Photo courtesy of IMSA

Action Express, BMW Team RLL among winners in Thriller at The Glen

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A late-race restart with 24 minutes remaining resulted in a thrilling finish to the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.

In Prototype. Joao Barbosa, in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi for Action Express, outdueled a game Stephen Simpson in the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca LMP2 for the overall win.

Simpson managed to jump around Barbosa with an aggressive move up the inside on the restart, but Barbosa regrouped and closed back in as the two worked through traffic. Barbosa was able to retake the lead with an incredible outside pass between turn 1 and the run up to the esses.

The victory is the first of the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season for the No. 5 machine, with co-drivers Christian Fittipaldi and Filipe Albuquerque joining Barbosa in Victory Lane, while second is a season-best for the No. 85 entry, in the hands of Simpson, Chris Miller, and Misha Goikhberg this weekend. Behind them, the No. 55 Mazda Motorsports Mazda DPi finished third, with Tristan Nunez, Jonathan Bomarito, and Spencer Pigot sharing driving duties.

In GTLM, the No. 25 BMW Team RLL entry, in the hands of Bill Auberlen and Alexander Sims, claimed their first victory of the year. Sims needed to save fuel in the final stint to make it to the finish, but a caution period with 36 minutes remaining put him in position to make it to the end. He outlasted late charges from Richard Westbrook in the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT and Antonio Garcia in the No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R for the victory.

In GT Daytona, Andy Lally and Katherine Legge made it two-in-a-row in a dominant performance for Michael Shank Racing w/ Curb-Agajanian in the Acura NSX GT3. However, they endured a late challenge from Alessandro Balzan in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3, who closed to within a few car lengths but could not make a move for the win. The No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 in the hands of Justin Marks and Jens Klingmann was third in class. Also, the No. 86 entry from Michael Shank’s squad was in position to finish second and complete a 1-2 finish for the team, but a mechanical issue forced driver Jeff Segal off the track with 36 minutes remaining.

In Prototype Challenge, the perfect season for the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09 continued, with James French, Pato O’Ward, and Kyle Masson winning over the No. 20 and 26 entries from BAR1 Motorsports. Don Yount, Buddy Rice, and Daniel Burkett came home second in the No. 20 ahead of teammates Brian Alder, Derek Jones, and Gustavo Yacaman in the No. 26.

Meanwhile, the perfect season for the Wayne Taylor Racing No. 10 Cadillac DPi-V.R came to a crashing halt in turn 1, lap 1. Contact with Olivier Pla, in the PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier LMP2, broke the right-front suspension of the No. 10 car, in the hands of Ricky Taylor at the time. Taylor then drifted across the track and pounded the outside wall in the esses, which sent cars behind him scattering in avoidance.

The older Taylor brother managed to bring the car back to the pits, but the team lost several laps making repairs to the right-front suspension as well as the right-rear suspension, which sustained damage after the wall contact. They ended the day in sixth place overall and in the Prototype class, three laps off the lead.

Elsewhere, Tequila Patrón ESM endured a difficult race after an uptick in pace saw them score pole position with the No. 2 Nissan DPi. That No. 2 entry, with Pipo Derani at the helm to start, rocketed off into the lead and dominated most of the opening two hours.

However, shortly after Scott Sharp took the helm, he made contact with the No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3, with Boris Said behind the wheel, in turn 5. The contact sent Sharp spinning into the runoff area, where he eventually backed into the tire barrier. Although the damage was cosmetic, repairs saw the team lose a handful of laps.

The No. 2 machine also incurred several drive-through penalties for a series of infractions before it eventually came to a stop in the final minutes, with throttle problems ultimately ending their day just shy of the checkered flag.

Their teammates in the No. 22 entry also saw their day end early with mechanical troubles, as Bruno Senna slowed and pulled off the track entering turn one with about one hour remaining.

Also, while their teammates were celebrating in Victory Lane, the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing entry from Action Express saw their day unravel shortly before the halfway point, when a mechanical issue saw the right-rear tire come off following a pit stop. The car came to a halt just before the bus stop chicane and was towed back to the pits for repairs. It eventually rejoined the fight and finished seventh in class, 16th overall, with Dane Cameron and Eric Curran sharing driving duties with Filipe Albuquerque, who was entered in both Action Express cars this weekend.

Full results can be found here.

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Bruni, Snow win GT poles for IMSA at Lime Rock

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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A pair of first-time polesitters have the top spot for this weekend’s GT-only IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Northeast Grand Prix from Lime Rock Park. Gianmaria Bruni has his first pole for Porsche while Madison Snow has his first pole of the season.

GT LE MANS

Just 0.535 of a second covered the four manufacturers and eight cars in GT Le Mans in qualifying, but up front, Gianmaria Bruni has his first pole as a Porsche factory driver.

The Italian, in only his third weekend as a factory GT driver and second ever at Lime Rock and sharing the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR with Laurens Vanthoor, posted the ultimate pole time of 50.404 seconds around the 1.53-mile circuit.

“I’m very happy to do my first pole with Porsche, first qualifying. This team has taught me good things and gets the most out of it,” Bruni told IMSA Radio’s Shea Adam after the checkered flag. He’s the 23rd different GTLM polesitter in IMSA since the 2014 merger, this surprisingly his first pole in the series.

Richard Westbrook took the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT into second at 50.540 in the car he shares with Ryan Briscoe.

The No. 911 Porsche and No. 24 BMW M6 GTLM are third and fourth, with the pair of Corvettes next.

The No. 4 Corvette C7.R is back in action this week following its accident at the end of the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Per Corvette Racing, repairs to the car included: the entire front-right corner (components, bodywork), steering rack, diffuser, wing and changed a chassis tube due to a crease. There were no other cracks or damage to the frame. That car qualified fifth in the hands of Tommy Milner, who shares the car with Oliver Gavin. The pair won Corvette Racing’s 100th race as a team this race last year.

GT DAYTONA

After a run of seven manufacturers scoring pole positions in the first seven races in GTD, the streak was broken Friday at Lime Rock Park.

Not too far from its New Jersey base, the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 was the first car to score a second pole this year, this time in the hands of Madison Snow. Snow joins Bryan Sellers (Long Beach) as polesitters for this car this season, and this at least keeps the streak of different drivers alive.

The Nos. 54 CORE autosport and No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R in the hands of Colin Braun and Patrick Long were next. Snow’s 52.508 best lap edged Braun’s 52.699 and Long’s 52.836, with Jack Hawksworth best of the 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 brigade in fourth and Jens Klingmann taking the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 into fifth.

The top 15 of the 17 cars in GTD were separated by only 0.992 of a second around the 1.53-mile bullring.

The two-hour, 40-minute race runs late Saturday afternoon, from 3:05 to 5:45 p.m. ET.

Mid-Ohio, Honda Racing go galactic for 2017 at-track camping theme

Photo: IndyCar
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Honda Racing will channel a galactic theme for this year’s camping festivities at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, a popular camping venue on the Verizon IndyCar Series calendar.

This marks the third year of a contest for best campground site, with various Honda Indy 200 gifts on offer. The theme name this year is “May the G-Forces Be With You,” and the hashtag is #CampingWithHonda.  Last year’s was a “Christmas in July” theme, complete with Santa Claus. The full release from the track is linked here.

As this year’s event alludes to a very popular galactic film series in all but name, it will see a number of participants in the weekend festivities by to judge the campsites at the track – potentially in character!

Graham Rahal, driver of the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in IndyCar, will visit the sites Saturday after qualifying to choose the winners. He did so last year as well.

Photo: PWC

Others, such as last year’s Mid-Ohio race winner Simon Pagenaud and RealTime Racing Acura NSX GT3 factory driver in Pirelli World Challenge, Ryan Eversley (right), are expected to attend as well – though whether as themselves or potentially in a special character remains to be seen.

“It’s always a thrill and a special part of the Mid-Ohio weekend to take part in Honda Racing fun festivities like ‘May the G-Forces Be With You,'” Eversley told NBC Sports; the Atlanta native finished second in the second PWC GT race here last year in the previous generation TLX-GT, in one of his best drives of the season. “These guys always know how to cook up some fun activities and so if there’s an opportunity to dress up, have fun and play along with it, I’m down!”

Photo: IndyCar

Pagenaud, who was a longtime member of the Honda and Acura family before his move to Team Penske’s Chevrolet-powered, IndyCar program (right), added, “For me, as a fan, this film series is just the best. I love the battle between the light and dark side of the force, because I feel like we can all identify with that. I try to channel the force when I’m in my race car, so this will be a really fun weekend in Mid-Ohio.

“I plan to bring something to show my pride at the track, but I won’t ruin the surprise for you guys in advance!”

Expect similar characters to be present on site on Saturday evening. There’s also going to be a bonfire, live band (Columbus group MidLife Crisis) and s’mores, plus branded lighted batons which should display well at the bonfire on Saturday.

And for James Hinchcliffe, another Honda driver who is no stranger to having fun, he’s also part of the buildup to this event, as evidenced by the event teaser below.

Wehrlein nonplussed by Sauber-Honda speculation

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Pascal Wehrlein is not paying any attention to speculation that Sauber’s planned Formula 1 engine deal with Honda for 2018 could be on the rocks, saying his future remains open as he focuses on his current duties with the team.

Mercedes junior Wehrlein was placed at Sauber for 2017, and led the team to its first points finish of the year at the Spanish Grand Prix in May.

Sauber had been given a boost two weeks earlier when it announced a deal to become Honda’s second customer team for 2018, including technical and financial support.

However, the deal was put in doubt following Sauber CEO and team principal Monisha Kaltenborn’s departure, leading to speculation that it had not been finalized.

Kaltenborn’s replacement Frederic Vasseur has made it a priority to resolve the matter, but it has made for a bleak outlook at Hinwil for the future.

With the 2018 driver market beginning to stir, Wehrlein has stressed he is not yet thinking about next season, nor is he paying any attention to the speculation about Sauber’s deal with Honda.

“I have no idea what is happening next year. Of course, I have heard all these rumors as well,” Wehrlein told the official F1 website.

“I cannot influence any of these things, so why worry about them? Whatever rumors there are in the air, it is no distraction for me – that is the bottom line.

“I have a contract for this season so I am only focusing on this year. Decisions are made by others and I am only here to drive, to perform as well as I can.

“Of course I want to see Sauber do well. They have the potential and have already been in good positions in the past and I want them to get back there. How and when? That is on another page.”

Wehrlein expressed his confidence in Vasseur’s leadership, although he expects the team to shift focus to its 2018 plans.

“I do have expectations of Fred and the team. I don’t know how fast Fred can change things or how he can change them, but we now have one race left before the summer shut down,” Wehrlein said.

“In the second half of the season the team will focus on next year, so I don’t think you will see his touch too much this year. So let’s see what we can still do with the tools that we have right now.

“I really respect Fred. I used to work with him in DTM. He had a team when I drove there in 2015. He has so much experience in motorsport and in many other ventures outside racing.

“He is a very successful man. He could help Sauber. He could be very good for the team.”

Keeping Grosjean, Magnussen for 2018 ‘a given’ in Gene Haas’ eyes

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Gene Haas is planning to field an unchanged line-up for his Formula 1 team in 2018, believing it to be “a given” that Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen will continue beyond the end of the season.

NASCAR team co-owner Haas took his eponymous F1 operation onto the grid in 2016, pairing Grosjean with Esteban Gutierrez.

While Grosjean scored a fifth-place finish in Haas F1 Team’s second race and picked up 29 points across the course of the season, Gutierrez failed to record a single top-10 result.

The Mexican was replaced by Magnussen for 2017, with the Dane taking 11 points through the first 10 races of the season.

Despite the fluidity of the driver market for 2018, Haas revealed in an interview with the official F1 website that the team is planning to race with Grosjean and Magnussen together once again next year.

“We will run with the same drivers that we have this year again next year. That is a given,” Haas said.

“And given the other continuity aspects, we should be better racers next season.”

Haas had been tipped to take on a Ferrari junior such as Antonio Giovinazzi or Charles Leclerc for 2018 given its technical ties to the Italian marque.

Grosjean is understood to be a target for Renault should it miss out on re-signing Fernando Alonso, while Magnussen penned a multi-year deal upon arrival at Haas at the start of the season.

Reflecting on Magnussen’s contribution, Haas believes the team has benefitted from his greater race performance that has allowed it to match its debut season points total in just 10 races in 2017.

“Esteban was a good driver. He was as fast as Romain in practice, but I think that Kevin has an edge in terms of race experience,” Haas said.

“He can score points and that was the key for bringing him on board. Kevin can grab points and Romain can too.

“We now have 29 points. Last year around this time we also had 29 points, but did not score for the rest of the season.

“So now if we can score another 29 points by Abu Dhabi, that would be a great position.”