Photo: Audi Sport

Magnus Audi snatches California 8 Hours win in Monterey

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Among three factory Audi Sport entries fielding Audi R8 LMS GT3 cars at the Intercontinental GT Challenge’s inaugural U.S. race, the California 8 Hours, the local team from U.S. shores emerged with the victory.

Audi Sport Team Magnus, with its No. 44 Audi driven by Kelvin van der Linde, Pierre Kaffer and Markus Winkelhock, took the lead in the final 20 minutes of the race after a dramatic final 75 minutes where the two other Audis, the dominant entry in the polesitting No. 29 Audi Sport Team Land car, and the No. 11 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT car, ran aground of a pair of problems.

At their last pit stops, both the No. 29 and No. 11 Audis committed pit stop delta infringements, completing their services sooner than the minimum pit stop time of 1 minute, 57 seconds. The No. 29 Audi (1:27.326) and No. 11 Audi (1:18.426) went shorter on their scheduled stops on purpose, took drive-through penalties for missing the minimum delta, and then the No. 29 car driven by Christopher Mies emerged ahead of the No. 11 car driven by Robin Frijns, but only just.

The two drivers looked set to duke it out for the win between them but it all went wrong just in the final 50 minutes. Lapping a slower TRG Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT4 at Turn 10, Mies went to the outside of the right hander and Frijns went to the inside as they split the Aston Martin. The two got past the Aston Martin but then crashed into each other at Turn 10. Frijns was beached in the gravel trap, which brought out a full course caution, while Mies made it back onto the road but with right front aero damage.

That brought Mies back into the clutches of van der Linde, in the Magnus Audi, who completed the ultimate pass for the win on Lap 300 of the race. He went around the outside of Mies at the left-hand Turn 5, completing the pass through corner exit on the run up the hill to Turn 6. Within a lap, the gap was 0.614 of a second to Mies and the race win was cinched there.

With van der Linde completing the pass of the Land Audi, it left the German team but with U.S.-based Starworks Motorsport’s logistical and strategic support less than an hour shy of its second major U.S. endurance race victory in as many weeks. Mies finished second with Connor De Phillippi and Christopher Haase in a separate chassis than what Mies, De Phillippi, and van der Linde’s younger brother Sheldon van der Linde drove to a GT Daytona class win in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale, Motul Petit Le Mans.

WRT’s demise left the final podium spot open to, like Magnus, another Pirelli World Challenge regular team in K-PAX Racing. Alvaro Parente, Bryan Sellers and Ben Barnicoat shared the No. 9 McLaren 650S GT3.

Adorned in a throwback red and white livery, the No. 43 RealTime Racing Acura NSX GT3 of Ryan Eversley, Tom Dyer and new Acura Team Penske driver Dane Cameron came home fourth overall with the No. 54 Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R of Tim Pappas, Jeroen Bleekemolen and David Calvert-Jones fifth overall.

The Black Swan Porsche was the top GT3 Pro-Am finisher, and Bleekemolen held off Frijns’ fightback for an overall top five position. Frijns shared his car with Jake Dennis and Stuart Leonard.

The No. 193 MARC Mazda 3 V8 (Jake Camilleri, Hadrian Morrall, Morgan Haber) and No. 26 Rearden Racing Porsche GT4 Cayman MR (Jeff Kearl, Jeff Westphal, Sean McAlister) were Invitational and GT4 class winners on the day.

Heartbreak struck the No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R crew of Porsche factory aces Patrick Long, Joerg Bergmeister and Romain Dumas with a fueling apparatus issue in the final couple hours, and the second RealTime Acura, the No. 93 car of Peter Kox, Mark Wilkins and Jules Gounon, with a cooling system issue in the first hour.

IndyCar’s revised schedule gives Tony Kanaan an extra race in 2020

INDYCAR Photo by Joe Skibinski
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Tony Kanaan got a bit of good news when the latest revised NTT IndyCar Series schedule was released Monday.

Kanaan’s “Ironman Streak” of 317 consecutive starts would have concluded with the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 15. That race was postponed, and the races that followed have been canceled or rescheduled later in the year. The season tentatively is scheduled to start June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway.

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is the reason for the tentative nature of this year’s 2020 NTT IndyCar Series schedule.

Kanaan, the 2004 IndyCar Series champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner, started the season with a limited schedule for A.J. Foyt Racing in the No. 14 Chevrolet. That schedule included all five oval races, including the 104th Indianapolis 500.

A silver lining for Kanaan is that this year’s trip to Iowa Speedway will be a doubleheader, instead of a single oval contest. His schedule has grown from five to six races for 2020, should the season start on time with the June 6 contest at Texas Motor Speedway and the additional race at Iowa.

“I’m really happy that IndyCar has been very proactive about the schedule and keeping us posted with the plans,” Kanaan told NBCSports.com Tuesday afternoon from his home in Indianapolis. “I’m double happy that now with Iowa being a doubleheader, I’m doing six races instead of five.”

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Kanaan’s “Last Lap” is something that many fans and competitors in IndyCar want to celebrate. He has been a fierce foe on the track but also a valued friend outside the car to many of his fellow racers.

He also has been quite popular with fans and likely is the most popular Indianapolis 500 driver of his generation.

Scott Dixon was Kanaan’s teammate at Chip Ganassi Racing from 2013-17. At one time, they were foes but eventually became friends.

“I hope it’s not T.K.’s last 500,” Dixon told NBCSports.com. “I was hoping T.K. would get a full season. That has changed. His first race of what was going to his regular season was going to be the 500. Hopefully, that plays out.

“You have to look at T.K. for who he is, what he has accomplished and what he has done for the sport. He has been massive for the Indianapolis 500, for the city of Indianapolis to the whole culture of the sport. He is a legend of the sport.

“We had our differences early in our career and had problems in 2002 and 2003 and 2004 when we were battling for championships. We fought for race wins and championships in the 2000s. I’ve been on both sides, where he was fighting against me in a championship or where he was fighting with me to go for a championship. He is a hell of a competitor; a fantastic person.

“I hope it’s not his last, but if it is, I hope it’s an extremely successful one for him this season.”

Even before Kanaan joined Chip Ganassi Racing, Dixon admitted he couldn’t help but be drawn to Kanaan’s personality.

“T.K. is a very likable person,” Dixon said. “You just have to go to dinner with the guy once, and you understand why that is. The ups and downs were a competitive scenario where he was helping you for a win or helping someone else for a win. There was never a dislike or distrust. We always got along very well.

“We are very tight right now and really close. He is a funny-ass dude. He has always been a really good friend for me, that’s for sure.”

Back in 2003 when both had come to the old Indy Racing League after beginning their careers in CART, the two drivers were racing hard for the lead at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan on April 13, 2003. They were involved in a hard crash in Turn 2 that left Kanaan broken up with injuries. IRL officials penalized Dixon for “aggressive driving.” Dixon had to sit out the first three days of practice for the next race – the 2003 Indianapolis 500.

Kanaan recovered in time and did not miss any racing. He started second and finished third in that year’s Indy 500.

“We were racing hard and going for the win,” Dixon recalled of the Motegi race. “It was a crucial part of the season. Everybody has to be aggressive. I respect Tony for that. He was not letting up. That is what I always saw with Tony, how hard the guy will push. He will go to the absolute limit, and that is why he was inspiring and why he was a successful driver.

“Those moments are blips. You might not talk to the guy for a week, but then you are back on track. T.K. is very close with our family and we are with his.”

This season, because of highly unusual circumstances, T.K.’s IndyCar career will last for one more race than previously scheduled.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500