Ford

Photo courtesy of IMSA

Ganassi completes Road America IndyCar, IMSA sweep

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Chip Ganassi Racing has managed success across most of its teams in the 2017 season, regardless of which series it competes in.

Today the team now completed a sweep of the Verizon IndyCar Series and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races at Road America, following its win in the GT Le Mans class in Sunday’s Continental Tire Road Race Showcase.

Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller converted Mueller’s pole position into the No. 66 Ford GT’s second win of the season (Rolex 24 at Daytona). And after Scott Dixon won the IndyCar race here a little over a month ago, it means Ganassi has now conquered the track with both its teams this year.

They’ll have a chance to go for a three-peat later this month in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, when Justin Marks drives the No. 42 Katerra Chevrolet here. Marks won last year at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Xfinity and will race for the team there next week.

Additionally, Ford is the sixth different manufacturer in GTLM to win in as many years at Road America. Ford follows Corvette who won last year, then Porsche in 2015, Risi Ferrari in 2014, the SRT Viper in 2013 and BMW in 2012.

Hand had the opportunity to finish today’s race, with Mueller having started from pole. That left Mueller in a position of watching Hand bring the car home, unlike where Hand was at last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and Daytona this year.

Hand reflected on the final hour, needing to hold off Laurens Vanthoor in the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR, for the victory.

“I love racing. That’s what I show up for. If people on TV and here didn’t enjoy that race, they probably don’t like racing,” Hand said.

“This team is historically good here. Dirk threw down in the Kink – we’ll call it ‘#SoFlat’ – so it was a big lap and that started it all off. Managing this race from the front is what you need to do. There were a bunch of good teams and cars. You don’t want to get caught out.

“After a few bad races, coming to the championship, this is what we needed.”

Neither the No. 3 Corvette C7.R nor No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM had a banner day – the top two cars in points finished fourth and sixth – so it gives the Ganassi No. 66 car a great points day.

The sister No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT of Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe finished third, for its fourth podium of the season – all of which have been achieved in the last six races. This also marks the team’s first double podium finish of the season, coming after a front row lockout in qualifying.

IMSA: Taylor leads Road America polesitters

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Ricky Taylor (Prototype), Dirk Mueller (GT Le Mans), Jeroen Mul (GT Daytona) and James French (Prototype Challenge) have scored the pole positions for Sunday’s Continental Tire Road Race Showcase, the two-hour, 40-minute next round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season from Road America. Quick qualifying reports are below.

PROTOTYPE

Ricky Taylor laid down the hammer early at 1:53.058 and was never headed in the rest of qualifying for Prototype, for both his own and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R team’s fourth pole this season. Taylor shares the car with brother Jordan and the two enter this weekend with a 19-point lead in the championship.

They’ll be looking to snap a two-race rut after winning the opening five races; additionally they will be looking to stop the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing crew of Dane Cameron and Eric Curran from winning their third straight Road America race.

The battle in Prototype qualifying was for second place, with the remaining seven cars in class covered by just over half a second. From second to sixth, just 0.157 of a second covered the rest.

Jose Gutierrez was best of the rest, an impressive second in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217 Gibson he shares with Olivier Pla, but still more than a second back at 1:54.075.

The No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi was third in the hands of Scott Sharp (he shares with Ryan Dalziel) while the new Ligier in the field from VISIT FLORIDA Racing, the No. 90 car driven by Marc Goossens and Renger van der Zande, rolls off from fourth.

The second Patron Nissan starts fifth ahead of the second, third and fourth place cars in points – the Nos. 31 and 5 Cadillacs and the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson, which led Friday’s practice but fell down a bit during the sunny session.

GT LE MANS

Coming into Road America, the pair of Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs got a bit of help from the series organizers – a boost increase – and the EcoBoost twin-turbo V6s then promptly boosted their win chances as a result of qualifying in GT Le Mans.

Dirk Mueller and Ryan Briscoe slotted their Nos. 66 and 67 Fords into the top two spots in qualifying rather easily, with Mueller scoring his first and Ford’s fourth pole of the season. Ford has not won since the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona but both cars are still in realistic title contention.

Mueller’s 2:01.422 lap was better than Briscoe’s 2:02.203 by a substantial margin. In third place, Alexander Sims’ best time of 2:02.211 in the No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM was the only other car within a second of pole.

Mueller shares his car with Joey Hand, Briscoe with Ryan Westbrook and Sims with Bill Auberlen.

The Nos. 912 and 911 Porsche 911 RSR cars were fourth and sixth, sandwiching the second BMW, with the pair of Corvette C7.Rs seventh and eighth. For the points-leading No. 3 car qualified by Jan Magnussen in the car he shares with Antonio Garcia, it will be a long road Sunday to move up the order.

GT DAYTONA

Change Racing scored its first pole of 2017 in what’s been a year dominated by bad luck, in the stacked GTD class.

Jeroen Mul impressed in the No. 16 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 to deliver a best time of 2:06.649, which was 0.174 of a second clear of fellow Road America first-timer Jesse Krohn, driving the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3.

Mul shares his car with Corey Lewis and Krohn with Jens Klingmann. Neither Lamborghini nor BMW has won this year in GTD.

Patrick Lindsey took the Lime Rock-winning No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R to third ahead of Scott Pruett, in his first qualifying in the No. 15 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 and Andrew Davis, in the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS.

First and second in points, the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 and No. 33 Riley Motorsports-Team AMG Mercedes AMG-GT3, roll off from eighth and ninth. Ben Keating, in the Mercedes-AMG, did outqualify the second car under the Riley umbrella, the now WeatherTech Porsche qualified by Cooper MacNeil, in 11th.

Neither the No. 80 Lone Star Racing Mercedes (mechanical) nor the No. 93 Acura (accident damage) was able to qualify.

PROTOTYPE CHALLENGE

It was another track, and another pole, for James French in the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09 in PC. It’s his third straight at his home track.

French’s best lap on this occasion was 1:59.149, nearly three seconds clear of second-placed Don Yount in the No. 20 BAR1 entry.

French recorded his sixth pole in seven attempts this year, and fifth in a row. This was meant to be Pato O’Ward’s turn to qualify but a last-minute change saw the Sheboygan native back in the car to qualify. The pairing looks to extend their perfect win streak to seven this weekend.

RESULTS: Qualifying

Foyt, Gurney reflect on 1967 Le Mans triumph with Ford (VIDEO)

Photo: A.J. Foyt Racing
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One of the most famous moments in motorsports history came at the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans, and not just because it birthed the spraying of champagne as a standard celebration. The celebration lives on 50 years later.

The second in a run of four consecutive Le Mans victories for the Ford GT40 marque, it is the only “All-American” triumph, one in which an American driver lineup won for an American team in an American car, in the history of the event.

The victory also came at the height of a rivalry between Ford and Ferrari after a failed attempt from Henry Ford II to purchase the Italian marque from Enzo Ferrari.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the victory, Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt, the victorious drivers that year in the famous GT 40, sat down to reflect on the race. Foyt immediately deflected credit to Gurney, and admitted that it was Gurney’s influence that brought him into the team.

“All I can say is, I’m glad (Gurney) chose me for his co-driver,” Foyt quipped. “It doesn’t seem like 50 years ago, but our health is showing it. I always had a lot of respect for him, as a car builder and a race driver. We’ve been friends for a long time and he gave me a chance. He had the car running so damn fast, I didn’t know how to back it off.”

For Gurney, the desire to have Foyt as his co-driver that year came down to a simple reason.

“I chose him for only one reason and that was because he’s a winner,” he recalled. “I felt like we were going to win once A.J. was in the car. He hadn’t been a specialist in road racing like I was, but he did a great job. We had a lot of fun talking about it and gradually, the car turned out to be a really nice, smooth, fast car without any bad habits. It was just a great time.”

Photo courtesy Ford Performance

To further illustrate the point about Gurney’s influence, Foyt explained how influential he was in organizing the driving strategy, and Foyt happily followed his lead. “I think Dan was more involved in strategy than I was. He’d been there before and I was just glad to be over there, for Ford Motor Company to give me such an opportunity. I was listening to Dan quite a bit. He gave me some pointers and all that.”

Foyt also had to go to school of sorts and learn the track, for which he used Gurney and other drivers as a model. “I think before I got in the car, Dan run in the first shift and I got in the second shift, I think I had about 10 laps and, I’ll never forget it, when I came into the pits Denis Hulme, who was in another Ford, was leading, and I knew he’d been out of there for a lot of time, and I followed him for about four-five laps and got lucky enough to get by him. That’s kind of how I learned the course,” Foyt recalled.

Gurney, meanwhile, revealed that he and Foyt had to temper themselves, citing that when the team told them to push the car to its limits, they knew to only take things so far. “We just tried to use our experience,” Gurney asserted. “They expected us to be the rabbit and we were going to battle each other for fast time, and everything, and we could tell that the car wasn’t going to finish with that sort of attention. So we told the strategy guys that ‘yeah, you’re right,’ and of course, we didn’t pay any attention to it,” Gurney laughed.

Of course, no good effort would be complete without some unexpected surprises. For Foyt, one of those came when he pitted and expected Gurney to take over…only for the Californian to be nowhere in site. “I told them when I came into the pits that my arms hurt so bad and they said ‘We can’t find Dan.’ I said, ‘What do you mean, you can’t find him? Hell, he’s over there sleeping, somewhere!’ They said ‘You have to get back in.’ I said ‘Oh no, don’t do that to me.’ And still Dan laughs about it. I think he was hiding on purpose,” Foyt laughed.

And, perhaps most famously, the victory sparked the victory tradition of spraying champagne, with Gurney first spraying Ford president Henry Ford II. “(Henry Ford II) was there with a new bride, I think, on their honeymoon and when I started spraying him, I’m not sure he liked it or not, but he was a good sport about it and we had a wonderful time spraying champagne, A.J. and I both,” Gurney of the spontaneous celebration to quickly became a staple of Victory Lane across all racing disciplines.

The 1967 race was Foyt’s only appearance at Le Mans, while Gurney made ten appearances between 1958 and 1967.

Photo courtesy Ford Performance

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Bell leads IndyCar contingent in Le Mans qualifying

Photo: Scuderia Corsa
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Although he hasn’t been in a Verizon IndyCar Series race this year, NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell was best of those actively involved in the 2017 IndyCar season in qualifying for Saturday’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Bell qualified third in the GTE-Am class in the No. 62 WeatherTech-backed Ferrari 488 GTE for Scuderia Corsa, which he shares with Bill Sweedler and Cooper MacNeil. Bell and Sweedler are seeking to defend their class victory here last year, which they accomplished co-driving with Jeff Segal in the previous generation Ferrari F458 Italia.

As there are eight 488s in the 16-car GTE-Am class, this Scuderia Corsa Ferrari has been the best of them both at the Le Mans Test Day and in qualifying. Bell’s best time of 3:53.312 was about a half second off class polesitter Fernando Rees, in the No. 50 Larbre Competition Corvette C7.R, at 3:52.886. Bell has completed 32 laps this week.

“Qualifying went well,” Bell said. “We made our first change to the car to make it go quicker and that is exactly what it did tonight. It improved the balance and that made a small improvement, but around this long track that makes a big difference. Bill and Cooper did some strong laps and are comfortable in the car, which is what is important. To be starting third and the fastest Ferrari says a lot about our effort here this week.”

Beyond Bell, there’s three active drivers competing in IndyCar this season who are racing at Le Mans this week, two in the GTE-Pro class and one in LMP2.

Scott Dixon is best of that group as he’ll start fifth in GTE-Pro in the No. 69 Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA Ford GT which he shares with Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook. This trio finished third here last year, with Dixon setting the fastest race lap in class on his Le Mans debut.

Briscoe, an IndyCar veteran from 2005 through 2015, set the car’s best qualifying time of 3:51.232. The class pole time is Darren Turner in the No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage V8 at 3:50.837.

“We definitely had a go at qualifying tonight,” Briscoe said. “It was the first time we ran with new tires and low fuel and we’ve always found this car comes alive when we drop the fuel out of it, so it felt great. The balance was nice. We got one of those good laps at Le Mans where you get a tow and don’t get held up with any traffic and piece it together. I was really pleased, but obviously there’s a lot of competition. It was quick at the time but we’re fifth now so I think it’s going to be a tough race and hopefully we’ll have the pace to stay at the front during the race.”

Dixon’s best time this week in 29 total laps is a 3:52.807, set in the second of three qualifying sessions. Westbrook’s is a 3:52.496. Dixon also got to catch up with Ford World Rallycross driver Ken Block at Le Mans.

The No. 68 Ford, the defending class winner here, will launch its defense from 12th on the 13-car grid. IndyCar 20th year man but Le Mans rookie Tony Kanaan shares that car with Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller, Kanaan deputizing for the injured Sebastien Bourdais.

Kanaan’s best lap this week is a 3:53.512. The Brazilian completed 15 laps in the first four-hour free practice session and nine more laps since, so he has a total of 24 before warmup on Saturday morning.

Mikhail Aleshin also saddles up for his third consecutive Le Mans, this time in SMP Racing’s new Dallara P217 Gibson in LMP2 with Sergey Sirotkin and Victor Shaitar.

Aleshin’s best time of 3:27.782 has put the No. 27 car 10th on the LMP2 class grid, and 16th overall, first non-Oreca 07 (or the rebadged Alpine A470 variant) on the grid. In the all-Russian lineup, the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports IndyCar driver has driven only 24 laps this week.

MAZDA ROAD TO INDY ROOKIE QUARTET DEBUTS

There’s also four recent Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires graduates making their debuts at Le Mans, in Andre Negrao, Felix Rosenqvist, Will Owen and Jose Gutierrez, who’ve competed in either Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires or Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires in recent years.

Those cars will line up 14th, 20th, 21st and 22nd overall, eighth, 14th, 15th and 16th in the LMP2 class. Negrao is in the No. 35 Signatech Alpine A470 Gibson with Nelson Panciatici and Pierre Ragues, Gutierrez is in the DragonSpeed-run No. 22 Oreca 07 he shares with Ryo Hirakawa and Memo Rojas, Owen in the best of seven Ligier JS P217 chassis, the No. 32 United Autosports entry he shares with Filipe Albuquerque and Hugo de Sadeleer, and Rosenqvist in the DragonSpeed-10 Star No. 21 Oreca 07 with Henrik Hedman and Ben Hanley, an all-rookie lineup.

Negrao’s best time this week is 3:29.248 in 31 laps, Rosenqvist’s is 3:29.777 in just 19 laps, Gutierrez’s is 3:32.406 in 37 laps, and Owen’s is 3:37.469 in 32 laps.

It is worth noting the Oreca has a distinct pace edge in LMP2 over the other three chassis. Aleshin’s Dallara lap of 3:27.782 is the best non-Oreca lap this week, but still 2.43 seconds off Alex Lynn’s pole time of 3:25.352 in the No. 26 G-Drive Racing (TDS) Oreca 07.

Of course there are plenty of others with past IndyCar or Mazda Road to Indy experience in the field but these mentioned above are the most recent and/or are still active within these championships.

This year’s Le Mans race starts Saturday at 3 p.m. local time, 9 a.m. ET, with coverage on the FOX networks and flag-to-flag radio coverage via Radio Le Mans.

Bourdais ‘feeling better everyday;’ close to walking properly

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Sebastien Bourdais has posted his latest update on his recovery process from pelvic fractures and hip injuries on Thursday morning, as the Frenchman continues to get back on track after his accident in qualifying May 20 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Bourdais, who was discharged from hospital, returned to IMS track on Indianapolis 500 race day and has since come back home to Florida, said he is progressing well in his recovery and said he is close to walking properly again.

This week is a bit of a tough one for Bourdais, as he isn’t on site in Le Mans with a chance to defend his crown at the 24 Hours of Le Mans as he won the GTE-Pro class in the No. 68 Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA Ford GT with Dirk Mueller and Joey Hand last year.

However, Bourdais’ stead is being filled by Le Mans rookie Tony Kanaan, who is thoroughly soaking up the experience and admits he has the pressure to try to win to match Bourdais’ shoes!

Kanaan made his Ford GT race debut at this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, a race the same trio of Mueller, Hand and Bourdais won here in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

“Seb is French, he lives here, and he won the race, so no pressure!! Very, very easy!” Kanaan laughed to reporters at Le Mans this week.

Bourdais told Motorsport.com earlier this week the unexpected upside of his injuries was that he was happy not to be in the Verizon IndyCar Series’ most recent race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Three drivers have taken his place thus far in his No. 18 Honda for Dale Coyne Racing since, with James Davison (Indianapolis 500), Esteban Gutierrez (Detroit) and Tristan Vautier (Texas) on board.