The No. 66 Ford's day as a battering ram was a great metaphor for Long Beach IMSA race. Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Digesting 35 cars, 100 minutes of drama in the LBC

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The BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix a little more than a week ago will have marked one of the craziest IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races since the series came under a unified banner in 2014, when the GRAND-AM Rolex Series and American Le Mans Series merged.

In 100 minutes of racing at Long Beach, there were nearly as many yellow flags, and way more incidents, than there had been in 12 hours of racing at Sebring, . a fortnight earlier. It went from 12 hours with six full-course caution flags – and periods of between two to three hours without a yellow – to 100 minutes with five, and a local yellow at the final corner of the final lap which changed the complexion of the race in both GT categories.

IMSA’s “Sights and Sounds” attempts to digest the race, linked here.

Here’s the race’s lap chart, lap leader sequence and overall results, which help describe why this race was so crazy.

With that as a backdrop, the easiest way to digest the race might be by breaking the race down, car-by-car:

PROTOTYPE

Nine Prototypes started before the carnage. Photo courtesy of IMSA
  1. 10-Jordan Taylor/Ricky Taylor, Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R: Despite leading the first 34 laps, this car got slotted behind the No. 2 Nissan on strategy and was unable to pass with a pre-race gear ratio change assessed to the Cadillacs that left them with taller first and second gears. Once Ryan Dalziel was blocked in by two GTD cars ahead of him, Jordan Taylor seized his opportunity with five laps to go, completed a three-wide move past the GT cars and then an outside pass of Dalziel into Turn 1 for this team’s third straight win both in 2017 and at Long Beach.
  2. 2-Ryan Dalziel/Scott Sharp, Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi: A decision to pit 20 minutes into the race allowed an early driver change from Sharp to Dalziel. Dalziel did the rest, in an excellent drive as he carved his way from as low as 19th overall on Lap 35 up to the overall lead by Lap 48, 13 laps and 23 minutes later. What Dalziel couldn’t account for was GTD traffic getting in his way late, and a block from Wolf Henzler’s TRG Porsche in front of him killed his momentum, and cost them the win.
  3. 55-Jonathan Bomarito/Tristan Nunez, Mazda RT24-P: Easier recap here. Nunez went three-wide versus two Cadillacs at Turn 1, and hounded Ricky Taylor for the rest of his stint. Despite losing a position later, Mazda ended with a hometown podium not far from its North American headquarters in Irvine.
  4. 85-Stephen Simpson/Misha Goikhberg, JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson: Having nearly lost a lap early after a spin and falling to 32nd overall, a yellow flag saved the No. 85 yellow car from losing a lap. The car stayed trouble-free the rest of the way for its third top-five in as many races for John Church’s team.
  5. 52-Tom Kimber-Smith/Will Owen, PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217 Gibson: Series and track debutante Owen fell slightly back during his stint but kept the car intact to hand over to “TKS” for the final 40 minutes. Despite running as low as 24th overall, the No. 52 car banked its first overall top-five in 2017.
  6. 70-Joel Miller/Tom Long, Mazda RT24-P: From Mazda’s release: “A Ford GT had stalled and was sitting sideways on the track. As Nunez squeezed around the car, the Ford lurched forward, forcing Nunez to come to a halt. Meanwhile, Long took a tighter angle to the inside of the stalled car. Then, the Ford suddenly backed up, forcing Long to a halt, eventually losing a number of positions in the traffic jam.” Said Long, “The traffic was like driving on the 405! The hairpin always seems to have some excitement and it happened multiple times this race. We had a traffic jam there. I don’t expect to be using reverse during the race, but it happens!”
  7. 5-Joao Barbosa/Christian Fittipaldi, Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R: Fittipaldi was running third overall before being contacted by Gunnar Jeannette’s Mercedes just over half an hour into the race. With a rear wing assembly replacement needed and a yellow caused, hopes of success fell by the wayside here. “I passed a slower GTD car on the back straight then as I was entering the next turn, I felt a hit from behind,” he said.
  8. 31-Dane Cameron/Eric Curran, Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R: Cameron was inhuman for his stint, both in terms of insanely good passes and a rare-non-Cameron-like unforced error into Turn 8, when he apexed early and then smacked the Turn 8 wall hard on driver’s left. He was OK; the car was not.
  9. 22-Ed Brown/Johannes van Overbeek, Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi: Brown fell into the clutches of the GTLM field off the start before being hit by Toni Vilander’s Risi Ferrari, a rare mistake from the veteran Finn. This sent the team behind the wall just after the start.
  10. 90-Renger van der Zande/Marc Goossens, VISIT FLORIDA Racing Riley Mk. 30 Gibson: A brake issue sent the likable Dutchman into the Turn 1 wall in Friday practice, which meant van der Zande, his family, Goossens and the rest of the No. 90 team was done for the weekend then and there.

GT LE MANS

Michelin was always going to win GTLM, but Milner’s quizzical look describes the “what just happened” angle of race. Photo courtesy of IMSA
  1. 4-Tommy Milner/Oliver Gavin, Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R: Secured the win after the team car was blocked in at the hairpin logjam on the final lap. Minor redemption for last year’s loss, but still tough to inherit the win this way. Milner called this the “weirdest race of his career” in victory lane, which said it all.
  2. 67-Ryan Briscoe/Richard Westbrook, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT: Ho-hum last-in-class on the grid to second in the race on a one-stop strategy. The No. 67 car made it from ninth to fifth at the end of Lap 1 and snuck in behind its 2016 title nemesis, the No. 4 car, on the final lap.
  3. 912-Kevin Estre/Laurens Vanthoor, Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR: Led the first 26 laps following Vanthoor’s rocket start, running on the same set of Michelins for 45 minutes and change. But the car fell back on the pit stop sequence, only returning to the podium after the hairpin delay elsewhere.
  4. 25-Bill Auberlen/Alexander Sims, BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM: Ran second early, but like the No. 912 car was on the wrong strategy and fell to fourth. Still made it four manufacturers in as many positions.
  5. 3-Jan Magnussen/Antonio Garcia, Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R: What more can be said. Damaged early in the Turn 5, first lap mess, than shot back to the front, only to have a sure win escape them in the final corner. Brutal ending to a fantastic comeback.
  6. 911-Patrick Pilet/Dirk Werner, Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR: Hopes here were dashed by Werner getting a drive-through for enacting some “Dirk-on-Dirk” violence at the hairpin, hitting Mueller’s No. 66 Ford.
  7. 24-Martin Tomczyk/John Edwards, BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM: The luckless start to 2017 continues because this car threw a strategic gem at Long Beach and vaulted to the class lead by Lap 27 and overall lead by Lap 34, where it was until Lap 47. But a likely ECU issue shut the car off exiting Turn 8 and the two Corvettes and No. 67 Ford made it through to the lead.
  8. 66-Dirk Mueller/Joey Hand, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT: Target doesn’t sponsor the Ford Ganassi team but was an accurate word for the No. 66 car Saturday. Its hood got crunched on the start of the race with Hand driving and then Mueller was the recipient of some “Dirk-on-Dirk” violence in the hairpin later, contacted by Porsche’s Werner. Eighth place was the result for the car that won Daytona and was second at Sebring.
  9. 62-Toni Vilander/Giancarlo Fisichella, Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE: Vilander shot to first at Turn 1, but his failed passing attempt on Ed Brown at Turn 5 of the first lap ended this car’s race and caused damage to the No. 3 Corvette and No. 66 Ford.

GT DAYTONA

WeatherTech Mercedes emerged from obscurity to win GTD. Photo courtesy of IMSA
  1. 50-Gunnar Jeannette/Cooper MacNeil, Riley Motorsports-WeatherTech Racing Mercedes AMG-GT3: Last-to-first win following a pre-race tire change and an epic fuel save from Jeannette thanks to the yellows. Jeannette contacted the No. 5 Cadillac earlier in the race but was not penalized. How’d they win? “I kind of blacked out for a minute and the next thing I know the checkered flag is out and I’m crossing the finish line!” Jeannette laughed.
  2. 33-Jeroen Bleekemolen/Ben Keating, Riley Motorsports-Team AMG Mercedes AMG-GT3: Clean race brought third straight podium for this crew, who extend title lead to 21 points this early in 2017.
  3. 63-Christina Nielsen/Alessandro Balzan, Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3: Nielsen described the “magic” that brought this car from the back to a podium: “I can’t take any credit for today. This credit goes entirely to Scuderia Corsa and Alessandro Balzan, they were totally my heroes today. How they executed, it’s just unbelievable what they did.”
  4. 73-Joerg Bergmeister/Patrick Lindsey, Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R: From 32nd overall and last in GTD on Lap 1 to fourth in GTD at the finish. Like the others, we’re not entirely sure how.
  5. 991-Wolf Henzler/Jan Heylen, TRG Porsche 911 GT3 R: Top-five a great result for this car in a surprise entry, albeit not without controversy after Henzler’s chop on the front straight ahead of overall leader Dalziel.
  6. 14-Scott Pruett/Sage Karam, 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3: Started from back after Pruett’s heavy crash in Friday practice, then strategized their way to front and Lexus’ best finish yet in a rebuilt car. Karam lost a top-five to Henzler inside the final 10 minutes.
  7. 93-Andy Lally/Katherine Legge, Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3: Had an incident before qualifying but the team made it back out then, then despite a missed wave around, Lally carved from 11th to seventh by the finish. Post-weekend, he also launched a new motoring app on Monday called “MotorCrush.”
  8. 16-Jeroen Mul/Corey Lewis, Change Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3: An exasperated Robby Benton was left to swallow the team’s second straight last-lap heartbreak that cost a podium, this time after Mul and what looked like another car had contact exiting Turn 9. A season-best result of eighth was little solace.
  9. 96-Jens Klingmann/Bret Curtis, Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3: The outside car in the three-wide, final lap, hairpin mess, smashed against the wall.
  10. 86-Jeff Segal/Ozz Negri, Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3: The middle car in the three-wide, final lap, hairpin mess, smashed in the middle of two cars.
  11. 15-Jack Hawksworth/Robert Alon, 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3: The inside car in the three-wide, final lap, hairpin mess, with Alon trying an ill-advised move that put him on probation. Hawksworth led five laps after starting second.
  12. 28-Daniel Morad/Michael Christensen, Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R: Got up to third early but like others, entered a closed pit, got a penalty, and never recovered en route to an unrepresentative P12.
  13. 57-Lawson Aschenbach/Andrew Davis, Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS: Hit with an early spin and electrical issues that stuck them a lap down, trapping them there.
  14. 54-Colin Braun/Jon Bennett, CORE autosport Porsche 911 GT3 R: Rough start to the championship-winning team’s transition to GTD continued, losing a lap early and never getting it back.
  15. 75-Tristan Vautier/Boris Said, SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: Per Mercedes’ release, the team was one of several in the GTD class that got caught out by entering a closed pit lane during the race’s second caution period.
  16. 48-Bryan Sellers/Madison Snow, Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3: Sellers took pole and led the first 23 laps but then this happened on the second caution: “At the time the car entered pit lane, the track and pits had yet to be declared green, resulting in a stop and hold penalty.”

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.”