Rebellion reigns again at Petit Le Mans (UPDATED)

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With their main rivals from Muscle Milk Pickett Racing sidelined midway through with an overheating issue, Rebellion Racing claimed its second consecutive victory at the Petit Le Mans this evening at Road Atlanta, bringing the American Le Mans Series era to a close.

Neel Jani, who was part of Rebellion’s 2012 Petit-winning team, brought home the team’s No. 12 Lola B12/60 Toyota (co-drivers Nicolas Prost and Nick Heidfeld) for a six-lap win over the No. 551 Level 5 Motorsports P2 entry of Scott Tucker, Marino Franchitti and Ryan Briscoe.

“In some sense, it’s frustrating because [us and Muscle Milk] had a good race going,” Prost told Fox Sports. “I mean, I think it would’ve been really tight. But in the end, you’re happy to win and we’re happy to have back-to-back [Petit] wins in the final race of the ALMS. It’s fantastic.”

In P2, the class win from the No. 551 Level 5 team enabled Tucker to claim the 2013 P2 driver’s championship. Tucker, Franchitti and Briscoe bested the No. 01 Extreme Speed Motorsports machine of Scott Sharp, Anthony Lazzaro and David Brabham for top honors.

“These guys are the best,” Tucker said of his teammates Franchitti and Briscoe. “They did a great performance today. I couldn’t be more proud of the whole team. The [Extreme Speed Motorsports] guys put on a hell of a fight for us, and we’re lucky that we got here. But these guys did a great job.”

The narrow battle in GT went to the No. 17 Falken Tire Porsche squad of Nick Tandy, Bryan Sellers, and Wolf Henzler. Shortly after a restart with 11 laps to go, Tandy had a brief off-course excursion at the downhill esses while leading the race but was still able to keep the point over the No. 56 BMW Team RLL entry of Dirk Muller.

After that heart-stopping moment, Tandy settled down and hung on by .74 of a second over Muller, who also fell short in the GT driver’s championship as the No. 3 Corvette Racing duo of Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia claimed that crown with a sixth-place finish alongside Jordan Taylor.

“I couldn’t have wished for a better year to do it – the last year of the ALMS,” Magnussen said. “Who would’ve thought after Sebring [retirement due to gearbox problems] that we’d be here celebrating a championship…It just couldn’t be better.”

The No. 8 BAR1 Motorsports trio of Chris Cumming, Kyle Marcelli and Stefan Johansson were triumphant in Prototype Challenge for its third consecutive ALMS victory.

Even better for BAR1, Cumming was able to overtake PC points leader Mike Gausch and win the driver’s championship in that class. Or so we thought.

As it was later revealed, the second-place car in the PC class – the No. 25 8Star Motorsports entry of Ozz Negri and Sean Rayhall – was not a full-season entry and thus, they do not receive points and the teams behind them move up.

That meant Gausch, who had finished fifth, received a fourth-place points finish, enabling him to claim the driver’s championship by one point over Cumming.

In GTC, the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche of Nelson Canache, Spencer Pumpelly and Madison Snow won, while a fourth-place finish enabled the No. 22 Alex Job Racing Porsche of Jeroen Bleekemolen and Cooper MacNeil to wrap up the driver’s championship there.

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

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If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.