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imsa 28883583braunCORE autosport's Colin Braun scored the overall pole for Saturday's Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park. The reigning PC champion pushed the No. 54 ORECA FLM09-Chevy to a best lap of 48.824 and withstood healthy shots from PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports' Robert Alon (-0.016) and Performance Tech Racing's James French (-0.106).

Brutal 99-degree ambient and 140-degree track temperatures were endured by all three classes during qualifying. Most remarkable of all, the combined margin between first and second place across PC, GT Le Mans, and GT Daytona was only 0.132 seconds.

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"For us it was just about pushing the whole time," said Braun, who earned his third PC pole of the year. "That was a little bit of a messy session, but we were just using [qualifying] as a [test] session so we have a better car for the race."

GTLM was the star of the qualifying show on Friday as the top four comprised of BMW, Corvette, Ferrari, and Ford were separated by an impossibly small margin of 0.054 seconds for most of the 15-minute session.

Richard Westbrook came out on top on his final lap in the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing GT (pictured, top). Despite recent Balance of Performance changes designed to slow the Fords, the team entered Lime rock with three consecutive wins and will start Saturday's 2h40m race from pole. His 50.748-second tour of the 1.5-mile circuit provided a razor-thin advantage over BMW Team RLL's Dirk Werner in the No. 25 BMW M6 (-0.086) and Tommy Milner in the No. 4 Corvette Racing C7.R (-0.110).

Did Westbrook believe he had a shot at pole before the session started? "Absolutely not, I really didn't," he said. "We've just been working on our car and improved it every session. We've been on a really good roll, but qualifying doesn't mean anything at Lime Rock."

The red flag came out with just under three minutes remaining in GTLM qualifying for the stopped Ford GT driven by Joey Hand. The Le Mans winner, whose car ran out of fuel, lost his two fastest laps for triggering the red flag, which dropped the No. 66 to fifth.

imsa 28869533Spencer Pumpelly earned the first GTD pole position for Change Racing with a lap of 53.148 seconds in his No. 16 Lamborghini Huracán GT3. The sportscar veteran barely edged his friend Andrew Davis in the No. 6 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS GT3 (-0.030) and was nominally faster than Matt Bell in the sister No. 9 Stevenson Audi (-0.074).

"Look, it's 0.030 difference between me and Andrew," Pumpelly exclaimed after climbing from the car. "We've struggled in qualifying and had good race pace, so we finally have good qualifying pace. I'm really proud to get our first pole."

Up Next: Pre-race warm-up, 9:05 a.m. ET.

Click here for full results.

16C 7168 1 2Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon topped an important test at Mid-Ohio on Thursday as most of the field turned laps in preparation for the Honda Indy 200 on July 31. The defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion watched as Indy Lights standout Felix Rosenqvist drove his car in the morning, and after the No. 9 Chevy was converted back to the New Zealander's cockpit settings, Dixon ventured out after lunch to post the fastest lap of the day in soaring temperatures.

16C 5696 1"We got out for about three hours of testing in the afternoon after the Target boys switched over from Felix being in the car, and everything was good," Dixon told RACER. "The test ended around 4:30, which was a little early, but we were still able to work through our test plan, we always have a really stable car around Mid-Ohio, and I'm feeling good with what we learned for the race."

With five races left on the Verizon IndyCar Series calendar, and three of those taking place on high-speed, high-downforce road courses, the Mid-Ohio test gave a glimpse of what might be in store for drivers locked in the championship battle.

In addition to the primary title contenders that were present, a number of rookie drivers logged their first miles in an Indy car, and two veterans were there to work directly with the series to evaluate different aerodynamic specifications for its next aero kit.

Team Penske's Simon Pagenaud led the cooler morning session according to the unofficial times that were captured. The championship leader's lap of 1m04.55s was followed by teammates Helio Castroneves (1m04.58s) and Will Power (1m04.73s). Rosenqvist was fourth (1m04.83s) and impressed as Chevy-powered cars took the top four spots.

16C 4712 1Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing's Graham Rahal was fastest among the Hondas in fifth (1m04.94s, -0.36 seconds to Pagenaud). A.J. Foyt Racing's Jack Hawksworth was sixth (1m04.95s), Penske's Juan Montoya was seventh (1m05.06s), Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay was eighth (1m05.17s), KVSH Racing's Sebastien Bourdais was ninth (1m05.21s) and Foyt's Takuma Sato rounded out the top 10 (1m05.41s).

The rest of the morning's runners were comprised of young talent from 11th to 15th as Schmidt Peterson Motorsports' Zachary Claman De Melo (1m05.50s), Dale Coyne Racing's Conor Daly (1m05.64s) and RC Enerson (above, 1m05.70s), SPM's Jack Harvey (1m05.77s), whose test was curtailed after a crash, and Ed Carpenter Racing's Spencer Pigot (1m05.85s) completed the testing order.

Chip Ganassi Racing's Tony Kanaan (1m06.26s) and ECR's JR Hildebrand (1m07.53s) were not aiming for outright speed as they focused on evaluating various downforce packages.

Dixon eclipsed Pagenaud's morning best in the hotter afternoon session (1m04.43s). Pagenaud was close behind in second (1m04.49s), Penske stablemate Castroneves was third (1m04.51s), Bourdais was fourth (1m04.53s), and Power was fifth (1m04.68s). Josef Newgarden's ECR car took sixth (1m04.86s), Kanaan was seventh (1m04.96s), and Montoya was eighth (1m04.97s) as Chevy made another statement.

Rahal also led the Honda charge during the second session by running ninth (1m05.30s, -0.87 seconds to Dixon), Pigot was 10th (1m05.36s), and behind the rookie, Andretti Autosport's Robin Frijns (1m05.39s) was fastest among the first-time IndyCar drivers in 11th. After the Dutchman, 12th through 17th was occupied by Sato (1m05.40s), Daly (1m05.50s), Enerson (1m05.52s), Claman De Melo (1m05.61s), Hawksworth (1m05.61s), and Hildebrand (1m05.96s).

The latest specification of Formula 1's halo cockpit protection device will be debated at the next Strategy Group meeting, which takes place in Geneva on Thursday.

Drivers were shown a powerpoint presentation on the pros and cons of the latest design in their Friday briefing at the Hungaroring. It is the second time they've been given a presentation by FIA safety director Laurent Mekies with race director Charlie Whiting, following one at COTA last year when the initial design was formed.

It is understood the FIA believes the halo will significantly improve safety, having carried out analysis on the impact the device would have had in previous accidents.

The device is ready to be implemented in time for 2017, but it will first go to the Strategy Group. When the drivers were informed of this, it is believed one driver questioned why that was necessary.

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said at Silverstone he is not a "big fan" of the halo and he "certainly wouldn't vote in favor at the moment."

Should the halo be blocked at Strategy Group level, the FIA could choose to force it through on the grounds of safety, as permitted by the regulations.

After seeing the presentation, Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz Jr. said: "It's very clear it saves lives, this is 100% sure.

"The voting will start soon. The FIA have done all they can with an item which works pretty well in many situations. After the slides they showed us today and the images, they are quite striking. You can see how it adds [to safety] and how many lives it could have saved.

"The drivers, even if we hate it and know it's not in the DNA of the sport, when you look at it, you say it makes some sense.

"I don't like it – but it's like when you're dad tells you you are wrong and you know he is right but you don't want to admit it!"

 

Originally on Autosport.com

2016WK61It was just over a week ago that Jeff Gordon was vacationing in France when he received the "call me" text from Rick Hendrick, so mentally and physically preparing for a race as grueling as the Brickyard 400 was the furthest thing from his mind.

But here we are, back home again in Indiana, and the four-time Sprint Cup champion has found himself back in a Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet as a substitute for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is continuing to recover from concussion-like symptoms.

The five-time Brickyard winner called the process "overwhelming" but believes he has never put more preparation toward a race weekend than he has over the past three days.

In short, Gordon is back, and he's ready to compete.

"All I can tell you is that I have done everything I possibly can over the past three days to get ready for this race the best way that I can," Gordon said. "We'll find out what kind of condition I'm in. There certainly are going to be challenges this weekend, but I feel like I am capable of doing it. Rick and the whole team have given me a lot of confidence in choosing me and asking me to do this."

Between not having sat in a car since the season finale at Homestead last November and the extreme heat conditions forecast for this weekend in Indianapolis, Gordon expects a challenge. But he spent several hours in the Chevrolet race simulator on Thursday, and believes the improved cooling system this year will offset his lack of seasoning.

gordon"There are going to be challenges – there is no doubt about it," Gordon said. "Qualifying is the first thing that comes to my mind, even before the heat. To me, qualifying and having to lay down laps, advance to the second round, and hopefully get in the third round will be tough. Qualifying is very important here.

"So to do that in a short period of time with the amount of practice we have today in the heat of the day is going to be tough. As far as hydration and all of those things, that is the most important thing for me, to just make sure hydration-wise that I get through the race in good shape. Jimmie Johnson has offered me his cool vest. They know I'm old and not in the kind of shape that I was, but of any track that I can think of [wanting to] come to, heat or no heat, and come and do a good job for this team, it's right here in Indianapolis."

And why shouldn't he feel that way? Gordon has won this race a record five times and has a 9.9 average finish across 22 starts. He's posted top-5s in 11 of them. That's why he's in the car this weekend. Hendrick believes he's the most capable man for the job while Earnhardt is on the sidelines.

"I think between Jeff agreeing to drive the car and Junior walking in the shop, the team is really excited," Hendrick said. "Jeff's situation with our company, everybody there knows him, [and] the talent that Jeff has here at Indy. But more than anything, when he walked in that building, it just lifted everyone up. So, we're really excited. Everybody is there for Junior and his health is number one priority, but we feel good about where we are right now."

Gordon is set to drive the car for the next two weekends at Indianapolis and Pocono. That will get him to 799 starts, but he doesn't want to speculate about whether he will be needed beyond these two appearances.

"Let's not speculate," Gordon said. "Right now it's through Pocono. We hope that Dale Jr. continues to progress and that he is back as soon as possible.

"The one thing I was encouraged by when I saw him on Wednesday is his passion for racing, how much he loves being in the car and how antsy he is to get back in there. We just want him to be there when he is ready and when the doctors say he is ready."

Between spending time in the simulator and watching videos of the tire test here last week, Gordon says he believes this competition package is similar to the one NASCAR employed back in 2014. Coincidentally, that is the year Gordon earned his fifth Brickyard 400 win. That in itself gives him hope that he can come in and compete for a sixth PPG trophy.

"If you go back to 2014 even though we had more power, the traces are more similar," Gordon said. "I kind of liked '14. It was a good year. I was happy to see that. I took that information and went to the simulator the next morning in Huntersville [North Carolina] with Chevrolet and they put those set-ups and this package in the car and I was able to drive it.

"This [package] is closer to the past with the braking points, turning points, car handling, all those types of things. I'm hoping that really pays off for me."

2016WK140

16C 6140 1Indy Lights veteran Jack Harvey is aiming to make his Verizon IndyCar Series debut at Watkins Glen with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

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The Briton, who won six Lights races with SPM from 2014-'15, took part in his second IndyCar test with the team on Thursday at Mid-Ohio. Cut short by a spin and contact with the barriers in Turn 6, Harvey was unable to complete the full test day, but was encouraged by the progress he made and the potential of piloting a third SPM Indy car.

"I'm really mad at myself for making a mistake, and the team said the car wasn't that bad, but there was damage to the floor and they said fixing it at the track wasn't possible, so we had to stop early," Harvey told RACER.

"It hasn't affected what I've been working towards, and that's being in the car with SPM for Watkins [Glen]. If anything, the team said they felt bad we couldn't continue testing, but I'm confident leaving Mid-Ohio that we could have a very effective race in a third car if we can make everything come together."

16C 6696 1Harvey was the fastest Indy Lights driver when he tested SPM's Honda-powered No. 5 car in August at Sonoma, and was among the fastest young drivers at Mid-Ohio before its premature conclusion. The 23-year-old says he left the track with his full attention focused on returning to the cockpit for the Grand Prix At The Glen on Sept. 1-4.

"Working with this team is really excellent, and we've been trying to get in the car all season," he said. "We've been chasing the budget and we're definitely looking at The Glen as the place to do it, but there's still a couple of sponsors we're waiting to finalize things with before it's possible.

"This was the first time I've been in a car since [the Indy Lights finale] in September, and it all came back very quickly. Getting back in the car as soon as possible is what we're after and doing it with Sam [Schmidt] and Ric [Peterson] would be the perfect scenario."

 N

Nico Rosberg cruised to the quickest time in Friday practice for the Hungarian Grand Prix as Mercedes teammate and Formula 1 title rival Lewis Hamilton's day ended with a crash.

After topping the times in practice one at the Hungaroring, Hamilton was on his fourth lap of the afternoon when he lost control of his car approaching Turn 11, sending him into a high-speed slide across the expansive run-off area before slamming into a tire wall left-side on.

The 31-year-old eventually managed to extricate himself and slowly trundled back to the garage, with Mercedes confirming his session was over as the car needed to be stripped and checked for internal damage. With the safety data recorder being triggered given the force of the impact, Hamilton was also required to attend the track medical center for a check up, but was given the all-clear.

Although Hamilton was top of the times at that point 20 minutes into the session, which was red-flagged for repairs to the barrier, it was only based on a run on soft tires, on which the Mercedes had been a mere 0.001s apart. That ensured Hamilton was swiftly deposed by Rosberg on the super-softs when the session restarted, with the championship leader posting a time of 1m20.435s, almost 1.6s quicker than Hamilton's pole lap from last year.

Rosberg held a clear advantage, with Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo 0.595s adrift and Sebastian Vettel in his Ferrari 0.913s off the pace, followed by the second Red Bull of Max Verstappen who ended 1.335s down.

Hamilton's time was still good enough for fifth, almost a tenth of a second up on Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, followed by McLaren duo Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button.

McLaren changed Alonso's power unit in between sessions after discovering what Honda claimed was "an anomaly in Fernando's data during FP1." It resulted in the entire system being swapped, but with no new components introduced given the replacement contained the most recent updates on the ERS and internal combustion engine, and was used in four previous races.

Force India pair Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez completed the top 10, both just over two seconds down.

Williams, with its cars possessing a new floor and with three different variations of front wing being assessed as per the recent test at Silverstone, continued to struggle with Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas down in 12th and 14th.

Bottas is also under investigation for failing to keep to the right of the pitlane-entry traffic cone at one point, with Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz Jr .also being looked at for crossing the line at the pit entry.

Sainz and Sauber's Felipe Nasr both had to park with late mechanical problems. Fuel pressure issues consigned Renault's Jolyon Palmer to the garage for most of the session before a late run elevated him up to 19th.

Many drivers exceeded the track limits at Turn 4 – one of the two corners at this circuit where electronic curb monitoring systems have been placed – and will need to be mindful of such an infraction during qualifying and the race.

TV note: Practice 2 aires tonight on NBCSN beginning at 11 p.m. ET. Click here for weekend racing TV listings

PRACTICE 2 TIMES:

PosDriverCarTimeGapLaps
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m20.435ss 1m20.435s 45
2 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 1m21.030ss 0.595s 36
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m21.348ss 0.913s 31
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 1m21.770ss 1.335s 35
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m21.960ss 1.525s 4
6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m22.058ss 1.623s 46
7 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Honda 1m22.328ss 1.893s 21
8 Jenson Button McLaren/Honda 1m22.387ss 1.952s 34
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India/Mercedes 1m22.449ss 2.014s 41
10 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1m22.653ss 2.218s 38
11 Esteban Gutierrez Haas/Ferrari 1m22.673ss 2.238s 38
12 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 1m22.681ss 2.246s 39
13 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso/Ferrari 1m22.689ss 2.254s 24
14 Valtteri Bottas Williams/Mercedes 1m22.773ss 2.338s 38
15 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1m22.864ss 2.429s 28
16 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Ferrari 1m22.948ss 2.513s 43
17 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1m23.347ss 2.912s 41
18 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 1m23.437ss 3.002s 36
19 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1m23.528ss 3.093s 12
20 Felipe Nasr Sauber/Ferrari 1m23.986ss 3.551s 31
21 Pascal Wehrlein Manor/Mercedes 1m23.992ss 3.557s 22
22 Rio Haryanto Manor/Mercedes 1m24.265ss 3.830s 36

 

Originally on Autosport.com

 L4R1375Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff has not ruled out having to navigate another "bumpy road" after Nico Rosberg committed to the Formula 1 team for a further two years.

On Thursday evening Rosberg signed a two-year contract extension to take him through to the end of the 2018 F1 season, the same as teammate Lewis Hamilton. Following the difficulties and on-track clashes between the pair during their three and a half years together, Wolff recognizes in continuing to have two "number one" drivers, there may be more problems ahead.

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"I'm never confident we're on top of the issues [with them]," he said. "It's rock and roll, or if they rock the boat, but we are conscious of that decision. We know that sometimes it can be more of a bumpy road having two number one drivers in the car that keep pushing each other, but that raises the performance of the car.

"It gives those moments where it's about managing a difficult situation, so we are conscious about that."

Wolff has naturally ruled out ever making either Hamilton or Rosberg the lead driver.

"It's always very clear with the two of them this is the philosophy we follow of having absolutely equal material and equal opportunity," added Wolff. "I don't see this happening. I hope it goes until the end. It's exciting for us and exciting for the fans. It might make me grow some grey hair, but up until now I'm doing OK."

Rosberg's new deal ends recent speculation on his future, although Wolff conceded the deal was never "done until it's done and signed."

Wolff added: "We did that yesterday night after a couple of months of discussions. It was never in doubt we wanted to stay with Nico, and I guess it was of interest for him to stay in the best current car. We had the right spirit and right momentum in those discussions, but the final signature came yesterday night."

 

Originally on Autosport.com

Enerson ledeIndy Lights driver RC Enerson completed a packed day of testing at Mid-Ohio with Dale Coyne Racing and will return to make his IndyCar debut with the team on July 31. As first revealed by RACER, the young American will join Conor Daly at DCR for Mid-Ohio, and Enerson says he's working on staying in the car for the rest of the road courses on the calendar.

"I'm in for Mid-Ohio with Dale, and we're trying to make Watkins Glen and Sonoma happen, but those aren't confirmed yet," the 19-year-old Floridian told RACER. "I thought it would take a little while to come up to speed, but we came up to speed a lot quicker than I expected to. Once I was comfortable, it was about turning laps, running behind people to see what they were doing, and I got to spend a lot of time around the Penske cars and the Ganassi cars, so it was great."

Enerson isoEnerson says having a full day in the No. 19 Honda to practice everything he'll face on July 31 at the Honda Indy 200 helped shorten a steep learning curve.

"We ended up under a second off the fastest guys at the end, and we did something like 110 laps, so it was a lot," he added. "We spent quite a bit of time making sure I was hitting my marks on pit lane, doing pit stops, did a regular stint on new tires on a full tank of fuel, tried fuel-saving techniques ... it was a really busy day."

Enerson, like many of the young drivers on the Mazda Road To Indy, has been working toward making the step to IndyCar. The teenager recently curtailed his Indy Lights season to use the remaining funds to land the drive with DCR, and continues to search for the budget to secure a full-time seat in 2017.

"That's what we've been doing since we stopped [in Indy Lights], and it will be good to finally get out there and get some IndyCar race experience," he said. "It's a start, and we're trying hard to make more [races] happen."

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