Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Westbrook battles through wet conditions to put Ford GT on pole at VIR

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Courtesy: IMSA Wire Service

DANVILLE, Va. – Ford Chip Gannasi Racing’s Ford GT teams have been dominant in the middle part of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship schedule. That run continued Saturday as Richard Westbrook battled the elements to place his No. 67 Ford GT on the pole for Sunday’s Michelin GT Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway.

The rain started during GT Daytona (GTD) qualifying, and while it let up before the start of the GT Le Mans (GTLM) session, teams still needed to use wet weather tires. At the beginning of the session, the teams were running laps that were just over two minutes, but toward the end of the session, the pace quickened, and times dropped by 4-5 seconds.

Westbrook took advantage of the drying conditions and posted a time of 1:55.580 seconds (101.851 mph) to earn the No. 67’s second pole of the season. He enters the weekend with three wins and leads the GTLM points along with co-driver Ryan Briscoe.

Richard Westbrook came out on top in a very wet GTLM qualifying. Photo courtesy of Ford Chip Ganassi Racing.

“We just thought there was no need to panic,” Westbrook said. “We went out on wets and the tires were good at the end because we hadn’t been pounding round and round. I think we got it just right. I love the wet. It’s my first time around here in the wet. It’s a lot of fun. It’s pretty tricky because there are so many different sealants on the tarmac so you’ve got grip and then you don’t have grip. So, it’s difficult to judge but thoroughly enjoyable. At this stage in the season I’m going to say this is an important pole.”

Patrick Pilet in the No. 911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR was second with a time of 1:56.170 (101.333 mph) while John Edwards was third in his No. 24 BMW Team RLL M8 GTE 1:56.185 (101.320 mph).

Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen, co-drivers of the two-time defending winner of the Michelin GT Challenge in the No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R, qualified fourth as Garcia posted a time of 1:56.760 (100.821 mph).

The Michelin GT Challenge will start at 1 p.m. EDT with live television coverage beginning on FS1 for the first hour before moving to FS2 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. ET IMSA Radio also will offer live coverage on IMSA.com, RadioLeMans.com and Sirius XM Radio (Sirius 138/XM 202/App 972). Tickets are available now on VIRNow.com.

Hawksworth Earns Series-High Fourth Motul Pole Award In GTD Qualifying

Jack Hawksworth put 3GT Racing on the pole in GT Daytona. Photo courtesy of IMSA

Jack Hawksworth became the first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship driver to win four Motul Pole Awards this season as he put his No. 15 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 on the pole in the GT Daytona (GTD) class for tomorrow’s Michelin GT Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway.

Hawksworth earlier won poles this year at Mid-Ohio and then on consecutive weekends at Watkins Glen and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Rain started to fall halfway through the session, and it turned into a downpour with about two minutes remaining. Hawksworth was able to post his time of 1:44.107 seconds (113.075 mph) before the heavy rain fell.

“In these conditions anything can happen,” Hawksworth said. “In the rain it’s a little bit of a lottery. Maybe it’s good, maybe it’s not. I’d rather it be dry to be honest with you. When it started to sprinkle then I thought I should push a little bit more. I managed to get a good lap in there and then it started raining halfway through my next lap, luckily enough it was fast enough for the pole.”

Jeroen Bleekemolen, in the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 was second at 1:44.323 (112.841 mph) while Bill Auberlen was third posting a time of 1:44.360 (112.801 mph) in his No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3.

Madison Snow, who along with co-driver Bryan Sellers, lead the GTD points, quailified fifth in their No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 with a time of 1:44.626 (112.541 mph).

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Dakar Stage 8 Highlights: Ricky Brabec blows engine, retires

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The motorcycle class of the Dakar Rally has been a seesaw affair through seven stages, but Ricky Brabec seemed poised to win the class for the USA. Until he blew an engine in Stage 8 that is – and gave up a more-than seven second lead. He was the second rider to retire after starting the stage as the leader. Joan Barreda retired in Stage 3.

Brabec was looking to become the first American rider to win in 27 years, but his fate was eerily similar to last year. Three days from the end of the stage, he retired about 50 kilometers into the stage, which is precisely when and where he retired in 2018.

With Brabec’s trouble, Toby Price leapfrogged from third to second in class despite riding with a metal pin in his wrist. In the world’s most grueling endurance event, it has never been more obvious that it isn’t over till it’s over.

Meanwhile, Nasser Al-Attiyah continues to run a consistent rally. With a 46 minute advantage over Nani Roma and Sebastien Loeb, all he needs to do is stay error free for the final two stages to win his third Dakar.

Here are some of the other highlights:

In the cars class, Sebastien Loeb scored his fifth stage win of the Rally by seven minutes over Nasser Al-Attiyah, but problems in Stage 3 have kept him from being competitive for the overall lead. … Jakub Przygonski earned his third podium of the Rally. All of these have been third-place finishes.

Class Leaders: Al-Attiyah holds an advantage of 46:29 over Roma and 46:45 over Loeb.

In motorcycles, Ricky Brabec’s blown engine opened up the class once more. … Matthias Walkner narrowly edged Pablo Quintanilla by 45 seconds. … But it was Toby Price’s third-place finish that helped elevate him to the class lead. … Sam Sunderland was supposed to blaze the path for the riders, but a malfunctioning navigation system kept him from rolling off first. Blazing the trail is a disadvantage and officials adjudged him to have tampered with his system to avoid that fate. Sunderland was penalized an hour to finish 35th on the stage. He dropped to ninth in class.

Class Leaders: Price inherited the lead over Quintanilla by 1:03 and 6:35 over Walkner

In side by sides, Francisco Lopez Contardo scored the victory over Cristian Baumgart by 4:47. … Gerard Farres Guell rounded out the top three.

Class Leaders: Contardo holds an advantage 0f 54:10 over Rodrigo Piazolli and one hour, 08:09 over Guell

In quads, there was no surprise in Nicolas Cavigliasso winning his seventh stage of the season. … He padded his overall advantage over Gustavo Gallego by more than nine minutes. … Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli finished third.

Class Leaders: Cavigliasso holds and advantage of one hour, 24:52 over Ferioli and one hour, 44:04 over Gallego

In trucks, Dmitry Sotnikov won the stage to take over the class lead. He beat Ton Van Genugten by 22:01. … Siarhei Viazovich rounded out the top three. … Eduard Nikolaev lost the class lead by finishing eighth – nearly one hour behind Sotnikov.

Class Leaders: Sotnikov holds an advantage of 26:49 over and one hour, 7:43 over Gerard de Rooy

Stage Wins

Motorcycles
Sam Sunderland [2] (Stage 5 and 7), Matthias Walkner [2] (Stage 2 and 8), Joan Barreda [1] (Stage 1), Xavier de Soultrait [1] (Stage 3), Ricky Brabec [1] (Stage 4) and Pablo Quintanilla [1] (Stage 6)

Quads
Nicolas Cavigliasso [7] (Stage 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8) and Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli [1] (Stage 3)

Cars
Sebastien Loeb [4] (Stage 2, 5, 6 and 8), Nasser Al-Attiyah [2] (Stage 1 and 4) and Stephane Peterhansel [2] (Stage 3 and 7)

Side-by-sides
Francisco Lopez Contardo [4] (Stage 2, 6, 7 and 8), Reinaldo Varela [1] (Stage 1), Gerard Farres Guell [1] (Stage 3), Sergei Kariakin [1] (Stage 4) and Rodrigo Piazzoli [1] (Stage 5)

Trucks
Eduard Nikolaev [3] (Stage 1, 2 and 5), Andrey Karginov [2] (Stage 3 and 4), Dmitry Sotnikov [2] (Stage 6 and 8) and Gerard de Rooy [1] (Stage 7)

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