WEC draws the curtain on 2014 with Brazilian round this weekend

0 Comments

The FIA World Endurance Championship brings its 2014 season to a close this weekend at Sao Paulo, with the Interlagos circuit serving as a spiritual end to the campaign. A few story lines to watch:

KRISTENSEN’S FINALE

“Mr. Le Mans,” Tom Kristensen, hangs up his helmet after this weekend in Brazil. Kristensen’s pace, professionalism and persistence over the last two decades have brought so much success and so much admiration from those around the world. Audi’s the underdog on outright pace (rare are those words ever typed) heading into the weekend, but the No. 1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro of TK, Loic Duval and Lucas di Grassi – a native Brazilian – must be considered the emotional favorite.

EMMO’S RETURN

In the same race where 47-year-old Kristensen signs off, 67-year-old Emerson Fittipaldi – the Brazilian legend and two-time F1 World Champion – makes his competitive racing return in the No. 61 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia. He’ll share the GTE-Am entry with his pair of quick co-drivers in Alessandro Pier Guidi and Jeff Segal, and will no doubt be the media darling of the weekend even if the car is an unlikely win contender.

LMP2 TITLE BOUT

G-Drive Racing holds an eight point lead over SMP Racing’s Sergey Zlobin in LMP2 heading into the weekend. More here on the battle from Sportscar365; G-Drive should hold the upper hand given the points scenarios, but as was witnessed last race in Bahrain, nothing’s a certainty.

WEBBER’S RETURN; PORSCHE’S MAIDEN WIN?

The stars could well align for Porsche this weekend as it seeks its first LMP1 victory with the 919 Hybrid. The car’s shown much better pace in the second half of the season and been closer to Toyota than has Audi. Both the No. 14 or the No. 20 are podium contenders. Mark Webber returns to the site of one of his most successful F1 circuits, and along with Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard could well be the trio that delivers the 919 its first win.

TOYOTA, ASTON MARTIN SEEK TO EXTEND STREAKS

Toyota has already clinched the driver’s World Championship with Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi and is poised to capture the Manufacturer’s Championship this weekend. Meanwhile either that pairing in the No. 8 Toyota TS040 Hybrid or the sister No. 7 of Alex Wurz, Stephane Sarrazin and Mike Conway looks to deliver Toyota’s fourth straight win, which would be a first for the Japanese marque in the WEC. In GTE-Am, Aston Martin has won the last five races and six of seven this season; a six-pack is possible with either its championship-winning No. 95 Young Driver-backed “Dane Train” entry or the sister No. 98.

THE TRACK ITSELF

Resurfaced since the last time FIA WEC ran there, and with F1 having been there earlier this month, drivers and teams will be greeted with the new, smoother racing surface. How well each team adjusts to that will likely determine the pace-setters.

It should be a great weekend of racing in Brazil, with the Six Hours of Sao Paulo to run on Sunday.

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

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
0 Comments

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.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

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.