GRAND-AM gets back to work at Watkins Glen

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With the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the rear view mirror, the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series contingent has made its way to venerable Watkins Glen International for one of its longer races of the year.

Saturday morning rains brought an early end to qualifying for tomorrow’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, which serves as the second of the three-round North American Endurance Championship within the Rolex Series. The NAEC is made up of the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, this weekend’s six-hour romp through the Glen, and the three-hour Brickyard Grand Prix on Friday, July 26 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

As a result of the aforementioned rain, points leaders Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor – drivers of the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette Prototype – will start on the pole in the Daytona Prototype class as DP qualifying was scratched outright. However, the GT and GX classes were able to get their sessions in.

Robin Liddell put the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro on pole in GT with a time of 1 minute, 52.583 seconds around the 3.4-mile road course. He and teammate John Edwards had a three-race win streak in GT snapped at GRAND-AM’s most recent outing at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course before the Le Mans break.

As for the GX side, Sylvain Tremblay secured pole there with a time of 1 minute, 58.478 seconds in the No. 70 Speedsource Mazda6.

This weekend’s race could prove to break the current logjam in both the DP and GT class standings. In DP, the Angelelli-Taylor combo heads into the Glen just one point ahead of Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty (No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette) and two points ahead of Ryan Dalziel and Alex Popow (No. 2 Starworks Ford/Riley). A note for open-wheel fans: The Dalziel-Popow duo will be joined by IndyCar’s Sebastien Bourdais this weekend in New York state.

The GT battle is just as tight with Magnus Racing’s Andy Lally and John Potter (No. 44 Porsche) up two markers over Alessandro Balzan in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia. The aforementioned Stevenson Motorsports team sits third at 11 points out, certainly within striking distance.

F1 2017 driver review: Max Verstappen

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Max Verstappen

Team: Red Bull Racing
Car No.: 33
Races: 20
Wins: 2
Podiums (excluding wins): 2
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 168
Laps Led: 133
Championship Position: 6th

Max Verstappen rise as a once-in-a-generation talent continued through the 2017 Formula 1 season, even if reliability issues meant we were made to wait for his best form to arrive.

Verstappen stole the show in a wet-dry Chinese Grand Prix by charging from 16th to seventh in the opening lap before ultimately finishing third for Red Bull, yet he would not grace the podium again until the Malaysian Grand Prix at the start of October.

A combination of power unit problems and on-track clashes saw Verstappen retire from seven of the 12 races in the intermittent period, with incidents in Spain and Austria being avoidable.

Perhaps most embarrassing of all was his stoppage due to a power unit failure in front of a grandstand swathed in orange at the Belgian Grand Prix, a race tens of thousands of Dutch fans had attended to cheer Verstappen on.

But when Verstappen got things right, it was – as he frequently quoted – simply, simply lovely. There was plenty left in the tank, as proven by his sheer domination of the races in Malaysia and Mexico as he took the second and third wins of his career.

Perhaps even more impressive was Verstappen’s victory over Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo in the qualifying head-to-head battle this year, an area the Australian has traditionally been strong in. Verstappen outqualifed his teammate 13-7 – it wasn’t even close…

All in all, Verstappen once again proved that on his day, he is one of the finest talents to grace F1 in recent years. With the right car underneath him next year, a title fight is certainly possible and will be the target – but there is always room for improvement.

And that is the scary part: Verstappen is only going to get better and better.

Season High: Dominating in Malaysia after an early pass on Lewis Hamilton.

Season Low: Crashing out on Lap 1 in Austria.