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Archive for March, 2012

Gabby ChavesJunior formula car star Gabby Chaves enjoyed a superb return to North American race competition this past weekend (March 24-25), with an impressive debut in the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear. The newly-signed JDC MotorSports rookie was among the drivers to watch during the season-opening doubleheader on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., ultimately capturing a third place podium finish in race one and a fourth place result in race two. Chaves is now poised to challenge for top honors when the Mazda Road to Indy series travels to Barber Motorsports Park this weekend (March 31-April 1) for Rounds Three and Four.

“I’m very pleased with the results in St. Petersburg,” said Chaves. “Unlike most of the field, I came into the season-opener with very little time in the car. The JDC crew did a great job giving me a fast car and helping me become comfortable in my new surroundings. Being able to challenge series veterans for top honors in my first event is a fantastic way to start the season. I’m really looking forward to getting better each time out, and I can’t wait for the next two races at Barber Motorsports Park.”

Chris DymondTingewick based Chris Dymond will this weekend (31st March/ 1st April) kick off his 2012 campaign in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB at former home of the British Grand Prix, Brands Hatch in Kent.

Dymond, driving for Parr Motorsport will tackle the Kentish venue for the first time since 2007 when he competed in the Renault Clio cup at the circuit.

“It’s nice to be back on circuits that I’ve not competed on for while, England has some of the best circuits in the world to drive, I can’t wait to kick the year off and get the season going!”
Backed by the Parr Business Club, Dymond is aiming high for the season.

“We tested here (Brands hatch) a few weeks ago and our pace was good, particularly our race pace. On the Indy circuit it’s all action so qualifying will be important, I’ve got a great team around me and personally I’ve been working hard understanding the Porsche and its quirks, so I’m very confident we’ll be there when it matters, Paul (Robe) wants to win the teams title this year so we’ll be pushing from round one!”

The Brands Hatch weekend begins on Friday 30th March with official testing for all classes were for Friday only admission is free.

Saturday will see qualifying and round one of the Porsche Carrera cup GB at 11.20 and 16.05 respectively.

Sunday’s races will be broadcast live throughout the day on ITV4 and ITV4 HD with round two of the Porsche Carrera cup GB taking place at 13.25

Seb MorrisMarford-based single-seater racing newcomer Seb Morris confirmed his billing as a potential challenger for the 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship title after posting the third fastest time during official testing at Silverstone National Circuit on Tuesday, 27th March.

Overcoming an early problem with the right-rear of his Fortec Motorsports-run FR 2.0, which did cost the 16-year-old a fair amount of track time, the MSA Academy driver delivered an expectedly impressive performance to round-out the ‘Media Day’ test just 0.2 seconds shy of the outright pace.

Delivering a quickest time of 55.699 seconds (106.02mph), 0.7 seconds inside the existing lap record, the 2011 Ginetta Junior Champion and Ginetta ambassador was the quickest of the Formula Renault BARC newcomers, the best of the Fortec drivers and easily the fastest of the single-seater debutants.

“Third is ok but we should have been quicker”, said Seb, “As we went to go out we found some problems with the rear-right on the car, so that lost us quite a lot of track time compared to everyone else. We ran first on new tyres, everyone else then put new tyres on when the track was slightly cooler so I slipped from first to third. I’m still happy with that though, the car is really good.”

Completing just 51 laps in the three and a half hour session, at least 30 less than the majority of the other 21 competitors on track, The King’s School, Chester pupil wasn’t fazed at all by the problems which hampered his early running and finished the day satisfied with the set-up work done.

“We had a bit of oversteer to deal with but we ended the day with a good set-up and I’m feeling confident going into the first races”, added the teenager, “It feels good to have been third on the timesheets against people who have been racing in Formula Renault BARC for two or three years.

“It should be a really close season this year, Silverstone National is obviously one of the smallest tracks we visit so the times are tight – on the longer tracks I’m hoping I can have a bit more of an advantage. I’m hoping at Snetterton we can achieve a podium and I’d like to think we can try and fight for a win, it’s a great place to start the season off so I’m really looking forward to it.”

Snetterton 200 Circuit in Norfolk will play host to the first three rounds of the 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship less than two weeks from now over Easter weekend. Qualifying and the opening race of the season will take place on Saturday, 7th April, at 09.50 and 14.15 respectively with rounds two and three following on Easter Sunday, 8th April, at 11.35 and 17.05.

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

FiskensFiskens, London’s foremost historic automobile specialists, will team-up with sportscar racing legends Ecurie Ecosse in 2012 after agreeing a deal to sponsor the Scottish outfit’s return to full-time competition.

The partnership will see Fiskens’ insignia appear on Ecurie Ecosse’s new BMW Z4 GT3, driver overalls and team apparel as the revived squad launches a dual assault on the British GT Championship and pan-European Blancpain Endurance Series.

London-based Fiskens boast strong links with historic and modern day motor sport. Managing director Gregor Fisken has enjoyed a successful racing career at the wheel of classic and contemporary machinery, contesting four Le Mans 24 Hours and more recently enjoying a race-winning 2011 season in British GT.

In fact Fisken is no stranger to the Ecosse squad having tackled a selection of blue riband races for the team, recording a particularly memorable class podium at the Nurburgring 24 Hours in 2002.

Moreover, a number of Ecosse cars have gone on sale at Fiskens’ Kensington Mews showroom in recent years, with a 1965 Ecurie Ecosse Tojeiro – piloted by F1 legend Sir Jackie Stewart – and a 1985 ‘Henry’ Ecosse Ford C2 currently on-site.

Ecosse’s return to full-time competition in 2012 opens the next chapter on a story that began over half a century ago. During an incredibly successful and varied history the outfit has scored two outright victories at the iconic Le Mans 24 Hours, claimed the 1986 C2 World Sportscar Championship and enjoyed a clutch of wins on their way to the 1995 British Touring Car title.

What’s more, the team hold the enviable distinction of having fielded every Scottish Formula 1 race winner, including three-time world champion Stewart and the late great Jim Clark.

“I am immensely proud that Fiskens will be associated with Ecurie Ecosse’s return to international motor sport,” commented Gregor Fisken. “As a Scotsman and a racing enthusiast I have always been a tremendous fan of the team and am thrilled to be involved with the next chapter of their history.

“Like Fiskens, Ecurie Ecosse draws inspiration from the triumphs of the past to build for the future. We are pleased to be partnering with a team of their calibre.”

“It’s great to have Fiskens on board as a sponsor for the 2012 campaign,” added Ecurie Ecosse team boss Hugh McCaig. “As a racer himself Gregor knows how crucial good partners are to a competitive programme, and we believe we’ve added a real gem in Fiskens. We are thrilled that they will join us on what we hope to be a successful year’s racing.”

Ecurie Ecosse begin their season at Oulton Park (April 7-9) with the opening round of the British GT Championship. The following weekend they travel to legendary Italian circuit Monza where the Blancpain Endurance Series begins its 2012 campaign.

Photo by Xynamic Motorsport Photography.

Darryl O'YoungHong Kong race driver Darryl O’Young, embarks on the greatest journey of his career to date by entering two FIA World Championships in 2012, the FIA World Touring Car Championship and the FIA GT1 World Championship. This is a major milestone in his career and for Chinese motorsport as he will be one of the only drivers in the world to compete in two world championship categories in the same season. The FIA WTCC and the FIA GT1 World are the two most prestigious and competitive touring car and GT racing series’ in the world.

Having previously driven a Chevrolet Cruze for Bamboo Engineering for the past 2 seasons, O’Young makes a switch to a new SEAT Leon 1.6 Turbo for British Team, Special Tuning Racing. O’Young enters his 3rd season in the WTCC and is determined to take his experience from the previous 2 years to challenge for the independents world title and take his first overall victory in the series.

His entry to the FIA GT1 World will be his rookie season in this world championship. He is partnering experienced Dutchman, Peter Kox in a Lamborghini Gallardo LP600+ on his maiden season with the German outfit, Reiter Engineering. The action packed one hour races feature pit stops and driver changes, which will count on a strong team effort to give the experienced duo race victories this year.

This extensive program will see the Hong Kong race driver compete in 18 different countries in 22 weekends, adding up to a grand total of 44 races this season. His global race schedule is highlighted with a stop in Shanghai and Macau in the WTCC and two stops in Mainland China in Beijing and Ordos for the FIA GT1 before closing the season out in India in December.

On WTCC: “My move to compete in the SEAT Leon 1.6 Turbo is something I see as a long term development. With support from SEAT Sport coming back to the WTCC this year, I feel there is a real chance to fight for race victories during the season. Although it is a new engine and a new team, we are all working hard to take big step forward as the season progresses. Special Tuning Racing is a team with many years experience working with SEATS, and my team mate Tom Boardman has also driven these cars a lot, so it is a great situation for me. I have to thank LKM, A-Ha Coffee, and SEAT for making this all possible.”

On GT1: “In the FIA GT1 World Championship, it is an exciting move for me this season. The Lamborghini Gallardo LP600+ is a very competitive race car and together with an experienced team like Reiter Engineering, I feel we can really fight for race wins this season. My team mate, Peter Kox is very fast and he is a proven driver, so I can firstly learn alot from him, but also match up against him to push myself as a driver. Without all my sponsors, this isn’t possible so again, thank you to all that are involved in this project.”

On his 2012 race program: “I’m super excited about the 2012 season. I was already very happy to be back in the FIA WTCC this season, but to add the FIA GT1 World Championship to my racing calendar is simply amazing. This is something I never imagined possible and I feel blessed to have the chance to be one of the only drivers in the world to compete in two FIA World Championships. These opportunities don’t come along every day and I intend to capitalize on this unbelievable chance and help Hong Kong and China shine on the motorsport world stage.”

Ahmad Al HarthyMuscat sportsman Ahmad Al Harthy and his Oman Air Racing Team are ready to get the 2012 Porsche Carrera Cup GB Championship season off to a successful start at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit this weekend, 31st March/1st April, with a pair of Pro-Am 1 Class podium finishes the chief aim.

Having put together a thoroughly impressive pre-season, notably concluding the sole officially timed test at Silverstone a couple of weeks ago a mere 0.070 seconds shy of the top of the Pro-Am 1 times, 30-year-old Ahmad heads into the new campaign as a genuine threat for the class title.

Preparations for the Omani’s third season in the prestigious Porsche Carrera Cup GB Championship have been aided by his race-winning exploits and consistent front-running performances over the winter months in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East.

Now, the Oman Air, Oman Ministry of Sports Affairs, Oman Ministry of Tourism, Nawras, National Bank of Oman and Muscat Eye Laser Centre-backed driver has every confidence 2012 could be his most successful season yet since graduating into Porsche racing in 2010.

“We’re very much looking forward to the start of the new UK season”, said Ahmad, “The official test at Media Day went well and since then we’ve had some incredibly encouraging tests at Donington and Brands Hatch. So, we’re going into the first round of the championship in good shape and aiming for a very strong start to the new season.”

Finishing third overall in Pro-Am 1 last season with a total of 12 podiums, including two wins, the talented sportscar racer is focused on attaining an even more impressive tally in 2012. Brands Hatch is a place where Ahmad has experienced great success in the past, including second position at the corresponding event last year, and he knows a repeat will likely be determined in the qualifying run.

He added: “Qualifying at the Indy Circuit will be very important, crucial in fact. We’re confident with our race pace, that’s a strong point for us, but we always need to work harder in qualifying. Any time we’ve had our best qualifying sessions, the races always go well so it shows just how important that part of the weekend is to get right at a track like the Indy Circuit.

“Being in the car in the Middle East series during the winter has really helped my preparation for Porsche Carrera Cup GB this year. Normally you’re out of the car for a long time from the end of one season to the next, this year though we didn’t have that down time so we’ve gone straight into testing with more confidence and that has shown thus far during the pre-season.”

Pre-event testing at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit will take place on Friday, 30th March, with qualifying and the first race of the 2012 Porsche Carrera Cup GB Championship following on Saturday, 31st March, at 11.20 and 16.05 respectively.

Round two is scheduled to get underway at 13.25 on Sunday, 1st April, and will be screened live in the UK on Freeview, digital satellite and cable channel ITV4 with live streaming also available online at www.itv.com/touringcars

Keep up to speed with Ahmad’s 2012 progress at his official website www.ahmadalharthy.com follow him on Twitter @AlHarthyRacing or visit the Ahmad Al Harthy Facebook fan page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ahmad-Al-Harthy/111700892183537

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Albany Toyota NZV8 driver, Haydn Mackenzie (28) will not be able to contest the NZV8 support races at the forthcoming ITM400 meeting at Hamilton as he has suffered a badly broken leg during a MotoX accident during the Tussock Buster event at Waiouru this past weekend. He was airlifted from the event to Palmerston North Hospital and immediately underwent surgery. He will be transferred to Auckland Hospital during this week.

Mackenzie, along with his father, Andrew, and their Albany Toyota dealership, have been longtime stalwarts of the NZV8 class, despite it previously being an exclusive Ford/Holden class. Nevertheless, they have been running a BA Falcon in the class and Haydn was looking forward to having his last race in the Falcon at the ITM 400 Hamilton support races before switching to the new NZV8 ‘future class’ driving the new FG prototype car that he and Andrew have had built as chassis #1 of what the new generation NZV8s will be. However, with the recent change/expansion of the regulations for the new NZV8s, any make of car is eligible for the new NZV8 championship, using any engine.

Mackenzie is thus considering ‘re-clothing’ his new currently FG-bodied chassis, which is universal to the new NZV8 class, in a Toyota model ‘bodywork’ and running a Toyota engine for next season which will then give him and Andrew the chance to combine their enthusiasm for motorsport – and especially the NZV8 class – and their Albany Toyota business.

Antonio Felix da CostaCarlin are pleased to announce that Portuguese racer Antonio Felix da Costa will join the team in the GP3 Series for the 2012 season. Da Costa has already worked with the team in race and test conditions, and has enjoyed a successful 2012 pre-season test programme with Carlin, having topped the timesheets at the last test in Barcelona. Da Costa joins previously announced Carlin GP3 Series driver Alex Brundle for an assault on the 2012 season.

20 year-old Antonio Felix da Costa previously competed with Carlin in four races of the GP3 Series in 2010 and was a regular front runner in last year’s championship. The Portuguese racer now returns for a championship assault with the team that has taken him to the top of the timesheets in pre-season testing.

Previous to the GP3 Series, Da Costa competed in the Formula Renault 2.0 Series where he took a total of nine wins on his way to becoming the 2009 champion. More recently the Portuguese driver has had experience in British Formula Three and competed in last year’s one off GP2 Final in Abu Dhabi. Da Costa’s impressive form saw him earn a drive in last year’s Formula One Young Driver tests, also in Abu Dhabi, with the Sahara Force India F1 Team.

Speaking about the upcoming season Antonio Felix da Costa said, ‘I’m really looking forward to this season with Carlin. I know the team really well and it get on so well with everyone, it’s like a family! Having raced with the team before I feel really comfortable in the car, which I think we’ve shown in pre-season testing. Our pace in testing has left me confident for the start of the season and I can’t wait for the first race in May.’

Trevor Carlin added, ‘Antonio is very well known to the team and I’m delighted to welcome him back for a season. He’s an extremely talented driver and his experience in the GP3 car has really helped the team. The team have done a great job in testing and Antonio has really been on form, setting the fastest time at the last test in Barcelona. I’m expecting him to be a real contender this season.”

Jono LesterJono Lester has finished in second place in his Super Taikyu debut with the PETRONAS Syntium Team, in the 4 Hours of Fuji Speedway over the weekend.

Driving the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 paired with Tatsuya Kataoka (Japan) and Toyota Racing Series team mate Melvin Moh (Malaysia), Lester entered qualifying having driven the car in dry, damp and extreme wet conditions during pre-event testing.

Setting the quickest lap time during his 15-minute qualifying session, Lester set a new benchmark for FIA GT3-spec cars with a new course record, eclipsing the time set by the Audi’s R8 LMS GT3 in 2011.

Starting in second position behind the sister PETRONAS Syntium Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 #1 by way of aggregate qualifying times across each car’s driver line up, Lester’s #28 entry led the race in the early stages at the hands of Kataoka.

Lester took the wheel for the third and final stint, and fought hard to reduce the deficit, eventually crossing the line in second position overall.

A 1-2 finish for the PETRONAS Syntium Team was a perfect start to the season for the four-time champions, and Lester was pleased with his debut:

“It’s been an exciting debut weekend in Japan and I’ve learnt a great deal,” Lester said.

“My endurance racing experience is limited so I was learning ‘on the go’ during my stint and the varied speeds of cars across the six competing classes was a real challenge.”

Lester believes the driver line up in car #28 has the potential to challenge for overall victory at the second round of the championship, to be held at Motegi on April 28-29.

“I’m happy with my lap pace and comfortable in the SLS now. To set a new course record at Fuji was quite surprising but a very nice bonus.

“We have the pace to win. Tatsuya and Melvin drove so well during the race, it was very exciting to watch it unfold and the pair of PETRONAS Syntium Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 cars very closely matched as a package.”

PETRONAS Syntium Team founder and principal David Wong comments, “We have thrown Jono to the deepest end of the pool and he survived well. We are pleased with his progress and how he is learning quickly and contributing to the great 1-2 victory for the team which also significantly marks the first winfor the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 in Japan.”

Lester is supported in the 2012 Super Taikyu Endurance Series by PETRONAS Syntium, Opti-Flex, R Redpath Limited, Trinity Media Group, Mako Networks, Vortex Racewear and ThrillCapital.

Photo by PETRONAS Syntium Team.

Market Harborough-based Cameron Twynham enjoyed an encouraging start to his 2012 InterSteps campaign with Fortec Motorsports at Oulton Park Island, Cheshire on Saturday.

16-year-old Twynham, who was named Junior Sportsman of the Year at the Harborough Mail Awards in 2011, contested his first two races of the 23-race InterSteps Championship at the ever popular Cheshire circuit, with strong results, finishing as top rookie in race two.

Cameron qualified sixth fastest for Saturday’s first race and drove well, holding position for much of the twenty-minute race as he fought hard to defend from Fortec teammate. Eventually Car 3 got the better of the teenager – who is one of the youngest drivers in the field – demoting Twynham to seventh place on the last lap of race one.

With his first car race completed, Twynham was altogether more relaxed and confident for Saturday’s second and final race, and it showed in his performance. Having secured a fifth place grid slot, he raced well from the outset and was part of a hard-fought four-car battle for the third spot on the podium. Cameron pushed hard, and was forced to both attack and defend as a far more experienced James Fletcher mounted an assault on the Market Harborough-based star in the closing stages of the race. A relentless Fletcher snatched fifth spot from Twynham towards the end of the race, as Twynham drove home to a solid sixth place, finishing as the top rookie racer and top rookie in the championship after the first 2 races.

Speaking on Saturday Cameron was pleased with his improvements over the weekend: “I’m really happy with my progress – I was quite nervous for race one but once that was out the way I was a lot more relaxed and I really enjoyed race two. It was great to be in the hunt for a podium finish in just my second race.”

Fortec’s InterSteps Team Manager Steve Lynch was impressed with Cameron’s progress: “The whole team did a great job over the weekend, and Cameron made significant steps forward from race one to race two. It was great to see him in a really strong battle for third and it’s certainly shaping up to be a very competitive season.”

The next round of the InterSteps Championship takes place at Donington Park, Leicestershire April 21-22.