Felix Baumgartner’s next challenge? The Nurburgring

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The man that jumped from the edge of space will soon face the Green Hell.

Felix Baumgartner, whose 24-mile space dive as part of the 2012 Red Bull Stratos project made him a worldwide celebrity, was scheduled to take part in the 2013 Race of Champions in Bangkok before the event was ultimately cancelled due to political unrest.

But the Austrian will soon have another challenge ahead of him: The Nurburgring 24 Hours.

Baumgartner will be taking part as a “gentleman driver,” but he’ll have some steady veterans to help him. His team’s co-drivers, Frank Biela, Marco Werner and Pierre Kaffer, have nine 24 Hours of Le Mans victories between them.

Additionally, Baumgartner’s hoping that his past experience in rallying can work in his favor as well as he navigates the treacherous course.

“I think that experience will count for a lot at the Nürburgring, because I think the Nordschleife is a little bit like rally driving,” he says in a story on Red Bull’s official site. “It’s not like a normal race track: it goes up and down, there’s a lot of hills, a lot of corners and conditions that can change swiftly. So, if you come from a rally background, it really helps.”

Baumgartner’s enlisted a former World Rally Championship competitor, Sepp Haider, to serve as his mentor for this adventure. He says the relationship between him and Haider is “pretty much the same” as the one he had with Joe Kittinger, the retired U.S. Air Force colonel who guided him on “Stratos.”

He knows that not many people are giving him much of a chance to do well at the Nurburgring next month. But then again, there probably weren’t that many who though he could break the speed of sound in his dive from space – and we know how that turned out.

“People criticise my decision. They say that with no race experience you cannot compete at the Nürburgring 24 Hours,” he said. “But the Audi Driving Experience and myself have come up with the perfect game plan – and we have the opportunity to prove to everyone our plan works.”

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