Photo: Scuderia Corsa

Bell, Sweedler kick off Le Mans title defense with solid test

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NBCSN Verizon IndyCar Series analyst Townsend Bell and longtime co-driver Bill Sweedler have a new car, and a new teammate, with which to defend their GTE-Am class victory in the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans.

After co-driving with Jeff Segal to win last year’s race in the No. 62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia, Bell and Sweedler now join Cooper MacNeil in the WeatherTech-backed No. 62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GTE, the next iteration in the line of successful Ferrari GT models.

MacNeil arrived in France after competing Saturday in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at Detroit, one of several drivers who flew on his private plane over to Le Mans immediately after the race.

All three drivers were busy today in the Le Mans Test Day. In total, the trio ran 74 laps around the 8.4-mile closed-road circuit. At the end of nearly eight hours of running the trio were fourth on the time sheet with a fast lap of 3:58.599, fastest of the class Ferrari cars, and fourth in the GTE Am class.

“Solid first day running at Le Mans,” Bell said. “The WeatherTech Ferrari was perfect out of the box. Cooper and Bill were really strong too their first time in this new car. Can’t wait for race day!”

Sweedler added, “The team had the car ready go from the drop of the green this morning. It was great to get in a lot of laps for all three of us today. The car feels great on the track and we all drove competitive times. Gives me a lot of confidence for the race in two weeks.”

MacNeil, who was last of the group to arrive, hailed Bell and Sweedler’s immediate feedback and pace.

“Townsend and Bill arrived before I did and had everything ready to go,” MacNeil said. “When I got in the car it was right. We need to work on my seating position a little bit, but that is a small thing we will correct. The Michelin tires are great and I turned a lot of laps. The WeatherTech Ferrari is very confidence inspiring around this 8-mile track. I am happy with the way the day went and I am looking for driving it in the 24.”

Video highlights from Stage 13 of the Dakar Rally

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Friday’s Stage 13 of the 40th Dakar Rally went from San Juan to Cordoba to set up the concluding stage of the event.

The video highlights of Stage 13 will air on NBCSN on Saturday at 6:30 pm ET, but here are some of the highlights from Friday:

CARS

Nassar Al-Attiyah strengthened his hold on second with a stage win as defending winner Stephane Peterhansel crashed in the penultimate stage.

BIKES

Toby Price won his second stage of the 2018 Dakar, his ninth overall, while Matthias Walkner retained the lead ahead of the final stage.

TRUCKS

Eduard Nikolaev continued to make a case for his second consecutive Dakar win after an epic battle to capture Stage 13.

QUADS

Jeremias Gonzalez took Stage 13 of the quads, tightening his grip on third overall in the 2018 Dakar Rally.