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2016IndyCar MarshallPruett Sonoma210 063aaChevy's single-day test at Sonoma Raceway on Wednesday gave fans and media a chance to see six cars in action and a few new aerodynamic pieces break cover.2016IndyCar MarshallPruett Sonoma210 029

Six cars from Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske conducted engine and aero kit testing on behalf of the four-time IndyCar Manufacturers' champion. Defending Verizon IndyCar Series title winner Scott Dixon drove his No. 9 CGR-Chevy bearing the retro Target lightning bolt livery, 2004 series champion Tony Kanaan had the new blue No. 10 at his disposal, Charlie Kimball unveiled a fetching new black and green scheme on the No. 83, and team newcomer Max Chilton (RIGHT) pressed the No. 8 into service for his maiden outing in a Dallara DW12. Helio Castroneves represented Team Penske in his familiar No. 3 and Simon Pagenaud was in the No. 22.

A mix of Firestone tires from 2014 and 2015 were used at Sonoma, and with some teams reportedly employing the horsepower-adding push-to-pass button on certain laps, lap times varied depending on which sets were bolted on and whether extra turbo boost and RPMs were involved. The fastest lap time was said to be a 1m17.0s, and all six cars are believed to have lapped the 2.2-mile, 11-turn road course between 1m17.0s-1m18.0s.

Media were specifically asked to refrain from photographing the Chevy engines in the back of each chassis, leaving aero kit development as the primary source of intrigue to document.

Based on spy shots of Honda's 2016 road course aero kit, which uses brand-new sidepods, engine covers, and has outer front wing developments that mirror what Chevy used in 2015, it appears Chevy is evaluating the use of certain aerodynamics Honda employed last season, and the end result could see a field of Dallara DW12s that look mostly identical on road and street courses.

"I'm telling you, the only way most fans will be able to tell the cars apart is the sticker on the engine cover," one driver said while expressing his frustration at the anticipated lack of visual variety.

IndyCar's aero kit rules allow three primary development 'boxes' (regions on the car for modification) for each manufacturer to update this season. Unlike 2015 where the brand-new aero kits were submitted for approval and homologation prior to the season, Chevy and Honda can make use of the three update boxes at any time in 2016.

It means the items seen on the Chevy cars at Sonoma could be introduced between next month's season opener in St. Petersburg through the season finale at Sonoma in September; it's entirely up to each manufacturer.

Chevy could also come away from Wednesday's test and decide some or all of the new 2016 development pieces did not meet their expectation, and could go back to the drawing board to create more items to evaluate for potential use. IndyCar's rulebook allows teams to pick and choose between existing aero kit pieces and any new items Chevy or Honda supply from within the three boxes.

IMG 7516a"A manufacturer could do nothing but front wing flaps - do three upgrades on front wing flaps and nowhere else on the car - and that would be it for them through the 2016 season," IndyCar aerodynamic development chief Tino Belli told RACER in a 2015 interview. "And the new parts don't obsolete the previous homologation.

"Let's say a manufacturer comes up with a new front wing-flap configuration and a team decides they prefer the original flap, they can keep one in the old configuration if they want to, while another team may elect to use the newest flap. Both are legal. There's options on top of options, which adds variety."

Using reference images from both brands in 2015, and the new Chevy test, the aero similarities aren't hard to spot. All six Chevy cars started the test with 2015-spec rear wheel pods and upper ramps, but most moved to the Honda-style multi-winglet upper elements after initial running (LEFT). Where Chevy's 2015 rear wheel pods - minus any appendages - are rounded, the stronger, fortified 2016 pods are square. Chevy's tall mid-sidepod wing/flow conditioner from 2015 was not seen being used in conjunction with the higher downforce 2016 wheel pod wing arrangement.

Chevy also tried an outer front wing treatment similar to Honda's package from 2015. Heavily curved, anhedral wing elements, which mount to the stock Dallara front wing mainplane, and the Chevy upper wing elements, were fitted late in the morning - first on Castroneves' car. Different from the Honda installation, Chevy has added a blade-style vane that, from the side, looks like a traditional endplate, but is in fact a thin, contoured, knife-edge piece that directs airflow on both sides of the elements.

Drivers were instructed to avoid detailed commenting on engines and aero kits, which left the six in attendance to provide general assessments of the test.

"It was a good day for us," Pagenaud told RACER. "It was good to get back in the car and see what we're going to get this year for the aero and engine package. It was a test about trying to understand all the bits and pieces, see what they do, to calibrate things, and to focus on ourselves on the 22 car to give as much feedback as possible to Chevy. We weren't focused on performance; it was about sanity checks and creating good information. The cars have a lot more downforce, they have more grip, and they're more efficient in a straight line, so there's a lot to learn from the driving side, as well."

MEANWHILE ...

  • Kimball's new livery received a lot of positive feedback once it was shared on social media. Some asked whether it was only going to be used in testing, and if the absence of long-time sponsor from the sidepods and engine cover meant changes were afoot. "Novo Nordisk is still completely committed," Kimball said after the test. "The livery you saw isn't changing, but it may evolve a little bit throughout the year. The green and black won't change. It will be on for the year and Novo Nordisk and RaceWithInsulin.com will be on the car."

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  • It's amazing how something as simple as a yellow bolt of lightning can create so much joy. Dixon's revised Target livery also earned plenty of praise. "We started out with it in 1995, and I think it looks fantastic sitting here in front of us," said CGR managing director Mike Hull.

2016IndyCar MarshallPruett Sonoma210 215a

  • Team Penske's mechanics have started a new tradition that is awesome, yet looks entirely out of place on pit lane. "It's a little challenge they put together; I believe Helio started it. Every time I leave pit lane, they do a push-up! Pagenaud said. "When I leave the first time, they do one. The second time, they do two. I'm really worried about them because I'm scheduled to do 37 outings today!" With Penske's large testing team at Sonoma, the number of crew members doing push-ups when Simon pulled away filled most of his pit box.

  • Knowing there were only two teams present, and without naming the team, it was interesting to observe one senior member taking copious amounts of digital photos of the other team's cars as they rolled by on pit lane. Those photography efforts were far from hidden - the person was standing in plain view of the oncoming drivers - which is in contrast to the more secretive efforts some teams practice to shoot and review the aero and chassis setup configurations used by their rivals.

  • Max Chilton's team stayed late Wednesday night and returned to Sonoma today to prepare the Briton's No. 8 car for his first oval test on Saturday at Fontana. "We'll turn the car around here then drive down and enjoy ourselves instead of rushing down there to do it," said CGR team manager Barry Wanser.

  • As Chevy held its Manufacturers' test at Sonoma, Honda did the same at Fontana where new superspeedway aero kit pieces were used. The Honda test was closed to the public and media.

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lat levitt tex 0615 02246Larry Foyt predicts a strong 2016 from Jack Hawksworth as the young Brit works to capitalize on the experience gained during his first two season in IndyCar.

Hawksworth arrived at Foyt last year as part of the team's expansion to two cars after a solid rookie season with Bryan Herta Autosport. However Foyt's struggles to cope with both its expansion and the arrival of the new aero kits contributed to both Hawksworth and Takuma Sato finishing the year well outside the top 10 in the championship.

However Foyt is confident that those problems have now been overcome, and he expects the 24-year-old to take strides this year.

"I'm looking for Jack to be very competitive," he told RACER. "He still doesn't have a ton of experience on ovals. He still doesn't have a ton of experience in big cars, if you look at it. He really is a raw talent. But one of the things we love about Jack is that is he 100 percent committed.

"He is here at the race shop three days a week, driving the pitstop car as the guys practice pitstops and working on them himself ... he eats and sleeps and dreams racing, and that's what you want in a young guy."

Foyt said that he was especially encouraged by the progress that Hawksworth made on ovals last year, especially with his tenth-place at Fontana.

"He is definitely a hard-charger, and I was really impressed at how much he improved on ovals last year – Pocono was one of his best drives on an oval I've seen.

"He's got a lot of raw, natural ability, and he is really applying himself. We all know he is quick on road courses, but I was really impressed with how he was maturing on ovals throughout last season. He's a guy who will be championship contender in the future, and I think we'll see that more and more as he spends time in IndyCars."

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Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, and Simon Pagenaud speak at Sonoma Raceway during their first road course test of 2016.

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Image355New Chip Ganassi Racing driver Max Chilton turned his first laps in an IndyCar at Sonoma Raceway on Wednesday, and contrasted the experience to piloting the Marussia Formula 1 car or Indy Lights chassis he's used in recent years.

"It's a serious bit of kit. A lot more downforce than I'm used to," Chilton told RACER after his first morning of testing the Dallara DW12-Chevy package. "They're not overly powerful. The brakes are not great, but the actual downforce allows you to brake well. I've only done probably 25 laps but I've already experienced the speed. I'm already up to speed, which is a nice sign. I wasn't expecting to be here so quickly. Amazing bit of kit; I think it makes it feel even faster than it is because of the track."

Chilton posted lap times within one second of his teammate, defending IndyCar Series champion and 2015 Sonoma Raceway polesitter/winner Scott Dixon. The test also presented Chilton with his first taste of the 2.2-mile, 11-turn road course nestled in the Northern California hills.

"There's not much room for error here; it's a lot of undulating hills, high-speed corners," he said. "It's a challenging place to get used to a car, but if I can get used to it here than I should be able to get used to it anywhere."

According to Chilton, the track's old-world feel added to the sensation of driving a twin-turbo V6-powered Dallara-Chevy.

"It feels very Seventies to me, but it makes the overall experience a little more adrenalin-rushing and when you nail a lap around here, it's amazing because you're turning in blind to apexes, exit curbs you can't see until you feel the vibration of it," he added. "If you're really happy with a lap around here, you know it's a good lap. Hopefully we'll have some success here at the end of the year."

The Sonoma outing also gave Chilton and his former Nissan LMP1 colleague Brandon Fry a chance to start their relationship as driver and engineer on the No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevy.

"We worked together on the Nissan program," he said. "He was put right up against it with the Nissan because there was not a great deal you could do with it. I've heard great things about what he's done in the past, He's got great attention to detail, and I think he's the perfect engineer for me in my rookie year."

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SNE10516Italian Grand Prix bosses are to meet Formula 1 chief Bernie Ecclestone again later this month after a recent meeting to secure Monza's future on the calendar proved inconclusive.

Last month, president of the Automobile Club of Italy Angelo Sticchi Damiani said a new deal was close to being finalized to safeguard the race through to either 2020 or 2023. He added funding had been secured and he was hopeful a deal would be done by the end of February.

However, after a meeting between the two parties earlier this month, an agreement has yet to be reached. It is believed the circuit's bosses are required to provide guarantees regarding circuit investment and development before a long-term deal will be agreed to.

Sources suggest circuit officials want to improve the quality of the grandstands, develop the public areas and improve the parking situation, made difficult by its park location.

Monza has hosted the Italian GP every year since the world championship started in 1950, apart from 1980 when the event went to Imola. The venue's current contract expires after this year's race in September.

 

 

Originally on Autosport.com

Image354RACER's Marshall Pruett brings you footage of Wednesday's Chevy Manufacturers' test at Sonoma Raceway where some new liveries and new aerodynamic pieces were unveiled by Team Penske's Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud, and Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball, and Max Chilton, who turned his first laps in an Indy car.

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2016IMSA MarshallPruett Roar1816 239O'Gara Motorsports is in the midst of a financial reorganization that could secure its long-term participation in IMSA's WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

The team has been facing significant business-related issues following the program's recent debut at the Rolex 24 At Daytona, and left unresolved, those funding problems could have hindered its continued presence in IMSA's GT Daytona category.

In a development late Wednesday night, RACER has learned ongoing efforts between team owner Tom O'Gara and the drivers of the No. 11 O'Gara Motorsports Lamborghini Huracán GT3 have resulted in the confirmation of the car's entry at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

"We are going to Sebring and intend to continue," O'Gara team manager Shane Seneviratne told RACER.

Among the reasons for the unexpected need to address financial concerns, O'Gara's Beverly Hills Lamborghini dealership is said to be under financial scrutiny from the Italian auto manufacturer, and at least one sponsor on the No. 11 car is known to have defaulted, adding to the program's budgetary woes.

O'Gara Motorsports' existing IMSA Lamborghini Super Trofeo Cup program, which is separate from its WeatherTech Championship operation, is not affected by the financial restructuring taking place within the GTD effort.

O'Gara's team made its IMSA debut in 2015 in the Lamborghini series, and graduated to the top WeatherTech Championship this year with defending GTD champions Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler.

The No. 11 Lamborghini placed 14th in class and 30th overall at Daytona with Edoardo Piscopo and Richard Antinucci joining Bell and Sweedler.

lat lepage 131027 MVL3633On Tuesday, NASCAR announced plans for a new charter system that would guarantee starting spots in the race fields for 36 teams every week, with four open spots in what will become 40-car fields.

Here are four reasons the charter system – which is in effect for a minimum of nine years – is a good idea:

nascar fieldMore financial security for the teams – Each team with a charter will be  guaranteed a minimum income each year, which will help them financially. And with the size of the starting fields being reduced from 43 cars to 40 each week, there are fewer slices of the pie to divvy up. More importantly, the teams can resell the charters, which adds value and economic security.

It helps the smaller teams – Sure, the NASCAR mega-teams will have charters for each of their cars. But the teams helped most by this are the smaller ones – Tommy Baldwin Racing, BK Racing, Germain Racing and others. With a guaranteed spot in the show every week, they have a more attractive package to sell to sponsors.

It will help attract new owners – With Roger Penske, Jack Roush, Richard Childress and Joe Gibbs all at least 70 years old and Rick Hendrick 66, NASCAR needs to start cultivating the next generation of team owners. Having a more stable and sustainable business model will help.

The deal is win-win – NASCAR is a (mostly) benevolent dictatorship that sets the rules as it goes. Basically, the sanctioning body can do whatever it wants whenever it wants, whether the team owners agree or disagree. This new deal, while keeping the power in NASCAR's hands, signals a new era of understanding and cooperation between the sanctioning body and the owners. For the sport to thrive, all sides must remain healthy and economically viable.

Originally on FOXSports.com

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