Formula E’s second season is quickly shaping up to be F1’s Class of 2006 reunion

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When it was announced last night that Jacques Villeneuve would be joining Venturi GP for the 2015/2016 FIA Formula E season, the reaction that followed on social media was mixed.

I, personally, thought it was a highly intriguing and rather brilliant move. The opportunity to see a Villeneuve racing out on track is something that I believed had long passed me by.

However, at the age of 44, the former CART and F1 world champion will be back in a single seater for season two, turning back the clock to his last full-time ride with BMW Sauber in 2006.

Villeneuve is not the only member of F1’s Class of 2006 to be racing in Formula E for season two, though. In fact, things are shaping up for the upcoming campaign to be quite a nice class reunion for many of the drivers who raced together nine years ago (pictured at the Australian Grand Prix).

Jacques Villeneuve (2006 team – BMW Sauber)

As announced last night, Villeneuve will be racing for Venturi GP in season two alongside Stephane Sarrazin. The Canadian driver enjoyed a ‘career in reverse’ of sorts, winning the CART title in 1995 before moving to F1 in 1996, finishing second in his debut season.

The world title followed with Williams in 1997, but Villeneuve would not win another grand prix. Spells with BAR and Renault yielded more misery and joy before he split with BMW Sauber halfway through the 2006 season.

Since then, Villeneuve has raced in NASCAR, sportscars and even World RX, and has also worked as an F1 pundit for Italian TV.

Jarno Trulli (2006 team – Toyota)

Trulli’s long F1 career ended with Team Lotus (later to become Caterham) in 2011, but the Italian driver returned to single seaters in Formula E by setting up his very own team.

Trulli Formula E failed to set the world alight in season one, although the ex-Toyota driver did manage to score a shock pole position in Berlin. He is still TBC for season two, but given it’s his name above the door, expect Trulli to be racing once again.

Vitantonio Liuzzi (2006 team – Toro Rosso)

Liuzzi was one of the early products of Red Bull’s F1 junior programme, slotting in at Toro Rosso for the team’s debut season after Minardi was taken over by the energy drink giant.

The Italian driver struggled to make much of an impact, and was dropped at the end of 2007 to make way for Sebastien Bourdais. He returned towards the end of 2009 with Force India, replacing Giancarlo Fisichella, and stayed on for 2010 before joining Hispania in 2011.

Like Trulli, Liuzzi is still TBC, but is in the frame to race in Formula E’s second season.

Scott Speed (2006 team – Toro Rosso)

Speed and Liuzzi were actually teammates back in 2006, but he failed to live up to his name during an 18-month spell in F1. After failing to score a single point, the American driver was dropped to make way for Sebastian Vettel. And we all know how that turned out.

Speed has since dotted around a number of championships including NASCAR and GRC, but made a massive impact in Formula E by finishing second on debut for Andretti in Miami.

A return is yet to be confirmed, but Michael Andretti told Current E: “Scott did a very good job. We really like him. He does a great job in global rallycross. We’ll just have to look at the schedules for next year and see how many conflicts there would be.”

Pedro de la Rosa (2006 team – McLaren)

De la Rosa stepped up from his test driver role at McLaren to replace Juan Pablo Montoya following the 2006 United States Grand Prix after the Colombian left the team. He fared well in eight-race stint, scoring a podium finish at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

The Spaniard returned full-time with Sauber in 2010, but was dropped for Nick Heidfeld from Singapore onwards. His final full-time F1 campaign came in 2012 with the doomed HRT F1 Team.

De la Rosa tested with Team Aguri at Donington Park last month, and hinted that he would be open to a full-time drive in Formula E.

Nick Heidfeld (2006 team – BMW Sauber)

Heidfeld raced alongside Villeneuve at BMW Sauber in 2006 and put the Canadian driver in the shade with a number of good results. The German driver never quite managed to win a grand prix, though, and eventually dropped off the grid halfway through the 2011 season, being replaced by Bruno Senna at Lotus.

The German driver raced for Venturi in season one, but has now been replaced by Villeneuve. A return remains possible, though, given that Heidfeld was talking to multiple teams about a ride for season two.

Sakon Yamamoto (2006 team – Super Aguri)

Yamamoto was one of four drivers to race for minnows Super Aguri back in 2006, but unlike Yuji Ide (who had his super license revoked) and Franck Montagny (who raced for Andretti in Formula E last year), he managed to finish the season.

Brief run-outs for Spyker in 2007 and Hispania in 2010 followed, but Yamamoto did not return to F1 for 2011. He was signed by Amlin Aguri (yes, same Aguri) for the London ePrix, only to retire from both races.

Again, nothing is confirmed, but Yamamoto remains a contender for a seat in season two, particularly given the popularity of Formula E in his native Japan.

Other candidates

Other possible members of the Class of ’06 that have previously expressed an interest in Formula E include Christian Klien (2006 team – Red Bull), Christijan Albers (Midland), Robert Doornbos (Red Bull) and Takuma Sato (Super Aguri).

The 2015/2016 Formula E season starts in Beijing on October 17.

Roger Penske, Chip Ganassi bring their storied rivalry to a new level at Rolex 24

Ganassi Penske Rolex 24
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – To measure the impact of Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi squaring off for the first time in overall sports car wins (starting at the Rolex 24), look at the auto racing titans’ lineups.

There are 12 combined drivers across four entries representing Chip Ganassi Racing (competing as Cadillac Racing) and Team Penske (as Porsche Penske Motorsport) in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona.

And with the possible exception of six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, none of those behind the wheel is as famous and accomplished as the U.S. motorsports icons who will be sitting atop the pit stands at Daytona International Speedway.

In the NTT IndyCar Series, Penske and Ganassi are synonymous with success, having combined for 23 Indy 500 victories and 30 championships. They also competed in the NASCAR Cup Series for two decades with several signature wins for each.

DETAILS FOR THE 61ST ROLEX 24How to watch, entry lists, schedules for the IMSA season opener

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN GTPRolex 24 at Daytona kicks off new golden era for sports cars

Until now, the rivalry never extended to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, where they competed in different classes from 2018-19 and have competed in the top category in differing times over the years.

But the 2023 season opener at Daytona will mark the beginning of a new era in which Ganassi and Penske will compete for sports car overall victories on two continents. A Ganassi Cadillac Racing V-LMDh and Porsche Penske Motorsports Penske 936 will run full time in both the premier prototype divisions of IMSA and the European-based World Endurance Championship – whose crown jewel is the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Having two of the world’s biggest sports car races welcome the Ganassi-Penske battle seems only fitting in a season in which IMSA’s new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class is expected to introduce a stiffer level of competition.

“We obviously like beating each other,” Ganassi told NBC Sports. “I think if you beat Penske, you know you’ve beaten someone. You’ve accomplished something great. It’s going to be the same as always. Just another platform at another track, but the rivalry will be just as heated I’m sure.

“On one hand, he’s always the first guy to call us out for a penalty or something. On the other hand, he’s also the first guy to congratulate me on a win, so I think it’s a healthy rivalry, but we certainly pound each other’s heads into the ground on race day. Monday through Friday it switches to more of a good relationship.”

After starting his career in sports cars, Penske also is looking forward to having a new arena to race Ganassi.

“There is a lot of anticipation and excitement about the Rolex 24 and the upcoming sports car season overall,” Penske said in a statement to NBC Sports statement. “With the new hybrid prototype formula ready to make its debut, and some great competition expected on the track between teams, drivers and manufacturers, there is a lot of momentum building right now. Porsche Penske Motorsport is excited to compete in both the IMSA WeatherTech Championship, as well as the FIA World Endurance Championship, this season and I can’t wait to see the No. 6 and No. 7 Porsche 963s in action at Daytona this weekend. We also look forward to bringing some new rivalries and storylines to the sport.

Roger Penske confers with Chip Ganassi before the 2013 Honda Indy Toronto (Andrew Weber/USA TODAY Sports Images).

“In the new IMSA GTP class, there should be a good competitive balance between Porsche, Cadillac, Acura and BMW. We have seen how the rivalry between Team Penske and Ganassi Racing has developed in the NTT IndyCar Series in recent years, and that could certainly extend to sports cars as our teams and drivers continue to develop the new formula and push the production on track in both IMSA and WEC. We will see how the competition plays out, starting this weekend, as we always enjoy racing against Chip and his teams.”

Though there have been some fiery moments over the years (Dario Franchitti vs. Will Power, anyone?), Ganassi vs. Penske mostly has been a story of respect between two organizations whose main strengths are people.

“It’s just the depth of the organizations going up against each other,” Ganassi said. “It’s not just he and I. It’s at every level of the organization.

“We’re smaller. I’d like to think we’re a little more nimble. This is all I do is race cars. I don’t have 200 car dealerships or a truck rental company or a transportation company. I just have racing is all I have.”

Heading into Saturday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, here are the thoughts of Ganassi and Penske drivers in the Rolex 24 at Daytona:

Earl Bamber, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “When I grew up as a kid, I remember watching Chip Ganassi Racing and Penske battle each other for many years, obviously following Scott Dixon and his career in IndyCar (Bamber is a New Zealand native like Dixon). And when the opportunity came up to come and race for Chip, it’s a no-brainer. It’s one of those teams you want to drive for in the world. It’s one of the biggest and most successful teams in the world. And then we’ve got Porsche, where I used to drive, with Penske. It’s going to be a phenomenal rivalry over the next couple of years and that rivalry continues between two absolute legends of our sport. Two people who have been the most successful. I hope we can get Cadillac and Chip their first Le Mans win. That’s obviously the ultimate goal for us and beat his old rival, Roger.

“Those two powerhouses of the sport, they definitely raise the bar. You’ve seen it in IndyCar for years and years. One finds something and the next pushes it forward and forward. You’ll see the same in sports car racing. We all saw what Chip Ganassi Racing did back in the day with the GT program. So no doubt we can do the same again. It’s the ultimate highest level of motorsport when it comes to sports car racing, and there’ll be no stone unturned to make sure that we’re winning these races. It will be a really great fight, great for the fans and great for the sport, because both of them love winning.”

Dane Cameron, No. 6 Porsche Penske: “I think anytime you have Chip and Roger come to town to start fighting for wins, it raises the profile of the whole thing. Hopefully it brings a few more eyes to everything. Certainly brings a lot of expectation with it as well, and I also think it reflects really strongly on the championship to show how competitive it is. They respect the championship and challenge, but when they come to town, they come to win for sure.”

Scott Dixon, No. 01 Ganassi Cadillac: “The battle between Chip Ganassi Racing and Penske is always a fierce one. I obviously know it well from the IndyCar side. But I think it’s a lot more than that. It’s impressive to see a lot of the manufacturers that have come in for this battle. I imagine if it’s not from the first race but during the season that Penske and Ganassi will fight it out pretty hard.

“I think the rivalry between Chip Ganassi racing and Penske has always been strong and in a good way. There’s been some battles and the 2010s for me and other drivers when it gets fierce. Some disagreements here and there. But it’s always been a great pure battle, which is what I think these championships are made of and what brings the fans to the track. So I’d sum it up as a very healthy rivalry.”

Alex Lynn, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “Even as a little boy (growing up in England), you knew exactly who Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi were. You knew what their teams represented. For me to represent Chip and his team is a huge honor. I’m extremely motivated to try to add to his legacy and be part of the fabric of this team. I think having the battle between Penske and Ganassi is iconic. Also Porsche and Cadillac as brands, respectively, just adds to the occasion. Makes me smile even thinking about it knowing what we get to represent when the flag drops.”

Felipe Nasr, No. 7 Porsche Penske: “I think it’s fantastic especially because we’re merging the IMSA and WEC Series and giving the opportunity for teams like Penske and Ganassi to fight for overall victories. You look at the history of those teams, they’ve been on top. We always hear it from the IndyCar guys or the NASCAR side, you’re talking two big names in motorsports. You expect nothing but them fighting for wins. For sure Ganassi has strengths, and we have strengths as well. I’m pretty glad I have the opportunity to be representing Team Penske and continue to write history with them and Porsche is a great opportunity.”

Richard Westbrook, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “The chance for the two most famous teams in America to go head to head in the Daytona 24 Hours and also the Le Mans 24 Hours. I expect that rivalry to keep going up more notches.”

Renger van der Zande, No. 01 Ganassi Cadillac: “Obviously, it’s such the big houses of racing in the U.S. Penske and Ganassi are taking it at each other. The rivalry is big. The best of the best. The most famous ones in the U.S.

“Ganassi is part of Cadillac. We’re the race team that runs the factory program for Cadillac. Penske is running it for Porsche, obviously a high brand as well. Those teams have their little rivalry, but they’re working for a bigger company, a bigger brand, which is Cadillac and Porsche. So those two premium brands taking on each other and then two of the best teams in America taking on each other. It’s very simple: Cadillac got the best team in the U.S. and Porsche got the best team in the U.S. So let’s see what happens. It’s going to be a cool fight.”