Here’s a look through some of the teams and drivers that might hold your attention from an American standpoint competing at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. There are six teams from the two sports car championships in the U.S., the American Le Mans Series and GRAND-AM Rolex Series, who have assembled efforts for this year’s race. They’re outlined below:
- Corvette Racing: Corvette celebrates its 60th anniversary at this year’s Le Mans with the send-off of its GTE-spec C6.R in the GTE Pro class. The team’s two cars feature these driver lineups: Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen, Jordan Taylor (No. 73), Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, Richard Westbrook (No. 74).
- SRT Motorsports: Viper returns to Le Mans for the first time in a decade with two of its bruising 8.4L V10s under the SRT branding and badging. Drivers of the two SRT Vipers in GTE Pro include: Marc Goossens, Dominik Farnbacher, Ryan Dalziel (No. 53), Tommy Kendall, Jonathan Bomarito, Kuno Wittmer (No. 93).
- Dempsey Del Piero Racing: Patrick Dempsey’s team has partnered with Proton Competition for its first trip to Le Mans, Dempsey’s second as a driver. The No. 77 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR features Dempsey, Joe Foster and Patrick Long behind the wheel.
- 8 Star Motorsports: Enzo Potolicchio branched off onto his own team that runs the full FIA World Endurance Championship and a Daytona Prototype in the GRAND-AM Rolex Series. Potolicchio, Rui Aguas and Australian V8 Supercars ace Jason Bright wheel the bright orange GTE Am class No. 81 Ferrari F458 Italia, which has the logo of the merged United SportsCar Racing series on its doors.
- Level 5 Motorsports: Scott Tucker’s team podiumed in its first Le Mans appearance in 2011, but a class win in the 24-hour race has thus far eluded them. Taking the reins of the team’s HPD ARX-03b in LMP2 are Tucker, Dario’s brother Marino Franchitti, and Le Mans rookie and IndyCar star, Ryan Briscoe (No. 33).
- Rebellion Racing: A full-time entrant in the FIA World Endurance Championship, Rebellion has also committed to a part-time effort in the ALMS. Its two Lola B12/60 Toyotas in LMP1 are best of the privateers, but unlikely to score an overall podium. Driver lineups include: Nick Heidfeld, Neel Jani, Nico Prost (No. 12) and Andrea Belicchi, Congfu Cheng, and Mathias Beche (No. 13).
MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the Verizon IndyCar Series field in 2015 with Marco Andretti, who finished ninth after another top-10 season in points.
Marco Andretti, No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda
- 2014: 9th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 5th, 2 Podiums, 2 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 23 Laps Led, 12.4 Avg. Start, 12.2 Avg. Finish
- 2015: 9th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 3rd, 2 Podiums, 4 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 60 Laps Led, 11.5 Avg. Start, 9.1 Avg. Finish
It was a dependable, quiet but usually consistent season from Marco Andretti, who up until the final quarter of the season had actually been his father’s most reliable finisher.
Andretti didn’t necessarily have a ton of standout drives but he was usually there or thereabouts, and by the end of the day he was often at the low ends of the top-10, which earlier this year given the at-times troublesome Honda aero kit package on road and street courses was more of an accomplishment than you’d think. Three top-10 results in the first four races was proof positive of that.
As ever Andretti excelled most on the big ovals. Sixth at the Indianapolis 500 was as good as was possible given the lack of top-end speed; similarly, he probably could have emerged at the head of the field at Fontana, ending third when all was said and done.
His best result was second in the rain at Detroit race one, although coming second to teammate Carlos Munoz had to sting a little bit. Andretti had driven well that race, and was unfortunate not to be rewarded with his first win in four years.
The thing that would have been his standout stat of the year, finishing every lap, game unglued with an odd accident on home soil in Pocono. It was a shame to see because Andretti was typically good, if not great, for yet another season.
MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver lineup in the Verizon IndyCar Series, after the 2015 season, with eighth-placed Tony Kanaan.
Tony Kanaan, No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
- 2014: 7th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 2nd, 6 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 12 Top-10, 407 Laps Led, 9.2 Avg. Start, 9.3 Avg. Finish
- 2015: 8th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 2nd, 3 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 10 Top-10, 213 Laps Led, 7.6 Avg Start, 9.9 Avg. Finish
You have to give TK credit. Armed with one of the best cars on the grid, Kanaan has certainly raised his game the last two years, and probably hasn’t received enough credit or enough results for some of his drives he’s put in since joining Chip Ganassi Racing after the 2013 season.
The 2015 season was no exception. All 10 of his top-10 finishes were between second and seventh, so there were plenty of times he was in win and podium contention. The other area where he improved was his qualifying. Kanaan only had two starts outside the top-12 all season, one of which occurred at Detroit race two, where the grid was set by points following a rain cancellation. Detroit was pretty much the only weekend where Kanaan didn’t figure into qualifying or the race. Blame the Taylor Swift-inspired Big Machine Records livery for that one if you want.
Accidents at the Indianapolis 500 and Pocono were costly retirements as Kanaan definitely had a shot to win both those races. But realistically you couldn’t find many other faults. Losing a sure win at Iowa due to a mechanical issue was a gutting blow. He was also unlucky to come up just shy at Fontana, and may have prevailed in a last-lap shootout.
More often that not however, Kanaan was firmly on top of his game, and reliably on par with his championship-winning teammate Scott Dixon, which was all you could ask for. It’s fitting the two of them opened the year as part of the winning lineup in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, with Kanaan then helping out matters by finishing ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya at Sonoma, to ensure Dixon had enough points to win the title on countback.