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IMSA: Ricky Taylor, WTR crush record to lead COTA polesitters

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The dream start for Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R has rolled on in qualifying for Saturday’s Advance Auto Parts SportsCar Showdown for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Circuit of The Americas in Austin. Ricky Taylor’s pole headlines the polesitters for the two-hour, 40-minute race.

PROTOTYPE

Ricky Taylor crushed the Circuit of The Americas circuit for a staggering 1:54.809 lap, more than 1.5 seconds clear of the rest of the Prototype field, for his second and the Cadillac DPi-V.R’s third pole in four races this season.

The effort by the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R team was made all the more impressive after missing most of the morning practice session, producing limited laps. But with fixes made, the Taylor boys were back up front.

“Oh man. This feels so nice,” Ricky Taylor told IMSA Radio’s Shea Adam. “We’ve gone to new tracks, every style so far with the new car. So we have to completely reset. We knew the Corvette DP was good here. But 1.5 seconds isn’t the driver – that’s car. I’m very excited. It was on edge as qualifying always is. It’ll be interested to see how the tires wear.”

Ricky and Jordan share the No. 10 car and seek their fourth win in as many races to open the year.

Johannes van Overbeek, who didn’t get to race the No. 22 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi at Long Beach as Ed Brown got collected on the first lap, qualified second with a best time of 1:56.401 to break up the Cadillac dominance at the top of the timesheets.

“It’s a testament to the Patron ESM team. We’ve been chasing setup all weekend. Our guys have kept making the car better and I wish I had even another shot at qualifying,” “JVO” told IMSA Radio’s Jim Roller.

Eric Curran took a separate No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac chassis into third, the primary car he shared with Dane Cameron having required significant repairs after Long Beach when Cameron made a rare mistake and crashed at Turn 8 there.

The No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing and No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217 Gibson cars completed the top five, the latter of which sees Marco Bonanomi and Jose Gutierrez now in the car after Tom Kimber-Smith and Will Owen were in at Long Beach.

GT LE MANS

John Edwards broke his own and BMW Team RLL’s own pole position dry spell in his No. 24 BMW M6 GTLM during GT Le Mans qualifying, topping a session where the top seven cars among all five manufacturers were covered by just 0.252 of a second. Edwards’ last pole was at Road America, 2014, while BMW’s most recent pole was with Bill Auberlen at Long Beach in 2016.

The young American posted a 2:02.833 lap, which edged Giancarlo Fisichella’s No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE at 2:02.865.

Edwards and Martin Tomczyk – or teammates Auberlen and Alexander Sims in the No. 25 BMW that qualified third – will look to deliver the M6 GTLM’s first win. In fact it’s been since 2015 at COTA when BMW last won in GTLM, with the previous generation Z4 GTE.

“We struggled a bit with the balance this morning but we’ve been more comfortable at COTA,” Edwards told Roller. “I was unsure what to expect. I saw the time and was pleased. No one went quicker. I just looked… top seven was quarter of a second. It’s starting to feel like DTM and the good old days of GTLM.”

Fisichella and Toni Vilander, meanwhile, will look for Risi to win a standard length IMSA race on the team’s home soil. The Houston-based team is within the same state, albeit not quite the same city.

The pair of Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs were next followed by Jan Magnussen in the first of the Corvette C7.Rs and Patrick Pilet in the first of the Porsche 911 RSRs, again all covered by just 0.252 of a second.

GT DAYTONA

New team, new car, new series, no problem. French driver Mathieu Jaminet, a Porsche Young Professional, stepped into the No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R for the first time this weekend and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for the first time overall, and promptly stuck the car on the pole.

Jaminet does have track experience though, having won the pair of Porsche Supercup races here on the U.S. Grand Prix weekend last fall. His best time today was 2:06.523 in the car he’ll share with Daniel Morad.

“The lap was really good. We improved a lot compared to the first few practices,” Jaminet told Adam. “I’m really happy for my debut. It was pretty easy. This is a family team. I feel directly at home. It’s easy to come here.”

The usually tight GTD class wasn’t so on this day. Jack Hawksworth qualified second for the second straight race in the No. 15 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 at a best time of 2:06.623, and was the only driver within a second. A pair of Lamborghinis from Paul Miller Racing and Change Racing, the latter team in search of its elusive first podium after a pair of heartbreak endings the last two races, and Dallas-based Park Place Motorsports with its Porsche 911 GT3 R completed the top five.

Mercedes-AMG opted to qualify its am drivers in search of its third straight win, after victories at Sebring and Long Beach. The best of those four GT3 cars was Ben Keating, who along with Jeroen Bleekemolen have won at COTA several times, in eighth in the No. 33 Riley Motorsports-Team AMG Mercedes AMG-GT3.

PROTOTYPE CHALLENGE

Performance Tech Motorsports, which has won the opening two races in PC this year, is back on pole after just missing out at the class’ most recent race in Sebring. James French reasserted his authority with a best time of 2:00.066 in the No. 38 Oreca FLM09, which he’ll share with Mexican teenager and San Antonio native Pato O’Ward.

“It’s the best quality track time to get. Three cars and a time to show what we have for pace,” French told Adam. “The car was handling really well. It was a blast. With both (of us) Silvers, it’s an open book on strategy.”

French came up just short of an elusive victory closing in this race last year, co-driving with Nick Boulle, who was deputizing for Kyle Marcelli on another assignment at Sonoma.

Interestingly Boulle, who co-drove with French, O’Ward and Kyle Masson to victory at the Rolex 24 at Daytona is back in action this weekend sharing the No. 26 BAR1 Motorsports entry with Stefan Wilson. Wilson has tested PC cars before but this marks his actual series race debut; he qualified the car second in class. Gustavo Yacaman took the No. 26 BAR1 car to pole at Sebring.

Haas F1 driver Romain Grosjean to launch cookbook

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Haas Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean may be one of the sport’s most promising talents on-track, but he also has a burning passion off it: cooking.

Grosjean may have been spent a good part of this year cooking his brakes, but you’ll now be able to cook bakes instead…

F1’s resident foodie is set to release a cookbook alongside wife Marion Jolles in the coming weeks, as announced on his Facebook page.

Grosjean currently sits 13th in the F1 drivers’ championship with 18 points to his name, helping Haas to match the points total from its debut season after just 10 races in 2017.

Mercedes F1 engine chief warns against underestimating Honda

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Mercedes Formula 1 engine chief Andy Cowell has warned against underestimating the threat of Honda despite its ongoing power unit struggles, tipping the Japanese manufacturer to bounce back in the near future.

Honda returned to F1 as a manufacturer in 2015, supplying V6 turbo power units to the McLaren team, but has struggled for either performance or reliability through that period.

The struggles have led McLaren – currently sat bottom of the constructors’ championship – to consider cutting ties for 2018 given how far adrift compared to the other three engine suppliers Honda has been.

Mercedes has been the benchmark for engine performance since the change in regulation for 2014, but Cowell feels that Honda could make up ground quickly, with the removal of the token system for 2017 helping performance to converge through the field.

“I think collectively we’ve helped with convergence in Formula 1 in the opening season, performance development through the year,” Cowell said.

“But then the opportunity to do a big change with Honda coming in, we all agreed that Honda could have that same opportunity to change everything in the first year and then the request came from manufacturers in addition to Honda saying ‘please can we take this crazy token table away because it’s bad for the sport?’

“It’s bad if somebody can’t train to get better and so we agreed, yeah, take the table away because it’s better for the sport because it means that you can innovate, you can introduce whatever you like.

“I think none of us should underestimate the technical prowess of Honda and of McLaren and I think my money is on that combination coming good and coming good pretty quickly. No pressure…”

Williams happy to ‘hold off’ on 2018 F1 driver decision

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Williams is happy to “hold off” on making a decision on its Formula 1 driver line-up for 2018 as it focuses on improving its on-track displays after a tough start to the season.

Williams currently fields Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll, a mix of experience and youth, but has failed to keep up with midfield front-runner Force India through the first half of the year.

Force India sits fourth in the constructors’ championship with more than double the points of Williams, who leads a tight-knit group down to Renault in eighth place, 15 points adrift.

While Stroll looks set to continue with Williams and Massa has hinted he may look to continue through to 2018 despite initially planning to retire at the end of last season, deputy team boss Claire Williams has confirmed that no decision about next year’s line-up will come any time soon.

“There’s a lot of talk already isn’t there, about drivers across the paddock. For us, we’ve decided we’re going to hold off a bit on our driver decision,” Williams said.

“We’ve got a fight on our hands on the race track at the moment and to be distracted by those kinds of conversations isn’t something that we want to be happening at the moment.

“[Force India’s] got a nice points haul on us at the moment we need to focus on, rather than anything else.”

Nico Rosberg visits Stanford University, considering study options

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2016 Formula 1 world champion Nico Rosberg is considering study options at Stanford University after visiting the college earlier this week as part of his tour around California.

Rosberg sensationally announced his retirement from F1 just five days after winning his maiden world title last November, wanting to spend more time with his young family.

The German has been enjoying his retirement, recently embarking on a tour of Silicon Valley and California that saw him hold meetings with electric car giant Tesla, among other companies.

In a video posted to his Twitter account on Sunday, Rosberg spoke warmly about a visit to Stanford, revealing that he is considering some study options in the near future at the historic institution.

Rosberg was previously offered a scholarship to study engineering at Imperial College London when he was younger, only to turn it down in order to embark on a racing career. He also reportedly holds the highest ever score on Williams’ engineering aptitude test.

Should Nico sign up to a course at Stanford, we imagine he’d take things one class at a time…