Top Kiwis line-up for Petit Le Mans
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While most of the coming weekend's motorsport attention is fixed on Mount Panorama and the Japanese Formula 1 Grand Prix, three Kiwi stars will be chasing endurance racing success in the United States.
The 20th annual Motul Petit Le Mans endurance race at Road Atlanta in Georgia is the final round of the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship and the 10-hour format sees most teams add a third driver to their line-ups.
Among them are Kiwi aces Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber, the 2017 Le Mans 24 Hours winners and current leaders of the FIA World Endurance Championship with Porsche.
Bamber remains within the Porsche family and lines up for Petit Le Mans in the GT-LM category with the Porsche GT North America team sharing one of the new 911 RSR machines with Gianmaria Bruni (Italy) and Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium).
Hartley will race in the Daytona Prototype International (DPi) category and resumes a role behind the wheel of a Tequila Patron Extreme Speed Motorsports Nissan DPi teamed with Ryan Dalziel (GB) and Scott Sharp (USA). It's Hartley's third outing with the ESM team, after the Daytona 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours earlier this year.
Porsche's Le Mans winners Earl Bamber (left) and Brendon Hartley (right) have GT and prototype roles respectively for the Petit Le Mans race this weekend.
The third Kiwi racing at Road Atlanta is four-time Indycar champion Scott Dixon with the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing squad. Dixon is the regular third driver for longer races with Richard Westbrook (GB) and Ryan Briscoe (Australia) in the number 67 Ford GT.
The three Kiwis are among a high profile of the extra drivers set for the Petit Le Mans event. Also joining the fray this weekend are former Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay (USA) -- teamed with IMSA championship leaders Ricky and Jordan Taylor in the Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi -- and IndyCar star Sebastien Bourdais (France) with the Ford GT squad.
The 2015 Le Mans winner Nick Tandy (GB) is on GT-LM duty with the Porsche team, with Patrick Pilet (France) and Dirk Werner (Germany) while Toyota LMP1 driver Mike Conway (GB) races with Dane Cameron and Eric Curran in the Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi.
The other big Petit Le Mans news is confirmation of a Team Penske entry with a ORECA 07-Gibson prototype to be raced by Juan Pablo Montoya (Columbia), Helio Castroneves (Brazil) and Simon Pagenaud (France). Team Penske has entered the car as preparation for a 2018 return to the IMSA Weathertech Sports Car Championship with the new Acura ARX-05 built to Daytona Prototype International regulations.
The 10-hour Petit Le Mans has a 39-car field and an 11.05am start (4.05am Sunday NZ time), running into the night for a 9.05pm scheduled finish (2.05pm).