Sunday, August 10, 2014

Driver Kevin Ward Jr Dies After Bodily Impact from Car Driven by Tony Stewart

There has never been any illusions that auto racing can be a dangerous sport. Over the years, helmets, roll bars and most recently SAFER barriers detail just a few products engineered to reduce injury and death to those involved in motorsports. At the end, with all the technology invested into race cars, drivers remain the key to providing a safe atmosphere. Late Saturday night on a New York dirt track, one young sprint car driver has lost his life by an action that can only properly described at this as a tragic lapse of competitors assuring safety.

The incident took place during an Empire Super Sprints (ESS) race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in New York. Making a special appearance at the event was NASCAR Sprint Cup three-time champion and USAC title winner Tony Stewart. Stewart has been renowned for his numerous appearance at short tracks across the United States. Racing regular competitor Kevin Ward Jr.'s on track, Stewart's #14 car collided with the #13 machine of Ward. The result from their interaction had Ward's car getting wrecked. With the sprint car race under caution, the driver decided to passionately express his displeasure at Stewart. An action customary at short track and even part of major auto racing, Ward stepped away from his wrecked #13 car and proceeded closer to lower part of the race track where running sprint cars were crossing him. With Stewart just above the lower line of the dirt oval, the sprint car slammed into Kevin Ward Jr. sending the driver violently to the ground. With no signs of movement, safety officials were quick to provide medical assistance to Ward. Unfortunately, early Sunday morning, the Ontario County Sheriff Phil Povero announced to local media outlets that the driver has been confirmed dead.

According to the driver bio on his racing website, Kevin Ward Jr. was about 20 years old with a passion and talent for sprint car racing. Progressing through the ladder of sprint car racing as a two-time champion in micro sprints, he entered the ESS series in 2012 and was bestowed with rookie of the year honours. Since debuting in the series, Ward won four-time ESS feature races on route to fourth place in the 2013 championship. Before the event at Canandaigua, he was in seventh place in the 2014 drivers' standings.

With the passing of Kevin Ward Jr. under such violent circumstances of a person being struck on-foot by a race car, a investigation has been immediately launched by police. Several reports by witnesses is supporting a notion that Tony Stewart allegedly hit Ward intentionally based on the speed and positioning of his car. Social media buzz based on videos of the crash has been strongly against the NASCAR Sprint Cup driver/team owner. Stewart has been cooperating with the police investigation following the collision and there has been no charges as of Sunday morning relating to the incident. There has also been no news relating to the #14 Chevrolet Tony Stewart regularly rides in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series.

Regardless to fault, the passing of Kevin Ward Jr. serves as a sad end to a young life that accomplished so much and was full of promise.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

XSL Speed Reporter Exclusive Interview: F4 Italian Championship Driver Lance Stroll

Photo Credit: ACI Sport S.p.A.


Right now, a hordes of 15 year-olds scramble for some resolution to potential boredom occurring through the second half of summer vacation. Some may be looking forward to a family trip or may have taken on a summer job to make a productive use of time. This year, Canadian auto racing prospect Lance Stroll is taking a unique tour of Italy at the wheel of single-seat, open-wheel race car.

Even before he is old enough to possess a Canadian driver’s license, Lance Stroll has been putting miles on a turbocharged Fiat Abarth-powered race car. Competing in the inaugural season of the F4 Italian Championship, the Montreal-born graduated from competition karting where he won in Canada as well as the United States showing favourably in world tournaments. Those performances garnered the attention of the Ferrari Driver Academy. Over a short time period, the driver development has developed Formula 1 drivers Sergio Perez and Jules Bianchi. The only North American native part of the 2014 five-driver squad, the accomplishment is nothing less than phenomenal.

Not only is Lance Stroll racing in the 2014 F4 Italian Championship, he has bested some of the world’s brightest new hopes for open wheel greatness. Driving the #18 car for the Prema Power Team, the 15-year-old Canadian has won four races overall and leads in the drivers’ standings after nine races completed. Stroll has won on the circuit of Imola as well as the Mugello Circuit (a favourite test track among Formula 1 drivers and teams). Along with Bruno Spengler and Robert Wickens in the DTM series, Lance Stroll is presently another driver carrying the Canadian maple leaf flag racing in Europe.

As a special privilege to XSL Speed Reporter ahead of an upcoming round in Magione, the Canadian Ferrari Driver Academy member answered some questions in helping us get to know more about him and his career.

Photo Credit: ACI Sport S.p.A.

The list of drivers competing so far in the F4 Italian Championship has given the series a United Nations-style appearance. Do you find it special to contend on a world stage at a young age?

Yes, I do. At the same time, though, the level is also quite low since all the drivers are all coming out of karting. But I’m very happy to be part of the championship and I’m looking forward to the next races.


Can you describe the sensation of racing your F4 Car?

There’s not too much excitement in the car since it’s very low power and low aerodynamics but it’s still a great sensation just driving a car instead of a go-kart so I love it and I can’t wait for the next few steps coming up and going to the bigger categories.

You're fifteen years old and far away from home as you are competing in F4 Italian Championship. Obviously your family has been supportive with your racing activities but you're quite a ways from home. Can you describe your family relationship as you pursue your passion?

The truth is I am far away from home but at the same time, I’m here at Ferrari and I feel very much at home. My family are very supportive with me with the racing. I have a sister and she came as well from Canada to Europe so there’s a lot of support from everyone and they just wish me the best and I’m very thankful.


Photo Credit: ACI Sport S.p.A.

What driver(s) have most inspired you as a race car driver?

My favourite driver in Formula 1 is Fernando Alonso. I think with the car the way it is this year, Ferrari obviously is not the strongest in the field and he’s done some incredible things with the package he has so he’s definitely my favourite professional driver.


Being part of the Ferrari Driver Academy you must be receiving some specialized training in honing your development. Could you please provide an understanding to what is provided through your membership. Also, what resources have been made available to you that has helped you so far?

I think with Ferrari, we do a lot of fitness training and simulation training as well as the mental training, which are the three main factors that we work most on and I think what Ferrari helps very much with is they know the stepping stones it takes to get to the highest level of racing so you learn so much from the people who work here with the Driver Academy and it’s like nowhere else you could be so I’m extremely happy to be working with these people. They’ve taught me so much in the last years and again, I’m looking forward to the future and I’m ready to learn a lot more.


Photo Credit: ACI Sport S.p.A.

During the 1990s, a slew of Canadian drivers (Jacques Villeneuve, Greg Moore and Alex Tagliani to name a few) were assisted through the Players Driver Development Program similar to the Ferrari Driver Academy. Do you wish a similar program existed in Canada?

Yes and no. There are times when I miss home for sure, but as well, I think part of the enjoyment is coming here and being with the team at Ferrari. I think it wouldn’t be the same if it were at home. That’s part of the fun, coming to Italy and doing something new, being with the Scuderia Ferrari team, so yes and no I’d have to say on that question. Like I said earlier, there are days where I miss home but as well, I think it’s a great new adventure to come to Italy and work with one of the greatest Formula 1 teams in the world.


Clearly you would consider Formula 1 as an ultimate goal. What do you think of the new Formula 1 cars and rules for 2014?

I think it’s interesting but at the same point, I don’t agree with the ways of saving tyres and fuel and many factors that are in Formula 1 today. I think it’s exciting for the people. I don’t love the sound myself. I think it used to sound better with the normally-aspirated engine. It’s a new Formula 1 but if you ask me which one I prefer, I definitely think the old style of Formula 1 was more pure racing.

Of any production Ferrari from past to present, which one would you most want?

One of my favourite Ferraris is the P4. I think it’s an unbelievable car. It’s the car I love most in the world so that’s definitely it.

Late Breaking News: At this weekend's F4 Italian Championship round in Magione, Lance Stroll won the opening race. Race 2 ended early for the Canadian with contact between Prema Power Team teammate Brandon Maisano in the third lap. Race 3 ended with Stroll taking the runner-up position but top in his class concluding with a 232-point total in the championship standings.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

CAR FYI: Acura TLX GT Realtime Racing Car at 2014 Motorexpo Toronto

2014 Acura TLX Realtime Race Car

Premiering for the public at the 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the Acura TLX GT gave a purposeful preview of the future road car. Underneath the premium styled body panels of the TLX GT, a twin-turbocharged version of a 3.5-liter V-6 engine, nine-speed transmission and Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD), the TLX GT has been developed for entry into the Pirelli World Challenge sports car series. Acura Motorsport's GT category machine will be fielded by long-time brand partner Realtime Racing.

Planning for a competition debut on the streets of Detroit, Acura Motorsports and Realtime Racing has delayed the scheduled launch of the race car in order to refine the reliability and performance of the sedan.

The video below contains the Acura TLX GT show car at June's Motorexpo 2014 in the heart of Toronto.