Porsche, OAK capture Le Mans class victories

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Perhaps unexpectedly, Porsche swept through to take class victories in both GTE Pro and GTE Am with two different iterations of its iconic 911. The victories are the 99th and 100th in class for Porsche at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Its new 911, the 991 that is campaigned in a two-car works effort from Weissach with preparation from Team Manthey, finished 1-2 in GTE Pro with a clean drive from both cars. All their rivals from Aston Martin, Ferrari, Corvette and SRT didn’t quite have the pace, consistency or luck to match.

Marc Lieb, Richard Lietz and Romain Dumas co-drove the winning No. 92 991, with second place taken by the No. 91 driven by Jorg Bergmeister, Patrick Pilet and Timo Bernhard. The No. 91 had earlier contact with a Ferrari in the pit lane so did well to recover from that, while the No. 92 largely ran trouble-free.

Aston Martin’s underlying pace resulted in only one podium finish – third for its “Art Car” No. 97 Vantage driven by Stefan Mucke, Darren Turner and Peter Dumbreck.

All in all though, it had been such a challenging day for Aston, who pressed on gracefully after the tragedy in the first hour with the accident that claimed driver Allan Simonsen.

Porsche also took the GTE Am class win with the No. 76 Imsa Performance Matmut 911 GT3 RSR, a 2012-spec car, with co-drivers JK Vernay, Christophe Bourret and Raymond Narac. AF Corse’s two Ferrari F458 Italias finished second and third, just ahead of the Dempsey Del Piero Racing Porsche co-driven with Patrick Dempsey, Joe Foster and Patrick Long.

OAK Racing captured a 1-2 in LMP2, with ex-IndyCar drivers Bertrand Baguette and Martin Plowman sharing the class-winning No. 35 Morgan Nissan with Ricardo Gonzalez. The polesitting No. 24 finished second in the hands of Olivier Pla, Alex Brundle and David Heinemeier Hansson, and the G-Drive Racing No. 26 Oreca 03 Nissan of Mike Conway, John Martin and Roman Rusinov secured the final podium position in class.

MRTI: Juncos signs Carlos Cunha for Pro Mazda campaign

Photo: Juncos Racing
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Juncos Racing continued to bolster its entries in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires by signing Carlos Cunha to pilot a third Juncos Pro Mazda entry for 2018. Cunha, who finished third in the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season on the back of seven podium finishes, joins Rinus VeeKay and Robert Megennis in Juncos’ Pro Mazda lineup for 2018.

Cunha previously tested with the team at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in October and joined Juncos for the Chris Griffis Memorial test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in November, testing cars for both the Pro Mazda and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires teams.

“It’s great to become a part of Juncos Racing,” said the 18-year-old Cunha. “I am really excited to start the 2018 season with Juncos Racing. This fall we did some testing together and from there I was able to see how focused everyone on the team is and I even felt like I became a part of their family in no time. I am confident we will get great results together next year and I look forward to learning and growing more with the team. It will be a huge pleasure and also a great responsibility to carry the number one on my car, thanks to (2017 Pro Mazda champion Victor Franzoni) and I hope to deliver it back to the team at the end of the year!”

Team owner Ricardo Juncos added, “We are excited to add Carlos to our Pro Mazda lineup. From the moment we started testing with him in early October, we knew he would be a great fit for our team. Carlos has been very quick in testing and even had an impressive showing in the Indy Lights car at the Chris Griffis test back in October. He had a great run this past season in the Pro Mazda series and we are confident he will carry that momentum into the 2018 season.”

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