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Jake Eidson has secured a full-season drive in the 2017 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama, in part through the expanded IMSA Hurley Haywood GT3 Cup Scholarship from the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) and supported by Porsche and Yokohama.

Eidson, 21, from Littleton, Colorado, will begin the 2017 season March 15-17 at Sebring International Raceway during the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida event week. He will drive in the Platinum Cup class for defending Platinum Cup Team Champions Kelly-Moss Road and Race.

“The support from IMSA, Porsche and Yokohama made the difference of whether or not I could race this season,” Eidson said. “Their support means everything. I’m extremely excited and thankful for everything they have provided.

“It’s a big expectation to live up to, working with Kelly-Moss. They have a very successful history, and all they do is win. That’s our goal, too. They do everything they can to be competitive, and that’s all you can expect from a team.”

Aspiring racers between the ages of 16 and 25, with no previous full-time Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama experience, are eligible to earn the scholarship. Successful candidates must have a strong desire to compete in the series, outstanding previous race results and proven on-track potential in junior racing categories, and the ability to build a compelling business plan for securing the remaining funding needed to compete in a full season of the IMSA-sanctioned Single-Make Series.

Eidson will receive from IMSA, with support from Porsche and Yokohama, these rewards with a combined value of approximately $70,000:

 

The scholarship is named after legendary sports car driver Hurley Haywood, one of the most accomplished sports car endurance racers in history. He earned five overall victories at the Rolex 24 At Daytona, three victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and two wins at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida – all in Porsches – during his remarkable driving career, which spanned five decades.

Haywood also was a mainstay of the illustrious Brumos Porsche team as a driver and a leader for more than four decades. He currently serves as the chief driving instructor at the Porsche Sport Driving School at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama.

“It was great just to talk with Hurley Haywood,” Eidson said of receiving notification from Haywood of winning the Scholarship. “I know about his very, very rich history in sports car racing and with Porsche. It was overwhelming in a good way and an experience I’ll never forget.”

Eidson is moving to sports cars full time in 2017 after an outstanding career in junior open-wheel formulas. He finished second in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda in 2015 after placing third in the series in 2014. He earned six victories and 22 overall podium finishes in his two seasons in the competitive championship.

After a successful karting career, American-Australian Eidson started in open-wheel formula car racing in 2011 in the New South Wales Formula Ford 1600 championship. He also raced in the United States in Skip Barber competition, winning the Winter Series championship in 2011, 2012 and 2013, and the Summer Series championship in 2012.

Those strong results helped Eidson earn a Team USA Scholarship to compete in the Formula Ford Festival and Walter Hayes Trophy events in 2013 in England. He finished fifth out of 50 entries in the Festival and seventh out of 110 entries in the Hayes Trophy.

Eidson made his first and only sports car start in August 2016 at Road America in the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama, finishing an impressive second behind series champion Lazare in both rounds while driving for Kelly-Moss Road and Race.

“Jake showed tremendous talent in his only Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama race weekend last season, racing among the quickest, most skilled veterans of the series,” said Randy Hembrey, IMSA senior series manager, Development and Single-Make Series. “We’re happy he has decided to advance his career in the IMSA paddock with assistance from the IMSA Hurley Haywood GT3 Cup Scholarship. The Scholarship has reached a new level this season with the inclusion of and support from the legendary Hurley Haywood, who has played such an integral role in the development of countless Porsche drivers. We’re also grateful for the addition of more commercial partners, adding even more value to the Scholarship program.”

Said Jens Walther, president and CEO of Porsche Motorsport North America: “The Hurley Haywood Scholarship is an exciting addition to the opportunities being offered through the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama series. IMSA has cast a broad net over the sports’ feeder systems and found a true gem in Jake Eidson. His experience and success in open-wheel racing will serve him well in our intensely competitive one-make series and in the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car. We wish him well as the first recipient to receive this honor.”

Eidson is the first recipient of the IMSA Hurley Haywood GT3 Cup Scholarship, which was expanded from a program IMSA, Porsche and Yokohama started in 2014. Previous IMSA Scholarship recipients were Victor Gomez IV (2016), Elliott Skeer (2015) and Michael Lewis (2014), all of whom remain active in North American sports car racing.

“Support of this scholarship is one of the cornerstones of Yokohama’s deep commitment to motorsports and development of racing talent in North America, and we’re honored to be associated starting this year with a legend like Hurley Haywood,” Yokohama Tire Corporation Motorsports Manager Duane Sampson said. “Jake proved last August at Road America that he will be a regular threat for victories and the Platinum Cup championship this season, and we’re eager to see his move to sports cars blossom in this competitive, exciting championship.”

Kelly-Moss Road and Race, based in Madison, Wisconsin, is one of the most successful teams in the 12-year history of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama. The team won the Platinum Cup championship in 2014 and 2016, with drivers Colin Thompson and Jesse Lazare capturing the Platinum Cup Drivers Championship in 2014 and 2016, respectively.

“We were able to put a single IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama event together last year for Jake, and I was really impressed with him, not just as a driver but as a quality young man,” said Jeff Stone, Kelly-Moss Road and Race president. “Ever since then we have been working hard to put him in a position to contend for the Platinum Cup championship with KMR in 2017

“I am very excited to work with Jake in a multi-year program to help him become a Porsche professional driver. We have been blessed to work with some very special young drivers over the years, most recently with Colin Thompson for the Platinum Cup championship in 2014 and with Jesse Lazare for the 2016 championship. I believe with a lot of hard work from Jake and the whole team, we have a great shot at the championship again in 2017.”

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VISIT FLORIDA Racing took delivery of its new Gibson-powered Riley Technologies Mk. 30 on Saturday as the team put the brand new LMP2 machine through its paces at Carolina Motorsports Park.

 

Both Marc Goossens and Renger van der Zande, who were recently announced as VISIT FLORIDA Racing’s full-time drivers for the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship campaign, were on hand to take their first laps in the car. 

 

IMSA has established all-new regulations for the top Prototype class in IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship competition, which will officially launch with the Rolex 24 At Daytona on January 28-29.

 

Saturday’s test served as an initial shakedown for the Daytona Beach-based team prior to the first official IMSA outing next week at Daytona International Speedway.

 

VISIT FLORIDA Racing will take part in an IMSA open test on December 13 and 14 in preparation for the 2017 season. The new season officially kicks off with the annual Roar Before the 24 at Daytona International Speedway January 6-8.

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Legendary open-wheel racer Dario Franchitti, who won three Indianapolis 500s as well as the 2008 Rolex 24 At Daytona, will serve as Grand Marshal for the 55th Rolex 24 At Daytona IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship on Jan. 28-29 at Daytona International Speedway. 

Franchitti will deliver the command “Drivers, start your engines” for North America’s most prestigious sports car event.

“We’re honored to have Dario Franchitti serve as the Grand Marshal for the 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona,” Daytona International Speedway President Chip Wile said. “Dario has had a decorated career in open-wheel racing and conquered sports car racing’s grueling twice-around-the-clock challenge in 2008. Fans and competitors are looking forward to his starting command as we kick off Speedweeks 2017.”

A native of Scotland, Franchitti captured four IndyCar Series championships (2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011) as well as three Indianapolis 500s (2007, 2010 and 2012). Overall, Franchitti has 265 starts in IndyCar racing with 31 wins and 33 poles. 

In the 2008 Rolex 24, Franchitti and co-drivers Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas and Juan Pablo Montoya captured the overall victory by a margin of two laps driving for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Franchitti also has a class win in the 12 Hours of Sebring. 

Franchitti retired from competition in 2013 but is still active in the sport, serving as a team advisor for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.

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With the city of Detroit being widely known as “The Automotive Capital of the World,” it is only fitting that North America’s premier sports car racing series visits the Raceway at Belle Isle Park each year.

 

Nicknamed the “Jewel of Detroit,” Belle Isle is a 982-acre island in the middle of the Detroit River managed as a natural, yet recreational state park for people to visit. The island itself is owned by the city of Detroit, while the Penske Corporation, led by racing legend Roger Penske, works with city officials to host the annual Detroit Grand Prix.

 

The Chevrolet Sports Car Classic featuring the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is one of two street-circuit races on the IMSA schedule, and Belle Isle Park is one of the only places in the Continental United States where one actually looks south to see Canada. Windsor, Ontario is just a stone’s throw from the island, making this event particularly popular with Canadian fans.

 

“We’re truly an international event because a good percentage of our attendees are from Canada,” said Bud Denker, executive vice president at Penske Corporation. “It’s a very important place for IMSA to race at because you’re right in the bullseye of an automotive world. All the competitors have a great deal of pride coming into Detroit and winning here because of how important this city is to the automotive history that we have.”

 

The Raceway at Belle Isle is unique in that the 2.35-mile road course is constructed and taken down each year as part of a lengthy process that also must respect the island’s true purpose as a natural resource.

 

“It's a pretty complex task because we have to allow people access to the island almost the entire time we’re building it,” Denker explained. “It takes us eight weeks to build the infrastructure involved- the fencing, the barrier walls, the suites, the grandstands- all those things that are required of a world-class event such as ours.”

 

The take-down time though, is not nearly as long.

 

“Three weeks after the race, we have one of the largest fireworks shows in the country in the middle of our river, and Belle Isle is required to house about 100,000 people to watch the fireworks,” Denker said. “We have three weeks after the event to ensure its return to its owners, which are the people of the state of Michigan.”

 

 

HISTORY

 

Following the Civil War era, American landscape architecture began to change and Frederick Law Olmsted was the leader of the movement. Olmsted, the father or American landscape architecture, became famous for designing New York’s Central Park and Boston’s Emerald Necklace, but he also influenced the layout of Belle Isle Park.

 

The park incorporates many elements specific to Olmsted’s other designs, including the extent of development throughout the island. The western side of Belle Isle Park houses the James Scott Fountain, a casino for events, an aquarium, a conservatory and in June each year, the Detroit Grand Prix. Yet as one moves to the eastern side of the park, development begins to taper off, allowing part of the island to remain in a natural state as intended.

 

Auto racing in Detroit began in the 1980s with Formula 1, but originally took place in the streets of downtown until moving to the island in 1992. CART/Champ Car races continued to be held on Belle Isle throughout the 1990s but ceased in 2001.

 

In 2006, Roger Penske teamed up with the Downtown Detroit Partnership, determined to bring racing back to the automotive city. The American Le Mans Series and the IndyCar Series were featured in the return until 2008 when the economy declined and forced the event to close again.

 

However, the Detroit Grand Prix returned bigger and better than ever in 2012 and has continued ever since, with millions of dollars being brought into the city each year as a result of the event.

 

“This event will bring about $40 million in benefits to our city,” said Denker. “Besides the stage on television that people can see how beautiful our island is and how beautiful our waterfront is, having that showcased to the world is very important to us. Our city is on the rise and this race at Belle Isle, including the IMSA series, is one more way for us to castoff the perceptions of the past and to show the future of our city.”

 

DRIVER PERSPECTIVE

 

Ozz Negri Jr., Michael Shank Racing driver: “Starting from when you go to the island and then you walk to the paddock, everything is immaculate. It’s so well done. I would say it’s probably one of the hardest street courses in the world because of the layout and the characteristic of the surface. At Detroit, there are no long straights. You’re busy all the time and you’re bouncing in the car. Physically, you’ve got to be in top shape and be focused. There’s absolutely zero room for mistake. You go there and win the race and either your manufacturer is from there or if it’s not, then you’ve just beaten a manufacturer from there. There’s definitely a little bit of spice with this race which comes with a little bit of pressure as well. It’s one of my favorite, if not my favorite, street tracks.”

 

TRACK PERSPECTIVE

 

Turn 1, Front Stretch: The view from the top of the grandstands between Turns 1 and 2 is one of the most iconic scenes from the Belle Isle Grand Prix. Cars racing down the short front straightaway are almost secondary to the picturesque Detroit skyline, including General Motors’ Renaissance Center headquarters, prominently centered in the background.     

Turn 3: The entry to Turn 3 represents the heaviest braking zone on the entire circuit, and as such, it is one of the most prevalent locations for passes to occur. Drivers must reach deep down for courage to either dive down the inside or nail the perfect line through the corner to get a solid run on exit.

Turns 7 – 11, Inner Loop: Drivers exit the second-fastest section and enter the most technical series of corners of the circuit. Fans standing on the outside of Turn 8 are able to score a great view of the transition from heavy braking to throttle and back to heavy braking that is required to navigate these turns.

 

         

 

 

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