WEC: Hulkenberg impresses on debut, finishing sixth

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Nico Hulkenberg enjoyed a successful debut in the FIA World Endurance Championship on Saturday at Spa-Francorchamps by fighting back to finish sixth in the no. 19 Porsche alongside Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy.

Hulkenberg has decided to combine his duties in Formula 1 with two races in the WEC for Porsche in 2015, taking part in the 6 Hours of Spa and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

After months of testing, the German enjoyed his first endurance start at Spa on Saturday after qualifying in second place on the grid as part of a Porsche 1-2-3 at the front of the grid.

Tandy took the start in the no. 19, but dropped down the order following a crash with Porsche Team Manthey GT driver Kevin Estre in the first hour of the race.

Hulkenberg took over after 34 laps, and remained in the car for over an hour as Porsche looked to bring its car back up the order. The German doubled stinted his tires before handing the 919 Hybrid car over to Earl Bamber, who managed to lift the car up into sixth position after both Audi and Toyota hit trouble.

At the front of the field, Porsche’s no. 18 crew once again fought for the win with the no. 7 Audi, but was unable to catch up in the closing stages of the race, eventually crossing the line 13.4 seconds behind in second place.

Capping off a good weekend at Spa for Porsche was the no. 17 car of Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard in third place. Hartley had been leading for the team in the early stages of the race, but an electrical problem and time penalty dropped the car down the order before fighting back to P3 at the flag.

“That was an extremely exciting and turbulent race for us,” Fritz Enzinger, Porsche’s LMP1 vice-president said. “At the beginning we had a one-two-three lead before an unlucky accident, but with the two podium finishes and sixth we have achieved our target to finish the race with all three cars.

“We were absolutely up to speed. The result speaks for itself when first and the second are separated by only a few seconds after a six-hour race. We also once again made progress in terms of reliability. We are on the right path for Le Mans and look forward to the great challenge.

“I take my hat off to the entire team – especially to the third crew and our three new drivers. They integrated themselves into the team very well and were competitive right from the beginning.”

Hulkenberg will now return to action in Formula 1 with Force India at next weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.