American Le Mans Series hard at work in Canada

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Multiple major categories such as Formula One, the IZOD IndyCar Series and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series are taking this weekend off, but the American Le Mans Series will be on the throttle at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park outside Toronto.

Preparations began this morning for Sunday’s Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix (Race Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes), and the Muscle Milk Pickett Racing team of Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf (pictured) picked up where they left off two weeks ago at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. The duo is out for their fourth consecutive ALMS victory, and Graf led today’s opening practice session with a time of 1 minute, 7.124 seconds in the No. 6 HPD ARX-03c.

In the P2 category, Mike Conway, subbing for the injured Ryan Briscoe, put the No. 552 Level 5 Motorsports HPD-ARX 03b at the top of the practice charts with a time of 1 minute, 11.272 seconds. Conway, who raced admirably in last weekend’s Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader, also led a “Promoter Test Day” on Friday at CTMP, so it would appear he is a threat for a class win in Canada.

Corvette Racing’s Antonio Garcia (1 minute, 16.227 seconds), BAR1 Motorsports’ Kyle Marcelli (1 minute, 11.838 seconds), and Alex Job Racing’s Jereon Bleekemolen led the Grand Touring, Prototype Challenge, and GT Challenge classes respectively in the session. Qualifying for tomorrow’s race will take place later this afternoon on the 2.46-mile road course, which has undergone a multi-million dollar renovation.

Its place on the major-league sports car landscape is yet to be determined as United SportsCar Racing continues to sort out its inaugural 2014 schedule. Track co-owner and accomplished Canadian racer Ron Fellows told the ALMS’ official website that he sees the chances of CTMP making the cut at “50-50.”

The track has been part of the ALMS schedule since the series’ inception in 1999.

Hamilton: Abu Dhabi ‘the last race with good-looking cars’ in F1

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Lewis Hamilton believes that this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be remembered as the last race with good-looking Formula 1 cars ahead of the introduction of the ‘Halo’ cockpit protection for next year.

Officials from the FIA and F1 Strategy Group confirmed earlier this year that the Halo would be fitted to all cars from the 2018 season in a bid to improve safety standards, with the deaths of Justin Wilson and Jules Bianchi putting head protection high on the agenda for the series’ chiefs.

Hamilton has long made his opposition to the Halo clear, believing it will ruin the look of F1 cars, and echoed his thoughts ahead of the final Halo-less race in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

“It’s the last year of looking good I think in the cars. It’s the last race where the cars will look good,” Hamilton said.

“I think next year, it’s all downhill from there in terms of how they look.

“But safety will go up at least, and maybe it could be successful in some way.”

Hamilton’s F1 title rival Sebastian Vettel was less bothered about the change, believing the field will adjust and move on.

“The cars will look different next year. Everything I’ve seen so far looks different, but on the other hand it is something we all get used to,” Vettel said.

“But no doubt the cars look better now, but we’ll get used to it, and we’ll work on the aesthetics so it can be better. It is less of a big deal.”

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo shared Vettel’s view, saying: “I don’t think it’s gonna be as dramatic as most people make it out to be.”