1. Hunter-Reay ready to roll at Race of Champions
2. Rain doesn’t dampen on track action
3. Christmas a special time for drivers
4. Sebring test allows new KV teammates to work out details
5. Of note
1. Hunter-Reay ready to roll at Race of Champions:
Ryan Hunter-Reay was set to roll of pit lane Dec. 12 at Sebring International Raceway in the Andretti Autosport-prepared car for his final day of testing of 2012. The exercise, while benefitting preparations for the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season, won’t impact his next on-track adventure.
The reigning series champion will join other motorsports stars from around the globe to compete this weekend in the Race of Champions in Bangkok, Thailand. The event is being staged for the 25th consecutive year.
Drivers will battle head-to-head in identical machinery on a specially constructed tarmac track with two parallel lanes winding their way around Rajamangala Stadium. Drivers also will pair up for the ROC Nations Cup.
Benito Guerra Jr. of Mexico, FIA’s Production World Rally Championship this season, will partner with Hunter-Reay in the Nations Cup’s first “Team Americas.” World Rally Championship driver Sebastien Ogier was the 2011 “Champion of Champions.”
Hunter-Reay, who is in the same group as seven-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher in the individual competition, could wind up driving a KTM X-Bow, a Gallardo Super Trofeo, an Audi R8 LMS or even a VW Scirocco.
“I don’t have any of those toys to mess around with at home (to prepare),” Hunter-Reay said. “So I think you have to rely on your skill set that you kind of worked on over the years and jumping from car to car, sports car to Indy cars to some of the heavier stuff that I’ve driven — stock cars and stuff.
“So we’ll see. It should be fun. I was a little bit disappointed that there is not some type of open wheel formula car in there, but I think it definitely went more for the rally drivers there. But, hey, it’s still a car. It has four wheels and a steering wheel, two pedals, three pedals, you have to make it work.”
Other drivers scheduled to compete in the 2012 Race of Champions:
Michael Schumacher, seven-time Formula 1 World Champion
Sebastian Vettel, three-time Formula 1 World Champion
Jorge Lorenzo, two-time MotoGP World Champion
Mick Doohan, five-time 500cc MotoGP World Champion
Jamie Whincup, four-time V8 Supercar Champion
David Coulthard, 13-time Formula 1 grand prix winner
Tom Kristensen, eight-time Le Mans 24-Hour race winner
Andy Priaulx, three-time World Touring Car Champion
Benito Guerra Jr., 2012 FIA Production World Rally Champion
Romain Grosjean, Current Lotus F1 driver and 2011 GP2 Series champion
Sebastien Ogier, World Rally Championship driver and 2011 “Champion of Champions”
While the event is a chance to race against some of the biggest names in motorsports, and may get his competitive juices flowing, Hunter-Reay said he’s looking forward to the whole experience.
“Just really the whole atmosphere,” Hunter-Reay said. “Being invited to the Race of Champions in the first place is a pretty big deal for me. It’s a race I’ve watched for a while and something I’ve wanted to be a part of. It’s going to be something racing those guys and really getting to know them and meeting some new people from around the world of motorsports.
“You really have a lot of respect for these different talent pools that come from F1, MotoGP, rally driving, and at the same time, you can learn quite a bit too about how these guys approach the challenge of the Race of Champions. I’m looking forward to it.”
2. Rain doesn’t dampen on track action: Drivers got on the 1.65-mile circuit in earnest about 1 p.m. after the racing surfaced dried from an overnight thunderstorm and morning sprinkles.
Twelve drivers are expected to participate in the final day of testing for the season Dec. 13, including former Star Mazda champion and Firestone Indy Lights winner Conor Daly in the No. 14 ABC Supply car for A.J. Foyt Racing and 2012 Firestone Indy Lights champion Tristan Vautier in the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports car.
Vautier’s proud father, Eric, is in town to watch the proceedings. Regular driver Simon Pagenaud was in the car Dec. 12 and will be available for instruction during Vautier’s track time.
Justin Wilson was in the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing car. He said he’s not signed for the 2013 season yet.
3. Christmas a special time for drivers: As the father of a young daughter, Helio Castroneves knows the importance of Christmas to a little boy or girl.
That’s why he and Team Penske teammate Will Power joined members of the Indianapolis Colts to help 40 deserving children shop for Christmas gifts for their families and friends at an Indianapolis Meijer store on Dec. 11.
“My daughter understands Christmas and talks about Santa, so when you see the smile of the kids as they are choosing gifts for their families and friends, it makes you feel good,” Castroneves said.
“For me it’s awesome to see their faces. My heart smiles and it makes everyone smile. This is a great thing that Meijer is doing. I’ve done this for three years and I have fun every time.”
The children, ranging from ages 7-10, were given Meijer gift cards to help them buy anything they wanted in the store. Power, who assisted a pair of sisters with their gifts, said he was more than willing to help out again.
“We did this last year, and you get a lot of satisfaction from doing this,” Power said. “These kids deserve to have a fantastic Christmas and I’m happy to help them and Meijer make it happen.
“I had fun picking out Barbie dolls and pink this and that. They even picked out some Angry Birds gifts, which they said is something I related to.”
Here a sampling of how some IZOD IndyCar Series drivers will spend the holidays and their most-memorable Christmas gifts.
Dario Franchitti: “Christmas in Scotland is a lot like Christmas here. We’ll spend one year in Scotland with my family and next year in Tennessee with (wife) Ashley’s family. It’s very similar. We don’t have Thanksgiving over there, so we tend to do the Turkey and eat a lot more on Christmas Day.”
“Two gifts stick out. When I was 8, I got a motocross bike. That was a big thing because I couldn’t race cars because I was too young. So I got a motocross bike, which I wasn’t really good on, but it was cool. In Christmas 1984, I got this helmet. I pestered the life out of (my dad) for this helmet that was called a GPA. It was the same helmet that Gilles Villeneuve wore. I got one of those and that was one that I always remember. I don’t have it anymore, so I’m looking for one. Still trying to find it.”
Marco Andretti: “Normally, I’m a very traditional guy. I normally go to my mom’s parents and then I’ll go to my dad’s parents – which is my neighbor (Mario Andretti). This year, I’m going to Thailand with Ludacris and Kevin Hart and our girlfriends. It’s a 10-day trip to hang out and work out. We do a once a year getaway before the season and we chose Thailand.
“Best gift was a snowmobile. It’s always nice as a kid to get a new toy like that.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “I don’t have enough time on my hands to shop for everyone. I’ve been traveling a lot, I’ve been to London, Milan already this month and I’m headed to Bangkok for Race of Champions. By the time I get back, it will be Christmas. The Gordon clan will be coming from California. It should be a lot of fun. It will be a packed house, but that’s how we like it.”
“My best present was a surfboard. I’m not sure if I got my first go-kart for Christmas, but it was either a surfboard or a go-kart.”
James Hinchcliffe: “Holidays at Casa de Hinch have been celebrated without me because I’ve been gone most of the last few holiday seasons. It only gets worse for here. My own home will be empty, because I’ll be meeting my family in some warmer climates.”
“The most memorable Christmas gift has to be my Greg Moore helmet. It’s a 99, raced-used helmet and it’s one of my most treasured possessions, so that tops the list…that or my Tamagotchi.”
JR Hildebrand: “Pretty much both sides of my family are in the Bay Area, so I’ll go home for the holidays. We hang out with my mom’s side of the family on Christmas Eve in San Francisco, and then my dad’s side of the family comes to our house in Sausalito on Christmas Day. Everybody stuffs their face and exchanges gifts. It’s the one time of the year that I’m almost guaranteed to be home. My birthday is just a couple weeks after Christmas and I usually stay out there. My buddies are home from college or off work, so it’s a good time for me to re-connect with them in the offseason. You get to see almost everybody over the course of a few days. A lot of families don’t have that chance.”
“The best Christmas present? I got a mountain bike. I was big into mountain biking and raced them, and I got my first full-suspension Schwinn when I was in the eighth grade. I’d been eyeing this bike at a store down the street for months and it was on sale and it kept getting cut down. One day I went in there and the guy said we sold it to this guy from Mill Valley. I was pissed. I thought for sure this was going to be my gift and I went to my parents and told them, ‘Guys, come on. This was the one thing I wanted and it was on sale.’ They were like, “Sorry. Whatever.” Then they were the ones who bought it. I think because of the turmoil I went through emotionally, that was the best surprise.”
Ed Carpenter: “(Christmas) changes a lot when you have kids, but it’s a lot more fun because it all becomes about them. It’s fun doing everything we do leading up to Christmas and watching how excited Makenna and Ryder get for Christmas and Santa. This Christmas we’ll be adding a new arrival, so it will make it that much better.”
“There are different things over the years that I’ve liked, but I remember one year my Grandpa – my mom’s dad – got me bunk beds when I was really young. I also got tickets Vanilla Ice one year. It was my first concert.
Charlie Kimball: “We are having a quiet Christmas this year. My sister and her husband are staying in England this year, so we’ll spend one night with one side of the family and Christmas Day with the other. Traditionally we do a Mexican Christmas dinner, so we have tamales and enchiladas and big bowl of Chili and some garlic bread. Then we have fresh pears for dessert. It’s a nice way to come together and we try to enjoy the opportunity to get together.”
“The best gift I ever got was two, actually. My dad’s old go-kart, which came in three refrigerator-sized boxes of parts as well as a box with his old toolbox in it with a set of tools and nice inscription. So not only did I get a set of tools, but I got a project to use my tools on.”
Josef Newgarden: “The best Christmas gift I ever got was a motorized scooter. A GoPed, really.”
Graham Rahal: “Nowadays, Christmas isn’t just one day. It’s really a few days because you have to travel between Indianapolis, Columbus, Ohio and Chicago. We try to find everybody where they are at. When we do, we celebrate just like everyone else. We get up in the morning, open presents – although the older you get, the fewer presents you get.
“My birthday and Christmas are right next to each other, and one year, I got my dad’s 1986 Championship-winning gold Rolex. It was the gift he got when he won the championship. It was one of my very few prized possessions. It sits in a secure place and never really sees daylight or time outside of the box.”
Scott Dixon: This year, we’ve already been back to New Zealand, so we’ll be off to England to see Emma’s family. Now that the girls have grown up a bit, they like to see their cousins and run around with them. Elf on a Shelf has been big this year in keeping them in tow. You can see when Billy the Elf sees they are being naughty. It’s been a big bargaining tool. But Poppy and Tilly are getting excited for Christmas. You see they get excited when we put the tree up or when they see Santa or things about the reindeer. It’s a lot of fun and brings the excitement of Christmas back to you.
“For me, bikes and motorbikes were big presents. I think I got go karts when I first started racing. Anything that was motorized and went quick were the best gifts, but I remember getting my first bike.”
4. Sebring test allows new KV teammates to work out details: Simona de Silvestro introduced Tony Kanaan to individuals associated with a sponsor as “my new teammate.” Soon she’ll drop the “new.”
De Silvestro, who competed the previous three IZOD IndyCar Series seasons with HVM Racing, joined KV Racing Technology and Kanaan in late October for the 2013 season. They’ve tested the Nos. 11 and 78 cars at Barber Motorsports Park and Texas Motor Speedway in advance of closing out the year at Sebring International Raceway this week.
“It’s been going pretty well,” said de Silvestro, whose new livery will be unveiled in January. “The Barber test was a little strange because it was added at the last minute, but it was a really productive day and we both ended up quick and worked through some things with the cars. The Texas test was a Chevy test so we went through a whole program with them. Working with TK has been a lot of fun.
“I think we’re still learning how to work together because I’ve never had a teammate in IndyCars and that’s all new to me. Having someone right there in the seat at the same time, giving feedback and listening to what he thinks — especially on the ovals — is great. I hope to learn a lot as we develop this team, which has been working really hard. The Barber and Texas tests I was learning a lot of things, like the guys’ names, and now we’re starting to click. This test is important to jump-start the (2013) season.”
Kanaan, who will enter his third season with KV Racing Technology, said he’s enjoyed the camaraderie with the crews through the three test sessions and looks forward to a productive 2013 season.
“We’re still getting to know each other, but she’s a very easy-going person so I don’t see any problems,” he said. “Everything is new to her. She’s fast and finally now she’s got to a team where she has the potential to show her talent.”
This past weekend, Kanaan joined Helio Castroneves and Rubens Barrichello in competing in the final round of the Brazilian stock car series. He also drove in the penultimate race last month.
“It was a good experience to race in front of the (Brazilian) fans again at Interlagos, a place where I grew up,” he said.
5. Of note: Sam Schmidt announced he has brought on Canadian businessman and former race driver Ric Peterson as an equity partner in his race team, which fields entries in the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights…New NBC Sports Channel announcer Leigh Diffey is making the rounds at the track to meet/re-introduce himself to drivers and team members. … Will Power has a wedding to attend in January in Australia as his older brother, Nick, is engaged. Power and his wife Elizabeth celebrate their second wedding anniversary Dec. 17. … Helio Castroneves will be a guest on “The Jeff Probst Show” on Dec. 17. Check local listings.