Perez, Maldonado mixed on future outlooks

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The two men in the spotlight of the five drivers at Wednesday night’s FOTA Fan Forum at Cedar Street Courtyard in downtown Austin were Sergio Perez and Pastor Maldonado, both of whom are confirmed to leave their current teams after the final two Grands Prix of the 2013 Formula One season.

Perez and McLaren part ways after a single season while Maldonado will leave Williams after his third. Speaking at the forum Wednesday, Perez admitted the timing of the decision leaves him in the lurch while Maldonado appeared more optimistic.

“The ideal is to find a team to fight for podiums, the ones I miss so much this year,” Perez said. “But it’s relatively a bit far back to find now. This year’s not been what we expected.

“It’s disappointing, but this is life. I have a long career in front of me. I’m only 23; I won’t be in F1 just to be in F1.”

Maldonado, by contrast: “That’s a tough question (as to where he’ll land), but we’re working really hard to solve the situation. We hope to have it clear soon.”

To be fair, the other three drivers in attendance, Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez, Force India’s Adrian Sutil and Caterham’s reserve driver Alexander Rossi, don’t have their 2014 plans confirmed yet either. Of the three though, Sutil spoke most positively about next year.

“This year we’ve had a good start and a really strong forward direction,” Sutil said. “We had the tire change middle of the season and it didn’t help us. We’re finding our way back now as we move on next year.”

Rossi – who hopes to become the next American to race in F1 – had a simple response when asked if he had any interest in racing anything Stateside in 2014.

“No, I don’t,” he deadpanned to raucous applause from the audience.

Gutierrez didn’t field any questions about his future as yet. His form has come on in the second half of the season at a few races – Singapore and Japan in particular – although he’s still shaded Nico Hulkenberg.

The event itself played a bit like BBC’s “Top Gear” – hundreds of folks packed into a tightly condensed space and posing questions in an open, informal forum, hosted by English broadcaster Jonathan Greene. It was also live streamed online.

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.”