The Motor Sport Month - International News

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Audi snaps up di Grassi

Former Grand Prix driver Lucas di Grassi has landed an Audi drive for 2013, following his starring performance on his debut

with the German manufacturer at last year’s Sao Paulo round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.

Audi played down the chances of the Brazilian being contracted for 2013 after what it stressed was a oneoff, which came at the behest of race promoter Emerson Fittipaldi. It subsequently changed its mind and dropped Marco Bonanomi from its line-up to make room for di Grassi, who finished third in Sdo Paulo sharing an Audi R18 ultra with Allan McNish and Tom Kristensen.

Audi Sport boss Dr Wolfgang Ullrich said: “Lucas was really impressive at Interlagos. If you look at what he has achieved up to now, we consider that he has a big future.”

Di Grassi’s full programme has yet to be announced along with those of Audi drivers McNish, Kristensen, Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer, Marcel Fassler, Loic Duval and Marc Gene.

Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard, who have raced for Audi since 2009, are returning to sister marque Porsche as it gears up for its prototype return at Le Mans in 2014.

Pescarolo future in jeopardy

Henri Pescarolo’s once successful privateer sports car team has gone into liquidation.

Pescarolo Team, which as Pescarolo Sport finished second at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2005-06, was liquidated at the start of January. The move came after Pescarolo was unable to present a plan to continue the business following a period of court protection from its debtors since last July.

The 70-year-old, who won Le Mans four times as a driver, has not ruled out continuing his team in some form. He said he was talking to two groups about linking up for an assault on this year’s 24 Hours.

Pescarolo explained that he still owns the team’s premises in the Technoparc at Le Mans and has been allowed by the courts to continue, but he said in the wake of liquidation that he had yet to make up his mind about his future.

Tourist trophy to return

This season, the 108-year-old Tourist Trophy will be awarded to the winners of a world championship endurance race for the first time since 1964.

The trophy will go to the victors of this year’s six-hour FIA World Endurance Championship opener at Silverstone on April 14. That means the likes of Allan McNish, Tom Kristsensen, Andre Lotterer, Alex Wurz and Nicolas Lapierre will be fighting for the chance to have their names alongside those of Rudolf Caracciola, Tazio Nuvolari, Carroll Shelby, Stirling Moss, Graham Hill and Derek Bell on the Royal Automobile Club’s famous piece of silverware.

Pierre Fillon, president of WEC promoter the Automobile Club de l’Ouest at Le Mans, said: “We are extremely pleased to announce our partnership with the RAC to award the prestigious Tourist Trophy to the winners of the opening round of the WEC at Silverstone.

“This is a very important year for the ACO because it marks the 90th anniversary of the first running of the Le Mans 24 Hours. To be able to award the Tourist Trophy with its rich history and tradition is a great honour for us in this important year.

“We look forward to seeing which names from the FIA WEC grid will be added to the roll of honour alongside the names from the past such as Caracciola, Shelby, Moss, Hill and Bell, names that also have a great association with Le Mans.”

Ben Cussons, chairman of the RAC’s motoring committee, said: “The first race in 1905 lasted more than six hours and it is truly fitting that over 100 years later we have gone full circle back to a six-hour endurance race in 2013.”

Audi driver and two-time Le Mans winner Allan McNish welcomed the move.

“It is fantastic news,” he said. “It would be an honour for any driver to have his name alongside all the greats on that trophy. It also shows that the status of the WEC is steadily increasing.”

The TT, which was inaugurated on the Ards circuit in Northern Ireland in 1905, will be awarded again this season after a one-year hiatus. The trophy went to the winners of the main race at the Silverstone FIA GT1 World Championship event in 2010-11.

The TT at Goodwood was a round of the World Sportscar Championship in 1958 and 1959, and was on the calendar again when it was known as the International Championship of Makes in 1964.

The event, which moved to Silverstone in 1970, subsequently became one of the mainstays of the European Touring Car series (and briefly the World Touring Car series) until the demise of the ETC after the 1988 season.

The TT name was used to promote British Touring Car Championship and sports car races in the 1990s and early 2000s, but the names of the winners of the races were not engraved on the trophy. It was revived for the FIA GT Championship round at Silverstone in 2005.

Classes to be unified in US

The top class of the newfor-2014 unified US sports car championship will be made up of Daytona Prototypes, LMP2 prototypes and production versions of the DeltaWing.

Grand-Am and the American Le Mans Series, which announced last season that they were merging, explained that the move was based on a policy of inclusion. They want to allow as many cars as possible from the two series, which will remain separate through 2013, to join the as yet unnamed championship in 2014.

The decision means that the performance of the DPs will have to be significantly increased to bring them up to a level approaching LMP2. At Laguna Seca, for example, a P2 car is approximately seven seconds a lap faster.

Grand-Am boss Ed Bennett explained that this would likely involve giving the DPs more power and downforce and putting them on a faster tyre than the Continental-badged Hoosier currently used.

The remainder of the class structure for the first two years of the championship has also been announced. The ALMS GT (GTE in Europe) and Grand-Am GT classes will remain separate, although cars from the ALMS GTC one-make Porsche division will run in the Grand-Am category.

The ALMS division for the one-make Formula Le Mans ORECA-Chevrolet continues as a stand-alone class.

Loeb signs up for GTs

Nine-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb’s race team is one of 10 to sign up for the new FIA GT Series.

Sebastien Loeb Racing has announced its participation in what had been provisionally known as the GT Sprint Series with a pair of McLaren MP4-12Cs. Firm commitments from the French team and the nine others ahead of the January closing date has allowed series boss Stephane Ratel to rubber-stamp the series that takes over from the FIA GT1 World Championship.

Loeb will share one of his MP4-12Cs with McLaren factory driver Alvaro Parente in what he sees as a year of preparation for a planned move with Citroen into the World Touring Car Championship in 2014.

Other teams to sign up include Michael Bartels’ Vita4One squad (formerly Vitaphone Racing), the German Phoenix team and WRT from Belgium.

The FIA GT Series has been trimmed back to six races with only one flyaway outside Europe, most likely at the end of the season in Abu Dhabi. The championship starts at Nogaro in April.

Lola name to race on in wake of supply deal

The future of Lola prototypes competing in international sports car racing has been safeguarded by a deal for a new group to take over the supply of spares and the provision of engineering support for the failed British constructor’s designs.

Multimatic Motorsport, which produced parts for Lola’s respective B12/60 and B12/80 LMP1 and P2 prototypes, and Carl Haas Auto, the constructor’s long-time US agent, have agreed a deal with Lola Group Holdings. This follows the purchase of the assets of Lola Cars International, which went into administration in June, by parent company LGH, which holds the intellectual property rights to all Lolas and the trademarks to the Lola name.

Under the deal, Multimatic will provide engineering support for Lola’s prototypes and Haas will sell the spares.

Multimatic is continuing to develop the P1 and P2 designs and has picked up the windtunnel programme discontinued when Lola Cars went into administration. Haas will be able to sell spares of all Lola models.

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