Wilson leads IndyCar second practice in Houston

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Justin Wilson, one of the talented shoes in the IZOD IndyCar Series field without a win thus far in 2013, led IndyCar’s second 45-minute practice session with a late flier on his 18th lap.

“I think it went reasonably well. It’s a tough track, really bumpy but when the grip comes up it feels good,” he said. “Once the car comes in it’s good. You’re bouncing around and hopefully landing in the right spot, trying not to lose things. I think we see a lot of that. It’s so hard to keep it on that knife edge. Hopefully we keep it up for tomorrow.”

The driver of the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda for Dale Coyne Racing set a fastest time of 1:04.4237. After getting acquainted with the temporary chicane installed in the first practice session earlier in the day, teams were able to attack further this afternoon before more track adjustments come overnight.

“That’s something else we’ll have to deal with is the track changing,” he said. “It’ll be tough to judge that braking point and especially if people get it wrong, it would be a tedious session. That’s been kind of the story of today, learning and evolving.”

Will Power was second and Tristan Vautier third, rounding out those who clocked a lap in the 1:04 range at the MD Anderson Center Speedway at Reliant Park. Power and Wilson raced in both Champ Car events held at the circuit in 2006 and 2007.

“I honestly couldn’t remember that much anyway,” Power deadpanned. “Obviously it was delayed with the chicane. Apart from that, it’s a vicious circuit. Learn the braking point. But it’s a good day for us; I think we have a good car.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay and two-time Houston winner Sebastien Bourdais rounded out the top five.

It was an adventurous session for points leader Helio Castroneves, who spun twice, and ended the session 11th. Power described how Castroneves has driven this season in pursuit of his elusive first championship.

“I think he’s just trying things; he’s an aggressive driver,” Power said. “He’s wanted a championship his whole career and is very close to getting that. To me, I’ve seen him at his absolute best this year. I think he’s driven the right way in every race to get the points, that’s put him in this position.”

Additionally interesting – perhaps humorous – was James Hinchcliffe’s trot down the length of the front straight in his firesuit and with his helmet still on after his newly pink No. 27 GoDaddy Chevrolet stopped at Turn 2.

Josef Newgarden didn’t complete a lap after damage incurred from the first practice session of the day.

Qualifying for Race 1 will occur from 10:45 to 11:15 a.m. Saturday morning. Rather than a Firestone Fast Six knockout session, qualifying will be a 30-minute session with the 24 cars split into two groups, each getting 12 minutes. That mirrors the format done for Race 2 at Detroit and Toronto, the previous two doubleheaders this season. The qualifying order for both days races will be based on a random draw and not these results.

A qualifying show was scheduled for tonight at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN and will be aired as planned; however, the content will change to cover the first practice sessions and additional material. Race 1 will still go live on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET and Sunday’s at 1 p.m. ET, both on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.

IMSA: Rolex 24 Team Preview – GTLM

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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MotorSportsTalk’s Kyle Lavigne continues the team preview of entries for the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona with the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class. At nine entries, it is the smallest of the three classes entered in this weekend’s Rolex 24 and down from last year’s 11 entries, but past events indicate it may be the event’s most competitive class.

The 2017 Rolex 24 saw four different marques from four different teams battling for the GTLM win late in the race, with Ford Chip Ganassi Racing taking the win with Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais. And in 2016, Corvette Racing saw its No. 3 and 4 entries duel to the checkered flag, with Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, and Marcel Fassler victorious in the No. 4 machine.

Below is a breakdown of the teams entered in the GTLM class.

Corvette Racing
Car: Corvette C7.R
No. 3 (Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, Mike Rockenfeller)
No. 4 (Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, Marcel Fassler)

Outlook: Corvette Racing has been a perennial powerhouse in GT racing over the entirety of the 21st century, and that isn’t something that’s likely to change. Coming off their 13th championship last year – Garcia and Magnussen took home last year’s GTLM driver’s crown – Corvette Racing now hunts for its fourth Rolex 24 triumph.

With an unchanged package that is proven to be both fast and reliable, Corvette Racing looks set to again feature prominently in the GTLM battle. Barring problems, both cars should be battling up front for the win.

BMW Team RLL
Car: BMW M8 GTLM
No. 24 (Jesse Krohn, John Edwards, Nicky Catsburg, Augusto Farfus)
No. 25 (Alexander Sims, Connor De Phillippi, Bill Auberlen, Philipp Eng)

Outlook: Of all the GTLM entries, BMW Team RLL sees by far the most change to its program. Out is the M6 GTLM and in is the brand new M8 GTLM. Jesse Krohn, Nicky Catsburg, Augusto Farfus, Philipp Eng and Connor De Phillippi are all new drivers to the team, while veteran Bill Auberlen will only contest the four Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup events in 2018.

At the Roar Before the 24, the program appeared to lack speed. Sunday qualifying, to decide pit stall and garage selection, saw the No. 25 qualify the better of the two BMWs, but one second slower than the next quickest car – the BMW set a 1:45.056 for seventh in GTLM, behind the Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE, which set a 1:44.037.

It remains to be seen if there is more speed in the BMW machines, but they remain the most unproven of the GTLM entries. A victory seems out of reach at the moment, but that could change if the package improves.

Risi Competizione
Car: Ferrari 488 GTE
No. 62 (Toni Vilander, Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado, Davide Rigon)

Outlook: Risi Competizione came excruciatingly close to winning last year’s Rolex, but a late-race battle between James Calado and Dirk Mueller, of Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, saw Mueller come out on top, while Calado was shuffled back to third by the time the checkered flag fell.

They did not win an event last year, but this is a team that knows how to win big races – they have previously won the Motul Petit Le Mans – and should once again prove to be a major player in the GTLM battle.

The only major change comes in their driver lineup, with Alessandro Pier Guidi and David Rigon joining the lineup and Giancarlo Fisichella departing. But, with Calado and Toni Vilander returning to anchor the driving team, this change is not expected to slow the team down. Expect them to battle at the front all race long.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing
Car: Ford GT
No. 66 (Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller, Sebastien Bourdais)
No. 67 (Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook, Scott Dixon)

Outlook: Ford Chip Ganassi Racing returns to the Rolex 24 as defending race winners – Hand, Mueller, and Bourdais delivered the victory in 2017. Further, they return with the same driver lineups and car they used. In short, every indication is that they enter this year’s event as favorites to repeat.

The Roar Before the 24 gave further evidence of this. Both of the cars were among the quickest in every session at the Roar, and Sunday qualifying saw its No. 66 end up at the top of the board, with the No. 67 in third.

The GTLM field is strong all the way around, but this team is likely the favorite entering the event.

Porsche GT Team
Car: Porsche 911 RSR

No. 911 (Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy, Frederic Makowiecki)
No. 912 (Laurens Vanthoor, Earl Bamber, Gianmaria Bruni)

Outlook: Porsche GT Team brings with it a star-studded driver lineup that features former class winners of the Rolex 24, former overall winners of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and a ton of all-around talent.

The team finished a close second at last year’s Rolex 24, with the No. 911 entry, behind the race-winning Ford from Chip Ganassi’s stable. Later that year, they visited victory lane – Porsche finished 1-2 at Lime Rock Park, with the No. 911 taking the victory – proving that the mid-engine 911 RSR is more than up to the task and gives the team everything they need to be contenders.

Porsche will have a fight on their hands, but this is a team that expects to compete for a victory, and they did win this event in 2014. They round out a titanic GTLM grid and should be a fixture throughout the day.

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