Fittipaldi, Alon, Sellers grab IMSA’s Detroit poles

Photos courtesy of IMSA
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DETROIT – The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is back in action this weekend with three of its four classes, and Christian Fittipaldi, Robert Alon and Bryan Sellers have the three class pole positions for this weekend’s Chevrolet Sports Car Classic .

Fittipaldi survived a lurid last lap spin in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Action Express Racing Corvette DP to score his second pole position of the season – overall and in Prototype (Long Beach), over the three other Corvette DPs in the field. That being said, his tires were flat-spotted from the spin.

Fittipaldi’s best lap was 1:23.815 around the 2.35-mile Belle Isle Park with Marc Goossens second in the No. 90 Visit Florida Racing Corvette DP at 1:23.863.

Ricky Taylor and Eric Curran are next ahead of Katherine Legge in her first start in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier JS P2 Honda, then the two Mazdas.

Fittipaldi will share his car with Joao Barbosa, then Goossens with Ryan Dalziel, Taylor with brother Jordan and Curran with Dane Cameron as the two seek an encore win of their 2015 triumph. Legge is in her car with Ozz Negri.

Alon, in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca FLM09 he’ll share with Tom Kimber-Smith, took the Prototype Challenge pole at 1:27.571. It’s his second pole of the season as well, having also won pole at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

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In GT Daytona, Sellers took a perhaps surprise pole – not because he isn’t one of the more talented drivers on the grid, but because he doesn’t usually qualify, and both he and the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 has never been to the streets of Detroit before! His best time was a 1:31.340, just ahead of Patrick Lindsey’s 1:31.351.

This marks both their respective first poles in IMSA competition (and Sellers’ first overall since a GRAND-AM race in 2008 at New Jersey), but the second in a row for the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing team at Detroit. Dion von Moltke also won last year’s pole in an Audi R8 LMS ultra.

“We hit it right, having went out early, then sat back,” Sellers said in the post-qualifying press conference. “It’s huge for Lamborghini, as they have a huge, vested interest in the U.S. market.

“It was a team decision (as to why he qualified), based on the way the driver pairings sit. The Silver guys (generally am drivers although there are some professionals) only have to do 35 minutes based on minimum drive time. We’ve talked about this for a couple races, and we figured this could be an option. But six others were just as clever!”

Sellers will share his car with Madison Snow and look forward to seeing what the talented teenager out of Utah will be able to unleash.

“Madison has been ready for this moment. Let’s see how he fares,” said Sellers.

Lindsey will start the No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R second in the car he shares with Porsche factory ace Joerg Bergmeister.

Then it’s the two Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS cars of Robin Liddell (qualified third in the No. 6 car) and Matt Bell (fifth in the No. 9 car), who sandwich Spencer Pumpelly in the No. 16 Change Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3. Liddell will co-drive with Andrew Davis, Bell with Lawson Aschenbach and Pumpelly with Corey Lewis on Saturday.

The one-hour, 40-minute race rolls off at 12:40 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Robert Wickens in the Indy 500? Bryan Herta making plans to field a car for next year

Robert Wickens Indy 500
Brett Farmer/LAT Images/IMSA
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Bryan Herta wants to enter Robert Wickens in the Indy 500 as early as 2024 – a year longer than preferred as work continues on the hand controls needed for the paralyzed driver.

Wickens suffered a spinal cord injury in a crash at Pocono Raceway in his 2018 IndyCar rookie season. He’s worked as a driver coach for the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team since, but last year with Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai returned to racing in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

The 33-year-old Canadian won a pair of races (including the season opener at Daytona) driving a Hyundai Elantra N-TCR that is fitted for Wickens to race strictly through hand controls. Herta said Thursday that perfecting that technology for an Indy car in the biggest race in the world has slowed the project he’s determined to do with Wickens.

‘I’M AS HUNGRY AS EVER’: Robert Wickens’ return to racing

“I’d love to take Robbie back to Indy because I know he could do that, and I think that would be a next step for him in his journey,” Herta told The Associated Press. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the logistical side of things, hand controls, and I think we have solutions for that.”

Herta said Honda has been supportive of the process, which Herta called “one of the most important things we’ve done in racing” last year.

“We actually looked at doing it this year, but the logistics of it, the timing, it just wasn’t enough,” Herta said. “That’s not something you can rush. There’s some things that we have to work very closely with IndyCar on, and things we just have to get right. It’s a process, but I can see a path to it.”

Wickens, when told his boss was openly discussing the Indy 500, grinned widely. Herta as a team owner won the Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon and Alexander Rossi.

“That’d be fun,” he said of running the Indy 500.

But like Herta, Wickens said the effort has to be both done correctly and be competitive.

“We’d like to do it right. If we started right now, can we get a car ready for the open test in April? Probably,” Wickens told The AP. “But I don’t know where the systems would be and I want to get on proper simulators to make sure its correct.

“We all want to do a proper, professional effort,” he added. “I don’t want to do it for a marketing campaign. I want to do it for a chance to win.”

Wickens later tweeted about the possibility of racing the Indy 500 and said his goal was “always to get back to the top level of motorsport” whether it’s IndyCar or IMSA.

Wickens in 2021 did a demonstration in Canada that marketed advancements for paralyzed drivers and gave him a chance to again drive. His entire life had been upended 14 races into his rookie IndyCar season, just three months after winning top rookie honors at the Indianapolis 500.

Wickens has since married, returned to racing last year and welcomed the birth of his first child, an son named Wesley whom is infatuated with both race cars and the trip to Disney he took this week during the off days at Daytona International Speedway.

Wickens, who uses a wheelchair but can stand with some support, marks a full year back racing on Friday in the season-opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race. Despite success last season, Herta made changes to his lineups and Wickens this year will be teamed with Harry Gottsacker.