25th Jan2016

The Big Races You Should Watch This Year

by Michael Chandler
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Photo by Nicholas Cherpeski

This weekend the new Ford GTs will debut at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, which is the first big race of the year*.  Since you’re a fan of racing, you already knew that.  But what if you’re just getting into racing?  Or what if you’re too busy to keep up with the schedules of the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship, IndyCar, Pirelli World Challenge, and whatever other series you want to watch?  Well I’m here to tell you give you an idea as to what to watch, when to watch it, and how to watch it.  Since it’s bearing down on us, let’s start with the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship

IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship

Rolex 24 at Daytona, January 30-31

First run in 1966, the Rolex 24 at Daytona is the longest (and one of the oldest) races on the IMSA calendar.  In that 1966 race (hey! That was 50 years ago!) a Ford GT Mk II took the win.  This year, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing hopes to repeat that historic win.  Except they’ll have more than Ferraris to compete against.  Corvette Racing, BMW Team RLL, and Porsche North America join Risi Competitzione and Scuderia Corsa in preventing the Fords from reaching Victory Lane in GTLM.  Ford Chip Ganassi Racing is also fielding two cars in the Prototype class, where they’ll be facing off against Wayne Taylor Racing, Action Express, the factory Mazda effort, and the Panoz DeltaWing.  Ryan Eversley has a drive in one of the BAR1 Motorsport Prototype Challenge Oreca FLM09’s.  And in GT Daytona, local team Magnus Racing hopes to take another class win, but in an Audi R8 LMS GT3.  Also in local news: Madison Snow is driving with Paul Miller Racing in their Lamborghini Huracan GT3.  So now that you know some story lines, here’s how to watch it:

TV coverage starts at noon local (Mountain) on Fox Sports 1, then at 2PM it jumps to Fox Sports 2.  You’ve got six hours to figure out where Fox Sports 2 is, then at 8PM coverages heads to IMSA.com for the overnight shift, then back to Fox Sports 1 at 5AM.  At 8:30 it hops back to Fox Sports 2 (where ever that is.  Seriously, I think it’s something only bars and restaurants can get), then the final stint will be played out on Fox Sports 1 at 11AM.  HOOBOY that’s a lot of hoping around.  Thankfully, you can watch on Fox Sports Go.  All you have to do is sign in through your cable provider.  Radio Le Mans was on the call on the IMSA coverage last year, which was great.  If they’re not, fear not.  They’ll still be covering the whole race, practice, qualifying and even the support series (Continental Tire Sports Car and Ferrari Challenge) starting at 7:15AM on the 28th.  That gets the year started, but there are two more races to watch on the IMSA calendar…

Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida, March 19

Another historic race in Florida!  Even though it’s half as long, there are still some confusing coverage jumps.  Coverage begins at 8:30AM on Fox Sports 1, and hangs out there for two hours.  At 10:30 it jumps to Fox Sports 2 (just find it on Fox Sports Go), then to IMSA.com at 5PM.  The race will finish on Fox Sports 2, with coverage beginning on that enigma at 8PM.  Frankly, I’d love it if one of you intrepid readers convinced your local bar to switch a TV to the end of the race.  If you do that, please let us know!  Cause that would be amazing.  Again, Radio Le Mans will also be covering the race so if you can’t get it on the TV, or don’t have access to Fox Sports 2, this will be your best bet.

Petit Le Mans, October 1

While there are a ton of other amazing races on the schedule (Lime Rock, Mosport, COTA, Watkins Glen), they’re… well, short.  The Next longest race is Watkins Glen (July 3, with all six hours on Fox Sports 1 starting at 7:30AM), but there’s something about races going into the night that makes them seem more special.  And when one of the races has Le Mans in the title, well it take some precedent.  Thankfully this one doesn’t jump into the abyss and never return.  Coverage starts at 9AM on Fox Sports 1, and jumps to IMSA.com at 10AM.  Two hours later it vanishes into Fox Sports 2, only to return to IMSA.com at 6PM.  Again, Radio Le Mans if you can’t get the video to work.

Pirelli World Challenge Ford GP of Utah Michael Chandler CAMautoMag-122

Pirelli World Challenge

Grand Prix of Long Beach, March 3-6

Sticking with sports cars, we head over to Pirelli World Challenge.  It happens to be my favorite of the two American sports car series because #1 it’s just the GT cars #2 the races are short and #3 every weekend is a double header.  Unfortunately, the TV broadcasts are never the same day, they’re edited down to fit into the time slot so you only get one race, and they’re on CBS Sports Network.  Not as hard to find as Fox Sports 2, but not readily accessible either.  Anyway, watching the field bang through the narrow streets of Long Beach is a riot.  Especially when you get to see it twice.  Long Beach is the second race of the season, after COTA and St. Petersburg respectively.

Now, while I mentioned that the TV broadcasts are always tape delayed, they are live streamed through the World Challenge site.  These races are also more accessible to watch in person, which you really should do if you get the chance.

Road America, June 23-26

Road America is a road course set in Wisconsin, is surrounded by trees, has a bridges that are sponsored by Johnsonville Sausage and Sargento Cheese.  I mean, what more could you ask for?  Oh, yeah.  The massive hill leading up to start/finish, Kink, their massive Carousel turn.  It’s an amazing track to just look at, let alone watch racing on.  Watching the cars roll up the hill for the traditional rolling start that is traditional, adds to the tension.  Fire up the computer, crank up the AC, and enjoy some great racing on one of America’s greatest tracks.

Utah Motorsports Campus, August 12-14

You knew this one was coming.  This will be a welcome event, especially after the tumultuous year that was surrounding Miller Motorsports Park/Utah Motorsports Campus.  Watching the field scream down the front straight, and go hard on the brakes into turn one is an amazing sight.  The cars go through Witchcraft side by side, and don’t go single file until after they pass through the Attitudes.  And, as someone who has seen the grandstands empty, I love seeing the grandstands at Release packed.  Plus turn 1 always gets somebody.  Always.

Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, October 7-9

While no longer in it’s heyday, Laguna Seca is still an amazing track to watch races on.  I didn’t put the IMSA Laguna race on the list because I feel that this is a better race to watch because it’s only GT cars, and it’s also the final race of the season.  The added weight weight of this being the final race push this ahead of the IMSA race for me.  There’s going to be some interesting interactions through turns ten and eleven, and into turn two.  It’s gonna be a good one.  Speaking of good things at Laguna Seca…

Indy Car

Well, technically Indy Lights are running at Laguna, but the big boys USED TO race in Monterrey.  Amyway, it’s America’s top open wheel series, which means some people will scoff at it because it’s not Formula 1.  To them I ask: have you watched any Indy Car?  It’s pretty good stuff.  Plus it has The Greatest Spectacle In Racing, which is one of the three events you have to win to join Graham Hill as winners of the Triple Crown of Motorsports.  The other two being the Monaco GP and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.  Here are the three events you should be watch this year.

The 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500, May 29

They’ve run this race in Speedway, Indiana 100 times.  From a rounded rectangle paved with bricks and a pagoda looking race control tower, to still a rounded rectangle with a pagoda looking race control tower BUT with modern paving and a full on road course, which Indy Car will be utilizing two weeks before the 500.  If you win you get a bottle of milk, and your face will be added to the Borg Warner Trophy.   Your visage will be along side the likes of Mario Andretti, the afore mentioned Graham Hill, AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Bobby Unser,big AND little Al Unser, Bobby Rahal, Rick Mears, Emerson Fittipaldi, Arie Luyendyk, Jaques Villeneuve, Juan Pablo Montoya (who only needs a win at Le Mans to be the only other person to win the Triple Crown), and Dan Wheldon.  You become a legend.  This is my Memorial Day weekend ritual: watch ALL of the 500 coverage, watch the entire race, and then the post race coverage.  I watched this race when I was a kid with my dad, and he watched it with his dad when he was a kid.  Of all the races on this list, this is the most special.  At least it is to me.  Coverage for the 500 begins at 10AM on ABC.

Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, July 31

Mid-Ohio is just ludicrous.  It’s old, first opened in 1962.  It’s been hosting Indy Cars (well, started off hosting CART but that’s another story) since 1990.  And it was ROUGH back then.  Concrete patches on the apexes, old school concrete retaining walls, the kind of stuff that’ll put hair on your chest regardless of gender or age.  In 2006 it was repaved, the concrete was ditched, gravel traps were expanded, and walls were moved.  Last year’s race had seven lead changes, and Graham Rahal won.  Every other year Scott Dixon wins, so he’ll probably do that.  But who knows.  Regadless, it’s a great race to watch.  Coverage for this race begins at 12:37PM (oddly specific) on CNBC.

GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, September 18

Another final race of a season!  This is another ridiculous race, because the track is ridiculous.  Go fire up Forza and take some laps of this track in the in car view, without the guide line on.  Tell me how hard turns 2, 3 and 3A are.  Now imagine yourself in the middle of a pack of cars, all of which are driven by people who are trying to score points for the championship.  They’re gonna get stacked up in 2 and 11, and it’s going to be an amazing sight.  Last year there were ten, 10!, lead changes, and Scott Dixon won his second consecutive race at Sonoma.

 

And there you have it.  Ten races, organized and sanctioned by American series, that’ll get you through the year.  Anything we missed?  Aside from NASCAR?  Feel free to leave us a comment.

 

 

 

07th Feb2014

Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour: How to Spend Your Saturday

by Michael Chandler

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Guys, gals, pets, I’ve found how you will be spending your Saturday afternoon.  You, like me, will be watching the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 hour race.  Why?  Because where, outside of Forza or Gran Turismo, will you see Fiat 500 Abarths pairing off against SLS AMG GT3s?  Focus Global Touring Cars (tube chassis, V8 powered, lots of awesome) hunting down a Ginetta G50?  Exactly.

There are six classes:

Class A is comprised of current GT3 spec cars.  AF Corse (essentially Ferrari’s sports car team) will be challenging last year’s winner Erebus Motorsports and their pair of SLS AMG GT3s for the class win.

Class B is ten 911 GT3 Cup cars ganging up on two R8s and two Lamborghini Gallardos.  This class has the best team name running in it: Racing Incident, which is running a Gallardo LP520.

Class C is three GT4 class cars: a Ginetta G50, a Lotus Exige Cup R and an Exige S.  Tiny?  Yes.  Awesome?  The Ginetta handles that, and then some.

Class D is 3001cc engines and up, and resembles something you’d see at a track day… in Europe: two SEAT Leon Supercopas, an E46 M3 GTR, an E92 M3, a Daytona Sportscar Coupe (an Australian Shelby Daytona Coupe), and a WRX STi thrown in for good measure.  This will be a fun one to watch.

Class E is full of Fiat 500 Abarth’s run by the same team.  Three adorable little Fiats will try to avoid being killed by everything else on track.  This will be the most adorable class to watch.

Class I is the afore mentioned Global Touring Car spec Focuses… Foci…  Focus?  Whatever.  It’s a lot like Class E, except more fearsome than adorable.

The Race starts in a little less than twenty-four hours from now (at the time this was being written) and you can/will watch the live stream on the race’s website, which features commentary from Radio Le Mans.

UPDATE 1:51PM MST: HQ Holdens race happening for the next hour http://www.bathurst12hour.com.au/live/ Old Holdens!

Words and photo by Michael Chandler

*Article and Photos are copyright of CAMAutoMag.Com and their respective owners.