Neel Jani, Alex Popow

Petit Le Mans preview: Prototypes (P1, P2, PC)

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This weekend marks the end of an era for the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron.

The last Petit Le Mans to feature the ALMS, before its assets are integrated and merged into the new-for-2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, will take place this Saturday at Road Atlanta.

It will additionally be run with heavy hearts following the loss earlier this week of British rising star Sean Edwards, a Porsche driver killed in a training accident in Australia.

We’ll still take a look through the field in the prototype and GT classes to see who stands the best shot of scoring a win in the ALMS swan song.

P1 (4)

  • Muscle Milk Pickett Racing: Yet to win Petit Le Mans in its history, but a win would be its ninth in a row to cap a historic, title-winning season. Drivers Klaus Graf, Lucas Luhr and Romain Dumas in their HPD ARX-03c will have a serious challenger to battle with Rebellion Racing returning for the first time since Monterey in May. The team’s plans are yet unannounced for 2014.
  • Rebellion Racing: As mentioned previously, the team’s alternate Lola B12/60 Toyota chassis will be on hand to defend its 2012 overall triumph at Petit with drivers Nicolas Prost, Neel Jani and Nick Heidfeld. Unfinished business for them as they beat Pickett’s team at Sebring (for third place), but lost out overall at Long Beach and Monterey.
  • Dyson Racing: One of the stalwarts of sports car racing rounds out its 30th season with Chris Dyson joined by two gentlemen drivers, and the team’s Lola B12/60 Mazda is unlikely to challenge for an overall win on pace alone.
  • DeltaWing Racing Cars: Radical coupe looks to finish its first race since its introduction at Austin; only car in class with a two-driver lineup of Andy Meyrick and Katherine Legge, and wants to impress on team’s home soil.

P2 (4)

  • Level 5 Motorsports: Team went 1-2 in deeper P2 field at Petit last year and has pulled out all the stops again for its pair of HPD ARX-03bs. The early favorites with Scott Tucker, Ryan Briscoe and Marino Franchitti in one car (No. 551) and Guy Cosmo, Jonny Kane and Peter Dumbreck in the other (No. 552). Marino is wearing brother Dario’s helmet this weekend.
  • Extreme Speed Motorsports: Scott Sharp can still win the P2 class driver’s title with a win and some help as the team seeks a repeat of GT win at Petit in 2012. Has Anthony Lazzaro and David Brabham to aid him in the No. 01 HPD. The guy to watch in the sister No. 02 is Rob Bell, a McLaren factory shoe making a rare prototype appearance alongside regulars Johannes van Overbeek and Ed Brown.

PC (7)

  • CORE autosport: Twice defending class champions seek a race win repeat in the capable hands of team principal Jon Bennett, Tom Kimber-Smith and Mark Wilkins (No. 05). Wilkins was part of the winning car a year ago.
  • PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports: On paper the Dane Cameron/David Cheng/Michael Guasch lineup doesn’t quite stack up to CORE’s. But Cameron’s talent may be able to push this car to its second Petit win (2011), and the team won Sebring already this year.
  • BAR1 Motorsports: A pair of challengers but it’s the Kyle Marcelli/Chris Cumming/Stefan Johansson (No. 8) car that could win its third straight race, while the second car of Tomy Drissi, James French and Rusty Mitchell (No. 7) is there to make up the numbers.
  • RSR Racing: Bruno Junqueira and Duncan Ende will be solid as ever for Paul Gentilozzi’s No. 9 car, so the wild card is sports car and ALMS debutante Gustavo Menezes. He has track experience from Star Mazda, but is new to multi-class racing.
  • Performance Tech Motorsports: Tristan Nunez and Charlie Shears anchor the No. 18; I reckoned Ryan Booth, an IMSA Lites race winner, would have been added as a third. Unlikely to win on raw pace.
  • 8Star Motorsports: Team’s new car for Ozz Negri and Sean Rayhall (No. 25) is a true wild card. Negri’s experienced in Daytona Prototypes in Rolex but new to ALMS, while Rayhall, an IMSA Lites star, makes his ALMS and thus endurance racing debut. Surprising to see only two drivers without a veteran third hand, but the team has other commitments in the FIA World Endurance Championship and IMSA Lites this weekend.

Pippa Mann, breast cancer survivors paint IMS’ start/finish line pink

Photo: IndyCar
Photo: IndyCar
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We’ve written a fair bit on MotorSportsTalk about the efforts Pippa Mann has done in working with the Susan G. Komen Foundation for breast cancer awareness. Susan G. Komen has supported Mann’s last two runs at the Indianapolis 500, when she’s driven the No. 63 Honda for Dale Coyne Racing.

This being National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the awareness hit a new level with Mann working alongside breast cancer survivors to paint the start/finish line at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s iconic Yard of Bricks pink for the day.

IMS president Doug Boles also joined in the opportunity.

View a selection of photos and social posts below. More is linked here, via

Mercedes set to clinch F1 constructors’ championship in Russia

SOCHI, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 08:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP speaks with members of the media in the paddock during previews to the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on October 8, 2015 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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For the second year in a row, Mercedes is poised to wrap up the Formula 1 constructors’ championship in Sochi at this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix.

Mercedes won its first F1 teams’ title in Russia last year, having returned to the sport as a works constructor in 2010. When it last enjoyed such status in the 1950s, there was no championship for the teams.

Just as it did in 2014, Mercedes has dominated proceedings in F1 this season, winning all but three races and sweeping to eight one-two finishes to leave drivers Lewis Hamilton (pictured) and Nico Rosberg battling for the drivers’ title for the second straight year.

Now, Mercedes seeks the knock-out blow in the constructors’ title race by officially wrapping it up in Sochi this weekend.

To do so, the team must simply outscore rivals Ferrari by three points this weekend. The lead currently stands at 169 points, with 215 still on offer. After Sochi, there will be 172 remaining.

“We return to Russia with positive memories from last season, when the team sealed the first constructors’ title for Mercedes-Benz with a one-two finish,” team boss Toto Wolff said.

“A repeat performance in Sochi would be fantastic and this is absolutely the target – but we are under no illusions that it will come easy. The job is not done yet.”

The tire allocation for this weekend’s race could pose problems to Mercedes just as it did in Singapore, potentially allowing Ferrari to spoil the party and delay the victory celebrations at Brackley.

However, if the form book is to be trusted, Sochi could be playing host to another Mercedes party on Sunday night with a second world title in the bag for the Silver Arrows.