Formula D at the Jersey Shore

Formula Drift barreled into the Jersey Shore for Round 4: The Gauntlet the last weekend in June for one of the Wall Stadium Speedway’s most popular annual events. Chris Forsberg has been on the podium the past three years in Wall, but was facing fierce competition not only from this year’s podium finishers Fredric Aasbo, Ryan Tuerck, Ken Gushi, and Odi Bakchis, but some impending thunderstorms and the notorious 30 degree banks of the 1/3 mile asphalt oval.

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In previous years, the competitors at Wall ran on a figure eight design with a tricky crossover but after complaints – one being that the competition took too long – the course was amended for 2015. The drivers began on a straightaway going clockwise, then hit the outer clip around along top of the turn; came out of the turn down the embankment to the first inner clip, then again around the inside of the opposite turn. Coming out of clipping zone 2, they would hit a second inner clip, then head into the third clipping zone to finish.

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The new layout saw a lot of dramatic spins and crashes in practice as well as in competition. 2013 Formula Drift Champion Michael Essa got a little too cozy with the guardrail, and a crash between Tuerck and Brandon Wicknick left Tuerck’s frs unable to drive off the track after a big fireball, and had to be loaded onto a flatbed for repairs.

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Due to the predicted rain, Formula D organizers moved Saturday’s final 16 to start an hour earlier than originally scheduled with a shortened break. Despite intermittent sprinkles, Wall’s old school stands were full of dedicated fans and the wet track offered even more challenges to the drivers. One disappointing aspect was that the bad weather limited drifting’s trademark plumes of smoke from the cars. The rain started to pour during the final eight – Gushi vs. Tuerck, Forrest Wang vs. Dean Kearney, Aasbo vs. Chelsea DeNofa, and Masashi Yokoi vs. Bakchis. Bakchis struggled with the downpour and Yokoi made it past him to the final four against Norwegian Fredric Aasbo, while Tuerck won against a very game but battered Ken Gushi to meet Kearney in the final four. Tuerck made the podium in 3rd place, and a podium finish for Kearney was certain – but had to face Aasbo first. Kearney and Aasbo were incredibly competitive in their final runs, with some tight exacting tandem passes.

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Aasbo came out on top, Kearney placing second. Still, fans stuck around, and everyone got soaking wet in the rain for the presentation of the trophies – the champagne spray almost made redundant by the summer showers.

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There are six more rounds in the Formula Drift schedule, and if you’re in the region, don’t miss Round 8 in Montreal September 6-7, 2015.

MAVTV kills it with wicked onboard Indycar footage

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By all accounts, last weekend’s MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway was a barn burner. Some are calling it the best Indycar race of all time. Except for some of the drivers, who are whining, but the whiners are the guys who are typically, well, whiners.

Sadly, I wasn’t able to watch it live and forgot to set the PVR, but that doesn’t matter, because the gang at Indycar and MAVTV freaking rock!

Behold fifteen minutes of the best open wheel racing coverage that you have ever seen.

Related gallery: 2015 Honda Indy Toronto

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Indycar in Toronto

James Hinchcliffe named Grand Marshall of Honda Indy Toronto

The Mayor of Hinchtown at the 2014 edition of the Rolex 24 at Daytona

The Mayor of Hinchtown at the 2014 edition of the Rolex 24 at Daytona

The guy who might just be the most Canadian man in all of sports, James Hinchcliffe, has been named as the Grand Marshall of the Honda Indy Toronto, happening this weekend on the city’s waterfront. As most readers will know, Hinchcliffe was seriously injured in a crash during practice for the Indy 500. While his rehab has been going faster than expected, the driver from Oakville, Ontario has been dodging the question “will you be in Toronto?” until today.

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Actually, while down at the track today, a couple of people said that Hinch was seen at the track this morning. I was excited to hear the news that he has been chosen as the grand PooBah!

Earlier this week, James sat down with our mutual friend Todd Lewis from Sportsnet to talk about his rehab.

Honda Indy Toronto press release

TORONTO,ON, June 11, 2015 – Organizers of the 2015 Honda Indy Toronto are pleased to announce that local Canadian race car driver and mayor of Hinchtown, James Hinchcliffe, will serve as the Grand Marshal for the marquee Verizon IndyCar Series race taking place Sunday, June 14. Hinchcliffe was recently medically cleared to travel to Toronto.

Hinchcliffe will perform the standard Grand Marshal duties that include giving the famous “drivers, start your engines” command to start the afternoon Verizon IndyCar Series race on Sunday.
“We are very excited to have James as Grand Marshal,” said Charlie Johnstone, President of the Honda Indy Toronto. “Although he is unable to race, it is important to us, and to him, that he is involved in the race in some capacity, being as this is his home town event.”

Hinchcliffe will not be racing in this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series race in Toronto due to injuries sustained during an accident that happened on May 18 during a practice round for the Indy 500. This will be the first time that he will not be racing since he joined the series in 2011.
“I’m looking forward to being back home in Canada and attending the Honda Indy Toronto with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports this weekend,” said Hinchcliffe. “It will be a strange feeling for me not lining up on the grid this year, but being the Grand Marshal is a role I’m honoured to fulfil and I’m excited that I’ll play a role in the proceedings on Sunday.”

Hinchcliffe is expected to make a full recovery from his injuries and is highly anticipating his return to racing.

Free Fan Friday returns to the Honda Indy Toronto

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Honda Canada press release

TORONTO, ON (June 9, 2015) – For the sixth straight year, the sights, sounds and speed of the Honda Indy Toronto will be free for fans to enjoy on Friday, June 12, 2015. Fan Friday is made possible through the generous support of the Ontario Honda Dealers Association (OHDA) and Toronto race fans. In exchange for a voluntary donation to Make-A-Wish® Canada, Fan Friday promises a jam-packed schedule of on-track action, and off-track stunt shows, contests, autograph sessions and other entertainment from gate open to close across the event site, providing something for everyone.

“Our ongoing partnership with Make-A-Wish for Fan Friday is a big part of the Honda Indy Toronto,” said Kevin Pearson, president of the OHDA. “This is all about putting fans in the middle of the action in support of a great cause. We hope fans give generously to help make wishes come true for children with life-threatening medical conditions across the country.”

Honda Canada is a proud supporter of James Hinchcliffe, the only Canadian driver in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Given James’ recent injuries and the outpouring of support for the ‘Mayor of Hinchtown’ leading up to his hometown race, race fans will have the opportunity to sign a giant ‘Get Well Hinch’ card throughout the weekend for a minimum $2 donation to Make-A-Wish.

Fan Friday gets bigger and better at Honda World every year with track-side fun and games for the whole family including free popcorn, snow cones and candy floss, golf practice swing and hockey slap shot zone, face painting, racing simulators and an opportunity to have your photo taken in a real Indy car. With no reserved seating on Fan Friday, attendees will have access to all grandstand sections on a first-come/first-served basis.

Honda to match fan donations
[Read more…]

2015 Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally

The first weekend in June saw a return to Wellsboro, Pennsylvania in much warmer weather for the 39th running of the Waste Management Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally. Held over two days, the entire rally covers almost 422.6 kilometers (262.6 miels), 192.2 kilometers (119.4 miles) of  competitive stages split between dirt roads on Waste Management property Friday and public roads in state parks on Saturday. Drawing 70 regional and international teams, STPR is the fifth of eight Rally America Championships held in 2015. Past winners have included Subaru Rally Team’s David Higgins/Craig Drew, as well as Ken Block/Alessandro Gelsomino.

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Parc Exposé

After a sunny Parc Exposé Friday morning, the teams left The Green in Wellsboro and headed to the Waste Management stages 1 – 3. Last year, a jump near the spectator area was added, and it did not disappoint… the spectators, anyway. It’s a sad thing to hear a driver tell his kid, “Tell mommy we’re coming home a day early. We broke the car.” Car 157 (Super Production 2008 Subaru STI Tomasorally) driven by Tomas Solnicky with co-driver Ray Vambuts bounced on landing off the jump and spun in a huge cloud of impenetrable dirt. When the dust settled, the car was off the course and unable to continue, though driver and co-driver were fine. All in all, 62 teams finished the 14.3k (8.9 mile stage.) By the time Stage 3 came around on the same course, 61 teams started and 54 finished.

Just before landing and spinning off course in Stage 1.

Just before landing and spinning off course in Stage 1.

All teams and volunteers then returned to the Tioga Fairgrounds for Stages 4 & 5. These “Super Special” stages see two cars on an almost half mile dirt course at the the same time, taking two spins around a twisting route and ending on a straight-away in front of the filled grands stands. The weather had other plans, however, and a violent thunderstorm blew in and stayed. After a constant downpour with too-close-for-comfort lightning, the evening Super Stages were cancelled.

Team umbrella, heading over to shield another car being repaired from the rain.

Team umbrella, heading over to shield another car being repaired from the rain.

Thunderstorm that ultimately caused the cancellation of Friday's Super Special stage

Thunderstorm that ultimately caused the cancellation of Friday’s Super Special stage

After an early morning Parc Exposé in town, 61 teams headed to Stage 6 – and 56 finished. Stage 7 saw William Petrow and Raphael Orlove – already out of contention and driving for exhibition only – roll over after taking a turn wide and clipping the embankment on the edge of the course. The Broken Motorsports 1992 Nissan 240SX came to rest off the embankment heading down into some brush, but media and rally volunteers pushed the car back on course and they sped off.

Pushing car back onto course after rolling onto roof.

Pushing car back onto course after rolling onto roof.

Service in Germania saw many teams frantically fixing limping cars. Robert Pepper, driving a 1991 Porsche 944S2 with co-driver Mical Davis, said his team had been up all night with about 20 minutes of sleep fixing the transmission, which was left with a hole the size of his fist after Friday’s stages. “That’s rally.”

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Germania Service

The carnage continued from stage to stage, and by the start of the 14th and last trail stage, 46 cars started and 43 survived. The weather was spectacular on Saturday, so competitors headed back to the fairgrounds to meet the fans then complete the Super Special stage. The still-muddy course saw a few spins and lots of flying dirt, especially when Pink Curl Racing in the 2006 Mustang (Paul Cacioppo and Niall Burns) faced off against the crowd-pleasing Gary DeMasi and Stephen Kurey in a 1985 Ford Ranger. The Mustang just about made it to the end, but the 2WD swerved and got stuck on a berm. Ultimately, Subaru Rally Team’s Dave Higgins and Craig Drew faced off against FY Racing Team’s Adam Yeoman and Jordan Schulze for the podium. Overall rally winners were Higgins and Drew continuing their winning streak for their 11th win in a row, the FY Racing Team in second, and Nick Roberts with co-driver Rhianon Gelsomino taking third for Nick Roberts Global Rally Team.

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Podium

Full gallery:

International Cars at the 2015 Greenwich Concours d’Elegance

Celebrating its 20th year, the 2015 Greenwich Concours d’Elegance once again set up circles of gorgeous cars and motorcycles in the Connecticut town’s Roger Sherman Baldwin Park. Held over two days – American cars on Saturday and International cars on Sunday – the family-friendly drew crowds keen on looking over the now-classic BMW, Ferrari, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, and so many other marques. The Grand Marshal for 2015 was none other than James Glickenhaus, familiar to car people and Concours attendees as a frequent exhibitor of cars from his collection and as the owner of the singular Pininfarina-designed P4/5.

This year, severe thunderstorms threatened the Sunday show, and the parade of cars was moved up an hour in a bid to beat the rain. The rain won the race however and a downpour caused delays, but the majority of the stalwart New Englanders stuck it out and stayed for the eventual passing of the storm.

With a little bit of everything, over the two days the featured automobiles range from the year 1896 to present-day super cars. One wonderful aspect of the Greenwich Concours is the collection of curious and quirky cars that participate annually. There is always at least one Eastern Bloc automobile entered; previous years have included a Russian Volga, Lada, and even an East German Trabant. This year’s Cold War entry was just as fascinating – a 1985 Zil 41045. Part of the Kremlin fleet this plush, armored, and oh-so-80’s stretch limo was decked out with fancy carpeting, leather seats, sirens, and a car phone. Behold the Car of The Party. (h/t to Serge A. for that phrase.)

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Several other cars of note include the 1964 Nissan Cedric, and – yes, this splendid Datsun 280Z is certainly Concours-worthy.

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Ever hear of a Puma? It’s a Brazilian car, this one a 90 hp GTS Spider from 1980.

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Every car on the lawn in Greenwich has a story, and Steve McQueen’s custom 450 hp 4×4 Dune Buggy “Baja Boot” led the parade of cars.

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The People’s Choice Award was won by the 1954 MG TF Roadster owned by Keith & Brenda Murphy, and Best In Show was won by Andrew Benenson’s 1951 Cisitalia 202C Cabriolet.

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Full gallery:

Castrol EDGE Virtual Drift

Castrol has produced a second installation in their Titanium Trial series – Titanium Strong Virtual Drift. Featuring Formula Drift driver Matt Powers, Castrol enlisted Ben Conrad, director of Ken Block’s Gymkhana series four through seven to direct the high-action piece. To take it beyond mere video into gaming technology, the creative technologist team of Glenn Synder and Adam Amaral was brought in to develop the 360 experience.

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The first video, Titanium Strong Blackout, premiered May 27, 2014, garnering an impressive 8,103,875 views on YouTube at the time of writing. Featuring Ken Block along with Adrian Zaugg, Augusto Farfus, and Mike Rockenfeller, the drivers speed around a course of sequential lights in otherwise complete darkness. Mind you, this is all to prove how well Castrol EDGE works in high performance vehicles in extreme situations, but the entertainment value goes far beyond a well-done commercial.

Starting as a joke – and then taking the joke seriously, Snyder and Amaral essentially turned a real car into a game controller. There was no cheating; the team wanted to maintain the purity of driving. Hence, all driving was real, and the virtual world matched the track 1:1. Working closely with Matt Powers driving a 650 hp Roush Stage 3 Mustang while wearing a virtual reality helmet, the server rested in the back seat collecting data and the game was tweaked by the tech team as Powers drove. In the beginning,  driving with the Oculus Rift Development Kit 2 helmet on was disorienting as the vision would change for Powers; there were a lot of starts and stops. After two months of steady work, the final result came together with a perfect, successful run. First previewed May 12 in New York City, the final video has been just released, but experience it in a game controller if you can. With the goggles on for the 360 virtual drift experience, you are seated in the passenger seat. Look left, you watch Matt Powers driving. Look right, you look out  the window into the undulating, dark Oculus Rift world. Check it.

 

Red Bull Global Rallycross – 2015 Pre-Season Announcements


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All things racing are happening in Long Beach, California this week around the Toyota Grand Prix. On the eve of the first practice sessions, Red Bull Global Rallycross held their pre-season press conference with quite a few announcements.

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In the hours before the presser, Rhys Millen Racing announced that Jackie Heinricher will race a full schedule with GRC Lites. Having previously raced in karting and a season in the Ferrari Challenge, as well as HOLY COW SHE’S DONE TED TALKS, she’s one of two women signing on to Lites for 2015. Also joining GRC Lites this year is Ali Nur, joining Alejandro Fernandez’ AFRacing. Nur brings 17 years of experience racing across multiple series.

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Bryan Herta Rally Sport has formed a new team with GRC Supercar veterans Patrik Sandell and Austin Dyne. Collette Davis, newly on board within 72 hours of the press conference, is still waiting for her Lites car to show up – and will be the second woman in the GRC “feeder” program. Sandell and Dyne will continue racing in M Sport Ford Fiesta STs.

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Announced in March, Steve Arpin and Brian Deegan have been added to Chip Ganassi’s racing stable. Both drivers are pretty excited to be joining the prestigious team, with access to racing tech that is the “next level.” Arpin and Deegan both race Ford Fiestas.

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Nelson Piquet Jr., fresh off his Formula e win in Long Beach two weeks ago, was on hand with SH Racing to show off new livery and a new sponsor in Hydroxycut.

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Subaru Rally Team drivers Bucky Lasek and Sverre Isachsen will be racing in new WRX STis this year. Isachsen commented that the new car takes a lot more punishment, and the WRX gives the team the perfrect chance to bring the car to the top. Both he and Lasek are impressed with how strong the car is after testing in Florida the previous week. Lasek – “It’s go time.”

Mitchell DeJong, last year’s Lites champion, is moving up to Supercars this year. He joins Joni Wiman  on the Olsbergs MSE team, both drivers in Ford Fiesta STs.

New for GRC itself this year is international distribution; the series will be broadcast in eight regions globallly to a total of 99 countries. In 2014, viewership was increased by 248%, grabbing the attention of over 10 million sets of eyes. The first race of 2015 will take place in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on May 31.

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2015 Formula Drift Season Begins in Long Beach

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It was a competition that came down to the wire at the premiere of the Formula Drift 2015 season in California on Saturday, April 11. The streets of Long Beach are set up annually for the Toyota Long Beach Grand Prix, and this year Formula D was sandwiched on a Friday and Saturday between Formula e and the Grand Prix weekends. The first turn of the drift course is Grand Prix turn 9, then the competitors drift around turn 10 to finish around the turn 11’s hairpin.

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For those who have never given Formula Drift a first look: it’s not a race, it’s a battle of skill and finesse. Drivers follow a line around the course and are judged on how well they follow that line, how smoothly they execute the turns, all in tandem with another driver. In qualifying, they perform two passes with another driver – once leading around the course and once following the other driver, being scored by judges on a scale of one to 100. The top 32 then compete for a spot in the final battle; by the end of the two days the course is almost a centimeter thick with rubber and the pit lanes littered with various parts torn off the cars after spinning out, scraping the wall, or fortunately quite rarely in Long Beach, colliding with each other. This is the 12th season of Formula D, and the stands in Long Beach were completely sold out and filled to capacity.

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2014’s champion Chris Forsberg returned for 2015 in a 1,000 hp Nissan 370z, along with Vaughn Gitten Jr. driving a Ford Mustang RTR, Ken Gushi drifting in a Scion,and Fredric Aasbo driving a Scion Racing tC. Another fan favorite – Tanner Foust  – is returning for a limited schedule after a five year hiatus in a 900 hp Volkswagen Passat.

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Heading into the Final 32, Forrest Wang was first in points with a 97. He was knocked out of the first round on Saturday by Matt Coffman, who, in turn, was knocked out of competition by Robbie Nishida. Chris Forsberg made it to the top 16, but was then bested by Patrick Mordaunt. After spinning out and losing a tire on Friday, Tanner Foust just made it into the final 32 with 67 points, but fell to Justin Pawlak.

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The final 4 battling for the podium was Matt Field in his 1997 CX Racing Yokohama Tire Nissan 240SX against Aurimas Bakchis, also in a Nissan 240SX, and Ryan Tuerck (Retaks Maxxis Tires Nameless Performance FR-S) against Fredric Aasbo. After several re-dos and a few five-minute breaks for repairs, Bakchis and Aasbo faced each other with the clock ticking towards Long Beach’s mandatory 6 pm cut-off. With only minutes to spare, Aasbo took the win with Bakchis in second and Tuerck in third.

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Formula Drift has nine more events on the schedule. The next competition will be at Road Atlanta (Georgia, USA) May 8-9. The eight event will take place in Montreal, Québec, September 6-7 – check the Formula D website for complete schedule and ticket information.

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