2014 24 Hours of Le Mans Race Updates

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Rolling updates from the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans are below…

7:00 a.m. ET: It’s game over for Porsche. A strategic chess match between the No. 20 Porsche and No. 2 Audi has now fallen to Audi, with Mark Webber’s Porsche slowing on the Mulsanne Straight with just over two-hours to go.

LMP2 may still be a shootout with the top three within a minute.

6:00 a.m. ET: Just when the LMP1 and LMP2 classes appeared to be settled, drama has struck at Le Mans to blow the race wide open with three hours to go at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

The No. 1 Audi, piloted by Tom Kristensen, enjoyed a healthy lead over the No. 20 Porsche, but this was lost when the car came to a halt on the exit of the first chicane. The Dane managed to restart the car, only to return to the pits for a turbocharger change. Lucas di Grassi got behind the wheel and rejoined in third place.

Timo Bernhard currently leads the race for Porsche, but he is being chased by Andre Lotterer in the No. 2 Audi, who is less than ten seconds down the road.

The GTE Pro class is currently still being led by the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari of Toni Vilander, whilst the No. 95 Aston Martin is heading up the GTE Am class.

With three hours to go, the race has been turned on its head – and there’s still a long way to go.

In LMP2, the No. 46 Ligier surrendered the lead due to a suspension problem, handing control of the class to Oak Racing and Alex Brundle.

4:00 a.m. ET: We’ve had a great lead battle in GTE-Pro between the No. 51 Ferrari and No. 97 Aston Martin come to an end after the No. 97 went to the garage with overheating issues, and lost more than 20 minutes.

The LMP2 leader had a problem as well at the end of the 19th hour, with the No. 35 OAK Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan going behind the wall with apparent engine issues. The similar Ligier JS P2 Nissan entry, the No. 46 fielded by Thiriet by TDS Racing, now leads.

The No. 1 Audi (LMP1) and No. 95 Aston Martin (GTE-Am) are the other class leaders.

1:05 a.m. ET: More drama up front, this time for Audi. The No. 2 Audi had taken over the overall lead following the No. 7’s retirement, due to an electrical issue with the car’s wiring loom.

But just before the 16-hour mark, the No. 2 Audi driven by Marcel Fassler pitted to replace the turbo. That promoted the sister No. 1 car to the lead.

Other class leaders include the No. 35 OAK Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan (LMP2), No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia (GTE-Pro) and No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage (GTE-Am).

11:30 p.m. ET: A stellar race from the No. 7 Toyota has ended in disaster and a retirement from this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. Kaz Nakajima was driving the TS040 Hybrid when it came to a stop on the track a short time ago.

One of Nakajima’s co-drivers, Alex Wurz, captured the despair in the Toyota camp with a tweet:

Toyota’s Rob Leupen told Fox Sports that an electrical problem was the culprit behind the demise of the No. 7.

“It’s motorsport,” Leupen ended with a sad shrug.

With nine and a half hours remaining, the No. 2 Audi has taken control of the lead with Benoit Treluyer currently driving.

9 p.m. ET (HALFWAY HOME): It’s 12 hours down, 12 more to go in this year’s running of the world’s most prestigious sports car race – which is firmly in Toyota’s control at the moment.

Their No. 7 TS040 Hybrid is now out to a lead of almost two minutes over the No. 2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro, which is managing to stay on the lead lap but can’t make up major progress.

Shortly before the 12-hour mark, Audi’s No. 1 car suddenly slowed on course and driver Tom Kristensen was forced to limp it around and back to the pits, where the crew quickly tried to diagnose the problem.

The No. 1 eventually got back on track with Lucas di Grassi now driving, but not before multiple minutes had been lost. A tweet on the Audi Sport Twitter account listed a injector change on the car.

Leading up to halfway, the hottest battle had been contested in GTE-Pro between the No. 97 Aston Martin, No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari, and No. 74 Chevrolet Corvette. But right now, the Aston Martin remains ahead of both the Ferrari and the ‘Vette.

In GTE-Am, the No. 98 Aston Martin was forced to abandon its lead and go into the garage for repairs. It eventually returned to the track but is now well off the pace; Fox Sports reported that the team had to replace the car’s power steering.

The good news for the Aston camp is that another of its Am cars, the No. 95 Vantage V8, has picked up the flag and is leading in their category.

Finally, the No. 35 OAK Racing machine with Alex Brundle in the cockpit continues to hold the point in LMP2.

6:10 p.m. ET: A touch late on this nine-hour update from Le Mans, but we held off to take into account pit stops from the race-leading No. 7 Toyota (Alex Wurz) and second-place No. 2 Audi (Marcel Fassler).

Prior to the stops, Wurz held a lead of roughly one and a half minutes to continue Toyota’s hold on the event. But after the stops, Wurz’s lead grew by an additional ten seconds. Fassler’s teammate, Marc Gene, has the No. 1 Audi in third place at one lap off the pace.

Also pitting close to 6 p.m. ET was the LMP2 class-leading No. 35 OAK Racing Ligier/Nissan (Jann Mardenborough). He continues to run ahead of the No. 36 Signatech Alpine ORECA/Nissan in that category.

Meanwhile, in GTE, Aston Martin has taken control of the lead in both the Pro and Am classes. In Pro, the No. 97 Vantage V8 of Stefan Mucke currently leads the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari and No. 74 Chevy Corvette, while in Am, the No. 98 of Pedro Lamy is ahead of the pack.

3:30 p.m. ET: Six-plus hours are in the books and after the incidents and rain that peppered the first few hours, the race is starting to settle into a rhythm.

The No. 7 Toyota retook the overall lead; a couple issues hit the No. 20 Porsche, including a puncture and a brief off at Arnage corner. Of note, Mark Webber has taken over from Hartley behind the wheel.

LMP2 has seen the No. 34 Race Performance Oreca 03 Judd the lone interloper among a quartet of Nissans (Nos. 26, 35, 36, 46, which are Oreca 03, Ligier JS P2 and Alpine A450 branded chassis).

Corvette Racing has led in GTE-Pro and Aston Martin Racing in GTE-Am.

Just now though the third safety car period is out for the No. 47 KCMG Oreca 03 Nissan, an early-race leader, at the exit of Porsche Curves.

1 p.m. ET: After falling behind the Audi and Toyota camps in the first hour, Porsche is now leading the way at the four-hour mark with its No. 20 Porsche 919 Hybrid, which is currently being driven by Brendon Hartley.

Timo Bernhard handed the No. 20 over to Hartley early in the race’s fourth hour, and Hartley cycled back to the lead when the No. 7 Toyota of Stephane Sarrazin pitted a short time later.

However, Sarrazin has begun to mount a charge and Hartley’s lead is now under a mere 10 seconds. Audi’s No. 2 R18 e-tron quattro runs third overall with Benoit Treluyer at the wheel.

A lead change in GTE-Pro has also gone down, as Tommy Milner got his No. 74 Chevrolet Corvette around the No. 91 Porsche Team Manthey 911 RSR of Jorg Bergmeister.

In LMP2, Michel Frey was leading right up to the end of the hour, when he chose to pit. That gave the class lead to Paul-Loup Chatin in the No. 36 Signatech Alpine ORECA.

As for GTE-Am, Christoffer Nygaard sits in front in the No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage V8, while Patrick Dempsey currently runs second after taking over from Patrick Long in the No. 77 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.

11:30 a.m. ET: We went back to green, briefly, after a 40-plus minutes safety car period. But another one has just occurred as after a brief period of sunshine, rain has returned to the Circuit de la Sarthe. An incident between two LMP2 cars (Nos. 48 and 41) and a spin by the oldest driver in the field, 65-year-old Harold Blank in the No. 62 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia on the Mulsanne, occurred.

We’re almost to the end of the three-hour mark, which will occur at noon ET.

10:30 a.m. ET: How fast can it change here? We’ve just had a sudden downpour and mass chaos at various points on the track.

Both the No. 3 Audi and No. 8 Toyota are crashed on the Mulsanne Corner and one of the AF Corse cars, the No. 81 Ferrari F458 Italia, is also involved.

We’ll sort this out as soon as the marshals and weather do so out themselves. We’re now under a safety car.

10:25 a.m. ET: The opening line of “Truth in 24” has occurred: It always rains in Le Mans. And now it is, at a couple random parts of the circuit including Tertre Rouge and briefly on pit lane. Need change? Wait a few minutes.

10:15 a.m. ET: The first hour of the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans is in the books. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Toyota leads in the No. 7 Toyota TS040 Hybrid that took the pole position. Alexander Wurz had a moment as he exited just ahead of Andre Lotterer on the first round of pit stops.

Audi’s moved up nicely with the No. 2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro, driven in its first stint by Andre Lotterer. The No. 8 Toyota and No. 3 Audi were also in striking distance.

Both of the Porsches have fallen back; the No. 14 went behind the wall for nine minutes with fuel pressure issues and the No. 20 has been running two seconds off the pace all race.

Other class leaders at the one-hour mark include KCMG’s No. 47 Oreca 03 Nissan in LMP2 (Alexandre Imperatori driving), AF Corse’s No. 51 Ferrari F458 Italia in GTE-Pro (Gianmaria Bruni) and JMW Motorsport’s No. 66 Ferrari F458 Italia in GTE-Am (Seth Neiman). The latter leader took the lead during the first pit stop cycle.

The No. 0 Nissan ZEOD RC became the first official retirement, with gearbox issues.

Force India F1 to race with pink ribbon for Breast Cancer Care

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Force India has announced the start of a multi-year partnership with the Breast Cancer Care charity that will see its Formula 1 cars race with a pink ribbon, starting at this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.

Force India turned its cars pink for the 2017 season after striking a sponsorship agreement with BWT, and will now incorporate the pink ribbon – the global symbol for breast cancer – into its livery.

As per the team, “the focus races will be Monaco, Montreal, Silverstone, Austin and Mexico City where the Breast Cancer Care and pink ribbon will be positioned on the top of the chassis.”

“Our cars turning pink created a lot of positive buzz and it’s a pleasure to be able to harness this feeling to raise awareness for such an important cause and charity,” Force India team principal Dr. Vijay Mallya said.

“We are proud to be working with Breast Cancer Care to bring their work into the spotlight and take advantage of Formula 1’s global reach to improve the lives of everyone affected, directly and indirectly, by breast cancer.”

Andy Harris, director of fundraising and marketing at Breast Cancer Care, added: “Today we are announcing an exciting new partnership with Sahara Force India – and we couldn’t be more delighted.

“Together our goal is to reach more people affected by breast cancer faster. Force India is committed to working with Breast Cancer Care to help achieve our ambition of doubling the number of men and women we support by 2020.

“We want to make sure everyone affected by this life-threatening disease gets the care and support they need to help them through one of the most difficult challenges they could ever face.”

Alonso, Rossi visit NASCAR AMERICA as part of New York media day (VIDEO)

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The defending Indianapolis 500 champion and the driver who’s generated most of the headlines around this year’s 101st running included NBCSN’s NASCAR AMERICA as part of their New York media tour.

Alexander Rossi and Fernando Alonso joined the show this evening. Rossi, driver of the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda will start third and Alonso, driver of the No. 29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda, will roll off from fifth.

The race airs Sunday at 11 a.m. ET on ABC. NBCSN’s coverage of Carb Day is live on Friday from 11 a.m. ET.

 

Indy 500 media day roundup

Photo: IndyCar
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Tuesday marked a busy day for the drivers that make up the field for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. While there was no on-track activity, and won’t be again until Miller Lite Carb Day (5/26 at 11:00 a.m. on NBCSN), the field of 33 were scattered around the country doing a bevy of appearances in the lead up to Sunday’s race. Below is a list drivers and the places they visited.

Bristol, Connecticut/ESPN: James Hinchcliffe
Buffalo: Graham Rahal
Charlotte: Will Power
Chicago: Juan Pablo Montoya
Columbus: Mikhail Aleshin
Dallas-Fort Worth: Tony Kanaan
Dayton: Jack Harvey, Zach Veach
Denver: Buddy Lazier
Detroit: Carlos Munoz, Simon Pagenaud, Spencer Pigot
Fort Wayne: Jay Howard, James Davison
Houston: Helio Castroneves
Louisville: Pippa Mann, Ed Jones
Miami-Fort Lauderdale: Oriol Servia, Gabby Chaves, Sebastian Saavedra
Milwaukee: Max Chilton, Charlie Kimball
New York: Alexander Rossi, Conor Daly, Fernando Alonso
Philadelphia: Marco Andretti, Sage Karam
St. Louis: Ed Carpenter, Takuma Sato
San Francisco: JR Hildebrand
Tampa-St. Petersburg: Ryan Hunter-Reay
Toronto: Scott Dixon
Washington: Josef Newgarden

It was a day that began early for all drivers, particularly those in transit. However, drivers like Fernando Alonso, Alexander Rossi, and Conor Daly got a jump on their travels last night.

Meanwhile, Oriol Servia, Sebastian Saavedra, and Gabby Chaves flew out early this morning. Servia used the travel to get in some much needed rest ahead of the busy day.

Unsurprisingly, the driver most in demand was Fernando Alonso, who spoke with such outlets as CNN and Sports Illustrated, among others.

Conor Daly, meanwhile, had a unique run-in with professional wrestling star Ric Flair.

Last year’s pole sitter, James Hinchcliffe, kept himself busy with a visit to ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut. He also spent time at their Los Angeles location ahead of this year’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, a race in which he won.

And not all of the appearances were within the United States. Polesitter Scott Dixon ventured north of the border to Toronto for his media blitz.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, on the other hand, ventured closer to home, as the Florida native spent his day in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area.

 

Some drivers even got a little racing in. For example, Pippa Mann enjoyed an arm chair race (which she won) during her stop in Louisville.

Rossi and Alonso, however, kept their racing in the virtual world.

Perhaps the most interesting activity, however, was reserved for Ed Jones. Before joining teammate Pippa Mann in Louisville, Jones joined Zach Veach and Jack Harvey at American Dairy Association Indiana, where Jones was afforded the chance to milk a cow.

A full rundown of events can be seen via the Verizon IndyCar Series twitter.

 

Follow Kyle Lavigne.

Alberico living up to ‘Rising Star’ name in solid start to second year

Alberico and Hale. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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INDIANAPOLIS – There’s something about Neil Alberico in his second year in a Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires series that brings out the best for the 24-year-old out of Los Gatos, Calif. who now lives in San Clemente.

Alberico, the Rising Star Racing-supported driver, always seems to improve in year two and has done so throughout his now six years in the MRTI.

In the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, Alberico switched from JDC Motorsports as a rookie to Cape Motorsports as a sophomore from 2012 to 2013. He improved from seventh in points to second, and won six races that second year.

The same story applied on the next rung in Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, although he stayed with Cape for both seasons. Third without a win in 2014 ceded to four wins and second place in 2015.

Arguably the best driver who has not yet won a championship in those series, Alberico has positioned himself nicely for the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires title this year as Carlin’s emerging lead driver following a solid first few weekends of the year, as he now seeks his first win in Indy Lights to keep the career trend going.

Entering Friday’s Freedom 100, the marquee race of the Indy Lights season (live, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN), Alberico has opened his 2017 account in the No. 22 Dallara IL-15 Mazda with two thirds, two fourths and a sixth place thus far in six races. He sits fourth in points with 103, 36 back of points leader and fellow Californian Kyle Kaiser. For reference, persistent and continual mechanical issues and engine changes stunted a miserable debut season in 2016, and Alberico only had two top-six finishes all season, and left him 11th in points.

Now though Alberico has ascended to the team leader role at the Trevor Carlin-owned, Colin Hale-managed squad. He drives alongside Zachary Claman De Melo, who switched from Juncos Racing, and rookies Matheus Leist and Garth Rickards. All but Rickards have at least one podium this season as the new-look lineup finds its footing.

“Playing the leadership role in a team, I’m used to it,” Alberico told NBC Sports. “I’m comfortable doing what I can do. And that’s your job as a teammate. You have to be fast yourself, but there’s driver and team championships that exist – and we want to win them both.”

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Alberico credits a healthy offseason program where he undertook a lot of private testing and a year’s worth experience both in these cars and with a team that has led to his growth. He also feels more comfortable with the Indy Lights-specification of Cooper Tires, as he struggled to maximize their pace on an optimal lap in qualifying last year.

“Every year you adapt to new challenges as a driver. Last year as a rookie the tire was a big part of that challenge that I needed to learn,” he said. “But it’s now gone more to my favor – or more what I’m used to.

“Going into the offseason, it’s been nice to have a lot of private test time. When you have a private test, there’s driving stuff you can work on, being good on cold tires, or having new tires to work on. It’s the small little details. When you have private time to work on yourself, that’s the most productive.”

While Alberico is serious about the task at hand, he’s not afraid to have fun and laugh it off at the track. That humor involves his engineer, Geoff Fickling, team manager, Hale, and his supporters in Rising Star Racing.

Alberico and Fickling, a renowned and championship-winning engineer in multiple rungs of the MRTI (Ed Jones with Carlin last year and Gabby Chaves with Belardi in 2014 in Indy Lights, plus Jack Hawksworth with Pelfrey in 2012 in Pro Mazda), live not far apart in San Clemente, and at times, almost spend too much time together.

Alberico and Fickling. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

“Geoff and I get along great on a personal level. But sometimes he hates when I’m at his house looking for data – he’s gotta be like, ‘I want to get away, and I can’t get away from my driver!’” Alberico laughed. “But he’s very thorough. He’ll go the extra mile to teach me more what I need to learn.”

Alberico has also started making his Instagram videos must-see-content for the rather hilarious interaction between the laid-back Californian and the focused, often intently serious Hale, who has made Carlin a championship-winner in Indy Lights in just its second season. There’s a confidence Alberico has in providing humor here that may not have existed last year given the struggles that were out of his, or the team’s control.

And then there’s the fact Alberico was the one responsible for bringing in the most out-of-left-field IndyCar sponsor this year, which was awesome, in Loki the Wolfdog. We’ll let Neil take it from here…

“Rising Star Racing is, for those that don’t know, such an awesome initiative through MRTI into IndyCar,” Alberico said. “Spencer Pigot and I have been part of that program, which does a lot for young drivers.

“The Loki deal is just basically a friend of mine with a really famous Instagram dog. Social media has become a huge part of the sport the last several years, and I think sponsor and teams need to adapt at those times.”

Loki was on site at Long Beach and met Pigot there for the first time, thanks to the connection between the Rising Star Racing teammates. It’s not been the only partner Alberico has brought in; Laguna Beach-based modern drug addiction and alcoholism treatment center Oceanfront Recovery is on both Alberico’s Indy Lights car and Pigot’s No. 11 Juncos Racing Chevrolet in the Indianapolis 500.

Pigot and Alberico have been Art Wilmes’ two “primary” drivers for RSR over the years, but not the only ones RSR has supported.

Pigot, Loki the Wolfdog, and “Squad” over their shoulder. Go figure. Photo: IndyCar

There’s others such as last year’s Pro Mazda champion, Indy Lights rookie Aaron Telitz (who actually won on his debut at St. Petersburg and has been overlooked from a media perspective) and another MRTI veteran Jake Eidson in the RSR roster. RSR is set to formally add Oliver Askew, who’s off to a stellar start in USF2000, rather soon.

Telitz (center), Herta (left) and Alberico (right) made it an all-American podium at St. Pete. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

As Alberico heads to the Freedom 100 this weekend, he’s got the continuity from a team and engineering standpoint, and determined to secure his breakthrough win in a year when Telitz, Colton Herta and Nico Jamin have all become Indy Lights race winners.

“I like staying with the same team. When you gel with team mechanics, engineers, you don’t want to go through the new process again,” Alberico said. “That’s why you do better in your second year, and in the third year even more so.

“At the IndyCar level it’s about those 10-plus year relationships – and that’s hard to create as a rookie! So you have to learn and adapt with those with 10-year relationships.

“Here, the wind is a bigger factor. But we have the race lap record! We’re not slow. We like this place. Let’s put ourselves in position to win the race.”

Alberico, who mentioned the wind there, also had the chance to play weatherman for the local CBS affiliate (WTTV-4) here in Indianapolis last week. And that provided him and Telitz a chance to provide some competitive banter beyond what they’ve done on track.