Sebring 12-hour race updates (UPDATED; 10 Hours)

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The 62nd running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring is underway. Some race updates follow:

HOUR 10

In brief, anyone could win in three of the four classes by this point. Nine Prototypes, six GTLM and four GTD cars are all on the lead lap. The battle in P is between DP and P2-spec cars, which was unlikely to occur at Daytona.

HOUR EIGHT

Extreme Speed Motorsports’ HPD ARX-03bs were the star fighters to the DPs as the race settled into a rhythm over the last two hours. Unfortunately for the leading No. 2 car, driven by Johannes van Overbeek, contact with the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS at Turn 17 has eliminated that. “JVO” pitted for repairs after the two collided; the Miller car wasn’t sure the HPD was there.

That contact promoted the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP to the lead, with other class leaders CORE autosport (PC), Corvette Racing’s No. 4 Corvette C7.R (GTLM) and AIM Autosport’s No. 555 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 (GTD).

A number of GTD class cars had issues, either punctures, fuel pressure or paddle-shift related.

HOUR SIX

We’re halfway home, but holy yellow flags, Batman. There were eight of them in the first six hours, four of which were caused by the No. 87 BAR1 Motorsports ORECA FLM09 PC class car as one of several PC-related incidents.

That said, there were some proper racing highlights as this headed to the crossed flags mark. Sebastien Bourdais and Ryan Dalziel had a great scrap in the lead in the diverse combination of the Action Express Corvette DP and Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD ARX-03b. Then Justin Wilson and Sage Karam went toe-to-toe in the pair of Ford EcoBoost Rileys, Wilson for Michael Shank Racing and Karam for Chip Ganassi Racing.

PC has more or less been a battle of survival with the CORE autosport and RSR Racing having mostly clean races to this point. Unfortunately even that went awry before the 6-hour mark, when Alex Tagliani’s No. 08 car was tagged by Gaston Kearby in the aforementioned No. 87 car exiting Turn 16 in a violent accident.

In GTLM, Porsche, BMW and SRT Viper have thus far had trouble-free races. Same for most of the Ferraris, the Turner BMW and handful of Porsches in GTD.

But otherwise, this first half of this race has been weird.

HOUR FOUR

As if the Riley GTD Viper and Risi GTLM Ferrari incidents weren’t bad enough, things got worse when two PC class cars collided just past the four-hour mark.

The No. 38 Performance Tech entry driven by David Ostella wrecked on exit to Turn 17 and careened into the path of No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen entry of Frankie Montecalvo. Montecalvo spun into the pit in area and the race was briefly red flagged.

At the four-hour mark, where points were awarded for the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup, the Nos. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing (P), 52 PR1/Mathiasen (PC), 91 SRT Viper GTS-R (GTLM) and 94 Turner Motorsport BMW Z4 GT3 (GTD) were class leaders.

HOUR THREE

Just at the end of the third hour, following a third full-course caution for two BAR1 Motorsports PC class cars colliding, things got worse in terms of contact.

Matteo Malucelli, in the rebuilt Risi Ferrari, spun off at Turn 1. Upon rejoining, he entered right on the racing line of corner exit and contacted Christina Nielsen’s No. 30 MOMO NGT Motorsport Porsche 911 GT America. It put the race under a fourth full-course caution. Several others took evasive action to avoid.

IndyCar champion Scott Dixon led overall at the three-hour mark in the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford EcoBoost Riley.

HOUR TWO

The race settled into a rhythm after the first yellow flag. Klaus Graf took the overall lead through the most recent pit stop cycle in the No. 6 Muscle Milk Pickett Racing ORECA 03 Nissan.

Risi Competizione’s No. 62 Ferrari F458 Italia and the No. 911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR battled for the GTLM class lead. RSR Racing (No. 09, PC) and Scuderia Corsa (No. 63, GTD) were other class leaders at the two-hour mark.

HOUR ONE

The majority of the first hour was run under a caution flag as Ben Keating had to stop his No. 33 Riley Motorsports SRT Viper GT3-R on track, just at Turn 6. A blaze ignited underneath the car and made a massive fire; Keating got out under his own power but with the car, torched, was taken back to the paddock on a flatbed.

As the pit stop cycle commenced, the DeltaWing racing team took the opportunity to stay out and lead under yellow. Andy Meyrick was behind the wheel of the No. 0 DeltaWing DWC13 cope.

IndyCar’s 2018 full-field grid nearing completion

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Following Wednesday’s confirmation of the all-Canadian tandem at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, each of the eight full-time teams in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season have announced at least one driver for 2018, leaving very few remaining question marks.

What stands confirmed is below:

CONFIRMED

  • Team Penske (3, Chevrolet): Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power
  • Chip Ganassi Racing (1, Honda): Scott Dixon
  • Andretti Autosport (4, Honda): Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Marco Andretti, Zach Veach
  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (2, Honda): Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato
  • Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (2, Honda): James Hinchcliffe, Robert Wickens
  • Ed Carpenter Racing (2, Chevrolet): Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter (ovals)
  • A.J. Foyt Enterprises (1, Chevrolet): Tony Kanaan
  • Dale Coyne Racing (1, Honda): Sebastien Bourdais
  • Harding Racing (1, Chevrolet): Gabby Chaves

There are four additional drivers confirmed for selected races or an month of May program:

  • Team Penske (1, Chevrolet): Helio Castroneves
  • Andretti Autosport (1, Honda): Stefan Wilson
  • Calmels Sport with SPM (1, Honda): Tristan Gommendy
  • Team TBD (1, TBD): Kyle Kaiser

All told that’s 17 full-season driver and team combinations confirmed and four additional part-time programs, at least, that are set. Several of those driver/team combinations will have engineering and strategist changes, as well.

In a minor note since our last update at Sonoma, Marco Andretti confirmed he won’t run No. 27 next year. Of note, Bryan Herta served as Andretti’s race strategist this year, although the car he was an entrant on was Alexander Rossi’s No. 98 car. Herta will continue his relationship with Andretti Autosport again next season.

WHAT’S LEFT TO SORT? NOT MUCH

Elsewhere, there’s only a handful of remaining question marks as the series hits mid-October, a rarity from past years and an illustration of the urgency to fill seats to get as much preparation time in testing with the new 2018 Dallara universal aero kit as possible.

NBC Sports expects 2016 Indy Lights champion and 2017 IndyCar rookie-of-the-year Ed Jones to be confirmed soon as second driver in Dale Coyne Racing’s No. 19 Honda alongside Sebastien Bourdais, with team personnel and Bourdais both having indicated a preference in keeping the Dubai-based Brit for a second year.

NBC Sports also expects Jones’ successor as Indy Lights champion, Kyle Kaiser, to have his future announced shortly in terms of which team he’ll step up to IndyCar with. It would not be a surprise if Kaiser does graduate along with Juncos Racing, although Kaiser is known to have talked to multiple teams. The Mazda Motorsports scholarship nets him $1 million for a three-race program, including the 102nd Indianapolis 500, with the driver then needing to secure additional funding for further races, as Jones and Pigot both have each of the last two years.

The status of Brendon Hartley has now been thrown up as a slight question mark dependent on how his Formula 1 debut with Scuderia Toro Rosso goes at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, and if Toro Rosso provides him a further race opportunity in one of the remaining three Grands Prix thereafter. Having been all-but-earmarked for Chip Ganassi Racing’s second seat in 2018, if an F1 offer comes, Hartley’s potential IndyCar bow could get delayed.

A McLaren-named entry competing either in the Indianapolis 500 or full-time seems further off than realistic for next year, McLaren’s Zak Brown told reporters on a teleconference this week. McLaren maintains an IndyCar technical presence though, via its McLaren Applied Technologies outfit.

What’s left then are the dominoes of whether Carlin’s IndyCar plans officially come to fruition as the team has gotten closer than it ever has to doing so, and who emerges in the second seats at A.J. Foyt Enterprises and Ed Carpenter Racing (road and street courses), respectively.

A number of young IndyCar veterans – Max Chilton, Charlie Kimball, Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly namely – are yet to land for 2018 and there’s no guarantee all four of them will be back in IndyCar next season.

There’s also a handful of young drivers, namely RC Enerson, Jack Harvey, Esteban Gutierrez, Santiago Urrutia, Zachary Claman DeMelo, Sage Karam and Matthew Brabham among others, who could well emerge in the frame for seats.

Gutierrez’s status seemed dependent on Mexico City being added to the 2018 calendar, and although the race still could be added, the fact neither is in place at this point doesn’t inspire as much confidence about his presence as a regular on the grid as it did earlier this summer.

All told, there’s not nearly that much to sort out as IndyCar’s grid for 2018 is looking very much close to set at this early stage of a long offseason.