Nissan LMP1 drivers cut their teeth in Nurburgring 24 Hours and Imola ELMS

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Five of the nine drivers that are set to make their Nissan LMP1 debuts at next month’s 24 Hours of Le Mans cut their teeth at Imola and the Nurburgring over what was a busy weekend in the endurance racing world.

A bumper field of 151 cars took to the Nurburgring’s Nordschleife layout on Saturday afternoon for one of the most fearsome 24 hour races in motorsport, with Audi’s no. 28 car emerging victorious by 40 seconds ahead of the Marc VDS Racing no. 25 BMW.

Nissan enjoyed a particularly fruitful race as three of its LMP1 drivers drove in the no. 35 car for the twice-around-the-clock event. Lucas Ordonez, Michael Krumm and Alex Buncombe ran alongside Super GT racer Kazuki Hoshino en route to ninth place overall, marking the Japanese marque’s best result in recent years.

“We had a very straightforward race,” team boss Bob Neville said. “After the initial single stints the drivers all did doubles and didn’t put a foot wrong. We were pretty cautious during the night when it was raining and this worked out well for us.

“The car ran like clockwork and it is always good to be able to say that the car didn’t need any repairs during the race. I’m very pleased with my team and very happy to take such a good finish here.”

Imola played host to the second round of the 2015 European Le Mans Series season on Sunday, with Nissan’s Harry Ticknell claiming a podium finish in the no. 38 Jota Sport car in the LMP2 class. The race was won by Thiriet by TDS Racing’s no. 46 car, piloted by Pierre Thiriet, Ludovic Badey and Tristan Gommendy.

Another Nissan LMP1 driver, Mark Shulzhitskiy, made his debut for Lanan Racing in LMP3 where he finished third in class.

The quintet will now be turning their attention to Nissan’s LMP1 racing bow at Le Mans, which is less than one month away and promises to be yet another thrilling event.

Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

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NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?