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IMSA: Derani, Patron ESM Nissan dethrone Cadillac at Road America

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – For the first time in the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, it’s not a Cadillac DPi-V.R that has won overall, as the second different Daytona Prototype international (DPi) manufacturer has broken through.

Pipo Derani and Johannes van Overbeek have pulled off the win in the No. 22 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi in Sunday’s Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America.

The Nissan has toppled the Cadillac, courtesy of Derani’s barnstorming pass on Lap 56 around the outside of Jordan Taylor in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac on a restart into Turn 1. The No. 10 car won the first five races and Action Express Racing, with its Nos. 5 and 31 cars, have won the last two for Cadillac to open the year seven-for-seven in Prototype.

Derani, who’s been a thorn in the Wayne Taylor Racing team’s side before (notably at the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona), took over from Johannes van Overbeek and was only fractionally behind him after their last round of pit stops – stops which indirectly decided the race.

At that pit cycle, the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson opted not to pit, perhaps hoping the rest of the Prototype class field would need to come in again for a splash of fuel – so it shifted Stephen Simpson to the lead.

But the strategic hopes were dashed once the No. 3 Corvette C7.R contacted the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR going into Turn 1, which knocked Dirk Werner deep into the gravel trap and brought out another full course caution barely a lap after the last one.

Simpson would eventually need to pit, first taking on emergency service in a closed pit and then pitting again after the next restart for full service. That dropped the plucky “JDC Banana Boat” down to a season-worst eighth and last place in class, after a run that did not match its pace as Simpson set the fastest lap of the race at 1:54.095.

Performance Tech Motorsports kept up its streak in Prototype Challenge, a seventh consecutive victory in the swan song year for the class. This one, though, was harder earned than most as the No. 26 BAR1 Motorsports car got back to the lead lap and within a few seconds of Performance Tech in the final half hour, but still Pato O’Ward and polesitter James French forged ahead to ensure French finally has a professional win not far from his hometown of Sheboygan in the No. 38 Oreca FLM09.

In GT Le Mans, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing finally won with its Ford GT for the first time since this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona and in the process, became the sixth different manufacturer in as many years to do so at this race in class. Corvette won last year, Porsche in 2015, Risi Ferrari in 2014, the SRT Viper in 2013 and BMW in 2012. Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller pulled off the triumph in the No. 66 car.

Meanwhile in GT Daytona, the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 got on the board with Jens Klingmann and Jesse Krohn delivering a dominant drive.

More to follow…

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.