In closed cockpit debate, Hulkenberg says “it should be open”

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While Nico Hulkenberg has spoken out about closed cockpits coming to Formula 1 before, he’s reaffirmed that stance this week as 2016 testing kicks off this week and with the 2017 regulations needing to be finalized soon.

A “halo” protection semi-enclosure, which would shield the drivers’ eyes and helmet area with a clear visor but still open entry way, is considered one of the solutions going forward.

Speaking to Autosport during the initial test at Barcelona, Sahara Force India’s Hulkenberg cited tradition and history as the primary reason why he’d want to keep the cars fully open.

“It’s a personal thing. I just don’t like it [a closed cockpit]. For me it should be open,” he told Autosport.

Hulkenberg made his sports car debut last year with Porsche, racing the third Porsche 919 Hybrid coupe with Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber at FIA World Endurance Championship races at Spa and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. But he was ruled out of a return for 2016 once the European Grand Prix weekend at Baku was placed on the same weekend as Le Mans.

Not a ton of drivers have spoken out publicly either way about closed cockpits for open-wheel cars, although Sir Stirling Moss and Juan Pablo Montoya have rejected the idea.

AJ Allmendinger, who raced in Champ Car from 2004 to 2006 before a partial season return to IndyCar in 2013, is the most recent driver in North America to denote his preference for closed cockpits, telling assembled NASCAR reporters in Daytona last week the only way he’d return to open-wheel racing is with a closed cockpit.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup

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.



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