Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"The Mazda Motorsports Hour" Debuts On Discovery's New Velocity Network

Velocity, an upscale male lifestyle network, will feature more than 400 premiere hours of new and returning series and specials showcasing the best of the automotive, sports and leisure, adventure, and travel genres. Image Credit: The Discovery Channel


"The Mazda Motorsports Hour" Debuts On Discovery's New Velocity Network


Yesterday, MAZDASPEED Motorsports held its 2012 kickoff meeting for the press and it was clear what positive effects the maturing unification of American open wheel professional racing was having on their commitment to automobile racing and driver development. This maturing effect can be seen clearly in the strengthening of and coordination with IndyCar of the Mazda driver development ladder system which features the Playboy MX-5 Cup, Star Mazda, Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, and then on to Firestone Indy Lights.

Drivers who show promise and success on the track in any of these series throughout the season qualify for additional chances to learn additional skills at being a professional driver and earn support "MAZDASPEED Motorsports Scholarships" through off-track developmental competitions that feature the creation of business plans and sponsor development processes upon which the driver moves to the next step in their racing career.

The next logical major support of the motorsports development ladder system on behalf of MAZDASPEED Motorsports is the get the word out through a well designed media campaign. This next step of media involvement is in the form of a packaged television series that will feature 24 regularly scheduled, one-hour tape delay packaged, race broadcasts of many of the support rungs of this greatest commitment to motorsports by any automobile manufacturer. The show will be entitled "The Mazda Motorsports Hour" and will debut on a newly launched channel which is part of the Discovery Channel called the Velocity Network.

Elliott Skeer (center), from Carlsbad CA., announced February 21, 2012 that he is joining CJ Wilson Racing for the 2012 Playboy MX-5 Cup Series. As the youngest winning driver of the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development Ladder's Mazda Shootout, seventeen year old Elliott Skeer will begin his professional racing career this March at the famous Sebring racetrack. If he continues his winning ways, we all will see his progress on the Velocity Channel's "Mazda Motorsports Hour". Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2012)

This excerpted and edited from a press release of MAZDASPEED Motorsports -

The best race in the world is hearsay unless people see it. Some of the best racing in the world is not the headline race, but the support races featuring the stars of tomorrow. Mazda has supported more road racers over the past decade than any other automaker, and for 2012 is stepping up that support to include extended TV coverage on the new Velocity network.

“Hardcore fans know that some of the most intense action can be found in the Playboy MX-5 Cup, Star Mazda and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship. But if you weren’t at the race, you are left to take our word for it. Now, thanks to a partnership with Velocity, and Carolinas Production Group, fans can enjoy the action on a regular basis from their living room,” noted Jim Jordan, Alternative Marketing Manager, Mazda North America.

Rick Benjamin, award-winning motorsports broadcaster, will host "The Mazda Motorsports Hour". Benjamin's Carolinas Production Group will handle production and distribution of the Hour. Benjamin said, "it's an honor for our company to be selected once again to produce and place coverage of the Playboy MX-5 Cup, Star Mazda, and USF2000 championships. Our partnership with Velocity gives us a tremendous platform to showcase the incredible talents of young drivers and veterans alike who are taking full advantage of Mazda's ladder system.”

Joining Rick Benjamin in the booth will be racers Randy Pobst for the MX 5 Cup, and James Hinchcliffe [standout Canadian-born IndyCar driver] on Star and USF2000 [open wheel ladder series]. Todd Lewis will be the pit reporter.

The broadcasts will be a regularly-scheduled hour-long weekend show on Velocity – “The Mazda Motorsports Hour”. 24 shows will be broadcast on a tape-delay basis from April through November. The content will be a variety of Mazda centric series, with an emphasis on the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup, the Star Mazda Championship Presented by Goodyear, and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda. All three series are a part of the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Ladder, while the Star and USF2000 Championships are also a part of the Mazda Road to Indy
[in co-ordination with Firestone Indy Lights]. To find Velocity on your local cable system, go to Velocity.com.

This 2012 year in motorsports has a lot of excitement building around it, what with the many firsts surrounding the maturing unification of American open wheel professional racing.

In 2006 Mazda established the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development Ladder to assist racers in moving up through the ranks. Two years after the unification of the ChampCar World Series and the Indianapolis Racing League, 2010 saw the development ladder expanded to include the Mazda Road to Indy.

Keys to Mazda’s success are strategic partnerships with the Skip Barber Racing School and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. 2012 continues this deepest of commitments to motorsports and its development on the human level with the introduction of "The Mazda Motorsports Hour" on Discovery's new Velocity Network. An internet online, on-demand program availability for viewing has a plan but is awaiting the appropriate time for the announcement.

... notes from The EDJE


** Article first published as "The Mazda Motorsports Hour" Debuts On Discovery's New Velocity Network on Technorati **

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Lotus Legion Grows Its Reach Into The ALMS

The 2012 Lotus Evora GTE will make its public on track debut on April 14 at the Toyota Long Beach Grand Prix. Image Credit: Group Lotus via AutoWeek

The Lotus Legion Grows Its Reach Into The ALMS

Alex Job Racing and Group Lotus will be joining forces in a partnership to compete the Lotus Evora GTE in the 2012 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) GT Class. Due the the lateness of the announcement, the agreement will have the effort miss the first race of the season at the 12 Hours of Sebring (March 17), but the good news for "Angelinos" is that they will debut at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach!

Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar said, “We are focused on winning. Alex Job has one of the best records in sports-car racing. We look forward to working together and developing a top-tier team over the coming years. Racing is a core component of the Lotus brand, and we are thrilled to have this new partnership to further enhance our winning racing heritage.”

The team will be officially addressed as Lotus Alex Job Racing (or Lotus AJR) and this partnership marks the first time Lotus has participated in factory form in the ALMS. Team captain Alex Job confirmed that part-time Izod IndyCar Series racer Townsend Bell will drive the team's one-car effort, teaming up with AJR driver Bill Sweedler.

“I am excited to announce the racing partnership between Lotus and Alex Job Racing in North America,” team leader and namesake, Alex Job said. “Our efforts and ability to attract Lotus is a testament to the hard work that AJR has put in over the past several years. This partnership, along with our key sponsors William Rast, Battery Tender, and Yokohama represent a new chapter for our seasoned organization and for the ALMS."

“Bill Sweedler, Townsend Bell, and William Rast CEO - Colin Dyne played the key role in forging this long-term relationship with Lotus," Job continued. "We collectively look forward to representing this iconic sports-car brand for years to come in GT racing.”

The Evora GTE will be powered by a 4.0-liter V6 Toyota engine featuring Cosworth electronic controls, with redline set at 7,000 rpm. The engine produces 470 hp and 328-lb.-ft. of torque. The racing version of the car weighs 2,740 lbs, and it features a six-speed sequential Xtrac gearbox with a paddle-shift option.

Townsend Bell added, “Having the chance to represent such a great brand like Lotus is simply awesome. The fact that I get to work with one of the best teams in sports-car racing is icing on the cake. I'm really fired-up to work with Lotus AJR and Bill in what will undoubtedly be a great adventure. Time to buckle up!”
(ht: AutoWeek)

This spring, Long Beach will feature the largest gathering of factory teams sponsored by Group Lotus anywhere in the world ... ever - certainly in the modern era. We will see the first year IZOD IndyCar Series teams announced to date of Lotus HVM, Lotus Bryan Herta Autosport, Lotus Dragon Racing (IZOD IndyCar's only West coast located team), and Lotus Dreyer and Reinbold Racing (running the turbo-charged Lotus/Judd Indy Car engine) join ALMS's Lotus Alex Job Racing competing on the streets and Shoreline Drive straightaway at Long Beach, California, April 13-15, 2012. Welcome the era of the Lotus Legion in American motorsports racing.

... notes from The EDJE


** Article first published as The Lotus Legion Grows Its Reach Into The ALMS on Technorati **

Monday, February 13, 2012

TruSpeed Motorsports And City Of Long Beach Launch Grand Prix Magic

The 38th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, set to take place April 13-15, took its first step toward the green flag when construction began Monday, February 13 on the outside of turn #10 before the hairpin turn #11 entering Shoreline Drive, the racing circuit’s 185 mph famed front straightaway. Pictured on this drizzly Monday morning from right to left are President and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, Jim Michaelian | City of Long Beach Vice Mayor, Suja Lowenthal | President and Driver for TruSpeed Motorsports, Rob Morgan. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2012)

TruSpeed Motorsports And City Of Long Beach Launch Grand Prix Magic

This Monday morning saw the kick-off celebration of the conversion of the streets around Long Beach's Shoreline Drive and Long Beach Convention Center into the racing venue known every spring as the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. A process that has taken place 37 time before, and the 38th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is set to take place April 13-15, 2012.

Street course motorsports racing strikes many casual event goers as something that is simple and oddly natural in its creation. "Hey, we drive on streets, so why don't we just close them off and race on them" ... they muse to themselves, while not knowing exactly what is involved with their simple and oddly natural thought processes.

The fact of the matter, it take a huge amount of concrete and effort to magically transform a street into a stable and safe motorsports racing facility. Grand Prix Association of Long Beach Director of Operations Dwight Tanaka and his staff will put in more than 30,000 working hours installing 14 million pounds of concrete blocks that line the track, three miles of fencing and 16,000 bolted-together tires, along with 16 huge spectator grandstands, seven pedestrian bridges and giant-vision boards for full-circuit TV coverage.

The construction got underway with assists from Long Beach Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal and TruSpeed Motorsports Pirelli World Challenge team owner/driver Rob Morgan, who appeared at the track for a kickoff photo shoot with his #1 TruSpeed Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3, which was the championship-winning car in the series’ GT category last year.

Patrick Long, driving the then #45 PrivacyStar Porsche, sealed the 2011 GT Driver’s Championship in the Pirelli World Challenge on the season's last race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. In doing so, Patrick claimed the title in his first full season in the Series and delivered to TruSpeed Motorsports its first series championship. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2012)

Entering its 23rd consecutive season, the Pirelli World Challenge (which will join the IZOD IndyCar Series, the American Le Mans Series, Firestone Indy Lights, Team Drifting Challenge, and Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race weekend events) is one of North America's top production car-based racing championships. Divided into four separate categories (GT, GTS, Touring Car, and Touring Car B-Spec), races feature thrilling standing starts, adrenaline filled door-to-door action and world-class drivers. The Pirelli World Challenge features cars from the world's most popular manufacturers – race-prepped versions of the cars driven on the streets. Sanctioned by SCCA Pro Racing, the series races at North America's premier road and temporary street courses.

Morgan’s Costa Mesa-based TruSpeed Motorsports team is preparing to contest the SCCA's GT car 2012 Pirelli World Challenge season which gets underway March 23-25 with a doubleheader at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The plan of TruSpeed Motorsports is to field three cars for the entire eight venue, twelve race GT/GTS Pirelli World Challenge 2012 season.

"We feel honored to help kick off the Grand Prix,” Morgan said. “When you look at the 38 year history and heritage of the event, it’s one of the best in the world. It’s also our home race, so we’re glad to be here today. We will be running three cars in the race ... possibly four. But to be involved in something like this is wonderful. The last two years we have participated in the media 'Press Day' with a couple of race cars, giving the [track] rides and so forth, and this is another way we can promote and enhance our relationship with Jim Michaelian, the race, and the City of Long Beach."

Dwight Tanaka, Grand Prix Association of Long Beach Director of Operations and his staff also install hospitality suites, tents, electrical equipment, phones, porta-johns, trash containers and a hundred other little things up until race weekend. Then on Sunday night, when the last race car has left the track, they start to take everything down, inspect the gear and get everything ready for next year when the grand prix magic begins all over again. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2012)

It takes two months to prepare this part of the City of Long Beach for the 175,000 fans expected during race weekend. All businesses along the race circuit, which includes Shoreline Drive, Aquarium Way and Pine Ave., will remain open during construction of the racetrack.

"We want to make sure that our course is both safe and competitive, and Dwight and is staff as well as the Long Beach city departments deliver on all accounts,” said Jim Michaelian, president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach. “That phenomenal support is what helps us make the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach America’s number one street race.”

Fans can select and pay for their 2012 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach seats, parking, and paddock passes online at gplb.com. Ticket orders can also be placed by calling the toll-free ticket hotline, (888) 82-SPEED. Ticket prices range from $26 for a Friday General Admission ticket to $130 for a three-day ticket that includes Sat./Sun. reserved seating in grandstand upper levels.

Pre-paid parking packages are also available, along with handicapped seating, IndyCar Paddock passes, Super Photo tickets and a wide variety of Hospitality Club packages including the exciting Vista Club – featuring a nearly 360-degree view of the race circuit – located high atop the Hyatt Regency Long Beach.

Fans can also follow the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Facebook at GrandPrixLB and on Twitter @ToyotaGPLB.

So if you were one of those people who mused that Street Course racing was something that is simple and oddly natural in its creation ... you're right, close your eyes and "voila" ... the Grand Prix magic will appear in Long Beach April 13-15, 2012 at the 38th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

... notes from The EDJE


** Article first published as TruSpeed Motorsports And City Of Long Beach Launch Grand Prix Magic on Technorati **

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Paul Tracy & Alex Tagliani Nixed From Support By IZOD IndyCar Series

Paul Tracy driving the Ralphs supermarket sponsored Dallara for KV Racing Technology entering turn #9 during the 2011 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2011)

Paul Tracy & Alex Tagliani Nixed From Support By IZOD IndyCar Series

The IZOD IndyCar Series leaves Paul Tracy and Alex Tagliani off of the list of drivers and teams that are expected to share in the benefits received through large IndyCar Series advertising and broadcasting contracts. A pool of money is distributed between teams and drivers and since Tracy and Tagliani are not on the list, they will not get the expected subsidy of the approximately $1.3 million dollars each which helps teams to field a driver for a full season.

The program set up to assist teams and drivers is meant to reward teams for both past performance and a commitment to a full season of racing to a driver is called the Leader Circle program. Not including Paul Tracy will impact his chances to put a full season ride together with Michael Shank Racing. It is expected to have less of an impact with Alex Tagliani as the Montreal native already has a full-season sponsorship deal in place with premium sound electronics giant Bowers & Wilkins to support his ride with Bryan Herta Autosport.

The decisions behind who actually receives the Leader Circle program which is limited to only 20 teams has many people scratching their heads.

Alex Tagliani as he sits in his Bowers & Wilkins Dallara while in the pits for adjustments between warm-up sessions at the 2011 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2011)

This excerpted and edited from the Toronto Sun -

IndyCar gives Tracy, Tags cold shoulder
BY DEAN MCNULTY,TORONTO SUN

Oakville’s [a Toronto, Canada suburb] James Hinchcliffe did make the cut with the No. 27 team from Andretti Autosport.

The so-called Leader Circle program is meant to reward teams for both past performance and a commitment to a full season of racing in 2012.

[Bryan] Herta was livid at the news his team — that won last year’s Indianapolis 500 with the late Dan Wheldon behind the wheel — was not among the Leader Circle cash recipients [with the seat being picked up by Alex Tagliani].

“I’m extremely disappointed and angry, it’s a travesty,’’ Herta told SPEED-TV. “We’ve got the only national brand as a primary sponsor and I was always told the Indy 500 was the most important race in the world. But obviously it wasn’t enough to get us into the 20 most important teams.”

In an astounding bit of irony Tagliani’s old team — Sam Schmidt Motorsports — was awarded one of the $1.3 million aid packages based on his performance with that team in 2011 where he won the pole at the Indy 500.

SSM’s money will go, however, to support Simon Pagenaud of France, who has no poles and no wins in his one-season of IndyCar racing [note: Pagenaud was a CCWS Formula Atlantic Champion edging out Graham Rahal in 2006].

For Tracy — the 2003 Champ Car World Series champion and winner of 31 career races — it is a bitter pill to swallow as it shows that IndyCar is still throwing its established stars under the bus.

For example the list of 20 teams and drivers that were awarded Leader Circle money includes an open spot on the KV Racing Technology team that is being held for Brazilian Rubens Barrichello.

This would be the same Barrichello who is out of rides in Formula 1 after a career with no championships and just 11 wins in 326 races.
----
Barrichello, who turns 40 this season, is only two years younger than Tracy, so it is not as if IndyCar teams are seeking out new and exciting drivers to entice fans back to their events.

Tracy, contacted on Friday, said he was going to wait until all of his options are looked into before commenting on the loss of the Leaders Circle money.

However in typical Tracy fashion he tweeted his thoughts: “People want to know my thoughts on the leader circle, never thought I would get one in the first place, not wasted any time thinking on it.”
[Reference Here]

It is understandable that the IZOD IndyCar Series would want to broaden the appeal of the racing series with strong or recognized names from Europe, but if the limit is only 20 teams, the driver's past performance, certainly in Paul Tracy's and Alex Tagliani's case, should be given a greater weight.

Frankly, to shun these two top Canadian drivers over some of the other drivers mentioned who are receiving the Leader Circle subsidy at a time of formula transition seems a little fool hardy. Fans are concerned about how the new DW12 package will translate to the competition on the track and to not have those with a greater history and traditions of American open wheel racing on the track would be to allow a potential disconnect between fan and series.

UPDATE:


Randy Bernard, CEO of the IZOD IndyCar Series, responds to the questions raised when some good drivers and teams were left out of the subsidy funding provided by the ICS program known as Leader Circle.

Randy Bernard (left) shares a happier moment of camaraderie with Bryan Herta - BHA (right) with Dennis Reinbold - DRR (facing) and Keith Wiggins - HVM (from behind) looking on in the Lotus Group Ltd. booth during the IZOD IndyCar/Lotus team press announcement at the 2011 LA Auto Show. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2011)

This excerpted end edited from Racer.com -

Q & A: Randy Bernard on the eve of 2012 State of IndyCar address
David Malsher, Racer.com - February 11 2012

On the eve of his State of IndyCar address, series CEO Randy Bernard talked with RACER editor David Malsher about some of the major topics brewing in the IZOD IndyCar Series right now.

DM: It's caused a lot of controversy, so tell us, how were the Leader Circle allocations decided this year?
RB: We said from the start that the top 22 in points last year would qualify. So at the end of the year, those 22 were guaranteed a slot. When Newman/Haas Racing decided to throw in the towel, we decided that, with interest in the series meaning we might have 28-29 cars, what we'll do with those other two Leader Circle slots, will be to invite all teams to tell us why we should choose them – what are they going to do for the series to bring fans in? Why do they deserve that $1.1m? And they came back with some compelling stories and information. Jay Penske promised 50 million impressions from all his internet websites committing to IndyCar. His presentation was head and shoulders above everyone else's. And then Ed Carpenter came in with a sponsor that was committed to creating four-week, three-week and two-week marketing strategies in every IndyCar market to help the promoters sell tickets as well as helping us with other areas of promotion. Then we considered also that Sebastien Bourdais is a hell of a driver who deserves to be in the series, and Ed Carpenter won a race last year. So those were the two we chose.

But after that, Lotus DRR [formerly Dreyer & Reinbold Racing] and Andretti Autosport told us they were going to give back one Leader Circle each as they cut a car from their lineups. So we've interviewed everyone – Jay Penske wanted another one, as did Ganassi, and then there was Bryan Herta, Michael Shank, Eric Bachelart and Bobby Rahal. But they were so on a par, we didn't feel it was fair to, for example, choose Herta and Rahal over Ganassi and Shank. It was too close to call, it would get political – and it shouldn't be about politics. So if no one was head and shoulders above the others, how do we make it fair for everybody? OK, we could have just taken that $2.2m and put it into our bottom line, because we don't owe anybody anything, but we said “Let's put it into prize money.”

So there are five places for non-Leader Circle entrants eligible for payouts in each race aside from the Indianapolis 500. The highest finishing non-Leader Circle entrant will get $80,000 through to the fifth non-Leader Circle car getting $26,000. Then, additionally, all entrants in the starting field get bonuses of $35,000 for first place, $25,000 for second, $20,000 for third, $15,000 for fourth and $10,000 for fifth place at each race [not including the Indy 500]. So if you finish first of non-Leader Circle cars, you can do a lot better than you could from the Leader Circle program, and come in second all the time and get the equivalent of a Leader Circle. So I think that what we did was the best thing for the sport going forward because it's created another storyline. Paul Tracy is a great driver, so if he's good enough and Michael Shank Racing is good enough, then they'll win a lot of money.
DM: Why have the Leader Circle scheme at all? Why not scrap the scheme and use the money to substantially boost the prize fund for each and every race? The rich would get richer but so would the poor. Wouldn't that encourage teams to a) start the season and then accrue further funding by doing well and you'd have a race-by-race meritocracy?
RB: Right, and I think that may be the way to go. If you're not prepared to race for success and its rewards, what are you in the series for? Are you in it to make a profit or are you in it to win? I read Eric Bachelart's comments about how he's been loyal to Indy car racing for 16 years, but to my mind, there are two things he should be saying to himself right now: 1) “Am I in IndyCar to win?” and 2) “If I am and I'm not in the top 22, then I have a problem.” And if he's in it just to make money, then I have a problem with it. We're not just about making money: we have to create a great product and show credibility to our fans.
[Reference Here]


Still smells a little like Tony George, lurking in the background, pulling strings.

... notes from The EDJE


- Article without UPDATE first published as Paul Tracy & Alex Tagliani Nixed From Support By IZOD IndyCar Series on Technorati -

Friday, February 10, 2012

American Le Mans Series Teams 2012 Shakedown At Sebring

Silicon Tech/Dempsy Racing's LMPC in for adjustments during the winter test at Sebring. Image Credit: LAT/Webb via ALMS

American Le Mans Series Teams 2012 Shakedown At Sebring

Many believe that the official preseason test for the American Le Mans Series teams comes during the lead up and the participation in the 24 hours of Daytona but this is far from the case. Not all classes or teams can take part in the event even though some crossover takes place. The 2012 ALMS season begins in earnest in advance of next month's 60th anniversary Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring and this effort took place Wednesday and Thursday of this past week.

Most observers had their attention on the renewed intrest in teams signing up to participate in the LMP2 class, the primarily open cockpit class of prototype sports car formula designed to be limited in its cost to teams but to be incredibly fast and competitive. Smaller and less powerful than their LMP1 counterparts, LMP2 cars still are impressive, purpose-built prototypes. Just as in the LMP1, multiple manufacturers supply open-top and coupe chassis including the Lola B11/40, HPD ARX-01d, ORECA 03 and Radical SR9. LMP2 cars can produce similar horsepower figures to GT cars (450-500 vs 475-575 horsepower for LMP1) with speeds up to 170 mph but weigh a maximum of 900 kilograms (LMP1 can reach top speeds of 200 mph with a minimum weight requirement of 900 kilograms or just under 2,000 lbs.).

The LMP2 class leading #055 driven by Christophe Bouchut leads #52 Oreca FLM09 driven by Butch Leitzinger. Luis Diaz set the fastest lap in the Wednesday afternoon session, 1 minute, 53.044 seconds (117.830 mph), in Level 5's #055 HPD ARX-03b. Image Credit: ALMS

This excerpted and edited from Racer -

Thursday Notebook: Sebring Winter Test
February 09, 2012

FAST TIMES, DAY TWO – Muscle Milk's new HPD ARX-03a was literally quick out of the box as it registered the day's, and week's, fastest time of 1:48.192.

The three LMP2 cars also all improved on their Wednesday times, with the two Level 5 HPDs (P2-spec ARX-03bs) in at 1:51.522 and 1:51.714, respectively. Pecom's Oreca 03 Nissan got down to a 1:52.134. All three were ahead of last year's P2 class pole of 1:53.815.

DOUBLE THE MUSCLE – Muscle Milk Pickett Racing was able to debut its new HPD ARX-03a Thursday, the first time Honda Performance Development's new LMP1 contender had made a lap anywhere in the world. HPD has a six-team, seven-car lineup split between the LMP1 and LMP2 classes in both the ALMS and FIA World Endurance Championship.

Simon Pagenaud, the longtime Honda pilot, joined Muscle Milk regulars Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr. All three seemed very complimentary of the car, and it certainly showed its pace as it ripped off some fliers only a day after being assembled! The car arrived in Sebring in various boxes and was put together all day Wednesday.

“It's such a big evolution from last year's car,” said Pagenaud, who was one of three drivers to have a chance in the one-off HPD ARX-01e run to second at last year's race. “The engine gives us good power, the front splitter gives the car additional downforce and the new tub gives us better efficiency as well. It's generally the same aero package as the car we ran last year.”

Team principal Greg Pickett took the ceremonial first laps and unsurprisingly didn't want to get out of the cockpit when his stint was over. The team's LMPC car continued to rack up the laps as well, marking the first day there were two Muscle Milk prototypes on track.

Additional background on LMP Class efforts during the Sebring Winter Test, from Wednesday, highlight the dynamic performance improvements over 2011.

Southern California native, Duncan Ende in the Silicon Tech/Dempsy Racing LMPC as it receives a dialing in service during the winter test Sebring Image Credit: LAT/Webb via ALMS

This excerpted and edited from Autoweek -

ALMS: Luis Diaz, [LMP2's] Level 5 Racing top first day of Sebring test
Published on 2/08/2012

Level 5 Motorsports on Wednesday rolled out its new Honda Performance Development prototypes and set the fastest time on the opening day of the American Le Mans Series' winter test at Sebring International Raceway. Luis Diaz set the fastest lap in the afternoon session, 1 minute, 53.044 seconds (117.830 mph), in Level 5's HPD ARX-03b.

Diaz's time was nearly 0.8 second quicker than last year's LMP2 pole time for the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring. Diaz, the 2009 LMP2 race winner, was a full second quicker than Pecom Racing's ORECA-Nissan of Pierre Kaffer, Soheil Ayari and Luis Pérez Companc.

“With the new cars and everyone knowing each other better, I think it's going to be a strong year for us,” said Diaz, who is splitting time in the car with Christophe Bouchut and Scott Tucker. “The car is very similar to last year's car. I would say that the biggest thing today was learning the Dunlop tires. So far, they are very good tires and good people to work with. It was nice to be [quickest] at the end of the day with the new car and new tires. There is a long way to go to the race, but I think we started on the right foot.”

Level 5's second HPD prototype was third quickest on the day. Bouchut set the time of 1:55.759 (115.067 mph) during the morning session.
----
PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports' entry of Butch Leitzinger and Rudy Junco posted the best lap in the LMP Challenge class with a time of 1:56.270 (114.561 mph). The PR1 ORECA FLM09--a class winner at Road America and Road Atlanta in 2011--set its time in the afternoon session, as did Dempsey Racing's entry of Henri Richard, Duncan Ende and Dane Cameron.

The Dempsey car's best time of 2:01.419 (113.845 mph) put it 0.43 second ahead of Muscle Milk Pickett Racing's duo of Memo Gidley and Michael Guasch; their best lap came in the morning session.

Lastly, the 2012 ALMS broadcast schedule was released this week on the heels of the activity surrounding the Sebring Winter Test.

Fastest lap recorded by Muscle Milk/Pickett Racing's #6 LMP1 entry. The Luhr/Graf/Pagenaud driver team car lapped the Sebring airport circuit at 1:48.192. Image Credit: John Dagys

This excerpted and edited from Autoweek -

ALMS: Series confirms 2012 Web, TV broadcast package
By: Steven Cole Smith on 2/08/2012

The American Le Mans Series broadcast package for the 2011 season was deemed futuristic when ALMS executives last year announced that all of the series’ races would be broadcast live online via ESPN3.com, with cable or over-the-air TV broadcasts on a tape-delayed basis.

But it might have been too futuristic, as most fans had to have a participating cable or online provider to get ESPN3. Now, the ALMS has revised its 2012 schedule to include four live television broadcasts of its 10-race season, all of which will again be broadcast live on ESPN3.com.

ESPN2 will air the Tequila Patrón American Le Mans Series at Long Beach (Calif.) on April 14, the American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park (Conn.) on July 7 and the Grand Prix of Mosport (Ontario, Canada) on July 22, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge (Lexington, Ohio) in August will air on ABC.

The other six races will air on TV once again on a tape-delayed basis. The season opener, the 60th anniversary of the 12 Hours of Sebring, will air as a cut-down, tape-delayed broadcast on ABC on March 18.

Similarly, the Monterey race from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca will air tape-delayed on ESPN2 on May 13, Road America will air on ESPN2 on Aug. 19, Virginia International Raceway will air on ESPN2 on Sept. 16, and Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta will air on Oct. 21 on ABC. The Grand Prix of Baltimore, if it happens this year, will air on ABC on Sept. 2.

“Thanks to our growing relationship with ABC and ESPN, we’ve answered our fans’ desire for more live TV programming in 2012,” ALMS president and CEO Scott Atherton said. “The ALMS is fortunate to have a diverse fan base that consumes video in a variety of ways.”

To be clear: All ALMS races and qualifying sessions will be broadcast live and in their entirety on ESPN3.com, and for viewers outside the U.S., via ALMS.com. The lone exception will be the Mid-Ohio race, which ESPN3.com will not carry during ABC’s live broadcast.

Races will remain archived for on-demand viewing at ESPN3.com for three weeks following each race and on ALMS.com, for all users, indefinitely. Fans can also watch races on the go with the WatchESPN app for smart phones and iPad.

With an expanded field looking to compete in the LMP2 Class, 2012 season is shaping up to be one of the most busy on-track seasons in recent history.

The American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón with its five classes of high-tech sports cars competing together in each race offers constant passing and engaging on-track battles throughout. Given the speed variation between the classes and other competitive nuances, each Series round offer the fan an unparalleled motorsports experience.

Timing & Scoring session by session (4) 2012 Sebring Winter Test results - HERE

... notes from The EDJE