Lime Rock Park

TUSC: Rolex 24 P class preview

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The TUDOR United SportsCar Championship premieres this weekend with the Rolex 24 at Daytona. We’ll have sporadic posts and updates for the season opener of the unified series, which brings together the GRAND-AM Rolex Series and American Le Mans Series.

First up in our list of class previews, the P class.

P CLASS

WHAT IT IS: The headlining class. No driver ranking limitations. Open chassis and engine combinations, spec Continental Tires. This combines the P2 cars from ALMS, the Daytona Prototypes from GRAND-AM and the DeltaWing, which ran in ALMS but isn’t homologated to any set of technical regulations as a developmental prototype.

WHO THEY ARE: 18 cars strong. It includes 11 DPs, 6 P2s, and the DeltaWing. The field includes a number of sports car veterans and some IndyCar and NASCAR interlopers.

A QUICK BREAKDOWN: The 11 DPs include two cars apiece from Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (No. 01/02 Ford EcoBoost Rileys), Action Express Racing (No. 5/9 Corvette DPs), and one car apiece from Wayne Taylor Racing (No. 10 Corvette DP), Marsh Racing (No. 31 Corvette DP), Highway to Help (No. 50 Dinan Riley), Michael Shank Racing (No. 60 Ford EcoBoost Riley), Starworks Motorsport (No. 78 Dinan Riley), Spirit of Daytona (No. 90 Corvette DP) and GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing (No. 99 Corvette DP).

Ganassi has won five of the last eight overall Rolex 24s, and a win for Scott Pruett in the No. 01 would be a record sixth overall title. But the team had engine problems at the Roar Before the Rolex 24, and left a day early. Shank (2012), Action Express (2010) and Taylor (2005) also have prior overall wins in the above batch. It feels like a year where a first-timer could break through, and all of the above bar the Marsh (P class debut) and Highway to Help (four gentlemen drivers) could pull it off.

The P2s are two two-car operations, Extreme Speed Motorsports (No. 1/2 HPD ARX-03b) and SpeedSource (No. 70/07 Mazda SKYACTIV-D Coupe) with Muscle Milk Pickett Racing (No. 6 ORECA 03 Nissan) and OAK Racing (No. 42 Morgan Nissan) completing the six open-top P class cars in the field. Reliability may be an issue; pace certainly will for the Mazdas, which are brand new and simply hoping to finish; and the other three teams don’t have the same level of Daytona experience as the DPs. I think a P2 car could score an overall podium – perhaps Muscle Milk – but I doubt one will win overall.

The DeltaWing is a beast unto itself, and in a decently good position compared to its at-times fragmented 2013. There’s a solid driver lineup that includes Caterham F1 reserve Alexander Rossi, Indy Lights runner-up Gabby Chaves and 2013 drivers Andy Meyrick and Katherine Legge. Reliability will be the issue, as the team’s Élan powerplant hasn’t lasted anywhere close to a 24-hour race distance. But the pace was very good from testing. Finishing is goal one, and if it’s still running, it could sneak a surprise result with the DWC13 coupe.

WHO TO WATCH: As outlined above, it’s hard to go against a DP, which have the edge on P2 cars in terms of overall lap time and outright speed on the ovals. And of the DPs, the Corvettes have the reliability compared to the premiering Fords and privateer Dinans. But realistically there’s about 10-12 of the 18 cars entered in class that should be battling for the podium at the end of 24 hours.

The drivers of note? Sports car veterans such as Pruett, Ryan Dalziel, Joao Barbosa, the Klaus Graf/Lucas Luhr pairing, the Taylor brothers, and the trio in the Spirit of Daytona Corvette. IndyCar’s Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Simon Pagenaud, Justin Wilson, and James Hinchcliffe. NASCAR’s Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson and AJ Allmendinger.

No Haas F1 2017 driver talks until after Monza

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 22:  Romain Grosjean of France and Haas F1 and Esteban Gutierrez of Mexico and Haas F1 pose with the new car outside the garage during day one of F1 winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 22, 2016 in Montmelo, Spain.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Haas Formula 1 officials will not make any decision regarding the team’s 2017 driver line-up until after the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in September.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas took his eponymous F1 operation onto the grid for the first time in 2016, his cars driven by Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez.

Grosjean has led Haas’ charge in its debut season, scoring all 28 of its points. Gutierrez is yet to break his top-10 drought dating back to the 2013 Japanese Grand Prix.

Grosjean is expected to remain at Haas for 2017 after Ferrari opted to retain Kimi Raikkonen, blocking off a possible move up the field for the Frenchman.

Gutierrez said earlier this week he has a deal for 2017, but would not expand when asked if it was with Haas.

Speaking in Friday’s FIA press conference, Haas team principal Guenther Steiner confirmed that talks would he held off until after Monza.

“We decided to wait, to talk internally even about drivers until the European season is over so after Monza, because at the moment we are quite happy with what we are doing,” Steiner said.

“So we don’t want to get distracted or get the drivers distracted by talks, what will happen, what will not happen.

“We just wait until after Monza and then we sit down and try to make a decision as soon as possible so we keep that stability going.”

FIA to take ‘zero tolerance’ approach to track limits in Hungary qualifying

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 22:  Kimi Raikkonen of Finland driving the (7) Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H Ferrari 059/5 turbo (Shell GP) on track during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Hungary at Hungaroring on July 22, 2016 in Budapest, Hungary.  (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
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FIA race director Charlie Whiting has informed all Formula 1 teams that a “zero tolerance” approach will be taken to track limits during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Track limits proved to be a sticking point over the British Grand Prix weekend, with a number of drivers being accused of going off-track and gaining an advantage.

Lewis Hamilton had his initial pole position time deleted at Silverstone, only to respond and go faster with a clean lap.

The FIA announced heading into the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend that electronic sensors had been installed at Turn 4 and Turn 11 at the Hungaroring to catch drivers putting all four wheels over the white line defining the track limits.

A number of drivers were seen to be running wide during practice, prompting Whiting to issue a note to teams ahead of qualifying.

The note reads as follows:

Track Limits in turns 4 and 11

Further to the discussion in the drivers meeting yesterday evening I would like to confirm that:

a) We will be adopting a “zero tolerance” approach to cars leaving the track at turns 4 and 11 during qualifying. Please note that this will be judged by the use of timing loops in the kerbs and, to ensure that we see no false crossings, we would like to make it clear that the loops are set up to register a crossing when a car is approximately 20cm beyond the white line. Every lap time achieved by leaving the track will be deleted in accordance with Article 12.3.1.d of the Sporting Code.

b) During the race, and in accordance with Article 27.4 of the Sporting Regulations, any driver who is judged to have left the track three times at these corners (when counted cumulatively) will be shown a black and white flag, one further crossing will result in a report being made to the stewards for not having made every reasonable effort to use the track. As discussed, this is likely to result in a drive-through penalty for any driver concerned.

However, if we are satisfied that a driver left the track at these points for reasons beyond his control, having been forced off the track for example, laps times will not be deleted during qualifying nor will such a crossing be counted towards a drivers total in the race.

A similar approach was taken during qualifying for the GP3 support race in Hungary, resulting in a high number of lap times being deleted.

Qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix is live on CNBC and the NBC Sports App from 8am ET on Saturday.

Rosberg edges out Verstappen to lead final Hungary practice

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 23: Nico Rosberg of Germany driving the (6) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo on track during final practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Hungary at Hungaroring on July 23, 2016 in Budapest, Hungary.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Nico Rosberg gave Mercedes a clean sweep of practice sessions in Hungary by topping FP3 on Saturday morning, edging out Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by two-thousandths of a second.

Rosberg led second practice on Friday afternoon, and spent the majority of the final session at the top of the timesheets as drivers enjoyed the final runs ahead of qualifying later today.

A fastest lap of 1:20.261 on the super-soft tire gave Rosberg P1 at the checkered flag, but his advantage was far less comfortable than he would have liked.

Red Bull arrived in Hungary expected to run Mercedes close, but failed to match the German marque for pace on Friday.

However, Verstappen managed to turn up the wick and produce a stunning lap that was just 0.002 seconds slower than Rosberg’s, giving Red Bull hope of getting in the fight for victory this weekend.

Daniel Ricciardo followed teammate Verstappen in third place, four-tenths of a second further back, although he did not complete a qualifying simulation on the super-soft tire late on, instead preferring to focus on race runs.

Lewis Hamilton could only finish fourth-fastest in the second Mercedes, half a second shy of Rosberg, while Ferrari drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel followed in P5 and P6.

McLaren’s strong start to the weekend continued as Fernando Alonso ended practice in seventh ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez of Williams and Force India respectively.

Renault made a giant leap forward from Friday as Jolyon Palmer finished 10th and teammate Kevin Magnussen ended practice 12th-fastest, the pair split by Felipe Massa.

Qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix is live on CNBC and the NBC Sports App from 8am ET on Saturday.

IMSA: Polesitters set at Lime Rock Park

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No. 67 Ford. Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Polesitters have been set following qualifying for Saturday’s Northeast Grand Prix, the next round on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season. It doesn’t feature the Prototype class but does have the other three classes (Prototype Challenge, GT Le Mans, GT Daytona).

Colin Braun has the class pole in Prototype Challenge in the No. 54 CORE autosport Oreca FLM09, with Braun qualifying instead of teammate and co-driver Jon Bennett. The top four cars were only separated by 0.154 of a second.

Most PC teams opted to qualify their Silver-rated drivers instead for the two-hour, 40-minute race, which left Braun with a decided advantage going in over the lesser experienced pros or gentlemen drivers alongside.  But Braun only barely held on for the top spot.

Braun’s best time was a 48.824-second lap around the 1.53-mile Lime Rock Park bull ring.

Robert Alon edged into second at 48.840 in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca FLM09 he shares with Tom Kimber-Smith. “TKS” and Michael Guasch won this race overall last year.

James French posted a 48.930 in the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports entry he’ll share with Kyle Marcelli, good for third on the grid. That team seeks to atone for a near-miss here last year, when it was leading overall before Conor Daly collided with then-GTD class leader Christopher Haase at the downhill in his No. 48 Paul Miller Audi to open the door for PR1.

French was only just ahead of Jose Gutierrez in the third Starworks Motorsport entry, the No. 7 Aviation American Gin entry at 48.978 seconds that he’ll share with Sean Rayhall this weekend.

Richard Westbrook took another GT Le Mans class pole for the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing outfit with its No. 67 Ford GT he shares with Ryan Briscoe. Westbrook ran a 50.748 best time.

That No. 67 car has been on a roll, having won the last three races in class since the car’s first triumph at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in early May.

The No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM, No. 4 Corvette C7.R and No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE were second through fourth, thus making it four different manufacturers in the top four spots.

Spencer Pumpelly took the first GT Daytona class pole for Change Racing in its No. 16 Lamborghini Huracán GT3, a car he shares with Corey Lewis.

Pumpelly edged fellow Georgia resident Andrew Davis in the first of two Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMSs, the No. 6 car, ahead of Matt Bell in the No. 9 Audi. Davis shares with Robin Liddell, Bell with Lawson Aschenbach. Pumpelly’s best lap was 53.148 seconds to Davis’ 53.178.

Christina Nielsen was fourth (No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3) with Madison Snow (No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3) completing the top five in the 14-car class.

The two-hour, 40-minute race begins Saturday at 3 p.m. ET on FOX, live there, and also live via IMSA Radio.

Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge

Two cars that haven’t won yet this year are on the pole for Saturday’s two-hour, 30-minute Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race from Lime Rock Park.

CJ Wilson Racing has the pole in GS with Danny Burkett, who co-drives the team’s No. 33 Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport with Marc Miller, edged Canadian countryman Scott Maxwell in his No. 15 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Shelby GT350R-C he shares with Billy Johnson.

Meanwhile in ST, the No. 25 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 of defending class champions Chad McCumbee and Stevan McAleer have that class pole over another Mazda from Riley Racing and the No. 93 HART Honda Civic Si.