The No. 86 Acura, No. 96 BMW and No. 15 Lexus all collided at hairpin on last lap. Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Lexus’ Robert Alon placed on probation after hairpin crash

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Robert Alon overachieved in his first full season in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship last year in the Prototype Challenge class, winning several poles and a couple races with the PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports team.

But as a rookie within the intensely competitive and deep GT Daytona class, Alon made a rookie mistake on the final lap of Saturday’s 100-minute BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach.

Alon, in the No. 15 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3, misjudged his braking point in a three-wide passing attempt that triggered a three-car accident with further ramifications for others within both GT classes.

The GTD results changed and additionally, the GT Le Mans class results got switched when the then-class leading No. 3 Corvette C7.R was blocked in at the hairpin, and unable to get out.

As Alon’s car contacted Jeff Segal’s No. 86 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 and Jens Klingmann’s No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 in a battle for fifth in class, Alon speared into both of them, which put Klingmann’s BMW hard into the wall and Segal’s car the meat in the sandwich. The BMW, Acura and Lexus were classified a lap down in ninth, 10th and 11th in GTD.

IMSA has on Tuesday placed Alon on probation for the accident, a statement of which is below:

No. 15 GTD driver Robert Alon has been placed on probation for the next three IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship events for his role in an incident in Turn 11 on the last lap of the April 8 race in Long Beach, California.

Alon was determined to have violated Rule 30.6 (unjustifiable risk) of the 2017 IMSA Sporting Regulations & Series Supplementary Regulations for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

The chain-reaction incident promoted the sister Lexus, the No. 14 car started by Scott Pruett and finished by Sage Karam, up to sixth in class. That car had been rebuilt following Pruett’s accident in Friday practice and started from the rear of the field.

Karam had been fighting TRG driver Wolf Henzler for seventh in class, defending against the German Porsche factory driver, behind the three drivers that crashed at the hairpin. The Karam/Henzler battle inadvertently affected the overall leader as Ryan Dalziel was boxed in trying to lap them within the final six minutes. Dalziel lost the lead as Jordan Taylor seized his opportunity to go around to the outside of the GT traffic, then cross over the track to pass Dalziel on the outside.

Lexus did not release a quote from Alon after the race. Karam described his view of the hairpin mess from his spot:

“On the last lap I came to the hairpin and there was a big jam and I guess our sister car, the 15 (Robert Alon), got in an accident up there,” Karam explained. “I went through and the safety guy was just casually waving the yellow flag and I didn’t know how bad it was. I didn’t know where the cars were and it was on the outside and I didn’t have enough steering to get through, so I ended up running into the back of Rob (Alon). Then the Acura runs into the back of me and pushes me over Rob and I kept going and that’s how we got to the finish. If I didn’t get hit, I probably would’ve been in that jam as well. Overall sixth place is a good result for the team so we’ll take it and move on to Texas.”

Segal came up to Alon after the race and was less than pleased, if still diplomatic afterwards.

“We were just chipping away and picking off positions and were looking at a top-five [finish], and I was pretty content to take those [championship] points,” Segal said in a team release. “I’m just gutted for the team. We have a torn-up race car and nothing to show for it. I don’t understand the [other driver’s] decision-making process, to wipe out three perfectly good cars for sixth place. Someone from the other team will have to explain that to me, but we’ll focus forward on the next one.”

Meanwhile Karam and Sean Rayhall, another young American driving talent, got into a Twitter spat Monday afternoon as Karam attempted to defend his teammate, Alon, after the hairpin incident. Karam later deleted all tweets except one to summarize his thoughts, while Rayhall posted his version of a “walk-off” tweet.

Recap: Green Bay Packers QB Brett Hundley takes in Kohler Grand Prix

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When professional athletes decide to experience sports outside of the one where they make their living, it never ceases to entertain. Case and point: Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Hundley.

The 24-year-old Hundley spent the weekend at Road America, taking in the Kohler Grand Prix. His time at the facility began on Thursday, where he first paid a visit to Team Penske driver Will Power, who gave him a quick tutorial.

Will Power shows Brett Hundley a steering for a Verizon IndyCar Series machine. Photo: IndyCar

The next part of Hundley’s day saw him take a two-seater ride with none other than Mario Andretti. And, unsurprisingly, it left a big impression.

Mari Andretti takes Brett Hundley around Road America in the Verizon IndyCar Series two-seater. Photo: IndyCar

“The first lap, I’m screaming, and it’s the warm-up lap! And then the second lap: I’m just bright-eyed, going through corners. I give so much respect, that’s an awesome sport, man!” Hundley said in a media debrief afterward.

However, the day was not finished. Later on, Hundley showed off his arm strength and throwing accuracy by attempting to throw a football through the passenger side window of a moving Chevrolet Corvette. And while it took a few attempts, he eventually hit his mark.

Hundley stayed through Sunday and dawned a photographer’s bib in order to take in more of the action.

In fact, he even inadvertently photobombed second-place finisher Josef Newgarden during his post-race interview.

A video chronicling Hundley’s visit can be viewed here and additional photos from his weekend can be found on his Instagram page.

 

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Merhi confirmed for WEC return with Manor at the Nürburgring

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CEFC Manor TRS Racing has confirmed that Roberto Merhi will return to the FIA World Endurance Championship for next month’s 6 Hours of Nürburgring, replacing Jean-Eric Vergne.

Merhi previously raced for Manor in both Formula 1 and the WEC, making his most recent appearance with the British marque at last November’s 6 Hours of Bahrain.

Merhi’s last racing outing came in the Formula 2 double-header in Spain and has flirted with a move into Formula E, but was confirmed on Wednesday to be making his racing return at the Nürburgring on July 16.

Merhi will deputize for Vergne in the No. 24 Oreca 07 Gibson while the Frenchman is in New York for the city’s inaugural Formula E event.

FIA to re-examine Vettel/Hamilton Baku F1 clash

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The FIA has confirmed that it will re-examine the clash between Formula 1 title rivals Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton in Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix to see if further action is warranted.

Vettel and Hamilton made contact twice behind the safety car in Baku, with the second incident deemed to be an act of dangerous driving on Vettel’s part.

The FIA stewards in Baku handed Vettel a 10-second stop/go penalty for the clash – the harshest available penalty besides disqualification – but faced calls to issue a stricter punishment post race.

Hamilton said that the incident set a dangerous precedent for F1 and wider motorsport, but Vettel believed his rival deserved a penalty for allegedly brake testing him.

On Wednesday, the FIA confirmed that it would be re-examining the incident in a meeting on July 3, with a verdict set to be delivered ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix.

“Following the recent incident at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in which Car 5 (Sebastian Vettel) was involved in a collision with Car 44 (Lewis Hamilton), on Monday 3rd July, the FIA will further examine the causes on the incident in order to evaluate whether further action is necessary,” a short statement from the FIA read.

“A statement regarding the outcome of this process will be made available before the upcoming Austrian Grand Prix (7-9 July).”

Wickens not interested in full-time IndyCar switch despite practice run

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Robert Wickens is not interested in making a full-time switch to the Verizon IndyCar Series in the near future despite his practice run-out at Road America last weekend for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Mercedes DTM driver Wickens was called up for Friday practice at the KOHLER Grand Prix in the No. 7 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda after Mikhail Aleshin was unable to make it in time due to immigration issues.

Aleshin was able to return to the United States in time for Saturday’s final practice and qualifying at Road America, with Wickens stepping back down.

The Canadian got his first taste of an Indy car in a car swap with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe in March, paving the way for his practice appearance at Road America.

However, Wickens is not looking to make a full-time move over to IndyCar anytime soon despite enjoying his run-out, with his focus lying with DTM.

“Not really, to be honest,” Wickens said when asked if IndyCar was something he would like to move into in Mercedes’ ‘Tales from the Paddock’ press newsletter.

“I just want to race cars. That’s the main thing. I have no urge to leave the DTM at the moment.

“Everything is going well, and I’m really happy with Mercedes.”

Wickens also went into detail about how rapidly things moved with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, having only been told the day before practice that he was required for the running.

“I planned on having a relaxing weekend at home, but on Thursday afternoon I got a call from Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, which is the team that we did the ride swap with involving James Hinchcliffe back in April,” Wickens said.

“They asked if I could go to Road America and fill in for Mikhail Aleshin who had immigration issues. Fortunately, Toto [Wolff] was happy for me to do it and I was able to jump on a plane and get to Wisconsin.

“We didn’t get to the hotel until about 10pm on Thursday, and Free Practice 1 was on Friday morning very early. It took some getting used to.

“The practice itself was fun. The track was really good. It would be amazing to have a DTM race there one day.

“I definitely wanted to do the full weekend, but the full-time driver got his immigration stuff sorted and he made it to the race track by Friday night. My duties were finished, but it was still a really fun Friday.”