Hamilton edges Vettel for sixth straight F1 pole in China

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Lewis Hamilton edged Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel to take his sixth straight pole position in Formula 1 after pacing the final stage of qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix on Saturday.

After losing out to Vettel in Australia two weeks ago, Hamilton plotted his fightback perfectly in qualifying with a scintillating lap late on, posting a time of 1:31.678 to capture pole in Shanghai.

Vettel was left to finish 0.186 seconds behind in second place, splitting the Mercedes drivers once again after beating Valtteri Bottas by just one-thousandth of a second. Bottas was left to settle for third ahead of fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen, who ended the session fourth in the sister Ferrari.

Daniel Ricciardo finished fifth for Red Bull, 1.3 seconds off Hamilton’s fastest time, while Felipe Massa put in another impressive display for Williams to take sixth on the grid. Rookie teammate Lance Stroll also impressed, reaching Q3 for the first time en route to 10th.

Nico Hulkenberg was seventh for Renault, marking the Enstone operation’s first Q3 appearance since the 2015 Russian Grand Prix, while former Force India teammate Sergio Perez was eighth.

Daniil Kvyat led Toro Rosso’s charge in qualifying, reaching Q3 for the second race in a row en route to ninth on the grid. Teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. narrowly missed out on a place in the top 10, finishing 0.069 seconds shy in P11, with Haas driver Kevin Magnussen following close behind.

Fernando Alonso took his McLaren-Honda MCL32 kicking and screaming up the grid yet again in qualifying, securing P13 on the grid despite a significant speed advantage on the back straight. The Spaniard was followed by the Sauber duo of Marcus Ericsson and Antonio Giovinazzi, the latter failing to take part in Q2 after a sizeable crash at the end of the first session.

The back of Sunday’s grid will be packed with talent after a number of surprises in Q1, the biggest being Max Verstappen’s elimination. An engine software issue meant the Red Bull driver was left struggling for pace, ultimately qualifying 19th.

Stoffel Vandoorne was another driver left scrambling for pace as Honda’s engine woes continued, leaving the McLaren driver 16th on the grid. Giovinazzi’s smash ruined a number of late laps, including those of Romain Grosjean and Jolyon Palmer, who qualified 17th and 18th respectively. Both are also set to face a grilling from the stewards for failing to slow for yellow flags shown for Giovinazzi.

Force India’s Esteban Ocon propped up the timesheets in P20 after being forced to abandon his final lap, with his first two sectors on a par with those of teammate Perez, who had easily made it through to Q2.

The Chinese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 1am ET on Sunday.

GAINSCO partners with JDC-Miller for Simpson, Goikhberg

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The bright yellow No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson, nicknamed the “JDC Banana Boat,” will morph into the latest incarnation of the bright red “Red Dragon” for 2018.

The now GAINSCO Auto Insurance-backed No. 99 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson will run the full 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, and the new livery will be revealed at the Roar before the Rolex 24.

GAINSCO revealed last month it wouldn’t run its own team, having partnered with Bob Stallings Racing for more than a decade with great success in GRAND-AM Rolex Series competition. But it was still going to partner with a team and received multiple proposals from other teams. The initial deal with JDC-Miller Motorsports is one year for 2018 with an option for 2019, but both parties envision this growing into a multi-year deal.

The last few years the team has run only on-and-off, with a one-off appearance in the 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona as Alex Gurney scored pole, but a devastating accident for Memo Gidley having left him seriously injured. Gidley has made significant strides in his recovery.

Since that point, GAINSCO/BSR moved into Pirelli World Challenge, running first a Hyundai Genesis, then a McLaren 650S GT3, and then a Porsche 911 GT3 R with Gurney’s longtime co-driver Jon Fogarty. The same level of success was hard to find and while the team scored several podium finishes, wins eluded them over two years.

Alas, this provides John Church’s quality operation a major supporter both from visibility and agent standpoints, as GAINSCO is one of the biggest at-track activators in the sport. Primary drivers Stephen Simpson and Misha Goikhberg continue for the full season with Chris Miller the third driver for Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup rounds.

A fourth driver will be named later (likely within the next week to 10 days), but won’t be Jon Fogarty, as Bob Stallings offered him the opportunity but Fogarty declined owing to other business commitments.

“We offered Jon Fogarty the opportunity, took a couple days (to think), he couldn’t feature anyone else driving but him… he has successful business ventures and that takes priority at this time,” Stallings said.

Church and Stallings. Photo courtesy of GAINSCO Racing

Stallings, Executive Chairman of GAINSCO, as well as the founder of the GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Race team, recently decided not to run his own race team, but is committed to continuing the legacy of the Red Dragon by partnering with an organization capable of a long-term winning program.

“We had many opportunities to continue our quest for championships and JDC-Miller MotorSports was an easy pick,” said Stallings of the Minnesota-based team. “John Church and John Miller have established themselves as a team to be reckoned with, even against the formidable competition in IMSA.”

“We are very honored to gain the support of GAINSCO Auto Insurance and to carry on the livery of the No. 99 Red Dragon,” Church added. “It was immediately evident that the GAINSCO folks are as committed as we are.  This is a tremendous opportunity for JDC-Miller MotorSports and we look forward to the season ahead.”

Andy Jordan, Sr. Vice President of Marketing and Business Development led the search for the GAINSCO’s 2018 racing partnership.

“We were amazed and flattered by the amount of interest we received from teams who felt their racing programs would be elevated by an opportunity to partner with us and run the famous “Red Dragon” livery.  There were several important considerations for GAINSCO; the team had to compete at the highest level, and it had to feel like the kind of family we could be a part of and believe in.

“JDC-Miller Motorsports was the team we kept coming back to.  They race prototypes, they are great people, they are committed to win and the parallels between JDC-Miller Motorsports today and GAINCSO/Bob Stallings Racing in 2006/2007 were abundant.  I couldn’t be prouder and more excited to join John and his team for the 2018 season and hopefully beyond.”

JDC-Miller is adding a second car this season, with Simon Trummer its first confirmed driver and Robert Alon having tested with the team at Daytona earlier this month. This car will maintain the “banana boat” livery and will announce the rest of its program later.

Church said there “hasn’t been a discussion” in terms of adding Bob Stallings Racing personnel to JDC-Miller’s lineup as it sits, but it could be integrated.

The JDC-Miller Oreca 07. Photo courtesy of IMSA