FIA World Endurance Championship 2013 Season Review

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The FIA World Endurance Championship’s second full season was a good reflection on its first in 2012. Car counts remained relatively stable (28-32 cars) as there were a few new cars or entrants, but there were still a couple quirks during the year.

Audi, inevitably, took six of the eight overall victories in LMP1 and Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and new full-time recruit Loic Duval swept to the Driver’s Championship. Duval’s presence pushed McNish and Kristensen even more and the three were all on top of their games to win at Le Mans. The second car of twice-defending Le Mans champs Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler matched the No. 2 car’s win total of three wins apiece, although failed to score as highly in the races it didn’t win. Toyota won twice, albeit one was the water-logged Fuji race that finished after only 16 laps under a red flag. Rebellion was the only privateer that lasted the season, as Strakka Racing dropped out after Le Mans. New regulations and cars will come for 2014, and be explained further in due course.

LMP2 belonged to former or current open-wheel stars, now plying their trade in prototypes. Thanks to their Le Mans victory which highlighted their season, OAK Racing’s trio of Martin Plowman, Bertrand Baguette and Ricardo Gonzalez took the Driver’s Championship in their Morgan Nissan. Outright fastest driver most of the time was Mike Conway for G-Drive Racing; Conway and co-drivers John Martin and Roman Rusinov won four of the last five races but an exclusion at Le Mans cost them the title. Delta-ADR and Pecom Racing (like G-Drive, with Oreca 03 Nissans) won the year’s first two rounds but faltered from there.

GTE Pro saw AF Corse Ferrari split its usual driver lineup for the season finale in Bahrain to give the team the best chance of capturing the Driver’s title, and Gianmaria Bruni delivered the championship with a win in the last race. Bruni drove with Giancarlo Fisichella all year except Bahrain and the fellow Italian was second in points; hard-luck losers in class were Aston Martin’s pair of Stefan Mucke and Darren Turner in third. Porsche led a 1-2 with its new Team Manthey-run 911 RSRs at Le Mans, but otherwise struggled for balance and outright pace in the first year with its new car.

Aston was able to capture the GTE Am class title, albeit in the hands of two drivers you’d hardly call “amateurs” in English veterans Jamie Campbell-Walter and Stuart Hall. The class is designed to have a mix of Silver and Bronze drivers in two of the three seats and a late-year regulation change required at least one Bronze, but those drivers classified as Silver were still eligible to compete. As it was, that pair won the Driver’s title by just one point over 8Star Ferrari’s true pro-am pairing of Rui Aguas and Enzo Potolicchio. Consolation for 8Star was the fact it took the team’s championship.

Naturally the biggest and probably worst story of the year for the WEC, more than its on-track product, was the death of Danish driver Allen Simonsen at Le Mans. Simonsen’s car went into the guardrail at Tertre Rouge, and the hope is that safety updates are made in that portion of the circuit. Otherwise, the world championship continues to press ahead into 2014 as a proving ground for innovation and technology which isn’t necessarily seen in FIA’s flagship championship, Formula One.

Hunter-Reay released from hospital; not yet cleared to drive at Pocono

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Ryan Hunter-Reay has been released from a nearby hospital at Pocono Raceway after his accident in qualifying for Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) but has not yet been cleared to drive. He’ll be re-evaluated by INDYCAR Sunday morning.

The full release from INDYCAR and Andretti Autosport is below:

Verizon IndyCar Series driver Ryan Hunter-Reay was evaluated at Lehigh Valley Hospital – Cedar Crest in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on Saturday for injuries to his left hip and knee sustained in a crash in qualifying for the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway. Hunter-Reay was treated and released but has not been cleared to drive, pending a re-evaluation Sunday morning.

“During qualifying today, out of nowhere, the car stepped out on me,” Hunter-Reay said. “It was a bit of a wiggle, which I caught. The second time it happened, it came with no warning – which is a bit confusing. I hit my hip pretty bad as well as my knee, so the doctors thought it would be best to go in for further evaluation. After a CT scan and MRI, I am able to go and get a good night’s sleep. I’m sure I’ll wake up sore, but will hopefully be able to get back in the DHL machine tomorrow.

“I know the entire Andretti Autosport team worked hard to get the car put back together and with 500 miles, there is still a chance to win from the back of the field. I can’t thank the Holmatro Safety Team enough for their quick response along with the medical staff at INDYCAR, Pocono and Lehigh Valley Hospital – Cedar Crest. Also, thank you to the fans for reaching out with their support.”

IndyCar Paddock Pass: Pocono (VIDEO)

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NBCSN’s coverage of the Verizon IndyCar Series continues this weekend with the series trip to the “Tricky Triangle” for the ABC Supply 500 (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

The NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass also continues for another episode from the three-turn oval, Pocono Raceway, in Long Pond, Pa.

NBCSN IndyCar pit reporter and Indy Lights analyst Anders Krohn checks in for the latest edition of the show, which you can see above.

On tap in this week’s episode are interviews with Team Penske teammates Josef Newgarden and Will Power, and Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Hunter-Reay led first practice; however was involved in a heavy accident in qualifying later Saturday afternoon and transported to a nearby hospital.

His status is unclear for Sunday.

Newgarden leads the championship but had a tough qualifying run – he was only 14th Saturday afternoon – while Power was second among Chevrolets and starts fifth. He is the defending Pocono race winner.

You can see the episode above. Past IndyCar Paddock Pass episodes are below:


Chaves, Harding continue to shine at Pocono

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LONG POND, Pa. – In two previous starts in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, Gabby Chaves and Harding Racing have been shining stars, finishing ninth at the Indianapolis 500 and fifth at the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, avoiding several crashes and incidents in both races to do so, and advancing from 25th and 20th on the grid, respectively.

Returning to the series for this weekend’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway (Sunday 2:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN), the combination continues its remarkably strong form, qualifying eighth for Sunday’s race, third fastest of the Chevrolet runners.

And with the goal of turning the team into a full-time effort next year, Chaves and the team appear to be picking up right where they left off.

“We’re just here to improve our team, get it ready for next year,” Chaves told NBC Sports. “We’d like to go home with a great result of course, that’s always the aim. But I think the work we did throughout the practice improved the car enough to wear I was pretty comfortable at the end.”

Of course, even though the team is still very new to the world of racing (their first race was this year’s Indianapolis 500), it doesn’t stop Chaves from having lofty expectations.

“You always want to shoot for the win,” he asserted when asked about expectations for this weekend’s ABC Supply 500. “Obviously it’s never easy – with the limited time we have on track, it just makes it even harder on top of it. We’re always trying to keep our expectations high and do the best job we can to accomplish them.”

Gabby Chaves and Harding Racing have been very impressive out of the box. Photo: IndyCar

And perhaps Chaves is right to have big expectations given the team’s first two races. Ninth at Indianapolis and fifth at Texas are genuinely impressive results for the brand new team. And on the surface, they are a surprise, given the organization itself hadn’t run any races at any level prior to this year. But, Chaves explained that the people involved in the team are more than familiar with the sport and know how to build a successful operation.

“It’s just a matter of having the right people involved,” Chaves said of their early success. “Our team owner, Mike Harding, is very dedicated to making sure that we have the means to go out and hire the best people we can. It’s hard to do when the full-time teams have already got most of those guys, but there’s a few guys left out there who are very quality guys. Then that comes down to our team manager, Larry Curry, who has been able to track down these guys and give them a good offer to come on board with us. We’re just going to get better from here.”

Specifically, team manager Curry has been instrumental in recruiting talent and helping the team get ahead of the game, as Chaves explained.

“When it came down to our Indy deal, we started getting our car ready, and a little bit through his connections, we were able to get our mockup engine a little sooner, our body fit sooner – enough that we had the time to go out and test and do a shakedown run at Texas before Indy. It’s that type of experience and knowledge that Larry brings to the team that helps us out.”

NBCSN’s Robin Miller reported earlier this weekend in a piece for RACER.com that the team is ready for a full season in 2018, with Harding also telling the Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network’s Jake Query that “100 percent number” Miller cited is closer to 95 percent.

Chaves stopped short of going that far, but feels confident that a full-season effort will come together.

“Obviously, our plans are still to go out and run the full season. I’d say every day we get closer and closer to that. I’d say it’s looking really good. I know (Robin Miller’s report) mentions 100% – I think we’re close to that. But, it’s not done until it’s done. So I’ll just keep focused on my job here this weekend.”

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Power tops final practice at Pocono

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LONG POND, Pa. – Team Penske’s Will Power topped final practice for tomorrow’s ABC Supply 500 from Pocono Raceway. Power’s best lap of 216.294 mph was turned late in the session and pipped teammate Simon Pagenaud for the top spot, making it a Team Penske 1-2 in final practice. Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Max Chilton and Tony Kanaan were third and fourth, the best of the Honda teams, while Helio Castroneves rebounded from his earlier qualifying crash to end the session in fifth, putting three Penske cars in the top five.

Of note: pole sitter Takuma Sato was 11th quickest and Ed Carpenter was 16th, Carpenter having missed qualifying as Ed Carpenter Racing made repairs to his No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet and missed the lineup time for pre-qualifying inspection by only a few minutes.

Also: Andretti Autosport’s No. 28 DHL Honda, usually piloted by Ryan Hunter-Reay, did not venture onto the track for final practice, with Hunter-Reay currently being evaluated at a local hospital following a qualifying crash.

Times are below. Tomorrow’s ABC Supply 500 begins at 2:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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