Electrical issues ruin Marco Andretti’s day at Milwaukee

1 Comment

Pole sitter Marco Andretti appeared to have a car good enough to contend for a win early in the Milwaukee IndyFest, but an electrical failure on his No. 25 RC Cola Chevrolet zapped his hopes and also put him farther behind in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship.

The third-generation driver had paced the first 61 laps of the 250-lap race until Andretti Autosport teammate and eventual race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay overtook him at Lap 62. Six laps later, things got worse for Andretti on his first stop of the afternoon as the fuel probe failed to release from his car, costing him track position.

Then on Lap 98, the bottom fell out as Andretti suddenly lost power and rolled onto the apron between Turns 1 and 2 before coming to a stop on the backstretch to bring out the yellow. The car was taken back to pit road and after sorting out the electrical problem, Andretti rejoined the race 42 laps off the pace to try and get as many championship points possible. He eventually finished 20th.

“We came here for a win and had a car to do it,” said Andretti, who is now third in the standings at 50 points behind leader Helio Castroneves. “We fell back after a delay in the pits and then had an electrical issue – I didn’t have any idea of what happened at the time. The voltage went straight down and I lost all kinds of power; I couldn’t shift, the clutch didn’t work. We came back for all the points we could.”

His problems were the low point in an otherwise great day for Andretti Autosport. In addition to Hunter-Reay’s win, drivers E.J. Viso and James Hinchcliffe both corralled Top-5 finishes with Viso in fourth and Hinchcliffe in fifth.

“We know we’ve had the speed because we’ve seen it at almost every event this year, but I think we hadn’t quite been able to close the deal,” said Viso, who led 10 laps en route to his best career finish at Milwaukee. “We have been struggling a bit thus far, and I think we’re due for some podiums and wins. Hopefully, this is just the start.”

Hinchcliffe called it “incredible” for Andretti Autosport to put three of their guys in the Top-5, but also wished his No. 27 GoDaddy Chevy was a touch better dealing with traffic on the Mile.

“…I think that would have helped us get around the lapped cars and we could have challenged the guys we were actually racing for position with,” he said.

Porsche ready for final LMP1 outing in Bahrain

Photo: Porsche
Leave a comment

At the conclusion of this weekend’s Six Hours of Bahrain, Porsche’s four-year run in the LMP1 class of the FIA World Endurance Championship will come to a close. The pair of Porsche 919 Hybrids will roll off from first and third after Friday’s qualifying, and will look to add one more win to their final tally.

Despite its short stint, Porsche more than made its mark on the class and the championship, immediately jumping to the fore and challenging young hotshots Toyota, race winners in 2012 and 2013 and LMP1 champions in 2014, and long-time stalwarts Audi, which introduced its first LMP1 entry in 1999 and quickly became the predominant force in the LMP category.

The 2014 season saw Porsche score four poles and a race win before embarking on a remarkable three-year stretch from 2015 to 2017, in which they scored three straight 24 Hours of Le Mans wins and three straight WEC driver and manufacturer championships (they wrapped the 2017 titles at the previous race in Shanghai.

Fritz Enzinger, Vice President of the LMP1 effort, detailed that the early days of the program were a little rocky, given the complex hybrid technology they were working with, but that they were able to find their stride relatively quickly.

“Back then (in 2014), we developed from zero a highly complex hybrid racecar on a Formula One level. The early days were extremely demanding, especially as we had to set up the infrastructure, including new buildings, at the same time, plus assembling a team of 260 excellent people. The timing was really tight and the 2014 Le Mans race came way too early for us. But since then, we have managed maximum success. I’m incredibly proud of this team and I hope that we can conclude the era of the Porsche 919 Hybrid with a good race in Bahrain.”

Team principal Andreas Seidl added that having the championships wrapped up will make the final weekend more enjoyable, as they won’t have the pressure of racing with the championships in mind.

“I feel a big relief that the pressure of defending the manufacturers’ and drivers’ world championship titles is resolved before our last race. The emotions of the farewell under the stress of the title battle would have been extremely hard for the team,” Seidl revealed.

Further, he added that Toyota’s TS050, which debuted last year, made their task all the more challenging as they worked to developed the Porsche 919 Hybrid –  the same basic car that they launched in 2014.

“In Toyota this year, we are facing a competitor who developed an all-new car for 2016. We, instead, kept developing our existing car. That we still won Le Mans as well as both championship titles is thanks to outstanding driver performances, many detailed improvements and the operational strength of our team,” Seidl asserted. “Now we have to get ourselves together and focus on this last race. We want to leave the stage not only as world champions but also with a performance that is satisfying for all of us. Six hours of reliability and faultless work are big challenges of men and machine. Safety has the highest priority. Only after the checkered flag can we allow our reflective feelings to break through.”

In terms of approaching Porsche’s LMP1 swan song, some drivers are taking different approaches. For example, Nick Tandy, driver of the No.1 entry with Neel Jani and André Lotterer, isn’t putting much thought into the farewell and is focusing entirely on the race.

“I prefer not to think about the farewell yet,” Tandy quipped. “The Bahrain race is very interesting anyway because we are racing from day into night. It is normally very hot for the car, the drivers and especially the tires. It is a challenging race to finish the season at. I haven’t been there since 2015 but I was on the podium back then when I came second in the LMP2 class. So this year’s target is to make it onto the LMP1 podium.”

Conversely, newly crowned champion Brendon Hartley, driver of the No. 2 entry with fellow champions Earl Bamber and Timo Bernhard, freely expressed his emotions about the end of the Porsche LMP1 program.

“Going to Bahrain will be emotional for all of us. Especially as we arrive as World Champions with less pressure now,” asserted Hartley, who has also endured a busy stretch since the Petit Le Mans on October 7 that has seen him racing every weekend across the WEC, Formula 1, and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. “I have so many incredible memories and experiences with the 919 Hybrid, teammates and all the boys and girls from the Porsche LMP Team. We shared something very special together. After developing the Porsche 919 for more than four years, it’s an absolute dream to drive so we will all be enjoying every last lap with this awesome machine. On one side there will be a lot of sadness, but on the other hand we will be giving everything to give this project the ultimate send off it deserves.”

Porsche’s LMP1 effort won races in each of its four seasons, totaling 17 victories between it’s entries.

Follow @KyleMLavigne