A new challenge awaits TUDOR United SportsCar Championship competitors this week, with North America’s top sports car teams and drivers set to tackle the yard of bricks in one of the most anticipated events of the year.
While having been a staple in the GRAND-AM calendar for the last two years, Friday’s Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (5:30 p.m. ET LIVE on FOX Sports 1) will see the unified championship compete on the famed road course for the first time.
Forty-nine cars are set to to battle across all four classes in Friday’s race, which will be contested on a revised 14-turn, 2.435-mile layout that was first used for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis IndyCar event in May.
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That change should level the playing field a bit, although Daytona Prototype competitors are still expected to have an edge over their P2 counterparts due to the circuit’s high speed characteristics.
Brothers Jordan and Ricky Taylor are still at the top of the championship, thanks to another podium finish for their Konica Minolta-sponsored Corvette DP at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, a race that saw OAK Racing break through for victory, in dominant fashion, with its Morgan-Nissan P2 car.
Gustavo Yacaman climbed to third in the title race as a result and is joined behind the wheel of OAK’s entry by Ho-Pin Tung, who is fresh off an equally commanding win in last weekend’s Asian Le Mans Series season-opener in Korea, also with the French squad.
Consistency has also paid dividends for the Rolex 24-winning Action Express Racing team, which sees Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi sit second in the standings, while Spirit of Daytona’s Richard Westbrook and Michael Valiante shouldn’t be discounted either, as they are just one point behind Yacaman in fourth.
After a disastrous outing at CTMP, which saw Memo Rojas crash his Ford EcoBoost-powered Riley on the recon lap, Chip Ganassi Racing will be looking to rebound. Rojas has been replaced by open-wheel rising star Sage Karam in the No. 01 car due to a "nagging back issue" for the Mexican driver.
Extreme Speed Motorsports also had a race to forget in Canada, with both of its HPD ARX-03b cars retiring with mechanical issues.
As part of the latest round of Balance of Performance adjustments, the Honda-powered prototypes receive a slightly larger air restrictor this week, which will provide additional power to the 2.8-liter turbocharged engine.
Burt Frisselle, meanwhile, fills in for the injured Boris Said in the No. 31 Marsh Racing Corvette DP, following Said’s accident in practice at CTMP that forced the withdrawal of the Coyote-chassied prototype.
The DeltaWing, which was also forced out of the race in Canada due to a fire, is not entered for Indy as originally scheduled.
IndyCar rising star Jack Hawksworth will make his TUDOR Championship debut, filling in for Alex Tagliani in the No. 08 RSR Racing Oreca FLM09 in Prototype challenge with Chris Cumming.
Tagliani, the 2011 Indy 500 pole-sitter, was suspended by IMSA for one race following an accident in practice last month at Watkins Glen. PC cars did not make the trip North of the Border for the most recent round.
Everyone in the class, however, will be looking to catch the championship-leading CORE autosport duo of Colin Braun and Jon Bennett, who have taken wins in four of the five races this year.
It’s been an equally dominant run for Corvette Racing’s Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia in GTLM, as the pairing search for their fifth straight class win.
Corvette’s success, however, hasn’t been unnoticed, as the pair of Corvette C7.Rs have been handed 25 kgs of additional weight this week.
The Porsche 911 RSR receives a 0.7 mm increase in its air restrictor, while the Ferrari F458 Italia sheds 30 kgs, gains a 0.6 mm larger air restrictor and has an adjustment in the height of the rear wing.
Changes have also been made to the BMW Z4 GTE, which loses 15 kgs, while fuel capacity adjustments have been made to a handful of cars in GT Daytona, a class that continues to be led by AIM Autosport’s Ferrari 458 Italia GT3.
Despite a 13th place finish in CTMP, Townsend Bell and Bill Sweelder are still atop the standings, but now only three points ahead of the Magnus Racing Porsche of Andy Lally and John Potter.
The two-day event gets underway on Thursday with practice and qualifying, with the two-hour and 45-minute race taking the green flag Friday afternoon, with live coverage on FOX Sports 1, beginning at 5:30 p.m. ET.