Alonso targets finishing Chinese GP after more setbacks for McLaren

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Fernando Alonso is hoping to simply finish tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix after McLaren endured another difficult qualifying session in Shanghai on Saturday.

After being sidelined in the final practice session by a problem with the ignition system on his car, Alonso could only qualify 18th for the team, marking his second consecutive Q1 exit.

His teammate, Jenson Button, fared little better though, and will start tomorrow’s race from 17th place on the grid.

McLaren has struggled so far this year after switching to Honda power units for the 2015 season, and Alonso thinks that simply finishing the race in China would be a major achievement.

“We were two tenths away from the mid-pack and close to getting into Q2 today,” Alonso said. “We’re getting there, and this is another step forward, but we’re still under-performing, so we need to keep improving.

“Our main priority now is to finish tomorrow’s race. That’ll allow us to learn more about the car and uncover any possible problems.

“Obviously, two DNFs in Malaysia wasn’t an ideal situation for us, so, regardless of the result, we need to make the finish here in China. This has been another positive weekend – everyone in the team is excited about the progress we’re making.”

McLaren racing director Eric Boullier admitted after the session that he was expecting a better result, but praised Alonso and Button for putting in maximum effort in spite of the difficulties.

“I’d hesitate to use the word ‘disappointing’ to describe this afternoon’s qualifying performance, but I think we’d all hoped for a little more, particularly after looking like we’d made a respectable improvement in all three of this weekend’s practice sessions,” Boullier said.

“Fernando’s afternoon was obviously affected by the car failure on his out-lap in FP3 this morning, but he responded magnificently.

“The parity between our drivers today demonstrated exactly why we hired them: because they can get absolutely everything from the car, and leave nothing out on track.”

The Chinese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 1:30a ET on Sunday.

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 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


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