Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Action Express, Corvette Racing take victories in Long Beach

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A pair of early cautions in the BUBBA Burger Sports Car Grand Prix created split strategies for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams, and a late yellow with less than 30 minutes remaining set up a full sprint to the checkered flag.

Most of the teams elected to pit following a Lap 21 caution for Robert Alon, whose No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson stopped in the Turn 8 runoff with gearbox problems. However, a couple of teams elected to stay out.

All told, it set up a wild finish that saw the early leaders, most notably in Prototype, fall back in the pack, as those who stopped early found themselves battling for the lead in the second half of the race. And it all resulted in a General Motors sweep of the Prototype and GT Le Mans classes.

Reports Prototype and GTLM are below.

Prototype: Albuquerque, Barbosa Take Second Victory of 2018

Action Express took advantage of the aforementioned Lap 21 yellow to pit Joao Barbosa early, and Filipe Albuquerque used the strategy to his advantage and seize the lead in the second half of the race, going unchallenged in the final stages to take the win in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R.

The race saw a caution fall on Lap 1 for contact between Kyle Masson, in the No. 38 Oreca 07 Gibson for Performance Tech Motorsports, and the No. 52 JS P217 Gibson for AFS/PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports.

Action Express split their strategies under the aforementioned Lap 21 caution, pitting Barbosa while leaving Felipe Nasr, in the sister No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac, out on track. Acura Team Penske did the same, leaving polesitter and early leader Juan Montoya, in the No. 6 ARX-05, out and pitting the sister No. 7, in the hands of Helio Castroneves.

Nasr and Montoya pitted around the halfway point – Nasr on Lap 36 and Montoya on Lap 39. As pit stops cycled through past the halfway point – which included fuel-only stops for everyone who pitted under the Lap 21 caution – Albuquerque ended up in the lead, which he held until the end.

Ryan Dalziel, with Scott Sharp, used the same strategy to finish second for Tequila Patron ESM. The battle for third was a fight between the Taylor brothers, with Jordan getting the better of Ricky, who was struggling with rear tire grip in his No. 7 Acura, to put him and teammate Renger Van Der Zande on the final spot of the podium for Wayne Taylor Racing.

GTLM: Milner, Gavin Survive Long Beach Street Fight for GTLM Victory

While pit strategy impacted the Prototype field, the GTLM field was a straight-up fight between all eight entries.

Hard racing was featured throughout the 100-minute race, and even saw the No. 25 BMW Team RLL M8 GTE lead momentarily after the Lap 21 caution, but driver Alexander Sims was quickly swamped by the field and ultimately dropped out after wall contact with 42 minutes left.

In the end, it was Corvette Racing emerging on top with Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin in the No. 4 C7.R.

Milner, who finished the race in the No. 4 entry, moved into the lead when then leader Earl Bamber, in the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR for the Porsche GT Team, suffered right-front suspension failure following a Lap 51 restart.

Milner was able to gap the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs of Ryan Briscoe and Dirk Mueller, in second and third, to take the victory by more just over two seconds. Briscoe and Mueller rounded out the GTLM podium.

Click here for full race results

 

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F1 Preview: 2018 German Grand Prix

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The German Grand Prix continues its biennial presence on the Formula 1 calendar – it’s hosted F1 events in even numbered years since 2014 – as Formula 1 returns to the Hockenheimring this weekend.

The German fans will undoubtedly be joyful in Sebastian Vettel entering his home race in the championship lead, by nine points over Lewis Hamilton. Yet, somewhat surprisingly, Vettel despite being one of the most successful and decorated drivers of his generation, Vettel has won in Germany only once (2013, at the Nurburgring) and he has never won at Hockenheim.

Conversely, Hamilton has won in Germany three times, including twice at Hockenheim (2008 and 2016).

As such, Vettel will hope to add to his points lead over Hamilton with a win on home soil, though Hamilton may be equally as motivated after watching Vettel his own home race at Silverstone two weeks ago.

Nevertheless, their 2018 championship duel will most certainly continue to be closely fought.

Talking points ahead of the German Grand Prix are below.

A Different World in 2018 vs. 2016

Nico Rosberg during the Formula One Grand Prix of Germany at Hockenheimring on July 31, 2016 in Hockenheim, Germany. Photo: Getty Images

The Formula 1 landscape looked completely different back in 2016, the last time Formula 1 visited the Hockenheimring. Bernie Ecclestone was still the chief executive of Formula 1.

Nico Rosberg was partnering Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes team, and was on his way to a driver’s championship that year.

Vettel and teammate Kimi Raikkonen were in the midst of a slump as Ferrari went winless in 2016.

The world was still getting to know a then 18-year-old Max Verstappen, the young Dutchman having won the Spanish Grand Prix in May that year.

And the cars looked completely different, with skinnier and taller rear wings and taller rear tires highlighting the appearance differences.

In 2018, Vettel and Ferrari might be the strongest combination. Rosberg is long from Mercedes, and Valtteri Bottas is doing his best to shine in the wake of Hamilton’s enormous shadow.

Verstappen is still a rising star, though he has come under fire at times for overly aggressive driving and his Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo has garnered more headlines this year, with a pair of race wins alongside his status as an F1 free agent after 2018.

In short, the Formula 1 landscape is hardly recognizable from what it was back in 2016. And even though Hamilton won that year, followed by Ricciardo and Verstappen in second and third, very little will carry over from that race two years ago.

Hamilton, Mercedes Look to Take Back Momentum from Vettel, Ferrari

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – JULY 08: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes WO9 leads Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF71H on track during the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone on July 8, 2018 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

The seesaw championship fight has tilted back in the favor of Ferrari, with Vettel leading Hamilton after finishes of third and first in Austria and England. Hamilton, meanwhile, DNF’ed in Austria and came home second in England after spinning on Lap 1.

Hamilton trails by nine points, but this is hardly an unfamiliar position for Hamilton in 2018 – he started the year trailing Vettel until he took the championship lead for the first time after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Both teams have had multiple swings of momentum this year – Vettel won the opening two races before finishes of eighth in China (he spun after contact with Verstappen) and a pair of fourth place efforts in Azerbaijan and Spain before getting two more wins in Canada and England.

Hamilton, meanwhile stumbled out of the gates somewhat with finishes of second and third before taking a fortuitous win in Azerbaijan and two dominant wins in Spain and France before the misfortune in Austria.

All told the ebb and flow of the 2018 season seems to change with every race, and while Vettel now leads Hamilton again, things could change this weekend.

Raikkonen Trying to Fend off Ricciardo, Bottas

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – JULY 06: Kimi Raikkonen of Finland driving the (7) Scuderia Ferrari SF71H on track during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone on July 6, 2018 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Kimi Raikkonen is somewhat of a forgotten man this Formula 1 season, but he does rank third in the championship at the moment, 10 points ahead of Ricciardo and 12 points ahead of Bottas.

However, both Ricciardo and Bottas are likely thought to have had better seasons – Ricciardo has the aforementioned wins (at China and Monaco) and the only thing that has kept Bottas from the top step of the podium is a string of horrendous luck.

However, Raikkonen, to his credit, has picked up the pieces whenever others around him have faltered, and he has six podium finishes through 10 races.

However, in order to fully silence any critics, and maybe even keep his Ferrari drive, Raikkonen would do well to get a win in 2018.

Misc.

  • The driver challenging Raikkonen’s position within Ferrari is Sauber’s Charles Leclerc. The Ferrari junior driver has five points finishes, and that could have been six if not for a pit stop error at Silverstone that caused him to leave his pit stall with a loose wheel – it forced him to retire. Leclerc’s star is on the rise, and he could shine again in Germany.
  • Nico Hulkenberg is the “other” German driver on the grid. And though he has a 24 Hours of Le Mans win to his name, he is yet to finish on the podium in an F1 race. The Renault package may not be a podium threat in usual circumstances, but if he stays clean and others falter, he could sneak in there…and doing so in his home race would make that overdue podium even sweeter.
  • After a pair of eighth place finishes, Fernando Alonso has helped McLaren at least stop the bleeding after a dismal stretch of races from Monaco through France in which the team scored zero points. However, the team still has a long way to go, and Germany could be another weekend of struggles.

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