Aussies aim high for Pikes Peak; Dyer picks up new F1 gig with Renault

Aussies aim high for Pikes Peak; Dyer picks up new F1 gig with Renault

HILLCLIMB:  Three Aussie set for Pikes Peak centenary

Three Australian competitors have had entries accepted for the landmark 100th anniversary Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC), or The Race to the Clouds, set for June 26.

Jeff Denmeade is heading back for another crack at the motorsports Mount Everest, pulling out his trusty Mitsubishi Evo, the car in which he topped the Time Attack division in 2010.

Denmeade says he is very honoured to be part of history – one of 100 competitors in this mega Pikes Peak climb: “I’m ecstatic that we’re going back in the Evo to try for a podium in Time Attack.”

Tony -Quinn -in -race -to -sky -carMaking his first start in Colorado is prominent motorsports competitor, series promoter and racetrack owner, Tony Quinn, who will tackle the all-tarmac climb in his purpose-built Monster Tamer built by V8 Supercars engineer Paul Ceprnich of Pace Innovations.

Built originally for NZ’s Race to the Sky gravel hill climb, the wild beast is officially described in the entry as a 2015 Focus, but is unrecognisable as a Ford.  A rakish aero-friendly carbon-fibre-panelled body hides a 3.8-litre twin-turbo engine from a Nissan R35 developing 634kW and 976Nm, fed to all four wheels through a six-speed Holinger sequential gearbox. All up it weighs 989kg.  It should be a weapon at Pikes Peak.

Quinn puts the cost of the project at around $350,000.

The outright winner, though, is expected to emerge from the ultra-competitive Electric Modified field. It is headlined by Pikes Peak legends Rhys Millen and Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima (pictured below) in what should become a rematch of last year's battle for King of the Mountain. Millen set an Electric Modified record with 9m 07.222s, still short of the outright record set in 2013 by Sébastien Loeb who recorded a time of 8m 13.878s driving the mid-engined Peugeot 208 T16.

TajimaQuinn is going into this bucket list experience without ever previously visiting Pikes Peak. Not even to have a look.

As well as the unfamiliar course, rookie Quinn has another challenge to overcome as he races high into the sky: “I’m shit scared of heights!  Dunno how I’ll go.”

But Quinn has no great aspirations other than to tick off another great motorsport event.  The previous weekend he’ll be in Ireland tackling the Donegal rally in an ex-WRC Subaru…

Quinn says he was fortunate to get the start at Pikes Peak on the 100th anniversary of the first climb.  “I had to use all my influence to get an entry including references from Robby Gordon and Monster Tajima,” he said.

The second oldest auto race in the US after the Indianapolis 500, the 20-kilometre Pikes Peak climb with 156 turns takes competitors all the way to the oxygen-deprived 4302-metre summit.

Tony -Quinn -faceA strong field including many past champions and record holders with impressive credentials will contest the 2016 iteration of the world's most prestigious hill climb.

Rennie Scaysbrook (pictured below), a Sydneysider now based in Los Angeles where he works as a motorcycle road tester, is another rookie taking a tilt at Pikes Peak.  One of 33 bike entries, he has chosen a KTM Super Duke 1290R for his campaign.

“The appeal about Pikes Peak is that it's such a unique event that has a real touch of old-school racing about it,” Scaysbrook told Wheels. “It's different to any racing I've ever done, which has all been circuit racing in Australia with a couple of street races in NZ.

“I started to entertain the idea when they paved the whole track a few years ago, which raised the speed but also made it a bit more my style (no way would I have done it on the dirt like they did back in the day!).

Rennie -Scaysbrook -motorbike“I watched Ari Vatanen's Climb Dance movie from 1988 in the Peugeot so much as a kid I could probably remember every frame, and now I've been watching YouTube video for months to try and get the track in my head, but I've got ages to go before it gets into the memory bank.“

Scaysbrook said the climb was part of a long-term project to show off the versatility of the 1290 Super Duke R.

“I'd always planned to race this bike anyway because it's got heaps of torque, a great chassis and brake package, and it's comfortable - it's almost like a dirt bike with a 1300cc V-twin wedged in the frame!,” he said.

“As far as results go, it's such a dangerous race so I just want to get to the end safely. I know how I'd like to go, but there some pretty fast riders in the field and I'm still a rookie, so as long as I get to the end of it I'll be stoked. I'll be giving it a proper nudge, though!”

F1: Chris Dyer returns to F1 with Renault

Australian Chris Dyer, the former Holden Racing Team engineer who became a respected tech-head at Arrows and Ferrari, is back in Formula One with Renault, heading up its vehicle performance group.

Dyer’s new job involves supporting the race team with overseeing work on suspension, brakes and simulation.

Dyer started in F1 with Arrows before scoring a plum slot at Ferrari where he was Michael Schumacher’s race engineer in the German’s 2003 and 2004 title-winning seasons. He then performed a similar task with Kimi Raikkonen when the Finn won the driver’s title in 2007.

In more recent times, Dyer, 48, has been working as chief engineer of BMW's DTM programme.

GT3: Variety is spice of Australian GT Championship life

Clipsal -Grand -Prix -RaceA race in last year's Australian GT Championship.

GT – the category that some people of a certain lofty demographic believe should be Australia’s premier race category – is in championship mode with a  healthy field of 27-28 cars across seven exotic manufacturers  heading to Adelaide for the opening round of the Australian series at the Clipsal 500 carnival on March 3–6.

A big year is ahead for the burgeoning sports car category with a six-round national championship to be decided, interlaced with an Australian Endurance Championship.

Six Audis have are confirmed for the season opener, with German ace Christopher Mies returning with the #1 on his JAMEC-PEM Audi R8 LMS following his 2015 Australian GT Championship title success.

Steve -Richards -BMW-GT-carMies (sharing a new R8 with Geoff Emery) headlines the attack from Melbourne Performance Centre with Steve McLaughlan (JAMEC-PEM), James Koundouris/Marcus Marshall (Supabarn Supermarkets), Rod Salmon (Skwirk Racing) and the Bathurst 12 Hour class-winning duo of Greg Taylor and Barton Mawer (Adina Apartments) should keep the R8 well in the mix.

A privately entered R8 LMS for Simon Ellingham rounds out the Audi representation.

Friday’s announcement that Bathurst 1000 winner Steve Richards’ brand-new factory supported BMW M6 GT3 (pictured above, below) has arrived in time for a full championship programme has pundits musing just how competitive the exciting combo will be. Answers to come early next month…

Steve -Richards -cockpitBut Richards says his targets are the end-of-season enduros – two each in Australia and New Zealand. “The earlier we sink our teeth into the program, the better off we’ll be when it comes to those endurance races later in the year.” 

A BMW Z4 GT3 will also chase the championship, driven by Ricky Capo.

Former two-time championship winner Klark Quinn will once again pilot the Darrell Lea-backed McLaren 650S GT3, sharing the car with his evergreen father Tony Quinn at the opening round. Papa Quinn has an Aston Martin to drive in subsequent rounds.

In a late switch from a Maranello Motorsport Ferrari, TV star and racer Grant Denyer is set to now drive one of three Tekno Autosports McLarens.

Denyer, who was second in the GT series last year partnering Tony D’ Alberto and was part of Maranello Motorsport’s squad at this year’s Bathurst 12 Hour, was expected to continue in red.

Steve -Richards -BMW-Team -SRM-M6-GT3-carInstead, he will move to Tekno to pilot one of the squad’s three McLaren 650S GT3s, sharing a car with towering team owner Jonathon Webb for the 2016 title campaign.  That should make for fascinating driver changes at pit stops…

 Maranello’s plans have scattered about a little, but a new 488 GT3 for car owner Peter Edwards and John Bowe should be on the grid by round two at Albert Park.

Mercedes-Benz should again be a brand on a mission.

Gold Coast businessman Scott Taylor has bought a new Mercedes-Benz AMG GT3, the successor to the successful SLS AMG GT3, and grabbed the vastly experienced Craig Baird in a serious tilt at both GT series formats.

Mark Griffith will also debut a new Mercedes-AMG GT3, as will one-time frontrunner Peter Hackett, back with Dominic Storey.

Steve -Richards -BMW-Team -SRM-M6-GT3-car -frontFive Lamborghinis are among the entries – three R-EXs and two Gallardo FLIIs.

Finally, Porsche 911 GT3-Rs for AMAC Racing’s Andrew Macpherson, and WALTEC Motorsport’s John Martin and Aaron Tebb add another great sports car brand to the mix, completing an intoxicating entry that someone with a calculator and a lot of time has suggested has a combined value of over $30 million.

NASCAR: Hamlin takes thriller in closest-ever finish

The winner of a dramatic Daytona 500 doesn’t know how he did it.  We were watching  on the box and we don’t know how Denny Hamlin did it, either.  All day, the outside lane wasn’t working.  But on the final lap, the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driver made it happen, coming from a fair way back.

Up high, Hamlin was overhauling teammate Matt Kenseth, who was running low. Kenseth moved up to block. Hamlin tapped Kenseth into a (masterfully saved) slide…and it was all over.  No, not really.

Hanging down low, Martin Truex Jr looked to have the grunt to move up front and stay there, but with momentum and some side drafting going his way, Hamlin took the 500 by the closest margin in history – 0.010 seconds.

Hamlin from Truex Jr from Kyle Busch.  Toyotas one-two-three.

It was Hamlin's first Daytona 500 victory, the first for team owner Joe Gibbs since 1993 and a break-through Daytona 500 win for manufacturer Toyota.

Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick and JGR's Carl Edwards – who battled back from an early-race incident – rounded out the top five.

Kenseth led 40 of the final 41 laps of the Daytona 500 but not the one that counted. He fell back to 14th at the flag.  Kenseth said afterwards that Hamlin did a "masterful job" on the final lap.

"They don't get much more crushing than that," Kenseth said. "I thought I definitely was in the position I wanted to be in. All three of my teammates were awesome. I saw Denny had the run, thought he would go around me if I didn't block him … just got me turned sideways there.

“The safer play would have been to finish second, but we're here to try to win the Daytona 500."

Pre-race fancy and crowd favourite Dale Earnhardt Jr spun off while battling for a top-five position at Lap 170.

Earnhardt's Hendrick Motorsports teammate and rookie, 20-year-old Chase Elliott – the youngest ever polesitter – discovered life in the big league is not always wonderful.  His Daytona 500 debut turned nasty on lap 19 when he lost control and slid onto the grass while running in the top 10.

DRUGS AND ALCOHOL: Testing regimen catches out drivers

In some sports, drug taking and juicing up almost seems compulsory.  So it’s refreshing to hear that local motorsport is relatively free of dope heads and boozers. 

CAMS' combined number of tests for illicit drugs and alcohol reached 3291 - comprising 138 saliva drug screens and 3153 breath alcohol tests – with just five competitors and one pit crew member excluded from events after recording positive results. 

These tests were spread across all motorsport disciplines, states and territories and all competitive levels from grassroots right up to the international level.

Two of the breaches were for illicit drugs, with CAMS suspending the licences of two competitors after they tested positive at a state level event.  Both have since completed mandatory drug counselling sessions and have had their licences reinstated, in accordance with the policy.

CAMS reports that testing programs for alcohol and drugs were cranked up last year.  Illicit drug screens more than doubled whilst the number of recorded breath alcohol tests rose above 3000 for the first time.  CAMS noted that at several events throughout 2015, state police conducted breath alcohol testing rather than CAMS officials.  Although these tests are not officially recorded on CAMS’ database, it is likely the true number of alcohol tests could be as high as 3500 or more in 2015.

CAMS said the increase in testing demonstrates its ongoing commitment to making motorsport safer for competitors, officials and spectators.  Both programs will continue to run this year with CAMS planning to increase the presence of testing by working closely with event organisers to make the necessary arrangements.

RALLY:  Taylor wins Peter Brock Medal

Sydney rally driver Molly Taylor has won the Peter Brock Medal for 2015.

The medal win, part of the wider CAMS Motor Sport Awards, is made to the driver who has demonstrated characteristics that endeared the late touring car legend to so many -  a fair and sportsman-like attitude, a willingness to promote the sport to the wider community, and talent.

“I’m incredibly overwhelmed to have been selected,” said Taylor.

First presented by the Confederation of Australian Motorsport (CAMS) in 2011, the inaugural winner was the late V8 Supercar driver, kiwi Jason Richards, followed by V8 star Craig Lowndes (2012), four-time Australian rally champion Neal Bates (2013), and versatile race and tarmac rally star Jim Richards (2014).

The personable, hard-working Taylor was runner-up in the 2015 Australian Rally Championship after several years racing abroad.

She competed in the British, European and World Rally Championships, where she was named British Ladies Champion two years in a row, won the inaugural European Rally Championship Ladies Trophy and in 2013 was officially recognised as the fastest female rally driver in the world.

Also acknowledged were long-time CAMS Foundation supporters Tom Warwick and Geoff Morgan, who received the CAMS Membership of Honour, while respected engineer Dave Mawer took home the Phil Irving Award.

Sign up here to receive the latest round-up of Wheels news, reviews and video highlights straight to your inbox each week.

Want free access to 5 years of Wheels archive content? Sign up now!