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IMSA: Monterey Selected Pre-Race Notes & Quotes

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Following are a few pre-race notes and quotes from around the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship paddock heading into the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix:

  • WeatherTech Alex Job Racing is moving on after Sebring, where a penalty was incorrectly assessed by IMSA to the team’s No. 22 Porsche 911 GT America instead of one of the factory 911 RSRs. “After the controversy that happened at Sebring, all I can hope for is that Laguna goes smoothly. We will keep pushing our hardest, just as we always do however, I really hope the officiating has improved because we have too much invested and my crew works too hard for another disaster to happen,” said Cooper MacNeil, who co-drives with Leh Keen.
  • Spirit of Daytona’s No. 90 Corvette DP won the GRAND-AM race at Monterey in 2012 and the pole with Richard Westbrook last year. Despite a great driver lineup of “Westy” and Michael Valiante, luck hasn’t been on the team’s side this year. “This is one of the all-time great tracks and everyone is a little extra motivated when you come out to a place like Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. This will be a different animal for us compared to 2012 as we’ve got an entirely new technical package so this is a new notebook for everyone. But hopefully we can unload with a quick car,” said team owner Troy Flis.
  • Wayne Taylor Racing, now with Konica Minolta sponsorship, seeks it second straight Monterey win and first this season. Jordan and Ricky Taylor have a pair of runner-up finishes (Daytona, Long Beach) in the No. 10 Corvette DP this season.
  • It will be a busy weekend for Oakland’s Johannes van Overbeek in his home race in the No. 2 Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD ARX-03b. “JVO” participated in an annual bike ride on Tuesday of 80 miles from San Jose to Monterey. “It will be a challenging weekend to get a setup because we’re practicing with 50-plus cars in two hours, so we expect a few yellows.  Then we are racing with nearly half that number on Sunday afternoon,” he said of the weekend; he’ll share the Tequila Patron-sponsored car with Ed Brown.
  • Few drivers have as many laps at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca as Jonathan Bomarito of SRT Motorsports. The Monterey native, who now lives in San Diego, seeks to provide the No. 93 SRT Viper GTS-R its elusive first win (the sister No. 91 got the team’s first at Road America last year). “I was born and raised in Monterey County and I used to ride my bike from my backyard up to the track as a kid. I’ve always been around it. I taught at the racing school up there for a number of years and it’s definitely my hometown,” he said, and will again co-drive with Kuno Wittmer.
  • MOMO NGT Motorsport won the GTC class at Monterey last year and seek an encore in a 20-plus car field, now with Kuba Giermaziak alongside Henrique Cisneros in the No. 30 Porsche 911 GT America. “There are a lot more variables to deal with this time around. The field is three times larger and we are battling different manufacturers, so you could say the difficulty has increased,” Cisneros said.
  • CORE autosport seeks a PC class three-peat this weekend, having won the opening two rounds of the season. The team has also stood on the podium in each of its three starts in Monterey. PC and GTD will race together on Sunday; Colin Braun explained the challenges that presents: “I’d say the PC class is more affected by it, because we usually have a mix of passing GTD and GTLM cars, but getting passed by Prototypes. It will be interesting to not have to worry about being passed and just focused on getting through forward traffic.”
  • BMW Team RLL has scored three straight Monterey podiums, although is yet to win at the track. “We may not have the best pace for qualifying but we have several things in our favor for this round. The Z4 GTLM is a more developed car than it was last year. Unlike our main competitors, we have lots of setup and race data from last year and should be fast out of the transporter,” said team principal Bobby Rahal.
  • P2 in GT in 2013, Team Falken Tire seeks its first podium finish with its new car this weekend. Said Bryan Sellers, who’ll co-drive the No. 17 Porsche 911 RSR with Wolf Henzler, “We had a great result and a very strong car and tire combination last year here at Laguna Seca. The new Porsche 911 RSR is a definite improvement so we are hoping for the best moving forward. We were able to learn a lot about our performance in Long Beach and have an idea where we need to make progress.”

Gutierrez takes grid penalty after Wehrlein incident in Spa FP3

SPA, BELGIUM - AUGUST 26: Esteban Gutierrez of Mexico driving the (21) Haas F1 Team Haas-Ferrari VF-16 Ferrari 059/5 turbo on track during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 26, 2016 in Spa, Belgium.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Haas driver Esteban Gutierrez has been hit with a five-place grid penalty after forcing Pascal Wehrlein onto the grass during the final Formula 1 practice for the Belgian Grand Prix on Saturday at Spa.

Coming through the kink on the Kemmel Straight following Eau Rouge and Raidillion, Wehrlein came across a slow-moving Gutierrez while on a hot lap.

Gutierrez appeared to move right to let Wehrlein through before crossing back across the track, forcing Wehrlein to dive onto the grass at one of the fastest points on the circuit to avoid a collision.

Wehrlein managed to get back on to the track without crashing, but was less than impressed, asking his Manor team: “F*****g idiot, what is he doing?”

The stewards looked dimly on the incident, handing Gutierrez a five-place grid drop and three penalty points on his FIA super licence.

Gutierrez qualified 13th on Saturday afternoon, meaning he will drop to P18 on the grid for the start of Sunday’s race.

“It was a really good effort from the team. We’ve been struggling with the car setup, but managed to find the best balance,” Gutierrez said after qualifying.

“In qualifying, it felt like a step forward considering the high track temperatures, which is making things a little complicated with the tires.

“In FP3 there was a miscommunication that cost us a five-place grid penalty, which is obviously very painful, but we will try to put that aside.

“I’ll start the race and give everything I’ve got to recover the lost positions and I’ll be fighting all the way to get into the top 10.”

The Belgian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday.

Grosjean: Aggressive tire strategy could give Haas points at Spa

SPA, BELGIUM - AUGUST 27: Romain Grosjean of France driving the (8) Haas F1 Team Haas-Ferrari VF-16 Ferrari 059/5 turbo in the Pitlane during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 27, 2016 in Spa, Belgium.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Romain Grosjean believes that an aggressive strategy could see the Haas Formula 1 Team score points in Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix after qualifying 11th at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.

Grosjean struggled with the setup on his car throughout practice, venting his frustration over the radio on a number of occasions, but managed to rein the VF-16 car in during qualifying to get into Q2.

Although the Frenchman was unable to secure Haas’ first Q3 appearance since entering F1 at the beginning of the season, he was pleased with the result and the progress made by the team.

“The car was fine in qualifying. We made a good step before the summer break, so I’m more happy with the car,” Grosjean said.

“There are still a few things we can improve but, generally, it’s not a bad place to be after qualifying.

“For the race, I don’t think we’ll be as challenged as some of the other teams. Hopefully, we can have a good, aggressive strategy and try to make it work to get some points.”

Grosjean has scored all 28 of Haas’ points so far this season, with his P6 and P5 finishes in Australia and Bahrain respectively coming in part thanks to canny strategy calls by the pit wall.

The Belgian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday.

Rosberg wary of Verstappen, Hamilton threats in Belgium

SPA, BELGIUM - AUGUST 27:  Nico Rosberg of Germany drives the  Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 27, 2016 in Spa, Belgium.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
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Nico Rosberg may have swept to his sixth pole position of the 2016 Formula 1 season in Belgium on Saturday, but the German remains wary of the threats posed from either end of the grid by Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.

Mercedes opted to curtail Hamilton’s qualifying program early due to the array of penalties he has picked up for engine changes that meant he would start last regardless of where he finished in qualifying.

This left Rosberg to go relatively unchallenged to pole, making it through Q2 on the soft tire before seeing off late charges from Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen to top the timesheets in Q3.

However, Rosberg felt the result was never secure, particularly after struggling in final practice just three hours earlier.

“We had a difficult weekend until qualifying, especially this morning we were thinking that we were off the pace a bit,” Rosberg said.

“So I was really happy to grab pole today. The Red Bulls were quickest on the long runs on Friday, so we need to be at our best to beat them.”

With Verstappen starting on the front row with the super-soft tire, Rosberg believes he could slip behind off the line with his soft compound Pirellis.

“The tires are a big challenge in the heat here this weekend. The degradation is very high,” Rosberg said.

“My disadvantage at the start is that I have a harder tire with lower grip, so Max should get off the line quicker on the super-soft.”

Rosberg will also be keeping an eye on Hamilton’s progress, believing he could come into contention despite being set to start from the back row.

“I reckon that with some luck and a maybe a safety car, Lewis can climb up to the top very quickly, so he can’t be ruled out either,” Rosberg said.

“In any case, I’m pleased with my qualifying and looking forward to tomorrow. It will be an exciting and intense race.”

The Belgian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday.

IMSA: Magnussen leads Corvette Racing 1-2 in VIR qualifying

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Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Jan Magnussen has broken a personal drought to continue Corvette Racing’s weekend pace ahead of Sunday’s Michelin GT Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway, the GT-only round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.

Magnussen hadn’t qualified on the pole since the Long Beach street race in 2014 in the No. 3 Corvette C7.R he shares with Antonio Garcia, but broke that duck today by edging teammate Tommy Milner by just 0.011 of a second. Garcia scored a pole at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for the No. 3 car’s – and Corvette’s – first pole of the year.

Magnussen’s best lap was 1:41.557 to Milner’s 1:41.568; Milner and co-driver Oliver Gavin lead the points tables in GT Le Mans heading into Sunday’s two-hour, 40-minute race.

“I’m so happy. We’re here alone. Overall pole makes it even better!” Magnussen told IMSA Radio’s Shea Adam. “It’s so close up front. I knew we had to get every hundredth to beat the 4 car! It was a fantastic effort from the whole team.”

The No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT (Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller) starts third ahead of the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE and No. 100 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM. The top Porsche, the No. 911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR, starts seventh, a spot ahead of Gavin and Milner’s closest title rivals Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe in the No. 67 Ford.

Meanwhile, the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 continued its pace this weekend with Madison Snow scoring his first, the car’s second (Bryan Sellers, Detroit) and the manufacturer’s third (Spencer Pumpelly, Change Racing, Lime Rock) pole of the year in GT Daytona.

Snow’s best time was 1:44.956, and that time led a top six sweep from brands under the VAG umbrella. The three Lamborghinis were first, third and fifth with the two Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS cars in second and fourth and the lone Porsche in GTD, the No. 23 The Heart of Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R, in sixth.

Those six were separated by 0.607 of a second, and Ben Keating was seventh in the No. 33 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R and the only other driver within a second at 0.724.

Christina Nielsen qualified the points leading No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 in eighth.

Tomorrow’s race rolls off at 1:30 p.m. ET on FS1.

Qualifying results are linked here.