Le Mans: Corvette, Dempsey, Scuderia Corsa make for heavy American podium presence

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LE MANS, France – It was a banner day for the U.S.A. at the Circuit de la Sarthe this Saturday and Sunday.

Corvette Racing captured a popular, comeback, emotional and overdue victory in the GTE-Pro class, while five American drivers finished on the podium in the GTE-Am class.

For Corvette, the win came after a thrilling back-and-forth bout with its trio of Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Jordan Taylor in the No. 64 Corvette C7.R against the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia of Gianmaria Bruni, Toni Vilander and Giancarlo Fisichella, the defending race champions.

But gearbox problems resigned the Ferrari to the garage in the second-to-last hour and Corvette emerged triumphant at the end of a trying week, where the No. 63 Corvette C7.R with Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Ryan Briscoe had to withdraw after an early week accident caused by a mechanical issue.

“I am proud of how the No. 63 and No. 64 drivers, engineers and crew came together to rally around a single Corvette C7.R entry for the race after Thursday’s unfortunate incident,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. Vice President, Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “They prepared thoroughly and had each others’ back all race long. Perseverance, teamwork and execution were keys to the winning effort.

“It was very emotional to be in the garage with the entire team when the checkered flag dropped,” he added. “The Corvette Racing team simply never gave up.”

Said Gavin, who won his fifth Le Mans and first in nearly a decade since 2006: “Winning Le Mans is always a fairy tale story. The way everything turned out over the week, with the No. 63 Corvette having its issues and not being able to start the race… the way the team all came together and led us into the race and enabled us to have this fantastic result today, it’s just amazing.

“It’s just been one of those days where you’re waiting for something to spring up, like another hurdle to come in your way to stop you from taking a victory. It was a spectacular race for Tommy and Jordan and myself – one of those events where you’re having great races with Aston Martin, Ferrari and Porsche but in the end we were the strongest car and we ended up coming away with victory. This is my fifth victory here at Le Mans, and I’m absolutely thrilled to come back here with Corvette Racing. I’m a very happy man.”

The GTE-Am, battle, meanwhile was shaping up to only see one American entry on the podium, but wound up with two.

A last hour crash for the class-leading and erstwhile dominant No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage V8 promoted the No. 72 SMP Racing Ferrari F458 Italia to the class lead, and brought both the No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR and No. 62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari F458 Italia onto the podium after their own scrap had been for third.

For Patrick Dempsey, it marked his first Le Mans podium in four attempts (2009, 2013, 2014) in the car he shared with past Le Mans class winner Patrick Long, Porsche’s lone American factory driver, and Le Mans debutante Marco Seefried.

Meanwhile Scuderia Corsa’s trio of Townsend Bell, Bill Sweedler and Jeff Segal podiumed in their Le Mans debut. Bell and Sweedler add the Le Mans podium to class wins at Daytona and Sebring.

Other American entries included Extreme Speed Motorsports and Krohn Racing in LMP2, both of which finished, while Riley Motorsports came up just shy of a finish in the final couple hours with gearbox issues on its mighty Dodge Viper GTS-R.

IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.