Porsche fastest in first official test for 24 Hours of Le Mans

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Porsche sent out an early warning shot to rivals Audi and Toyota in the first official test for the 24 Hours of Le Mans at the Circuit de la Sarthe by topping both free practice sessions.

The prestigious race is set to take place on June 13-14, but the drivers and teams got their first chance to get in some laps on Sunday with two four-hour sessions that saw the Porsche 919 Hybrids set the pace.

In the first practice session, the no. 18 Porsche of Romain Dumas, Marc Lieb and Neel Jani finished four-tenths of a second clear of Audi’s third car, the no. 9, at the top of the timesheets.

The two German marques locked out the top six positions in first practice, with Toyota’s cars finishing down in seventh and eighth.

The order at the top was much the same for second practice, only with Porsche’s no. 17 car of Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley setting the pace ahead of its third car, the no. 19 of Nico Hulkenberg, Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy. Once again, Toyota could not break into the top six, settling for P7 and P8.

Nissan’s first public run with the NISMO LMP1 GT-R was a productive one as all three cars completed plenty of running in the damp conditions, even if they failed to rival the leading teams.

In LMP2, the no. 34 Oak Racing Ligier posted the fastest time of the day, finishing narrowly ahead of the no. 36 Signatech Alpine Nissan. Murphy Prototype’s no. 48 set the pace in the second practice session but was unable to beat the times set by the leading cars in the first session.

GTE-Pro saw the no. 97 Aston Martin Racing car post the fastest time of the day, finishing narrowly ahead of Corvette’s no. 64 car. AMR managed to keep up this form in GTE-Am as the no. 98 car of Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda and Paul Dalla Lana topped the timesheets ahead of the no. 61 AF Corse in the overall timesheets for the day.

The next activity at Le Mans isn’t for another week, with the public scrutineering set to take place in the city centre. Porsche’s Nico Hulkenberg is poised for a particularly busy period, though, as he now jets off to Canada for next weekend’s F1 race.

Three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick joining Andretti in Indy NXT Series for 2023

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Jamie Chadwick, the three-time W Series champion, will drive for Andretti Autosport in the Indy NXT Series next season.

Chadwick will make her debut in an American racing series in March, driving the No. 28 for Andretti Autosport with sponsorship from DHL. The 24-year-old will become the first female driver in 13 years to compete full time in the Indy NXT championship.

Chadwick joined the female free-to-enter W Series in its inaugural 2019 season, winning two races and the first of three consecutive championships. She has been a reserve driver for the Williams Formula One team and will continue in that role in 2023. She also has driven in the Extreme E Series.

Despite her success, Chadwick hasn’t landed a bigger ride in F3 or F2, and her break didn’t come until Michael Andretti contacted her and offered a test in an Indy NXT car.

The final three races of this year’s W Series schedule were canceled when funding fell through, but Chadwick still believes the all-female series was the right path for her.

“W Series has always been and will continue to be an opportunity to be racing for every female driver, so for my side, I looked at it while perhaps I would have liked to step up maybe earlier, at the same time being able to have that chance to race, get that experience, have that development, seat time… I was constantly learning,” Chadwick told The Associated Press.

“In that sense, I wasn’t frustrated at all. But on the flip side of it, now I’ve had that experience testing in the United States in Indy NXT and this is something I’m really excited about.”

Chadwick also is expected to have an enhanced role as a development driver next season with Williams, which chose American driver Logan Sargeant to fill its open seat on next year’s F1 grid.

“Andretti Autosport is proud to be supporting Jamie alongside DHL,” said Michael Andretti. “Jamie’s successful career speaks for itself, but Indy NXT gives Jamie the opportunity to continue her development in a new type of racing.

“We’ve turned out five Indy NXT champions over the years and look forward to continuing our role in developing new talent.”

Indy NXT is the new name of the rebranded Indy Lights Series, the final step on the ladder system before IndyCar.

Andretti will field two drivers next season in IndyCar that were developed in Indy NXT: Kyle Kirkwood, the 2021 champion, will return to Andretti after one season in IndyCar driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, and Devlin DeFrancesco is back for a second season.

Chadwick will be teammates in Indy NXT with Hunter McElrea and Louis Foster. She becomes Andretti’s second full-time female driver alongside Catie Munnings, who competes for Andretti United in the Extreme E Series.