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PWC: Weekend winners, plus other Mid-Ohio weekend notes

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Editor’s Note: The Pirelli World Challenge races from the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course air Sunday, August 10, at 1:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. The GT, GT-A, and GTS classes ran Saturday and Sunday for 50-minute sprint races; the TC, TCA and TCB classes ran Friday and Saturday for 40 minutes apiece. If you don’t want to know who won the races, we’d advise you read no further. 

The GT, GT-A and GTS double at Mid-Ohio saw a trio of drivers complete doubleheader weekend sweeps. EFFORT Racing won both Saturday and Sunday in GT and GT-A, to cap off a perfect weekend for the Houston-based team in its pair of Porsche GT3 Rs.

Ryan Dalziel, making his return to the Pirelli World Challenge for the first time since 2013, took Saturday’s rain-shortened race as he was classified as the race leader when the race was red flagged due to a deluge. Johnny O’Connell and Mike Skeen rounded out the GT podium. Dalziel’s teammate, Michael Mills, won his second straight and third GT-A race of the year. Blackdog Speed Shop’s Lawson Aschenbach took the GTS win in his Chevrolet Camaro over Alec Udell and Nic Jonsson.

Podiums were similar in the all-dry race two, Round 12, on Sunday with Dalziel leading Skeen and Anthony Lazzaro in GT. The podium order was reversed in GT-A – Mills won but Albert von Thurn und Taxis and Jim Taggart swapped second and third; the German came second on Sunday with Taggart third. Aschenbach beat the Kia Racing/Kinetic Motorsports teammates of Jonsson and Mark Wilkins in GTS.

O’Connell (GT) and Wilkins (GTS) lead the respective points standings, as do their manufacturer’s (Cadillac, GT; Kia, GTS) with just four races and two race weekends to go. Mills leads the GT-A classified drivers.

The pair of Touring Car races were exciting both days; Friday’s featured a mix of wet/dry conditions while Saturday’s, all dry, was a thrill ride from start to finish.

Winners on Friday were Michael DiMeo (TC), Jason Wolfe (TCA) and Tyler Palmer (TCB). Wolfe’s drive was particularly impressive; the Mid-Ohio track instructor came from 14th overall on the grid up to second overall in his Kia Forte Koup, ultimately ending third overall behind DiMeo and Nissan driver Steven Doherty, who barely held onto his Nissan Altima Coupe in a wicked series of slides.

Saturday’s race two (Round 10) was a classic scrap between DiMeo and Adam Poland in TC, with DiMeo prevailing again for his eighth win in 10 races. Shea Holbrook secured her fifth win of the year in TCA in a nice bounce back, with Chase Pelletier winning in TCB. Hondas swept the win category there.

Points leaders in these classes are DiMeo (TC), Wolfe (TCA) and Brian Price (TCB); Wolfe and Holbrook are neck-and-neck for the TCA lead.

Dalziel’s pair of wins was enough for him to be confirmed for the remainder of the Pirelli World Challenge season in the No. 31 GT entry, as outlined in a video produced by EFFORT Racing. Nick Tandy had replaced prior driver Tim Bergmeister at Toronto, with Dalziel in for Mid-Ohio.

Former IndyCar rookie-of-the-year Alex Lloyd made his professional racing return in CRP Racing’s No. 12 Emkay Fleet Management/Hawk Performance Chevrolet Corvette. In race one he drove from 24th to 11th; in race two he stalled on the grid, took his start, had to serve a drive-through penalty, carved through the field and then had a mechanical issue. He recaps the weekend here for Yahoo Autos (it includes helmet cam. It’s good.).

There were two charity entries competing this weekend, with Pirelli World Challenge President/CEO Scott Bove and 15-year-old rising star Austin Cindric sharing the No. 55 Special Operations Warrior Foundation Ford Mustang Boss in GTS, and Leo Parente and Dan Goodman sharing the No. 00 FIAT USA/Pirelli Tire/SRT Motorsports FIAT 500 in TCB.

Bove (25th to 20th, race one) and Cindric (22nd to 14th, race two) each made passes in their respective races; the net total of 13, plus other flat donations, made for more than $13,500 raised in total. More here from the series website. Cindric completed his weekend – “The Quad” – with racing in all three USF2000 races plus the Pirelli World Challenge GTS Round 12. In the USF2000 races, Cindric finished 18th in race one, then sixth in both races two and three in the 21-car field.

More info will follow from Parente’s and Goodman’s respective outings soon.

After a couple-week break, the Pirelli World Challenge GT classes head to Sonoma Raceway on August 22-24 for a doubleheader, while the TC ones are next in action at Brainerd International Raceway in Minnesota August 29-31 for a doubleheader there.

Touring car legend Yvan Muller to leave WTCC after 2016

STRASBOURG, FRANCE - OCTOBER 04:   Yvan Muller of France attends the FIA pre event press conference at rally headquarters after the Shakedown of the WRC France on October 04, 2012 in Strasbourg , France.  (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)
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Touring car racing legend and four-time world champion Yvan Muller will leave the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) at the end of the 2016 season.

Muller made his name in the British Touring Car Championship before making the switch across to WTCC in 2006 with Seat.

The Frenchman claimed his first world title in 2008 before enjoying further successes in 2010, 2011 and 2013, the latter three championships won while behind the wheel of a Chevrolet.

Muller joined Citroen following its arrival in WTCC for the 2014 season, but has been unable to add to his haul of championship as teammate Jose Maria Lopez romped to three straight crowns.

With Citroen set to leave WTCC at the end of the year, Muller has decided that the time is right to follow suit and call time on a stint in the series that has seen him score 47 wins, 119 podium finishes and over 2,600 points.

“I am not sure that age is the main factor when it comes to ending a career. It’s more a matter of desire and motivation,” Muller said.

“With all the testing, the simulator sessions, the physical training and the travel to the race venues, a season of professional motor racing requires a level of personal commitment that I am no longer prepared to put in.

“At the same time, I am at a time of my life where I want to do something else and I am happy to be able to make that decision after eleven seasons of FIA WTCC.

“I’ve had some great experiences over my career. These three seasons with Citroën Racing have been particularly special, even though I never managed to be world champion with this team. But I will always be proud of having helped to build our racing programme and develop the Citroën C-Elysée WTCC. I have also met some great people who are passionate about their job and have a fierce competitive spirit.

“Driving has been part of my daily life for so long that I can’t see myself stopping racing entirely. But I am going to spend more time with my family and developing my team, Yvan Muller Racing. Before that, though, I am going to put everything I’ve got into meeting the team’s goals.”

Lopez is also set to leave WTCC at the end of the year, having agreed a deal to race for Citroen sub-brand DS in Formula E for the all-electric series’ third season.

The 2016 WTCC season closes on November 25 at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar.

Report: Sam Schmidt to receive America’s first driver’s license for semi-autonomous car

2016 Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
May 29, 2016
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Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team owner Sam Schmidt is set to receive America’s first driver’s license for a semi-autonomous vehicle, according to a report from Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Schmidt sustained a spinal cord injury in a testing accident at Walt Disney World Speedway ahead of the 2000 IRL season, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down.

Schmidt went on to establish Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with programs in IndyCar and Indy Lights, both of which he still heads up.

Schmidt has previously completed laps behind the wheel of a modified 2014 Corvette C7 Stingray at Indianapolis in 2014 and in Long Beach last year, dubbed the ‘SAM project’ – semi-autonomous motorcar – developed with Arrow Electronics.

Schmidt controls the car using a breathing tube for acceleration and braking, and steers using his head movements that are picked up by infrared cameras.

Now, the SAM project is set to hit the road, with Las Vegas Review-Journal reporting that Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles will grant Schmidt the first road license for a semi-autonomous car in the country.

The report says that Arrow has worked closely with the Nevada DMV to update regulations so that Schmidt is able to drive on state roads.

“Nevada is leading the nation in promoting autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicle technologies that can bring mobility and independence to people with physical disabilities, including our wounded warriors,” officials from the Nevada DMV said.

Robert Kubica scores podium finish on Renault Sport Trophy debut at Spa

16 KUBICA Robert (POL) HAMON Christophe (FRA) RENAULT RS 01 Team Duqueine action during the 2016 Renault Sport series  at Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, September  23 to 25  - Photo Eric Vargiolu / DPPI
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Robert Kubica enjoyed a successful debut in the Renault Sport Trophy at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on Saturday, finishing third alongside Christophe Hamon.

Former BMW and Renault Formula 1 driver Kubica announced last week that he would be entering the race weekend at Spa after accepting an invitation from the French manufacturer.

Kubica spent five seasons racing in F1 and won the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix for BMW before having his stint in the series cut short after a rally crash ahead of the 2011 season.

Severe injuries sustained to his right arm and hand meant left Kubica spending a lengthy spell in rehabilitation before making his return to motorsport in the World Rally Championship.

The Pole made his final WRC appearance in January at the Monte Carlo Rally before making his circuit racing return in the 12 Hours of Mugello with Mercedes.

Kubica enjoyed his first qualifying session since the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Saturday ahead of the Renault Sport Trophy weekend, finishing third.

After seeing Hamon complete the first 10 laps of the race and suffer contact, Kubica completed the final 17 behind the wheel of the Renault R.S.01 car.

A late charge saw Kubica rise from P6 with 10 minutes remaining to cross the line third, six seconds behind race winners Raoul Owens and Fredrik Blomstedt.

Curiously, Kubica’s last F1 podium finish also came at Spa in 2010, finishing third for Renault behind Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber.

Kubica will return to Spa on Sunday for the sprint race, where he will race in the Pro class.

Alonso talks book plan, Pokemon Go and dream F1 line-up in Twitter Q&A

MONZA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 02: Fernando Alonso of Spain and McLaren Honda arrives at the circuit and signs autographs for fans  during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 2, 2016 in Monza, Italy.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
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Fernando Alonso took some time out on Thursday night to interact with his fans via a Twitter Q&A, covering a wide variety of topics.

Alonso had done a handful of ‘#AskAlo’ sessions on Twitter in the last year or so, giving his 2.42 million followers a chance to pose questions to the two-time Formula 1 world champion.

Among the topics up for debate were his dream F1 line-up – Stoffel Vandoorne and Carlos Sainz Jr. – if he ran a team, his plans for a book in the future and whether or not he plays Pokemon Go (like McLaren teammate Jenson Button, he doesn’t).

Here’s a selection of Alonso’s answers.