Bourdais leads Sebring class poles for second TUDOR race

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Sebastien Bourdais (P and overall), Bruno Junqueira (PC), Michael Christensen (GTLM) and Dane Cameron (GTD) have secured the four pole positions for Saturday’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

Bourdais laid down a 1:51.917 to score the top spot for the Rolex 24 at Daytona-winning No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP. He’ll co-drive in the second round of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season with Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi.

Olivier Pla took OAK Racing’s No. 42 Morgan Nissan to second at 1:52.086. He’ll co-drive with Alex Brundle and Gustavo Yacaman.

Junqueira laid down a ridiculously quick time in the spec-ORECA FLM09 class, some 0.76 seconds clear of the field in the No. 09 RSR Racing entry. His time of 1:54.839 makes his second pole at Sebring, as he also won the class pole for RSR in 2012.

The Brazilian will co-drive with Duncan Ende and David Heinemeier Hansson in Saturday’s race.

The 8Star and Performance Tech PC class cars were second and third.

Porsche North America took the GT Le Mans class pole with Sebring debutante Michael Christensen in the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR at 1:58.933. His co-drivers are Patrick Long and Jorg Bergmeister.

Two Porsches, BMWS and Corvettes apiece made up the top six, and combined were separated by under four tenths of a second.

Dane Cameron took the GT Daytona class pole in the No. 94 Turner Motorsport BMW Z4 GT3, at a track that suits this car better. His co-drivers for Saturday are Paul Dalla Lana, Markus Palttala and Shane Lewis.

Cameron’s time of 2:04.258 was one-hundredth of a second better than the second-placed Leh Keen in the No. 22 Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT America.

An SRT Viper GT3-R, Aston Martin Vantage and Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 apiece rounded out the top five in class.

The race goes green past 10:15 a.m. ET on Saturday morning.

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Remaining part-time drivers

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MotorSportsTalk wraps up its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017 with the remaining part-time drivers, after the 23 drivers who ran anywhere from six events to the full season.

There were 15 drivers who made four or fewer starts this season. Some overly impressed or drew major headlines in their limited opportunities.

They were, by start count:

  • Sebastian Saavedra (No. 17 Juncos Racing Chevrolet, No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, 4)
  • Gabby Chaves (No. 88 Harding Racing Chevrolet, 3)
  • Oriol Servia (No. 16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, 3)
  • Jack Harvey (No. 50 MSR w/Andretti Autosport Honda, No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, 3)
  • Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet, 2)
  • Zach Veach (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, No. 40 A.J. Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet, 2)
  • Fernando Alonso (No. 29 McLaren Honda Andretti Honda, 1)
  • Pippa Mann (No. 63 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, 1)
  • Jay Howard (No. 77 Team One Cure/SPM Honda, 1)
  • Sage Karam (No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet, 1)
  • James Davison (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, 1)
  • Tristan Vautier (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, 1)
  • Buddy Lazier (No. 44 Lazier Racing Partners Chevrolet, 1)
  • Zachary Claman DeMelo (No. 13 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, 1)
  • Robert Wickens (No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, Practice Only)

Going through them, in terms of impact, Alonso’s one-off at the Indianapolis 500 easily resonated loudest. It was incredible to witness the amount of buzz, worldwide support and media attention that Alonso generated, and fueled a running joke that he was the only driver in this year’s race. It was capped off when he beat Ed Jones to race rookie-of-the-year honors, despite losing a Honda engine late while Jones dragged a broken Dale Coyne Racing car to third place.

Elsewhere, Chaves and Harding Racing’s debut was the most unexpected pleasant surprise from a driver and team standpoint. A solid ninth at Indianapolis was followed by an even more impressive fifth at Texas. Their three oval races laid the groundwork for a step-up to a full-time entry in 2018.

Montoya proved he still had it with a pair of top-10s in a fifth Team Penske car. He’ll be in Penske’s Acura prototype sports car program next year and the hope is that we haven’t seen the last of him in IndyCar.

Saavedra re-established himself on the scene after a year-plus hiatus. The likable Colombian overachieved given low expectations with two different teams. Whether it was enough to see him and longtime backer AFS Racing for further races in 2018 is unknown.

Harvey and Veach each came up to IndyCar for a cup of coffee, both rookies in the Indianapolis 500 alongside Alonso and Jones while also getting additional road course starts. Neither of them looked a world-beater in their road course outings owing to tough circumstances, but they logged key laps and miles to build for a brighter future from 2018 and beyond in recently announced multi-year programs (Harvey with Michael Shank Racing and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, and Veach with Andretti Autosport).

Of the rest, Servia’s results left a bit to be desired, a potential top-five fading in Indy when he and Davison collided to trigger a multi-car pileup. Davison and Vautier impressed in their lone starts of the year with their pace and aggression but were unable to parlay them into results.

Mann made her usual Indy 500 one-off entry and secured her best finish in six starts, but pressed through a challenging month that she’ll be keen to improve upon in 2018. Her day was significantly better than Howard’s and Lazier’s, who both ended their ‘500 bows in the wall, and with Howard having contributed to Scott Dixon’s savage accident when he crashed in Turn 1 and then came into Dixon’s path.

“ZCD” made his debut at Sonoma in a second RLL Racing entry and did rather well, competitive on lap times as the weekend progressed on a track that’s notoriously low-grip. Wickens never got that far. Despite a preseason ride swap with his close friend James Hinchcliffe that reignited his passion for open-wheel after several years, and with Mercedes announcing it would pull the plug on its DTM program after 2018, Wickens got only a practice day at Road America before Mikhail Aleshin sorted his visa issues. The circumstances evolved in Wickens’ favor at season’s end to see him get the second seat for 2018 at SPM after all.