Photo courtesy of IMSA

Tony Kanaan added to Ford, Ganassi Le Mans lineup

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Tony Kanaan will replace Sebastien Bourdais at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Brazilian Verizon IndyCar Series veteran, who made his debut in the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, will serve as Bourdais’ injury replacement in the No. 68 entry in the GTE-Pro class, alongside Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller. These two and Bourdais won the class last year, fulfilling Ford’s goal of winning at Le Mans 50 years after doing so in 1966.

“We’re very pleased we are able to get a driver of Tony’s experience and talent in the No. 68 Ford GT for the Le Mans 24,” Dave Pericak, global director, Ford Performance, said in a release. “It’s certainly not the ideal situation and we’re heartbroken that Sébastien won’t be back to defend his race victory, since we know how much that race means to him personally. He is an important part of our family, and we look forward to him making a complete recovery.”

At the Rolex 24, Kanaan got almost eight hours of drive time in the race. He spent just over seven hours, 30 minutes in the No. 69 Ford GT during the race alone and was the third-quickest driver in the category, behind Ganassi teammates Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe.

“It’s an honor to be named a part of the Ford GT lineup for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing at the Le Mans 24,” Kanaan said. “It’s obviously an unfortunate situation that brought us to this point with Sébastien’s injuries, but I’m going to do my best to take his place and try to help win this amazing race for the team again this year. This race has definitely been on my bucket list for a long time, so I’m thankful that Chip and our partners at Ford have given me this opportunity.”

Kanaan is a Le Mans rookie and will miss the Le Mans Test Day scheduled for June 4, as he will be in his usual No. 10 NTT Data Honda for Ganassi at the IndyCar weekend in Detroit – same as his now IndyCar and Le Mans teammate, Scott Dixon.

From the June 10 race at Texas Motor Speedway, the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN), Dixon and Kanaan will be two of several IndyCar full-time drivers who will head straight to Le Mans ahead of scrutineering. Ford’s appointment is scheduled for all four of its cars on Monday, June 12, at 3 p.m. local time.

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.