Fernando Alonso, Allan McNish to be honored at Le Mans this year

1 Comment

One of sports car’s driving legends and a two-time Formula One World Champion are getting honored in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, as well as a key team figure who’ll be participating in this year’s running of the June endurance classic.

That would be Allan McNish, Fernando Alonso and Doug Fehan respectively, who are three of the biggest names from Audi, Ferrari and Corvette.

McNish – the Scottish terrier who won three times overall at Le Mans, including last year – retired in the offseason and for his first Le Mans out of the cockpit in more than a dozen years, will serve as Grand Marshal.

Meanwhile Alonso will start the race, the 82nd running of the event, at its normal start time of 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 14.

This year’s Le Mans falls on an off weekend between the Canadian and Austrian Grands Prix. So Alonso will be the first active driver in race history to wave the green flag; there have been F1 drivers who have competed in Le Mans the same year, most recently Sebastien Bourdais in 2009.

Alonso is there to help support his current F1 employer – Ferrari – which with more than a dozen F458 Italias split in GTE Pro and GTE Am this year is the most popular manufacturer on this year’s grid.

Might it be a future portending of Ferrari’s own LMP1 plans? Possibly; there have been rumors to that degree over the last several months.

The official release from the ACO described the Alonso confirmation thusly: “It is an immense honour for the Automobile Club de l’Ouest that this great champion, recently described by the Ferrari President, Luca di Montezemolo, as the greatest driver in the world, has accepted this invitation. Alonso is a true motor racing fan and although he has never taken part in the Le Mans 24 Hours, he is very interested in the greatest endurance race in the world.”

As for Fehan, of Corvette Racing in GTE Pro, he’ll be awarded the Spirit of Le Mans on Friday evening 13th June by President Pierre Fillon, a prize given by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest to all those who have served the spirit of Le Mans.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
Leave a comment

As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”