Ganassi confirms Kanaan and a switch to Chevrolet in 2014 (UPDATED)

5 Comments

Tony Kanaan’s long-awaited move – after it was reported a week ago by the Associated Press – to Chip Ganassi Racing has been confirmed this Friday in Houston. He will pilot the NTT Data entry.

“It definitely is a special day for me and my family,” Kanaan said in a hastily announced press conference. “Coming back to work with Charlie, Dario and Dixon, we will be a very successful four-car team. Looking forward to future. It’s exciting for IndyCar.”

The bigger and perhaps more surprising news is that the team is switching from Honda to Chevrolet power for the team’s four cars: Kanaan, Charlie Kimball, Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti.

This means CGR is now under the Chevrolet umbrella for both its IndyCar and NASCAR programs. Per discussions with both Target Chip Ganassi Racing team manager Mike Hull and Jim Campbell, vp of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports, GM, there has been no determination made as to the status’ of the team’s prototype program for the 2014 Tudor United SportsCar Championship.

“This thing happened quick with Chevrolet,” Ganassi said. “They have shown they have a great product, and it gives us a great opportunity for our team. This consolidates our manufacturers.”

Ganassi also addressed the question of how long this has been in play, and perhaps whether Ryan Briscoe was an option for the fourth car had he not injured his wrist at Toronto earlier this year.

“It’s a good question; I hadn’t thought of it. We were wanting to get back to a fourth car and this falls into the category of if Dario doesn’t crash in a stock car, would he come back and win three straight championships in IndyCar. You can be hurt in this business,” he said.

Kanaan’s car number was not announced. The move to Chevrolet means Ganassi, Team Penske and Andretti Autosport are all slated to have that powerplant in 2014.

UPDATE (4:25 p.m. ET): Kanaan’s current team, KV Racing Technology, has issued a statement on the Brazilian’s decision to join Chip Ganassi Racing next season:

“Tony Kanaan is an outstanding driver, a great teammate and a good friend. Over the last three years he has demonstrated his professionalism and more importantly, this year brought KV Racing Technology – SH Racing its first Indianapolis 500 victory. The entire organization wishes him the best as he moves forward with his career. KV – SH Racing is and will continue to pursue negotiations with several top drivers and looks forward to competing for race wins and championships in the coming years.”

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
3 Comments

LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.