Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: On heels of new BMW’s first win, Edwards looks for more Monterey magic in America’s Tire 250

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Courtesy: IMSA Wire Service

BMW Team RLL driver John Edwards can’t put his finger on why, but WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca has been a special place over the years for the co-driver of the No. 24 BMW M8 GTE machine.

In two of the last three years, including last year’s America’s Tire 250, Edwards has stood atop the victory podium at the end of hard-fought IMSAWeatherTech SportsCar Championship events. And while he hasn’t competed in the series in some time, Edwards also has three IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race victories on the picturesque, 2.238-mile road course near Monterey, California.

It’s been very good to me and not just in my professional career, but also in junior formula coming up,” Edwards said. “I locked up the Star Mazda championship (in 2008) and the Atlantic Championship (in 2009) there in back-to-back years. My first podium with BMW Team RLL was also there (in 2013).

“We finished third in that race and then came back and had two wins out of the last three years. So, it’s definitely a place that’s treated me well. I can’t say why. I can’t say that there’s anything that I know that’s different about it, but it’s definitely got some good memories for me.”

Edwards is the common denominator in the victories, as his two WeatherTech Championship GTLM wins came with different co-drivers, Lucas Luhr in 2015 and Martin Tomczyk last year. Two of his three Continental Tire Challenge wins there came with Matt Bell as his co-driver, with the other one coming alongside Trent Hindman.

In Sunday’s two-hour and 40-minute race, he’ll have yet another different co-driver in Finnish racer Jesse Krohn. Edwards has enjoyed the partnership.

Jesse’s been great, and I actually have known Jesse for a number of years,” Edwards said. “When I went over for one of the races at the Nurburgring to get my license years ago, Jesse was driving the whole season in an M235i. I got to do that race with him to get the experience at the Nurburgring and at that stage, he wasn’t sure whether he was going to have a future with BMW or a future at all, and we had talked about that.

“I was actually thrilled when he got signed and was always very impressed with him as a driver. So when I found out he was going to be my co-driver, I had full confidence that he’d get the job done and he has. He’s definitely performed well in races. I mean, we haven’t had the results, but as teammates, it’s been a good year.”

The highlight of the year for the entire team came in the most recent race, when BMW Team RLL’s No. 25 machine shared by Alexander Sims and Connor De Phillippi took the first victory anywhere in the world in the new-for-2018 BMW M8 GTE race car. Edwards and Krohn came home third for the team’s first double podium.

That victory coupled with Edwards’ personal history at WeatherTech Raceway could add up to even more success this weekend.

“I think in general over the last few races, we can see that we’ve been more consistently competitive,” Edwards said. “Whereas in the beginning of the year, we were sort of up and down quite a bit. If you look back at the (previous generation) M6 (race car) as well, the first year was a big learning year. Even when we thought we had stuff figured out, we didn’t really come into our own with that car until, particularly, the last half of the second season.

“I think we’ve already started to do that with the M8. It’s encouraging to see the car’s first win, and more than that, to see us consistently being competitive. I think it gives us all a boost getting ready for going back to where we had our last win in the 24 car and getting ready for Petit and especially for 2019. It’s something we’d love to check off, and check off a win in the 24 car as well. But more importantly, we are working hard to be in the fight for the championship in 2019.”

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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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