Petit Le Mans quick post-race notes

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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BRASELTON, Ga. – With 39 cars in the 2017 Motul Petit Le Mans, the season finale of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, invariably there are a lot of things to cover and pay attention to.

While a number of breakouts will follow in the coming days, here’s some quick post-race notes:

INDYCAR DRIVER RESULTS

  • Team Penske was best of the bunch with its trio of Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud finishing third overall and in Prototype in its No. 6 Oreca 07 Gibson, after starting on pole.
  • The Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT drivers, Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais, ended only seventh and eighth in the GT Le Mans class with the No. 66 and 67 cars.
  • Similar struggles hit Ryan Hunter-Reay early on, his No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R retiring early with engine issues.
  • NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell finished sixth in GT Daytona in the No. 23 Alex Job Racing Audi R8 LMS he shared with Bill Sweedler and Frankie Montecalvo.

PROTOTYPE 

  • The win for Scott Sharp, Ryan Dalziel and Brendon Hartley ensures both Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPis have won this season, and extends the run of different winners in Prototype to six different cars in the last six races. After the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R won the first five races in a row, five other cars followed with the Nos. 5 and 31 Cadillacs, the No. 22 Nissan and the No. 90 VISIT FLORIDA Racing Ligier JS P217 Gibson winning the last four races prior to the No. 2 Nissan breaking through tonight. All told in the first year of combination DPi and LMP2 racing with new cars, DPis ended with a 9-1 win advantage.
  • Brendon Hartley told NBC Sports he’s “not 100 percent sure what will happen next year” but did highly hint at driving more regularly in the U.S. next season. The New Zealander has been strongly linked to Chip Ganassi Racing’s IndyCar team and like Ricky Taylor’s impending move to Team Penske’s sports car program, it’s among the “it isn’t official even though it basically feels like it” type of topics in the paddock.
  • Dane Cameron told NBC Sports after the race that “he didn’t have anything to say, but would let the penalties speak for itself” about Filipe Albuquerque’s move following a restart to shift Cameron down to the grass.  Cameron was nonetheless happy to have ended his third season with Eric Curran with Whelen Engineering and Action Express Racing second in points before his departure to Team Penske next season.
  • Team Penske rallied to third after its first hour incident. Helio Castroneves told NBC Sports post-race, “It was impressive. I never stay ‘behind the scenes.’ This is the first time watching Tim Cindric, Jonathan Diuguid doing strategy. I knew before, but now I was seeing it from the stand. Myself, Juan Pablo and Simon worked well together. It was a great learning curve and it’ll create a great foundation for 2018.” Teammate Simon Pagenaud added, “It was great. It was awesome to get the kinks out. These are the best conditions to get the program going. That’s what we did. We’re on the podium. There’s a long road ahead of us.”
  • The Nos. 22 and 5 cars, which were penalized in the final 15 minutes, fell to fourth and fifth place.
  • The No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson had a roller coaster day but still ended sixth in class and overall, ensuring John Church’s team had finished between second and sixth in all but one of the 10 races in its step up to Prototype.

GT LE MANS

  • The third win for Bill Auberlen and Alexander Sims, joined by third driver Kuno Wittmer, gave the No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM its third win of the season, which tied the champions Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia, in their No. 3 Corvette C7.R for most this season. Auberlen said watching Sims perform his strategic defense against Garcia in the final stages of the race was his latest great drive in his first full season in North America.
  • Garcia and Magnussen’s runner-up finish ensured Chevrolet won its second straight Manufacturer’s Championship in GTLM (and 12th in GT classes dating to ALMS era). Garcia wanted to know where the sister No. 4 Corvette C7.R was late in the race so he could push against Sims if he needed to. Jim Campbell, vice president, Performance Vehicles and Motorsports of Chevrolet, told NBC Sports post-race of the accomplishment: “This is really a great night. Corvette was not the fastest all year long. I’m so proud of the entire team, the engineers for calling great strategy, the crews amazing stops, and drivers up on wheel making smart decisions. It mattered for the team and manufacturer’s championships.”
  • Each of the top seven cars in class finished on the lead lap, the only exceptions being the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT which sustained late-race contact with the aforementioned No. 22 Nissan and the No. 24 BMW, which lost 10 laps early with an power steering issue.

GT DAYTONA

  • It was a dream day for both Land Motorsport and its American star driver, Connor De Phillippi, with the win in class. The team won two other international races on the same day (DMV and VLN competition earlier in the day at Hockenheim and the Nürburgring) and for De Phillippi, it’s his first win in the U.S. since the ‘Night Before the 500’ Star Mazda race at Lucas Oil Raceway (formerly Indianapolis Raceway Park) in May 2012. After leaving the Rolex 24 at Daytona with a “sour taste in their mouths,” they came on strong for this race. He also won his first Star Mazda race at Road Atlanta in 2010.
  • With the No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R second to the No. 29 Land Audi R8 LMS, it was a reversal of the order at Daytona, when the two were switched. The No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R continued its run of form at Petit Le Mans with third, highlighted by a strong extra effort from third driver Matt McMurry alongside the full-season pair of Joerg Bergmeister and Patrick Lindsey.
  • Attrition hit the GTD class hard with only nine of the 17 cars that entered making it to the checkered flag.

PROTOTYPE CHALLENGE

  • None of Garett Grist, John Falb nor Tomy Drissi had driven more than a handful of PC races this year but together kept it clean and quick to deliver Brian Alder’s BAR1 Motorsports its first win in four years, since the 2013 season finale and ALMS series finale at the same track.
  • BAR1 had a 1-2 with the No. 26 car ahead of the full-season pair of Buddy Rice and Don Yount, joined by Grist’s fellow Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires alumnus Danny Burkett in his third PC start of the year.
  • The Performance Tech Motorsports perfection quest fell short, after contact from the No. 13 Rebellion Racing Oreca knocked Kyle Masson off the road. The car recovered after losing laps but had a late spin with James French making a very rare unforced error.

More will follow from IMSA’s season finale and all the interviews conducted in the coming days.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.