U.S. Paralympic athlete to serve as honorary race official for Daytona 500

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Interesting note surrounding the Daytona 500: U.S. Paralympic athlete Blake Leeper (pictured, from 2012), currently training to become the first double-amputee American to compete in the Olympic Games in 2016, will serve as an honorary race official for this year’s edition of The Great American Race.

“Blake Leeper is a true inspiration and a legend in the making,” Daytona International Speedway president Joie Chitwood III said in a statement. “We are honored to have him participate in the pre-race ceremonies at the ‘World Center of Racing’ for the thrilling and historic Daytona 500.”

Known as the “American Blade Runner,” Leeper won two medals in the 2012 London Paralympics – a bronze in the 200 meters and a silver in the 400 meters.

He was also part of the United States’ gold medal 4×100 meter relay team at the 2013 IPC World Championships in Lyon, France  – a team that was later recognized as the 2012-13 Paralympic Team of the Year by the United States Olympic Committee.

Leeper was born with both legs missing below the knee and has worn prosthetics since he was nine months old. Now 24, he has been competing internationally since 2009 and is aiming to earn his way onto the U.S. Olympic roster for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

As part of his Daytona duties, Leeper will be introduced at the driver’s meeting, participate in pre-race ceremonies, and ride in one of the honorary race official cars ahead of the 43-car field during pace laps leading up to the green flag on Feb. 23 (1 p.m. ET, check local listings).

Ferrari junior Ilott victorious in Macau F3 qualification race

Theodore Racing
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Ferrari Driver Academy member Callum Ilott will start the 64th Macau Grand Prix from pole position after beating his Formula 3 rivals to victory in Saturday’s qualification race.

Ilott, 19, started third on the grid on Saturday behind pole-sitter Joel Eriksson and McLaren junior Lando Norris, but made a good start to rise to second early on.

Ilott hounded Eriksson for position for much of the race before battling past at Mandarin on Lap 7 as his Swedish rival struggled to keep his tires alive.

With Eriksson unable to respond, Ilott ultimately crossed the line more than seven seconds clear to take his first Macau win and secure pole for Sunday’s main event.

“We started quite strong as I got up to second from third which was not too bad. Then in the middle part of the race I had a good pace and I got past Joel for P1,” Ilott said.

“After that I managed to pull away. It was a good race, even quite relaxing at the end. I’m really happy for the result. Thank you SJM Theodore Racing by Prema, they did a great job and it should be good for tomorrow too.”

Eriksson held on to second ahead of Sergio Sette Camara, who completed the podium ahead of Maximilian Günther in P4.

Ferdinand Habsburg finished fifth ahead of Pedro Piquet, while Norris was left to settle for a lowly P7 after a clutch issue off the line caused him to drop down the order.

You can see full results from the Macau F3 qualifying race here.