Le Mans: Prospeed, JMW GTE squads add American flavor

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It’s not a great year for full American teams to be heading to this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. But two GTE-Am class entries have added an American flavor in the last few days.

First up is the Prospeed Competition squad, which adds a second 2012-spec Porsche 911 GT3 RSR to the class for Jeroen Bleekemolen, Cooper MacNeil and Bret Curtis, with support from WeatherTech. The No. 79 entry runs as a sister car to Prospeed’s FIA World Endurance Championship-entered No. 75 car.

“Both of them have Le Mans experience, so we should be a very strong combination,” Bleekemolen said of his co-drivers. “We are not going to Le Mans just to make up numbers, at the same time, we know how competitive it is.”

The talented Dutch driver was set to drive for SRT Motorsports in GTE-Pro, before the team withdrew its two SRT Viper GTS-Rs.

Meanwhile the JMW Motorsport Ferrari squad has switched from longtime tire partner Dunlop to Michelin, and added depth on the driving and team fronts from Flying Lizard Motorsports. Americans Spencer Pumpelly and Seth Neiman join Abdulfaziz Alfaisal in the No. 66 Ferrari F458 Italia, with Flying Lizard team manager Eric Ingraham and strategist Thomas Blam also making the trip.

“I wasn’t sure I could find a way back to Le Mans after the class changes with the creation of [TUSC],” Neiman said. “Missing last year – my first June home in nearly a decade – was no fun at all. Doing so with JMW and Ferrari promises to be a very competitive experience. We will miss our normal co-drivers from the States, Dion and Nelson, but Spencer’s Le Mans experience is irreplaceable for this effort. This is a strong team, a strong car, with great co-drivers. I am really looking forward to this effort with JMW.”

A raft of withdrawals leave the 56-car field with no reserves, a little more than a month away before the race.

Castroneves crashes out of Indy 500

Photo: IndyCar
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Helio Castroneves’ bid for a fourth Indianapolis 500 triumph came to an end following a restart on Lap 145, when his No. 3 Pennzoil Chevrolet broke loose exiting Turn 4, sending him spinning into the inside wall near the pit entrance.

Castroneves started eighth and had been running solidly inside the top 10 for much of the race, and he was sitting fifth following a Lap 145 restart. Further, the previous caution – for Sebastien Bourdais, who crashed in Turn 4 – set up Castroneves to possibly make it to the end of the race on more pit stop.

However, that effort came to a disappointing end not long after racing resumed.

Castroneves’ status for future Indy 500s is unknown, though he did make a plea to team owner Roger Penske to let him come back next year. “Please, Roger, I want to come back,” said Castroneves during his interview.

This is the first time Castroneves has crashed out of an Indy 500 since 2006.

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