Photo courtesy of IMSA

Two hours to go at Petit Le Mans as IMSA season winds down

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BRASELTON, Ga. – The second four-hour run at tonight’s Petit Le Mans is complete, with eight hours down and two hours to go.

A couple key items of note have occurred in the last few hours:

STARWORKS WINS PC TITLE

Despite fighting brake and suspension issues, ultimately retiring from the race for the latter issue, Peter Baron’s Starworks Motorsport has clinched the Prototype Challenge title with Renger van der Zande and Alex Popow. David Heinemeier Hansson shared the No. 8 Oreca FLM09 this weekend.

The title was clinched when, ironically, the team’s sister car – the No. 7 car – retired to end seventh in class. It ensured there could not be enough points for the No. 8 car to lose even if the rival No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports car of Robert Alon and Tom Kimber-Smith (and third driver Jose Gutierrez) won the race.

SCUDERIA CORSA SURVIVES INFERNO

Scuderia Corsa was on fire metaphorically when it won the championship in GT Daytona earlier in the race, past the three-hour mark. It was on fire literally when its No. 68 Ferrari 488 GTE caught fire during a pit stop owing to a fuel leak.

The part-time GT Le Mans class entry’s crew, however, worked incredibly well to extinguish the flames.

TAYLOR VS. PIGOT BATTLE, THEN TAYLOR HAS A QUICK SETBACK

The on-track highlight in the last few hours was the clean, fun battle between two cars in their final races – the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP driven by Ricky Taylor and the No. 70 Mazda Prototype driven by Spencer Pigot. Pigot hounded the significantly more experienced Taylor, although the two longtime friends from Orlando matched bout-for-bout.

Contact between Taylor and sports car racing’s rising star at the moment, Pipo Derani of Tequila Patron ESM, produced a slight bit of right front contact to Taylor’s car.

A GOOD SAVE AND A WARNING FOR THE NO. 5

Filipe Albuquerque saved the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP from near disaster after contact produced a left rear puncture, and the Portuguese driver limped back to the pits.

But a later warning assessed for blocking helped set it back a bit.

HERE’S HOW IT SETS UP FOR THE FINAL TWO HOURS

Ozz Negri led overall in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier JS P2 Honda as he and Olivier Pla have driven the lion’s share of the race. John Pew hasn’t driven much in his final start.

Beyond Negri, here’s the class leaders at the 8-hour mark, when the second points in the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup are awarded, are:

  • P: 1-60-Ozz Negri, Ligier JS P2 Honda, 2-10-Ricky Taylor, Corvette DP, 3-70-Spencer Pigot, Mazda
  • PC: 1-52-Jose Gutierrez, 2-38-Kenton Koch, 3-85-Stephen Simpson
  • GTLM: 1-62-James Calado, Ferrari 488 GTE, 2-66-Dirk Mueller, Ford GT, 3-4-Tommy Milner, Corvette C7.R
  • GTD: 1-33-Jeroen Bleekemolen, Dodge Viper GT3-R, 2-44-Andy Lally, Audi R8 LMS, 3-48-Bryan Sellers, Lamborghini Huracán GT3

F1 tests: Mercedes innovates with wheel adjustment system

Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images
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MONTMELÓ, Spain — Veteran Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time on the second day of Formula One preseason testing on Thursday, but Mercedes still garnered more attention by introducing an innovative wheel adjustment system.

On-board footage showed defending champion Lewis Hamilton pulling the steering wheel back and forth on the front straight to apparently change the angle of the front wheels on his Mercedes car.

The team stayed tight-lipped about the car’s new feature but guaranteed it was “safe” and “legal.”

“I probably won’t shed a great deal more light than what you saw on the TV but yeah we have a system in the car, it’s a novel idea,” team technical director James Allison told F1 TV. ”We’ve got a name for it, it’s called DAS, if you’re interested, and it just introduces an extra dimension for the steering, for the driver, which we hope will be useful during the year. But precisely how we use it and why we use it, that’s something we will keep to ourselves.”

Allison said governing body FIA knew in advance that the team was introducing the new system.

“It’s something we’ve been talking to them (about) for some time,” he said. “The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems and we’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements. I’m pleased we got it on the car, it seems to be useful, and we’ll see over the coming days how it benefits us.”

Hamilton said he was still trying to get used to the system, but praised the team for coming up with the innovation.

“I’ve only had one morning on (it, so) I don’t really have a lot to talk about with it. We’re trying to get on top of it, understand it, but safety-wise no problem today and the FIA are OK with the project.

“For me it’s really encouraging to see that my team is continuing to innovate and stay ahead of the game, and I think that’s down to the great minds in the team and so hopefully that’ll work to our benefit.”

Hamilton led the time charts on Wednesday but was only ninth-fastest on Thursday.

MORE: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas fastest in Day 1 of F1 practice
MORE: Sergio Perez fastest early on Day 2 of F1 Practice

The 40-year-old Raikkonen, who has a chance this season to break the record for most race starts in F1, was fastest with a time of 1 minute, 17.091 seconds in his Alfa Romea. He was 0.2 seconds quicker than Sergio Pérez with Racing Point. Daniel Ricciardo of Renault was third.

Raikkonen caused a red flag near the end of the afternoon session when his car stopped on the track with an apparent mechanical issue. The Finnish driver had spun earlier in the session, as did Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, Romain Grosjean of Haas and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, formerly known as Toro Rosso.

Grosjean had the most laps among the 13 drivers who went to the track on Thursday, with 158.

Bottas was the slowest driver of the day, while Sebastian Vettel was sixth-fastest with Ferrari.

Pérez had set the quickest time in the morning session. The Mexican driver had been third fastest on Wednesday, behind Hamilton and Bottas.

Drivers will be back on the track on Friday to close out the first week of testing. Teams will have another three days to test next week.

Preseason testing has been reduced from eight to six days to help compensate for the record 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam Grand Prix and the return of the Dutch GP. Midseason testing also has been eliminated.

The season opens on March 15 at the Australian GP.

The Barcelona-Catalunya track will host the Spanish GP on May 10.