The Bear Rings In the New Year
Trouble in GT1?
WDWT Looks Good

dailysportscar.comThe Woods of North America – Happy New Year, everyone, bears and people alike! Hey, me and Heidi – and Little One, of course – closed out a very special year, but we expect this new one to be the best yet.

Plenty has happened since Murphy’s Christmas column, so the Bear has talked to Connor the Beaver and other friends to find out what is going on.

dailysportscar.comConnor worked like, well, a beaver, and collected some good stuff, but since Connor is going to remain the “Deep Throat” of all this, we aren’t going to tell you which are his contributions. He has gotten his dailysportscar shirt and is ready for the season.

Audi’s R10 is already old news, of course. (For a tiny fraction of us, that is; ask around your favorite sports bar.) The Bear has been told to expect two of the cars at the WDWT – for you Cognoscenti that’s “Wheels Down Winter Test”, the major sports car event in Florida in January – January 23-25. And the entry paperwork for that and for Sebring in March has been executed by an employee of Champion Racing under the aegis of Audi Sport North America. That’s all good; confirming, the Bear hopes, an important role for Champion in Audi’s ALMS plans this season.

Murphy is far less thrilled with the news that JJ Lehto, through a manager, is looking around for 2006 drive. That can’t be a problem can it? Or is it, as I sometimes hear from even “super fans,” that he doesn’t take care of the hardware? The Bear doesn’t believe that for a moment. Incidents some cite in 2005 didn’t demonstrate that at all. Mid-Ohio? A blind rise; the next driver over, JJ or not, was going to collect the spun car. Portland? The bodywork wasn’t secured; a lost deck (and wing) at speed, and you’re toast. Turn 1 Petit? Check out this photograph, shortly before the turn-in, from a great sequence by Melanie Allgood on this site.

Either that Zytek is bog slow, or the young driver inexplicably got out of it. JJ (and James) had just two options – go for it or “park ‘em.” They couldn’t do the latter, of course. No apologies. The Bear likes JJ. A lot.

Along with Audi, Dyson Racing looks likely to make Sebring’s Wheels Down Winter Test; Penske Porsche has confirmed that they will be there, along with Intersport. The Bear believes that BMW is looking good, but has heard now that Lexus won’t make it. Look for a few Porsches. At ten bucks, this is the best show of the winter for fans who love race cars.

Is there a second Ferrari in the works? Murphy’s been told that a second car will be purchased by Ferrari of Toronto, and that Cort Wagner (and New Century Mortgage) will be involved. Apparently, the car will be run by Risi alongside their own car.

dailysportscar.comThe Lexus story is that “there is a lot of work to do” (before the cars are ready). Will Team Lexus still make Sebring?

Scurrilous Behavior Department. Between watching the holiday’s Bowl Games, Murphy was doing a little surfing. What do you call it when a senior executive of a national road racing series uses pseudonyms to place accusatory posts in various internet fora?

Friends took Murphy and Heidi out to a touring company of “The Radio City Christmas Spectacular.” We loved it, the Rockettes and all (below), but were moved to tears with the “Nutcracker Fantasy.” There was Clara, the human little girl ballerina, for sure, but for the rest, 19 playful teddy bears star in the tribute to Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker". Portrayed as a "Teddy Bear's Dream", it features dancing polar, panda, Arabian, Russian, and baby doll bears in a variety of sizes.

dailysportscar.comAfter the show, we went to “The Local”, and Irish Pub in Minneapolis that claims the highest annual consumption of Jameson Irish Whisky in North America. Murphy’s kind of place. Little One enjoyed her Christmas; her favorite gift was a teddy bear, of course, but she liked the beads her mom brought her from Sebring last year, too.

Elsewhere in LMP1, Murphy’s heard that the Titan prototype, when it debuts, will be on Michelin rubber. Keep in mind that the Bear has never seen a Titan, so he’s dependent on his insider friends for this. Likewise, I was happy enough to see our friend Russell report progress from Panhard, but isn’t it still a bit of a leap from a sports racer to a Le Mans Prototype?

It seems Autosport has finally caught up to the idea that PTG’s M3 entries are more-or-less a “temporary fix.” Murphy’s been told the other chassis will be a Z4. Should we look for it at Lime Rock, BMW’s “home track” in North America? Elsewhere, it’s been quiet in regard to the Pastorini Mercedes entries, and the expected Leo Hindery announcement (with Farnbacher) hasn’t materialized. Will it? There is “background noise” of dissatisfaction with Porsche’s limited support for GT2 teams this season, and there has been some speculation that Flying Lizards are leaping (flying) to Ferrari – but you’ll know by now that they’re sticking with their Porsches for ’06. Connor hears that the Pastorini-Mercedes project is going forward; a couple of sponsorships are in hand, but a couple more are needed.

The Bear thinks the Sebring grid might include a couple of Aston Martins, and a Saleen, maybe two, but he’s far from excited about that. The whole Aston Martin thing is getting a little ridiculous. Everyone and his dog is getting one of the Prodrive cars to race in Europe, but it looks like Prodrive might run two cars at Sebring for no other reason than the North American market has no viable buyers, at least at the moment. Some in the know are talking a “half-season” from the factory team, meaning three races – Sebring, Petit, and Laguna – a replay of last year. Meantime there is one effort to bring a full time AM team to the American Le Mans Series – by Dick Barbour. Unfortunately, as the new year dawned, Dick still lacked – by his own estimate – five million dollars. Meanwhile, the hope for a return of Jeff Giangrande’s ACEMCO Saleen team for any events outside of those same “big three” that might attract the Astons has faded, replaced by a belief that Tom Weickardt, having failed to acquire a Corvette, will now focus on fielding a Saleen in the 2006 season.

Even though Risi Competizione will no longer be involved, there are those that continue to be convinced that there will be one, and perhaps two, Maserati MC12s. This looks to the Bear like a disaster in the making. GT1 is the class that received the bulk of IMSA’s attention to “competitive balance” in 2005, and it seems to have made little difference. Aston Martin afraid to show up. Saleen a “cut and run” – ALMS failure leads to big European announcement. Maybe an MC12 or two. The only certainty seems to be two yellow cars, reducing the class to irrelevance. Clearly this is Corvette’s fault. They shouldn’t have built such a good race car. Perhaps they should just send a bunch of them over to Europe? Oh, wait, that won’t work. That Ratel guy will just load on the kilos until he gets the result he wants, won’t he? Murphy thinks the answer is pretty simple. Get some guts, guys. Quit whining and looking for easier places to race. Build a better car. Build a better team. Too expensive? Find another sport. How about Roller Derby? The competitors are better looking, too.

dailysportscar.comSpeaking of Sebring, don’t expect a whole bundle of European entries – and that goes for Petit Le Mans, also. Scott Atherton, in his “ALMS State of the Series” last September, said the following. “There is no doubt that the Le Mans Endurance Series has impacted our average number of entries; that can be seen principally in smaller Sebring and Petit Le Mans grids.” Atherton added that smaller European participation will likely continue and is acceptable, since “we are building a true ‘American Championship’ in the ALMS”. That’s one the Bear thinks you can “take to the bank.” The Sebring grid, with only a few exceptions, will likely represent the ALMS field, less a few later-in-the-season entries.

See ya’ll at Sebring in a couple of weeks. After that, ol’ Murphy is going to sneak up to Daytona to see what that’s all about. He’s already looking forward to that column.

Murphy H. Bear


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