Nissan NISMO scores Bathurst 12 Hour win


We meant to get to this yesterday but alas, it’s still very much worth noting: Nissan’s NISMO Global Athlete Team took the win in the weekend’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour race in Australia. It marks Nissan’s first win at Bathurst since 1992.

The lineup of Katsumasa Chiyo and Nissan GT Academy winners Wolfgang Reip and Florian Strauss – the latter a last-minute fill-in for Alex Buncombe, who was unable to attend the race due to the birth of his first child – completed an improbable comeback win in their No. 35 Nissan GT-R after a crash in qualifying on Saturday.

The crew worked tirelessly through the night to get the rear of the car repaired in order to make the start at 5:50 a.m. local time on Sunday. A consistent drive from the three of them, particularly by Reip in the early stages and Chiyo in the later ones, put them into position to win.

Chiyo’s heroics came in the final stint of the race off the last restart – the Nissan’s straight-line speed edge playing to the car’s benefit as Chiyo made several passes to get into the lead of the race.

“It is just unbelievable because I couldn’t imagine that end of the race, with a strong Audi and Bentley and we are still in the amateur class,” said Chiyo.

“The car is very good, it is very strong on the straight. I tried to imagine, it was just amazing, we couldn’t know what would happen in this race, but we just tried our best in the moment and then I had a chance in the final restart. It was just awesome. The car was amazing, and so was the team.”

Meanwhile there was an intense scrap for the final podium positions at the final few corners.

The polesitting No. 15 Phoenix Audi R8 LMS ultra of Marco Mapelli, Markus Winklehock and Laurens Vanthoor emerged second and the No. 97 Craft-Bamboo Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 emerged third, with Stefan Mucke, Alex MacDowell and Darryl O’Young behind the wheel.

Those two cars, with Vanthoor and Mucke driving at the end, made aggressive moves to displace Matt Bell, who fell to a hard luck fourth place in the No. 10 Bentley Continental GT3 he shared with Guy Smith and Steven Kane.

The dramatic finish prompted a few tweets from some sports car aces not pleased with either the Nissan’s horsepower or Mucke’s final corner move.

The dramatic finish came after an incident-plagued 12-hour race, which featured 20 safety car periods. One of them was for an incident where Red Bull Stratos space jumper Felix Baumgartner, in the sister Phoenix Audi, knocked Ivo Breukers’ Mazda off the road at high speed at the top of the mountain. Breukers emerged unscathed but it was a nasty looking incident.

The race also failed to include the usual guest stars from the Australian V8 Supercars championship, who were on a test session this weekend to conflict. Nonetheless, the presence only increased the star potential of those who were at Mount Panorama this weekend.

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

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing

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.