Le Mans: The Americans’ 24 hours recapped

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Quick recap of all the American drivers, teams or related-entries at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans:

LMP1

No American drivers or teams. So, that was easy.

LMP2

  • Caterham Racing: The No. 42 Zytek Z11SN Nissan that featured Americans Chris Dyson and Matt McMurry, the 16-year-old, ended 10th in LMP2 and 23rd overall. The car had a couple spins over the week but nothing major; McMurry drove early and promisingly through the rain-drenched second and third hours, and also brought the car home to the checkered flag. He’s the youngest to start, and now youngest to finish, at Circuit de la Sarthe.
  • Larbre Competition: The No. 50 Morgan Judd was down on outright pace all week and ended with 341 laps completed, not classified by the end of the race. Still, Ricky Taylor ran the car’s best lap time of 3:43.386 and was often close to brother Jordan on the overall scoreboard; at one point, the two cars, separated by class, were only two positions apart.
  • *Note: the OAK Racing Team Asia car had David Cheng, American by birth/nationality but part of the all-Chinese driver branded lineup in the No. 33 Ligier JS P2 Nissan. That car, which Cheng co-drove with Adderly Fong and Ho-Pin Tung, ended seventh in LMP2.

GTE-Pro

  • Corvette Racing: Corvette’s No. 73 made it to the podium in second place and had class victory hopes with Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor. But the sister No. 74 Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Richard Westbrook placed fourth in class after losing eight laps due to a slipped alternator belt and gearbox leak.
  • ProSpeed Competition: This wasn’t supposed to be a Pro class entry but following Bret Curtis’ accident, the No. 79 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, one of the oldest chassis in the field, ran with just two drivers in Jeroen Bleekemolen and Cooper MacNeil. The pair took the backup chassis (brought in to replace the broken car) to fifth in GTE-Pro after a flawless, trouble-free drive as “iron men” in the WeatherTech-backed entry.

GTE-Am

  • 8Star Motorsports: Despite a couple flat tires and spins along the way over the course of the week, the bright orange No. 90 Ferrari F458 Italia that featured late American call-up Frankie Montecalvo ended best American entry in class, P4 in GTE-Am.
  • Dempsey Racing-Proton: The lone all-American driver lineup of Patricks Long and Dempsey, with Joe Foster, had a three-minute stop-and-hold for spinning the tires leaving the pits overnight. They ended fifth in GTE-Am with the No. 77 Porsche 911 RSR, but threatened the top three all race.
  • JMW Motorsport: The No. 66 Ferrari F458 Italia that featured Flying Lizard American drivers Spencer Pumpelly and Seth Neiman struggled on outright pace but ran consistently to seventh in class.
  • Krohn Racing: Tracy Krohn’s team made it to Le Mans, and ended 10th in class in the classic “Krohn Green” No. 57 Ferrari F458 Italia.
  • Ram Racing: South African-born but U.S.-based Mark Patterson was part of the driving lineup in the No. 53 Ferrari F458 Italia that ended 12th in class.
  • AF Corse: Howard Blank (No. 62) was in an Ferrari F458 Italia that finished, but completed only 295 laps; Peter Ashley Mann (No. 60) was in a car that failed to finish.

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Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).