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.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.