Porsche holds the keys to any Mark Webber announcement

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Mark Webber’s future both with Red Bull and in Formula One has been a hot-button issue since Malaysia, but rumors of his departure intensified this weekend.

Webber, who raced in sports cars before moving to Formula 3000 and then making his F1 debut in 2002, is linked to a seat at the Porsche factory LMP1 prototype team from 2014. Radio Le Mans, the radio broadcaster of the FIA World Endurance Championship, cited an unconfirmed report that a deal is already in place between Webber and Porsche at this weekend’s WEC race in Silverstone.

The nature of announcements with manufacturers in sports car racing is very much a process. Porsche hasn’t yet premiered its car, or named its drivers for its LMP1 program. However, they are expected to be a mix of its factory drivers (it has 10 at the moment spread throughout its worldwide racing programs) and potentially several outsiders.

The 10 Porsche factory drivers for this year are: Jorg Bergmeister, Patrick Long, Patrick Pilet, Wolf Henzler, Marc Lieb, Richard Lietz, Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas, Marco Holzer and its newest factory driver, Nick Tandy.

It’s not as simple as if Webber and Porsche can just come out and say there is an agreement in place. The process could entail whether Webber would be joining Porsche as a factory driver, whether it would need to remove any of its current 10 to make way, and how the two collectively would go about making any announcements. The official news would likely come from Porsche confirming Webber, not the other way around.

There will undoubtedly be more to this story as the year presses on, but nothing will be official until Porsche confirms it one way or another. Porsche denied Webber’s potential future involvement this weekend, but it could well be just a temporary stance.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III