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IMSA: Motul Petit Le Mans – GTD Pre-Event Notebook

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IMSA Wire Service

There’s plenty of intrigue in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Daytona (GTD) class heading into Saturday’s Motul Petit Le Mans, with championships on the line and the usual complement of additional drivers and teams joining the fray for the 10-hour season finale. The 21st Motul Petit Le Mans takes the green flag shortly after 11 a.m. ET on Saturday.

Live television coverage begins at 10:30 a.m. ET on FS1, with continuing coverage on FS2 from 12 p.m. ET through the checkered flag. FOX Sports Go also will offer a complete broadcast with FS1 authentication. Live IMSA Radio coverage also will be available on IMSA.com, RadioLeMans.com and SiriusXM Radio (Sirius 119/XM 202/App 972). Tickets are available now at RoadAtlanta.com.

With practice slated to get under way tomorrow morning, here are some key GTD storylines to consider:

* The No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 squad and full-season co-drivers Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow go in search of their first WeatherTech Championship titles. They enter Saturday’s race six points ahead of Katherine Legge in the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 and can clinch the title with a podium finish – which they’ve already done seven times in the first 10 races of the season.

To aid them in their quest for the title, they’ll be joined for the endurance race by Corey Lewis, with whom they also co-drove to victory in March’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts. This week, the team also rolled out a special, black and green livery for the race car.

“In 2014, we ran a matte black livery on the Paul Miller entry for Petit Le Mans, and we won the race,” said Team Owner Paul Miller. “We liked the idea of running a black car for Petit this year, and with the Lamborghini green highlights, maybe it’ll bring us some good fortune again.”

* As the lone full-season driver of the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3, Legge is looking to become the first driver to win a WeatherTech Championship title as a solo driver since Patrick Pilet won the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class championship in 2015. She’s also looking to be the third straight female GTD champion, following Christina Nielsen, who won back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017.

Legge’s co-drivers in the No. 86 are Alvaro Parente, with whom she won the America’s Tire 250 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca last month, and Trent Hindman, who drove with the team at the Rolex 24 At Daytona and at Sebring.

“All I and the team can do is to do our best,” Legge said. “I will be as best prepared as I can be, but I’m also aware it’s a long race and there is a lot that is out of my control. I think we have to view the race as a matter of survival for the first nine hours and then depending on where we are, we can do battle right until the very end.”

* In addition to the overall WeatherTech Championship, there’s also a spirited battle for the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup title that will have its final act this weekend. Patrón Endurance Cup points will be awarded after four hours, eight hours and at the finish of Motul Petit Le Mans.

Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports squad are looking for their second consecutive Patrón Endurance Cup title and go into the race alongside endurance co-driver Luca Stolz with a two-point lead in the GTD standings over Legge and Parente.

* The No. 29 Montaplast by Land Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3 is returning to defend its 2017 Motul Petit Le Mans title with drivers Christopher Mies, Sheldon van der Linde and Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama graduate Daniel Morad. Mies and van der Linde won the race last year alongside Connor De Phillippi, who now drives the No. 25 BMW Team RLL entry in the GTLM class.

It will be the No. 29 team’s first WeatherTech Championship appearance since the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen in July.

Don’t forget that IMSA coverage moves to the NBC Sports Group in 2019.

IMSA’s 50th Anniversary Celebration: Why Sebring is so special to Bobby Rahal

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Bobby Rahal has driven in some of the biggest races in the world, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Rolex 24 Hours and, of course, winning the Indianapolis 500 as a driver in 1986 and in 2004 as a team owner.

But winning the 12 Hours of Sebring two years in a row (1987 and 1988), Rahal feels, is right up there in terms of his greatest accomplishments as a race car driver.

As IMSA celebrates its 50th anniversary, Rahal reflected on what racing at Sebring International Raceway has meant to him:

“To me, Sebring is the ultimate endurance race. Not as long as Daytona or Le Mans, but the demands put on a car and driver at Sebring are highly unusual.

“My father raced at Sebring in the late 60’s. To win that race two years in a row really meant something to me.

“While we’ve won a lot of other races, we’ve won just about everywhere, you name it. But for me personally, winning at Sebring those two years in a row was very special.”

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