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Aleshin, Sirotkin confirmed among others for Le Mans

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The 24 Hours of Le Mans grid, the marquee event of the FIA World Endurance Championship season, is nearly at completion following a couple other lineup announcements in the last two days.

Mikhail Aleshin, who was nominated as SMP Racing’s driver for No. 27 Dallara P217 Gibson chassis on the initial entry list, has been confirmed for what will be his third straight Le Mans with the team.

Aleshin is also involved in BR Engineering and Dallara’s testing work for a 2018 LMP1 chassis. The last two years at Le Mans, he ran in the team’s BR01 chassis, but the car was not one of the four eligible constructors confirmed for the new 2017 LMP2 regulations.

“We’re working to produce our own car for 2018… I’m one of the test or development drivers. I don’t know yet (Le Mans)… but maybe,” Aleshin told NBC Sports of his sports car program for this year at the Phoenix test in February.

“For me, the main thing this year is concentrate on two things. One is IndyCar. And then I have a very similar responsibility in taking care of our LMP1 project with SMP, as that will be very big.”

He’s the third full-season Verizon IndyCar Series driver confirmed for this year’s Le Mans, along with Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais, who are returning to two of Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s Ford GTs. NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell, who like Bourdais also won class last year at Le Mans (Bourdais co-won in GTE-Pro and Bell co-won in GTE-Am), is also in the field to defend that title with Scuderia Corsa in what is now a Ferrari 488 GTE.

Aleshin’s co-drivers will be Sergey Sirotkin and Victor Shaitar. Sirotkin, Renault’s reserve driver, will make his Le Mans debut while Shaitar will also be back for his fourth straight Le Mans with SMP.

Shaitar, Kirill Ladygin and Vitaly Petrov were on the podium at Le Mans last year, finishing third in the No. 37 BR01 Nissan.

In the GTE-Am class, one of the remaining TBA slots has also been filled. The Beechdean AMR No. 99 Aston Martin Vantage V8 will see Andrew Howard share the car with Ross Gunn and Oliver Bryant.

Additionally in GTE-Am, JMW Motorsport is now listed to run a Ferrari 488 GTE at Le Mans instead of the venerable Ferrari F458 Italia. No drivers are listed yet for the No. 84 car although Robert Smith, Rory Butcher and Jody Fannin are listed for the car’s European Le Mans Series entry.

Further cars without their lineups for Le Mans confirmed at the moment include the No. 22 DragonSpeed-operated, G-Drive Racing entered Oreca 07 Gibson (Leo Roussel not yet confirmed alongside Memo Rojas and Ryo Hirakawa), the No. 40 Graff Oreca in LMP2 and Nos. 88 and 93 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSRs in GTE-Am.

Takuma Sato’s likeness revealed on Borg-Warner Trophy (PHOTOS)

Photos; Walt Kuhn
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INDIANAPOLIS – Rather than the traditional December unveil, this year’s reveal newest likeness added to the Borg-Warner Trophy came Tuesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

Takuma Sato got to see the result of the sculpting done by William Behrends and then turned from wax, clay and ceramic into sterling silver on Tuesday evening, as the winner of the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil saw his face revealed on the trophy.

Sato took the No. 26 Ruoff Home Mortgage Honda for Andretti Autosport to the win in thrilling fashion this year over Helio Castroneves, denying the Brazilian his fourth Indianapolis 500 victory in the process. It atoned for his near-miss in 2012, driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, the team he’ll return to in 2018.

It’s been a whirlwind last week-plus for Sato, doing the podium interviews at the Japanese Grand Prix, reflecting on his Indianapolis 500 triumph, then sharing the victory spoils with another Japanese pilot in Yoshihide Muroya, who won the Red Bull Air Race World Championship at Indianapolis this weekend.

Photos of Sato’s face on the most unique trophy in sports are below. This post will be updated following tonight’s full unveil. (All photos: Walt Kuhn)