Photo courtesy of IMSA

Porsche sets IMSA GTLM lineup, reveals GTD upgrade plans

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As part of Porsche’s annual Night of Champions in Stuttgart, Germany, the manufacturer’s GT plans came into focus in full after weeks and months preparing to reveal its 2018 program.

The IMSA GT Le Mans side will, as expected, see ex-LMP1 drivers Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber return to North America. The pair has enjoyed rapid, meteoric trajectories as Porsche factory drivers and will be back to being split in the pair of Porsche 911 RSRs next season.

Tandy will share the No. 911 car with Patrick Pilet, and Bamber the No. 912 car with Laurens Vanthoor.

Gianmaria Bruni, who co-drove with Vanthoor in the second half of 2017, has been transferred over to Porsche’s FIA World Endurance Championship entry and will run as third driver in the No. 912 car next year. Fred Makowiecki will be third driver in the No. 911 car.

Dirk Werner, who co-drove with Pilet in North America this year, will race for Porsche in both the Intercontinental GT Challenge and Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup next year.

Porsche has also revealed the technical details behind the “evo” package upgrade for its Porsche 911 GT3 R GT3 car, which enters its third year in 2018.

Per Porsche, the customer car receives an upgrade – not a fully new car – for the 2018 season. The parts kit, which can be used to update all 2016 and 2017 models, includes among other things, a new front lid/hood for the optimization of thermal management and side flicks on the front bumper to improve aerodynamic balance.

IMSA’s 2018 season starts with the Roar Before the Rolex 24 in early January, then the Rolex 24 at Daytona itself later that month.

Josef Newgarden wins pole for Grand Prix of Alabama

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With time running off the clock, Josef Newgarden lapped Barber Motorsports Park with a speed of 122.773 mph to win his third career pole and first on this track in the Grand Prix of Alabama.

Newgarden was .0128 seconds faster than teammate Scott Dixon in second.

Newgarden has two previous wins at Barber. He won last year’s edition of this race after starting seventh and in 2015 from fifth.

“I didn’t know if that was going to be enough,” Newgarden said after winning the pole.

“Team Chevy has done a good job,” Newgarden said. “They’ve really given us good power this weekend – good driveability. We’re going to need some fuel mileage tomorrow, which I think we’ll have. But it’s going to get mixed up with the rain.”

Dixon’s lap of 122.750 mph was not quite enough.

“I’m sure you could pick out a number of different things on a lap when it’s that close,” Power said about what made the slight difference between him and Newgarden. “A little mistake out of 9; a little lift here or there.”

Sebastien Bourdais (122.605 mph) qualified third, with Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.159) and James Hinchliffe (121.859) rounding out the top five.

Scott Dixon was the last driver in the top six.

Fast 12

Newgarden topped this chart with a speed of 123.475 mph.

He brought Power, James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Sebastien Bourdais along with him to the Fast 6.

Marco Andretti (122.480), Alexander Rossi (122.216), Simon Pagenaud (122.050), Robert Wickens (122.042), Zach Veach (121.784) and Ed Jones (120.984) failed to advance.

Round 1, Group 1

Newgarden posted the fastest single lap in round one, group one of qualification for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.550 mph.

Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, Wickens, and Andretti also advance to the fast 12.

Taking the final slot was Jones with a speed of 119.835 mph after an off-course excursion in final practice.

This was Andretti’s first advancement to the fast 12 for the first time since 2014.

Round 1, Group 2

Power had the fastest lap of 121.570 mph.

Bourdais, Veach (who is battling food poisoning-like symptoms), Rossi, and Pagenaud grabbed positions 2-4.

Scott Dixon had an uncharacteristically slow lap of 121.006, but managed to advance to the fast 12 when the session was red-flagged for an incident involving Tony Kanaan.

With three minutes remaining, Kanaan spun into the tire barriers while leaving pit road. Since he brought out the red flag, he lost his qualification time of 119.996 mph.

Takuma Sato had slipped off-course midway through the session and posted only the Ninth-fastest speed of 120.789 mph.