Buemi storms to pole position for Long Beach ePrix

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e.dams driver Sebastien Buemi will start today’s Long Beach ePrix from pole position after edging out Daniel Abt and teammate Nicolas Prost during qualifying on Saturday afternoon.

The Swiss driver posted a fastest lap time of 56.853 seconds in the fourth and final stage of qualifying, recovering from a red flag delay to beat Abt by just 0.084 seconds after the German driver also found time in the dying stages of Q4.

Championship leader Prost will start the race from third, having led the way from Q2 before being beaten by two of the five drivers in the final group. Nelson Piquet Jr. qualified fourth ahead of compatriot Lucas di Grassi and Andretti FE driver Jean-Eric Vergne.

Group One in qualifying saw Scott Speed, Charles Pic, Nick Heidfeld, Jaime Alguersuari and Jean-Eric Vergne all head out on track, with the latter setting the early pace in the ten minute session. The Frenchman found more time on his final lap to secure P1 from the first part of qualifying, and with Speed P2, it marked a strong start for Andretti FE on Saturday afternoon.

Keen to overhaul his compatriot at the top of the timesheets, Nicolas Prost was the first driver out of the traps in Group Two. The Frenchman could only go fourth with his first lap time, but managed to improve late in the session to take pole position by one-tenth of a second from Vergne. Despite posting some quick sectors, Sam Bird could only finish fourth ahead of Bruno Senna and Jarno Trulli, whilst Loic Duval propped up the timesheets following the second stage of qualifying.

Lucas di Grassi may have been the pace-setter during practice earlier in the day at Long Beach, but the Brazilian struggled with his first flying lap in qualifying, going ninth the start of Group Three’s run. He soon rallied to move up to second place behind Prost, only to be upstaged by Nelson Piquet Jr., who bumped his compatriot down a position despite being held up in traffic. Antonio Felix da Costa’s best lap gave him fifth place, with Stephane Sarrazin finishing seventh as Salvador Duran was left down in last place.

In the final qualifying group, e.dams driver Sebastien Buemi appeared to stand the best chance of denying Prost pole position, but it was Daniel Abt who was the first to seriously challenge for P1. The German driver looked poised for a front-row start, only for a slow final sector to leave him tenth with his first competitive time. When Buemi did begin to turn up the heat, his flying lap was hindered by a yellow flag shown for Vitantonio Liuzzi, who had parked up after hitting the wall. The session was then red flagged to allow Liuzzi’s car to be recovered, despite it appearing to be parked in a safe place next to a circuit ambulance.

The session resumed five minutes’ later with four minutes left on the clock, giving the Group Four drivers one final chance to vie for pole position. After taking a lap to warm up his tires, Buemi put the hammer down for his last flying lap, only to have the goalposts moved again when Daniel Abt went fastest for Audi ABT. The e.dams driver was unfazed, though, going eight-hundredths of a second quicker to secure his second pole position of the season at Long Beach.

However, the stewards confirmed in the immediate aftermath of the session that Buemi was under investigation for going too quickly under the yellow flag in Q4, with their decision still to be confirmed.

For the time being though, it is Buemi who will start today’s race from pole position after scintillating display during qualifying at Long Beach.

“Yeah really good,” Buemi said after the session. “Great for the team. We are first and third so it’s good.

“We just need to make sure that we finish the race and get as many points as possible. I’m quite happy after the last race which was difficult.”

The Long Beach ePrix starts at 4pm local time.

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

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
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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.