IMSA: Muscle Milk pulls out of TUDOR Championship; next move TBD

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The Muscle Milk Pickett Racing team is the latest to announce its withdrawal from the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, joining Level 5 Motorsports and GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing as teams to pull out after early season races.

Pickett’s team struck a late deal to compete with the ORECA 03 Nissan P2 chassis. A fifth place finish in the Rolex 24 at Daytona followed, but mechanical gremlins struck at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

After Sebring, the team opted to temporarily sit out the Long Beach and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca rounds, citing a need for further car and tire development and looking for series officials to make further Balance of Performance (BoP) adjustments.

News initially broke of the team’s decision late Wednesday night and was confirmed Thursday morning.

It’s also telling in how many prototype teams from the American Le Mans Series now remain just three races into the new TUDOR Championship: just Extreme Speed Motorsports, of which Patron is a TUDOR Championship sponsor; and DeltaWing Racing Cars, although the radical DeltaWing coupe prototype is not built to a set of either LMP1 or LMP2 regulations, and instead focused on a lightweight, fuel efficient platform.

OAK Racing and SpeedSource (1 OAK Morgan Nissan, 2 SpeedSource Mazda SKYACTIV-D) make up the balance of the P2-spec cars within the Prototype class.

Pickett’s next move is TBD but it’s understood most of its crew will have to find new work; the potential exists the team could resurface later this year with a different car in a different series.

But since 2010, here’s the list of ALMS P teams that have since departed: Muscle Milk Pickett Racing, Dyson Racing, Highcroft Racing, Drayson Racing, Intersport Racing, Autocon Motorsports, Level 5 Motorsports, Conquest Racing, Rebellion Racing, Black Swan Racing and Project Libra. The last three teams on that list were ALMS part-timers.

Dyson will now race a Bentley Continental GT3 in Pirelli World Challenge, the same series where Black Swan races its Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3; Drayson will be active in the new FIA Formula E Championship and Rebellion still has a two-car presence in the FIA World Endurance Championship. The rest of the teams are no longer active in any championship.

Ricciardo: Red Bull has ‘decent chance’ of Abu Dhabi F1 victory

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Daniel Ricciardo believes Red Bull stands a “decent chance” of signing off from the 2017 Formula 1 season with a victory in next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

After a slow start to the year, Red Bull made massive gains across the course of the season by developing its RB13 to end the season as front-runners, rivaling Mercedes and Ferrari for pace.

The Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi has a number of slow-speed sections that should suit the RB13 car, with Ricciardo optimistic about his chances of not only ending his podium drought at the track, but even winning the race.

“Yas Marina has actually been one of my favorite tracks over the years,” Ricciardo said in Red Bull’s pre-race preview.

“It’s been a bit like Suzuka for me though, a track that I’ve always enjoyed and gone well on but not quite reached the podium at. I broke that trend in Suzuka this year so hopefully I can do the same in Abu Dhabi.

“When you have so much time away from the car in the off season it helps to sign off with a strong result as it makes you feel like you really deserve a break.

“I think we should have a strong car in Abu Dhabi. I said I want another win before the season is out and I think we have a decent chance of achieving that.”

Red Bull has claimed three race wins through 2017, with Ricciardo’s victory in Azerbaijan being followed up by successes for teammate Max Verstappen in Malaysia and Mexico.