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Wednesday January 19th, 2022 8:54PM

Rahal to field 2 sports cars in hybrid-based LMDh category

By The Associated Press
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BRASELTON, Ga. (AP) — Bobby Rahal's expansion in motorsports will continue in 2023 when BMW Team RLL will field two prototypes in the new LMDh hybrid category of MSA 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 runs Honda's in IndyCar 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.

MAGNUSSEN ILL

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.”

___

More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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