Bell’s whirlwind tour takes him to Le Mans for the first time

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LE MANS, France – The month of May was a whirlwind for Townsend Bell, and so is the month of June.

Of course, so was the month of April.

Since the Verizon IndyCar Series season started the final week of March in St. Petersburg, a race Bell watched from home, Bell has not had an off weekend since Easter.

The intervening weeks that have followed: simulator time in Paris, consecutive weeks on NBCSN IndyCar broadcasts in New Orleans (April 12), Long Beach (April 19) and Birmingham (April 26), a TUDOR Championship race in Monterey (May 3), Indianapolis (May 10 through 24, with a detour to New York for media day), Detroit for TUDOR (May 30), Le Mans for the test day (May 31), back to Texas for IndyCar (June 6), and back to Le Mans this week.

For good measure, he’ll go straight to Daytona for the next round of the Red Bull Global Rallycross (2 p.m. ET, Sunday, June 21 on NBC) and then to Watkins Glen for the next TUDOR race on June 28.

Has it been hectic?

“It hasn’t been up until my flight [Sunday] was about two hours late,” Bell told MotorSportsTalk during Le Mans scrutineering on Monday. “So to make the train to get here on time for our scrutineering slot required a half mile full on sprint with bags, and I made the train by three minutes. That’s the only time it felt chaotic.”

What’s now on tap for Bell this week is pit stop practice, a four-hour free practice session, the two qualifying sessions and then the race with fellow Le Mans rookies Bill Sweedler and Jeff Segal in the No. 62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari F458 Italia in GTE-Am.

Bell described the mix of Italian and American influence that exists within Scuderia Corsa, Giacomo Mattioli’s team, that competes mainly in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and Pirelli World Challenge.

“We have a strong Italian influence on our team. There’s Italian technical director (Roberto Amorosi), Italian owner (Mattioli), and several Italian crewmembers. That enhances the overall ambiance,” Bell said.

“It’s like if you go into an Italian restaurant in New York City with Greek staff, it loses its charm. The authenticity is strong. But there’s a definite element of cowboy flavor that Bill, Jeff and I bring to it.”

Bell has had to have two studious roles, both as driver and commentator, throughout this whirlwind process.

“I probably haven’t studied enough for either,” he said. “But the Texas race was a blast. I thought it was a great race. Really tricky. Amazed there was not a single incident over 248 laps there.

“Here, Jeff Segal, our teammate, is really kind of like the Swiss Army driver. He’s so adept with data. He’s one of the top Ferrari driving coaches in the world. We’re lucky to have him. Provides us a lot of good feedback. We’re pretty well-prepared with notes.”

They’ll look to score a debut win or podium and add to other class wins in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, achieved in the last several years with separate teams. Bell and Sweedler won in Sebring in 2012, and the trio were part of a five-driver lineup that won in Daytona in 2014.

IndyCar disappointed by delay of video game but aiming to launch at start of 2024

IndyCar video game 2024

An IndyCar executive said there is “absolutely” disappointment that its long-awaited video game recently was delayed beyond its target date, but the series remains optimistic about the new title.

“Well, I don’t know how quick it will be, but the whole situation is important to us,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said during a news conference Monday morning to announce IndyCar’s NTT title sponsorship. “Motorsport Games has spent a lot of money, a lot of effort to create an IndyCar title. What we’ve seen of that effort, which is not completely obvious, is very reassuring.

“I think it’s going to be outstanding. That’s our shared objective, that when it is released, it’s just widely accepted. A great credit both to IndyCar racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, something that our fans love.”

In June 2021, IndyCar announced a new partnership with Motorsport Games to create and distribute an IndyCar video game for the PC and Xbox and PlayStation consoles in 2023.

But during an earnings call last week, Motorsport Games said the IndyCar game had been delayed to 2024 to ensure high quality.

Somewhat compounding the delay is that IndyCar’s license for iRacing expired after the end of the 2022 season because of its exclusive agreement with Motorsport Games.

That’s resulted in significant changes for IndyCar on iRacing, which had provided a high-profile way for the series to stay visible during its 2020 shutdown from the pandemic. (Players still can race an unbranded car but don’t race on current IndyCar tracks, nor can they stream).

That’s helped ratchet up the attention on having a video game outlet for IndyCar.

“I wish we had an IndyCar title 10 years ago,” said Miles, who has been working with the organization since 2013. “We’ve been close, but we’ve had these I think speed bumps.”

IndyCar is hopeful the Motorsports Game edition will be ready at the start of 2024. Miles hinted that beta versions could be unveiled to reporters ahead of the time “to begin to show the progress in a narrow way to make sure we’ve got it right, to test the progress so that we’re ready when they’re ready.”

It’s been nearly 18 years since the release of the most recent IndyCar video game for console or PC.

“(We) better get it right,” Miles said. “It’s something we’re very close to and continue to think about what it is to make sure we get it over the line in due course.”