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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 The rest of the teams are no longer active in any championship.

Bottas confident after strong qualifying in Sochi

SOCHI, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 10:  Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Williams drives during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on October 10, 2015 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
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Valtteri Bottas is confident of scoring a good result in tomorrow’s Russian Grand Prix after qualifying third at the Sochi Autodrom on Saturday.

Bottas finished as the ‘best of the rest’ in Q3 behind the leading Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, beating the Ferrari drivers to secure P3 for the start of tomorrow’s race.

After a difficult run of form, Bottas believes that he can capitalize on this good qualifying result and make the most of the Williams car’s suitability to the track in Sochi.

“It was a strong job by the team today,” Bottas said. “We managed to set-up the car well and maximize our performance.

“I felt very good in the car all day and managed to get in a rhythm quickly and put in consistent lap times despite the limited number of laps we had completed in practice.

“Tomorrow is where it really matters but I have put myself in a very good position to capitalize.”

Bottas’ teammate, Felipe Massa, was less impressive in qualifying as a mistake and traffic caused him to drop out in Q2, finishing P15.

“I made a mistake at turn eight in my first timed lap in Q2, and then in my final two attempts I came up against a lot of traffic which lost me a lot of time,” Massa explained.

“On my final run my tires were gone at the rear and that was the end of my chances. It’s a shame and I’m very disappointed, but I have a quick car around here so we need to have a good strategy and use our pace to move up into the points tomorrow.”

The Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 6:30am ET on Sunday.

GP2: Rossi victorious again in shortened Sochi opener

2015 GP2 Series Round 9. Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia. 
Saturday 10 October 2015. 
Alexander Rossi (USA, Racing Engineering) celebrates his win on the podium.
Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Series Media Service. 
ref: Digital Image _SBL3610
© GP2 Series
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Alexander Rossi claimed his third win in as many GP2 Series rounds in Saturday’s feature race at the Sochi Autodrom.

Since winning the last feature race at Monza in Italy, Rossi has made his Formula 1 debut with Manor and also raced for the team at the iconic Suzuka Circuit in Japan.

As part of his deal with Manor, Rossi has returned to GP2 for this weekend’s round in Russia as he bids to finish as runner-up to impending series champion Stoffel Vandoorne.

Vandoorne was expected to be crowned champion on Saturday, but Rossi managed to delay the Belgian’s celebrations by storming to victory as darkness forced officials to shorten the race.

Carnage on the first lap saw four drivers retire from the race, with damage caused to the barrier at turn 3 by Jordan King resulted in a 30 minute red flag delay.

Once the race restarted, a shortened distance of 15 laps was confirmed, but full points were still to be awarded.

Pole-sitter Alex Lynn managed to pull clear through the first stint, and after falling behind Rossi in the first round of pit stops, the DAMS driver regained the advantage soon after.

However, when Lynn crashed out, Rossi was able to pull clear of the chasing Pierre Gasly and Vandoorne just behind to record his third win in as many race weekends by three seconds.

Rossi will start tomorrow’s sprint race from eighth place on the grid which is reversed, handing pole to Frenchman Arthur Pic who finished P8 on Saturday.

You will be able to read all about Alexander’s success in his exclusive NBC Sports blog on Wednesday. To read his pre-Sochi thoughts, click here.