Petit Le Mans gets rolling at Road Atlanta

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The 2013 Petit Le Mans – the final race of the American Le Mans Series – is now underway at Road Atlanta. The race is expected to run for 10 hours or 1,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Early morning rains soaked the 2.5-mile circuit, but the asphalt was in the process of drying as the field took the green flag at 11:30 a.m. ET. As expected, the Rebellion No. 12 Lola/Toyota of pole sitter Neel Jani and the Muscle Milk No. 6 Honda Performance Development ARX-03c of Lucas Luhr quickly ran off in the early going from the rest of the 34-car field.

But on Lap 6, Luhr was able to chase down Jani, popped to the inside going into Turn 10a, and made the pass to put Muscle Milk in the lead. Shortly afterwards on Lap 8, Jani brought the No. 12 to the pits in order to flip from the wet tires to dry slicks, but his car was dropped before the left rear wheel was on, causing a slow stop. However, Luhr too would have to pit for slicks on Lap 10, and although he had a smoother first stop, Jani was eventually able to get back to the overall lead.

Meanwhile, the GT fight quickly heated up between the Ferrari, BMW and Chevrolet camps. Pole sitter Matteo Malucelli (No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 458 Italia) sustained rear end bodywork damage while battling for third with John Edwards (No. 56 BMW Team RLL) and Jan Magnussen (No. 3 Chevy Corvette), who is trying to claim the ALMS’ GT driver’s championship with co-driver Antonio Garcia this afternoon. That happened behind the two early class leaders, the No. 91 SRT Viper of Dominik Farnbacher and the No. 4 Corvette of Oliver Gavin.

As the race went past the one-hour mark, Jani was in the lead but then made contact with the No. 52 Prototype Challenge entry of Dane Cameron as it was coming out of pit road, causing suspension and radiator damage to that car. Jani was promptly hit with a 60-second stop-and-hold penalty for avoidable contact, causing him to lose the overall lead to Luhr in the No. 6 Muscle Milk car.

Your respective class leaders after one hour:

P1 – No. 6 Muscle Milk Pickett Racing HPD ARX-03c

P2 – No. 552 Level 5 Motorsports HPD ARX-03b

PC – No. 8 Bar1 Motorsports ORECA FLM09

GT – No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 458 Italia

GTC – No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup

Kubica, di Resta complete Williams F1 tests in Hungary

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Robert Kubica and Paul di Resta have both completed one-day tests for Williams in a 2014-spec Formula 1 car as part of the team’s evaluation for its 2018 line-up.

Williams is known to be considering a number of drivers to partner Lance Stroll at the team next year, including existing racer Felipe Massa.

Massa is thought to be going up against Kubica and di Resta for the 2018 drive, with the latter duo taking part in a private test at the Hungaroring in Budapest this week to aid the team’s evaluation.

After missing out on a 2018 Renault drive due to lingering questions about his physical condition six years after his rally accident, Kubica tested for Williams at Silverstone last week before getting back behind the wheel of the 2014 FW36 car in Hungary on Tuesday.

Kubica’s test was called “productive” by Williams, with the Pole handing duties over to Mercedes DTM racer di Resta on Wednesday.

Di Resta raced in F1 with Force India between 2010 and 2013 before returning to DTM, but made a surprise return at this year’s Hungarian Grand Prix with Williams when Massa was taken ill. Di Resta impressed on short notice, putting himself in contention for a full-time return to F1 in 2018.

Williams has one of the few remaining seats on offer in F1 for 2018, with Massa’s future known to be in question after a quiet campaign thus far.

The Brazilian had been due to retire from F1 at the end of last year, only for Williams to recall him after Valtteri Bottas’ late move up to Mercedes following Nico Rosberg’s surprise retirement.

Massa has made clear he would like to keep racing in F1 next year, but only if the deal is right and if Williams is determined to keep him.

While Massa, Kubica and di Resta appear to be the three leading contenders for the seat, Williams technical chief Paddy Lowe made clear in Japan there was a “large range” of drivers under consideration.

“You’ve probably seen a number of names that are floating around that we’re looking at, but honestly, the range is almost unlimited,” Lowe said.

“We will consider all ideas. We’re not in a super hurry to do so, and we’ll just make sure we land the best line-up we can.”