Motorsports Update – October 22, 2012

American Le Mans Series
Petit Le Mans, Road Atlanta
The American Le Mans Series headed to Braselton, GA this past weekend for the 15th annual Petit Le Mans and the conclusion of its 2012 season. While some of the championships had already been decided earlier in the season there were still several titles up for grabs.

Adding some extra flair to this year’s race was the addition of the Nissan DeltaWing, making its first competition appearance in North America. Despite having a scary crash on Wednesday and undergoing extensive repairs, the DeltaWing proved to have significant pace throughout practice and qualifying.

The Muscle Milk Picket Racing HPD ARX-03a, having been out-qualified handily by the Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota on Friday, wasn’t the overall favorite for the race but was the likely winner for the season championship. The team needed to finish just 70 percent of the total race distance to wrap up the title. But the championship was in jeopardy just an hour into the race. Driver Lucas Luhr made contact with a Porsche 911 GT3 running in the slower GTC class going into turn two, putting the prototype into the wall with damage to the suspension and body. At that point it was assumed the race was over for the points leaders, but the car was towed back to the pits and after a little more than an hour was back on track.

Luhr and fellow drivers Klaus Graf and Romain Dumas managed to safely navigate the HPD ARX-03a through the rest of the race, finishing in third place in P1 and well past the 70-percent threshold.

With the Muscle Milk team out of the picture, that left the Rebellion Racing trio of Neel Jani, Andrea Belicchi and Nicolas Prost to cruise to a three-lap win. The Dyson Racing team, suffering several troubles of their own in their Lola-Mazda, finished second in class.

Like the Muscle Milk team in P1, the Level 5 Motorsports team needed to finish just 70-percent of the race distance to earn points and take the 2012 title in P2. The team did that and more, with drivers Scott Tucker, Christophe Bouchut and Luis Diaz driving their HPD ARX-03b to the class win and finishing second overall.

Level 5’s second car, driven by Tucker, Dario Franchitti and Marino Franchitti, finished not far behind for second in class and third overall. The TDS Racing Oreca-Nissan piloted by Mathias Beche, Pierre Thiriet and Christophe Tinseau finished in third.

Despite the GT championship having been secured by Corvette Racing prior to the race, the GT class was perhaps the most hotly contested in the race. The Ferrari duo of Extreme Speed Motorsports qualified 1-2 with BMW, Corvette, Viper and Porsche closely behind.

The No. 01 Ferrari driven by Johannes van Overbeek, Scott Sharp and Toni Vilander looked to be the favorites throughout, but were constantly pressured by the No. 4 Corvette and the No. 55 BMW M3. However, late delays in the form of suspension problems and a stop-and-go-penalty for the Corvette and BMW respectively provided enough of a gap for the Ferrari to take home the win by half a minute.

Malaysian Grand Prix
In a dramatic MotoGP race hit by torrential rain and a raft of crashes, Dani Pedrosa took the win ahead of Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner, bringing his championship title hopes within reach.

It was Yamaha Factory Racing’s Lorenzo who got the holeshot ahead of Pedrosa, while Ducati Team’s Valentino Rossi got a good start from 11th to move into fourth within the first lap. Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Andrea Dovizioso, who had a bad start, was carving his way through the pack and soon got past Rossi into fourth to chase down Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner in third.

Lorenzo, having opted for the softer option wet rear tire, had a small margin over Pedrosa with 18 laps to go, who had the harder rear tire. All Yamahas on the grid as well as Cardion AB Racing’s Karel Abraham had opted for the soft-rear, hard-front combination, with all others running with hards front and rear. A lap later however and Pedrosa was breathing down Lorenzo’s neck having closed the gap to a fraction of a second.

Stoner was leading a group, about five seconds off the leading duo, with Dovizioso, Rossi, LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl, Ducati Team’s Nicky Hayden, San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista and Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow. With 12 laps remaining, Pedrosa was continuing to stick to Lorenzo’s rear wheel as the pair looked locked in a stalemate out on track. Further back on the same lap, Yamaha’s Ben Spies suffered a heavy crash out of tenth place, putting a premature end to his race. He was taken to the medical centre to check on a shoulder injury, and was later declared ok.

Rossi also dropped from behind Dovizioso back into ninth, as his teammate Hayden fought his way up to fifth. A lap further on and it was drama for Dovizioso as he also slid out of the race, which continued to be pummeled with rain. It was in the final turn of this lap that Pedrosa made a move stick on Lorenzo to take the lead just over the halfway point, and the Repsol rider instantly looked more comfortable in front, pulling a small gap. In the meantime, NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards retired with a mechanical option.

As the grid headed into lap nine there were further crashes in the final turn as Crutchlow slid off, followed almost directly in the same place by Power Electronics Aspar’s Randy de Puniet. It was a crash strewn lap, with Bradl also losing the front of his satellite Honda, and Avintia Blusens’ Iván Silva also crashing out. Back on track Rossi looked in his element as he squeezed past Bautista into fifth. Things were also getting interesting at the front as Lorenzo was being not only dropped off by Pedrosa, but also being closed down by Stoner at a very quick rate.

The rain was coming down heavily with 15 laps left, and Lorenzo suffered a very scary moment, where he saved a near crash just seconds before the red flag was shown due to safety concerns. After much deliberating as to whether a re-start would be possible, conditions deteriorated, and the win was awarded to Pedrosa, with Lorenzo and Stoner completing the rostrum. This now puts Pedrosa within 23-points, less than one race-win, of title rival Lorenzo, with 50-points still up for grabs in the final two races. Hayden recorded a fantastic fourth, ahead of Rossi, Bautista, Barberá, De Puniet’s teammate Espargaró, Paul Bird Motorsport’s James Ellison and Abraham.

Formula 1
Next race:
Airtel Indian Grand Prix, New Delhi, October 28

Hollywood Casino 400, Kansas Speedway
Matt Kenseth survived a caution-crazy first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Kansas Speedway’s repaved and reconfigured track Sunday.

The repaved surface, which has more treacherous variable banking, took its toll on tires and fenders in a race that featured a track-record 14 cautions for 66 laps, surpassing the record of 13 cautions set in the inaugural race in 2001.

After Kenseth’s Ford hit the fence on caution No. 13, when Aric Almirola’s Ford went spinning out of control on Lap 215 of 267, he surprisingly wound up in prime position to win his first Sprint Cup event at Kansas Speedway.

Kenseth grabbed the lead from Roush Fenway teammate Greg Biffle after the restart and beat Martin Truex Jr. to the checkered flag by 0.495 seconds. It was Kenseth’s third victory of the season.

Kasey Kahne started from the pole and finished fourth. Series leader Brad Keselowski finished eighth and leads second-place Jimmie Johnson, who was ninth in the race, by seven points.

Next race:
Big O Tire NHRA Nationals, Las Vegas, NV, October 25-28

Sources: series websites, press releases and various independent motorsports websites