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McNish: Low WEC LMP1 entries a ‘speed bump’, not long-term issue

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Three-time Le Mans winner and sports car icon Allan McNish does not think the FIA World Endurance Championship’s LMP1 class faces a long-term issue despite Audi’s withdrawal at the end of 2016.

Audi announced last fall that it would be ending its LMP1 program after 18 years following the 2016 season, signing off with a one-two finish in the 6 Hours of Bahrain. McNish won all three of his Le Mans crowns with Audi, as well as claiming the WEC title in 2013.

Audi’s exit leaves just four manufacturer entries in LMP1 for 2017 – two from Porsche, two from Toyota – plus a single privateer in the form of the ByKolles team.

Concerns have been raised about the future of the WEC’s top category due to the perceived lack of fresh manufacturer interest, with rising costs understood to be the biggest turn-off.

However, McNish feels the drop in entries is only a temporary setback for the LMP1 class, but stressed the need to focus on making the regulations appealing to boost grid figures in the future.

“I think the championship is in good health. I think the different categories, you could discuss; you could definitely discuss LMP1-H at the moment,” McNish told NBC Sports.

“LMP1-L, with Ginetta or the rumors of others, I think we’ve got to be practical here. I don’t think you’re ever going to have a situation where consistently privateers are going to beat factories. That’s a simple fact.

“Then it’s a case of making sure there’s a differentiation between the two. And I don’t mean performance differentiation, I just mean differentiation because those guys have to have their own race, their own championship.

“We want to see everyone competing, but we have to be practical about it, knowing the investment and energy and the requirement to win Le Mans, it’s unlikely you’re going to have privateers beating factories.

“So, I think the focus is, right, where are we now? What do we need for five years’ time? What regulation base do we need? What do we need to actually look at? The motor industry is changing very quickly right now, and motor racing has got to actually be in line or a little bit ahead of the motor industry so it has that relevance.”

McNish spoke warmly of the efforts being made in GTE Pro and LMP2, arguably the WEC’s strongest two classes at the moment, but is confident that LMP1 can bounce back in the future.

“When I started there it was GT1, which is now roughly the same times as a GTE car; a 3:48 in qualifying, a 3:45 on qualy tires, a 3:49/3:50s in the race, first time I went to Le Mans,” McNish said.

“If you look at the GTE times, they’re not a kick in the backside off that. So there is a very strong category there. You now know that BMW is coming in for ’18, you know there’s others looking at it. So that’s a strong category. You’ve got GTE Am on the other side of it, that can evolve. Then you’ve got LMP2 which is very good in depth right now. It’s going to have some trials and tribulations.

“It’s a case of what do you want for the future. And so I don’t think long-term, [LMP1 is] a problem. I think right now it could be seen as a problem.

“It’s a little bit like Peugeot pulling out on the day that the WEC entries closed for its first ever season. 4:30 in the afternoon they said they weren’t coming. Then it was the end.

“But it wasn’t. And I think this is a speed bump.”

GoDaddy to sponsor Patrick in ‘Danica Double’ at Daytona, Indy — now all she needs are rides

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By The Associated Press

Danica Patrick is going back to green.

GoDaddy Green, to be exact – a fitting color for her farewell tour.

The company will sponsor Patrick in the upcoming “Danica Double” that will close out her racing career, The Associated Press has learned. Patrick has no ride yet for next month’s Daytona 500 or the Indianapolis 500 in May, but she now has the financial backing to pull it off.

This time around, the original GoDaddy Girl will symbolize the new core mission of the company that helped make her one of the world’s most recognizable athletes.

“There’s this great story: I left IndyCar with GoDaddy on my car, I started NASCAR with GoDaddy on my car, I’m most recognized as the GoDaddy green car and driver, and so to finish up my career that way feels appropriate,” Patrick told the AP from Scottsdale, Arizona.

Her final race will be the Indy 500, an appropriate choice because it was “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” that rocketed Patrick and GoDaddy into pop culture notoriety.

GoDaddy and Patrick grew up together. The company switched series with her and marketed her as a strong, sexy woman in 13 Super Bowl commercials – a record appearance for celebrities. Now, the company is most interested in Patrick the budding businesswoman who is firmly closing the door on her racing career and rebranding herself as an entrepreneur . She has a book out, an apparel line, a wine label and confirmed to AP this week that she’s dating Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

“Our goals are so well-aligned,” Barb Rechterman, the chief marketing officer of GoDaddy, told AP. “She’s passionate, tenacious and creative just like so many of our customers who are also looking to leverage the power of the internet and turn their `side hustle’ into a full-time business. Danica absolutely epitomizes the heart of our GoDaddy customers.”

Prepare to hear a lot about the “side hustle” as GoDaddy climbs aboard the so-far fledgling “Danica Double.”

Patrick announced in November she would end her driving career with the Daytona 500 and Indy 500, but didn’t have a deal completed for either race. Still doesn’t. Yet somehow, Patrick always figures a way to get what she wants. Talks ended with Chip Ganassi Racing about a possible ride, and late last month, Patrick said, she called former GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons and asked about a reunion.

GoDaddy has rebranded since it last teamed with Patrick. The company now touts itself as “the world’s largest cloud platform dedicated to small, independent ventures,” and there’s no better spokeswoman than Patrick, who is in the next chapter of her life and her brand.

GoDaddy pulled out of racing after the 2015 season, and Patrick hasn’t had the same level of funding and marketing support since. Patrick has slowly reshaped her image, first into a Instagram model and is now a full-blown lifestyle guru. She realized – at the age of 35 – she was on her own.

She and GoDaddy aligned for a splashy move into NASCAR, where she was glamorous off the track but only mediocre on it. Through all of this, she was married, divorced, spent five years dating fellow driver and competitor Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and then seemed to find herself through a tailored diet, exercise and a healthy lifestyle.

She is cutting the cord on racing after Indy, and her focus is on a sense of well-being far away from the track.

“Their business is so perfectly paired to what is going on with mine, so when we sat down and met, it was like, `Let’s talk about our business. Let’s talk about the messaging. How does this work?”‘ Patrick said. “And this is undeniably perfect for both of us. Not only is it a huge two races and the biggest two races of the year, but on top of that, you have so much `side hustle’ going on, and all the messaging and our brands, and where we are going is so perfectly paired.”w

GoDaddy can help Patrick move on to whatever it is for racing’s former “It Girl.” The company will help her streamline her online presence. Patrick, for the company, is back as a neon green-and-yellow symbol to all the wannabe entrepreneurs chasing dreams.

She’ll get those rides, too. Patrick said she knows she will because she believes she will.

“That’s just the way the universe works,” she said. “You have to ask for what you want. Things have taken a long time with this, but you just have to go with the flow on these things. The universe is not on your time schedule.”

More AP auto racing: https://racing.ap.org/