Le Mans: Meet the Americans in this year’s 24 Hours

Leave a comment

One of the things that’s always cool to watch at the 24 Hours of Le Mans is the American presence. Here’s a quick primer on the 18 American drivers (4 LMP2, 2 GTE-Pro, 12 GTE-Am) in this year’s race:

  • David Cheng, Chinese-born but sharing U.S. and Hong Kong residence, makes his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut in the No. 33 OAK Racing Team Asia Ligier JS P2 HPD in LMP2. Cheng is the 2013 Asian Le Mans Series champion and also has a PC class win at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on his resume.
  • Matt McMurry and Chris Dyson share the seat of the No. 42 Caterham Racing Zytek Z11SN Nissan (LMP2). McMurry, 16, will set a record as the youngest driver ever to compete at Le Mans and is Dyson Racing’s first Junior Development Driver. Mentor and teammate Dyson returns to Le Mans as a driver for the first time since 2009.
  • The brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor, who drive for Wayne Taylor Racing in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, are split at Le Mans. Ricky will co-drive the No. 50 Larbre Competition Morgan Judd in LMP2; Jordan is one of two Americans in Corvette Racing’s six-driver lineup, sharing the No. 73 Corvette C7.R.
  • Former Le Mans class winner Tommy Milner shares the No. 74 Corvette C7.R. He and Jordan Taylor are the only two Americans in the GTE-Pro class.
  • South African born Mark Patterson races under U.S. nationality and shares the No. 53 Ram Racing Ferrari F458 Italia in GTE-Am.
  • One of only four U.S.-entered teams, Krohn Racing was a late GTE-Am entrant due to Strakka Racing’s withdrawal and team principal Tracy Krohn is again back in the No. 57 Ferrari F458 Italia.
  • Bronze-rated gentlemen drivers Peter Ashley Mann (No. 60) and Howard Blank (No. 62) are in two of AF Corse’s four GTE-Am entered Ferrari F458 Italias.
  • Flying Lizard Motorsports TUDOR United SportsCar Championship drivers Seth Neiman and Spencer Pumpelly are two of the three drivers in the GTE-Am No. 66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari F458 Italia.
  • Dempsey Racing’s GTE-Am entry with Proton Competition (No. 77) features the only all-American driver lineup: Patrick Dempsey, Joe Foster and Patrick Long.
  • A pair of Americans, Cooper MacNeil and Bret Curtis (No. 79) will be in the WeatherTech-backed Proton Competition Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, a 2012-spec car in GTE-Am.
  • Frankie Montecalvo (No. 90) replaces Enzo Potolicchio in the 8Star Motorsports’ Ferrari F458 Italia.

F1 Preview: 2018 Australian Grand Prix

Photo: Getty Images
Leave a comment

Save for two occasions, in 2006, and 2010, the Australian Grand Prix has served as the season-opening event for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since 1996, and this weekend’s event will be the 21st time that the city of Melbourne has kicked off the Formula 1 campaign.

The 2018 season is the fifth one of the current hybrid power unit era, the second season of the current aero regulations, and the second under Liberty Media’s guidance.

Last year saw titans Mercedes AMG Petronas and Scuderia Ferrari duel for supremacy for most of the season before Mercedes distanced Ferrari late in the season to take the constructor’s title and the driver’s title, with Lewis Hamilton, who is now tied with Sebastian Vettel on four world championships apiece.

Four drivers on the grid have Formula 1 world championships to their name: Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, and Fernando Alonso. Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley also has a world championship to his name as a two-time titlist in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

So, what can viewers expect from the 2018 curtain-raiser in Australia? A handful of things to watch are below?

2018 Australian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Does Anyone Have Anything for Mercedes?

Only on one day during pre-season testing did a Mercedes driver lead the way – Lewis Hamilton was fastest on the final day of Week 1 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

However, all indications were that was by design, with the team focusing the majority of the second week, if not the entire second week, on long runs with their W09 EQ Power+ chassis.

Such a decision is an ominous one, in that it indicates the team is very comfortable with the amount of speed in the car and did not see a need, or desire, to show their hand during testing.

With that in mind, the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas may yet again have the best and fastest cars, and the team looks poised to potentially make it five constructor’s and driver’s championships in a row.

Ferrari and Red Bull Look to End Mercedes Reign

The biggest threats to Mercedes are undoubtedly Ferrari and Red Bull, the only other teams to win in 2017.

And both teams displayed a lot of pace during testing, particularly in the “one-lap speed” category. Ricciardo set a lap record around the Catalunya circuit during the second week, only for Vettel to supplant that mark later in the week. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen led the way during the final day of testing.

It is unknown how that pace will translate over the course of a race distance. Mercedes appeared to have an edge on both Ferrari and Red Bull over long runs and race simulations, but there is also a theory that neither Ferrari nor Red Bull had their true long-run form on display.

Still, if a team is going to knock off Mercedes, it will likely be either Ferrari or Red Bull.

McLaren on the Rebound?

Put simply, the previous three seasons for McLaren F1 Team were a bit of a disaster. Their partnership with Honda yielded point totals of 27 (2015), 76 (2016), and 30 (2017) in a three-year venture that was defined by poor reliability and underwhelming power.

The relationship hit a boiling point last year and both entities parted ways ahead of the 2018 season, with McLaren signing a new power unit deal with Renault.

Testing went better than in previous years, though the team continued to battle reliability problems. However, all issues appeared to be minor, needling issues rather than more significant, foundational problems, as the other Renault teams (Red Bull and Renault Sport F1 Team) had solid runs with few reliability issues.

The car does appear to have speed in it, so if the reliability problems are behind them, McLaren could be in for a rebound season.

Stuck in the Midfield Again

Formula 1’s battle amongst the midfield is set to be as fierce as ever as a host of a several teams have a chance at being “best of the rest.”

Sahara Force India has been the frontrunner from the the midfield teams each of the last two years, finishing fourth in the constructor’s title in both 2016 and 2017, though if the steady conflict between drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez continues through 2018, it could hamper their efforts significantly.

Renault Sport F1 Team and Haas F1 Team look to improve on their 2017 form, while Toro Rosso is in a new partnership with Honda power units…and has experienced a surprisingly smooth pre-season as Honda’s 2018 platform looks significantly better, with the team enjoying a solid run of testing with few, if any, reliability problems.

Williams Martini Racing and Alfa Romeo Sauber appear to be at the back of the pack entering the season, but both could battle for points finishes if those ahead of them falter.