Legendary automaker Ferrari is celebrating their 70th anniversary this year and the red carpet was rolled out in New York City’s Rockefeller Center to showcase some of the beautiful vehicles created through the years. It’s rare to see so many cars displayed in one place in Manhattan – space comes at a premium, so car shows and even this past summer’s Formula e races are generally relegated to the humbler outer boroughs. Million dollar babies such as these keep their appearances to the refinement of an exclusive concours d’elegance, so this was quite the treat for tourists and the few stalwart New Yorker Ferrari fans who braved the throngs to stare at the cars and dream. Front and center was the new LaFerrari Aperta, the new limited-edition special series hybrid with a v12 engine. The exhibit was capped on both ends by race cars; on the south end, the 2017 488 Challenge, and the north end, F2001 Chassis #211 raced by the legendary driver Michael Schumacher, and winner of the Monaco and Hungarian Grand Prixes (in 2001). Enough typing – you really just want to see the Ferrari porn.
The New England Forest Rally (NEFR) is the fifth of six rallies on the American Rally Association (ARA) in the organization’s first year. As in previous years, the stages are run over two days on forest roads from Bethel, Maine and Errol, New Hampshire. Started in 1991, previous winners include Patrick Richard/Nathalie Richard, Travis Pastrana/Christian Edstrom, Antoine L’Estage/Nathalie Richard, Ken Block/Alex Gelsomino, and David Higgins/Craig Drew.
With a list of 45 entries, the first two stages of the rally kicked off at Concord Pond after Parc Expose at Sunday River Resort, and the race of attrition began. After service and Stage 3, Stage 4 was cancelled; first there was a bit of miscommunication about an injury to Robbie Durant, Travis Pastrana’s co-driver, but after it was resolved communication was lost and the stage was cancelled. Durant suffered an impacted spine and couldn’t continue after Stage 4, then Pastrana put in a formal request to switch co-drivers. Rule books were consulted, and the race steward approved Pastrana continuing the rally on Saturday with a new co-driver. An available, licensed co-driver was found in Greg Dorman, also SRT USA’s Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator. An unusual situation to say the least, but ultimately within the rules.
Saturday started off dramatically when car 111 – Luis Teixeira and Kadence Verge – had an off requiring medical attention and Stage 5 was cancelled. Laughlin O’Sullivan and Scott Putnam had an off on Stage 8 – Sturtevant Long and had to leave the stage with the car on the back of a tow. By the end of Stage 12, both Pastrana and Higgins had damaged right rear suspension, but both were repaired enough in service to continue to the final stage on North Road.
Pastrana won overall with Dorman, Higgins and Drew in second, and Jeff Seehorn and Karen Jankowski in third in only their second time competing at NEFR. Pastrana, ever the sportsman and good-guy, jumped off the podium after the champagne spray and gave his trophy to a young girl in front. Completely speechless, he told the girl to come back next year and he would autograph the trophy for her.
Andrew Comrie-Picard and Jeremy Wimpey drove an all new Ford Focus RS rally car to first place in Production 4WD, and frequent regional competitors Alvin Fong and William Machin had their first ARA national podium in second in the 2006 Mitsubshi Evo 9. Sumit Panjabi and Matt James rounded out the podium in 3rd.
Clinching the Open 2WD Championship was Ryan Millen and co-driver Rhianon Gelsomino in the Toyota RAV4.
There was a noticeable increase in spectators since 2015, boding well for rally in North America. NEFR efforts have paid off and the VIP bus has gone from a bus ride on a school bus to a spectator areas on a couple of stages to a VIP experience offering food and drink in addition to the transportation.
ARA has one more rally in its 2017 – Ojibwe Forests Rally August 25-26. While there were some growing pains with the controversy over Pastrana’s co-driver switch and questions over Higgins’ car being underweight at the end of NEFR, the non-profit organization is addressing the issues for future rallies.
…and still no mooses.
The Chairman of the Board sings that if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. Formula e certainly has made it by doing something no other racing series has, and that is successfully hold a closed-course street race within New York City. And Gotham certainly rolled out the figurative red carpet for the Qualcomm New York City ePrix – a ribbon cutting to open the track, Sir Richard Branson [Virgin Racing] turning on the lights to the Empire State Building, and Alejandro Agag – Founder and CEO – ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange with first season champion Nelson Piquet Jr. Yet to really make an impression on jaded New Yorkers, the weekend of racing would be a double-header – rounds 9 and 10 on the Formula e calendar.
In a conference call with the media before race weekend, Agag and team owner Michael Andretti talked about how the race finally came together for New York City. The series pointedly holds races in cities to promote electric cars and sustainable technology, and the logistics of finding a site in NYC proved itself to be difficult between subways, traffic, accessibility, and power supply. Agag explained, “We go to places where cars are really a problem”. Location after location was looked at, including Liberty State Park across the river in New Jersey, “But we wanted it in New York City, not New Jersey,” said Agag. When the daughter of a New York City official was impressed after coincidentally attending a race in Paris, they suddenly had an enthusiastic ally in city government to ultimately find the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal site. Located in Red Hook with an incredible view of the Statue of Liberty and downtown Manhattan, the temporary track was set up on on the terminal roads with the terminal itself being used for the exclusive VIP club as well as the media center.
Agag is not shy about Formula e’s agenda. Formula e is like every other series in that the impetus to be in motorsport is still race on Sunday, sell on Monday. “We wanted to on the ground floor of new technology,” said Michael Andretti of his team’s involvement, “You’ll see the tech on the road in 10 years. Competition pushes everyone to push the tech further, faster.” Sustainability is just as important as the tech; the race cars are zero emission vehicles, and the Michelin tires specially engineered for Formula e cars are recycled after the race. (Sorry, trophy hunters, no autographed tires for you.) The e-Village next to the race has a dj with booths touting solar panels, electric cars, and autonomous car tech. Incorporating digital technology in innovative ways helps to draw tech-savvy viewers from outside of the usual motorsport crowd – new for season three is “Fan Boost”, a way for fans to vote for their favorite driver through a phone app. On race day, the three drivers with the most votes can use the extra surge of power strategically during the race – blurring the lines a bit between gaming and live racing.
Many people comment that the races must be boring because the cars are so quiet – and hearing roaring engines is one of the cool things about racing, right? Well sure, but the cars are louder than you may think. Granted, there is no constant roar; you hear the TIE fighter like whoosh about twenty seconds before the car appears. The upside is that the tire squealing is much more apparent, and every tight turn sounds like it must be a crash because every bump is heard – but it’s just the usual racing and rubbing. Yet Formula e is still dogged by the perception that it is not “real racing,” especially because in its current format, driver switch cars halfway through. Seeing it in person dispels that myth – the races are pretty cool to watch, with cars reaching speeds of 140 mph and as much bumping as any other series. One security guard started laughing during the practice session, saying, “This is crazy!” Translated from New Yorker, it means “This is really cool.” Spotted over the weekend was Leonoardo DiCaprio, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones, and even Magnus Walker checking out the races.
So – to the races! Fortunately, the sun came out after a rain-soaked practice Friday. The circuit was very similar to the narrow Hong Kong circuit with tight chicanes. The current leader, Sebastiaen Buemi, was unfortunately racing in WEC 6 Hours of Nurburgring the same weekend as the NYC ePrix. Taking his place on the Renault e.dams team was Pierre Gasly. Its’ Mahindra Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist’s first season with Formula e, and he was one to watch as placed third in his second race. Alex Lynn, standing in for Jose Maria Lopez on the DS Virgin Racing team, grabbed pole position in his first race in the series. Ultimately, Techeetah drivers Stephane Sarrazin and Jean-Eric Vergne placed 3rd and 2nd, respectively, and DS Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird took the win.
Round 10 on Sunday was a sweltering hot day. Sam Bird took P1. Yellow flags came out several times as cars kept hitting the wall at Turn 5. Mahindra racing claimed two positions on the podium – Nick Heidfeld and Felix Rosenqvist, and once again, Sam Bird was in the number one spot on the podium for DS Virgin Racing.
The future of the series looks brighter than a recyclable fluorescent bulb – with Volvo’s recent announcement that they will soon only manufacture electric cars exclusively, it will be interesting to see what manufacturers will join Jaguar, Renault, Mahindra, BMW…
The final two races of the season will be in Montreal, Canada – another double header July 29 and 30, 2007.
New York International Auto Show has once again rolled into town with automakers bringing their shiniest, most innovative cars to to dramatically pull cover from and show off. Scattered amongst the concept, halo, and current production vehicles are the unattainable to many of us – the race cars.
The Saratoga Automobile Museum has a display of some classic and curious cars, and brought a few classic race cars from their collection. Included in their display are a Midget Racer from the 50’s, a 1909 Alco-6 Racer, 1950 Allard, and the 2009 Miller Lite Dodge driven by Kurt Busch.
Fresh from winning the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship BUBBA Burger SportsCar Grand Prix at Long Beach, the Cadillac V-Performance racing team Konica Minolta DPi-V.R drew admiration on the show floor, still with grit from the race on the wheels.
The Ford GT was the NYIAS poster car, and is front and center in the Ford booth on a rotating palette.
Formula e will race in Brooklyn this summer and there are two Formula e cars at the show. Jaguar now has an electric vehicle in the series, and Formula e also has a booth with champion Nelson Piquet’s car. Not to be outdone, BMW recently announced entry into the series with Andretti Formula e in 2018.
Subaru Rally Team USA has two new drivers in Red Bull Global Rallycross this year, having poached the Patrik Sandell from Ford and bringing on Chris Atkinson after he raced a limited schedule in the series last year. Atkinson’s GRC car is shown in the booth.
Alexander Rossi was the first rookie winner of the Indy 500 in 16 years, winning the 100th running of the race in 2016 in this Honda-powered Indycar.
Probably the dirtiest race car on the show floor is, of course, a rally car. This 1990 Audi 80 Quattro, 5 in line 10v 2.3 turbo has been raced in rallies in the US and Canada such as Tall Pines and Snow Drift since the 90’s, and is currently being restored to rally shape.
There are a lot of racing as well as classic gems on the show floor – here’s a full gallery of some of my favorites.
Formula DRIFT’s 2017 season started off with a shake-up at the top in Long Beach April 1st. Taking place annually on turns nine, ten, and eleven on the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, the Formula D drivers kill all tires on the course the weekend before IndyCar and Pirelli World Challenge drivers race on the street course.
Driving one of three Mustangs on the track this year, Vaughn Gittin Jr. came in first in qualifying with 97 points, with 2015 champion Frederic Aasbo qualifying fourth. This was Aasbo’s first competition in a Toyota Corolla iM; the Scion brand was phased out in early 2016, but supported their motorsports teams through the end of the year. Three-time and 2016 champ Chris Forsberg qualified sixth in his Nissan 370Z, with rookie Piotr Wiechek competing in his first Formula D event right behind in ninth.
After a group of recruits were sworn into the United States Air Force, the drivers were introduced to a capacity crowd. The Top 16 started their battles, and the shake-up began. Vaughn Gittin Jr., after such a brilliant start in qualifying, made a huge mistake against Dean Kearney in the Viper, and didn’t make it to the finals after spinning on the last turn.
The Final 8 saw some breathtaking driving. There were chants from the crowds for several third passes, but the only two drivers that ended up doing a “One More Time” pass were Alex Heilbrunn (BMW M3) and Odi Bakchis in a Nissan 240 SX. Heilbrunn won, and was then up against James Deane in the Finals. Contrary to his namesake, this James Deane pilots a Nissan, not a Porsche.
Five-time Irish Drift and five-time European Drift champion, Deane hasn’t competed in Formula D since 2010. The Irishman drove spectacularly and setting a high bar for himself for the 2017 season, took the win against Heilbrunn. Deane commented after winning, “Man, what a way to start back in Formula DRIFT after missing out on the last seven years. I owe a lot to my good friend and teammate, Piotr Wiecek, who came up with this whole idea to come back to the Series as a two-car team. To come out with the win is just mind blowing. What a feeling!” Rounding out the podium was the affable Ryan Tuerck, also having switched from a Scion to Toyota. Deane’s teammate, rookie Wiecek, finished at a not-too-shabby 9th place.
Formula DRIFT will come to Montreal, Quebec for True North July 14-15, 2017. Formula D also livestreams their events through their website, and a replay of the Top 32 and Top16 can be seen on YouTube.
Red Bull Global Rallycross’s Silly Season hasn’t been as tumultuous as previous years, but there still have been some interesting announcements since Patrik Sandell was snapped up to join Chris Atkinson for a new Subaru Rally Team USA lineup:
- 2016 Season champion Scott Speed has a new sponsor for 2017, teaming up with Oberto and Circle K.
- Loenbro has launched a multi-car team for 2017, with seasoned competitor Steve Arpin and another driver to be announced.
The GRC Lites program, conceived to be a feeder series and give young drivers rallycross experience, has been successful in doing just that. Cabot Bigham, the 2016 GRC Lites season champion, will try to fill Sandell’s racing shoes piloting the Ford Fiesta ST for Bryan Herta Rallysport. Looking at the field of 2017 SuperCar drivers, there are a several other familiar faces from GRC Lites – Mitchell DeJong was the 2014 GRC Lites champion and made his SuperCar debut in the 2016 season finale in Los Angeles and Kevin Eriksson is back with OMSE after driving the Honda Civic in SuperCars for the first time in Atlantic City in 2016.
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing will continue to field a three-car team in GRC Lites; Alex Keyes will stay with them for a third season, while Christian Brooks and Travis Pecoy join him after competing with AF Racing last year.
More announcements will be coming soon – and we’re looking forward to more information on the Canadian double-header. That nosey little bird has intoned that the location will be in Ottawa and while unconfirmed, TGB certainly hopes that this is true. Meanwhile, tickets are already on sale for the season opener at Memphis International Raceway in Tennessee April 28-29. Say hi to Elvis for me if you go.
Red Bull GRC has announced the 2017 season with a few surprises. Washington D.C., held in the lot of RFK Stadium for the past three years, is no longer on the schedule. Atlantic City is back with a double-header for 2017, and several new cities added – Louisville, KY; Thompson, CT; Memphis, TN; and Indianapolis, IN. Most exciting for TGB readers is a double-header in Canada – city not yet announced. The championship final will once again take place in Los Angeles as a single event. The full schedule:
Round 1: Memphis, TN (April 29)
- Round 2:Louisville, KY (May 21)
- Round 3:Thompson, CT (June 3)*
- Round 4:Thompson, CT (June 4)*
- Round 5:Canada (June 17)*
- Round 6:Canada (June 18)*
- Round 7:Indianapolis, IN (July 9)
- Round 8:Atlantic City, NJ (August 12)*
- Round 9:Atlantic City, NJ (August 13)*
- Round 10:Seattle, WA (September 9)*
- Round 11:Seattle, WA (September 10)*
- Round 12:Los Angeles, CA (October 14)
Teams are wasting no time with their driver changes in the new year – on day four of 2017, it was time to hastily update the Rallycross Silly Season Spreadsheet! Subaru announced a big change in their Red Bull GRC team, bringing in one big surprise and one a little more anticipated. First the surprise – Subaru has managed to spirit the seasoned Patrik Sandell from driving a Ford with Bryan Herta Rallysport to the Subie side. A competitor in GRC since 2013, the Swede is no stranger to the champagne spray with one win and five podiums in 2016 alone. Additionally, Australian rally driver Chris Atkinson who competed for the team in select GRC events last season has also been brought onto the team for the full 2017 season in the Vermont SportsCar WRX STI.
“I enjoyed my first taste of rallycross last year with the team, and it’s clear to see the potential both the team and the car have,” explains Atkinson. “I’m excited to come on board full-time with the squad, and I can’t wait to get started. The guys are working so hard in Vermont in the off-season now to really give Patrik and I something very special to drive in 2017.”
Rally driver David Higgins has also driven in a few GRC events for Subaru, and will continue to compete in rally for the USA team. In 2016, the new non-profit ARA (American Rally Association) was formed, headed by Tim O’Neil. Subaru has put their faith in the new sanctioning body and will be a national sponsor for the first year, while fielding Higgins and teammate Travis Pastrana. Sandell and Atkinson are both competitive rally drivers as well, so perhaps we can look forward to some more cross-over between rally and rallycross in the coming year.
November means a return to the Mojave desert for the last rally of the year, Seed 9 Rally Presented by Gold Strike Hotel & Gambling Hall. In what seems to be a new trend, at least in West Coast rally, is the inclusion of UTV’s – and the Seed 9 entry list had two. One driven by third place on last year’s podium, Brent Lee with co-driver Ericka Sacks, and the second was Mihai Gologan – whose co-driver was MIA, but he braved the rough desert stages alone. While there are mixed feelings about including off-road vehicles in traditional rally, there’s no denying that it brings more participants as well as a whole new audience and fan base to the rally scene.
This year’s entry list shrunk considerably from last year’s, mostly due to many of the usual teams having had a rough time at Prescott the previous month and not being able to get the car back into rally shape for Seed 9. The convention of Elvis impersonators were also sadly missing. Still, coinciding with SEMA week works in its favor with teams in town that may not normally run a car in this regional rally, and All Fours Rally Team signed on with Agatino Fortunato and Randy Biehl in Super Pro (Subaru WRX STI) as well as Cameron Steely and Preston Osborn (Ford Fiesta ST). There was even an international driver – ZiYong Xu arrived with a large cheering posse that perhaps for the first time ever gave Seed 9 actual spectators other than of the region’s wild horses. Seed 9 organizers had found him a co-driver in John Dillon who not only has a deep rally resume, but also speaks a bit of Mandarin.
Eight is enough for the rally to be run so the cars drove out of the Gold Strike parking lot, past the suddenly famous Pioneer Saloon under the watchful eye Goodpsring’s patrol car, and onto the dirt and gravel of Wilson Pass Road. All teams survived the four stages – one or two almost-offs, but everyone was able to re-start and continue.
After service, teams drove out to the two night stages – Ivanpah Valley West and East – right by the casino. It was here where one team’s luck ran out. Watching from downstage a quarter mile away, the headlights of Steely’s Ford Fiesta ST started making their way on the road. Suddenly, the headlights were pointing up in the air, then red taillights whipped around way higher than taillights ever should. A few minutes later, the next car came through – fortunately, everyone was fine.
Congratulations to overall winner Matt Coffman of Formula D with co-driver Blake Lind for the second year in a row, Xu/Dillon in second and Fortunato/Biehl third.
“…It’s going to be slamming banging, you’re gonna see the most exciting racing you’ve ever seen in your life. And if you’ve got ADD, it is the sport for you. It’s action-packed every turn, I have a hard time, like, taking it all in…” —Bucky Lasek
With that, Red Bull Global Rallycross arrived in Atlantic City, New Jersey for the first time with a Friday evening parade of race cars on the famed Boardwalk. After the cars drove past Bally’s and Caesar’s, they lined up for a GRC-style Parc Expose in Kennedy Plaza for a public press conference and autograph signing.
While Ford is still the dominant automaker in Supercars with five Fiestas driven by Steve Arpin, Brian Deegan, Austin Dyne, Nelson Piquet Jr., and Patrik Sandell, both Honda and Subaru upped the ante in the gambling town by adding a third car. Honda brought in Kevin Eriksson for their third OMSE Civic alongside Sebastian Eriksson and Joni Wiman; Kevin has competed in GRC Lites and currently competes in the FIA World Rallycross series in a Ford Fiesta. Subaru invited Australian rally driver Chris Atkinson to try his hand at rallycross in the #55 WRX STI with GRC regulars Bucky Lasek and Sverre Isachsen. Tanner Foust and Scott Speed rounded out the field in VW Beetles.
Being an itinerant series, the practice day always comes with its share of challenges – for example the wooden plank jump that caused delays in Detroit in 2015. In Atlantic City the course was on the tarmac of Bader Field, an aging municipal airport named after a Prohibition-Era mayor, and the racing cars created some potholes large enough to create flying chunks of the cement, warranting the postponement of a few heats to the following day. The stands were unusually packed for a practice day, being a Saturday, so GRC kept fans happy by adding a few rounds of door-to-door racing by the “Fastest Six.”
The Atlantic City course was also the longest course this year, measuring 1.102 miles. So long, in fact, that the usual Supercar final had to be cut down to eight laps from the usual ten, and the GRC Lites final down to six laps so the cars wouldn’t run out of gas. After Saturday’s qualifying, Scott Speed came out in front with pole position.
Sunday was bright and sunny for the finals, without the stiff breezes that blew the dirt around on Saturday. In the semi-final, Foust and Piquet Jr. tangled a bit, calling for a restart – moving the schedule around a bit. In order to maintain the live broadcast of the Supercar finals, the Lites finals ended up taking place after Supercars. The Supercars final did not disappoint, with teammates Foust and Speed jockeying for first, Speed ultimately staying in front for the win. On the last lap, Sandell took the Joker lap to take second, and Deegan sped past Arpin and a limping Foust for the third spot on the podium. Foust had a tire puncture for the last two laps, while Subaru teammates Bucky Lasek and Chris Atkinson suffered complete blow-outs.
In an earlier heat, Sandra Hultgren ended up rolling over after the first turn. She quickly got back onto the track in following heats. Alex Keyes won his first race on his last race of the season, with Oliver Eriksson and Miki Weckstrom in second and third, respectively.
Red Bull GRC goes to Seattle for the next race September 17, 2016.