MRTI: St. Petersburg weekend roundup

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Writer’s Note: The following is a recap of Sunday’s first race of the 2014 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season from the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida. NBCSN will broadcast the race on Friday, April 4 at 4:00 p.m. ET. The Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda races will air Saturday, May 24 at 1:30 a.m. ET. If you don’t want to know who won until then, we suggest you find another post to read here on MotorSportsTalk…

The Mazda Road to Indy ladder officially got its 2014 season kicked off this weekend with three rungs of the ladder in action at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg weekend. Indy Lights put together a single race with Pro Mazda and USF2000 both having double-headers. Here’s the quick recap.

INDY LIGHTS

Qualifying was canceled due the torrential rain, high winds and standing water that halted track activity on Saturday, which left Gabby Chaves on pole in the No. 5 Belardi Auto Racing entry due to his fast practice times.

But Zach Veach, in the No. 26 Replay-XD Andretti Autosport entry made a move for the lead on the opening lap from P2 on the grid. It was a key move with a heavy accident incurred by series debutante Scott Anderson, in the No. 24 Fan Force United entry, as he tattooed the wall exiting Turn 3 and made heavy left-side impact. A tire came loose and nearly hit Lloyd Read, in the No. 28 Bryan Herta Autosport/Jeffrey Mark Motorsport entry, but the Welsh driver made it through.

From the restart, Veach was able to control the race from there with conservative tire saving and a measured pace to hold off the Colombian en route to his first series victory. Jack Harvey finished third in the No. 42 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports entry in his series debut.

“This winter I spent a lot of time trying to get more physically strong because I felt that was my weakness, and spent a lot of time doing mental things and came into the season with a whole new attitude. I think it paid off for us,” said Veach, the 19-year-old Stockdale, Ohio native.

PRO MAZDA

Presumptive preseason title favorite Spencer Pigot had his most dominant weekend yet in the No. 7 Juncos Racing entry, with a weekend sweep of two poles and two race victories in the Allied Building Products Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Saturday’s race was delayed due to the weather and was the last track activity; no matter as Pigot powered through to his second career series win on a drying track. Pigot’s Juncos teammate Kyle Kaiser was second with 2013 USF2000 champion Scott Hargrove third.

On Sunday, things were even more straightforward with Pigot and Kaiser 1-2 again, and Pipo Derani third.

“It has been a perfect weekend. We topped every session and won both races so you can’t do anything more than that,” Pigot said.

USF2000

Victor Franzoni (Afterburner Autosport, Saturday) and RC Enerson (Team E Racing, Sunday) captured the two USF2000 race wins.

On Saturday, Franzoni led home Enerson and Nico Jamin. On Sunday, the top two was reversed with Jake Eidson third. However, after the race Franzoni was disqualified when his car failed post-technical inspection. Eidson was bumped up to second with Florian Latorre promoted to third.

FULL RESULTS

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
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Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.