SFHR, RW combine to provide Lucas Luhr his IndyCar debut at Sonoma

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Raise your hand if you saw Lucas Luhr in a Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing IndyCar for Sonoma next month. Anyone? Bueller?

Of course you didn’t.

In what has to be one of the biggest surprises in IndyCar in years, the sports car veteran and all-time winningest driver in the American Le Mans Series (45 wins as of the last round at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park) will make his IndyCar debut at Sonoma on August 25. Luhr is a five-time ALMS champion and the only ALMS driver to win championships in three separate series classes – GT, LMP2 and LMP1.

Luhr, 34, of Koblenz, Germany, will drive the No. 97 Rotondo Weirich (RW)/SFHR Indy Dallara-Honda as a teammate to the full-season driver Josef Newgarden. Luhr will have his first running by participating in an open test at Sonoma on August 13.

“I am very excited about driving for RW/SFHR in Sonoma,” Luhr said. “I have wanted to drive an IndyCar for quite some time and when this opportunity came up I was very happy to say yes straight away. I would like to thank Steve Weirich, RW, Sarah (Fisher) and Mr. (Wink) Hartman, as well as Honda HPD for introducing us. I’d also like to give a very big thank you to my team owner Greg Pickett at Muscle Milk for allowing me to accept this challenge in the middle of the season.”

While the SFHR press release did indicate this is possible “with the combined efforts of Rotondo Weirich (RW) and Muscle Milk,” we have to stress this is not a Muscle Milk Pickett Racing entry. The ALMS team that competes in P1 with a Honda Performance Development HPD ARX-03c is based in nearby Benicia, Calif.

The possibility of a second car for Fisher has been in play since late June. The team issued a release then which listed Steve Weirich of RW, a construction business, as an owner of one of the team’s three cars. Weirich is the owner of RW and RW Motorsports.

“IndyCar is the epitome of racing,” Weirich said at the time. “It’s always been a dream of mine to build up to that level of racing and to do it with an all- American racing team. The whole alignment of IndyCar racing and the passion I see from SFHR is the same passion I hold, and it’s the perfect alignment of goals.”

As for this release, Weirich said, “”Lucas [Luhr] has great strengths as well and I am looking forward to bringing a driver of his caliber to the IZOD IndyCar Series. Sonoma is a great venue for us as well as IndyCar and we know the synergy of this entry will produce a great result.”

Read into this what you will for 2014, but the bottom line is for now, this is a joint SFHR/RW entry with the possibility of it being an exploratory opportunity for Muscle Milk and its brand in the future.

Sebastien Ogier in driver’s seat for sixth straight World Rally Championship title

Sebastien Ogier leads the way in the WRC title chase. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) — Thierry Neuville finished the sixth stage of Rally Australia on Friday without a rear left tire, damaging his chances of catching five-time defending champion Sebastien Ogier for the World Rally Championship title.

The Belgian driver entered the rally just three points behind Ogier in the closest title fight in 15 years.

He held the upper hand on his French rival, building a near-10 second gap through the first five stages at Coffs Harbour before hitting a chicane and finishing the stage with only three tires on his Hyundai.

Neuville was fortunate the puncture occurred late enough in the day to finish all six forestry stages and avoid a retirement. But the mistake cost him 40 seconds and gave Ogier, who is 33 seconds ahead of him, a clear run at his sixth straight championship.

In his last start with Ford before a move to Citroen next year, Ogier struggled as the first to drive the dusty, slippery forest routes.

“I pushed like crazy, I was on the limit over the jump and everywhere, I can’t do (any) more,” Ogier said. “I was on the limit.”

With Ogier on sweeping duties the back markers flourished, and Mads Ostberg took the lead in his return to the series.

Ostberg was forced to miss the previous round in Spain to make way for rally winner and nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, who was making the last of his three guest appearances for Citroen.

Now back in the seat, Ostberg leads Jari-Matti Latvala by 6.8 seconds in the Australian rally, with sixth-stage winner Craig Breen in third.

Ogier was seventh, 38.2 seconds off the pace, but only needs to finish ahead of Neuville to claim the championship title. Neuville is in 10th place after six stages.

Roles will reverse on Saturday, with Ogier to start further back in the field and do his best on cleaner roads to make up the day-one deficit before Sunday’s final stages.

Andreas Mikkelsen, the 2016 Rally Australia champion, was an early dropout after rolling into a ditch in his Hyundai. Mikkelsen had only just avoided a tractor that had found its way onto the course.

Former winner Molly Taylor and co-driver Malcolm Read were also forced out of their event when their Subaru hit a hay bale at high speed on the morning’s second stage. Both reported soreness but suffered no serious injuries.

The 24-stage rally totals 319 kilometers (197 miles). Ten stages are scheduled Saturday with the final six on Sunday, most of them through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.