Report: Panther pondering expansion into sports cars

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With GRAND-AM and the American Le Mans Series preparing for their merger next year under the United SportsCar Racing banner, an IZOD IndyCar Series squad is thinking about a potential expansion into the new league. RACER Magazine’s Marshall Pruett is reporting that Panther Racing, which fields the No. 4 National Guard Chevrolet in IndyCar (pictured), is eyeing plans to add a sports car side to its team.

Many details about USCR’s inaugural campaign are still unknown at this time, including the exact schedule of events. But Panther co-owner John Barnes believes that with the two major factions of North American sports car racing coming together, the time is right to start another program that can compliment its open-wheel work.

“I think that financially, it’s a very viable solution,” Barnes said to Pruett this week. “It has a customer base that will support the sponsors and partners we can attract. It has a bunch of famous races: the 24 Hours of Daytona, Sebring, Petit Le Mans, Watkins Glen and some premier events to look at.

“With direction from Mr. France and the NASCAR marketing department, it has the ability to be very successful and I think it can be done with some drivers you choose and also with some who have some sponsors and are looking for a competitive situation. It’s a very solid business opportunity for us that would run as a separate program to our IndyCar team.”

Panther has raced in the IZOD IndyCar Series since 1998, earning back-to-back championships in 2001 and 2002 with Sam Hornish Jr.

Ticktum takes dramatic Macau GP win as leaders crash on last lap

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British youngster Dan Ticktum took a dramatic victory in the 64th Macau Grand Prix on Sunday after the leading two cars crashed out at the final corner on the last lap of the race.

In an incident-packed race that saw front-row starters Joel Eriksson and Callum Ilott clash early on amid a litany of Full Course Yellows, Brazilian racer Sergio Sette Camara was able to move into the lead ahead of Ferdinand Habsburg and Maximilian Günther.

Günther’s pace dropped off in the closing stages as he struggled to keep his tires alive, causing a train of cars to form up behind him including McLaren youngster Lando Norris and the Red Bull-backed Ticktum.

Ticktum pulled off a brilliant double-pass on Norris and Günther around the outside of Lisboa to move up to third, with Sette Camara and Habsburg dueling for position right the way to the finish.

Habsburg attempted a brave pass around the outside of the Mandarin kink, but was forced to wait until the penultimate straight before he got a tow and was able to pass for the lead.

Drama then struck when both Habsburg and Sette Camara ran wide and crashed into the wall exiting the final fast right-hander by their own accord, paving the way for Ticktum to charge through to victory.

Norris and Ralf Aron benefited from the crashes to score second and third place respectively, while Habsburg was able to get to the checkered flag in fourth on three wheels.