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

Lewis Hamilton aims to match Michael Schumacher’s F1 win record

Lewis Hamilton Schumacher record
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SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton has set many Formula One marks over the years, but few are as significant as the Michael Schumacher record he can match Sunday at the Russian Grand Prix.

Victory for Hamilton at the Sochi Olympic Park would see him draw level with Schumacher at 91 career victories, more than any other driver in the 70-year history of F1.

It also would increase Hamilton’s commanding 55-point lead over teammate Valtteri Bottas in the championship standings, putting him closer to a seventh world championship, matching another Schumacher record.

YOU’RE INVITED: Bubba Wallace hopes to see Lewis Hamilton at Daytona

History is on the side of Hamilton, who won Sept. 13 at Mugello. He’s won four of the six Russian races so far, and all six were won by Mercedes drivers. His closest challenger is likely to be Bottas, who beat Hamilton in the 2017 edition of the Russian Grand Prix.

Elsewhere in the championship hunt, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen’s season has gone up in smoke since his Aug. 9 victory at Silverstone. An overheating engine forced the Dutch driver out of the Sept. 6 race at Monza and then a similar problem struck just before the start at Mugello. Verstappen was far slower off the line than the cars around him and was struck by Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo.

That leaves Verstappen 80 points off Hamilton in the standings and a 25-point deficit to Bottas.

If Hamilton does win to tie Schumachher at Sochi, more fans will see it in person than any other race in a 2020 season mostly run before empty grandstands because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Organizers say the race weekend is sold out but haven’t given final ticket sales figures.

Race promoter Alexei Titov previously told Russian state TV that the stands would be at 50 percent of their capacity, which equates to around 30,000 spectators.

That’s far more than the previous season high of 3,000 fans for the most recent race, the Tuscan Grand Prix at the Mugello circuit.

Unlike at the last two races in Italy, there will be a full entertainment program on offer for fans with concerts featuring some of Russia’s most popular musicians.

Russian organizers say they’re taking precautions to keep fans safe and will have medical staff posted at checkpoints around the venue, and that spectators will have their temperature measured on entry.