Porsche, Ferrari, Camaro square off for GT crown at Lime Rock

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Having won the 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 at Daytona and the inaugural North American Endurance Championship in 2012, Magnus Racing hit two of GRAND-AM’s three biggest targets in the same year. They can achieve the third career target this weekend if they hold onto the Rolex Series’ GT points lead and secure the title.

Indeed, the team known as much for its hilarious press releases and excellent snark – a refreshing break from the stuffiness that permeates most of racing – is all business this weekend at Lime Rock as drivers Andy Lally and John Potter enter with a four-point lead in the No. 44 Porsche GT3 Cup over Scuderia Corsa Ferrari driver Alessandro Balzan.

The deficit between the two was halved after a post-race results change following the last round at Monterey, when the No. 31 Marsh Racing Corvette and No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche GT3 Cup were demoted positions for contact. That elevated Balzan, who co-drives with Leh Keen in the No. 63, to third place and within four heading to Lime Rock.

There was drama on the final lap at Lime Rock a year ago. Lally’s team miscalculated its fuel amount by a mere fraction which left that car sixth; Balzan finished third a year ago with co-driver Johannes van Overbeek. Adding fuel to the championship fire is the fact Scuderia Corsa is bringing in “JVO” as a ringer this weekend, to a second car with co-driver Paul Westphal, to aid Balzan’s title charge.

That sets the scene for the two main title protagonists. If they both manage to muck it up, Stevenson Motorsports will be there waiting and like Scuderia Corsa, it too has added a second car for this race.

Stevenson’s pair of Robin Liddell and John Edwards – the latter one of the sports car stars of the year – have won a class-high four races but the highs have been offset by four finishes of eighth or worse. As a result, the No. 57 Camaro drivers enter the weekend 11 points in arrears of Potter and Lally, and would need a win with Magnus finishing seventh or worse to eclipse that mark.

Helping Stevenson’s cause is its second car with Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia, GM factory drivers in the American Le Mans Series’ Corvette C6.R program, who will be in the No. 75 Camaro this weekend.

AIM Autosport Team FXDD, the defending GT class champions with Jeff Segal and Emil Assentato, can steal the title but at 16 points back, they’d need a lot of help to do so. It’s Assentato and Anthony Lazzaro who have the shot this weekend in the No. 69 Ferrari F458 Italia, with Segal in the team’s No. 61 R.Ferri/AIM Motorsport car with Alex Tagliani.

The GX class will likely be decided first; Dr. Jim Norman needs to complete the 30-minute minimum to score enough points to uphold his 11 point lead over Joel Miller. That would give the BGB Motorsports Porsche Cayman driver the title in a class Mazda helped to create, and a class that will go away after this race.

GT POINTS
1. John Potter/Andy Lally, 313
2. Alessandro Balzan, 309
3. Robin Liddell/John Edwards, 302
4. Emil Assentato/Anthony Lazzaro, 297

Valtteri Bottas takes pole position for season-opening Austrian GP

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas upstaged Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position Saturday for the Formula One Austrian GP.

The Finnish driver edged out the world champion by 0.012 seconds to claim the top spot for the season opener at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. He clenched his fist as he climbed out of his car and shared a hug with Hamilton.

“It’s something special when you push the car to the limit,” said Bottas, who is chasing an eighth career win. “Feels so good. It’s very impressive (from the team).”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third, and Lando Norris gave McLaren a boost by finishing fourth. Verstappen has won the past two years here, including 2019 when he started third behind Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

“It’s going to be interesting quite a bit warmer tomorrow and hopefully this will play to our advantage,” Verstappen said. “Today, Mercedes was on a different level, unfortunately. Last year we were also a little bit off in qualifying so I expect we will be a bit better in the race.”

Bottas had the leading time when drivers embarked on their final laps and beat his own mark before sliding off the track into the gravel.

Hamilton was chasing a record-extending 89th career pole. He was ahead but then dropped off slightly as Bottas secured a 12th career pole.

“Great job by Valtteri. It’s a great start to the season,” Hamilton said. “We show year on year that we continue to be the best team. We’re open-minded … constantly learning from each other and pushing the boundaries.”

Ferrari struggled for speed, with Leclerc nearly one second behind in seventh and Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the third and final part of qualifying, known as Q3. He starts the race from 11th on the grid.

Vettel is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season with his future in F1 uncertain.

Earlier, Hamilton posted the fastest time in morning practice. The 35-year-old British driver was also quickest in both sessions on Friday.

Midway through third practice, F1 newcomer Nicholas Latifi misjudged the exit of a turn and spun his Williams car into a protective tire wall.