Tag Archives: Travel Destinations

Spa Classic

Spa Classic 2017: Another unmissable event

The Spa Classic 2017; You know you are arriving somewhere special when you are greeted at the gate by the sound of Group C endurance racers blasting through Eau Rouge, whilst Italian sports cars from the 1960s warm up in the paddock. Immediately your senses are teased by the sounds, smells and sights of historic motor racing at its best.

Spa Classic
Sixties Endurance

The Spa Classic has grown in just 7 years to become an unmissable part of the motorsport calendar. Spa Classic 2017, saw more than 20,000 spectators make the journey to the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit to witness some spectacular racing. They were rewarded by no less than 9 different grids competing around the stunning twists and turns of this historic track.

Spa Classic
Trofeo Nastro Rosso at the Spa Classic 2017

As you would expect from a circuit of Spa’s reputation, Friday was wet. The rooster tails behind the cars were big and proud. The drivers were really tested in challenging conditions. There is perhaps nothing more impressive than a skilled driver, fighting for control of a powerful sports car on a wet track. It was perhaps fortunate that Friday was only a day of practice and some preliminary qualifying sessions for all of the assembled grids. Other than the difficult driving conditions on the route down through Belgium, the damp weather wasn’t an issue for Travel Destinations customers that arrived early. Our reserved infield car parking allowed our customers to park their classic and sports cars in the F1 paddock, and our hospitality suite was open from midday, serving teas, coffees and biscuits ready for the weekend.

Spa Classic
Saturday morning arrivals at the Travel Destinations car park

Saturday dawned fresh and dry. A perfect day for racing. The early morning mist soon cleared revealing the beautiful circuit in all its glory. The circuit oozes history, so to have historic cars racing at Spa again is the perfect match.

Spectators & their cars were filing through the gates before 9am when the track action started again. To warm the growing crowd up, first on track were the GT1 sports cars. An impressive assembly of Ferraris (360s, F355, F40, 550, F430) Porsches (964 & 996) and Vipers (Chrysler and Dodge). These were swiftly followed by the first grid of Classic Endurance Racing cars featuring GT cars from 1966 – 1974, and prototypes from 1966 – 1971. And so, the morning progressed through Formula Vee, Group C and the beautiful Italian sports car of the Trofeo Nasto Rosso grid.

Spa Classic
GT1 Sports grid on track

With more than 350 customers including about 130 classic & sports cars travelling with Travel Destinations, the reserved F1 paddock car park, soon began filling up. A fantastic variety of vehicles, including MGs, Jaguars, Porsches, TVRs, Triumphs, Aston Martins and other exotica, all parked up making an impressive display. The Travel Destinations car park faced on to the Bonhams auction, and it was debateable who had the most expensive collection on the day.

Spa Classic
Travel Destinations’ infield customer car park

The Travel Destinations hospitality suite was a popular destination all weekend. Available only to Travel Destinations customers, the suite overlooks Eau Rouge & offered private viewing, seating, light refreshments and large TVs showing live timing & scoring during each race. The suite became a real social centre at the track, a meeting point for everyone and an information point including programmes, brochures and other event information.

Spa Classic
Travel Destinations’ customer hospitality suite

Saturday saw the largest numbers of Travel Destinations customer cars on track. One of the unique features of the Spa Classic is the ability to take your own classic or sports car on to the circuit for some non-competitive track time. These aren’t parade laps, and after the first lap behind a safety car, you can almost do what you want, but you do have to follow the circuits rules and obey the marshals’ flags. Some Travel Destinations customers took to the track on Friday afternoon, but the majority waited until Saturday and Sunday to test their skills on the circuit. These laps are always hotly anticipated by the participants and the big grins when they return to the paddock are all you really need to know.

Spa Classic
Travel Destinations customers enjoying the Spa Classic

As the sun dropped behind the trees and night began to fall, the racing continued. In fact, races for both the Sixties Endurance racers, and the Heritage Touring cars continued in the dark up until midnight. Historic racing at night creates a wonderful atmosphere. Headlights & brake lights illuminating the track around the La Source hairpin and the bus-stop chicane have to be seen with your own eyes to be appreciated fully. A beautiful sight.

Spa Classic
Heritage Touring Cup racing at night

If Saturday’s weather improved on Friday’s, then Sunday’s was better again. It is not often that sunscreen is passed around by people in the paddock, but it was on Sunday. Those at the track for 9am were treated to more sounds for the GT1 Sports club followed by an hour-long race by the 2nd grid from Classic Endurance Racing. By lunchtime the Italian sports cars (estimated value of about £1 million each) had returned to the track as well as the wonderfully raucous Group C cars.

Spa Classic 2017
Group C Racing at the Spa Classic 2017

Over a picnic lunch or dinner in the Maison de L’Eau Rouge more socializing took place, whilst further club circuit laps and VIPs were taken around the circuit. The afternoon brought a further chance to catch up with the single seater racers of Formula Vee and recently formed Euro F2 class. This grid comprises of Formula 2 cars that made their reputation in the late 1960s and in to the 1970s. At this time F2 was the only feeder series to F1 and that made it a very competitive class featuring some of the best drivers in the world. To see these cars returned to their former glory at Spa-Francorchamps was a real delight.

Spa Classic 2017
Formula Vee outside the Travel Destinations hospitality suite

As the Spa Classic 2017 event came to a close on Sunday evening many spectators were still milling around the various paddocks reluctant to return to their comfortable hotel and feel they had missed anything. The Spa Classic is that kind of event. There is something of interest in every paddock and car park, so that even during the races you are never quite sure where your attention should be.
The 2017 edition of the Spa Classic was a great success, attracting a record audience at the circuit over the weekend, despite the damp start.

Spa Classic
Euro F2 at the Spa Classic 2017

The Spa Classic will return in 2018 and you can be assured that Travel Destinations will once again be the official ticket agent offering the best travel, hotels, parking and hospitality available for the event. Prices for Spa Classic 2018 will be available soon, but you can register with us now to be the first to receive more details.

Written by Richard Webb
Photography by Kevin Osborne & Peter Auto

Toyota LMP1

FIA WEC Spa-Francorchamps Review

The 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship moved on to Belgium and the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit this last weekend. As always this is the last FIA WEC race before Le Mans, so whilst there were battles on the track for championship points, there was also a lot of planning for the Le Mans 24 Hours. Ever present, our man in the stands was present trackside to follow all the action and bring you this exclusive report, looking at the main talking points and what we learned from the race.

1. Toyota’s Le Mans chances look good
Toyota Gazoo Racing has started the FIA WEC season with two wins from two races, and a Le Mans outlook which has arguably never been stronger. The 2017 TS050 Hybrid is a winning machine, with the regular drivers in the No.7 and No.8 cars both proving to be in the form of their lives heading into the big race next month. The question remaining though, concerns the aero-package. At Spa, the No.9 car of Nicolas Lapierre, Stephane Sarrazin and Yuji Kunimoto debuted the low-drag configuration of the car, which the team will race at Le Mans, while the No.7 and No.8 full-season FIA WEC entries ran the high-downforce kits that the team will use at the six-hour races all season.
FIA WEC 6 Hours of Spa-FrancorchampsWhile the performance (a fifth-place finish) for the Le Mans option is likely down to the team using the race as an extended test session for both the car and drivers, it was interesting that it didn’t feature all weekend. The car did briefly take the lead when Lapierre out-braked himself into La Source at the start, but after that it failed to feature in the race for the podium, finishing far behind the two other Toyotas and both Porsches.

The difference is that Porsche has been running its own Le Mans kit all season so far, and has therefore had much more race experience with it, which is confidence building, as even though it hasn’t won yet, it came close at Spa with the No.2 919 Hybrid, which would have been involved in a grandstand finish had Brendon Hartley not lost time in the pits due to a nose change late in the race following a clumsy collision with the No.36 Signatech Alpine.

It remains to be seen how close the two marques will be on-track at Le Mans because of this, though it has all the makings of a classic should Toyota have some speed up its sleeve.

2. Aston Martin struggling for pace?
Aston Martin Racing has had a remarkably quiet 2017. While its two Vantages are still relatively fresh from combining to score the Teams’ Championship and Drivers’ Championship last year, so far this year they haven’t looked like even sniffing a podium.FIA WEC 6 Hours of Spa FrancorchampsIn GTE Pro it’s been all Ford and Ferrari so far, with Chip Ganassi Team UK and AF Corse in turn dominating Silverstone and Spa. Porsche has had flashes of pace, but the new car looks to be a few months from being perfect in the reliability and consistency department. Le Mans could well be a different story though. Le Mans will have a separate and thus far undetermined Balance of Performance applied, and this could favour Aston Martin’s Vantages as the cars have looked to be struggling.

In addition, the No.95 did produce one single lap in Free Practice 2 at Spa which put Dane, Marco Sorensen seconds quicker than his teammates, and atop the standings in the class. After that it was unable to produce a similar time, but it begs the question, is there something in reserve?

3. The Ferrari 488 has arrived
As mentioned above, the Ferrari 488 dominated at Spa, and in the second half of the race proved totally untouchable. It has been reliable – which it wasn’t last year – and now has the speed to match. AF Corse’s driver line-up too seems to be strong from top to bottom, with newcomer Alessandro Pier Guidi looking both quick and consistent over his stints in the car.

FIA WEC 6 Hours of Spa-FrancorchampsThe team finished the race 1 & 2, and looked unstoppable. If they can continue their form at the Le Mans 24 Hours, then they may well emerge as title favourites, should Ford not keep tabs, the Porsche get up to speed and Aston pick up the pace.

4. The new LMP2s look reliable
Before the season started there was much speculation as to how reliable the new LMP2 cars would prove. In testing the cars were suffering from electrical woes, and gearbox issues which often prevented teams from having extended runs. Silverstone and Spa though, have been very encouraging, the 2017 cars looking strong over long distances all of a sudden. Last weekend there was only one retirement in the field, which was Tockwith Motorsports’ Ligier JS P217, which suffered from a gearbox failure at the very end of the race. Tockwith is new to racing in LMP2 though, and the FIA WEC is a difficult challenge to master.

FIA WEC 6 Hours of Spa-FrancorchampsLe Mans may be a different story, as going for twenty-four hours is much harder than six. But so far the signs are positive, and Le Mans’ potential to become a race of attrition is looking increasingly slim.

5. And race well together too!
As well as being reliable, the race at Spa put to rest the nay-sayers who assumed the racing in the FIA WEC’s LMP2 class would be poor, with the entire field being made up of Oreca 07s. The cars are aerodynamically sophisticated and performance wise much more powerful, which on paper in effectively a ‘spec series’, has the potential to produce processional racing. So far that hasn’t been the case, especially at Spa, with the 07s able to get a good tow and race close together.

FIA WEC 6 Hours of Spa-FrancorchampsThe drivers are enjoying racing with the new kit, and so are the fans. So when Le Mans rolls around, with a diverse 23-car grid, it could be the class to watch!

The next round of the FIA WEC will be the 24 Hours of Le Mans, taking place on the 17th -18th June 2017.
If you would like tickets to be at the big race of the season then please call the Travel Destinations team now on 0844 873 0203. Availability is limited, but we can still look after you.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

Sebring

Sebring 12 Hours; Preview

This weekend sees the 65th running of the 12 Hours of Sebring. This is one of our favourite races on the motorsport calendar and this year looks set for another exciting race. If you like small tight circuits, old fashioned concrete tracks, lots of action and of course the Florida sunshine then you just have to go to Sebring. Here our man in the stands takes a look at what we can expect from the race this weekend.

Cadillac held back?
After dominating proceedings at Daytona, the three Cadillacs racing at Sebring have been pegged back by the IMSA Balance of Performance process. The three DPi V.Rs have had weight added and had the air flow to the engines reduced in an attempt to allow the other prototypes to compete over a single lap. Whether it will work at Sebring or not remains to be seen, as the Cadillacs proved to be the most reliable, as well as the quickest in almost all conditions at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. The prototype field which Action Express and Wayne Taylor Racing is up against, as a whole, is still impressive following Daytona. Entries from Mazda, Cadillac, Ligier, Oreca, Riley and Nissan grace the class, making for the most diverse prototype grid on the planet. Only DragonSpeed has fallen off the list since January. With the gloves off at Sebring, it’ll be very interesting to see who actually emerges on top!

Sebring
Alex Lynn out to impress
While the Cadillacs entered are the same as at Daytona, the driver lineups have seen some tweaking. The most notable change heading into the race is Wayne Taylor Racing’s addition of British driver Alex Lynn. Lynn takes the place of newly-retired Max Angelelli in the team’s third seat for the endurance rounds of the WeatherTech Championship this year, and is set to impress on the North American endurance stage. Since moving over from single-seater racing last year, Lynn has raced with Manor in the World Endurance Championship as well as United Autosports in a one-off LMP3 race. He’s fast, consistent and used to high-pressure situations. If you watch a lot of sportscar racing, then you’ll be seeing a lot more of Alex too. With appearances in the VLN championship and Nürburgring 24 Hours with BMW, Petit Le Mans with Cadillac and the full World Endurnace Championship with G-Drive Racing. He is going to be busy.

Sebring Title Defence Beckons For ESM
After winning both the Rolex 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours last year, Extreme Speed Motorsports is back for another crack this year to try and repeat at least one of its high-profile victories from a year ago. At the Rolex 24, the Ligier-based Nissan DPi impressed over the full race, with only minor issues setting it back and preventing it from truly challenging for a podium spot in the final hours.
In its return to Sebring since its big win, it continues to field a stellar lineup, with Scott Sharp, Ryan Dalziel and Pipo Derani in the No.2 car and Ed Brown, Johannes van Overbeek, Bruno Senna and Brendon Hartley in the other. We still don’t know for sure who the favourites for the overall title are this year, but we’ll have more of an idea after this weekend. If ESM take on the punishing airfield-based circuit this weekend and come away with a good result, then it’s game on for the remainder of the season.

Sebring
Ford Brings Three
Ford Performance is set to field a trio of GTs in the GTLM class this year, after taking a quartet of them to the Rolex 24 Hours. Out to win the big races, Ford knows that it has the chance to win the Le Mans 24 Hours, Rolex 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours in less than nine months if it can seal the deal this weekend. Driving the third car is the World Endurance Championship crew of Billy Johnson, Stefan Mucke and Olivier Pla in the No.68, which should provide a formidable third bullet in the Ford gun. It would be mightily impressive but not necessarily surprising to see them win its second Floridian race this year; as even a year later the GT still looks just as much like a prototype (if you squint your eyes) as it did at its debut. The GTLM field will be close though, with Porsche, Corvette and the Risi Ferrari all looking capable of taking the win at Daytona. There is not much between them as they head to Sebring.

Sebring
GTD looks wide open
After Alegra Motorsports took a surprise victory at Daytona, with its Porsche 911 GT3 R that had a quiet run to the front, anything can happen going forward. Alegra will race at Sebring – after its impressive run prompted it to extend its commitments for 2017 – but it’s so close that we will likely see a second winner in as many races. Will the Acura NSX GT3 show its true potential? Can the Mercedes AMG GT3 runners mimic their European counterparts? Is counting out the Audi teams going to be a mistake? At this point we just don’t know, which should make the GT3-based class a fascinating watch.

Sebring

It certainly looks like Travel Destinations guests trackside at Sebring this year are going to be royally entertained on the track. With the addition of the Club 12 bar and grill in the centre of the track alongside live music and entertainment throughout the weekend, there is plenty going on around the circuit too. It is going to be fun!

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar.com

If you would like to be at the 12 Hours of Sebring next year, then you can register with us now to be the first in line to choose your travel, accommodation and tickets. Register your interest by calling Travel Destinations on 0844 873 0203 or email info@traveldestinations.co.uk

Le Mans Classic 2018

Le Mans Classic 2018 tickets available now

Le Mans Classic 2018The confirmed dates for the next Le Mans Classic event were revealed at a press conference in Paris last night. The Le Mans Classic 2018 will take place from the 6th – 8th July. As this historic motorsport event only comes round every two years, the Le Mans Classic is much anticipated by drivers and spectators alike. In 2016 more than 123, 000 spectators traveled to the Le Mans circuit to witness the spectacular on track action as well as participate in what has become part of the ongoing Le Mans story.

The Le Mans Classic promises to be another great event, having won Motorsport event of the year for 2016. Already the return of the popular Group C class has been confirmed as well as special exhibitions and displays commemorating the 40th anniversary of Alpine’s victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours, as well as the 70th anniversary of the Porsche 356 and the 50th anniversary of the 908.

As well as being an ABTA & ATOL bonded tour operator, Travel Destinations are official ticket agents for the Le Mans Classic, which enables us to offer all our customers the best options for travel, tickets and accommodation for the Le Mans Classic 2018. Demand for this event is always high, so early booking is recommended.

Travel Destinations has a number of hotels available for the Le Mans Classic 2018. All our hotels are within a short drive to the circuit, to enable you to come and go as your please. We also have a number of B&B options for those that like to stay away from the circuit.

The majority of people prefer to stay on the circuit for the Le Mans Classic. In addition to the basic circuit run campsites, we have introduced 2 private trackside campsite exclusive to Travel Destinations. Located at different parts of the circuit, these camping  areas offer 24 hours security, fully serviced showers & toilets as well as a hospitality marquee, serving food and drinks across the weekend.

Increasing popular at the Le Mans Classic are our glamping and pop-up hotel options. Travel Destinations’ Event tents (glamping) are located in the centre of the circuit, adjacent to the Porsche Curves. These pre-erected bell tents are 5 metres in diameter and come fully carpeted, with mattresses and all bed linen. The tents sleep between 2 – 4 people and secure car parking is provided. As an alternative to camping, the Travel Destinations’ Flexotel Village (pop-up hotel) offers lockable bedrooms in the centre of the circuit. Each Flexotel room can sleep 2 people in separate beds, and also comes with all bed linen. The Flexotel Village is located on hard standing so mud & dust are not an issue and secure parking is available near to your room.

Further information about the Le Mans Classic is available on this website and all these options are available to book now. Please call our team on 0844 873 0203 to reserve your place at the LE Mans Classic 2018. A deposit will be required at the time of booking.

Tom Kristensen

Your chance to meet Mr. Le Mans!

Our friends at Race Retro have offered one lucky Travel Destinations customer the chance to win a meet and greet with endurance racer & Le Mans legend Tom Kristensen.

Race Retro

Race Retro celebrates the very best of international historic motorsport, showcasing every discipline including formula and circuit racing, rallying, hill climbs, touring cars, single marque series, motorcycling, sports and GT cars. From historic to vintage and classic to retro vehicles, it’s all covered at Race Retro. Cars and motorcycles, drivers, team managers, riders, mechanics, manufacturers and enthusiasts all come together ahead of the forthcoming season.

Tom will make his debut appearance at Race Retro, the international historic motorsport show, on Saturday 25th February at Stoneleigh Park, as part of the three-day events 15th anniversary ‘Super Show’ celebrations.

Tom Kristensen

Tom, who was inducted into the Motor Sport Hall of Fame in 2013, will appear on the Motor Sport Live Stage while at the show and have a private meet and great with one lucky Travel Destinations customer.

To be in with a chance of winning, book your tickets here or simply visit www.raceretro.com and book tickets for Saturday 25th February quoting RR17TK

T&C’s – Tickets must be booked before 20th February 2017 in order to be in with a chance of winning. Only tickets booked for Saturday 25th February 2017 will be eligible for the prize draw. If booking more than one ticket, the prize will be awarded to the individual who booked the ticket, not the whole group. No cash alternative to the prizes will be offered. The prize is not transferable. The lucky winner must be able to attend for the whole day on Saturday 25th February 2017. The winner will be chosen at random and notified by email and will have 24 hours to confirm receipt of their prize. If the prize has not been claimed after 24 hours the organisers reserve the right to re-draw the prize winner. The organiser reserves the right to change all or any of the elements of the prize at their soul discretion and no correspondence will be entered into.

Travel Destinations Brochure

New 2017 Travel Destinations Brochure

The Travel Destinations’ brochure for 2017/18 is available to download now. The new brochure includes events such as the Le Mans 24 Hours, Spa Classic, Nurburgring 24 Hours, Rolex 24 at Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring, Nurburgring Oldtimers Grand Prix, Bathurst 12 Hours, Spa 24 Hours & Circuit Des Remparts at Angouleme.

For those planning further ahead we have even included early booking offers for the Le Mans Classic in 2018.

Travel Destinations brochure
Click on the image above to get your digital copy of our brochure.

Our brochure will also be available to collect from our stands at the Classic Motor Show at the NEC in Birmingham (11th – 13th November), at the Autosport International Show also at the NEC in Birmingham (12th – 15th January) and at the London Classic Car Show at Excel, London (23rd – 26th February). Do come and say hello to our staff and collect your copy of our new brochure.
Classic Motor Show
London Classic Car Show

 

 

Rolex 24 at Daytona

Rolex 24 at Daytona Preview

On the eve of Rolex 24 at Daytona; the first chance to see some of this years’ new machinery in action, our man in the stands takes a look at some of the talking points and things to look out for at this year’s race.

DPi vs LMP2
The new era for prototype racing in North America starts now at Daytona. Seven DPis and five brand new global LMP2s will all make their global race debuts at Daytona. It is very early days for all of the cars taking part, with limited running and plenty of niggles for most of them during the two official Daytona tests prior to this race week. Having said that, they are fast. They look good and are set to be driven by some incredibly talented drivers come Saturday afternoon.

Cadillac at Daytona

The three Cadillacs run by Action Express and Wayne Taylor Racing look to be the fastest over a single lap at this stage, but the race is a long one, and the durability could be in question. In the LMP2 corner meanwhile Rebellion has been consistently quick through testing and practice at the speedway, with Neel Jani in particular showing off his ability to mix it with the Cadillacs and outpace the Mazda and Nissans. Outside of Oreca, both Ligier and Riley/Multimatic are represented by PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports and Visit Florida Racing respectively. Both are capable teams, and are set to race in the full season of IMSA. Time will tell if they’ll be able to compete for wins though as the season wears on.

 

GTLM winner?
With the entire Prototype field made up of unknown and unproven quantities, the chances of a surprise GT winner or at least top three may be higher than you’d normally think. There is no argument that the DPi and LMP2 prototypes are far quicker than those down in the GTLM field, but over the course of the 24 hours, history suggests that the new technology is likely to hit some trouble at one point or another. It could therefore turn into a chase to the finish with the leaders in the prototypes attempting to track down the more reliable GTLM leaders. It has happened before, and as recently as 2003 when TRG won the race overall title in a GT2 Porsche when the then new Daytona Prototypes in the field all fell by the wayside. And aside from the very real opportunity to score a 1-2-3-4 in GTLM, Ford bringing four GTs to the Rolex 24 Hours could very well be an attempt to maximise the opportunity of winning the Rolex 24 outright.

Ford at Daytona

 

Lexus, Mercedes and Acura join the fray
In the GTD class, the main interest is going to be the progress of the new Acura NSX GT3 and Lexus RCF GT3s, as well as the debut of Mercedes in this class. For Lexus, the RCF GT3 is finally set for its North American debut after years of development. The cars on track at Daytona are the same specification as the Lexus which raced – and won overall – in the VLN at the tail end of last season. The team, formerly known as Rocketsports Racing, is keen to put its past, with the failed Jaguar XKR GT3, behind it as the face of this Lexus project. The time is now for Paul Gentilozzi, who with the backing of Lexus North America, will want to be gunning for wins, certainly by the end of the season.

Acura’s IMSA programme meanwhile is headed by Michael Shank Racing. The team, which has been racing prototypes in recent seasons has been tasked with running the brand new NSX GT3 partnered with the brand in its endurance programme. It is a big ask for the team, which clearly understands the magnitude of the challenge at hand. It remains to be seen how competitive the car can be this early in its debut season, though Balance of Performance will as always be a leveling factor, no matter which side of the performance equation it sits early on. The main focus for the Rolex 24 at Daytona will be ensuring that it’s up to scratch in the durability and serviceability department.

 

Stars in cars
Beyond the galaxy of returning IMSA talent the Rolex 24 at Daytona once again dishes up part of its unique appeal; the opportunity for drivers from other parts of the sport to take on the challenge of Daytona in a proper endurance race. There is little doubt who the biggest draw is likely to be this week with legendary NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon back at Daytona racing in the Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi.

From the sportscar universe, there are no fewer than nine recent, and for the most part current, FIA WEC LMP1 factory drivers listed among the 43 men due to do battle in the Prototype class. The names on the list include two current Porsche men, 2016 World Champ Brendon Hartley and current title holder Neel Jani. Toyota are well represented too with 2014 Champion Seb Buemi, plus the experienced Sarrazin, Conway and ex Toyota man, and current LMP2 WEC and Le Mans Champ, Nico Lapierre. Add in 2013 World Champ Loic Duval, current Audi DTM man plus the ultra-fast Rene Rast and Filipe Albuquerque and you’re left with a real chance to see the team mates and friends, now wearing completely different kit, going up against each other.

Rebellion at Daytona

There’s also a bunch of WEC LMP2 race winners like Bruno Senna and Ryan Dalziel on the list too with ELMS race winner and previous LMP1 privateer champ Mathias Beche and reigning European Le Mans Series LMP3 Champ Mike Guasch also set to race. IndyCar is also well represented, as Jack Hawksworth is set to drive a Lexus RCF. James Hinchcliffe will be aboard the No.70 Mazda. Buddy Rice will pilot a PC. Graham Rahal will peddle an Acura and Tony Kannan has a real chance of winning GTLM whilst making his debut with Ford.

 

Porsche’s new toy
With the GTE/GTLM machinery continuing on its vertical developmental curve, Porsche is the most recent marque to bring a fresh car to the category after Ford brought the GT to the party in 2016. The new mid-engined 911 RSR promises to make strides in both performance and serviceability as the brand looks to get its premier GT programme back on track after a tough 2016 campaign on both sides of the pond.

Porsche at Daytona

In terms of drivers Porsche’s works stable has a fresh look to it, with Audi-stalwart Laurens Vanthoor set for his debut, along with ex-BMW man Dirk Werner. The new men will race with regulars Patrick Pilet, Frederic Makowiecki, Kevin Estre and Richard Lietz, who all know how to develop a car and turn it into a winner. At the Roar Before the 24, the Porsche crew didn’t set any particularly notable lap times, but did manage to complete a significant amount of on-track running. It is going to be interesting to see if the new car can hit the ground running before its trip to Sebring and then the start of the WEC season which of course includes Le Mans, which the team will of course hope to win for the first time since 2014.

The Rolex 24 at Daytona 2017 promises to be quite a race, so sit back and enjoy the ride!

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

Travel Destinations are once again hosting customers at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. They are currently staying at our exclusive hotel overlooking Daytona beach and enjoying all the action at the Speedway. The tour includes car hire to enable you to be independent but is also escorted by one of our staff to help and guide where necessary. If you would like to join us in Florida for the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January 2018 please do call or email us now to register your interest.

Spa Classic 2017

Spa Classic 2017

Spa ClassicSpa Classic 2017
19th – 21st May

Although the Le Mans Classic doesn’t return again until July 2018, you can still get your fix of classic car racing with annual Spa Classic event.

Spa Classic 2017

In May 2017, the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium will host the 7th Spa Classic, an historic race weekend, that features a variety of grids including Group C cars, classic touring cars, Italian sports cars and sixties endurance racing. In addition to the on track action, classic car clubs from across Europe are invited to display their cars within the paddock areas, creating a show of beautiful cars and motoring history.

Travel Destinations have been looking after customers at every Spa Classic event since its inception. This has enabled us to become the official agency for this event giving us access to the best tickets and options available. In particular Travel Destinations invites all its customers arriving at Spa in classic or sports cars, to park in our private car parking area within the circuit, in pride of place, on the top level adjacent to the F1 garages. From this car parking area you can see across the paddocks to both the La Source hairpin and the hill at Eau Rouge.

Spa Classic 2017

All Travel Destinations customers are also invited to join us in our hospitality suite overlooking Eau Rouge for light refreshments throughout the weekend. From this first floor suite you can relax for a while, enjoy complimentary tea & coffee and still watch all the action. It is a great place to socialise with other guests and meet the Travel Destinations team.

All our Spa Classic offers include your choice of travel and accommodation. You can choose from the Eurotunnel, or the ferries from Dover or Hull. All the packages also include entrance tickets to the Spa Classic that also allows access to every paddock and grandstand. You are free to wander and view from wherever you like.

We have a choice of five different hotels and a campsite to stay at. All of the properties are within 15 minutes of the circuit and each of the options has been visited by Travel Destinations staff. We have been using all of them for a number of years and have many repeat guests, so they all come highly recommended. We have tried to offer something for every budget and taste, but please feel free to ask our staff for a recommendation when you call.

Spa Classic 2017

You can find out more about the Spa Classic and our exclusive offers on this website by clicking here. You can book your place at the Spa Classic now by calling us on 0844 873 0203. A deposit of £85.00 per person will be required at the time of booking.

The Spa Classic may still be the little sister to the Le Mans Classic, but she is catching up fast.

 

Corvette at Le Mans

FIA WEC 6 Hours of Nurburgring Preview

What to watch out for at the FIA WEC 6 Hours Nürburgring

The Le Mans hype train may have reached its last stop in 2016, but the FIA WEC’s world tour still has six more rounds to run. Next week the FIA World Endurance Championship runners and riders hit the track for the first time since the Le Mans 24 Hours when the series travels to the Nürburgring for the final European race of the season. Here, our man in the stands, takes a look at some of the main talking points ahead of the fourth round of the 2016 WEC season:

Toyota to Bounce Back
After missing out on winning the race in truly crushing fashion at Le Mans, Toyota Gazoo Racing will be extra motivated to have a strong showing at the Nürburgring as it sets its target to winning the WEC World Championship. The big issue is that the points situation highly favours Porsche in both the manufacturers and drivers championships following Le Mans. Porsche leads the factory points tally by 32 points over Audi and 48 over Toyota, while Le Mans and Silverstone winners Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas control the drivers standings by 39 points. The Japanese outfit has a mountain to climb in the remaining six rounds if it is to challenge for any sort of trophies this year. But you can bet that they will throw the kitchen sink at it if they have to.

Toyota at FIA WEC 6 Hours of Nurburgring

Ford dominance
Ford’s Le Mans victory was a tale of both triumph and anti-climax. Everyone close to the sport should have been impressed by the Blue Oval coming to Le Mans on its first year back and competing for a win; but instead were left disappointed. Anyone who followed the GTE ‘fiasco’ in any level of detail at Le Mans, knows that in the world of Balance of Performance Ford lapping four to five seconds quicker than the other cars in the Pro class on its way to a 1,3,4 at La Sarthe should never have happened.

Ford win at Le Mans

Had Ford showed such prowess from the Prologue onwards, then the ACO would have surely the been more prepared, but instead, Ford failed to reveal the GT’s capabilities until Le Mans week. You can argue that they played the game well, and they did, but at the detriment of good racing. With that in mind, going into the Nürburgring, the powers that be will have to reign the cars in somewhat dramatically to prevent further uproar. Currently Ford is on a streak though, having won both IMSA GTLM races since Le Mans, meaning the round in Germany could prove to be a crucial one for the future of the GTE Pro class if they are able to win again in convincing fashion.

Aston’s Tactical Shakeup
The sheer amount of changes to many of the driver squads ahead of the 6h Nürburgring is astounding, with some big names joining the action and some losing their drives. Aston’s movements have proved to be the most seismic though. In the AMR stable, both Fernando Rees and Jonny Adam have lost their seats in the No.97 Vantage for the rest of the season. Richie Stanaway will instead be paired up with Darren Turner, leaving Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørenesen to drive the No.95. Not only does it give the four drivers more track time at each circuit, but it spreads the points in both cars, meaning Aston can still win the GT Drivers Title with both entries as it has pilots from the No.95 — which had a better start to the season — in both Vantages.

Aston Martin Racing at Le Mans

Merhi on a charge
With the Manor team improving at each race, it’s surely only a matter of time before the ex-F1 outfit takes its first LMP2 win. At Le Mans, arguably the star of the race in LMP2 was Roberto Merhi, who drove incredibly well in his 24-hour debut. He led the class and took the fight to the best drivers in the 23-strong field early on in the race before a string of issues hampered the team’s chances. The Spaniard looks like a true sportscar star in the making, and should be one to watch throughout the second half the season following his coming out party in June.

Manor Racing at Le Mans

Packed stands
Last year when the WEC held a round at the Nürburgring for the first time, the entire paddock left on Sunday night satisfied with its atmosphere and organisation. The event ran smoothly, the racing was good and most importantly the general public showed up in their droves. There was well over 50 thousand fans trackside at the ‘Ring on race day in 2015, which was incredibly promising to see. Hosting the final European round in one of the Meccas of Motorsport, which coincidentally is a home race for two of the three major manufacturers in LMP1 should be applauded. Keeping up the interest in the WEC each season after Le Mans is imperative in its growth and future stability. So If the weather holds out and the local promoters do their jobs, expect there to be more people watching than last year, and therefore even more positivity going into the next rounds.

Crowds at Le Mans

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

Audi at Spa 24hrs

Looking forward to the Spa 24hrs

5 things to watch for at the Spa 24 Hours

The Spa 24 Hours is in many ways a marquee event in world Motorsport these days, with tons of factory interest, entries and a world-class venue to race on. This year, 65 cars are entered for Blancpain’s ‘blue riband’ event, with 29 in the full pro class at the front. Here’s five interesting storylines to follow from the runners and riders who will feature at the head of the field:

1. Garage 59’s three-car assault
McLaren GT customer squad Garage 59 has emerged as the team to beat so far this season in the Blancpain Endurance Cup, with two wins out of three races. The team’s leading No.58 650S GT3 of Rob Bell, Shane van Gisbergen and Come Ledogar has been both fast and consistent all season long and looks to continue its title challenge at Spa after victories at both Monza and the Paul Ricard 1000km.

In the second No.59 car is the trio of McLaren GT Driver Academy boys, Straun Moore, Alex Fontana and Andrew Watson, but the No.60 is the one to watch out of the other two. The No. 60 is a one-off entry which has 2016 Daytona 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours winner Pipo Derani, experienced Brit Duncan Tappy and ex-F1 driver Bruno Senna aboard. While they won’t be worried about picking up points as much as the #58 will, they’ll be just as motivated to win the race outright.

Spa 24hrs

The Spa 24 Hours hasn’t been a kind event to McLaren over the years, especially during its days with teams running the MP4 12C GT3, but that looks set to change. The 650S GT3 won the Bathurst 12 Hour earlier this year with Garage 59 and the winning car proved to be practically bullet proof in the process.

2. Audi’s attack
After the sheer disappointment of this year’s Nürburgring 24 Hours, Audi is out for redemption at Spa, with eight cars in the Overall (Pro) class; the most of any brand in the top category. Of the octet, three are backed directly by the factory, with two run by Team WRT and one by Phoenix Racing.

WRT’s lineup is stellar – as usual – with Nürburgring and Spa 24 winner Laurens Vanthoor, Nico Muller, Rene Rast and ex-F1 driver Will Stevens fresh from his first Le Mans to name a few. Pohenix meanwhile has Audi veteran Frank Stippler aboard, one of the safest pair of hands in the business.

Audi at Spa 24hrs

Last year the R8 LMS was in contention all the way to the end, but had to settle for second behind Marc VDS Racing’s BMW Z4 in its first run at the race.

3. DTM takeover?
This year’s race sees DTM drivers from Audi, Mercedes and BMW taking part. The biggest name is 2005 DTM champ Gary Paffet, who is making his GT debut at the race driving with fellow Mercedes DTM driver Max Gotz in the No.86 HTP Mercedes. Daniel Juncadella and is also on the bill in an AMG GT3.

From the BMW camp, GT stalwart Maxime Martin will be driving in ROWE Racing’s No.99 BMW M6 GT3, and Audi will field Italian driver Eduardo Mortara in Stippler’s usual ISR seat in the No.75 car.  Certainly some big names to follow in headlining cars.

4. Linkin Park link up
World-famous rap rock artists Linkin Park will be present at the Spa 24 Hours, not just as fans, but also with their name on a car. The No.00 Black Falcon Mercedes AMG will sport an eye-catching silver and red live ring with Linkin Park branding. The band itself are huge Mercedes AMG fans, and will present the car to the public on race week.

Linkin Park livery

It’s not going to be just a rolling billboard either, in fact it could well be the headlining Mercedes in the field come Sunday afternoon. Driving it will be the fierce combination of this year’s N24 hero Maro Engel, ageless former Spa winner and all-round Mercedes legend Bernd Schneider and ex-Marc VDS pilot Yelmer Buurman.

5. Two Jags
The plucky privateer Emil Frey team will most certainly be one to watch. For years it has developed its own Jaguar GT3 car from an unreliable garage-sitter that was often off the pace, to a solid and on the pace car which has become an evert-present Blancpain fan-favourite. Usually, the Swiss outfit brings just one to Blancpain Endurance Cup rounds, but for this year’s Spa 24 it’s going all out to prove the car’s worth on the biggest stage.

Spa 24hrs

The team comes with a very intriguing lineup of 2015 Spa winner Markus Palttala, Jonathan Hirschi and former Red Bull F1 drvier Christian Klien making his Spa 24 debut. The trio should be quick, and capable of making noise in Qualifying as well as during the race if things fall their way.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photographs by Dailysportscar

Spa Classic

Spa Classic 2016

Spa Classic 2016

A week after the FIA WEC 6 hours of Spa-Francorchamps it was the turn of the golden oldies of the world of endurance racing to take to the legendary Belgian circuit for the 6th Spa Classic. If the weather was a bit cooler than the weekend before, the action on the track was equally competitive and the spectacle was equally enthralling.

Spa-9

The spectators formed a guard of honour around the lines of historic cars about to go out onto the track, and everyone was able to take advantage of the relaxed nature of the Spa Classic to get up close to the drivers and their machinery.

The weekend provided people with the opportunity to relive some of the greatest events in the history of the Spa-Francorchamps 24 Hours in the touring car era, as well as the Spa 1000 km with prototypes and GTs covering the period 1952 (Aston Martin DB2) to 1993 (Peugeot 905). In all, four decades on this circuit marked by victories of emblematic models like the Ferrari 250 LM (1965), Ford GT40 (1968) and the Porsche 962 (1986), all of which were represented on the track this weekend. A total of some 216 racing cars divided up into six grids (Classic Endurance Racing 1 & 2, Group C Racing, the Heritage Touring Cup, Trofeo Nastro Rosso & Sixties’ Endurance) put on a nine-race action-packed show out on the track from Friday onwards, including one that felt absolutely magic on Saturday evening as night fell.

Spa Classic

Spectators, who were able to tear themselves away from the racing that continued nonstop out on the beautiful Belgian circuit, for a few minutes were able to experience musical and motoring entertainment both in and out of the paddocks, whilst children could have their first taste of driving pedal-powered karts round their own circuit, and then take on their parents at the controls of radio-controlled cars. Other forms of entertainment included jazz music and a unique DJ housed in VW van as well as many boutiques (scale models, clothes, bookshops, etc.).

One of the great assets of an event like the Spa Classic is the access all areas philosophy that allows spectators to wonder through the garages and paddocks, as well as access all of the grandstands and visit the Brasserie on top of the F1 building. The more adventurous also enjoyed a walk along the footpath that offers spectacular views around the whole circuit.

Spa Classic

Inside and outside the track car clubs gathered to add to the weekend display. Four different BMW clubs that had chosen Spa Classic to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the make, many owners of historic cars came to the Ardennes to enjoy the party and represented makes as diverse as Corvette, Datsun, Honda, MG, Porsche, Triumph and TVR. Enough to retrace the history of the motor car through 700 models ranging from the legendary Citroën Traction Avant to the incredible Lamborghini Miuras, Ferrari F40s and F50s.

Spa Classic

Guests booked with Travel Destinations enjoyed the Spa Classic more than most. Not only did they park their cars in pride of place, stretching the full length of the top level F1 paddock, but they also had access to the Travel Destinations hospitality lodge overlooking Eau Rouge, where they could enjoy their own pit stop with tea, coffee and biscuits without missing any of the action. Those with dreams of being racers themselves were also able to take their cars out on track to enjoy the twists and turns of Spa-Francorchamps first hand.

The Spa Classic event will be returning in May 2017 & Travel Destinations will once again be there in the middle of the action, enjoying this great event. If you are interested in joining us at the Spa Classic in 2017, please register your interest with us now, to be among the first to receive our special offers.Spa Classic

Audi survive late scare to take win at Silverstone

Audi survive late scare to win at Silverstone

Sunshine and gusting winds greeted fans arriving at Silverstone on Sunday for the first round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. After the new team line ups and the national anthems on the grid before the start it was down to business for all the teams eager to start the season on a positive note.

Audi survive late scare to take win at Silverstone

Porsche had qualified on the front row and continued to show that pace as both cars pulled away from the chasing group. The opposite happened to the No. 7 Audi as Treluyer struggled to get the car off the line. Not only did he see the rest of the LMP1 grid disappear around the first corner, but he was then engulfed by the LMP2 runners as well. It could have been the surprise of the slow Audi that caused the new Strakka Racing Dome to immediately spin off in to the gravel, sending them to the very back.
Just six minutes in to the race the leading LMP1 cars were in traffic as they caught the back markers in the GTE field. The closing speeds were astonishing. The speed of the whole LMP1 grid was impressive throughout. The lap times were comparable with the middle of the F1 grid last year. Keeping in mind the weight of the cars, the fuel and the distance of the race, this was remarkable. Webber’s Porsche was particularly quick, pulling out a 10 second advantage on his team mate in second place. Behind them the battle between Audi and Toyota for third place saw them trading places in and out of Brooklands.

In the LMP2 field the KCMG car benefitted from a great start to take the lead in class, but within the first hour it was being chased down by the two orange and black G Drive Racing cars. Despite a valiant effort from Tandy at the wheel, he was passed on consecutive laps and the G Drive cars didn’t look back. The stricken Strakka Racing car, was recovering from the back and had a different view as it began to fight its way back through the congested field.
Aston Martin started at the front of the GTE Pro field and started well, initially holding off the challenge of Porsche, with Ferrari staying out of trouble and watching developments unfold in front of them. GTE Am was equally close with the sole Corvette getting ahead of the Porsche and the AF Corse Ferrari, with Aston Martins watching closely.

Audi survive late scare to take win at Silverstone

Things were to change beyond the first hour. The leading Porsche, with Webber at the wheel, was called to the pit lane and pushed back in to the garage. Unfortunately it was never to return, as a driveshaft failure curtailed their race, leaving a lone Porsche out front.
Audi’s double challenge was reduced shortly after Porsche. Following impact with a GTE Porsche at Becketts, the No. 8 Audi had to return to the garage for bodywork repairs. Time in the garage cost the car a lap, but the damage appeared a little more than cosmetic. The car never really recovered and continued to look unstable when it returned to the track. Their challenge was over.
At the front the battle was really just beginning. Over the period of more than an hour the remaining Audi and Porsche became locked in a tremendous battle. They were also briefly joined by the No. 1 Toyota as the pit stop strategy panned out. The lead constantly changed between the cars while Neel Jani and Marcel Fassler, expertly weaved their vehicles through the traffic. The Porsche was clearly able to pull away from the Audi along the straights, but it was quickly reeled in again by the Audi under passed under braking in to the corners. The battle continued for lap after lap, neither able to put any distance between themselves and their rival, despite different pit stop & tyre stinting strategies.

Eventually the No. 7 Audi managed to break the stranglehold and a gap appeared. The Porsche had to be careful as the chasing Toyotas double stinted the tyres bringing them back in to the mix. Toyota and Porsche both challenged the leader throughout the rest of the race, but neither could hold the lead for any length of time, and going in to the last hour the Audi continued to lead with a gap of almost 40 seconds.
The LMP2 race became a comfortable 1 -2 for the G-Drive Racing. Once they had passed the KCMG car they built a lead that could never be surpassed. The No. 26 car ahead of the sister Ligier. The battle behind them saw the fluorescent green Extreme Speed HPD car finish in the third podium spot, but they were later disqualified by the stewards for worn bodywork beneath the car. This meant a late promotion for the Strakka Racing Dome that had fought its way back from that initial spin at the first corner. A great effort from the home based team.

Audi survive late scare to take win at Silverstone

The GTE Pro race was more difficult to predict. The initial dominance of Aston Martin was undermined by a decision to pit under a full course yellow, setting their strategy off against the Porsche and Ferraris. The Manthey Porsche team looked strong but ultimately it was the experience of Bruni and Vilander that brought the AF Corse Ferrari home for the win.

Aston Martin had greater success in the GTE Am class, with the No. 98 car holding off the challenge of the Ferrari to win the class. The No. 50 Larbre Corvette could have mounted a challenge, but it sustained damage after a collision with an Audi and the resultant run across the gravel.

Audi survive late scare to win at Silverstone

Back at the front it was difficult to call a winner. Audi were ahead of Porsche who were in turn ahead of Toyota; a three way fight to the finish. The Audi built enough of a gap to enable them a splash and dash to the line, but the Porsche and Toyota were closing. Just as the Audi was coming in for that last stop, the stewards gave the Audi a stop/go penalty for overtaking squabbling GTE cars by taking all 4 wheels off the track. The Audi came back to the pitlane on their outlap and served the penalty to emerge just seconds ahead of the chasing Porsche. The gap now much reduced to just 8 seconds with 10 laps remaining.
In the last few laps the Toyota in third was catching the Porsche in second, who in turn was catching the leading Audi. The Porsche closed the gap to less than 8 seconds but just couldn’t catch the Audi. Fassler held on to give Audi the win and start the FIA WEC season on the top of the podium.
This was an incredible race, and sets up the next round at Spa perfectly. All three prototype challengers appear to have improved on last year’s model and there is clearly little to choose between them. This could be the best FIA World Endurance Championship season yet.

You can join us at the next 3 rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship. We have travel, tickets and camping options available for Spa-Francorchamps, Le Mans and the Nurburgring. Call us now on 0844 873 0203 to reserve your place!

Olly Jarvis looks for home advantage

Olly Jarvis looks for home advantage

Olly Jarvis looks for home advantage

This weekend sees the return of the FIA World Endurance Championship, with the Six Hours of Silverstone. Although Audi were victorious at Le Mans, they finished the 2014 FIA WEC behind Toyota. That experience is not something they wish to repeat in 2015.

Much has changed at Audi over the winter season, with a different car and different driver line-ups for 2015. British driver Oliver Jarvis (a friend of Travel Destinations) has effectively taken the seat of Audi hero Tom Kristensen, but says that he is not feeling the pressure before the first race of the season.

Olly Jarvis looks for home advantage

Silverstone is Olly Jarvis’ home circuit. Despite this, much is new in the opening round of the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC for the 31-year old professional racing driver.

He already knows the Audi R18 e-tron quattro, has contested five FIA WEC races, and has even mounted the podium at Le Mans. Nevertheless, everything will be different from April onwards. “Loïc Duval and Lucas di Grassi are my team mates for the first time and I contest a complete WEC season for Audi,” says Jarvis. “The benchmark for us are our team mates Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer in the number 7 Audi. The three of us want to be just as strong. We will have to complete a learning curve as a driver team. With this in mind, it’s a big advantage that we suit each other and have a similar way of working. During my preparation I work very closely with our race engineer Justin Taylor.”

Of all things, his home track is relatively new to the Briton. “I’ve only ever driven once on the current version of the track. I raced in the Blancpain Endurance Series here two years ago in the Audi R8 LMS ultra,” says Jarvis. “But it’s a big difference whether you drive here in a GT3 sportscar or now in a much faster LMP1 car. There are many fast corners that require a very committed driving style. Silverstone offers a real challenge as the first WEC race of the year.”

The opportunity to fight for a title in the Audi R18 e-tron quattro is also unusual. “Up until now, I had only driven in selected races. Now I have the entire WEC season on my calendar for the first time,” he states. “It’s important to start the season with a good result and to score as many points as possible. I still don’t know what to expect, but I’m confident after the WEC prologue at Le Castellet in March. Being able to contest the entire world championship means that a dream has come true for me.”

The anticipation for Oliver Jarvis’s home race increases daily. “Obviously my relatives and many friends will visit,” says the Briton. “My two team mates and I feel exceptionally well prepared. We see ourselves as a good, close team and want to have a successful weekend.” What exactly does this mean in facts and figures? “It would be fantastic to be on the podium.”
Following this weekend’s race at Silverstone, the FIA WEC moves on to Spa in Belgium, then Le Mans in France and the Nurburgring in Germany. If you would like to view the action live at any of these famous circuits, please call us now to book your travel and tickets.

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.