Le Mans: Aston Martin, AF Corse win in GTE; Jota Sport in LMP2

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One year ago at Le Mans, Aston Martin Racing endured through a dark day with the tragic death of Danish driver Allan Simonsen (pictured, last year prior to his fatal early crash at Tertre Rouge).

But today, their No. 95 team – the team that Simonsen competed for in last year’s 24 Hours – earned top honors in GTE-Am with the all-Danish driver lineup of Kristian Poulsen, David Heinemeier Hansson, and Nicki Thiim.

Poulsen brought the No. 95 to the checkered flag with a two-lap advantage over the No. 88 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR. The No. 61 AF Corse Ferrari was third.

It marks the second Le Mans win for Poulsen, who picked up an LMP2 victory in the 2009 race while driving the Team Essex Porsche RS Spyder. As for Thiim and DHH, it’s their first Le Mans win.

In the GTE-Pro class, AF Corse chalked up the win with Gianmaria Bruni, Toni Vilander, and Giancarlo Fisichella in their No. 51 Ferrari 458 Italia.

For a time, AF Corse’s fight with the Aston Martin and Corvette Racing camps in GTE-Pro was the highlight of the entire race itself. But they were able to outlast them both, with the No. 73 Corvette finishing second at one lap behind. The No. 92 Porsche Team Manthey 911 RSR completes the Pro podium, two laps down.

And in LMP2, the No. 38 Jota Sport Zytek-Nissan held on by a slim margin after getting a final splash of fuel in the last half-hour of the race.

When Marc Gene was called in to drive for Audi after Loic Duval’s vicious crash, Oliver Turvey stepped in to help the No. 38 team and co-drivers Harry Tincknell and Simon Dolan. It was Turvey that wound up closing out the race for the No. 38.

Chasing them to the bitter end was the No. 46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Ligier, which survived an instance of suspension damage with four hours remaining. Third place went to the No. 36 Signatech Alpine/Nissan.

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.