track with an Opel Manta through night and day to take home the most prestigious prizes in German endurance racing. It’s an absolutely astounding race to watch every year, partly because of the variety of cars, partly because of the incredible circuit, partly because of the atmosphere at the track, but also because there’s usually over 30 cars with a legitimate shot at victory.”

“It’s fair to call it the hardest race on the planet to win. And it’s such a mentally and physically draining event to compete in, that it will leave you in awe standing trackside.”

“The main draw of spectating at the N24 over watching it on the TV is that the circuit is so vast, that it can take you 24 hours to get round all the spectator zones. It’s a unique experience exploring the Nordschleife, but that’s part of its charm and the reason why most hardened fans make the trip every year. The circuit features just about every type of corner you can imagine, and the views you’ll get to see of them as an attendee are staggering.”

“It’s an incredibly fan friendly event in that respect, as you can get incredibly close to the cars at certain parts of the lap, and enjoy the company of the colossal amount of other people there to celebrate what’s now considered to be a true celebration of motorsport in Germany.”

“It can be hard to navigate the circuit at first, so definitely grab a map of the roads and spectator areas before the race and plan a route to stick to. Once you get the hang of the perimeter roads and shuttle bus system though, you’ll realise that it’s not that difficult to find good places to watch from.”

N24 Night

“Staying at Camping am Nürburgring I can say from experience, makes it much easier if you haven’t camped at the N24, the camping in the forests can be chaotic and require you to get to the track and set up long in advance if you want a good space. The N24 can seem like an overwhelming race to attend and camp at because of its scale, but the site Travel Destinations offers is situated in one of the more peaceful and stress-free areas of the Nürburgring in terms of accommodation: the bottom of the GP loop.”

“By staying there, it’s a more structured and organised camping experience. Camping am Nürburgring is a site that’s open year round, and run by a very friendly group of people. Not only do you get easy access to on-site food and entertainment there, but you’re also in walking access to circuit from your pitches. Being close to the GP loop paddock and main grandstands is especially handy too; as it’s the best place to watch the start and end of the race.”

“My advice? Soak up the grid walk before the race (which is free for ticket-holders), dash to the Bilstein Tribune at Turn 1 while the cars are on the parade lap and witness the roar of the cars come past in batches for the first time. After that, head on to the Nordschleife and soak up the atmosphere that the core German fans create. Fireworks, barbecues, crazy scaffolding setups – you name it, the people who attend regularly build it. Pflanzgarten, the Karussell, Brünnchen and Hatzenbach in particular are all astonishing places to watch a motor race, so if you can, try and make it to those areas to really see the cars and drivers work hard.”

N24 grid

“You’d be hard pressed to find a better place to drink alcoholic beverages, eat good food and watch cars than the Nürburgring. I think you’d be incredibly unlucky to leave the circuit after the race disappointed. If you love endurance racing, the N24 is a must-see bucket list event and now is as good a time as ever to go. This year, Bentley, Aston Martin, Mercedes, Porsche, Audi and BMW will all be present with factory-backed machinery, so the racing is set to be spectacular. If you’ve never stood in the forests of the Eiffel region and witnessed 150+ cars GT and touring cars race through the night, then you really do need to…”

Travel Destinations can offer you a great chance to be at this year’s race. We have limited availability for our travel, ticket and camping offer from the 26th – 30th May. Travel Destinations have a private area reserved within the Camping am Nurburgring area reserved exclusively for our customers and managed by our staff. Book your place now by calling our reservation staff on 0844 873 0203.

Ford

Looking forward to 2016

The Four Biggest Endurance Racing Stories of 2016

Okay so that’s a rather arrogant assertion, there are bound to be stories through this year that eclipse some of those below but to do so they’ll have to be very big indeed!

1- Ford – 50 Years on
The Blue Oval is back and this is no badge engineering stunt.
The new Ford GT is a GT racing mould breaker, the first of a brand new breed of n few generation GTE cars.
It’s very clear that Ford’s turbo V6 engined ‘halo’ hyper car has been designed first as a racer and THEN as a road car.  It’s attention to aerodynamic detail is astounding, and whilst the front of the car pays homage to its grandaddy, the iconic 1960s Ford GT40, the 2016 version has a rear end like no other road car, ever!
So that ticks the boxes for the car fans, but the racing fans get an even better treat – two huge programmes, one in North America, and the other in the full FIA WEC, both with a pair of cars apiece, will come together for the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours.
If Ford’s plans come together we should see four of these extraordinary cars battling it out with their decades long racing rivals from Ferrari (who have their own new turbo-engined 488) Porsche, Aston Martin and Corvette
This could be the year when GT racing joins LMP1 in the headlines!

2 – Bigger Grid at Le Mans
2016 will see a bigger grid than ever before at the Le Mans 24 Hours as the ACO start a two year programme to build the grid to 60 cars.
This year will see a staging post towards that aim, 58 cars should start, after a maximum of 56 to this point.
OK we are going to have a couple off fewer factory cars than anticipated, economic pressures on Porsche and Audi and the withdrawal of the popular but underperforming Nissan effort have seen to that but the strength in depth across the world of endurance racing should see an astounding mix of prototype and GT cars in June, and with some new spectator viewing areas being installed at Indianapolis there could be some of the best views in years available.
More cars, more variety, Do not stay home in June!

3 – War at the Nurburgring
The Nurburgring 24 Hours is always a spectacle, but 2016 should be very special indeed.
Why?
Because it is one of the biggest races in Germany, and every significant German GT car manufacturer has brand new product to sell.
Audi debuted their new R8 last year and won, but now BMW (M6 GT3), Mercedes Benz (AMG GT3) and Porsche (911 GT3 R) all have new toys to field too, and in this market, both for marque prestige and bragging rights, and for car sales, nothing matters more.
It matters enough to Porsche that they have preferred preserving this programme to their WEC GTE effort in 2016 to mount a full house, two car all factory driver effort under the icily effective auspices of Olaf Manthey.
Add into the mix confirmed multi car factory efforts from both Aston Martin and Bentley, and more potential factory contenders too and this could be something truly spectacular.
And that’s before we have even mentioned the track, the biggest, baddest, most challenging and yes most dangerous road racing course on the planet.
Work has been done around the circuit to enable the organisers to lift the localised speed restrictions so now it is going to be about who has built the better GT3 weapon.
Multi car teams packed with factory drivers can be guaranteed – If you haven’t seen this race live then honestly what are you waiting for – This is THE year to go.

4 – The British Are Coming!
Moves in the close season to reshuffle the pack have left patriotic British sportswear racing fans with an embarrassment of riches.
In the FIA WEC there are likely to be no fewer than nine British factory drivers stretched across LMP1 (Oliver Jarvis at Audi, Anthony Davidson and Mike Conway at a resurgent Toyota) and GTE Pro (Ferrari: James Calado and Sam Bird, Ford Marino Franchitti and Andy Priaulx, Aston Martin Darren Turner and Jonny Adam)
Add to that little lot Oliver Gavin (Corvette), Richard Westbrook (Ford) and 2015 overall winner Nick Tandy (Porsche) for Le Mans, all in GTE Pro and by god there might just be some singing of the National Anthem for the podium!

And beyond those three there’s more to look forward to too.
The FIA WEC adds a ninth round with Mexico City joining the calendar. If that’s too rich for your travelling blood then the astonishingly entertaining European Le Mans Series has also added a race, up to six for 2016 as the Series visit Spa in October.
There are more opportunities than ever to see better endurance racing with better cars and better teams in more places than at any time in living memory – Go on, treat yourself, get off the couch and pick up the phone – I’ll see you in the paddock!

Graham Goodwin (www.dailysportscar.com)

Chip Ganassi celebrate again at Daytona

Chip Ganassi celebrates at Daytona again

Chip Ganassi Racing’s “Star Car” lived up to its billing in the 53rd Rolex 24 At Daytona. With a lineup of IndyCar’s Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan joined by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regulars Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson, the No. 02 Target Ford EcoBoost/Riley prevailed in a hard-fought battle with Action Express Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing to win the opening round of the 2015 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

The race came down to a seven-minute, 30-second sprint to the finish, with Dixon holding off defending race winner Sebastien Bourdais by 2.267 seconds at the checkered flag.

The victory enabled McMurray to join A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti as the only drivers to win both the Daytona 500 and Rolex 24. Dixon won the Rolex 24 for the second time – winning in the Ganassi No. 02 in 2006 – while Kanaan and Larson joined McMurray in winning the event for the first time. It was Ganassi Racing’s sixth Rolex 24 triumph in 12 attempts.

“It takes a team of people, it takes a team of drivers,” car owner Chip Ganassi said. “I think the 01 car had a great team, as well. They had just as much of a shot.”

The race shaped up as a shootout between Dixon and Jordan Taylor. However, a miscalculation over the latter’s driving time brought the No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP to the pits during the final caution. Ricky Taylor took over, served a penalty for pitting out of sequence and finished third, giving the team its third consecutive podium in the event.

Bourdais moved into second in the closing minutes but could not challenge Dixon, joining Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi in giving the 2014-winning No. 5 Mustang Sampling Corvette DP a second-place finish.

The latter half of the race was a four-car, back-and-forth battle among the eventual top-three finishers and the No. 01 Ford EcoBoost/Riley of Scott Pruett, Joey Hand, Charlie Kimball and Sage Karam throughout the final 12 hours. However, clutch problems with two hours, 30 minutes remaining dropped the No. 01 car from contention, ending Pruett’s bid to become the lone six-time overall winner of the Rolex 24.

Attrition thinned the Prototype field, with retirements including both Tequila Patrón ESM Honda HPD ARX entries and the two SpeedSource SKYACTIV Diesels, in addition to the Krohn Racing Ligier/Judd, DeltaWing DWC13, and Starworks Motorsport Dinan BMW/Riley.

PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Takes PC Victory After CORE autosport Incident
Misfortune in the final hour of the race ended a dominant effort by CORE autosport in the Prototype Challenge (PC) class, allowing the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Cuttwood/Spyder Orafol ORECA FLM09 to win with drivers Tom Kimber-Smith, Mike Guasch, Andrew Novich and Andrew Palmer.

Second, one lap down, was the pole-winning No. 16 BAR1 Motorsports Autosport Designs/Top 1 Oil ORECA of Johnny Mowlem, Tom Papadopoulos, Tomy Drissi, Brian Alder and Martin Plowman. The No. 54 CORE autosport Composite Resources/Flex-Box ORECA FLM09 of Ben Keating, Colin Braun, James Gue and Mark Wilkins held a multi-lap lead for much of the event. With 20 minutes remaining, Braun had contact with a Prototype and spun.

He returned to the circuit, only to spin at the exit of the chicane after experiencing suspension failure. The car then hit the wall and caught fire. The car completed enough laps to finish third in the class.

Corvette on the top step of the podium
A 24-hour race came down to a seven-and-a-half minute sprint to the checkered flag in the 53rd Rolex 24 At Daytona with the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R beating the No. 25 BMW Z4 GTE from BMW Team RLL to the stripe by a mere 0.478 seconds. The GT Le Mans (GTLM) class win was Corvette Racing’s first class victory at the Rolex 24 since 2001.

It was a Corvette vs. BMW battle for much of the final quarter of the race with Antonio Garcia holding a comfortable lead in his Corvette over Dirk Werner’s BMW with 20 minutes remaining. That lead quickly evaporated, however, when Prototype Challenge (PC) class leader Colin Braun made contact with the wall coming out of the chicane on the backstretch forcing a full-course caution period. Werner closed the gap throughout the final six laps, but fell just short at the checkered flag with Garcia joining co-drivers Jan Magnussen and Ryan Briscoe in the victory.

“Every time you win here it’s very, very special,” Garcia said. “I’ve been chasing this victory since 2009, even if I won it back then. This is a very unique race. It’s the first race of the year, so it’s very difficult to be at 100 percent right away for the team and for the drivers. Everything ran perfect, and as Ryan (Briscoe) said, we just kept our nose clean, and I had the best car to fight on the last eight minutes of the race.”

Garcia won the Rolex 24 overall in 2009 for Brumos Racing. Corvette Racing did not compete at Daytona from 2002 through 2013 before joining the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship for its inaugural 2014 season.

The No. 4 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R entry of Tommy Milner, Oliver Gavin and Simon Pagenaud was in contention for the race win, but lost four laps after making contact with the No. 66 RG Racing BMW Dinan/Riley Prototype with three hours remaining and finished third.

No. 93 Viper Team Takes Emotional Victory in GT Daytona
The No. 93 TI Automotive/ViperExchange.com Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R and drivers Ben Keating, Al Carter, Dominik Farnbacher, Kuno Wittmer and Cameron Lawrence had the field covered for much of the Rolex 24 in the GT Daytona (GTD) class. They found a challenge from the No. 22 WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 GT America of Cooper MacNeil, Leh Keen, Andrew Davis and Shane van Gisbergen — the two cars combined to lead the final 209 laps of the race — but Farnbacher led the last 49 circuits en route to a 7.588 second victory.

“For everybody in the room and the fans and everybody, we’re not just weekend warriors that are weekend hires,” Wittmer said. “We’re family; we’re more than that. We’ve worked together since 2012, and some of us before that. Yeah, unfortunately our program got pulled, but I think it’s the cooperation of Ben Keating and Bill Riley and some others that were able to retain us family, keep us together and get it going.”

Hollywood actor and avid sports car racer Patrick Dempsey rounded out the top three in the No. 58 Dempsey/Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT America co-driven by Madison Snow, Jan Heylen and Philipp Eng. The third-place finish matched Dempsey’s best career finish in the Rolex 24.