United States GP qualifying rained off until Sunday

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Qualifying for the United States Grand Prix has been postponed until Sunday morning after torrential rain prevented the session from starting on Saturday afternoon.

Following a wet practice session that went ahead as planned at 10am CT, rain intensified at the Circuit of The Americas in the two-hour gap ahead of qualifying’s original start time of 1pm CT (2pm ET).

FIA race director Charlie Whiting ventured out onto the track in the safety car to assess conditions before deciding to delay qualifying, initially by 30 minutes.

After delaying the start of the session five times in a bid to allow for a break in the weather, race control eventually opted to postpone qualifying until Sunday morning.

The broadcast of qualifying will be at 10 a.m. ET, 9 a.m. CT and local time LIVE on CNBC, and also available via NBC Sports Live Extra. 

United States Grand Prix Qualifying – Rolling Updates

1340 ET – FIA confirms that qualifying is delayed by 30 minutes until 1430 ET (1330 CT), with Whiting saying that a break in the weather may come about in an hour.

It is thought that there could be a window to allow Q1 to take place, but running beyond that is uncertain.

1400 ET – FIA communications chief Matteo Bonciani spoke to NBCSN’s Will Buxton with an update on the weather, saying: “We’re trying to see if we can go ahead on qualifying. Between us, we want to have a qualifying, but it could be better later.

“Or maybe we postpone it a little bit more… We will see if we can run qualy, otherwise we will run tomorrow.”

1413 ET – Still no further updates… but Jenson Button may have just won Twitter today.

1420 ET – Race control confirms that qualifying has been delayed by a further 30 minutes, making the new planned start time 1500 ET (1400 CT).

1448 ET – No further updates. Qualifying looks increasingly likely to be postponed until tomorrow.

1450 ET – Qualifying delayed by another 30 minutes. Planned start is now 1530 ET. Whiting is heading out in the safety car once again to assess conditions.

1516 ET – Word in the paddock is that Whiting is unwilling to call it a day until absolutely necessary, meaning that we could be waiting another couple of hours to see if we’re going to get running in Austin.

In better news, the marshals and photographers have been recovered by buses to give them a chance to get dry and warm – so no chance of a resumption anytime soon.

The teams are, thankfully, trying to make the best of the situation.

1522 ET – Another 30 minute delay, theoretical (but unlikely) start time of 1600 ET.

1555 ET – 30 more minutes. New start time 1630 ET. For those looking to tune in to qualifying, watch live now via Live Extra – stream it here.

1616 ET – Latest update from race control: “If there is no clear sign of a break in the weather conditions at 1600 [CT, 1700 ET], qualifying will be postponed until 0900 on Sunday morning.”

1700 ET – Finally, race control confirms that qualifying has been postponed until 9am CT on Sunday. Time to go and dry off…

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds