Le Mans: F1, American drivers of note to watch

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A mix of ex-Formula One stars, names known to an American audience, and rising sports car talents are part of the 168 drivers that will compete in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

  • The ex-F1 contingent: Those counting at least one Grand Prix start on their resume and competing at Le Mans include: Allan McNish, Marc Gene, Lucas di Grassi (Audi), Alexander Wurz, Kaz Nakajima, Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi, Stephane Sarrazin (Toyota), Nick Heidfeld (Rebellion Lola Toyota), Shinji Nakano (G-Drive/Delta-ADR Oreca Nissan), Gianmaria Bruni, Giancarlo Fisichella, Kamui Kobayashi, Olivier Beretta (AF Corse Ferrari), Jan Magnussen (Corvette), Pedro Lamy (pictured right, with Bill Auberlen) and Bruno Senna (Aston Martin).
  • Those with an IndyCar connection: Ryan Briscoe (Level 5 HPD) and Mike Conway (G-Drive/Delta-ADR) are the only current IndyCar drivers making a start at Le Mans, owing to their lack of a full-time ride. Some other names with past IndyCar experience or connection include Dario Franchitti’s brother Marino (Briscoe’s Level 5 teammate), and recent IndyCar starters Bertrand Baguette, Martin Plowman (OAK Morgan Nissan) and Ho-Pin Tung (KCMG Morgan Nissan).
  • The American crowd: The “Yanks” in this year’s field race in all classes except LMP1. They include: Kevin Weeda (Lotus), Scott Tucker (Level 5), Matt Downs, Rodin Younessi (Boutsen Ginion Oreca Nissan), Alexander Rossi, Eric Lux (Caterham Greaves Zytek Nissan), and Mark Patterson (Murphy Oreca Nissan) in LMP2, with Jordan Taylor, Tommy Milner (Corvette), Jonathan Bomarito, Tommy Kendall (SRT Viper), Paul Dalla Lana, Bill Auberlen (Aston Martin), Ricky Taylor, Cooper MacNeil (Larbre Corvette), Howard Blank (AF Corse), Tracy Krohn (Krohn Ferrari), and Patrick Dempsey, Joe Foster, and Patrick Long (Dempsey Del Piero) split between the GTE Pro and Am classes.

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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