2013 Belgian Grand Prix Preview

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Formula One returns after its summer break to the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium. A favorite among fans and drivers, Spa is renowned for its great changes in elevation and high-speed corners, the most famous of which – Eau Rouge – has a special place in the heart of all F1 personnel. As the drivers get back in the saddle and prepare to attack the second half of the 2013 season, an explosive and exhilarating Belgian Grand Prix could be in the offing.

Belgian Grand Prix Talking Points

Mercedes plan assault on Red Bull

With Sebastian Vettel enjoying a 38-point lead over Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bull leading Mercedes by 69 points, you could be forgiven for writing off both championships with barely half of the season gone. Judging by their recent form, Mercedes are the only team well-placed to challenge the defending champions; starting off with a win in Spa would certainly put the Silver Arrows in good stead for the rest of the season.

Ferrari and Lotus try to keep a grip on their coat-tails

For Ferrari, this season is becoming increasingly about damage limitation. No wins since May and more references to the troublesome wind tunnel suggest that finishing in the top three would be a good result come Interlagos for the Italian team. Lotus’ outlook is far brighter following two strong results in Germany and Hungary, and Spa is a big race for the team as the “King of Spa” Kimi Raikkonen chases a fifth win in Belgium – with or without ‘the device’.

Who will come back with renewed vigor?

The summer break gives drivers a chance to relax and take a break from the stresses of the sport, making it a key point of the season. Last season, Felipe Massa returned from his holidays a completely different driver, laying down a remarkably consistent run of results in the final stretch of the season. Therefore, for the drivers hoping to move up the grid in the coming few weeks, Spa is an important race to get the second half of the season off to a good start.

This season versus next season

Another big question surrounds the development paths that teams will choose to take. As Brawn proved in 2009, planning ahead of a change in the regulations can pay great dividends. Therefore, the teams have to decide whether they want to plan ahead and sacrifice the second half of the year, or secure some good results in 2013 and trail at first in 2014. Despite their lead, Red Bull have to think about getting the championships sewn up to avoid losing out at the beginning of next season.

Kimi, Ricciardo and Red Bull – a decision close?

This week has seen the news break that Kimi Raikkonen may no longer be in the running for the Red Bull seat after a breakdown in negotiations. Therefore, with the door now open for Daniel Ricciardo, an announcement may be close. However, with so many teams still to confirm their line-up for next season, the world champions may yet bide their time further.

Track: Spa-Francorchamps
Laps: 44
Corners: 19
Lap Record: Sebastian Vettel 1:47.263 (2009)
Tire Compounds: Medium (Option); Hard (Prime)
2012 Winner: Jenson Button (McLaren)
2012 Pole Position: Jenson Button 1:47.573
2012 Fastest Lap: Bruno Senna 1:52.822
DRS Zones: Main Straight (T19 to T1); T4 to T5

Friday – Free Practice 1: 04:00am ET
Friday – Free Practice 2: 08:00am ET (LIVE on NBCSN)
Saturday – Free Practice 3: 05:00am ET
Saturday – Qualifying: 08:00am ET (LIVE on NBC Sports Live Extra)
Sunday – Race: 08:00am ET (LIVE on NBCSN)

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”