Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Taylor, Magnussen, Sellers score poles, plus Friday notes

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LONG BEACH, Calif. – Ricky Taylor (Prototype), Jan Magnussen (GT Le Mans) and Bryan Sellers (GT Daytona) have the pole positions for Saturday’s BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix. The race airs at 1 p.m. PT and local time, 4 p.m. ET, live on FOX network.

Qualifying recaps ahead of the 100-minute race are below:

PROTOTYPE

Despite pre-race Balance of Performance adjustments meant to limit the Cadillac DPi-V.R’s acceleration off the corners, with gear ratio adjustments, the Cadillacs still controlled qualifying in the Prototype class.

Ricky Taylor took the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac to the top spot of the grid, continuing his utterly dynamic start to the 2017 season with a best time of 1:13.509 around the 1.968-mile circuit. It was his first pole since Circuit of The Americas in September last year.

Taylor, who shares the car with younger brother Jordan, are in search of a pair of three-peats: the two drivers have won at Long Beach each of the last two years, and have also completed a “36 Hours of Florida” sweep at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

Christian Fittipaldi took the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac into second on the grid, as the Action Express Racing team continues in search of its first Long Beach win. Fittipaldi shares the car with Joao Barbosa and Fittipaldi clocked in at 1:14.193.

Mazda Motorsports, competing on home soil only about 20-odd miles north of its North American base in Irvine, Calif., stuck its No. 55 Soul Red Mazda RT24-P into third on the grid with Tristan Nunez at 1:14.393. The first of the Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPis was fifth, with Scott Sharp in the No. 2 car.

Neither of the two LMP2-spec cars was able to make much of an impression until the end, Misha Goikhberg popping off a late flier to move to fourth on the grid in the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson at 1:14.408.

Rebellion Racing took the overall pole at Sebring while Cadillac, in Barbosa’s hands, took the pole at Daytona.

GT LE MANS

It was a chaotic qualifying session with Jan Magnussen in the No. 3 Corvette C7.R taking the pole position, while a crash for the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT of Richard Westbrook exiting Turn 5 brought the session to an early end with a red flag. Westbrook lost the back end of his Ford, which had already undertaken an engine change earlier in the day (see below), with his wing and left rear quarter panel littering the track.

Bizarrely, Westbrook’s teammate scuppered Joey Hand’s progress on a lap that could have been quicker than Magnussen’s, and left Hand shy of eclipsing Magnussen for the pole spot.

It means Magnussen has his first pole position since Virginia International Raceway last year, and also won pole here in 2014. He and Antonio Garcia won at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring last month, Garcia having completed what Magnussen called a “Superman” stint at the end to win.

The No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE of Toni Vilander qualified third but had an incident during the session, Vilander having lost control of the rear end coming through Turn 9. But he made it back to the pits without any apparent damage.

With the sole Porsche that qualified (the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR of Laurens Vanthoor) and lead BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM of Bill Auberlen in fifth, it made it five different GTLM manufacturers in the top five of class, separated by only 0.163 of a second.

The times? Magnussen posted a 1:16.909, with Hand at a 1:17.001, Vilander at a 1:17.043, Vanthoor at a 1:17.056 and Auberlen at a 1:17.072.

This tweet from @IMSA applies:

GT DAYTONA

Four pro drivers qualified in the top four positions during the GT Daytona qualifying session for the 100-minute race, with Bryan Sellers best of the lot in the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3.

Sellers won the pole at the series’ most recent street race in Detroit last June, which was Lamborghini’s first pole in IMSA competition. Teammate and co-driver Madison Snow won the pole at Virginia International Raceway.

This sets up a scenario where Sellers will start and Snow will finish in the No. 48 car. Sellers’ best time was a 1:19.243.

Jack Hawksworth took the only 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 which made qualifying, the No. 15 car he shares with Robert Alon, in second place for the team’s third race start. Hawksworth was only 0.033 of a second adrift.

Daniel Morad in the No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R qualified third, following that team’s late confirmation to race in this event. Morad shares the car with Porsche factory ace Michael Christensen.

The second Lamborghini in the field, the No. 16 Change Racing entry qualified by Corey Lewis who shares the car with Jeroen Mul, lines up fourth in the “Super Silver” entry while Ben Keating was best of the classic Silver drives in the No. 33 Riley Motorsports-Team AMG Mercedes AMG-GT3.

The second Lexus didn’t qualify as Scott Pruett sustained a heavy accident in the morning practice session at Turn 5, with heavy left side damage to the No. 14 car. The 3GT Racing team has been working all day on repairs, with the goal of starting the race from the rear of the grid tomorrow. Pruett shares the car with Sage Karam, the young charger.

VISIT FLORIDA OUT

Photo courtesy of IMSA

Owing to a brake issue, the No. 90 VISIT FLORIDA Racing Riley Mk. 30 Gibson of Renger van der Zande and Marc Goossens is done for the weekend before it even begins. Van der Zande was driving at the time during the two-hour morning practice and the car went off into the Turn 1 runoff.

“Renger (van der Zande) had a brake issue going into Turn 1 and the car just wouldn’t get slowed down,” said VISIT FLORIDA Racing Team Owner Troy Flis. “We are relieved that he is okay, but it looks like we are done for the weekend. The damage got into the tub, and with this race being out on the West Coast, we just don’t have the access to resources that we’d need to continue this weekend. It is a shame for VISIT FLORIDA, but we’ll go back and look at what happened and work on our plan to come back stronger.”

This incident was one of several of note today, with others linked below.

OTHER NOTES

  • The No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT undertook a precautionary engine change between sessions today, but made it back out for qualifying.
  • The No. 911 Porsche GT Team had an accident before qualifying and did not qualify. Patrick Pilet shares that car with Dirk Werner.
  • Will Owen makes his IMSA debut this weekend in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217 Gibson. The Castle Rock, Colorado native who went to school at TCU made a one-off appearance with Flying Lizard Motorsports in a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR at last year’s NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill, but has shifted to sports cars in 2017 with United Autosports’ Ligier JS P217 entry into the European Le Mans Series. The Mazda Road to Indy veteran raced three years, two in Pro Mazda and one in USF2000, and will head to Europe straight after the race Saturday night in preparation for the ELMS season opener next week at Silverstone.

Alonso gets seat fit, visits Borg-Warner Trophy in Indy

Photo: Michael L. Levitt/LAT Photo USA
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Fernando Alonso’s quick first visit to the U.S. before this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix continued Monday with a trip to Indianapolis with his Andretti Autosport team, following the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama in Birmingham, Ala.

After a jam-packed Sunday packed with media commitments and observing from the pits, Alonso went to Andretti’s shop on Zionsville Rd. where he made his seat fit for his upcoming first test on May 3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

This was the only time this could be worked into his schedule before he heads to Sochi to resume his Formula 1 commitments in his day job, lead driver of the team’s McLaren Honda.

Alonso also met the trophy he hopes to win as part of his quest to capture the Triple Crown, the Borg-Warner Trophy.

Andretti Autosport is the defending champion team at Indianapolis with Alexander Rossi. Rossi follows Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014), Dario Franchitti (2007) and Dan Wheldon (2005) as winners for the team in the ‘500.

“It’s a beautiful trophy that I would be proud to take home if I won the Indianapolis 500. There are so many familiar faces on the trophy from the past and present that represent the greatest race in the world,” Alonso said, via BorgWarner. “Can I please get a full-sized trophy to take home if I win the race? The small ones (Baby Borgs) are nice but a big one would be wonderful!”

As Alonso is a two-time World Champion, he wouldn’t be the first driver to pull off an Indianapolis 500 victory. Others that have done so are listed below:

  • Jim Clark – Formula One World Champion in 1963 and 1965, Indianapolis 500 winner in 1965
  • Graham Hill – Formula One World Champion in 1962 and 1968, Indianapolis 500 winner in 1966
  • Mario Andretti – Formula One World Champion 1978, Indianapolis 500 winner in 1969
  • Emerson Fittipaldi – Formula One World Champion 1972 and 1974, Indianapolis 500 winner in 1989 and 1993
  • Jacques Villeneuve – Formula One World Champion 1997, Indianapolis 500 winner in 1995

NBCSN videos from Alonso’s Sunday at Barber are linked below.

Press Conference

Grid Interview with Townsend Bell

NBCSN Booth

Haas goes for first three-in-a-row scoring streak in Russia

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After back-to-back eighth place finishes from Kevin Magnussen at China and Romain Grosjean last time out in Bahrain, Haas F1 Team has its second chance to score points three races in a row for the first time in its F1 career – and arguably a more realistic chance at this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix (Sunday, 8 a.m. ET, NBCSN).

Grosjean’s shock sixth and fifth place finishes to open his 2016 account in Australia and Bahrain were unexpected but the team hit a bump in the road in China. Russia, however, saw the Frenchman return to the points with an eighth place, and bring his season tally to 28 points to conclude the remarkable start of results in flyaway races.

Now, with a car that could theoretically be considered the fourth best in the field behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, hopes are high for either Grosjean or Magnussen to extend the team’s scoring streak to what would be the longest yet in its short history.

The team did well to note the Olympic tie in at the Sochi circuit, linking “Super G” and how fast the new 2017 Formula 1 cars are.

From the release: “The first time we saw Super-G in Sochi was in 2014 when the Russian city hosted the XXII Olympic Winter Games. Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud beat American Andrew Weibrecht by .3 of a second on the 2.096-kilometer (1.302-mile) course with a 622-meter (2,041-foot) vertical drop to nab gold in the alpine slalom event.

“Three years later, a Super-G of a different sort returns to Sochi, but instead of taking place on the white slopes of the Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort, it will happen on the black asphalt of the Sochi Autodrom as the fastest cars in Formula One history rocket around the 5.848-kilometer (3.634-mile), 18-turn circuit for the April 30 Russian Grand Prix.”

Grosjean described the physical uptick in training he’s needed to do. The 31-year-old is in his sixth full season and seventh overall in F1, since his midseason debut in 2009.

“The cars are brutal to drive – we are not far from 8G with the peak in high corners – so it is pretty good fun, but it is hard on the body, it is hard on parts, it is hard on the cars,” Grosjean said. “You better not miss the turning point on some places. The speed we go through the corners is insane compared to the past. You need to be more precise, more accurate, more on it.

“We’re going through more g-forces, so the neck is stronger and the core is stronger,” Grosjean added. “Your whole body had to adjust to these high speeds.”

Team principal Guenther Steiner explained the importance of needing to bank points early in the crowded midfield. Haas sits seventh in the championship now, just nine points behind Sahara Force India in fourth, who have scored with both drivers in each of the three races so far in 2017.

“It’s always good to come back from two races with points, and it shows that the car is capable to score points at each race. Then again, it’s always difficult because it’s a tight midfield and we all went testing after Bahrain and everyone has learned something,” Steiner said.

“It’s as tight as it’s ever been. With four to five teams so close together, I cannot remember when that happened, and every weekend it’s mixed up in a different way. Any of these teams can go into Q3 and get into the points. It’s a very tense battle, but I think a nice battle and it keeps the constructors championship pretty open for the midfield.”

Grosjean added, “It was good to score points in Bahrain. Clearly, we deserved them – since race one, actually. I think the most encouraging fact for now is that the car is performing well everywhere we’ve been. So now we go to Russia, which was a bit of a tough one for us last year. We’ll see if we’ve made progress and if the car is working well at every type of circuit. If so, then pretty much everywhere we could score points.”

For Magnussen, the chance of a score comes after he delivered his best 2016 result here last year – seventh for Renault. He was also fifth in 2014 with McLaren, and has a chance to score for a third different team here this weekend.

“I think it’s a good track and I’ve had some good races there. Hopefully, I can have another good one there this year,” he said.

“I know last year I had a good first lap. Quite a few people messed up and lost things like front wings and so on. I made up lots of positions with that. I then had a really good race after that to finish seventh.”

 

 

PWC: 36 SprintX cars, lineups pack variety, diversity at VIR

Photo: PWC
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No less than 36 cars are set to compete in the first of five Pirelli World Challenge SprintX weekends, this weekend at VIRginia International Raceway.

Breaking down those 36 cars, they’re split this way:

  • 12 GT Pro/Pro
  • 16 GT Pro/Am
  • 1 GT Am/Am
  • 1 GT Cup Pro/Am
  • 1 GT Cup Am/Am
  • 2 GTS Pro/Am
  • 3 GTS Am/Am

And that’s before you get to the rest of the entry list: GTS: 9; GTSA: 10; TC: 32; TCA: 15; TCB: 8.

In sports car racing, the easiest way to get hooked is to embrace the variety and diversity of machinery first and ask questions about how complex it is later.

So with that in mind, here’s a breakdown of the GT SprintX entries (which themselves are split between three classes, but we’ll set that aside for a minute) and their respective lineups.

Cadillac Racing, Cadillac ATS-V.R

3 – Johnny O’Connell/Jordan or Ricky Taylor
8 – Michael Cooper/Jordan or Ricky Taylor

The fully professional Cadillac lineups give the Taylor brothers a chance to dip their feet back into Pirelli World Challenge competition alongside the team’s full-season drivers. That being said, it’ll be weird to see Jordan and Ricky racing against each other again, and Cadillac still hasn’t confirmed which brother goes where.

Magnus Racing, Audi R8 LMS

4 – Pierre Kaffer/Spencer Pumpelly (Kaffer misses Lime Rock)
44 – John Potter/Marco Seefried (Seefried misses Lime Rock)

For Magnus Racing, a return to the mini-endurance racing with pit stops could see the team with a slight advantage over those PWC-only teams in recent years. Kaffer and Pumpelly is as good a lineup as you’ll find on the grid while Potter and Seefried know each other’s nuances well.

K-PAX Racing, McLaren 650S GT3

6 – Bryan Sellers/Jonny Kane
9 – Alvaro Parente/Ben Barnicoat
98 – Mike Hedlund/Michael Lewis

With Strakka Racing coming to McLaren, Jonny Kane is the ace of reckoning added here with Sellers. Meanwhile Parente has the talented but inexperienced McLaren GT junior driver Barnicoat alongside; Hedlund and Lewis provide a very solid all-American duo.

GMG Racing, Porsche 911 GT3 R

14 – James Sofronas/Laurens Vanthoor (VIR and CTMP)
14 – James Sofronas/Matt Halliday (Lime Rock, Utah and COTA)

Calvert Dynamics, Porsche 911 GT3 R

77 – Alec Udell/Preston Calvert (partnership with GMG)

In simple terms, Sofronas’ team is one that should benefit from the SprintX format. Porsche places factory driver Vanthoor in when available while Halliday is a team veteran. Udell and Calvert will share a Calvert Dynamics entry prepared by GMG, which combines the two top teams from the series’ GT Cup class.

Wright Motorsports, Porsche 911 GT3 R

16 – Michael Schein/Jan Heylen
58 – Patrick Long/Joerg Bergmeister

Two solid lineups here for John Wright’s team. The iconic pairing of Long and Bergmeister is reunited in the team’s all-pro entry with Heylen and Schein one of the top pro/am entries.

RealTime Racing, Acura NSX GT3

43 – Ryan Eversley/Tom Dyer
93 – Peter Kox/Mark Wilkins

Wilkins and Dyer, the team’s SprintX additions, are underrated for a reason – they’re solid, quiet, capable drivers who aren’t flashy but usually get the job done. But they’re going to have to rise up against some of the other pros competing, especially when Acura’s four full-season drivers in IMSA aren’t added here.

Bentley Team Absolute, Bentley Continental GT3

78 – Yufeng Luo/Alexandre Imperatori (VIR and CTMP)
88 – Adderly Fong/Vincent Abril

Past Blancpain GT Series champion Abril is an excellent addition to this young lineup, and he and Fong will be the car to watch versus the pro/am No. 78 car.

CRP Racing, Mercedes-AMG GT3

2 – Ryan Dalziel/Daniel Morad

“Razzle Dazzle” and “State of Moradness” combine for one of the coolest nickname and driver pairings on the grid. The Canadian should learn the Mercedes quickly and combined with the rapid Scot who’s based in Florida, this team should excel.

TR3 Racing, Ferrari 488 GT3

31 – Daniel Mancinell/Andrea Montermini

Mancinelli has raised more than a few eyebrows in his first two weekends in the series, but has the pace to star. Ferrari GT veteran Montermini is a nice counterbalance.

R. Ferri Motorsport, Ferrari 488 GT3

61 – Alex Riberas/Kyle Marcelli

Remo Ferri’s entry is one of the best ones out there, with two very talented drivers sharing the team’s Ferrari 488 in the SprintX races. Marcelli’s vastly experienced for his still tender age of 27; Riberas is a rising GT star in sports car racing.

Scuderia Corsa, Ferrari 458 GT3

7 – Martin Fuentes/Stefan Johansson

Giacomo Mattioli doesn’t usually enter something unless he thinks he can win, and this pro/am lineup of last year’s GTA champ (Fuentes) and Ferrari veteran and team sporting director Johansson, is one of the best in this category.

M1 GT Racing, Audi R8 LMS

23 – David Ostella/James Dayson

Pair of Mazda Road to Indy veterans-turned-sports car Canadians share a car that will be consistent if not the outright fastest among pro/am entries.

MOMO NGT Motorsport, Ferrari 458 GT3

30 – Henrique Cisneros/TBA

Cisneros usually assembles a good effort, and the identity of his co-driver will be interesting.

Black Swan Racing, Mercedes-AMG GT3

54 – Tim Pappas/Jeroen Bleekemolen

The band has come back together for the past GTC champions of American Le Mans Series. Bleekemolen remains rapid as ever; he and Pappas have gelled well before.

DXDT Racing, Mercedes-AMG GT3

63 – Aaron Povoledo/David Askew

Team’s strength comes from its 2016 SprintX experience, something many others don’t have.

Always Evolving Racing/AIM Autosport, Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3

75 – Ricardo Sanchez/Frankie Montecalvo

There’s a lot of newness for the AE/AIM/Nissan combo including a new driver lineup and new 2017 car. While it’s unfortunate past Nissan winners Bryan Heitkotter and James Davison aren’t here, young guns Sanchez and Montecalvo have potential in spades.

McCann Racing, Audi R8 LMS

82 – Mike Skeen/Michael McCann

This SprintX-only, pro/am entry could provide an avenue for “ginger stig” Skeen to live up to his lanky frame and produce some typical giant-killing performances.

MCC Motorsports, Mercedes-AMG GT3

92 – Alexandre Negrao/Alexandre Negrao Sr.

Little known here about this entry, other than it’s another Mercedes that features a past GP2 veteran in Negrao.

TRG, Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3

007 – Kris Wilson/Drew Regitz

Wilson has been capable of winning races with TRG before but it’s hard to see this aging car and the lone am-am labeled driver lineup doing much of that here. That said, in the hands of James Davison, it does still have some speed left.

Dream Racing Competition, Lamborghini Huracán GT3

07 – Cedric Sbirrazzuoli/Lawrence DeGeorge

The pairing has driven together in Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and now PWC SprintX. Sbirrazzuoli’s got the speed here between this duo.

DIME Racing, Lamborghini Huracán GT3 (First Alternate)

111 – Jonathan Summerton/Michael Macs

Past Atlantic series race winner Summerton leads this lineup, although whether he’ll get a chance to race depends on one of the primary entries having a pre-race issue that promotes the first alternate into the field.

REST OF THE FIELD

There are also seven additional entries for the first SprintX race of the season, with two GT Cup and five GTS entries. Those cars may interfere with the GT competitors but will have their own interesting race within the race, as well.

Tom Dillmann confirmed for Formula E debut at Paris

Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Series Media Service.
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Mike Conway (Faraday Future Dragon Racing) will have company among guest drivers in the upcoming FIA Formula E Championship Paris ePrix on May 20.

Venturi, Conway’s old team, have confirmed French open-wheel veteran turned occasional sports car racer Tom Dillmann as a fill-in driver for Maro Engel at Paris, and will thus make his series debut. Engel is racing for Mercedes in DTM, while Loic Duval is racing for Audi at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz the same weekend.

Dillmann has driven the Venturi VM200-FE-02 before, standing in for Stephane Sarrazin for the shakedown in last month’s Mexico City ePrix as Sarrazin was en route to Mexico from the FIA World Endurance Championship Prologue test in Monza.

He’s an F3, GP2 and WEC race winner already. The 28-year-old Frenchman is understandably keen to impress on debut.

“Formula E is an exciting place to be for a driver – with thrilling motor racing and interesting technical developments. It goes without saying that it’s my goal to contest a full season in this series in the future,” he said in a release.