Kovalainen to run in FP1 for Caterham at Bahrain, Spain

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Heikki Kovalainen and Caterham will be reunited starting this weekend at the Bahrain Grand Prix, although not in a race seat.

The Finn, who spent three seasons with the team through its iterations as both Lotus Racing and Caterham, will run in free practice one both in Bahrain and in Spain in several weeks.

Kovalainen’s experience will be a necessary asset as Caterham introduces its first round of updates to its 2013 chassis, which so far has been outpaced by the Marussia at the back of the grid. Caterham’s race lineup is the second least experienced on the grid with Charles Pic and rookie Giedo van der Garde.

“It’s obviously great news that I’ll be on track in Bahrain and Spain and I’m really looking forward to getting back to work and helping the team as much as I can,” Kovalainen said in a team release. “I’ll be taking part in the two FP1 sessions in Bahrain and Barcelona to give the team my input on the new parts we’re bringing to those races, and I’ll be working closely with the race drivers and the engineers on track and back at Leafield to help everyone get the most out of the new package.

“Tony (Fernandes), Cyril (Abiteboul, team principal) and I have been talking about me taking up this role for quite a while, so it’s good to finally be able to announce how I’ll be helping the team in 2013,” he added. “I’m physically ready to get back into the car and I know my experience can help give the team new ideas and options for directions to take on setup and strategy. I’m looking forward to getting back to work!”

American Alexander Rossi was set to run in FP1 at Bahrain, replacing van der Garde. The team release didn’t indicate which driver Kovalainen would fill in for, but Rossi’s news from the release is a switch to Caterham’s GP2 program replacing – incidentally – fellow reserve driver Ma Qing Hua of China.

Kovalainen and Rossi will be Caterham F1’s two official reserve drivers going forward, with Ma’s adjusted plans and official role to be determined at a later date.

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