Thursday, October 16, 2014

Braver Camry Face Expresses Stern Toyota NASCAR Sprint Cup Car for 2015

Photo Credit: Michael L. Levitt, LAT Photo USA for Toyota Racing

With the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season almost over, the Toyota teams in the series have been enduring a less than spectacular outing.  A season that looked promising during the first part of Daytona Speedweeks, the 2014 Sprint Cup effort for Toyota has been one of the least fruitful since the conclusion of the manufacturer's winless debut season in 2007. After 31 races, the collection effort of the Toyota organizations has amounted to only two wins in point-paying races. Both coming with Joe Gibbs Racing owned vehicles, the Toyota Camry found victory at Auto Club Speedway driven by Kyle Busch and at May's Talladega race when Denny Hamlin wheeled the #11 machine. While qualifying has been kinder to the 2014 Toyota Camry with seven starts at the front this season, the cars have not seen victory lane in the 21 races since Talladega.

Looking ahead to greater fortunes in next season's NASCAR Sprint Cup series, the Japanese-derived auto company has created an all-new body style intent on seeing it claim more winner trophies than 2014. Based on the production car version of the new Toyota Camry (just recently released for sale to the public), the new stock car receives a more pronounced front end. Reflecting the bolder stance of the production car, the 2015 race car also features reshaping of the quarter panels and rear portion for greater personality.  Responding to the design expertise invested in the 2015 Toyota Camry NASCAR stock car, TRD (Toyota Racing Development) president and general manager David Wilson said, “It was a challenging process balancing performance and design, but working closely with Calty Design, NASCAR and our race team partners, we were able to develop a race car that looks similar to its production counterpart -- and provide a performance upgrade on the race track.”

The 2015 Toyota Camry NASCAR Sprint Cup car will debut next season at Daytona Speedweeks receiving its first ultimate field test in the Daytona 500. With the change for 2015, Toyota becomes the first manufacturer to update a NASCAR Sprint Cup vehicle based on the so-called "Gen 6" architecture balancing brand parity with unique identity. The car will also conform to a refreshed 2015 Sprint Cup series rule package designed to lessen aerodynamic downforce and drag along with reducing engine momentum. This new Camry race car will also be the shape of Toyota's 2015 NASCAR Xfinity Series (the soon-to-be new name of the Nationwide Series).

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

In Wake of Glory, Chrysler Pulling Support From IMSA Viper Program

On Saturday night, the SRT Motorsports Dodge Viper team were on top of the world. After three seasons where the sports car organization fought in the GT ranks in American Le Mans Series competition as well as this year's IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. At the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, the SRT Motorsports group celebrated a double accomplishment after the full 2014 GTLM class season with their V-10 engine powered Dodge Viper SRT GTS-R. On Monday, Chrysler Group muted the any remaining victory cheers with a declaration made for 2015.

Deciding to refocus the Dodge brand, Chrysler announced the SRT Motorsports sports car racing factory-backed effort has been dropped. The conclusion of a three-year effort started at the 2012 Mid-Ohio Sports Car round of the American Le Mans Series is shocking and even unexpected news. Coming as a surprise, Chrysler plan to discontinue factory funding of the Dodge Viper SRT GTS-R did not come without a hint appearing clearer in hindsight. Earlier this year, the SRT Motorsports team elected not to participate in the sports car racing crown-jewel event, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. At that time, Chrysler reported the decision for not returning to Le Mans was to focus on the United SportsCar Championship.

Another possible indication consisted of the change in brand structure for Chrysler Group. After a three-year attempt of operating the SRT name as a separate brand, Chrysler decided to integrate the performance group into Dodge. The Viper, SRT's sole vehicle offering was also reunited into Dodge resulting in the return of the Dodge Viper.

This is the second time Chrysler is removing support from their Viper supercar's sports car racing activities. From 1996 to 2001, Chrysler and French race firm Oreca successfully campaigned the Dodge Viper GTS-R on the world stage. Earning victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the Dodge Viper evolved from just an insanely powerful sports car to a race-proven nameplate with a pedigree.

Viper's return to factory-backed competition started at the 2012 American Le Mans Series race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course finishing the 2-hour, 45-minute event's time distance. Supported by the SRT Motorsports banner, first won in 2013 in the American Le Mans Series race at Road America. Drivers Dominik Farnbacher and Marc Goossens wheeled the #91 car to GT class victory. In 2014, the SRT Motorsports Vipers competed for the full season in the United SportsCar Series' GTLM category. The Viper SRT GTS-R found victory in class twice at the road course of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Circuit of the Americas. Both times the winning driver team paring Canadian Kuno Wittmer and American Jonathan Bomarito piloted the top entry.

So what does the future hold for the snake's presence in competition? The decision does not prevent privateer efforts from entering next year's United SportsCar Championship. After Chrysler's first official withdraw from factory support of the Dodge Viper, the car continued to enjoy some success in regional sports car championship. The car won the overall race victory at Belgium's 12 Hours of Spa and Germany's 24 Hours of Nurburgring in 2002. Also at the German sports car endurance race, the Viper GTS-R won its class three consecutive years from 2005 to 2007. However, the cut-off of factory involvement will largely limit the Dodge Viper SRT GTS-R's development against rivals like the Chevrolet Corvette C7R and the Porsche 911.

Information and photo source: Chrysler Group

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

James Hinchcliffe Suiting Up for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for 2015 IndyCar Season

Photo Credit: Chris Nagy

If you live in the Canadian province of Ontario, October of 2014 revolves around the campaigns by individuals to lead cities and towns. The 27-year-old Oakville, Ontario race car driver known as the mayor of Hinchtown has chosen to this month announce a substantial change to his devoted populus.

After three seasons piloting a #27 machine for Andretti Autosport as part of the IndyCar Series, James Hinchcliffe has declared he will hop over to the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports organization for what will be a multi-year deal starting 2015. A popular driver not only in Canada but on the whole IndyCar scene, Hinchcliffe's move is definitely a major wave to be sent through the series. "To see what they have accomplished in the last few seasons has been incredible. Winning races, being competitive at all tracks and finishing in the top five in the championship against more experienced teams at this level is impressive. Because they are young, there is still room for them to grow and improve, and that's an exciting thought for me." said Hinchcliffe on the incentive for signing with the team co-owned by Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson.

77 Car Rear Wing

In four seasons of IndyCar competition, James Hinchcliffe has driven for Newman/Haas Racing in 2011 and Andretti Autosport. Crowning achievement for the young Canadian time in IndyCar has consisted of the 2011 Rookie of the Year award and being named IndyCar's most popular driver in 2012. His 2013 season with Andretti Autosport driving the GoDaddy-sponsored Chevrolet-powered car is viewed as his more successful in the series so-far. All three career victories were scored in Hinchcliffe's 2013 IndyCar season. The 2014 season for James Hinchcliffe was a disappointment finishing 12th in the overall drivers standings. His top finish in competition last season was third at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Starting in 2015, Hinchcliffe will be piloting the #77 car recently vacated by Simon Pagenaud (Pagenaud weeks ago signed a deal to drive for Team Penske for the upcoming IndyCar season). In 2014, the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team found victory lane twice and driver Pagenaud to fifth in the overall points. Leaving Andretti Autosport, the career path for Hinchcliffe heading into 2015 is acquainting him with something new as well as something familiar. In 2009, James Hinchcliffe drove for Sam Schmidt's Indy Lights team finishing in the top-five in points that season. Speaking about the acquisition of the driving services of Hinchcliffe, Sam Schmidt recalled attempting to recruit him in 2011. Schmidt responded, "In fact, he would already be with us driving the No. 77 if he would have been available three years ago. We went after him in 2011, but it didn't work out then."