Bobby Rahal will move team into IMSA’s new LMDh prototype category in 2023

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BRASELTON, Georgia — The expansion by Bobby Rahal in motorsports will continue in 2023 when BMW Team RLL will field two prototypes in the new LMDh hybrid category of IMSA sports car racing.

BMW Team RLL also will enter two BMW M4 GT3s in the new GTD Pro category next season. Rahal said Saturday at the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta that he’d only race in the GTD Pro category next year and then focus on the LMDh program when it debuts in 2023 and attempt to qualify for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“For me personally and professionally, this is a dream come true,” Rahal said. “To first run a brand-new car like the BMW M4 GT3, and after that make the next step with BMW Team RLL to race for overall wins in the LMDh class is a direction we definitely wanted to go. I’m so pleased, so proud, so thankful that we’ll be able to do it together with BMW M Motorsport.”

Rahal’s team is the fourth to commit to the new LMDh platform, which will replace the current Daytona Prototype international class in 2023. Five manufacturers have announced intentions to participate in the hybrid-based category.

BMW Team RLL has two entries in the GT Le Mans class in Saturday’s 10-hour season-ending IMSA race. Jesse Krohn won the pole position in the No. 24 BMW Team RLL M8 he co-drives with John Edwards and Augusto Farfus.

Rahal has been partnered with BMW in sports cars since 2009. He fields cars powered by Honda in the NTT IndyCar Series, and this year began preparations for a new full-time third entry in 2022. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing also is building a new shop in Indiana that will house all the racing programs when it is completed in 2022.

Chip Ganassi Racing suffered a setback even before the start of the Petit Le Mans when star driver Kevin Magnussen was pulled from the lineup because of illness.

Magnussen qualified the Cadillac and was scheduled to start the 10-hour endurance race Saturday at Road Atlanta. Instead, he was replaced by Earl Bamber in the lineup.

The Ganassi team did not disclose what was ailing the Danish driver.

Magnussen is moving to the Peugeot sports car program next season, and Bamber already has been announced as one of three new full-time drivers to join Ganassi’s team in 2022. With Magnussen out, Bamber got an early start on his new job and was able to turn laps in Saturday morning’s warmup ahead of the race.

“I was just saying to the guys I was about to enjoy a nice breakfast and now I am getting suited for the warmup,” Bamber said early Saturday. “This all happened in about the last hour. I have to say thanks to the Chip Ganassi Racing team for putting the trust in me to jump into the car.”

Bamber tested at Road Atlanta with Ganassi last month.

The No. 31 Cadillac of Action Express Racing started from the pole Saturday afternoon and only must finish ahead of Wayne Taylor Racing to win the IMSA championship. The season finale will decide the championships in five different classes.

Felipe Nasr led Action Express in Friday qualifying to win the pole and earn the valuable points in the championship race. Prior to winning the pole, Action Express needed to beat Wayne Taylor Racing by two positions to win the title; now it is a head-to-head competition.

It is the final race with the team for Nasr, who is moving to an unannounced program next season. He was emotional after winning the pole.

“I promised myself that I wouldn’t let the emotions come until after the checkered flag drops,” Nasr said. “That shows how much respect and love I have for the team. There is so much on the line, and you just want to deliver.

“They took me in as family when I joined halfway through 2017. They’re just a big family to me. It will be sad to leave them.”

Kyle Larson wins third consecutive High Limit Sprint race at Eagle Raceway, Rico Abreu second again

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It took four attempts for Kyle Larson to win his first High Limit Sprint Car Series race in the series he co-owns with brother-in-law Brad Sweet, but once he found victory lane, he has been undefeated with his win at Eagle (Nebraska) Raceway. For the second week, Abreu led early only to fall prey to Larson.

The win was Larson’s third straight victory and the fifth consecutive top-five, giving him a perfect sweep of the season after finishing 10th in last year’s inaugural race at Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Indiana.

Larson started third behind Abreu and Brent Marks but was embroiled in a fierce battle with Anthony Macri for third during the first dozen laps. Larson slipped by Macri in traffic until a red flag waved for a flip by Lachlan McHugh.

Meanwhile at the front of the pack, Marks retook the lead from Abreu on Lap 18. Larson followed one lap later and then caution waved again. Tyler Courtney lost power and fell to 24th after starting eighth.

Marks scooted away on the restart but tragedy struck in Lap 26. Leading the race, Marks hit a pothole in Turn 1, bicycled and then flipped, handing the lead to Larson.

Abreu caught Larson again during the final laps and in a reprise of their battle at Tri-City Speedway, the two threw sliders at one another for several laps until Larson built some separation and ran away to the checkers.

“I didn’t feel like my pace in [Turns] 1 & 2 slowed down a ton,” Larson said from victory lane. “I missed it once there and then I saw his nose in 3 & 4. I didn’t know if he nailed the bottom that well behind me and I think he might have slid me in the next corner, so he was definitely on the top.

“I was nervous to move up there because my car was really pogoing up in the entry of 1. I got up just in time, made a few mistakes and he threw a couple more sliders at me but he was just a little too far back and I was able to squirt around him. Then I really had to commit to hitting my marks – back my effort down a bit to avoid mistakes.”

After leading early, Abreu fell back as far as sixth, but faith in his car kept hope alive.

“I just needed to do a few things a few laps before I did and fix some angles, then my car got a whole lot better,” Abreu said. “I’m thankful for this team; they do an amazing job. They don’t give up on me. I know my car is going to be there right at the end of these races, so it’s just the discipline of being patient.”

For Abreu, it was his third near-miss this season. He was leading at Lakeside in the 2023 opener until a tire went flat in the closing laps and he lost the lead to Larson late in the Tri-City Speedway race. Abreu has finished sixth or better in his last three High Limit races with each result being progressively better until his pair of runner-up results.

Third-place finisher Scelzi was the hard charger, advancing from 17th.

“I had a very specific plan; don’t go near [the hole in Turn 1],” Scelzi said. “It worked out. No one wanted to start on the top. I think I gained a couple of rows there on the choose cone and ran the middle, which seemed to be better than right around the bottom.”

Michael “Buddy” Kofoid in fourth and Macri rounded out the top five.

World of Outlaws star and former NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne was one of 41 entrants, but he was not among the 26 starters. He failed to advance to the Main after finishing eighth in the B Main and seventh in his heat.

Feature Results

A Feature (40 Laps): 1. 57-Kyle Larson[4]; 2. 24-Rico Abreu[1]; 3. 18-Giovanni Scelzi[17]; 4. 71-Michael Kofoid[5]; 5. 39M-Anthony Macri[3]; 6. 9-Chase Randall[9]; 7. 26-Zeb Wise[14]; 8. 1X-Jake Bubak[15]; 9. 8-Aaron Reutzel[10]; 10. 14D-Corey Day[18]; 11. 11-Cory Eliason[12]; 12. 5T-Ryan Timms[11]; 13. 88-Austin McCarl[13]; 14. 21H-Brady Bacon[22]; 15. 48-Danny Dietrich[16]; 16. 7S-Robbie Price[19]; 17. 21-Brian Brown[23]; 18. 22-Riley Goodno[26]; 19. 52-Blake Hahn[25]; 20. 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr[21]; 21. 3J-Dusty Zomer[6]; 22. 14-Cole Macedo[7]; 23. 19-Brent Marks[2]; 24. 7BC-Tyler Courtney[8]; 25. 25-Lachlan McHugh[20]; 26. 53-Jack Dover[24]

2023 High Limit Sprint Car Series

Race 1: Giovanni Scelzi wins at Lakeside Speedway
Race2: Anthony Macri wins at 34 Raceway
Race 3: Kyle Larson wins at Wayne County Speedway
Race 4: Kyle Larson wins at Tri-City Speedway