Audi quickest in opening WEC practice at the Nürburgring

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NÜRBURGRING – Audi kicked off its home weekend in style by topping the opening practice session for the 6 Hours of Nürburgring on Friday afternoon.

For the first time since its formation, the FIA World Endurance Championship has graced the historic German circuit, which is the site of the series’ resumption following the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.

Just as it was at the Circuit de la Sarthe, this weekend’s race is shaping up to be a fight between Audi and Porsche once again as the two German marques locked out the top four positions in a damp first free practice session.

The no. 7 car of Benoit Treluyer, Marcel Fassler and Andre Lotterer topped the timesheets with a best lap of 1:39.201, edging out the no. 18 Porsche of Romain Dumas, Marc Lieb and Neel Jani by just 0.079 seconds.

Audi’s no. 8 piloted by Oliver Jarvis, Lucas di Grassi and Loic Duval followed home in third place, seven-tenths of a second adrift of its sister car. Once again, Porsche finished narrowly behind as the no. 17 of Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard finish five-thousands of a second down.

Toyota once again struggled to match the pace of its German rivals as its cars limped home to fifth and sixth overall, over 2.5 seconds behind the pace set by the front-runners.

In LMP2, G-Drive continued its strong 2015 form as the no. 28 and no. 26 cars went one-two. The all-British line-up of Nick Levants, Danny Watts and Jonny Kane in Strakka Racing’s no. 42 car.

In GTE Pro, AF Corse also managed to go one-two with its pair of Ferraris. Defending GT champions Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander set the pace in the no. 51 car despite having a brief off at the first corner early in the session, and were followed by the no. 71 of Davide Rigon and James Calado, four-tenths of a second behind.

AF Corse also led the way in GTE Am with the no. 83 car of François Period, Emmanuel Collard and Rui Aguas finishing two-tenths of a second clear of Aston Martin Racing’s no. 98. The no. 88 Abu Dhabi Proton Racing car, which has Le Mans winner Earl Bamber in its crew for this weekend, rounded out the top three.

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.