Le Mans: Prospeed, JMW GTE squads add American flavor

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It’s not a great year for full American teams to be heading to this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. But two GTE-Am class entries have added an American flavor in the last few days.

First up is the Prospeed Competition squad, which adds a second 2012-spec Porsche 911 GT3 RSR to the class for Jeroen Bleekemolen, Cooper MacNeil and Bret Curtis, with support from WeatherTech. The No. 79 entry runs as a sister car to Prospeed’s FIA World Endurance Championship-entered No. 75 car.

“Both of them have Le Mans experience, so we should be a very strong combination,” Bleekemolen said of his co-drivers. “We are not going to Le Mans just to make up numbers, at the same time, we know how competitive it is.”

The talented Dutch driver was set to drive for SRT Motorsports in GTE-Pro, before the team withdrew its two SRT Viper GTS-Rs.

Meanwhile the JMW Motorsport Ferrari squad has switched from longtime tire partner Dunlop to Michelin, and added depth on the driving and team fronts from Flying Lizard Motorsports. Americans Spencer Pumpelly and Seth Neiman join Abdulfaziz Alfaisal in the No. 66 Ferrari F458 Italia, with Flying Lizard team manager Eric Ingraham and strategist Thomas Blam also making the trip.

“I wasn’t sure I could find a way back to Le Mans after the class changes with the creation of [TUSC],” Neiman said. “Missing last year – my first June home in nearly a decade – was no fun at all. Doing so with JMW and Ferrari promises to be a very competitive experience. We will miss our normal co-drivers from the States, Dion and Nelson, but Spencer’s Le Mans experience is irreplaceable for this effort. This is a strong team, a strong car, with great co-drivers. I am really looking forward to this effort with JMW.”

A raft of withdrawals leave the 56-car field with no reserves, a little more than a month away before the race.

Kubica, di Resta complete Williams F1 tests in Hungary

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Robert Kubica and Paul di Resta have both completed one-day tests for Williams in a 2014-spec Formula 1 car as part of the team’s evaluation for its 2018 line-up.

Williams is known to be considering a number of drivers to partner Lance Stroll at the team next year, including existing racer Felipe Massa.

Massa is thought to be going up against Kubica and di Resta for the 2018 drive, with the latter duo taking part in a private test at the Hungaroring in Budapest this week to aid the team’s evaluation.

After missing out on a 2018 Renault drive due to lingering questions about his physical condition six years after his rally accident, Kubica tested for Williams at Silverstone last week before getting back behind the wheel of the 2014 FW36 car in Hungary on Tuesday.

Kubica’s test was called “productive” by Williams, with the Pole handing duties over to Mercedes DTM racer di Resta on Wednesday.

Di Resta raced in F1 with Force India between 2010 and 2013 before returning to DTM, but made a surprise return at this year’s Hungarian Grand Prix with Williams when Massa was taken ill. Di Resta impressed on short notice, putting himself in contention for a full-time return to F1 in 2018.

Williams has one of the few remaining seats on offer in F1 for 2018, with Massa’s future known to be in question after a quiet campaign thus far.

The Brazilian had been due to retire from F1 at the end of last year, only for Williams to recall him after Valtteri Bottas’ late move up to Mercedes following Nico Rosberg’s surprise retirement.

Massa has made clear he would like to keep racing in F1 next year, but only if the deal is right and if Williams is determined to keep him.

While Massa, Kubica and di Resta appear to be the three leading contenders for the seat, Williams technical chief Paddy Lowe made clear in Japan there was a “large range” of drivers under consideration.

“You’ve probably seen a number of names that are floating around that we’re looking at, but honestly, the range is almost unlimited,” Lowe said.

“We will consider all ideas. We’re not in a super hurry to do so, and we’ll just make sure we land the best line-up we can.”