Racing News

Simraceway at Sebring

March saw the IMSA racing season take on Sebring International Raceway, a track that started as a US Army Air Force base during the second world war and moved on to host the first ever F1 US Grand Prix — but it’s mostly known for holding one of the top endurance races in the world.

 

The 12 hours of Sebring has been running since 1952 and is a top stop for any endurance racer. This challenging 17-turn track has it all — from punishing bumps and high speed sweepers to tight hairpins and perilous sections when the rain hits. Simraceway was well represented in the weekend with Michael Wheldon making his debut in the IMSA Pro Lites series, Matt Bell once again behind the wheel of the Stevenson Audi in GTD, as well as several drivers in the Continental Tire Series.

 

Here’s some updates on how the weekend went for them.

 

Matt Bell- Stevenson Racing Audi R8 LMS

Matt Bell

Matt Bell, teamed with Lawson Aschenbach and Dion von Moltke in the No. 9 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS for the 12 hour race.

 

A disappointing qualifying session saw the No. 9 machine start from 11th.To top that off, they also had to replace the gearbox the night before the race.

 

Race day for the 64th annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida dawned bright and clear. Unfortunately, the weather did not hold and made way for an uncharacteristically wet race day providing a unique challenge for the entire paddock, but one for which the Stevenson Audis were more than prepared.

 

Although the second round of IMSA WeatherTech Championship competition marked just the second outing for Stevenson in their new Audi machines, the 2015 IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Championship winning team proved its mettle as they fought through the changing conditions and sailed through a deluge with No. 9 Audi machine running in the top-10 as track conditions deteriorated to the point that IMSA red flagged the race for over two hours.

 

They showed strong pace early in the race and remained in podium contention for a majority of the endurance classic. Despite an afternoon deluge, all three drivers fought through it all and at a couple of points in the race led the field. Unfortunately, an engine issue with just under 3 hours remaining in the race forced the No. 9 machine back to the garage where the condition was diagnosed to be race-ending and the crew had to accept a 16th place finish.

 

Matt Bell said of his race – “Obviously this was not the night we were really hoping for. I was kind of still getting up to speed; I wasn’t as used to the track in the dry on the bumpy track. I was driving along and I got doored by a Lamborghini and got caught in some traffic and I was really on my own then. So I was driving through Turn 13 and everything was fine. Then I entered Turn 14 and the car went down on power. When I backed out of it, I looked in the rear-view camera and there was a huge flame coming out of the back pipe. It didn’t look like a big air-fueled fire so I knew the bodywork wasn’t on fire. I figured it was coming out of the exhaust, so I backed off a little bit, but I didn’t want to let the engine stall because I figured I was running on one bank. So I drove it back to the pits on one bank and tried to keep the speed up so the bodywork wouldn’t catch fire and brought it into the pit and they diagnosed it as a stuck injector which blew out the left side catalytic converter. So it’s unfortunate, but it is what it is. It’s a long race and we are still working out this car. The car was doing great in the wet. Honestly it’s odd that I was more comfortable in the wet than in the dry. So a bit of a disappointing day, but we will collect ourselves and head on to the next race.”

 

Michael Wheldon- Mazda Prototype Lites

Michael Wheldon

“We just finished rounds 1 & 2 of the Mazda Prototype Lites presented by Cooper Tire championship at Sebring International Raceway.  This was my first time in the Elan DP-02 with the Mazda MZR 2.0.  I have raced Pro Mazda before which is the same tub as the DP-02, but that’s where the similarities end.  The DP-02 has a wider track, and larger front tires.  The car also has a full tunnel design underneath which creates double the down-force.  All I can say is the car is an absolute blast to drive.

 

These first rounds were also my first time racing at Sebring.  Most told me it was bumpy, and the track definitely delivered.  I ran with World Speed Motorsports and we showed up last second to the race do to finalizing my funding.  We were behind the eight ball when we showed up.  Thankfully the team did an excellent job and we slowly found our pace and set up as we did testing.  A small gearbox problem ended our test day early, but we knew where we could find speed.  The next day was just practice, and we made more changed to the car and continued to find more pace.  Then came qualifying and we thought we had a good shot at a top five, however, a shortened qualifying do to a accident put us P9.  I knew it was going to be a good race though, as I was up 1.7 seconds when the red flags came up.  We defiantly had the pace of the front runners, just needed some track time.

 

Round 1 started and I passed three cars in the opening corners.  I then passed another a couple laps later, at this point I had some real estate to reel the top four in.  I put in the second fastest lap of the race here, and with three to go made a move for P4.  We were super happy with a P4, and even more exuberant with a front row start for round 2.  Round 2 has a 45 minute four car race for the lead.  After a couple of late yellows I took home P3 and my first podium in the series.  Such an incredible weekend to show up with no knowledge of the car or track and end up with a podium.”

 

Nick Galante with Spencer Pumpelly – Porsche Cayman Continental Challenge

Nick GalanteNick & Spencer were ready to capitalize on a runner-up finish at Daytona with another strong performance at Sebring. Hopes were high after practice where the No. 17 Legistics/RS1/RickieFowler.com Porsche Cayman seemed to handle the Florida heat better than the other ST entrants.

 

Nick Galante qualified the Cayman in seventh and was doing well at the start of the two-hour race when he reported trouble with the handling of the car. The crew determined that a slight bit of contact with another car had broken the Cayman’s sway bar drop link. This resulted in a large amount of oversteer.

 

Galante held on and brought the car in for its scheduled pit stop and driver change to Pumpelly. Not long after taking the reins, Pumpelly was going head-to-head with another Cayman when he suddenly lost the ABS.

 

“As a driver, when you assume you have ABS, you’re hitting the brake pedal pretty hard,” Pumpelly said. “In the Cayman, without ABS, all the brake bias goes to the rear. As I was trying to recycle the ignition and the master to get the ABS back, I got the car to shut off. It took me awhile to get the car going again; I was doing my best PC car impression out there. In the process, we lost a couple spots, but I nursed it home.”

 

Pumpelly crossed the line in 10th, taking home valuable championship points to bank with the team’s Daytona performance.

 

Tyler McQuarrie – Porsche Cayman GT4  Continental Challenge

Tyler McQuarrie

Tyler took a week off from jumping trucks in the Robby Gordon Stadium Truck Series to compete in his first Continental Tire series race of 2016 with the CJ Wilson Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 alongside teammate Till Bechtolscheimer. After Till started a fine 6th place, Tyler took over for the closing stint & was involved in a tight battle for 3rd but wasn’t able to make a move in the last laps and had to settle for 5th place in the end.

 

 

Greg Liefooghe – Porsche Cayman Continental Challenge

Greg Liefooghe“Our race went well with a P8. We got a lot of points to currently hold 4th in the standings and it sets us up for a good start of the championship. My co-driver, Ari, is making big strides every race in his first pro season and having only started racing a little over a year ago. He drove from P17 to P13 which is very good and proves our progression is on target. The guys at Next Level European did a great pit stop and I got out in 11th. From there it was a survival race with the track being as hot and greasy as it had been all week. Up next is our home race at Laguna, we know the MX5s will be out of touch but we’ll shoot for a win in the Non-mx5 class.”

 

Nico Rondet / Jim McGuire- Audi S3 Continental Challenge

Nico Rondet

“We had high hopes to return to Sebring with a much improved Audi S3… and it was, but we still were having some minor transmission issues, and the biggest problem, is that right now, our Audi is just too slow. The closest to the front we could get was about 2.5 seconds.

 

Then in Qualifying, Jim was surprised by one of the Mazdas’ which was off in turn 1, as he tried to avoid it, he lost the car, and ended up hitting the wall, hard enough that we could not take the start the next day. Jim was a little bit sore, but mostly fine. He did succeed in avoiding the stranded Justin Piccitel who he would have T-boned!

 

 

Not what we were hoping for, but we will fight another day!”

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

MattBell

“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 Legistics.net Porsche Cayman
  • Result: 2nd Place ST Continental Tire Challenge Series

NickGalante

“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

NicoRondet

“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

GregLiefooghe

“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!”

 

 

IndyCar Lights Up Sonoma

The 10th GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma took place at our home track of Sonoma Raceway last weekend, with Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon securing his first win at the venue since 2007, following a chaotic climax to the race. As life gets back to normal here in beautiful Wine Country, the IndyCar Series season marches on to its conclusion on Saturday at Auto Club Speedway. We wish the best of luck to all drivers.

 

Ever wondered how it feels to pilot an open-wheel racer? Check out our range of courses featuring our industry-leading Lola SRW F3 car, or find out about our low-cost Formula 3 series, where you can race for as little as $1,295!

PDC Rules the Track!

There was a distinctly Simraceway flavor to the weekend’s racing with uber-talented PDC alumni Dane Cameron (TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, GTD class) and Gabby Chaves (Indy Lights Championship) both securing significant victories. The wins leave Cameron tied for the lead in the Drivers’ Championship and hands Chaves his first ever Indy Lights title. Congratulations to them!

 

If that wasn’t enough, the weekend also saw an impressive second-in-class (behind Cameron) for Jeff Westphal and a P3 for Greg Liefooghe (Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, ST class), both from the PDC’s world-class pool of instructors.

 

To follow in the foosteps of Dane and Gabby, check out our current courses and programs now!

PDC’s Matt Bell Wins in Canada

Simraceway Performance Driving Center instructor Matt Bell and his co-driver Andy Lally secured a hard-fought victory in round 7 of the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on Saturday.

 

The pair guided their No. 9 Stevenson Automotive Group Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R from third on the grid to an awesome victory which leaves Matt handily-placed in the GS class driver standings as he aims to surpass his 2nd place finishes in 2012 and 2013.

Superkarts! USA Returns to Sonoma

SKUSA headed back to Sonoma in style last weekend with the Simraceway Performance Karting Center hosting Round 4 of the California ProKart Challenge. With over 130 entrants, including 25 S1 Class drivers, and hundreds more watching, two beautiful Californian days saw a host of fiercely-fought, exciting contests. Read on to find out more!

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PDC Instructor Triumphs in Motor City

Simraceway Performance Driving Center instructor Jeff Westphal grabbed an impressive GTD class victory in the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic on Belle Isle in Detroit, Michigan, on Saturday.

 

Along with team-mate Alessandro Balzan, Jeff drove his no. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia to victory from sixth on the grid to go one better than the pair had managed in the corresponding race the previous season.

 

Westphal and Balzan currently lie joint sixth in the Tudor United Sportscar Championship GTD driver standings.

Simraceway Pro Driver Dario Franchitti Retires from Racing

Four-time IndyCar champion and triple winner of the Indianapolis 500, Dario Franchitti announced yesterday that he would be retiring from professional motorsport due to medical concerns resulting from his crash in Houston. As someone we’ve worked with closely over the last few years, that news provokes a range of emotions.

 

 

As racing fans, we share in the sadness that will be felt across the entire sport–we took immense pleasure from his continued successes and even had the privilege of sharing in some of his biggest victories.

 

[embed width=”620″ height=”349″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55_MWwxM3EU[/embed]

 

However, having also been lucky enough to get to know the man behind the legend, we’re thankful that Dario is taking a route that will keep him out of harm’s way in the future.

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Circuit of The Americas Comes Full Circle

Simraceway and Circuit of The Americas have always enjoyed a close relationship–we even managed to launch our version of the course three weeks before its real gates swung open–so, on the eve of its second US GP, we’re naturally delighted that the first purpose-built Grand Prix facility in the U.S. has been such a hit in its first year.

 

Read on to find out more about COTA’s successful first twelve months–in both the virtual and real worlds!

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Allan McNish Claims his First WEC Title!

It feels like we’re always congratulating Simraceway pro driver Allan McNish. But that’s mainly because he always seems to be winning things!

 

The year opened with him claiming the oldest trophy in British motor racing, the RAC Tourist Trophy, at Silverstone. Then he took his third 24 Hours of Le Mans win. Now, thanks to securing third place at Shanghai alongside teammates Tom Kristensen and Loïc Duval, the uber-talented Scot has got his hands on his very first FIA World Endurance Championship.

 

We received a kind note from Allan yesterday, talking of the “warm feeling” his first world championship title had brought him. In truth, it simply couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. Congrats Allan, from everybody at Simraceway!

 

Palatov Motorsport’s Fire-Breathing D4PPS Wins at Pikes Peak

According to Wikipedia, “Pikes Peak International Hill Climb…is an annual automobile and motorcycle hill climb to the summit of Pikes Peak in Colorado” on a track that “measures 12.42 miles (19.99 km) over 156 turns, climbing 4,720 ft (1,440 m) from the start at Mile 7 on Pikes Peak Highway, to the finish at 14,110 ft (4,300 m), on grades averaging 7%.”

 

While completely accurate, what that selection of stats fails to convey is just how spine-chillingly fearsome this popular event is. Filled with hardcore, take-no-prisoners corners that are often taken at insane speeds, its drivers are seemingly unperturbed by its blood-curdling collection of blind exits and run-off areas that would be more accurately described as “fall-off areas”.

 

When Ernest Hemingway observed there were “but three true sports – bullfighting, mountain climbing, and motor-racing”, it’s doubtful he was aware there was actually an event fusing two of those endeavors into one challenging contest. And it’s the enormity of this challenge that brings so many contestants to the mountains of Colorado each year. This year, our good friends at Palatov Motorsport decided to take up the challenge–and this is our account of how they got on.

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Allan McNish on Surviving Le Mans

The 24 Hours of Le Mans is one of the most extreme tests of fitness, control, and concentration an athlete can experience. In this video, Allan provides a driver’s-eye-view of how to survive a 24-hour race.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBL0XeCYwj4&feature=player_embedded

Simraceway–Helping Shape the Future of Motorsport

After an encouraging 2011-12 season, Simraceway has once again teamed up with the Formula SAE team at UC Berkeley to help them with their 2012-13 entry in the prestigious contest designed to unearth the engineers of the future. We’ll be playing an active role in helping the team develop their new car as well as supplying the tools and knowledge to enable them to find and train their drivers.

To experience first-hand the product of last year’s partnership, you can purchase the FSAE B11 (nicknamed “Vader”) here for mere pocket change. To find out how this season’s preparations are going, carry on reading as we highlight the team’s journey right up to the final in Nebraska.

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Radio Le Mans and Simraceway Present the 80th 24 Hours of Le Mans

We’re especially excited about this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, not only because it marks the 80th anniversary of the famous endurance race, but also because we’ll be doing our bit to get racing fans closer to the action thanks to Simraceway’s sponsorship of Radio Le Mans’ live coverage.

Radio Le Mans, featuring John Hindhaugh–the voice of sports car racing–is the official English language broadcaster at the Circuit de la Sarthe and some 90,000 fans are expected to tune into 91.2 FM during the action, relying on John and the team to keep them fully up-to-speed with events both on and off the track.

For those not fortunate enough to attend the race, meanwhile, the station’s coverage is also available online at www.radiolemans.com and can be heard live in the US on Sirius and XM Satellite Radio.

As an official partner, Simraceway will also be broadcasting the coverage on its Livestream channel, so make sure to tune in to hear the best of the action.

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Download Your Simraceway 24 Hours of Le Mans Spotter Guide Now!

Here at Simraceway we’ve been busy assembling the top talent in motorsport–and that goes well beyond our pro drivers.

Our Creative Director, Andy Blackmore, is well known in racing circles for both his iconic livery designs and his popular Spotter Guides which have proved an essential and colourful companion to races and series worldwide.

Produced in association with competing teams, his guides are a must-have amongst the motorsport community and are even used by commentary teams to help them call the action.

So, with Le Mans almost upon us, we’re proud to bring you the Simraceway 24 Hours of Le Mans Spotter Guide 2012.

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Franchitti Reflects on an Amazing Win

As you may have seen in Dario Franchitti’s post-qualifying interview with Simraceway, he was a little concerned about the pace of the team after only making 16th place on the grid for this year’s Indy 500. It looked like he would have an uphill battle on his hands before the race, but the team–and the guys at Honda–had been working hard behind the scenes.

They brought some developments to the engine just in time and, by the time race day came around, the car felt quicker, enabling Dario to produce consistently fast laps as he closed on the front runners and, ultimately, took the checkered flag. Read on to discover how Dario himself saw things unfold in our exclusive post-race video!

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Simraceway–Three in a Row at the Indy 500?

With the world-famous Indianapolis 500 only a few days away, our good friend Dario Franchitti is deep in preparation for the monumental event. So whilst Dario gets himself geared up to try and make it three-in-a-row for Simraceway, we’ve decided to take a look back at the last two Indy 500 races that ended so triumphantly for our drivers.

 

2010: Dario at the Double

Franchitti’s 2010 win, the second time he’d taken top spot at the prestigious race, saw Wheldon finishing in 2nd place, completing a fantastic one-two result for our pro drivers.

Dario had qualified an impressive 3rd on the grid. For him it was all about consistency, staying with the leaders, and taking the lead when the time was right. Dan, meanwhile, had a very different time of it. He qualified down in 18th position but, during the course of an eventful race, was able to climb an amazing 16 places with consistent quick laps and smart overtaking moves. Very different approaches then but, in the end, the two good friends were only separated by one place.

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