Sunday, July 30, 2017

Montreal ePrix Prepares to Generate Formula E Current in Canada

Photo Credit: Sam Bloxham/LAT/Formula E

Since 1978, the City of Montreal has been known for showing hospitality to the global open wheel racing stars of the Formula 1 championship. A month and half later Lewis Hamilton won the 50th year anniversary edition Canadian Grand Prix, a new world auto racing tour prepares to put on a show unlike any other seen at such a scale in this country. Formula E makes its debut in Canada for what is the season three finale with the Montreal ePrix.

Consisting of all-electric open wheel race cars fielded by well-rated teams and some established professional drivers, FIA's Formula E first became a spectacle in 2014 when the series debuted in Beijing. Competing with an identical chassis designed by Dallara and built by Spark Racing Technology, Formula E teams have been permitted to develop their own electric power units since the second season. Electric powertrain options have opened the door to major automakers such as Jaguar and BMW currently involving themselves in competition. Over the course of three years, ePrix races have been held in locales such as London, Monaco, Long Beach and most recently in New York City. During July 29th and July 30th, Montreal joins the list of world-class cities staging the unique motor racing event.  

Instead of being held on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve track, the all-electric race cars of Formula E will compete on its own unique 14-turn temporary street course in downtown Montreal. Situated in the Ville-Marie borough, the 2.75-kilometer track will start on Rene Levesque Boulevard and wrap around the Maison Radio-Canada. A new race course, competitors predicting a bumpy ride over the start-finish line stretch and several elevation changes. Competition for the weekend will be split into two races over the weekend with an 35-lap feature on Saturday and another one on Sunday. 

Differing from most other auto racing championships, Formula E titles are not decided with the final race of a calendar year. For Canadian fans, the first appearance of the series provides opportunity to witness the 2016-2017 season champion being crowned. The end of this Formula E season has former Formula 1 competitors Lucas di Grassi and Sebastien Buemi fighting for top honours in a points fight that will have both Montreal ePrix races weigh heavily on the final outcome of the championship. The premiere of Formula E in Canada is being sponsored by energy supplier Hydro-Quebec.

The province of Quebec is continuing to promote automotive electrification on many fronts. Purchasing incentives for buyers of electric cars, a growing network of charging stations and incorporation of electric vehicles in fleets highlight Canada's most aggressive planning towards seeking alternatives to internal combustion engines. The Montreal ePrix provides a moment to showcase and celebrate elements of a lower emissions future the province is working to create. "Montreal has a great motorsport tradition and the local authorities, as well as its citizens are particularly receptive to a hot topic such as a new model for sustainable mobility. If there’s one single event that brings together these two elements, it’s definitely a Formula E race." said FIA president Jean Todt when the event was announced in September of 2016. 


Formula E has already affirmed the Montreal ePrix will return in 2018 at the end of season four.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Sports Car Racing Powerhouse Joest Joins Mazda for 2018 IMSA Season

Photo Credit: Mazda North American Operations



While some races of the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship schedule have yet to see a green flag, spectacular news items during July have pumped-up enthusiasm for the 2018 season. Before the month has ended, next season’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship promises two all-new, heavy-hitting DPi efforts guaranteeing to kick the level of sports car racing competition to new heights.

Last week, rumours were confirmed when heavy motorsport player Team Penske broadcasted plans to rejoin sports car racing in association with Honda’s luxury brand Acura in time for next year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona. Team Penske’s more than five decades of operations is notably celebrated by 16 Indianapolis 500 wins but also possesses success through previous sports car ventures including a 1969 victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. As impressive as a single win in the ultimate French endurance classic can be, Reinhold Joest’s race team perfected a winning strategy resulting in 16 wins. Almost 19 years since entering a manufacturing relationship that is remembered as a sports car racing dynasty with Audi, the German-based organization has found a new manufacturer partnership for future competition. The driver lineup for the Mazda Team Joest 2018 effort will be announced at a later date but it will certainly lure some excellent pilots in the sports car world.

Joest Racing and Mazda Motorsports have combined to create Mazda Team Joest in preparations for the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The new DPi category factory-supported race team will operate out of a facility in Atlanta campaigning the existing Mazda RT24-P machine. Described as a “once in a lifetime opportunity” by the director of motorsports for Mazda North American Operations John Doonan, there is a tremendous amount of opportunism between both parties forming Mazda Team Joest. “The creation of Mazda Team Joest provides us a unique opportunity to partner with a team with proven success in the prototype ranks, and gives us the best chance to return Mazda to the top step of the podium.”

Engineered by Markham, Ontario’s Multimatic Motorsports, the Mazda RT24-P prototype race powered by a 600-horsepower Mazda MZ-2.0T engine is already undergoing chassis improvements for the 2018 season. Joest expertise is also cited as playing a part in the continuing development of the prototype sports car.  

From 1999 until the end of last year’s FIA World Endurance Championship season, the Joest name’s attached to Audi has been a dynasty. Exhibited first with the 2000 Audi R8 race car, Audi Sport Team Joest amassed not only victories in the top sports car races in the world but went back to wins on multiple occasions. The squad won the 24 Hours of Le Mans 11 times and the 12 Hours of Sebring 7 times. Prior to Audi, Joest Racing’s connection was with another German automaker. A former Porsche factory drive, Reinhold Joest remained loyal to his past employer through the 1990s. It was with the Porsche 956 the team won its first pair of 24 Hours of Le Mans events in 1984 and 1985. Joest Racing also campaigned the Porsche 962 in IMSA GTP competition highlighted by a Rolex 24 at Daytona overall in 1991. The team’s 2018 return to the Rolex 24 at Daytona with Mazda will be the first since the end of the IMSA GTP era in 1993. The pairing with Mazda is most notably the first time the Joest team will be associated with a non-German auto brand. Ralf Jutter, managing director for Joest Racing, commented “For us, this is not only a return to American Racing, which we have always enjoyed, but also great news to the big group of our Japanese fans, who have always warmly embraced us.”

Mazda’s recent efforts in the IMSA prototype category have been a turbulent time. Launched in 2014, Mazda and Speedsource turned to the category in 2014 after the GX Class was discontinued and the Mazda6 SkyActiv-D diesel race car was parked. Still attempting to promote the company’s diesel engine technology (the long-delayed application for production cars is finally being realized later this year), the prototype effort struggled with the basic goal of finishing races. After a 2015 season, Mazda Motorsports abandoned the SkyActiv-D diesel powerplant and opted to run a turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine for 2016. A third-place finish at the Detroit round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was an on-track performance highlight for the more reliable engine and served as a suitable launchpad for Mazda’s all-new 2017 RT24-P prototype race car. After a rough debut at Daytona, the Mazda Motorsports team collected a trio of third-place finishes through seven races. Emphasizing the Mazda Team Joest organization’s focus on a strong 2018 debut, Mazda Motorsports has withdrawn from the remaining three races of the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCarChampionship.

For 2018, Mazda Team Joest and Team Penske will be attempting to unseat the Cadillac DPi-V.R from its pedestal position in the current IMSA prototype category.