Bird out to ‘give Buemi a hard time’ after strong early season FE pace

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Sam Bird will head to next weekend’s Buenos Aires Formula E race keen to put pressure on runaway championship leader Sebastien Buemi after impressing in the opening two rounds of the season.

Bird was in contention for victory in the Hong Kong season opener at the beginning of October, only for a slow pit stop to drop him outside of the points.

Bird once again showed geat pace in Marrakesh one month later, finishing second behind Buemi after fighting past early leader and pole-sitter Felix Rosenqvist.

Despite having just 18 points to show for his efforts so far this season, Bird thinks he is the only driver to have put up a serious challenge to defending champion Buemi so far.

“In my opinion I should have won in Hong Kong. It was a race between myself and Seb, but my pit stop was terrible,” Bird told NBC Sports.

“Then I was disappointed with second place in Marrakesh. So I think we’re the only ones so far to have given Seb a hard time, and hopefully that will continue.

“Hopefully sometimes we come out on top. But he’s the guy to beat.”

Bird will venture to Buenos Aires next weekend, the site of one of his most impressive Formula E victories last year, as well as the home race for DS Virgin Racing teammate Jose Maria Lopez.

Bird was full of praise for Lopez after two races alongside him: “He’s going good. He’s a good guy, very quick, professional, nice guy to get on with. He’ll be very quick very soon.”

Despite the Buenos Aires Formula E race coming so early in the year, it will not be Bird’s first event of 2017 after the Briton raced in the GTD class for Scuderia Corsa in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Bird is set to split duties between Formula E and sportscar racing once again this year, but finds no difficulty in going from one car to the other.

“It is completely different, which means it is quite straightforward to switch between,” Bird said.

“The main thing is that when I jump in the single-seater, in the middle of the car and have no roof, it’s a completely different feel.

“If I was driving one weekend a Ferrari and another weekend another GT, that would be more confusing. The fact they are so vastly different means it is very straightforward to switch.”

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

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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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.


QUALIFYING

Results

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