Computing, Rolex 24 Teams and Testing, MSC


F1 JUST DOESN'T COMPUTE

Case 1: The International Automobile Federation - Formula One's governing body- through its World Motor Sport Council, in July determined British-based Vodafone McLaren Mercedes "in breach of article 151(c) of the International Sporting Code" for possession of confidential Ferrari information passed to former McLaren chief designer Mike Coughlan from now-former Ferrari chief mechanic Nigel Stepney.

Case 2: The International Automobile Federation - Formula One's governing body - through its World Motor Sport Council, on Dec. 6 determined French-based Renault "in breach of Article 151(c) of the International Sporting Code" for possession of confidential McLaren information passed to Renault engineers from now-former McLaren engineer Phil Mackereth.

Insofar as your humble scribe can ascertain, one defining difference between the two cases was the WMSC citing Mackereth as having "uploaded" the pilfered information "to 11 floppy disks taken from McLaren" (paragraph 4, section 6, World Motor Sport Council - Decision Re: Article 151(c) International Sporting Code -- Renault F1 Team).

With even the poorest Formula One teams having budgets larger than at least a few Third World GDPs, doesn't something seem terribly amiss that an F1 engineer would today be utilizing floppy disks?

Such strains credulity to its absolute limits, doesn't it?

ROLEX 24 TEAM LINEUPS TAKING SHAPE

The Rolex 24 At Daytona isn't a two-man race anymore and thus filling a roster necessitates the gathering of high-caliber driving talent from other racing series. Given the race's high stature, most team owners don't need to beat the bushes to find that talent.

Public announcements have already placed 2006-2007 NASCAR Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson, Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty (2007 Rolex Series DP co-champions) along with 1996 CART champ Jimmy Vasser in the No. 99 Lowes/GAINSCO Pontiac-Riley.

Among those already set for the Jan. 26-27 classic race are 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup champ Kurt Busch, Helio Castro Neves (aka, "Helio Castroneves" in the Americanized version; see "Soapbox 1," below) and Ryan Briscoe in a SunTrust and Toshiba-sponsored DP fielded by Wayne Taylor and Roger Penske.

Never-tiring, youngest "old guy" and defending Rolex 24champ Scott Pruett will this year team with 2007 post-Rolex 24 co-driver Memo Rojas for the upcoming Jan. 26-27 Rolex 24. The two drivers will be joined by 2007 IRL IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti (see "Soapbox 2," below) and 1999 IndyCar champ Juan Pablo Montoya Roldan (aka, "Juan Pablo Montoya") in the No. 01 Telmex Lexus-Riley.

The No. 02 Target-sponsored Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates sister car will have 2003 IRL IndyCar Series and 2006 Rolex 24 champ Scott Dixon, 2005 IndyCar Series champ Dan Wheldon, Salvador Duran and 2007 Indy Pro championship-winner Alex Lloyd as its not-so-lightweight driving team.

Duran looked so lonely up there without "driving champion" preceding his name that he deserves some stand-alone noteworthy praise for having been a part of the 2007 Rolex 24-winning Ganassi/Sabates team that included Pruett and JPM. Sabates, Ganassi, Duran-manager Jimmy Morales and Carlos Slim Domit (aka, Carlos Slim Jr.) are justifiably high on Duran's racing future.

Among the names coming from various other motorsports racing series and headed for the 2008 Rolex 24 At Daytona are:

KYLE BUSCH -- Nee of NASCAR competitor Hendrick Motorsports, the driver switched to Joe Gibbs Racing for 2008 and went along for that team's ride to Toyota in the chase for a 2008 Sprint Cup title. Kurt Busch's younger brother will most likely compete in Southard Motorsports' No. 3 Lexus-Riley with co-driver Shane Lewis and others TBA. NASCAR star Mark Martin jumped in and did a decent job driving the Southard car last summer at Iowa Speedway - a testament to both driver and team. Given the apparent dearth of TRD-built "Lexus" DP engines for the race's 2008 version one might expect another NASCAR Toyota-associated name to land in the Southard car for the 24.

GREG BIFFLE -- In 2005 Biffle ran the No. 49 Crown Royal Multimatic Ford DP and helped his team drive to a 27th-place Rolex 24 At Daytona finish. His co-drivers were Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Scott Maxwell. Based on early Sunday morning observations made during that race, Biffle unquestionably had an absolute blast driving a DP. Ford sources say he's since itched for a DP ride and that his competing in this year's race became a reality due to inroads made by Ford in a number of DP engine compartments. Biffle appears headed for a ride in Mike Shank Racing's No. 6 Ford-Riley with team regulars Ian James and John Pew. It's a kicking combination if it really happens.

COLIN BRAUN -- The newest member of Roush Fenway Racing's NASCAR driving team (to be in a NASCAR Truck for 2008), in November was thought to be headed for the No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford-Riley, though sources say such now may be doubtful. Whatever, Ford power will be pushing this star's car when he does come back to race in an event in which he first started as a 16-year old in a Kevin Buckler-managed Porsche.

CARL EDWARDS -- This former dirt track racer-turned-NASCAR star is headed for the Exchange Traded and Barrick Gold No. 61 of AIM Autosport. The Roush Fenway Racing driver will team with one other TBA driver, Brian Frisselle and Mark Wilkins (who in 2007 made a season-long driving-style improvement of which to be proud).

MIGUEL DUHAMEL -- Anyone knowing anything at all about this French-Canadian's fabulous AMA Pro Racing career knows this guy is a winner. If having won at Daytona means anything at all then Duhamel has the capability, having compiled five prestigious Daytona 200 victories among many other Daytona motorcycle wins. Still racing on two wheels, a plethora of motorcycle and Canadian-based halls of fame are just waiting for Duhamel to utter the "R-word" for real before a wave of inductions gets underway. But can he drive a sportscar? Apparently the time has arrived to learn if such talent exists. It could signal a career change for the motorcyclist.

BILL LESTER - Although already in Roger Schramm's No. 12 RVO Motorsports Pontiac-Riley for the Rolex 24, Lester has yet to decide whether he goes with Doran, SAMAX or Southard in a 13-race deal for 2008's post-24 races. Be assured Lester is focused on pursuing a driving championship in a return to his first-love form of racing. Though Lester earlier looked to be going to Doran, recent indications lean toward him hooking up with Peter Barron's SAMAX. The longtime NASCAR Truck Series regular has said he'll be deciding this week after tests today and Tuesday with SAMAX.

GRAHAM RAHAL -- Yes, the Robert Woodward Rahal family member will be competing in another Rolex 24. Furthermore, indications are he'll be in a DP a lot more this season than some might otherwise think. For now, it's spelled "Ford powered." His DP future, though, is a "power" of another sort.

JUSTIN WILSON -- This two-time Greg Moore Legacy Award winner and 2007 Champ Car driving-points championship runner-up was an integral part of the 2006 Rolex 24 second-place finishing team of Oswaldo Negri, Mark Patterson and A.J. Allmendinger, who combined to drive a dark horse, Mike Shank-prepared No. 60 Lexus-Riley to the podium stage. Though he competed in the 2007 Rolex 24, a disappointed Wilson was absent from the 2007 MSR 60 squad. Team regulars ended up feeling the same as Wilson. The omission won't happen again this year.

Presently running out of time and space, more names will soon be named herein.

FAST GUY

Announced in November at Daytona International Speedway, Bill Auberlen has joined the Ruby Tuesday team for 2008 - clearly a move in the best interest of team owner Alex Job and Auberlen.

Easily, Auberlen is one of the least recognized but highly talented sportscar drivers of our age.

Though the driver has won driving championships in open- and closed-wheel race cars alike, if one wishes to solely quantify a "great" as having a fireplace mantle crowded only with top-dog trophies like those handed out for the Rolex Series' DP class, then Auberlen isn't likely to immediately fit that definition.

Still, it's something Auberlen once confided as wanting to change.

One of the sports' few steadfastly loyal types, Auberlen has been a BMW-contract driver since the 1990s.

A big booster of the Daytona Prototype's driver-versus-driver concept, Auberlen has for the last couple of years climbed into a BMW-powered DP hoping the German manufacturer would become more deeply involved but, due to decisions based on marketing demographics, BMW apparently will not for the foreseeable future officially compete in any "prototypical" racing environment, preferring instead to focus solely on racing directly connected with its road-going machines.

Bearing the weight of its development, Steve Dinan has nonetheless built a stout BMW DP engine that is music to the ear and which for the first time last season won while in the midst of fierce DP competition.

Uphill battles being what they are, Dinan is fighting one that falls short of BMW's official blessing and resultantly suffers from a lack of critical factory support and developmental help.

Having a relatively high CG (center of gravity) and greater weight as compared to other Daytona Prototype engine choices, Dinan's BMW engine still powered Auberlen and co-driver Matthew Alhadeff to a 2007 Miami Grand Prix win in the recently morphed Sigalsport car (for 2008 Gene Sigal, with Matt Plumb, will be driving the No. 7 Fortune Market Racing BMW-Riley).

Among other DP podiums, Auberlen and BMW power scored a 2006 Long Beach Grand Prix third-place after he and co-driver Shane Lewis skillfully negotiated the race's concrete canyon-lined course for one-time BMW standard-bearer Southard Motorsports.

Despite recognizing the limitations under which he's labored, Auberlen says he cannot comprehend how others won't give 100-percent effort at all times while in a race car.

So doggone mellow and low key absent of race cars, Auberlen can slide in and out of places without anyone knowing he's been there - unless accompanied by spouse Yvette. It's not that she's loud, at least in the verbal sense. Indeed, she's not "loud" in any sense. Just "noticeable" (and I also sense me getting deeper and deeper into trouble, here, so I'll just drop the subject right now).

Bottom line: Bill Auberlen is one really fine racer who now has a demonstrable championship winner in the form of Alex Job Racing's No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Porsche-Crawford - also due a Rolex 24 win and championship.

If one can discharge bad luck through living it, then the Ruby Tuesday team's 2007 run should've drained the team of it for years to come.

One thing is for sure: Auberlen will be giving it his all, all the time. So will AJR. Together, they should help produce some great 2008 shows.

NEW RILEY AT DIS TODAY

It just won't be the new 2008 Riley DP. Instead, it's a Riley-built BMW M6 being fielded by Automatic Racing in that team's run for the 2008 Rolex Series GT championship.

The test is reserved only for Riley teams and it'll run through Tuesday at Daytona International Speedway.

Stepping up to the GT class, Automatic has long been in the BMW camp and in 2007 scored Koni Challenge GS-class team and driving championships with team drivers Jeff Segal and Jep Thornton leading the charge.

Joining Automatic are about seven other Rolex Series teams who will test everything but the new DP body - still not due at Daytona International Speedway until the Rolex Series' January 4-6 Test Days.

THE SOAPBOX

1: We of the U.S. seem to just love to otherwise butcher other cultures' names 'cause they just don't fit our "first, middle, last" format scheme. Wiser-than-me people long ago learned to use those names preferred by the people to whom they refer.

2: Speaking of politics, sources say Marino Franchitti was offered an opportunity to drive with his brother, Dario, but manufacturer politics, as was the case in 2007, nixed the deal.

Easily coming to mind are a dozen or so drivers who each season jump back and forth from one series to another - sometimes during the same weekend - so as to race (and get seat time) in each.

In 2006, German (and in 2007, Porsche factory driver) Jorg Bergmeister won two highly competitive driving championships whilst jumping from one sportscar series to another.

When asked the secret of bettering oneself behind the wheel, "seat time" invariably is the response offered by the vast majority of drivers. Bergmeister certainly has exemplified it.

For goodness sake, AGR and Honda (a.k.a. "Acura"), let 'em get some seat time. Penske, who has Honda power in one series and Dodge power in another, doesn't seem terribly concerned his world to be on the verge of ruination as a result of drivers driving yet another "power" in the Rolex 24.

Then again, considering the near-lock Penske Porsche drivers had on last year's competition -- clearly smoking LMP-2 and LMP-1 competitors alike - perhaps Mr. Penske would prefer the "seat time" subject best be kept quiet, lest his opponents get some good ideas.

Later.
    DC Williams exclusively for Motorsport.com