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Racing roundup: Helio discovers his second childhood 

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Helio Castroneves is suddenly 25 again. A year ago he won the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Then, last May, he won the Indianapolis 500 for the fourth time and Sunday in Daytona he, and others, drove to victory – again – in the Rolex 24. He celebrated, as he did a year ago, last May, three other times at Indy and numerous times along the IndyCar championship trail and now the Rolex again by Climbing the fence and waving to the crowd and TV cameras.

There is nobody as exciting to watch, and be watched, as Helio after he wins a race.

He’s from Brazil, of course. Here’s how Canadians did Sunday:

Devlin Defrancesco of Toronto (and Fort Lauderdale) finished first in LMP2

Pfaff Motorsport of Toronto finished first in GTD PRO

Zach Robichon of Ottawa finished first in GTD

The rest of this report on the Rolex 24 was provided by the IMSA communications department: 

Castroneves kept the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura ARX-05 ahead of the field during the final 30 minutes to lift MSR and co-drivers Tom Blomqvist, Oliver Jarvis and Simon Pagenaud to victory. “It sounds cliché, but it’s all about believing,” Castroneves said. “I believe in them; they believe in me. This is exactly what is happening with this group here. With Simon, with Tom and with Oliver – we all believed that we could do it.”

It was Castroneves’ second consecutive Rolex 24 victory. Last year, he won the race as part of Wayne Taylor Racing, then climbed a fence in Victory Lane. This time, Castroneves fought off the No. 10 WTR Acura and driver Ricky Taylor to win, then stopped at the start-finish line and climbed the catch fence.

“That was absolutely incredible,” he said. “I’m so happy for the entire group. Everyone did their job. At the end, I said, ‘Put me in, Coach.’ It was great.”

The victory ended Wayne Taylor Racing’s bid to win the race for a record fourth consecutive time. As the Meyer Shank Racing celebration moved from the fence to the pits, Wayne Taylor was among the first to congratulate his former driver.

The trip to the top of the podium continued the resurgence of the career of Castroneves, 46. After winning last year’s Rolex 24 with WTR, Castroneves went on to win the Indy 500 with MSR, tying A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears for most Indy 500 wins in a career.

“It’s priceless,” Castroneves said. “In my case, I’m still very passionate about it and learning every day … and improving my driving skills. That’s what makes me a better driver. That’s why I enjoy it. That’s why when I go out there I push as hard as I can.”    

Ricky Taylor finished 3.028 seconds behind Castroneves for WTR teammates Filipe Albuquerque, Will Stevens and Alexander Rossi. The 1-2 Acura sweep came 18 hours after both cars fell off the lead lap and trailed the five Cadillacs in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class.

Loic Duval brought the No. 5 JDC Miller MotorSports Cadillac DPi-V.R in third place with teammates Tristan Vautier, Richard Westbrook and Ben Keating.

 DragonSpeed USA Flies to LMP2 Victory

In one of the most all-around dramatic Rolex 24 At Daytona races in history, the No. 81 DragonSpeed USA ORECA LMP2 rallied from five laps down to win the LMP2 class of the twice-around-the-clock race. Despite freezing cold conditions overnight at Daytona International Speedway, the group of highly inspired young drivers were blazing fast come Sunday sunrise.

Armed with youthful enthusiasm and great racing talent, DragonSpeed’s roster of longtime friends overcame fast competition, pit road challenges and uncharacteristically cold weather to claim the team’s first ever victory in the season-opening IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race.

DragsonSpeed experienced problems right away – a technical glitch hampered pit road visits resulting in multiple speeding penalties that put it behind early. But the team finally got the system righted and it was go-time by nightfall.

Sports car veteran Eric Lux and IndyCar Series stars Colton Herta, Pato O’Ward and Devlin DeFrancesco kept making up ground in the class before ultimately handing over the car to Herta in the closing laps to bring home the victory.

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Ultimately, DragonSpeed claimed a 7.089-second victory over the No. 29 Racing Team Nederland car co-driven by Frits van Eerd, Giedo van der Garde, Dylan Murry and another IndyCar driver, Rinus VeeKay.

Racing Roundup

 

Riley Motorsports Cruises to LMP3 Victory

The No. 74 Riley Motorsports team continues to own the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship LMP3 class. Gar Robinson, who was last year’s LMP3 driver champion, joined Felipe Fraga, Kay van Berlo and Michael Cooper to claim class honors once again.

Pfaff Victorious in Slam-Bang Porsche GTD PRO Finish  

The new GTD PRO class of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship got off to the most spectacular start possible.

Mathieu Jaminet and the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports of Toronto Porsche 911 GT3 R emerged from a door-banging clash Sunday afternoon with the similar No. 2 KCMG Porsche driven by Laurens Vanthoor through Daytona International Speedway’s Le Mans Chicane on the very last lap of the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

The two factory Porsche drivers waged an intense duel over the final two hours of the 60th running of North America’s most iconic endurance race. The action jumped off the chart in the closing five minutes, as Vanthoor’s constant pressure finally paid off and he gained the lead and held it for three intense laps leading to the white flag.

But Jaminet fought back. The Pfaff driver repeated Vanthoor’s pass around the International Horseshoe hairpin to regain the lead on the final lap before vigorously defending the position into the newly renamed Le Mans Chicane on the backstretch of the Daytona oval. The two Porsches negotiated the initial left-hander side-by-side before coming together as they entered the next right-hander. Both skirted the grass to the inside in a synchronized drift; Jaminet maintained control while Vanthoor skidded to a stop before quickly resuming.

By the time they reached the finish line of the 3.56-mile road course less than a minute later, Jaminet had a 2.185-second advantage over the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GT3 driven by Alessandro Pier Guidi. Vanthoor claimed third place, 4.687 seconds behind the winner.

“This was crazy!” marveled Jaminet, a 37-year-old Frenchman who was a GT Le Mans class winner with Porsche last year at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts and Motul Petit Le Mans. “It was difficult to realize what happened on the last lap – actually the last two hours. I was just driving for my life for these two hours.

“Even when he passed me, I thought, ‘I’m not going to give this thing,” Jaminet added. “It was too much hard work for one hour and 55 (minutes) to let it go in the last few laps. I had to give it everything and just go for it.”

Jaminet shared the winning car with Matt Campbell and two-time Daytona Prototype international (DPi) champion Felipe Nasr, who made a victorious debut as a Porsche factory driver.

Eight of the 13 GTD PRO entries led laps over the course of the 24 hours, and it wasn’t until the final quarter of the race that the Porsches truly separated themselves from the field.

It was a difficult GTD PRO debut for two-time defending GT Le Mans class champions Corvette Racing. The Nos. 3 and No. 4 Corvette C8.R GTDs encountered delays and finished sixth and 10th in class. Similarly, the first race for BMW Team RLL’s new M4 GT3 model was not trouble-free, resulting in a seventh-place finish for the No. 25 car and ninth place for the No. 24.

No. 16 Porsche Finds Wright Way to Win GTD Class 

Ryan Hardwick watched his Wright Motorsports Porsche race in last year’s Rolex 24 At Daytona from a hospital bed, sidelined with a concussion. The view was much more rewarding this year.

The No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R owned the last hours of GT Daytona (GTD) action at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, winning by 12.542 seconds over the No. 44 Magnus Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3. Veteran driver Jan Heylen drove the lengthy final stint, warding off bids from the Aston Martin and the No. 21 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3.

Heylen held strong and pulled away to deliver the first Rolex 24 win for himself, Hardwick, endurance driver Zacharie Robichon, and Wright Motorsports Porsche driver Richard Lietz earned his third Rolex 24 watch, coming after a 2012 GT win and 2014 GT Le Mans triumph.

“It’s just so hard to win any race, let alone a 24-hour race,” Heylen said. “At the end with two or three hours to go, we had a good lead and I was sure in my mind that it wasn’t going to be that easy. We had good speed in the car and we just had to control our race and not worry about the GTD PRO cars. We’ve come here many times and tried, so to finally be on the top step is an amazing result.”

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The No. 16 drivers methodically worked their way to the front from the 11th starting position in GTD. They didn’t lead until more than four hours into the 24-hour race. The car came alive overnight and controlled the late stages, leading 120 of the last 125 laps.

A critical strategy decision saw the No. 16 crew call the car in for its final pit stop with 52 minutes left in the race, just before a full-course caution for the No. 19 TR3 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 stopped on track. The No. 44 Aston Martin and No. 21 Ferrari had to pit under yellow and were unable to threaten the Porsche the rest of the way, much to the happiness of Hardwick.

“For me, it was a little bit of redemption coming back to this track and not only competing at a high level but ultimately winning,” Hardwick said. “Just blessed to be a part of a great team and exceptional driving by all of these guys, especially through the night and at the end of the race with Zach and Jan really pushing hard when the game was on.”

The next round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts, March 16-19 at Sebring International Raceway.

HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE . . . 

The Rolex 24 had not one Grand Marshal but six: Mario Andretti, Hurley Heywood, Scott Pruett, Bobby Rahal, Jack Roush and Wayne Taylor all gave the command to start engines for the 60th annual championship . . . Tanner Thorson won the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals indoors at Tulsa. NASCAR driver Christopher Bell was second and Rico Abreu was third. I am going to make it to that race someday . . . Time flies. The NASCAR season opens next weekend at the Coliseum in Los Angeles with the exhibition Busch Clash. Where, again? The Coliseum, where the UCLA Bruins play football and daredevil Evel Knievel used to jump trucks on his motorcycle. Not to forget the Rams and the Raiders. They have laid down a half-mile paved track and will turn 40 Cup cars loose. After that, they go to Daytona for the 500 . . .  Tony Stewart will join the NBC announcing team for the Clash and the 500 . . . Brad Moran, who started his motor racing administrative career as a steward in the Canadian NASCAR (nee CASCAR) Series, is the new NASCAR Cup race director. That is what you call a meteoric rise. If he keeps that up, he should soon be race director of Formula One . . . This is how screwed up F1 is (and need all the help they can get). In an interview with Autosport magazine, Senior FIA official Peter Bayer (he’s been secretary general for sport since 2017) said that race director Michael Masi did a terrific job in 2021 but could be replaced anyway. Or the race director could be part of a team. The FIA has to do something, though. Otherwise, they risk losing their biggest star. Meantime, Alain Prost has left his advisory post with Alpine. Ex-Aston Martin team principal Otmar Szafnauer replace him . . . The Formula Electric season started in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia at the weekend. Nyck de Vries in a Mercedxes-EQ won the first race of the weekend while ROKIT Venturi Racing’s Edoardo Mortara won the second . . . Montana Brand and Rocky Mountain Twist will sponsor Austin Prock’s NHRA Top Fuel dragster this season. Prock will drive for John Force Racing . . . The Canadian Touring Car Championship (CTCC) will kick off its season June 4-5 at Shannonville Motorsport Park. They will race July 9-10 at ICAR Mirabel and Aug. 5-7 at the Grand Prix de Trois Rivieres. Two dates are open – Sept. 7 and 8th and Oct. 9-10. I suspect negotiations with U.S. tracks are under way. The rival touring car championship, FEL Motorsports, is racing at CTMP in May and September. Other dates and locations TBA (they sent the schedule; I just can’t find it . . . Pirelli celebrated its 150thbirthday this weekend . . . Stouffville’s Dalton Kellett has re-signed to drive in IndyCar for AJ Foyt Racingagain this season. More about him as the season draws near. Tatiana Calderson will also race for Foyt this season. And Conor Daly has a full-time ride with Ed Carpenter Racing . . . Porsche racing expert Pascal Zurlinden has joined Multimatic as Director of Performance Engineering. Speaking of Multimatic, they are beginning their 30th year of competition in 2022 . . . Timmy Hill of Ohsweken, Ont., will enter run a second truck in the NASCAR Camping World Trucks Series this season. He’ll run one and brother Tyler Hill will pilot the other . . . The trucks won’t be running at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park – again. According to CTMP spokesman Sam Fellows, “this revolves around the uncertainties over travel across the border. NASCAR wants to build a schedule they can executive and avoid cancellations and schedule changes during the racing year. The relationship with NASCAR is still strong.” He quoted Ben Kennedy, NASCAR senior vice-president of strategy and innovation as saying that, ‘It always amazes me when we go to Canadian Tire and see the number of fans that come out for the event every year. The biggest reason (for not going) is just the unknowns and uncertainties. There’s a lot of logistics that go into planning a lot of these races and a lot of lead time, especially for international events. But they’ve been great partners and we look forward to continuing to stay in touch with them.’ . . . Other race weekends at CTMP: Castrol Victoria Day Speedfest, May 20-22; VARAC Vintage Racing Festival, June 17-19; IMSA SportsCar Grand Prix, July 1-3; Superbike Doubleheader, Aug. 12-14; Labour Day Sprints, Sep. 2-4 . . . Motorcycle racing legends Eddie Mulder and Terry Vance are the latest inductees into the 2022 edition of the “Hot Shoe” Hall of Fame and were honored in the second annual “Hot Shoe” Motorcycle Industry Celebration in Las Vegas on Saturday . . .  Earlier in the month, Dave Earnhardt Jr., Mike Stefanic and Red Farmer were inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame . . . Maury Gallagher, owner of GMS Racing and majority owner of Richard Petty Motorsports, along with motorsports icon Richard Petty, have announced the creation of Petty GMS Motorsports. The organization will field two full-time NASCAR Cup Series entries in 2022 with drivers Ty Dillon and Erik Jones . . . IndyCar is considering knockout qualifying this season because so many cars are expected to show up for some races and the number of pit stalls wouldn’t be enough to accommodate them all. Toronto, for instance. Back in the Sixties and some of the Seventies, when they had the same problem, they held preliminary races to eliminate cars . . . Eli Tomac won the Monster Energy AMA Supercross at Angels Stadium in California Saturday night . . . I am astounded that a few months short of 30 years after sprint car great Doug Wolfgang crashed and was badly burned that the World of Outlaws has just – just – made it mandatory for sprint-car racers to carry onboard fire-suppression systems as of the 2023 season. Better late than never, I guess . . . The Ontario Sportsman Series will race twice at Flamboro Speedway in 2022, first on May 21 and again on Sept. 10 . . . Jacques Villeneuve and his wife have welcomed a new baby boy to their family. They named him Gilles . . . NASCAR says it is going to get tough on rough driving and one of the penalties might be loss of eligibility for the playoffs. Ho, ho, ho . . . The CASC-OR ice racing season gets under way at Minden Feb. 5. The Kinsmen up there take care of the track, collect admission and run the snack bar. Coffee and hot chocolate are the big sellers. It gets cold in Minden. Ted Michalos was acclaimed chairman of the border of directors of the racing organization. It will be for a one-year term . . . The last of the Granatelli Indianapolis racing family has died. Vince, son of Andy and nephew of Vince and Joe, was 78. He was a team owner during the CART years and employed drivers Robert Guerrero, Arie Luyendyk and Gordon Johncock, among others . . . 22 Racing of the NASCAR Canada Pinty’s Series announced that it and driver Kyle Steckly had teamed up with APC Auto Parts Centres/Canusa for the 2022 season . . .

The post Racing roundup: Helio discovers his second childhood  appeared first on WHEELS.ca.

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