Could runner-up finish at Detroit start turnaround for Sato?

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Last season and the first seven races of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season have taken Takuma Sato on quite a roller-coaster ride.

In other words and in most cases, it’s been a story of one week up, and usually the next week down.

But it took rain, a crazy weekend and a twisting road course in the eighth race of 2015 to bring out some of the best in Sato on Sunday in the 2015 Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit No. 2, as the A.J. Foyt Racing driver finished a close second to winner Sebastien Bourdais.

“It was real close,” Sato said of the finish. “But I think we done most of what we could today, come back from the middle of the pack to finishing strong.”

It was Sato’s best finish since a runner-up showing more than two years ago at Sao Paulo, Brazil. His previous best finish this season was ninth in the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis last month.

“I’m really pleased to be back in here on the podium,” Sato said after Sunday’s race. “Yes, it was long and exciting. To be honest, it was crazy race for two days.”

And the height of craziness came late in Sunday’s race, when the red flag fell for a major crash. Then, as cleanup took place, IndyCar officials converted the race from a distance event to a timed finish.

Think of it as IndyCar’s version of a green-white-checkered event, as there were only three laps run before the checkered flag fell, with Bourdais finishing first and Sato right behind him.

Bourdais essentially doing a stutter step on the restart, which jammed up the rest of the pack, caused concern among drivers, including Sato.

“Obviously I wanted to win the race, but I think Sebastien restart (on Lap 66) was a little tricky. That really caught out Montoya, too. We should do steady acceleration from last corner. We all had to brake, which is not really what we talk about for the briefing.

“I leave it to IndyCar’s call for the regulations. But nevertheless, Seb did a good job of holding off. I try to go for the win for the rest of the season, of course.”

Once the pack finally got going, Sato did everything he could to catch and pass Bourdais, but the latter just had a better run in the closing laps.

“To be honest, it was difficult,” Sato said. “The restart was a great chance. Once get into the rhythm, I think he had a really fast car today, so he really – how can I say – has got a winner.

“I tried to catch him, try to overtake him. I had one chance on the back straight to come to white flag. Into turn seven it’s tricky. … If completely dry, I would commit to go side-by-side. But it was too risky. Obviously he did the holding line really well.

“I really disagree on his restart manipulation technique. Obviously other than that, he’s done everything he could. He’s the real winner today. (It’s a) shame, but I try next time.”

And there was one other consolation Sato could take: “No Penske, Ganassi on the podium,” he said. They’re the big teams, tough to beat. But I think, as I said, nothing is impossible. This is part of this great sport to give opportunity. I really love it.”

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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.

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.