Photo courtesy of IMSA

Petit Le Mans quick post-race notes

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BRASELTON, Ga. – With 39 cars in the 2017 Motul Petit Le Mans, the season finale of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, invariably there are a lot of things to cover and pay attention to.

While a number of breakouts will follow in the coming days, here’s some quick post-race notes:

INDYCAR DRIVER RESULTS

  • Team Penske was best of the bunch with its trio of Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud finishing third overall and in Prototype in its No. 6 Oreca 07 Gibson, after starting on pole.
  • The Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT drivers, Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais, ended only seventh and eighth in the GT Le Mans class with the No. 66 and 67 cars.
  • Similar struggles hit Ryan Hunter-Reay early on, his No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R retiring early with engine issues.
  • NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell finished sixth in GT Daytona in the No. 23 Alex Job Racing Audi R8 LMS he shared with Bill Sweedler and Frankie Montecalvo.

PROTOTYPE 

  • The win for Scott Sharp, Ryan Dalziel and Brendon Hartley ensures both Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPis have won this season, and extends the run of different winners in Prototype to six different cars in the last six races. After the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R won the first five races in a row, five other cars followed with the Nos. 5 and 31 Cadillacs, the No. 22 Nissan and the No. 90 VISIT FLORIDA Racing Ligier JS P217 Gibson winning the last four races prior to the No. 2 Nissan breaking through tonight. All told in the first year of combination DPi and LMP2 racing with new cars, DPis ended with a 9-1 win advantage.
  • Brendon Hartley told NBC Sports he’s “not 100 percent sure what will happen next year” but did highly hint at driving more regularly in the U.S. next season. The New Zealander has been strongly linked to Chip Ganassi Racing’s IndyCar team and like Ricky Taylor’s impending move to Team Penske’s sports car program, it’s among the “it isn’t official even though it basically feels like it” type of topics in the paddock.
  • Dane Cameron told NBC Sports after the race that “he didn’t have anything to say, but would let the penalties speak for itself” about Filipe Albuquerque’s move following a restart to shift Cameron down to the grass.  Cameron was nonetheless happy to have ended his third season with Eric Curran with Whelen Engineering and Action Express Racing second in points before his departure to Team Penske next season.
  • Team Penske rallied to third after its first hour incident. Helio Castroneves told NBC Sports post-race, “It was impressive. I never stay ‘behind the scenes.’ This is the first time watching Tim Cindric, Jonathan Diuguid doing strategy. I knew before, but now I was seeing it from the stand. Myself, Juan Pablo and Simon worked well together. It was a great learning curve and it’ll create a great foundation for 2018.” Teammate Simon Pagenaud added, “It was great. It was awesome to get the kinks out. These are the best conditions to get the program going. That’s what we did. We’re on the podium. There’s a long road ahead of us.”
  • The Nos. 22 and 5 cars, which were penalized in the final 15 minutes, fell to fourth and fifth place.
  • The No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson had a roller coaster day but still ended sixth in class and overall, ensuring John Church’s team had finished between second and sixth in all but one of the 10 races in its step up to Prototype.

GT LE MANS

  • The third win for Bill Auberlen and Alexander Sims, joined by third driver Kuno Wittmer, gave the No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM its third win of the season, which tied the champions Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia, in their No. 3 Corvette C7.R for most this season. Auberlen said watching Sims perform his strategic defense against Garcia in the final stages of the race was his latest great drive in his first full season in North America.
  • Garcia and Magnussen’s runner-up finish ensured Chevrolet won its second straight Manufacturer’s Championship in GTLM (and 12th in GT classes dating to ALMS era). Garcia wanted to know where the sister No. 4 Corvette C7.R was late in the race so he could push against Sims if he needed to. Jim Campbell, vice president, Performance Vehicles and Motorsports of Chevrolet, told NBC Sports post-race of the accomplishment: “This is really a great night. Corvette was not the fastest all year long. I’m so proud of the entire team, the engineers for calling great strategy, the crews amazing stops, and drivers up on wheel making smart decisions. It mattered for the team and manufacturer’s championships.”
  • Each of the top seven cars in class finished on the lead lap, the only exceptions being the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT which sustained late-race contact with the aforementioned No. 22 Nissan and the No. 24 BMW, which lost 10 laps early with an power steering issue.

GT DAYTONA

  • It was a dream day for both Land Motorsport and its American star driver, Connor De Phillippi, with the win in class. The team won two other international races on the same day (DMV and VLN competition earlier in the day at Hockenheim and the Nürburgring) and for De Phillippi, it’s his first win in the U.S. since the ‘Night Before the 500’ Star Mazda race at Lucas Oil Raceway (formerly Indianapolis Raceway Park) in May 2012. After leaving the Rolex 24 at Daytona with a “sour taste in their mouths,” they came on strong for this race. He also won his first Star Mazda race at Road Atlanta in 2010.
  • With the No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R second to the No. 29 Land Audi R8 LMS, it was a reversal of the order at Daytona, when the two were switched. The No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R continued its run of form at Petit Le Mans with third, highlighted by a strong extra effort from third driver Matt McMurry alongside the full-season pair of Joerg Bergmeister and Patrick Lindsey.
  • Attrition hit the GTD class hard with only nine of the 17 cars that entered making it to the checkered flag.

PROTOTYPE CHALLENGE

  • None of Garett Grist, John Falb nor Tomy Drissi had driven more than a handful of PC races this year but together kept it clean and quick to deliver Brian Alder’s BAR1 Motorsports its first win in four years, since the 2013 season finale and ALMS series finale at the same track.
  • BAR1 had a 1-2 with the No. 26 car ahead of the full-season pair of Buddy Rice and Don Yount, joined by Grist’s fellow Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires alumnus Danny Burkett in his third PC start of the year.
  • The Performance Tech Motorsports perfection quest fell short, after contact from the No. 13 Rebellion Racing Oreca knocked Kyle Masson off the road. The car recovered after losing laps but had a late spin with James French making a very rare unforced error.

More will follow from IMSA’s season finale and all the interviews conducted in the coming days.

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.