IMSA: Muscle Milk Pickett Racing to skip Long Beach, Monterey races

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Muscle Milk Pickett Racing has withdrawn from the next two rounds of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship at Long Beach and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, citing a need “to focus on reliability and performance testing with its ORECA Nissan.”

The team said between receiving its car late and not having the necessary amount of time to test, it needed to go through a thorough analysis of the new car (ORECA 03 Nissan), tires (Continental P2-spec, as opposed to Michelin P1-spec) and class (the combined P2/DP Prototype class of the TUDOR Championship). Only the driver lineup of Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr carried over.

These two lines also stuck out from the team release:

With all of this in mind, the team decided that it was in their best long-term interest to spend the time testing and gathering more knowledge of its new prototype while missing two races before coming back at Detroit at the end of May.

Furthermore, Pickett Racing also wants to study how the balance of performance between the Daytona Prototypes and the P2 cars pans out over the next couple of races.

Team owner Greg Pickett expanded on the decision to sit these two out.

“It’s never an easy decision to make when deciding to miss a race, let alone two. We had an issue at Sebring with the power steering that could have been a safety concern, fortunately it didn’t get to that but we want to make sure that we don’t have such problems again.

“It was a very short off-season for us, we received our car at the end of December and we were racing at the end of January. The team worked hard so we could be at Daytona and Sebring but we feel that we need to take a step back in order to continue moving forward the way we want.

“Additionally, while we did lead some laps at Sebring, the speed differential between the DP cars and the P2s is still quite big and I want to see what the series does with that over the course of the next couple of races, as these will take place at tracks that should favor the P2 cars.

“We came here to be competitive and we know that we have the drivers and the car to do so, but a big part of that competitiveness comes from the balance of performance and you can’t be fighting for wins if you’re not on a level playing field.”

The Long Beach race was always going to be a reduced grid anyway with only the P and GTLM classes, and this drops the projected field of 23 down by 1 to 22.

Pickett’s team has won the last three Long Beach races in the American Le Mans Series.

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.