Photo courtesy of IMSA

2017 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Rolling Updates

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SEBRING, Fla. – We’ll have updates as they come from the 65th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, below.

8:20 p.m. ET (9:40 into race): The race had a caution for the No. 27 Dream Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 stopping on course, and it presented an opportunity to watch a rocket launch from Cape Canaveral. No, seriously, it did.

Now that an actual rocket has been launched, it’s time to watch the theoretical rocketships on track compete in the last two hours and change of this race.

6:40 p.m. ET (Hour 8): Two-thirds of the race complete, and the next round Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup points for the race get awarded. The race is now under its fourth full-course caution for the No. 14 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 stopped on course at Turn 14, ending a stretch of more than two hours since the last caution.

Here’s the top three in each class at the two-thirds distance mark:

  • P: 1-No. 10 Cadillac, 2-No. 5 Cadillac, 3-No. 85 Oreca
  • PC: 1-No. 38 Performance Tech, 2-No. 8 Starworks, 3-No. 26 BAR1
  • GTLM: 1-No. 68 Ford, 2-No. 911 Porsche, 3-No. 67 Ford
  • GTD: 1-No. 33 Mercedes-AMG, 2-No. 63 Ferrari, 3-No. 11 Lamborghini

Potentially interesting times lie ahead as the track will start to cool once the sun starts to set. The next two hours are about getting into position for the finish and then the next two hours might be mental.

First and second place are on the lead laps in P and PC. There may be a battle for third between the No. 85 JDC-Miller Oreca and No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac once the two cars are on the same lap.

The overall lead battle nearly ended once Alex Lynn, in his first U.S. race, had quite a moment at seven hours, 42 minutes into the race trying to lap through GT class traffic going into Turn 7, the hairpin. Lynn got on the grass but corralled the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac in a straight line, and didn’t lose control.

Meanwhile the top six are on the lead lap in GTLM and the top five are on the lead lap in GTD.

With further yellows come the opportunity for further wave-bys and a chance to get back a lap.

4:40 p.m. ET (Hour 6): We are halfway home. And the race definitively settled into a rhythm before Nick Catsburg appeared to have a failure on his No. 24 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM that sent him into the Turn 1 wall with six hours and 23 minutes remaining, to end a near three-hour run (two hours, 57 minutes) of green-flag running before the third caution of the race.

At Hour 6, halfway, here’s the top-three in each class:

  • P: 1-No. 5 Cadillac, 2-No. 10 Cadillac, 3-No. 85 Oreca
  • PC: 1-No. 38 Performance Tech, 2-No. 8 Starworks, 3-No. 26 BAR1
  • GTLM: 1-No. 67 Ford, 2-No. 68 Ford, 3-No. 62 Ferrari
  • GTD: 1-No. 11 Lamborghini, 2-No. 33 Mercedes-AMG, 3-No. 29 Audi

Some notes thus far on a race that hasn’t been a classic, but has still seen some interesting moments:

  • The race is again Cadillac’s to lose and is shaping up as another fight between the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing and No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.Rs. The rest of the Prototype field doesn’t have the outright pace or driver lineups to match at this stage and with attrition having taken a heavy toll (see the below notes), the pair of Cadillacs appear well-poised for a neck-and-neck fight.
  • Tough day for the Patron ESM team, which just had the No. 22 Nissan Onroak DPi retire with a mechanical after the No. 2 car had been delayed earlier in the race and is just out circulating. The team’s primary sponsor is an appropriate drink of choice to soothe what has ailed them on-track.
  • Additionally, with both Mazdas (water coolant and accident) and the Rebellion (starter cable) and Visit Florida (starter motor and throttle) cars having issues, Sebring has proven way more of a brutal test for the new DPis and LMP2s than did Daytona. The temperatures are higher here than they were at Daytona all race, although the change will come this evening when the cooler temperatures return when the sun sets.
  • A shout has to go to the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson, which in the first six hours posed a good threat to the Cadillacs at the front of the field. Chris Miller, the less experienced third driver for the team, did an outstanding job to stay as close to Filipe Albuquerque in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac as he did. Stephen Simpson and Misha Goikhberg have done well too.
  • So far, PC hasn’t PC’d – which is to say cause a bunch of incidents. I may regret writing that sentence later on if they do. Performance Tech and Starworks are still on the same lap, Starworks doing particularly well with a lineup that wasn’t even confirmed until Thursday and two drivers making their Sebring race debuts (Garett Grist, Max Hanratty).
  • GT Le Mans has been a Ford show thus far, the GTs well clear of the Porsches, Corvettes and Ferraris, while BMW’s rough start to 2017 rolls on.
  • GT Daytona? As always, if you stay close, you’ve got a chance. After a forgettable Daytona, the Lamborghini Huracán GT3s from Change Racing and GRT have put up a good fight while Audi (Land Motorsport), Mercedes-AMG (Riley Motorsports), Ferrari (Scuderia Corsa) and Lexus (3GT Racing) also seem in it. Don’t count out the Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 either if that car stays on the lead lap. Acura is fighting with a car that isn’t quite there on pace this week. Stevenson’s charge may have just been halted by a stop-and-hold plus four minutes, six second penalty for an improper wave by.

And some quotes thus far:

“I never expected Johannes van Overbeek in the Patron car to go to pit lane when I was on the inside,” said Eric Curran, driver of the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac, who had contact with the aforementioned JVO at Turn 17. “He got caught up in some GT traffic and I was on the inside, usually when you are going to pit lane you give some notice as opposed to just coming across, I was already on the inside when he turned into Pit Lane. I was already there and we hit. Then the car wouldn’t fire up. We got it behind the wall and the guys push started it and we are back in the race. Our team works so hard, I can’t believe my luck lately. Long way to go. We will see where we end up.”

“Obviously not the day we hoped for with the No. 2 car,” Patron ESM’s Scott Sharp said earlier in the race. “We started to have multiple issues, some of which were the same from qualifying. Ultimately, it was a mechanical failure that put us out.”

3:00 p.m. ET (4:20 into race): At the four-hour mark, the first round of Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup points for the race get awarded (Hour 4 Results).

Here’s the top three in each class at the one-third distance mark:

  • P: 1-No. 5 Cadillac, 2-No. 10 Cadillac, 3-No. 85 Oreca
  • PC: 1-No. 38 Performance Tech, 2-No. 8 Starworks, 3-No. 26 BAR1
  • GTLM: 1-No. 67 Ford, 2-No. 66 Ford, 3-No. 3 Corvette
  • GTD: 1-No. 33 Mercedes-AMG, 2-No. 63 Ferrari, 3-No. 50 Mercedes-AMG

Not a ton more to report at the moment as the race has sort of settled into a rhythm? It’s always nervous typing that because then things start to happen.

Case in point: the No. 50 Riley Motorsports-WeatherTech Racing Mercedes AMG-GT3, which was running third at the four-hour mark, had a left-front suspension break and is in the process of limping back to the pit lane. The No. 86 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 also had a spin at Turn 17. And the No. 20 BAR1 Motorsports Oreca FLM09 has right rear quarter panel damage.

Of note, temperatures are a bit warmer than they were at the start, per Michelin. At race start, temperatures were 59 degrees Fahrenheit ambient and 65 on track, while now they’re 77 and 115, respectively.

1:40 p.m. ET (Hour 3): We have completed three hours. Here’s your leaders:

  • P: No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R
  • PC: No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09
  • GTLM: No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT
  • GTD: No. 33 Riley Motorsports-Team AMG Mercedes AMG-GT3

Some quick notes:

Contact between Eric Curran in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac and Johannes van Overbeek in the No. 22 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi resulted in a synchronized spin in Turn 17, Curran having then lost two laps upon restarting and bringing the car back to the pits. It brought out the second full-course caution of the race.

Two issues for two of the LMP2-spec cars. Rebellion had a power issue with its Oreca 07 chassis and the No. 90 VISIT FLORIDA Racing Riley Mk. 30 Gibson also went behind the wall after getting up to third.

Good news, bad news for Mazda Motorsports. The No. 70 car has returned to the track following repairs after Joel Miller’s accident… but the No. 55 car has gone behind the wall with coolant issues.

And we have another class where we won’t have a repeat winner, in GT Le Mans. The No. 4 Corvette C7.R was the race’s first official retirement with a water temperature issue, which takes Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Marcel Fassler out of the race. After winning both Daytona and Sebring last year in a dream start to 2016, 2017 has thus far offered up a nightmare.

1 p.m. ET (2:20 into race): We have completed two hours in the race. Leaders by class at the two-hour mark are as follows:

  • P: No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R
  • PC: No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09
  • GTLM: No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT
  • GTD: No. 33 Riley Motorsports-Team AMG Mercedes AMG-GT3

Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup points are awarded at Hours 4 and 8 in the 12-hour race.

Rebellion Racing has been delayed with the engine cover off on its most recent stop, after its Oreca 07 battled with the Cadillacs for the lead of the race. This has brought the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson up to fourth as best of the rest behind the Cadillacs.

Joel Miller is OK as his Mazda Motorsports team makes repairs to his No. 70 Mazda RT24-P after its accident at Turn 17.

The No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi will not repeat its win of a year ago, when it had an Ligier JS P2 Honda, as it has now gone behind the wall once again.

11:40 a.m. ET (Hour 1): The first hour of the race is complete, with the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R of Dane Cameron out front at Lap 31 by 10.533 seconds over the sister No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac driven by Christian Fittipaldi. The polesitting No. 13 Rebellion Racing Oreca 07 Gibson fell back to fourth after the first round of pit stops.

Gustavo Yacaman (No. 26 BAR1 Motorsports Oreca FLM09) leads from James French in PC, French looking to deliver Performance Tech Motorsports a “36 Hours of Florida” sweep with co-drivers Pato O’Ward and Kyle Masson.

Dirk Mueller has led from the off in GTLM in the No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT over the No. 3 Corvette C7.R and No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR. Despite missing the grid at the start, the No. 67 Ford has risen up to fourth.

American standout Connor De Phillippi leads in GTD in the No. 29 Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi R8 LMS from fellow ex-Pro Mazda driver Corey Lewis in the No. 16 Change Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3.

Two cars with issues – apparent power loss for the No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi with that car having gone behind the wall, and the No. 24 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM with a driveline issue. The BMW is back out but the Nissan is not.

Just after the first hour of the race the first full course caution flew, with a brake issue pitching Joel Miller straight into the tire barriers at Turn 17 in the No. 70 Mazda RT24-P. Miller got out of the car under his own power but it was a heavy impact.

11 a.m. ET (20 minutes after green flag at 10:40 a.m. ET): The green flag is out for today’s race. Live TV coverage kicks off at 12:30 p.m. ET on FS1, with FOX Sports Go doing the whole thing from the start and IMSA Radio carrying radio coverage flag-to-flag.

Here’s the start:

A couple quick notes from the start:

The No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi and No. 4 Corvette C7.R were both moved to the back at the start of the race owing to Sporting Regulation violations, while the No. 54 CORE autosport Porsche 911 GT3 R changed tires and also moved to the back.

Two of the class polesitters, the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT (GT Le Mans) could not fire to get going and had to go into the pits on the first lap, but resumes with starting driver Ryan Briscoe at the back of the field. Teammate and co-driver Scott Dixon tweeted the update below:

The GT Daytona polesitter, the No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3, also missed the pre-grid owing to a fuel leak sustained in the morning warmup. That left Tristan Vautier to take the start at the back of the field.

Both those two cars plus the No. 27 Dream Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 went into the pits on the first lap.

Jonathan Bomarito had to pit the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P with a flat left rear tire on Lap 2, but resumed shortly thereafter at the back of the field.

VIDEO: A unique look at Mexico’s famous Carrera Panamericana

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Since returning to the Formula 1 calendar in 2015, the Mexican Grand Prix has already established itself as one of the sport’s most exciting and vibrant races, with hundreds of thousands of fans flocking to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.

In order to get a flavor of Mexico’s rich racing heritage, NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton took time out of his summer break to explore Mexico City and also take part in the famous Carrera Panamericana road race.

The Carrea Panamericana is Mexico’s equivalent of the Mille Miglia, initially acting as a border-to-border sportscar event before being cancelled in 1955.

The race was revived in the 1980s, and continues to this day, offering drivers a gruelling, week-long challenge against the clock at high speed on public highways through the mountains of central Mexico.

2017’s Formula 1 race is set to be a poignant one for Mexico following the devastating 7.1 magnitude earthquake that struck earlier this week, claiming the lives of over 200 people.

With the race set to go ahead as planned, it will be an important statement of unity from Mexico when it welcomes F1 at the end of October, the grand prix taking place on October 29 and acting as another chapter in the nation’s steeped motorsport history.

Mexico’s only F1 driver, Sergio Perez, has set up a fund through which donations can be made to help those affected by the earthquake with full details below.

Donations can also be made via PayPal by clicking here.

F1/IndyCar clashes frequent for 2018 as schedules shape up

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The latest meeting of the World Motor Sport Council may not have yielded much in the way of groundbreaking news, but the confirmation of Formula E and the World Endurance Championship’s 2018 schedules did help us get a grip on next year’s racing calendar.

Perhaps the most notable thing with next year’s schedules is the heavy reduction in clashes between the FIA’s three premier track championships – F1, Formula E and WEC – next year, making good on its plans for calendar harmonization moving forward.

WEC confirmed its ‘super season’ schedule earlier this month, stretching 13 months from May 2018 to June 2019, and added Silverstone last week, with the calendar gaining FIA approval in Paris.

Of the 2018 WEC rounds, there is just one clash with another FIA track championship: between the 6 Hours of Fuji and the F1 United States Grand Prix on the October 21 weekend.

While the more pressing worry for drivers is between WEC and Formula E after the July 16 debacle this year, no WEC and F1 clashes is good news for Fernando Alonso, who could well appear at Le Mans next year as part of his Triple Crown bid.

Formula E does have a number of F1 clashes, albeit not until the sixth event of its season, with the Rome race being held on the April 15 weekend where the Bahrain Grand Prix also sits (for now – China is due to swap dates).

Other Formula E and F1 clashes come on April 29 (Paris/Azerbaijan), June 10 (Zurich/Canada) and July 29 (Montreal/Hungary), although by shifting the New York City ePrix back one week to July 14-15, a gap has been found in the schedule.

For those operating across all three series (including yours truly), there is now a busy run between the start of the F1 season in Australia and the start of the summer break in Hungary with just three empty weekends.

As for IndyCar clashes? The condensed nature of the series’ schedule and the expansion of F1’s calendar to 21 races means they are inevitable. That said, as IndyCar is outside of the FIA’s realm of control, it was never really in the mix for its harmonization plans.

Yet again there is a clash between the Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix, sadly something we have become accustomed to in recent years, but over half the IndyCar calendar faces an F1 clash next year. There may be further ones to come when a couple other race dates get announced.

Here’s a full run-down of the F1/IndyCar double dip weekends thus far:

April 7-8: Chinese GP, Phoenix Grand Prix
April 14-15: Bahrain GP, Grand Prix of Long Beach
May 12-13: Spanish GP, Indianapolis GP
May 26-27: Monaco GP, Indianapolis 500
June 9-10: Canadian GP, Texas 600
June 23-24: French GP, Road America GP
July 7-8: British GP, Iowa Corn 300
August 25-26: Belgian GP, Gateway 500
September 15-16: Singapore GP, Sonoma GP

Bahrain, China ‘on-track’ to swap F1 race dates for 2018

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Next year’s Formula 1 races in China and Bahrain are “on-track” to swap dates in order to maximize their local exposure, according to the sport’s commercial chief, Sean Bratches.

The provisional F1 schedule for 2018 lists the Chinese Grand Prix as the second round of the season, taking place on April 8, with the Bahrain Grand Prix taking place one week later on April 15.

However, plans are afoot to swap the races around due to the Qingming national holiday that is set to take place in China on the April 8 weekend, potentially having a negative impact on crowd numbers at the Shanghai International Circuit.

“We’re trying to take into account global events, local events, religious holidays and things to ensure we’re maximizing the opportunity for fans to attend the grands prix,” Bratches told Reuters.

“We’re talking to both of them to that end and if we can reach a mutually agreed upon solution, which appears to be on-track to happen, you’ll probably see that,” he said.

No updates were made to the F1 schedule for 2018 at the latest meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Paris this week, meaning no switch between Bahrain and China will be ratified until the start of December at the earliest.

NASCAR America: Scott Speed’s quest for Red Bull GRC three-peat

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Red Bull Global Rallycross points leader Scott Speed is going for his third consecutive championship next month (Saturday, October 14, 4:30 p.m. ET, NBC from Los Angeles) for the Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross team.

Prior to that, he joined Thursday’s edition of NBCSN’s NASCAR America, checking in with his former Red Bull Racing teammate Brian Vickers, show host Carolyn Manno and analyst Steve Letarte.

Speed talked teammate dynamics – he and Tanner Foust have been the class of the Red Bull GRC field for several years – and what it takes to succeed in the diverse championship that features racing on both pavement and dirt.

“Tanner comes from more of a more rally background and I come from more of an open-wheel, road course background,” Speed explained. “You have to meet in the middle and often times that creates success. Our personalties are polar opposites and that’s a good thing.”

One other thing Speed addressed was Austin Cindric’s couple notable incidents in the last month or so. Going for his maiden NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win, Cindric hit Kaz Grala at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park to move for the lead and ultimately the win.

Cindric then made his GRC Supercars debut at the most recent weekend in Seattle and the two collided after a miscommunication in a preliminary race, prior to the Joker section of the course.

“He’s a young kid with not a lot of experience. He’s made a couple big mistakes. He came in like a wrecking ball,” Speed laughed.

“I was more mad because the car couldn’t restart at first. But it did, and we got going.”