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.

Vettel doesn’t only just win race, but F1’s Driver of the Day honors

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There was no controversy or surprise over the first Driver of the Day vote for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix in 2017. As in the race, Sebastian Vettel swept to victory in the fan vote put together by Formula 1’s official website.

Vettel pushed Lewis Hamilton early in the race and Hamilton pitted sooner than he’d probably have expected, with Vettel and Scuderia Ferrari completing the “overcut” to move ahead and win the race.

Out front, Vettel gapped the field by several seconds and was never challenged from there, en route to his and Ferrari’s first win since the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix.

The win was Ferrari’s first at Melbourne since 2007 (Kimi Raikkonen) and Vettel’s first there since 2011. In both cases, the driver that won the race went on to win the World Championship.

Stroll gets laps around Albert Park, but DNF in first F1 GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Lance Stroll almost got to experience the full package on his first weekend in Formula One, hitting speeds exceeding 320 kph (199 mph), clipping a wall, being handed a grid penalty and skidding through the gravel. All that was missing was the finish.

The 18-year-old Canadian didn’t make it to the finish in his debut for Williams at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, retiring after an eventful 40 laps around the Albert Park circuit.

“We were running a decent race and the pace was pretty good,” Stroll said. “I had a good start, which was risky although I didn’t plan on it being quite so risky! Some guys braked quite early in front of me and I managed to gain some places.

“Then we managed to have a surprisingly good race. It was my first race, and first weekend, so there are a few positives to take out of it.”

Stroll graduated from development driver to a seat in F1 this season for Williams, which lost Valtteri Bottas to Mercedes.

The son of billionaire investor Lawrence Stroll is mentored by former Ferrari sporting director Luca Baldisserri and won the Formula 3 European championship in 2016.

His first taste of the top level was one he put down to experience, having started at the back of the grid after getting a penalty for needing an unscheduled gearbox change following his crash in practice on Saturday.

“Unfortunately, that incident yesterday cost us a lot of positions in qualifying,” said Stroll, whose top speed was among the fastest in the race, “but today I enjoyed myself and so a big thank you to the team.”

His Williams teammate, 35-year-old Brazilian veteran Felipe Massa, finished sixth to earn some points from the opening weekend.

Stroll avoided a collision with two other drivers on the opening lap and, after an early pit stop for tires, was running as high as 13th before a problem with his front left break ended his race.

“It’s a shame for Lance, who put in a good first drive with some overtakes in his first race in Formula One, so it is a shame that he then had to retire with a brake failure,” Williams chief technical officer Paddy Lowe said. “Clearly that’s an issue we need to get on top for the races to come and make sure we don’t have a repeat.

“But, overall, congratulations to the team … who have built a great car to launch our 2017 campaign.”

Meanwhile, Sauber rookie Antonio Giovinazzi placed 12th on his F1 debut after coming in as a late replacement on Saturday when Pascal Wehrlein withdrew because of fitness problems.

“It was a good race, and I am happy with my performance,” Giovinazzi said. “My objective was to gain more experience and collect mileage in the car. I want to thank the Sauber F1 Team and Scuderia Ferrari again for this opportunity. It was an amazing race weekend for me.”

Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn said it was an impressive performance from the young Italian driver in his first F1 race.

“He showed his potential as well as what the car is capable of,” Kaltenborn said. “The lap times were quite satisfying.”

Craig Breedlove wins 2017 Justice Brothers-Shav Glick Award

Craig Breedlove (left) and Richard Noble look on during the world land speed record attempt by the Thrust SCC at Black Rock Desert, Nevada. Photo: David Taylor/Allsport
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Land-speed record icon Craig Breedlove has been awarded the 2017 Justice Brothers-Shav Glick Award, one of the top honors awarded on the West Coast, and in the world of motorsports. Breedlove is the award’s 18th recipient.

The award was presented prior to today’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

The full release is below:

Craig Breedlove has been selected as the 2017 recipient of the 18th Annual Justice Brothers-Shav Glick Award. For the 18th year, the Justice Brothers-Shav Glick Award recognizes motorsports personalities who have made distinguished contributions to motorsports in California.

Breedlove was selected by a judging panel, which includes national and California motorsports media, to receive the prestigious 2017 Justice Brothers-Shav Glick Award. Ed Justice, Jr. President & CEO of Justice Brothers, Inc. presented the award during the pre-race ceremonies at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 race at Auto Club Speedway.

Craig Breedlove is the first person in history to reach 500 mph and 600 mph, Craig Breedlove, is a land speed legend. Using several turbojet-powered vehicles, all named Spirit of America; he drove to five world land speed records. The Beach Boys’ song Spirit of America was inspired by Breedlove’s land speed record set in 1963. Breedlove was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of America in 1993 and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2000.

Giovinazzi impresses as Sauber sub, finishes 12th on F1 debut

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Antonio Giovinazzi continued his impressive last-minute showing in the Australian Grand Prix weekend by finishing 12th for Sauber on his Formula 1 debut.

Ferrari junior and 2015 GP2 runner-up Giovinazzi was drafted in by Sauber on Saturday to replace Pascal Wehrlein, who withdrew from the race weekend due to an ongoing back injury.

Giovinazzi qualified 16th on Saturday, narrowly missing out on a place in Q2, and then enjoyed a trouble-free race en route to 12th at the checkered flag, two laps down on race winner Sebastian Vettel.

“It was a good race, and I am happy with my performance today,” Giovinazzi said.

“My objective was to gain more experience and collect mileage in the car. I will sit together with my engineers to analyze areas where I can improve.

“I want to thank the Sauber F1 Team and Scuderia Ferrari again for this opportunity. It was an amazing race weekend for me.”

Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn was full of praise for Giovinazzi: “A very impressive performance from Antonio during his first Formula 1 race. He showed his potential as well as what the car is capable of.”

Giovinazzi is now set to return to his reserve driver duties at Ferrari, with Wehrlein expected to be back at full-fitness for the Chinese Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.