USA Motorsport - Road Racing
Matt McMurry will complete Algarve Pro Racing’s lineup for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with the reigning IMSA LMP2 champion set to rejoin the Stewart Cox-run operation for the French endurance classic.
Confirmed on Tuesday, the 22-year-old will join the team’s full-season European Le Mans Series pairing of Simon Trummer and John Falb in the No. 25 Oreca 07 Gibson.
McMurry was the youngest driver to participate and finish at Le Mans, a mark he set at the age of 16 years and 202 days in 2014.
He also played a role in Algarve’s title-winning 2016-17 Asian Le Mans Series campaign prior to spending the summer as an intern at the team’s headquarters while also driving in the 2017 European Le Mans Series.
“Being with Algarve and at Le Mans is very special to me,” said McMurry. “The team and the race have both been instrumental influencers in my life. I cannot wait to be back and to give it everything I have to offer.”
While driving full-time in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in a Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 Evo this year, McMurry is coming off a title-winning season in LMP2 with PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports in 2019.
“Last year was really the first time since my spec Prototype Lites days that I had the right weapon to compete with – that being the Oreca 07 – so it was super rewarding to be able to set lap records at numerous tracks and it will make joining Algarve’s Le Mans efforts with its Oreca 07 familiar right away,” he said.
Cox said he’s looking forward to “reigniting” the team’s association with McMurry.
“Matt was very young when he first joined us for the 2016-17 Asian Le Mans Series, and while his talent was clear from the off, he has come a long way since then and will re-join Algarve Pro Racing as an IMSA champion,” he said.
“Even without an IMSA title to his name, Matt was a natural selection for our 24 Hours of Le Mans lineup, as he raced with us at Le Mans in 2017, has always been fast there and he knows the ORECA 07 LMP2 well.”
McMurry essentially takes the seat of Gabriel Aubry, who is contesting the ELMS season in the No. 25 car alongside Trummer and Falb.
The Frenchman ironically teamed with McMurry for the majority of his IMSA LMP2 campaign last year.
While sports car racing is often focused on advancements in technology, particularly on the track, the industry is oftentimes playing catch up to innovations seen in traditional stick-and-ball sports.
However, in the case of remote coaching, motorsports is taking a front-and-center approach, and given the current COVID-19 climate, could arguably be the wave of the future in the broader sporting world.
A startup called Racers360, co-founded by former Rolex 24 at Daytona and two-time Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring class winner Dion von Moltke, is betting on that virtual future.
Von Moltke, who helped launch the service in 2018, has connected hundreds of amateur and enthusiast racers to professional drivers worldwide through a number of online coaching options.
From Acura Team Penske driver Ricky Taylor to current Trans-Am T2 points leader Mike Skeen and former Rolex 24 class winner Cameron Lawrence to rising open-wheel driver Nelson Mason (pictured above), users are able to upload their on-board video and data to share with Racers360’s coaches to receive highly personalized feedback.
Among other pro drivers to have recently joined the program include Corvette Racing’s Jordan Taylor, sports car legend Johnny O’Connell, and two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden, who has also become an investor in the company.
“Throughout most of my professional career I would be hired by a driver for occasional coaching days — and the more of these I would do the more frustrated I became with the costs involved for the driver,” von Moltke told Sportscar365.
“From the daily coaching fees to flights, hotels and meals, it prevented many enthusiast racers from effectively working with a coach.
“Much of what I was able to accomplish in my racing career came from access to some of the world’s best coaches for my education. Most drivers, however, did not have the same opportunity.
“I knew that there had to be a way to change this poorly performing model, so I started brainstorming what the future of coaching could look like.”
Von Moltke has focused on several core principles for Racers360.
He says the experience must be personalized for the individual, not just generic track videos, while also being easily accessible and affordable to both up-and-coming racers and gentlemen drivers starting out in the sport.
The reduction of travel and time on the road for the coaches was another key point, which allows von Moltke’s service to be open to a wider range of world-class drivers to serve as coaches, and scaling them efficiently for a much larger audience.
Replays of coaching sessions, which are often not available in face-to-face meetings, was also a key factor, along with the need to help athletes track their progress over time and build a positive relationship outside of a typical busy race weekend or track event.
“An issue that has become clear to us is that many drivers think they ‘are not ready’ for a coach or fear what the coach will say about their driving,” von Moltke said.
“They have this mental image of a coach yelling at them, not unusual in all coach and student interactions.
“It’s never too early to get a coach and we believe that when our customers work with a world-class coaches there isn’t any yelling; it’s always super positive and supportive.
“It’s almost like our coaches mentally embrace their students and constructively show the best path and priorities to improving their on track performance.”
How It Works
When drivers come for coaching they can upload a video from any camera system, at any track, in any car type to a Racers360 coach of their choice.
The coach reviews their video and then records a personalized “bite-sized” coaching video using screen recording, annotations and a webcam to coach the driver.
This video is accessible on the driver’s dashboard so they can watch it anytime and as many times as they want.
Included with every coaching session are written notes and goals from the coach, so drivers can track their progress over time.
The company has worked with more than 500 race car drivers of all different experience levels ranging from first-timers to 20-year veterans – in car racing, motorcycle racing as well as karting.
Von Moltke said that results have shown more than a one-second per lap time improvement on average for customers, and in some cases more than four seconds per lap.
“I attribute a lot of my success and growth as a driver over the last 18 months to Dion and his awesome team,” said NASA racer Mark Petronis.
“I’m a pulpit-pounding proselytizer for the Racers360 method of coaching.
“Last week I received a personal coaching video from none other than Ricky Taylor – one of the best and biggest names in sports car racing in the country.
“This week they launched their Champions Course by two-time IndyCar champ Josef Newgarden.
“Both bring perspectives to driving and racing that you’re not going to find anywhere else.
“Josef fired off pearls that I can’t even believe he was saying publicly – his insight and perspective into racecraft and mental preparation felt like they should be closely guarded secrets.
“The Champions Course alone is worth the cost of admission to the Racers Lounge. There’s a good chance you’ll learn more in this 45-minute course than you will in a whole season of turning laps on the track.”
What’s It Like To Be a Coach
Von Moltke said one of the coolest things to come out of the platform is the connection it provides between racers and some of their biggest fans.
Recently Jordan Taylor hosted a live session where he coached an enthusiast racer who was driving a Corvette around Virginia International Raceway.
Taylor provided guidance on what the driver could do to improve, and opened up with how he has adapted his driving style to the Chevrolet Corvette C8.R.
“I have always loved driver coaching since it molded me as a driver starting in Skip Barber and all the way through until today,” said Jordan’s brother, Ricky Taylor.
“Driver coaching is something all drivers can use to gain a very challenging edge on their competitors.
“The main reasons all drivers don’t have a coach is convenience and budget. Those are two areas where Racers360 can absolutely not be matched.
“Whether you have a single lap analysis, a full race session, or even want a same day turnaround while you are at the racetrack, getting access to world class coaches at the click of a button has never been this streamlined.
“To connect with other drivers at all levels and review their videos on the platform, it has been motivating to connect to see the passion the desire to excel.
“In addition to the physical coaching sessions, one of my favorite things about it is the incredible database they are building, of webinars, track descriptions, and specific courses covering topics from rain driving to driving styles to oversteer.
“A team owner once told me the cheapest area of the race car to reduce lap time is the driver. Being a part of Racers360 has proven that statement time and time again.”
The Racers Lounge
Racers360 goes beyond personalized coaching for their Racers Lounge subscribers by offering what von Moltke claims to be the world’s most comprehensive library of video track guides, online courses covering detailed driving techniques, car set up and mental training, as well as the live coaching sessions.
A six chapter, 20-lesson course focused on learning how to become a championship-winning race car driver was recently released in the Racers Lounge by Newgarden, entitled the Champions Course.
The platform also features channels for the same level of coaching and content library for karting and motorcycle racing.
Von Moltke sad the business has seen significant growth in recent months, which has resulted in the formation of parent company Blayze, which will replicate motorsports-style remote coaching into other sports.
“We’re launching into surf sports, volleyball, soccer and other action sports,” he said.
“Leveraging the proven model, we have a promising future, but motorsports will continue to be the foundation of our company.
“It’s not often we see businesses being started and built within the motorsports community and Racers360 is truly breaking the mold.”
This week on Double Stint, John Dagys and Ryan Myrehn recap a busy weekend of sports car racing including the SRO America event at Sonoma and the ELMS round at Spa. Then the guys delve into the ACO’s decision to run this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans without fans, the latest schedule changes, and more of the news of the week before wrapping up with listener questions and a preview of the upcoming weekend.
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Nick Foster will replace Daniel Gaunt in Eurasia Motorsport’s driver lineup for this weekend’s FIA World Endurance Championship round at Spa-Francorchamps.
Gaunt is unable to take part due to “travel complications from his native New Zealand” after originally being slated to drive.
Foster, who contested the 2017 WEC season with Porsche GTE-Am squad Gulf Racing, will step in to share the No. 35 Ligier JS P217 Gibson with Nobuya Yamanaka and ex-Formula 1 driver Roberto Merhi.
The Australian is already in Europe because of his role competing in the Jaguar I-PACE eTrophy series which is holding its concluding rounds in Berlin this week.
Spa won’t be Foster’s first encounter with Eurasia, having previously driven with the team in the 2019-20 Asian Le Mans Series.
However, it is not known if he will also have to take Gaunt’s spot at next month’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“We’re fortunate in having such a talented race driver in Nick Foster available to us at such short notice,” said Eurasia team principal Mark Goddard.
“In an ideal scenario, I would not want to call him in so late, but we are in a very fluid situation due to COVID-19 and the problems associated with the movement of people around the world.
“We at Eurasia are doing everything in our power to field a strong package and we hope that there will be no further hurdles for us to overcome over the coming week.
“Our plans for the 24 Hours of Le Mans next month remain on track, but we obviously must be mindful of the global situation.”
Eurasia will compete in the LMP2 class which is made up of ten entries for WEC’s return after the COVID-19 interruption.
Next month’s SRO America event at Watkins Glen International has been canceled, track officials confirmed on Monday, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Scheduled for Sept. 18-20, the event was to feature GT World Challenge America powered by AWS, Pirelli GT4 America, TC America and GT Sports Club competitors.
It is the third major motorsports event to be canceled at the track this year, following NASCAR and IMSA both calling off its races due to complications surrounding New York state mandates involving COVID-19 infections.
While yet to be confirmed by SRO America, the Watkins Glen round has been rumored to be replaced by an additional race at Circuit of The Americas, to be held on the same weekend.
COTA kicked off the season in March and was one of only two SRO events globally to have taken place this year prior to the onset of the pandemic.
WGI also confirmed that the IMSA-sanctioned Ferrari Challenge North America event has also been canceled for 2020.
Ticketholders will automatically receive a credit for the full amount of their purchase, plus an additional 20 percent of the total amount paid in their WGI account the week of August 17.
The credit can be applied to a future event in 2020 or 2021 at a NASCAR-owned track or towards the purchase of tickets at Watkins Glen International for 2021.
Porsche’s crop of factory drivers are positioning themselves for a possible future in prototype racing, despite the German brand not having formally confirmed a LMDh program.
Sportscar365 has learned that multiple factory drivers from its IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship squad have had talks with existing DPi teams about possible drives for the 2021 season.
Laurens Vanthoor, Earl Bamber, Nick Tandy and Fred Makowiecki could all theoretically be without rides in North America next year following Porsche’s decision to curtail its factory GT Le Mans class effort at the end of this year.
The inquiries could point towards a push from the German manufacturer to get its drivers top-level prototype experience prior to Porsche’s arrival in LMDh, which it has been evaluating.
Vanthoor, who has long expressed interest in prototype racing, admitted he ‘shot the idea’ of driving in DPi next year to Porsche’s head of factory motorsport Pascal Zurlinden although said he hadn’t received a reply.
The reigning GTLM champion admitted that “everything’s unclear” for him and his current co-drivers at the moment.
“It’s a situation where we don’t really know what’s going to happen,” Vanthoor said in a videoconference with media last month.
“For sure it’s no secret at all — the same for Earl — that our dream is to go LMDh in the future. But unfortunately that’s still a couple of years away.
“It’s very unclear. Every week you hear something else. I think Porsche doesn’t really know themselves [about LMDh].”
The Belgian said he would be open to a DPi drive next year, if given Porsche’s blessing.
Vanthoor has previous experience in LMP2 machinery, having made his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut with Michael Shank Racing in a Ligier JS P2 Honda.
MSR is one of a number of teams linked to possibly fielding Acura ARX-05 DPis next year amid Team Penske’s exit from the factory program.
“I would like to do DPi for sure,” Vanthoor said. “It’s a step to LDMh but I do feel that with everything happening, and things also changing at Porsche, the best shot for my future is at Porsche,
“Maybe I’ll have to go to a year of something that I’ve wanted to do a little bit less than what I dreamed of to, then hopefully do LMDh. I hope [Porsche] will able to tell me soon.
“In general the driver market at the moment is probably not very easy because we’re not the only program that’s stopping around the world and there’s a lot of good drivers around.”
Porsche LMDh Debut in 2022 ‘Not Realistic’
Zurlinden, meanwhile, has indicated that Porsche would not likely be ready to make its LMDh debut in 2022, should the manufacturer receive an official go-ahead on the program.
It would result in at least a two-year gap between the end of Porsche’s GTLM effort in the WeatherTech Championship and a possible LMDh effort that could launch in 2023.
Zurlinden stressed that a decision on LMDh has still not been made.
“Looking at the decision point of view, if we get a [board] decision around December, then if you want to race in January 2022 you would have to have a finished car by June , which is not so realistic,” he told Sportscar365. “For us, the timeline is independent to when the regulations will start.”
IMSA Denies Claims of LMDh Being Delayed to 2023
There has been mounting speculation that the rollout of the LMDh platform will be delayed until 2023, although IMSA President John Doonan has denied the claims that multiple team owners have indicated to Sportscar365 that the decision has already been made.
“We continue to hope that it might be possible for 2022,” Doonan said. “However, anybody looking at the news now is that the core auto industry, just like every other business on the planet, has been impacted.
“The market will speak, meaning the manufacturers will speak. I don’t think any of us at IMSA or the ACO are interested in drawing a line in the sand.”
Sportscar365 understands that the final LMDh regulations will be announced at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report