As has been reported many places, Miller Motorsports Park will cease operations today, October 31st, 2015.
Miller Motorsports Park opened in 2006 by Larry H. Miller, a Utah businessman and sports car enthusiast. That was also the year I was documenting a race team that was running in what is now known as Pirelli World Challenge. Back then, World Challenge was mostly playing the supporting role to the American Le Mans Series. Where ALMS went, World Challenge tagged along.
Leading up to the first race at MMP, some of the questions and mumblings being talked about from crews of both series were a combination of skepticism and optimism. A new track, with no data, in America? Has anybody tested there yet? Can I buy alcoholic beverages? Wait, where is Utah? Is this place all hype?
Then the week came for the first ALMS/World Challenge race at Miller Motorsports Park. As we drove up to the new facility in the team van, excitement grew. This LOOKED like a GREAT facility on the outside. Walking through the gate, there was a certain electricity in the air. This was a true state of the art facility! Lush green lawns in the spectating areas. Large, multiple, and permanent concession stands. LOTS of garage space with large TVs and bathrooms AND showers. Wait, TVs in the garages?? Everything well illuminated. Nothing felt cramp or an exercise for some senior’s community college engineering project. There was SPACE. And the place was just HUGE.
Entering the media center was no different, everything was nice, everything was new, and there was space to accommodate everyone for a change. No more writers fighting photographers fighting videographers for a seat to do their work.
By the end of that first race weekend, my take of the overall consensus from the various teams was that Miller Motorsports Park REALLY did live up to the hype. It was a world class facility that could handle the all of the world’s sports car racing needs. And all were excited to return in the following years.
Here at Daily Derbi, we owe a debt of gratitude to Miller Motorsports Park. The staff has been gracious enough to allow us cover some of the early events. From the site’s founder, Chad, driving Greg Miller’s Ford GT and covering the early days of “Lap Battles“, to last weekend’s sports car racing event with NASA Utah. This site wouldn’t have grown and expanded without the help of Miller Motorsports Park.
Let’s take a trip. A trip to one of the newest racing tracks in the good ‘ol USofA. We’re heading to Texas. Located outside of Austin is a track called Circuit of the Americas. Welcome to the penultimate stop for the IMSA/TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, for the Lone Star Le Mans!
With the Texas sun scorching the track with ambient temps around 92+ degrees fahrenheit, qualifying was going to be tougher then normal. And with IMSA rules stating that you need to start the race with three of the tires you qualify on, the question turns into how long do you stay out on track before you degrade the tires too much?
And so the late afternoon qualifying session proceeded with all four classes hitting the track. Those watching the race tomorrow, and those watching qualifying today, might have noticed something a bit different. Cars running waayy WIDE, going beyond the rumble strips and into the runoff area. Why? It has been reported that IMSA couldn’t accurately track the cars across the whole track. So track restrictions were lifted except the apexes of the turns.
What to watch for during tomorrow’s race:
Prototype class had Scott Pruett recording a blistering 1:58.441 after only two laps and grabbing pole. This would be the 2nd pole in the season for the Ford EcoBoost DP team, and Scott’s first pole since Long Beach 2014. Not to be overshadowed was the 2nd place of Michael Shank Racing with Ozz Negri throwing the No. 60 Honda HPD Ligier JS P2 car across the finish line with another blistering time of 1:58.512. I’m glad to see the lone P2 provide some badly needed competition to the rest of the Daytona Prototypes. And before anyone complains, yes, I know that the Mazdas are P2 class machines, but they are still in a development stage and don’t offer much in the way of competition. In fact, the two Mazdas came in BEHIND the top two Prototype Challenge machines.
GTLM. Again, great racing and with a recent BoP tagging the Porsche 911 RSRs with an extra 20kg of weight AND all the teams running on Michelin tires switch back to the “normal” tires, you’re going to see the Corvettes put up an even stronger fight. It appears that the “single stint” tire experiment that Michelin was performing across it’s partners didn’t pan out as well for the Corvettes as it did for the other teams. About 1.6 secs separates the pole sitting No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR to the 8th place No. 62 Ferrari F458 Italia. Porsche proving they still have what it takes, BMW snipping at Porsche’s heels, Corvettes coming back with renewed vigor and I wouldn’t discount Ferrari or the folks over at Falken Tire Porsche. This will be some great racing!
How to watch:
Easiest thing is to head over to IMSA’s site for all the details on streaming and broadcast times. Race starts promptly at 12:30pm (ET) on Saturday, 9/19/15.
Of course, the ever handy Spotter’s Guide can be downloaded here.
As a sidetone, some of you might be wondering why it’s called the “Lone Star Le Mans”. This weekend is a double header at COTA. Not only is there some great racing happening with IMSA/TUDOR, but WEC is stopping by for their annual race in America. Factory teams from Porsche, Audi, Toyota, Austin Martin and more will be running a six hour race shortly after the IMSA/TUDOR race finishes. Basically, most of the teams that ran at Le Mans will run this weekend as well. If you’re an endurance sports car racing fan, THIS is the weekend for you!!
I’ve always been fond the nostalgic Japanese cars. Partly because they are about the only “classic” cars I can afford, partly because I see their future value, and mostly because the Japanese just do things right — unless we’re talking bosozoku… that’s just weird.
I got my first taste of future Japanese classic metal when I purchased a 1989 Honda CRX Si. It was an Arizona car which meant no rust but also no paint — and destroyed weather stripping. I cared less what the car looked like because it had the venerable B16 DOHC VTEC under the hood. With Megan Racing headers & exhaust, and a nicely weighted Skunk 2 short shifter my CRX was anything but boring. I very much enjoyed surprising Mustang GT’s and 350z’s at the stop lights.
The CRX was a gem and Honda’s have a special place in my heart, however, down deep I’m a Z guy. The 350z came out when I was in high school and the 300zx Twin Turbo has always been a bucket list car of mine. I was in the market for a clean low mileage 300zx Twin Turbo when I stumbled across a series 1 Datsun 240z on eBay. We’re talking the father of Japanese sports cars (I don’t count the Toyota 2000GT because of it’s rarity and insane price tag). It was essentially a one owner, had very little rust, and it was a numbers matching original… minus a repaint to a different color. I bought it, flew to California and drove it 600 miles home. In those 600 miles my first Z car worked its way into my soul and I knew that I’d be a Z guy forever. I still have my 1st Z and drive it regularly.
Last week, I was cruising craigslist for 240z’s. It’s a regular ritual for me as their values are skyrocketing and 2015 is widely considered to be the last year to pick up the early Z’s for under $10,000 in good condition. I read an article by Hemming’s that said “The Japanese bullet train is leaving the station”, I would agree. I was on my way back from a business trip in Northern Idaho and as fate would have it, a series 1 240z had been posted on Craiglist that night in the town I was staying in. For the condition that the car appeared to be in, the price seemed almost too good to be true. I called on it immediately. The next morning I went and met the owner and drove the car. The Z was white, its original color, with a blue interior — one of the most rare combos in a series 1 240z. The owner was 87-years-old, had brought the car up from California where it has spent its entire existence and he was just the second owner. In the glove box I found the original owners manual, pink slip, and warranty book with the original owners signatures and address. The interior was perfect and everything worked… including the clock and those almost never work. The car was wearing an older repaint of its original color and it was holding up great, it never sat outside. The sole red flag; on our test drive the differential started emitting sounds similar to that of marbles in a blender. Honestly, I didn’t care. I bought the car on the spot, rented a car hauler from U-haul and pulled that baby home.
After getting her home I discovered no fluid in the rear end and some metal shavings. After a good flush, some fresh Royal Purple 75W90, and a friction modifier called Archoil I got the Z back on the road. The diff is definitely damaged but she’s driveable and the more I drive it the quieter it seems to get.
So now I’ve got two Z cars. Both are numbers matching series 1 240z’s. I’ve already turned down an offer for my 1st one that was what I paid for the second, regardless of the fact that it’s not nearly as cherry. I’ve considered going to rehabilitation but I don’t want it. The 240z is my unicorn. I’m no sailor but if I was the sirens would sound like an L-series straight six with glass packs. Sure, my garage is seriously crammed, the Z’s are parked the wrong direction, and I have to do a 6 point turn to get them out but I think they are money in the bank. The 240z is the car that made Nissan relevant as a brand in the USA, they are widely regarded as the every man’s E-Type, they were legendary at the race track, and they are one of the most gorgeous cars every penned.
This is me telling you to buy a good Z before all the good ones are snatched up for an affordable price. “I bought a Z car and regretted it”, said no one, ever. Even that guy in the weird Japanese film called “Devil Z” couldn’t get over it after wrecking it three times. The Z bug will get you.
Racing Blip: 2015 Continental Tire Road Race Showcase
Heading south from Green Bay, Wisconsin, for about 80 minutes, you’ll come across Road America in Elkhart Lake. One of the oldest, still functioning, race tracks in the United States. This scenic track is the setting for the latest round of IMSA/TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
With race week practice sessions being hampered by rain, not all the teams and drivers had all the time needed to really “dail-in” their cars on the 4.048 mile track.
Here’s a brief rundown on what to watch for on today’s race:
Joey Hand piloted the No. 01 Ford EcoBoost Riley DP to their first pole of the season, 0.5 seconds ahead of the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP. As what seems to be typical, the P2 cars – er – car appears to struggle to keep the pace of the DP cars. The No. 60 MSR Ligier JS P2 Honda qualified 5th, 1.05 seconds behind. We won’t talk about how poorly the Mazda Prototype machines did.
As seems to be the case, GTLM still brings about the excitement. Porsche North America’s No. 912 set a blistering qualifying lap time of 2:02.384. A new track record by the New Zealander, Earl Bamber. Following closely behind was the No. 3 Corvette Racing C7.R driven by Antonio Garcia.
Expect this to be a solid battle across the board. Road America offers plenty of staigtways that favor the larger displaced engines to really BREATH, yet many twists and turns for the smaller and more nimble cars to showcase their strengths!
How to watch?
Best to head over to IMSA’s site for streaming and TV broadcasts.
Always, here’s the spotter’s guide.
Race starts at 3:05 ET.
Or catch it later on IMSA’s YouTube channel.
[photo | IMSA]
With 5 stops remaining in the season, the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship rolls into picturesque Connecticut for the 2015 Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park. This stop, the only classes running are the Prototype Challenge (PC) and GT Daytona (GTD) cars.
Today’s qualifying, on this short 1.474 miles track, had it’s share of excitement. In GTD class, 0.009 seconds separate the pole sitting, No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS and the 2nd place No. 33 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper SRT piloted by Ben Keating!!
Qualifying in PC was cut a bit short due to the No. 16 BAR1 Motorsports car spinning out and smacking into the guard rails causing a red flag. At the end of the abbreviated session, less then 1.5 seconds separate the pole sitting No. 85 JDC Miller MotorSports car and the fifth place No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports car.
Despite the smaller amount of cars running, Saturday’s 2 hour 40 minute race should provide some solid entertainment!
You can catch the live stream on IMSA’s iOS/Android app or their website. The race starts at 3:15pm ET this Saturday (7/25). Or catch the re-broadcast on Fox Sports 1, starting at 5pm ET on July 26h.
The every handy spotters guide.
[photo | IMSA]
Welcome to the 7th stop of this year’s IMSA/TUDOR season. The 2015 Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix. Taking the quick jaunt from wooded beauty of Watkins Glen, to the wooded beauty of Canadian Tire Motorsport Park – formally MoSport.
At this stop, only the Prototypes, Prototype Challenge, and GTLM classes will be running.
A couple of quick items about the Prototype class this race. Mazda is only running one of its two cars for this race. Earlier this week, the No. 70 was tested at CTMP with an AER gasoline engine. Rumor has it the Mazda LMP2 cars will be swapping out the the 60% stock SkyActiv Diesel engines with AER supplied power plants. Looks like the test bed has run its course.
Ricky Taylor, in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP, became the first two-time pole sitter of the season. The last time Ricky Taylor earned pole was back in Long Beach.
Lastly, there’s 1.02 seconds separating the top 6 P-classed cars. If the DPs don’t walk away near the beginning of the race, it should prove to a be a decent battle between DPs and LMP2 cars.
And speaking of repeat pole winners, Porsche North America’s, and recent Le Mans overall winner, Nick Tandy took the top honors in the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR in the GTLM class on Saturday. For those keeping track, this ends the streak at 16 unique pole winners in GTLM since the beginning of this series. And hot on Tandy’s heels is the No. 25 BMW Z4 GTE, piloted by Dirk Werner, by a scant 0.028 seconds! The whole GTLM class is separated by less then 0.8 seconds! Beating a dead horse, GTLM is still some of the best racing out there!
The race starts 12:05pm ET today (Sunday, July 12th). How to watch?
As always, the handy spotters guide.
And for your viewing pleasure, IMSA’s preview of the race is embedded below
[photo | mike gillilan]