IndyCar: Andretti confirms RHR, DHL extensions; reveals more on 2015

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WEST ALLIS, Wis. – “The family” of DHL, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Andretti Autosport will continue for a further three seasons.

The current Indianapolis 500 champion joined his team boss, Michael Andretti, and DHL Express U.S. CEO Mike Parra to confirm the partnership before today’s ABC Supply Co. Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest Presented by the Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers.

“It’s a really big day for us and for IndyCar, to have DHL committed to a multi-year deal,” Andretti said.

Added Hunter-Reay, “I can’t say enough about DHL from day one we worked together back in 2011. We’ve grown as a team, and as a family. We’ve just won the biggest race together, and the 2012 championship. And we’re working hard for more.”

Parra added the partnership extension was “not a difficult one” and that it provided huge ad value for the company. International races were also mentioned, but not expanded.

What followed in an impromptu Q&A with Andretti directly provided a series of nuggets.

First, the team’s possible sports car program – Andretti had been rumored to run a new HPD ARX-04b coupe – is all but dead for 2015.

“It doesn’t look like that’s gonna happen. Something fell through and it’s disappointing,” Andretti said.

The focus, instead, shifts to the goal of a fifth full-time IndyCar for 2015. It does “not necessarily” need to be Simon Pagenaud.

Andretti did confirm Carlos Munoz for a second season alongside RHR and Marco Andretti. Sponsorship-wise, Marco Andretti’s car is likely to have different sponsors for at least selected races and Michael Andretti did not confirm the Dr Pepper Snapple group’s full-time presence – yet anyway. The team now works to re-sign James Hinchcliffe. Andretti did say he was pleased to have three cars already put to bed.

One of Andretti’s Indy Lights drivers, Zach Veach, could drive a partial IndyCar season in 2015 if he wins this year’s Lights championship. Andretti said he has a lot of time for both Veach and Matty Brabham, who finished 1-2 in today’s race. However, he could not commit to running either of them with the new Indy Lights chassis in 2015; Andretti said he’ll only run one if he can find a paying driver.

“The only way I can do it is if I can find kids who can afford paying for the car,” Andretti said. “I won’t be able to go out and buy the new chassis. It’s not dead, it’s still possible, but at this time we don’t have anything.”

Andretti’s Pro Mazda team is also a question mark, while Andretti said he hopes to reveal the second driver (or drivers) of his second FIA Formula E entry soon.

As for the Andretti Sports Marketing department, Andretti is optimistic the New Orleans race – discussed earlier this year – will happen in 2015.

“We’re working on New Orleans. We’re announcing it hopefully somewhere soon,” Andretti said. “We’re very excited about this event. It’s going to be way bigger than people think. It will be for ’15.”

Asked on a date, Andretti replied, “I think they have a spot, I’m not gonna say where, but we’ll be happy with what’s being discussed.”

And as for this race, in the first of its two-year deal in August, Andretti said walkup ticket sales will be key.

“We have another year. We’re still building and we want to go beyond next year,” he said. “I think today’s walkup is important. Sponsorship is way up. We’re going the right direction; we continue to build and we want to say next year that hopefully we can continue this thing.”

IMSA: Rolex 24 Team Preview – GTLM

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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MotorSportsTalk’s Kyle Lavigne continues the team preview of entries for the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona with the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class. At nine entries, it is the smallest of the three classes entered in this weekend’s Rolex 24 and down from last year’s 11 entries, but past events indicate it may be the event’s most competitive class.

The 2017 Rolex 24 saw four different marques from four different teams battling for the GTLM win late in the race, with Ford Chip Ganassi Racing taking the win with Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais. And in 2016, Corvette Racing saw its No. 3 and 4 entries duel to the checkered flag, with Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, and Marcel Fassler victorious in the No. 4 machine.

Below is a breakdown of the teams entered in the GTLM class.

Corvette Racing
Car: Corvette C7.R
No. 3 (Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, Mike Rockenfeller)
No. 4 (Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, Marcel Fassler)

Outlook: Corvette Racing has been a perennial powerhouse in GT racing over the entirety of the 21st century, and that isn’t something that’s likely to change. Coming off their 13th championship last year – Garcia and Magnussen took home last year’s GTLM driver’s crown – Corvette Racing now hunts for its fourth Rolex 24 triumph.

With an unchanged package that is proven to be both fast and reliable, Corvette Racing looks set to again feature prominently in the GTLM battle. Barring problems, both cars should be battling up front for the win.

BMW Team RLL
Car: BMW M8 GTLM
No. 24 (Jesse Krohn, John Edwards, Nicky Catsburg, Augusto Farfus)
No. 25 (Alexander Sims, Connor De Phillippi, Bill Auberlen, Philipp Eng)

Outlook: Of all the GTLM entries, BMW Team RLL sees by far the most change to its program. Out is the M6 GTLM and in is the brand new M8 GTLM. Jesse Krohn, Nicky Catsburg, Augusto Farfus, Philipp Eng and Connor De Phillippi are all new drivers to the team, while veteran Bill Auberlen will only contest the four Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup events in 2018.

At the Roar Before the 24, the program appeared to lack speed. Sunday qualifying, to decide pit stall and garage selection, saw the No. 25 qualify the better of the two BMWs, but one second slower than the next quickest car – the BMW set a 1:45.056 for seventh in GTLM, behind the Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE, which set a 1:44.037.

It remains to be seen if there is more speed in the BMW machines, but they remain the most unproven of the GTLM entries. A victory seems out of reach at the moment, but that could change if the package improves.

Risi Competizione
Car: Ferrari 488 GTE
No. 62 (Toni Vilander, Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado, Davide Rigon)

Outlook: Risi Competizione came excruciatingly close to winning last year’s Rolex, but a late-race battle between James Calado and Dirk Mueller, of Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, saw Mueller come out on top, while Calado was shuffled back to third by the time the checkered flag fell.

They did not win an event last year, but this is a team that knows how to win big races – they have previously won the Motul Petit Le Mans – and should once again prove to be a major player in the GTLM battle.

The only major change comes in their driver lineup, with Alessandro Pier Guidi and David Rigon joining the lineup and Giancarlo Fisichella departing. But, with Calado and Toni Vilander returning to anchor the driving team, this change is not expected to slow the team down. Expect them to battle at the front all race long.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing
Car: Ford GT
No. 66 (Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller, Sebastien Bourdais)
No. 67 (Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook, Scott Dixon)

Outlook: Ford Chip Ganassi Racing returns to the Rolex 24 as defending race winners – Hand, Mueller, and Bourdais delivered the victory in 2017. Further, they return with the same driver lineups and car they used. In short, every indication is that they enter this year’s event as favorites to repeat.

The Roar Before the 24 gave further evidence of this. Both of the cars were among the quickest in every session at the Roar, and Sunday qualifying saw its No. 66 end up at the top of the board, with the No. 67 in third.

The GTLM field is strong all the way around, but this team is likely the favorite entering the event.

Porsche GT Team
Car: Porsche 911 RSR

No. 911 (Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy, Frederic Makowiecki)
No. 912 (Laurens Vanthoor, Earl Bamber, Gianmaria Bruni)

Outlook: Porsche GT Team brings with it a star-studded driver lineup that features former class winners of the Rolex 24, former overall winners of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and a ton of all-around talent.

The team finished a close second at last year’s Rolex 24, with the No. 911 entry, behind the race-winning Ford from Chip Ganassi’s stable. Later that year, they visited victory lane – Porsche finished 1-2 at Lime Rock Park, with the No. 911 taking the victory – proving that the mid-engine 911 RSR is more than up to the task and gives the team everything they need to be contenders.

Porsche will have a fight on their hands, but this is a team that expects to compete for a victory, and they did win this event in 2014. They round out a titanic GTLM grid and should be a fixture throughout the day.

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