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Archive for December, 2013

Craft RacingIt was a magical day for Hong Kong racing team Craft Racing AMR as their #007 entry crossed the finish line at the Sepang International Circuit to grab the final podium position at the Asian Le Mans Series season finale. The points haul was enough for Craft Racing to secure 2nd place in the GTC class and claim the coveted invitation to the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans in France.

Craft Racing entered two Aston Martin Vantage GT3’s in the Asian Le Mans Series this past weekend, the first time to line-up on the grid with two cars this season. The #009 entry of Darryl O’Young, Frank Yu, and Tomonobu Fujii started P2, followed closely by the #007 of Stefan Mücke and Keita Sawa starting P3 on the grid for the 3 hour endurance race.

When the green flag dropped, both cars made strong starts and after two turns, the starting drivers of Mucke and O’Young emerged in 1st and 2nd in the class. The pair extended their lead pulling over 20 seconds away from the field before the first round of pit stops.

With re-fueling taking longer than expected, the team lost their lead heading into the 2nd hour when Sawa and Yu took over the wheel. The pair fought hard through the intense heat of Malaysia, which saw the pair sitting in P3 and P5 respectively by the end of their stints. Shortly before the final hour, the #007 was passed back to Mucke, as Yu finished his stint and handed the car to Fujii for the run to the checkered flag.

#007 emerged P3 after the final pit stops and being in a good position to score enough points to secure the Le Mans entry, the team decided to stop chase of the leaders and maintain the position. Doing the opposite, #009 was making a charge in the final 30 minutes of the race reducing a 25 second deficit to the fourth placed Lamborghini ahead. The chase came a bit short at the end as #009 crossed the finish line just two seconds behind, having to settle for P5 after a sensational drive by Fujii.

Although Craft Racing missed out on the victory, it was celebrations all around as the #007 crossed the finish line in P3 claiming 2nd place in the GTC championship and claiming the coveted 24 hours of Le Mans entry.

Craft Racing AMR had their first major endurance race success earlier this year in January, where they became the first Hong Kong race team to take an international endurance race podium at the 24 hours of Dubai. The team will return to Dubai this January to try and improve on their success at the event.

Said team founder Frank Yu, “This is a dream come true as our Hong Kong team will be heading to Le Mans. This is a big step for Craft Racing, as we made Le Mans our target from the outset and to achieve this result is a great reward to everyone on the team for all the hard work. We will all enjoy this special moment right now, but work will start again immediately as we prepare for a big race in January at the 24 hours of Dubai and preparations for Le Mans.”

Hong Kong driver, Darryl O’Young commented, “Endurance racing is a team sport and everyone at Craft Racing worked so hard for this result. We struggled today with tire degradation, so it wasn’t an easy race for the drivers. Everyone pulled together and gave it a strong team effort and I am so happy for the team as this is a major accomplishment.”

Team Principle, Mark Goddard added, “It is a tremendous day for our us as getting a Le Mans invitation is one of the biggest challenges for a race team. Scoring an early invitation allows us time to prepare properly for the race in June and we can begin organizing the logistics, sponsors and the driver line-ups for the race. It will be a big challenge ahead but we have worked hard for many years to achieve this and we are ready for the task. Many thanks to all our sponsors and supporters for believing in us, and a special thank you to Aston Martin Racing for all the continued support.”

Pedro PiquetOne of Formula 1’s most famous names will be on the starting grid when the 2014 Toyota Racing Series fires into action in early January.

Brazilian Pedro Piquet, 15, the youngest son of three times Formula One World Champion Nelson Piquet, has been confirmed to race and will join the 2013 TRS championship-winning team M2 Competition. Pedro will be accompanied to New Zealand by his famous father Nelson Piquet, who expects to attend all five rounds.

Piquet has raced extensively in karting and has most recently been driving in Formula 3 in Brazil to prepare him for TRS.

“My goal for TRS 2014 is to be competitive against the other drivers and gain more experience driving formula cars. Nowhere else in the world can you do 15 races in five weeks, so TRS is the best championship for drivers who are looking to further their knowledge and experience,” he said.

The championship has arguably become the choice of world champions. The Piquets are the second famous motor racing father son pairing to join TRS.

The 1996 F1 World Champion, Damon Hill, brought his son Josh to New Zealand in 2011 and 2012 with the aim of honing Josh’s single-seater skills.

Heading into its tenth anniversary season, the TRS has attracted an unprecedented level of interest from international drivers who will join their young Kiwi counterparts. Series organisers are preparing for an onslaught of young rookie talent as well as several drivers who will return for their second season of TRS when the 2014 championship kicks off at Teretonga, the southernmost race track in the world, in Invercargill on January 10.

Some of these young racers are already aligned with motor racing’s leading teams and are drawn to New Zealand by the prospect of five weeks of highly competitive racing which offers up to 3,000 kilometres behind the wheel as well as the chance to win the first FIA Grand Prix title of the season. The championship takes place during the northern hemisphere winter, when most circuits there are unable to be used.

Toyota Racing Series category manager Barrie Thomlinson says the series has earned a strong reputation over 10 years and has established its place in the global motor racing calendar “which is something that we can all be immensely proud of.”

“It has taken a consistent well managed approach over the years to firmly establish the series on the radar for young up and coming racing drivers. Attracting our second Formula One World Champion father and son is further proof of the respect this series now enjoys the world over. Teams from around the globe are now encouraging their drivers to New Zealand to maximise their ‘off season’ preparation,” he said.

Five New Zealand-based TRS teams will between them field 22 drivers for the 2014 championship. Thirteen countries will be represented in the 2014 championship which is contested at five circuits over five consecutive weekends, travelling from Teretonga to Timaru’s Levels Raceway and then on to the new Highlands Motorsport Park at Cromwell. Crossing to the North Island, drivers race the penultimate round at Hampton Downs in the northern Waikato before heading to Manfeild near Palmerston North for the 59th New Zealand Grand Prix.

The championship uses a single chassis supplied by Tatuus and are powered by a production based 1.8 litre four cylinder Toyota engine.

In almost a decade of top level racing action, TRS has promoted many young racing drivers as they progress their chosen career paths.

“Drivers who have competed in the Toyota Racing Series have been making their mark in a range of European championships this year, notching up podiums and race wins as well as challenging for major titles which is fantastic,” said Thomlinson.

Kiwi Mitch Evans, currently racing in GP2, just one step away from Formula One, is a TRS graduate and the youngest FIA Grand Prix title winner in the history of motor racing. He is a two time Toyota Racing Series winner, in 2010 and 2011, won the New Zealand Grand Prix in 2011 at the age of 16 and won the European GP3 championship in 2012.

Russian Daniil Kvyat who raced in TRS in 2011 as a member of the Red Bull Junior driver programme won the GP3 championship this year. He has just been promoted into F1 with Red Bull’s Toro Rosso team for 2014.

Ferrari development academy member Raffaele Marciello (TRS 2012) won the FIA European Formula Three championship this year and looks likely to step up into a professional career.

Palmerston North’s Brendon Hartley won the very first TRS race in 2005 before joining Red Bull’s Junior driver programme. He won the Formula Renault 2.0 championship in 2007 and is now a valued member of the Mercedes GP F1 simulator test team. Hartley is on the verge of signing a contract to join the driving line up for Porsche in their brand new LMP 1 Le Mans Sportscar team.

Kiwi Nick Cassidy emerged as TRS champion in both 2012 and 2013 and also won the New Zealand Grand Prix titles in the same years– a result he calls the ‘double-double’. Cassidy has been competing in Europe, acquitting himself well as he searches for a break into the upper echelons of motor racing.

“We have a sensational line up of drivers coming to the championship this year. Our young Kiwis will face a strong challenge to hold the title in New Zealand. Could this be the year an international driver scoops the titles? Or will a New Zealand driver once again emerge triumphant?”

Chris DymondGT and sports car ace Chris Dymond takes an impressive 2nd place on karting return nearly 10 years after he left the sport.

Dymond’s return to karting also marked his debut outside of the traditional 100cc classes in which he competed for 12 years throughout the UK and Europe.

For this one off event Dymond competed in the 250 National class which use a motorcycle engine and gearbox. Known as “super karts” these machines are capable of reaching speeds exceeding 150mph and will out accelerate a Formula 1 car to 100mph!

Competing with the Jade karts team for the weekend, an outfit run by the father of Dymond’s team mate during his championship winning 2010 season in the Radical UK cup, Dymond was quickly up to speed, finishing 2nd and 3rd in the heat races proceeding the final.

Dymond lined up in second place on the grid for the final with team mate and multiple British champion Ross Allen third. A poor start by Dymond saw him drop right down the order as the pack headed to the first corner. However Dymond embarked on an incredible come back drive and by lap 4 of the 12lap final was already back into the top three and catching the second placed kart, five laps from end Dymond was up to second but leader Allen was some 8 seconds ahead leaving Dymond to bring the kart home in an impressive 2nd place on his debut.

“This was something I’ve always wanted to do, watching them was always impressive but driving them is something else! I didn’t really know what to expect, I knew they’d be fast but the sensation when you put your foot down is just incredible and it just keeps going! I’ve had a great time this weekend to come away with a trophy is nice but the performance was great especially having been away for so long. I think I oiled up at the start and it just bogged down but carving back through the pack was really fun. Big thanks to Mark (Allen) for the opportunity, we’ve spoken about doing this for a while since I raced with Ross in the Radical in fact, and when the chance came up I jumped at it” Commented Dymond after the race.

You can follow Chris via Twitter and Facebook.
Twitter: @C_Dymondracing
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Photo by Pixelero

Alice Powell and Sportsman of the Year, Bradley SmithAlice Powell came away from the Oxfordshire Sports Awards as Sportswoman of the Year, for Oxfordshire. Alice faced stiff competition from Team GB athlete, Hannah England, who is British number 1 in the 1500m, and Izzy Taylor, an equestrian. However, the judges put Alice on top.

The 20-year-old has enjoyed a fantastic year on the racetrack, with her first ventures into British Formula Three. These including a 2nd-place finish in the MotorSport Vision Formula Three Cup, and racing in the opening round of the 2013 British Formula Three Championship season at Silverstone.

With Formula 1 ambitions and vocal support from the likes of Prime Minister David Cameron – MP for her home constituency of Chipping Norton – the sky is the limit for Alice. The recognition from the Oxfordshire Sports Partnership with this award is a measure of Alice’s achievements this year, and demonstrates that she is certainly on the right track to success.

Photo by RP Photography By Design.

Simon Belcher - BTCC Toyota AvensisDunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship newcomer Simon Belcher, who will make his race debut in the UK’s biggest motor racing category next year, made his first track appearance at the wheel of his newly acquired Toyota Avensis at Silverstone today, Wednesday, 4th December.

Just a fortnight since announcing his graduation from the BTCC-supporting Renault UK Clio Cup, the Swindon racer thoroughly enjoyed his eagerly awaited first run in the Speedworks Motorsport built 2.0-litre Toyota and reported a very encouraging day at the Northamptonshire venue.

Although an issue with the ECU during the damp opening session hampered the KÄRCHER supported driver’s early laps, the three subsequent sessions were dry and afforded the 2012 and 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Masters Cup’ title winner a good opportunity to adapt to the Toyota.

“It’s been a brilliant day, it was everything I expected”, said the 39-year-old, “I’d never even sat in a touring car before today and we weren’t a million miles away by the end, so I’m really pleased. We made some good progress and I really enjoyed working with the Speedworks guys for the first time.

“I wondered how the speed of the car would feel and compare to the Clio I’ve been racing the past two years, and the touring car does have so much more power. What needed getting used to the most, though, was the brakes – you really have to stand on them.”

Belcher added: “When you’re strapped into the car it doesn’t feel that much bigger, but the steering is harder work and everything is just that bit heavier. The more aggressive you drive a touring car, the smoother it feels, so you really have to grab it by the throat to get the most out of it. That’s different to what I’ve been used to with the Clio and something to work on over the winter.”

With the initial shakedown of his Toyota now complete, the next appearance of the car – which will run under the ‘Handy Motorsport’ banner in the BTCC – is scheduled to be at Birmingham’s NEC in January where the 2014 livery will be unveiled during the annual Autosport International Show. The event runs over four days, between Thursday, 9th January, and Sunday, 12th January.

Following a programme of winter testing during the early part of 2014, Belcher’s first ‘official’ BTCC appearance will come during the pre-season Media Day at Donington Park in the East Midlands on Tuesday, 18th March.

The championship itself will get underway less than two weeks later, on 29th/30th March, at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in Kent and will travel the length and breadth of the country before reaching its conclusion back at Brands Hatch, on the longer Grand Prix Circuit, on 11th/12th October.

Photo by George McNeil.

Cameron TwynhamCameron Twynham will graduate to the European F3 Open Championship Class in 2014 after agreeing a deal to remain with Team West-Tec.

The 17-year-old from Market Harborough, who finished runner-up in the same series’ junior Copa Class this year, has taken the logical decision to stay with the highly successful British squad for his first full season aboard Dallara’s newest specification Formula 3 car, the F312.

Remaining with the Corby-based outfit – the most decorated in F3 Open history – also offers Twynham the potential to contest selected FIA Formula 3 European Championship rounds, as well as the blue riband Macau Grand Prix at the end of the year.

And it’s those opportunities, as well as his and the team’s existing rapport, which ultimately swayed the MSA Academy ace to challenge for the outright F3 Open title.

“We spent a long time weighing up all the options out there but came to the conclusion that a year of learning the new car in a winning environment that I’m already accustomed to was the best bet for 2014,” confirmed Twynham. “It will be Team West-Tec’s eighth year in F3 Open and they’ll be coming off the back of a championship-winning campaign, so there’s absolutely no question marks over their experience or pedigree. The fact that I’ll be working with the same engineers and staff is also a big bonus. All the pieces are in place for a successful season.”

Importantly, Twynham can call on existing knowledge of the newer chassis when he begins testing ahead of next season:

“I drove the car at the Brands Hatch British F3 round earlier this year and also during a couple of test sessions, so it won’t be completely alien to me. But even though I already feel comfortable there’s still a pretty big step between the Copa and Championship classes, which I’ll need to prepare for initially. We’re still aiming to win the title in our first season, though. I’m feeling confident.”

Team Principal John Miller, who oversaw Twynham’s title challenge this year, added: “We are delighted to re-sign Cameron for 2014. He was the pick of the rookie Copa drivers this season so it was always a priority of ours to retain him. After such a successful year in 2013, with the team winning 11 of 18 F3 Open races, we are putting together a very strong line-up for 2014 and I’m sure Cameron is going to be challenging at the very front of the field with Team West-Tec. I know everyone is really looking forward to that.”

Following a comprehensive pre-season testing schedule Cameron’s F3 Open title bid will begin at the Nurburgring in Germany on May 2-4.