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Hartley, Lieb named to Porsche’s WEC program

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Porsche has announced that former GRAND-AM Rolex Series driver Brendon Hartley (pictured) and German competitor Marc Lieb will complete the manufacturer’s driver stable for the 2014 World Endurance Championship – a stable that also includes ex-Formula One driver Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas, and Neel Jani.

Hartley competed for Starworks Motorsport this past season in the Rolex Series and earned an overall win at Road America for the team with co-driver Scott Mayer. In addition, Hartley has had stints as a F1 test driver for both Red Bull and Mercedes.

“I’m incredibly proud that Porsche has chosen me,” said Hartley about his appointment with Porsche. “I was deeply impressed at my first outing in Le Mans. But to compete there in the LMP1 for an iconic company like Porsche is another dimension completely.”

Lieb, on the other hand, has been a longtime factory driver for Porsche and is a three-time winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans; his most recent Le Mans win came this year driving a Team Manthey Porsche in the GTE-Pro class alongside Dumas and Richard Lietz.

“I have been fortunate enough to celebrate victories with Porsche all over the world, even in the GT class at Le Mans,” said Lieb. “People there always asked when we would return to the LMP1 class.

“Since the [LMP1] project was given the go-ahead, I only wanted one thing: To be involved. Le Mans and Porsche, I can’t even begin to describe how excited this makes me feel.”

Now, both of them will be suiting up for Porsche’s two-car program with their new LMP1 entry, the 919 Hybrid.

“We had a substantial number of applicants from all classes for the two 919 hybrids,” Porsche LMP1 head Fritz Enzinger said. “We were looking for experience, sheer speed, technical understanding, and we wanted team players because this is more important in endurance racing than in any discipline.”

The 919 Hybrid recently wound down its 2013 testing in Portugal, a session that was noteworthy for having Webber take his first laps in the car after getting permission from his former F1 team, Red Bull; the team still has him under contract until the start of 2014.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Marco Andretti

Marco Andretti
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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.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Tony Kanaan

Tony Kanaan
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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.