IMSA/Corvette Racing

2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship preview: GTLM

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IMSA Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. Heading into the Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta (Oct. 10-13) – the season finale for the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – this is the first in a series in which the primary championship contenders in each of the three classes are compared.

Over the next four days, we’ll feature the GTLM class (today), Prototype (Thursday), GTD (Friday) and an all-encompassing look at next week’s overall event (Saturday). 

Today, we’ll take a look at the Chevrolet vs. Ford battle for the GT Le Mans (GTLM) championship:

No. 3 Corvette Racing

Chevrolet Corvette C7.R

Antonio Garcia/Jan Magnussen

Engine: 5.5-liter normally aspirated V8 (front engine)

Points: 299 – 1st

2018 Victories: 0

2018 Podiums: 8

How The No. 3 Can Clinch the Title: The No. 3 team will eliminate all others except for the No. 67 by starting the race. It can clinch the title outright with a fourth-place run or better. It would be the team’s second consecutive WeatherTech Championship GTLM title.

2018 Performance: The No. 3 team comes into Motul Petit Le Mans riding a streak of seven consecutive podium results and a total of eight podiums from 10 races this season. The team has finished fourth or better in all but one race this season.

Noteworthy: Since the start of the 2017 WeatherTech Championship, Magnussen and Garcia have finished inside the top five in 20 of 21 races. They missed the top five with an eighth-place showing in March’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts.

What They’re Saying:

ANTONIO GARCIA – “There’s always pressure when you go to Road Atlanta, especially when you are fighting for a championship. We were in a perfect scenario last season where we only needed to start to clinch. It won’t be like that this year. I really like this track and the event itself. It’s very challenging. Hopefully we have a good chance to win the championship by scoring a good result. Road Atlanta has always been a good track for Corvette Racing, but it’s one race that I still haven’t won. So, I definitely want to fix that. Hopefully we can do that and win the championship, as well. It would be great for us to win our first race of the year to clinch the championship.”

JAN MAGNUSSEN – “Last year was an easy Petit Le Mans for us; we basically took the green flag and won the championship. This year for sure will be different. It’s a tough race because you race throughout the day and into the night. Road Atlanta is a very tough circuit; it’s bumpy, super-fast and very old school. If you make a mistake, you’ll hit something! There’s a lot of traffic and some new drivers because so many teams use three drivers. The important thing is that we know what we need to. No one controls luck, but if we do the best we can and run the plan that we set out to do, we will be in good shape.”

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No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing

Ford GT

Richard Westbrook/Ryan Briscoe

Engine: 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged Ford EcoBoost V6 (mid-engine)

Points: 290 – 2nd

2018 Victories: 3

2018 Podiums: 4

How The No. 67 Can Clinch the Title: There are a several possibilities, but the most straightforward scenario is the No. 67 team would take the championship with a race win AND a result of fifth or worse by the No. 3 Corvette. The No. 67 holds the tiebreaker with three victories to none for the No. 3 team.

2018 Performance: Westbrook and Briscoe lead the GTLM class with three victories this season, in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America.

Noteworthy: The No. 67 team led the GTLM standings from the season opener at Daytona until the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, when they were overtaken by the No. 66 Ford GT team of Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller. One Ford Chip Ganassi Racing car or the other led the championship until the No. 3 Corvette team took the lead for the first time following the Michelin GT Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway in August.

What They’re Saying:

RICHARD WESTBROOK – “We had a test in Atlanta and hoped to see a preview of what the weather will be like in a few weeks during the race, but with fall now upon us, that is not always the case. It was a good chance to try some different stuff to last year and build on the good performance we had there last year. We are obviously going for the win after the disappointment of Laguna and will hopefully put some pressure on the (No.) 3 Corvette.”

RYAN BRISCOE – “I think obviously we’ve fallen a bit behind on the points, but we can still win it and we have one goal, to go out and win the race and see where the points fall at the end of it. It’s an important race to win no matter where you are in the championship, so you’re going to have everyone gunning for the win. It’s always an exciting race, one of my favorites.”

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Others in mathematical contention for the GTLM title:

* No. 66 Ford GT (Mueller, Hand); No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR (Earl Bamber, Laurens Vanthoor)

* No. 4 Corvette C7.R (Tommy Milner, Oliver Gavin); No. 25 BMW M8 GTE (Alexander Sims, Connor De Phillippi); No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR (Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet).

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)

For more watch the daily highlight show on NBCSN. Click here for the complete schedule.

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