Photo courtesy of IMSA

The 2017 edition of Petit Le Mans enters the final two hours

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BRASELTON, Ga. – A few more incidents peppered the fifth through eighth hours of Motul Petit Le Mans, the season finale for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup (first five hours linked here).

RESULTS: Hour 5, Hour 6, Hour 7, Hour 8 (by class and overall)

The top six cars in Prototype were within one lap at the eight-hour mark, but the complexion of the race changed again just before the clock hit that number when the No. 16 Change Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 stopped on course in Turn 1. That brought out the 12th full course caution of the race.

The Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPis will see Pipo Derani (No. 22) and Brendon Hartley (No. 2) finish the race, while Team Penske will deploy Juan Pablo Montoya in its No. 6 Oreca 07 Gibson to the finish. At the moment, Ryan Dalziel is staying in the No. 2 car. Action Express Racing installs Joao Barbosa in its No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R.

Most of the leaders were in just after the eight-hour mark for a likely second-to-last stop.

There were a few incidents in this stanza. Contact between Nick Heidfeld in Rebellion Racing’s Oreca and Kyle Masson in the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09 in the Esses cost the Performance Tech team nearly 20 laps, and very likely has ended its hopes of a perfect season in Prototype Challenge. The contact also spoiled Rebellion’s win hopes, and a particularly impressive drive from Heidfeld’s teammate Gustavo Menezes.

Bad luck struck the No. 93 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 too, with contact between former KIA Pirelli World Challenge teammates Nic Jonsson (in No. 54 CORE autosport Porsche 911 GT3 R) and Mark Wilkins sending Wilkins hard into the tire barriers and out of the race.

A second incident of contact between the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson and one of the Nissan Onroak DPis, the No. 22 car, saw the JDC-Miller car lose its rear wing, hit by the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS. Stevenson endured a nightmare team finale with various mechanical issues, Andrew Davis stopping on track in Turn 1 and needing to reverse, and then this contact.

The No. 90 VISIT FLORIDA Racing Ligier JS P217 Gibson is fighting through alternator issues as well.

NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell pulled off the likely save of the race, completing a 360-degree pirouette in his No. 23 Alex Job Racing Audi R8 LMS on the front straight.

“Man that was, hero to zero to hero. I thought I had my turn in right. And I had it wrong,” Bell told IMSA Radio. “I got the right front on the curb and the grass. I was hanging on with oversteer, like mad, and it got away from me. I looked left and right. I did a ‘Starsky and Hutch’ and prayed.”

Just after the eight-hour mark, a nasty accident occurred as Robert Alon lost control of his No. 14 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 and crashed heavily into the tire barriers at Turn 12. That put the race under its 13th full course caution.

Audi bids farewell to Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich upon retirement

Audi Sport
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Audi bid farewell to its iconic head of motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, at its end-of-season ‘Race Night’ event in Germany on Friday upon his retirement.

Ullrich took over the reins as Audi’s head of motorsport in 1993 and stayed in the role for 23 years, overseeing its arrival in the prototype class of sports car racing and domination of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ullrich stepped down from the position at the end of 2016, handing the reins over to ex-Audi DTM chief Dieter Gass, and attended his final racing event with the German marque at its first works Formula E outing in Hong Kong earlier this month.

Ullrich was honored at the Race Night event on Friday and thanked for his efforts in developing Audi into a force within global motorsport.

“In 566 factory-backed commitments during this period he celebrated 209 victories, 13 of them in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, eleven in the 12-hour race at Sebring and nine in the ‘Petit Le Mans’ at Road Atlanta,” a piece on Ullrich’s tenure for Audi’s website reads.

“31 driver titles in super touring car racing, in the DTM and in the sports prototype category are credited to him. 57 campaigners were Audi factory drivers during Wolfgang Ullrich’s era and he was responsible for 18 new developments of racing cars – an impressive tally.”