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Spotlight on Simraceway F3 Racer Alex Coigny

Last weekend Alex Coigny, a frequent racer in our Simraceway F3 series and 5th place finisher in the F3 Winter Series Championship, headed back to his home country of Switzerland to begin his European racing schedule for 2016 in the VdeV European GT Sportscar Championship.


Alex in the Cockpit, obviously trying to remember the wise words of Tom Dyer

Alex in the Cockpit, obviously trying to remember the wise words of Tom Dyer

The VdeV is an endurance series that frequents the top racing tracks throughout Europe. The team will also be contesting several rounds of the International Endurance series for races of 12-24 hours in length. Alex will be driving for GPC Motorsport with fellow Swiss driver I’Alexander in a purpose built GT prototype car called a Vortex with a Corvette power plant that nearly matches the pace of the current top line GT3 cars in its debut race weekend! The first race was at Barcelona, which would be familiar to most race fans as the home of F1’s pre-season test days just a few weeks ago.


Alex ran the first and last stints which included some slippery wet weather conditions. He was able to take the car to the checkered flag but unfortunately, due to some technical issues causing some extensive time spent on pit lane, a good result was not forthcoming. The team is determined to get these issues sorted before the next race at Le Mans Bugatti course in April as the potential of the car was already apparent. Also, watch out for another familiar face in the car later on in the year as Simraceway’s very own Tom Dyer will be teaming up with Alex and the GPC team in the 24 hour race at Paul Ricard in July. We certainly wish Alex the very best of luck and look forward to seeing him back in the F3 cockpit  here at Sonoma at the 1st race of the F3 Summer Series in May.


Simraceway Drivers at Daytona Speedweeks 2016!

The end of January heralds the start of the professional racing year as Daytona Speedweeks kicked off with the IMSA Continental Tire Challenge and the Daytona 24 hours. Simraceway Alumni and instructors were well represented and achieved some fantastic results as well as some heartbreaking moments but that, as they say in the biz, is motor racing. Fresh off the plane we gathered together some notes from the drivers about their first races of the season.


Matt Bell

  • One of our top instructors driving the #6 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS GT3
  • Result: 15th place GTD IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship


“It’s always tense for a team going into the 24 Hours of Daytona. It’s not only the longest race of the year, but it’s also the first. The series offers the “Roar Before the 24” sanctioned test a few weeks prior, but there’s always that extra weight on every team member heading into the big event. That weight was a few tons heavier than usual for us at Stevenson Motorsport, as it was our first race back in the main series, and our first event with our new Audi R8 LMS GTD, ‘Claudia.’


For me, the event signaled the first time I would be racing closely with Audi Sport, a brand with which I’ve been involved with and a fan of for a very long time. I have worked at the Audi sportscar experience in Sonoma since 2008, my personal car is an Audi, my parents’ personal cars are Audis, and my earliest memory of a sound I truly fell in love with was the bark of an Audi 5-cylinder. I am a huge fan of the company, and I consider it a great honor to be finally working with them at the race track. The new R8 LMS is fantastic.


The 2016 Balance of Performance adjustment was such that the R8 LMS was between 7 and 12mph slower than the Lamborghini. A similar deficit was experienced on the oval to the Porsche and Ferrari. We were very good on the infield, despite having very little actual dry practice time to tune and tweak the car, but it was not going to get us within 2 seconds per lap of the fastest cars in our class.


With some good strategic calls and lightning quick pit stops, we were briefly leading our class, averaging out top-10 for most of the race through the night. With the exception of a blown tire up against the wall exiting NASCAR Turn 2 — which is exactly as scary as it sounds, by the way — we were inch perfect in operation. By early morning, however, the field had caught up. The Silver-rated drivers had their required time completed and the now pro-driven GTD cars really started to show what they could do. Our consistency was no longer our advantage. The left-right punch that really worked us down the score board was the combination of a left rear wheel that had welded itself to the hub and an impact with the leading prototype car in Turn 5 on the right rear. This sent me back to the garage and the fix involved most of the Audi Sport Customer Racing employees and nearly our entire team. It was the single most impressive thing I have seen done in a Daytona garage. The left rear was being cut off using a Sawzall, the two front brakes were being replaced, and the right rear suspension damage was being mended. The whole job was done in under 10 minutes, and it involved some of the best inter-teamwork I’ve ever experienced. One of the real stars of the show, in my opinion, was one of our German techs, Philip Riedel. He is a bear of a man, and he went “Hulk Smash” on the task of working on all four corners of our Audi. From throwing two halves of a severed wheel the length of the garage, the bare hand spreading of brake calipers, to the lifting and relocating of an armored golf cart, he was truly a key player in getting our car fixed and back on track.


By the end of the race, we were down in 15th place, losing our 14th spot to a Lamborghini driven by Townsend Bell, running in the 1:45 range. Our fast lap of the race was a high 1:47. We were outclassed by the other GT3 cars, and the victory had by the Audi R8 LMS of Magnus Racing proved that had we just kept our noses clean and maybe with a little extra luck, we could have taken home some watches. It was a bitter defeat, but we learned invaluable lessons. Magnus and the rest of the field will be strong contenders the rest of the season, but we are very confident on what our team can do given nine more races. This team is a remarkable one. They are incredibly professional, they work both as a team and a family to complete complex tasks, they work off each others’ personalities, and more than anything, they treat every day at the track as a school day. I look forward to Sebring, where Andrew and Robin will be split from Lawson and I as we were last year, to see if we can repeat our collective success we’ve had the last couple years. On to the next one!”


Nick Galante

  • Also came through Simraceway’s kart & F3 series, and now an instructor for us. Driving the #17 RS1 Porsche Cayman
  • Result: 2nd Place ST Continental Tire Challenge Series


“I had a fun weekend getting to know the car.  Qualifying was tough for me in a new car in the wet. Basically the first dry laps I drove in that car was when I took the green flag. Half way through my stint I started developing a great relationship with her and was feeling comfortable. I worked my way from starting 14th to running 6th. We had a perfect driver change when we pit halfway through during the caution. We were held up waiting on fuel to finish, not knowing if it was full as the fill light was broken. Spencer Pumpelly (teammate) drove a great last half and pushed toward the front”.


Nico Rondet

  • Simraceways F3 Chief Instructor driving with our F3 series driver and Turn 1 Club member Jim McGuire in the Aero Paint Audi S3 Quattro #74 for Compass 360 racing.
  • Result: DNF ST Continental Tire Challenge Series


“This year, in Daytona, the weather was a pleasant surprise for us. It rained for every session leading into the race, but unfortunately, the race itself was completely dry and all of our speed dried out! We have the dominant car in the wet, but although we have improved quite a bit from last year, we are still lagging a bit in the dry.

Jim did a brilliant job and qualified 3rd for the first Continental Challenge rain qualifying ever. Unfortunately, almost right after the start, the transmission developed a problem and it seems like our clutch started to slip, oddly enough only in the left hand corners. Jim had a hard time to cope with it at first and dropped pretty fast into the rankings. After I got in the car, I had more pace but it was really hard to try to manage that clutch slippage, yet keep pushing hard. Eventually, and unrelated, it seems like we lost a coolant hose and the engine went up in smoke. I hope that I have saved it by stopping as quickly as I could do safely, but we will see.

Obviously not the way we wanted to start the 2016 season, but still, despite the result, our team is working better, our Audi S3 is a better race car, and we will keep pushing forward steadily!”


Greg Liefooghe

  • Came through Simraceways kart & F3 series and now an instructor driving the #83 Next Level European Red Line Porsche Cayman
  • Result: 5th place ST Continental Tire Challenge Series


“It was great to be back in the #83 Red Line Oil / Next Level European. Daytona has always been good to me over the years with 4 podiums and 2 top 5’s in the last 6 years, and the trend was kept intact this year as well. We ended 5th after a customary Daytona drafting fight all the way to the checkered flag. It’s always great to race at that track as each and every corner is a passing zone which makes it one of the most fun on the calendar.

I feel good about the rest of the season as well. It was my co-driver’s first ever pro race after only starting racing about a year ago and he did a great job. We will keep improving over the season. I’m looking forward to the next round at Sebring where we won last year!”



Enjoying the Bay Area coast for a good cause — The California Gold Rallye


The Simraceway Performance Driving School was honored to be invited to attend the 2nd Annual California Gold Rallye on October 16th by the Friends of Laguna Honda (FLH) which provides programs and equipment to enhance the quality of life for the residents of Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center. With Audi of America’s kind permission, we brought our top gun from the Audi sportscar experience fleet, the R8 V10 Competition—the fastest R8 to come off the line. With its 570hp, this beast can run all the way up to 200mph! Not that we could use all that speed since this was more of a celebration of motoring enthusiasts taking advantage of the beautiful winding roads up the coast of Northern California’s Wine Country for a very good cause rather than a remake of the gumball rally.


From classic Porsche 911’s to Ferrari F12’s, the train turned heads wherever it went. The group started out at the bay and drove out to the coast, then headed north past the renowned Nick’s Cove Restaurant. Then it was on to a local secret sweet spot: Wild Flour Bakery, where the cars made a lovely picture in the forecourt as drivers and passengers stopped for a little espresso and fresh baked pastry. Some car swapping incurred as the group set off in search of the final stop at Landmark Winery, a top tier winery & vineyard Located at the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains.


Put on by the venerable host and organizer Porter Felton, we hope this event can grow and grow in the years to come as we never want to miss an opportunity to talk cars and share our automotive passion whilst taking on the sweeping and undulating roads of the bay area in the name of a great charity. What could be better!


Simraceway Performance Driving Center Hosts Autoweek Magazine


IMG_3457In its second year now, the Simraceway Performance Driving Center was proud to host the Autoweek Fantasy Camp where 20 individuals got to live the pampered life of an automotive journalist. 10 cars were invited to the party: the Lexus IS-F, BMW M3, Dodge Charger Hellcat, Cadillac ATS, Chevrolet SS, Audi S4, Mercedes Benz C400, Chrysler 300C & Acura TLX. Ganassi Racing’s dynamic duo Scott Pruett & Joey Hand were also there to offer some fun racing stories as well as some wild rides in the Lexus RC-F.


IMG_6050Starting with a street drive through the winding hills and valleys of Sonoma/Napa, the “editors for a day” rotated through the cars to get a good feel for each car. They ended up at Simraceway Performance Driving Center at Sonoma Raceway to start the serious business of really putting these cars to the test. Here our instructors went along for the ride, helping with track and driving tips as they drove the cars on our performance Autocross as well as the raceway itself, all the while writing their thoughts on how each one stacked up against each other. Some serious rubber was burned, especially in the Dodge Charger Hellcat as horsepower doesn’t suck, where no one could resist holding that throttle all the way to the floor (and the noise wasn’t half bad either)! This was a unique opportunity that everyone seemed to have a ball being a part of. Even our instructors seemed to find some new cars they’d like to add to their garage. After a fantastic day of endless car talk and fuel burning fun, they headed over to Aston Martin headquarters at our friends TRG’s raceshop & winery. We are already looking forward to next year’s program, so stay tuned to Autoweek to see if you can be one of the lucky ones in 2016!

—Paul Charsley


Pictures from the day:

IndyCar at Sonoma — the Simraceway Performance Driving Center Way

Indycar Collage 1There’s no better seat in the house than inside turn 1 at Sonoma Raceway when the green flag drops for the IZOD IndyCar series. As the drivers jostle side-by-side up the hill to the always eventful turn 2, the smell of fuel and scraping under trays & sounds of higher powered V6 Turbos is something you can’t get through a TV screen—and that’s exactly what guests of Simraceway Performance Driving Center’s IndyCar VIP Party got to experience last week as the IndyCar series raced the penultimate round of the 2014 season. And what a race it was, possibly the best ever in the many seasons the IndyCars have been coming here, culminating with the drama of a pass with 2 laps to go to crown Scott Dixon the winner!


From champagne to canapés, and sports cars to skyjumpers, there was always plenty going on during the day. Whether you were coming in fresh from the Audi sportcar experience’s polo match and seeing the spectacle of high speed formula cars for the first time, or one of the F3 series championship competitors reliving your own moments out on the 2.5 mile roller coaster that is Sonoma Raceway.


A pre-race chat hosted by Simraceway chief instructor Nico Rondet and program manager/professional auto racing podcaster Paul Charsley covering IndyCar rules, facts, strategies and track talk prepared new and old fans. There was also Simraceway simulators on hand to give everyone a feel for what it’s like to be out on the big track as well the full gamut of Simraceway and Audi sportscar experience’s fleet of performance and race cars to get up close and personal too. But for sure the most popular “seat” was on your tippy toes and against the fence as the IndyCar warriors thundered by lap after lap.


Announcing The Audi sportscar experience San Francisco International Polo Classic

POLOSF, Inc. and the Audi sportscar experience are putting on an international polo tournament and event in the Bay Area next month. The San Francisco International Polo Classic, which will take place on the weekend of August 2nd-3rd, will feature a range of events dedicated to horses and horsepower.   The event, which marks the re-opening of the Cerro Pampa Polo Fields, in Petaluma, California, will include top-class matches featuring polo teams from Panama, China, Argentina, Haiti, and the United States. The ASCE’s select fleet of Audi S, RS and R models—including  range-topping 2014 R8 supercars—will also be on hand for guests who prefer their horsepower to come from man-made means!


For more information check out the dedicated Facebook page.


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