IndyCar drivers ready to face Le Mans

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IZOD IndyCar Series fans will be busy watching the proceedings this weekend at Iowa Speedway, but they also ought to keep tabs on the 24 Hours of Le Mans as well, which will see some current and former open-wheelers take part in the famous sports car event.

Topping the list of IndyCar veterans in the field at Le Mans are Mike Conway (pictured) and Ryan Briscoe, who have both competed in IndyCar this season at various points. Conway, who won the first Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit race for Dale Coyne Racing, will compete in the LMP2 category for the No. 26 G-Drive Racing team alongside Russia’s Roman Rusinov and Australia’s John Martin.

Conway and his partners managed to put their Oreca-Nissan on the front row of the LMP2 class, qualifying second in the category and 10th overall for today’s event.

“Once you get to know the track, it’s a lot of fun to drive,” Conway said on Friday according to AutoWeek. “[Qualifying in second] on old tires was fantastic, but it’s going to be a tough, long race and anything can happen. Being at Le Mans though and experiencing my first 24 hour race is very special, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow and hoping we have a good race.”

Also having his inaugural experience at Le Mans is Briscoe, who has suited up for Panther Racing (Detroit, Milwaukee) and Chip Ganassi Racing (Indianapolis 500) in 2013 while pursuing full-time duties in the American Le Mans Series.

Briscoe will also battle in the LMP2 class for Level 5 Motorsports in their No. 33 Honda/HPD ARX 03b, which he’ll share with team owner Scott Tucker and Marino Franchitti. This particular driver combo has already hit paydirt this season in the ALMS, claiming the P2 category title at the 12 Hours of Sebring. However, they’ll have to work their way up as the race plays out after qualifying 18th in class and 26th overall.

Past IndyCar drivers are also lending a bit of open-wheel flavor to the grid at Le Mans. Among the notables are Bertrand Baguette (who almost won the 2011 Indy 500 but had to pit for fuel in the final laps) and Martin Plowman, who’ll team up with Mexico’s Ricardo Gonzalez as part of the No. 35 Oak Racing Morgan-Nissan LMP2 squad. Former Firestone Indy Lights champion J.K. Vernay, Shinji Nakano, Tristan Gommendy, Ryan Dalziel, and Nicolas Minassian are among the other ex-open wheelers on the grid as well.

The 90th anniversary race of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is slated to begin this morning at 9 a.m. ET.

Hamilton: Abu Dhabi ‘the last race with good-looking cars’ in F1

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Lewis Hamilton believes that this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be remembered as the last race with good-looking Formula 1 cars ahead of the introduction of the ‘Halo’ cockpit protection for next year.

Officials from the FIA and F1 Strategy Group confirmed earlier this year that the Halo would be fitted to all cars from the 2018 season in a bid to improve safety standards, with the deaths of Justin Wilson and Jules Bianchi putting head protection high on the agenda for the series’ chiefs.

Hamilton has long made his opposition to the Halo clear, believing it will ruin the look of F1 cars, and echoed his thoughts ahead of the final Halo-less race in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

“It’s the last year of looking good I think in the cars. It’s the last race where the cars will look good,” Hamilton said.

“I think next year, it’s all downhill from there in terms of how they look.

“But safety will go up at least, and maybe it could be successful in some way.”

Hamilton’s F1 title rival Sebastian Vettel was less bothered about the change, believing the field will adjust and move on.

“The cars will look different next year. Everything I’ve seen so far looks different, but on the other hand it is something we all get used to,” Vettel said.

“But no doubt the cars look better now, but we’ll get used to it, and we’ll work on the aesthetics so it can be better. It is less of a big deal.”

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo shared Vettel’s view, saying: “I don’t think it’s gonna be as dramatic as most people make it out to be.”