Horner, Marko hail Ricciardo’s ‘unbelievable’ Monaco drive

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The stats of Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix indicate a seemingly easy and routine conclusion to a dominant Monaco Grand Prix weekend for Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo, who led every practice session, set a track record on the way to securing the pole, and led every lap his way to a dominant victory.

But, what the stats won’t detail is a serious power unit issue that surfaced very early on, and put his entire race in jeopardy.

Prior to lap 20, his Renault-powered RB14 suffered a failure in the MGU-K, the system that converts kinetic energy under braking into electric energy that helps power the car.

In essence, the problem, which the team could not fix despite trying a number of different solutions, cost Ricciardo roughly 1/4 of the output from the Renault power unit and forced him to use only six of the usually available eight gears – typically, such an issue would result in an immediate retirement.

However, Ricciardo managed to nurse the issue for roughly 60 laps, and never lost the lead to Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, even winning by over seven seconds at the end.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was over the moon in describing Ricciardo’s performance.

“He was not going to give this race up this weekend,” Horner said of Ricciardo’s drive in a story on Formula1.com. “We lose the MGU-K 17 or 18 laps into the race. Then your brake temperatures go out of control. The tire temperatures start going up. And he just managed it like he’s on a Sunday afternoon drive.

“They’re telling me on the intercom we’re going to have to retire the car in one or two laps. I said ‘We’re in the lead of the Monaco Grand Prix, we’re keeping going. He drove an unbelievable race this weekend.’”

Dr. Helmut Marko, advisor for Red Bull’s motorsports programs, offered equally high praise.

“I don’t think any other driver could have done it,” he asserted.

Ricciardo’s victory is his first on the streets of Monaco, and produced a feeling of redemption after he lost out on victory in 2016 following a pit stop error.

This facet was not lost on an emotional Ricciardo.

“I finally feel like the redemption has arrived,” he revealed. “We had problems. I don’t know how much the [team] radio broadcast. We had a lot to deal with during the race. Before half way, I felt a loss of power and I thought the race was done.

“We got home just using six gears. Thanks to the team, we got it back. So I’m stoked. There was a few doubts that came in mid race. We won Monaco. It feels good.”

The win is Ricciardo’s second of the 2018 season and puts him third in the driver’s championship, behind Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.

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Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”