Patrick Dempsey

Le Mans: GTE Key News and Notes

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As the battle between the production titans raged on at the front of the field throughout the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the race to win the GTE Pro and GTE Am classes was also very hotly contested.

Ultimately, the win in GTE Pro went to Ferrari’s AF Corse team with the No. 51 car, piloted by Gianmaria Bruni, Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander. However, the two lap margin of victory was rather generous following a supreme fight through the night between the No. 51, the No. 97 Aston Martin Racing car, and the No. 74 Chevrolet Corvette, with just three seconds separating the top three at points.

The AF Corse team managed to stay out of trouble, though, and led home the No. 73 Chevrolet Corvette of Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor. Last year’s class winner, the No. 92 Porsche Team Manthey car, completed the GTE Pro podium. Ferrari F1 driver and this year’s race starter Fernando Alonso took to Twitter to send his congratulations to the AF Corse drivers.

For Aston Martin, it was another difficult race at the Circuit de la Sarthe. The No. 97 was in the mix to claim class victory after Bruno Senna put in a superb overnight stint to lead ahead of Vilander and Tom Milner in the No. 74, with the latter eventually being classified in fourth place in class. Eventually, Aston Martin came unstuck again due to a loose steering pipe. Senna made his frustration clear on Twitter, but vowed to return in 2015 for a third shot at endurance glory.

In the GTE Am class, it was an emotional victory for the No. 95 Aston Martin Racing car. The all-Danish troupe of Kristian Poulsen, David Heinemeier-Hansson and Nicki Thiim dominated proceedings to win just a year after their teammate, Allan Simonsen, died on lap two of the race. A late technical scare on the car threatened to hand the win to Porsche, but the team soon fixed the issue and brought the car home.

Patrick Dempsey’s third attempt at Le Mans did not go entirely to plan. The Grey’s Anatomy star put in a solid performance behind the wheel, but after setting his sights on a podium finish in the GTE Am class, fifth place will have come as a bitter disappointment for his No. 77 Porsche team and co-pilots Joe Foster and Patrick Long.

On the same weekend as the World Cup began, a former winner was trying his hand in the most famous motor race. Fabien Barthez played an instrumental part in France’s victory at the 1998 tournament, playing in goal, but was forced to settle for ninth place on his debut at Le Mans in the No. 58 Team Sofrev car alongside Anthony Pons and Soheil Ayari.

An honorable mention has to go to the No. 79 Prospeed Competition car, which was fored to switch to GTE Pro at the last minute due to the withdrawal of its bronze-rated driver. Despite only having two drivers, the car ran well to finish fifth in class with Jeroen Bleekemolen and Cooper MacNeil sharing duties behind the wheel.

Backing up its class victory in GTE Pro, AF Corse secured a podium finish in GTE Am with the No. 61 car finishing third behind the No. 88 Proton Competition Porsche.

However, the early leader in the GTE Am class for AF Corse, the No. 81 car of Sam Bird, Stephen Wyatt and Michele Rugolo, got caught up in the incident between the No. 3 Audi and the No. 8 Toyota during the first rain shower on Saturday afternoon.

Just as it was a classic race at the front of the field in the LMP1 class, the GTEs certainly put on a show. The three GTE Pro cars dancing in the dark down the Mulsanne straight will remain as one of the greatest sights from this year’s race, and for the Danes in the No. 95 Aston Martin, this might just be the sweetest victory of all.

The FIA World Endurance Championship now begins its summer break, with the next round taking place at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin on the 20th September.

Bird, Stanaway and Evans receive LMP1 rookie test invites

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 28:  English driver Sam Bird of Virgin Racing during first practice on the second day of the 2015 FIA Formula E Visa London ePrix Championship at Battersea Park Track on June 28, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
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Sam Bird, Richie Stanaway and Mitch Evans have been invited to the end-of-season LMP1 rookie test in Bahrain following impressive outings in the FIA World Endurance Championship this season.

As part of the series’ drive to nurture and develop young talent, a single day of testing is scheduled at the Bahrain International Circuit one day after the 2015 WEC season ends, and will be attended by Audi, Toyota and Porsche.

In a statement issued by the WEC, it was confirmed that Bird, Stanaway and Evans had received the invites for this year’s LMP1 rookie test after “having shown the best performance, determination and race skills during 2015.

“Each of the prototype manufacturers will test with at least one LMP1 car, and each of the drivers chosen will be given the opportunity to complete at least 30 laps with one manufacturer. The LMP1 manufacturers may also use the time on track to test additional drivers if they wish.”

Bird has enjoyed a successful 2015 season, winning races in both the WEC with LMP2 team G-Drive and in Formula E with Virgin Racing. The former Mercedes junior driver will test with Toyota in Bahrain.

Stanaway has also been mixing single-seater and endurance duties this year, racing in both GP2 and the WEC with Aston Martin Racing in GTE Pro. He will step up to test with Audi.

Despite only taking part in two WEC rounds this season, Evans has made enough of an impact to grab the attention of the series promoter and earn an invite to the rookie test. The New Zealander has been Mark Webber’s protege for some time, making it somewhat unsurprising that he will now test with Porsche alongside his mentor in Bahrain.

“This first rookie test is a fantastic opportunity for these three up-and-coming endurance drivers to test an LMP1 prototype, the most technologically advanced race cars in the world,” WEC CEO Gerard Neveu said.

“We looked in depth at drivers from within the world of endurance racing before making the selection, and believe that Sam Bird, Mitch Evans and Richie Stanaway fully deserved the opportunity to demonstrate their talent and potential.

“This rookie test will give drivers an added bonus to their season, and forms an important element in the progressive career path available within the endurance family.”

The rookie test takes place on November 22, one day after the end of the WEC season.

Sainz airlifted to hospital following practice crash

xxxx during final practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on October 10, 2015 in Sochi, Russia.
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Carlos Sainz Jr. has been airlifted to hospital after a big crash during the final free practice session for the Russian Grand Prix on Saturday morning.

Under braking at turn 13, Sainz lost the backend of his Toro Rosso car, causing him to hit the left-hand wall before slamming into the TecPro barrier at the end of the run-off area.

The session was immediately red flagged as medical crews tended to Sainz, taking 20 minutes to extricate him from the Toro Rosso car due to how it had pitched under the barrier.

FIA media delegate Matteo Bonciani told reporters: “The driver is conscious and is still in the process of being extricated. When we know something, we will let you know.”

After being extricated from the car, Sainz was taken away on a stretcher before being placed in an ambulance, giving a thumbs up to let fans know that he was okay. He is also reported to have been talking to doctors in the medical centre after the crash.

Sainz has now been airlifted to hospital for further checks, and is set to miss qualifying later today, with Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost telling BBC Sport: “To sit him in the car immediately seems a bit risky, but we will wait and see.”

Toro Rosso has now issued the following statement:

“Following Carlos Sainz’s accident during FP3 today in Sochi, the driver is perfectly conscious and was able to talk to the extrication team. Once out of the car he was taken to the circuit Medical Centre, where he underwent an initial assessment of his condition.

“He has now been taken by air ambulance to the Sochi Hospital 4. Investigations on the reasons for the accident will take place once the car is back in the team’s garage.

“Further information will be released by the team and the FIA to the media when it is available.”

Sainz sent out a tweet from hospital confirming that he was okay following the shunt, and is now working to get back onto the grid for tomorrow’s race.