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.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.