Howson, Bradley set for KCMG return at Le Mans

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Two-thirds of the winning lineup in last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans LMP2-winning KCMG Oreca 05 Nissan will be back on board this year, with Matt Howson and Richard Bradley set to join Tsugio Matsuda in the No. 47 car.

Howson and Bradley joined ex-Toyota factory star Nicolas Lapierre last year to secure the Oreca 05’s first Le Mans win, and also end a run of victories by open-top cars at Le Mans.

Matsuda, a past Formula Nippon and the two-time defending Super GT champion, shifts into LMP2 after running one of the Nissan GT-R LM NISMOs at Le Mans last year in LMP1. Lapierre is now with Signatech Alpine’s effort, in the rebadged Alpine A460 – an Oreca 05 chassis.

The KCMG LMP2 entry isn’t a full-season entry in any ACO championship this year but did earn an automatic invitation back for winning last year; instead, KCMG has a full-season GTE-Am Porsche 911 RSR run by Proton Competition in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

The chance for Howson and Bradley to reunite comes as Bradley is in Manor WEC’s No. 45 Oreca 05 Nissan, which does not have a Le Mans entry as it was entered too late in the process. He shares that car with Matt Rao and ex-Manor F1 driver Roberto Merhi.

Manor’s lone Le Mans entry will be its No. 44 car, driven by Tor Graves, James Jakes and Will Stevens.

With this confirmation there’s less than a handful of remaining seats in LMP2 for Le Mans, which is projected as a 23-car class in the 60-car field.

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



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