Lowdon confirms Manor departure after Abu Dhabi GP

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Manor sporting director Graeme Lowdon has confirmed that he will be leaving the team following the final Formula 1 race of the season in Abu Dhabi.

Over the Mexican Grand Prix weekend, sources informed NBCSN that Lowdon had tendered his resignation alongside team principal John Booth after a breakdown in the relationship with Manor owner Steven Fitzpatrick.

Speaking in Friday’s press conference ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix, Lowdon confirmed that he would indeed be leaving Manor at the end of the month following the finale in Abu Dhabi.

“Abu Dhabi’s going to my last race with the team and rather than focus on the reasons, I would prefer to focus on the fact that the most important task this year was to make sure that the team continued racing,” Lowdon said.

“We had to stop before the end of last season, we weren’t in Abu Dhabi last year, and that required an awful lot of hard work and an awful lot of commitment as well. It’s quite well documented, the staff were all made redundant on the 7th of November, 2014 and things looked pretty bleak at that particular time.

“My own opinion is that Formula 1 racing teams are pretty precious things and something that deserves effort in making sure it continued. Certainly my belief in the team at that stage never wavered once. We worked very, very hard to make sure that the team was in a position to continue racing.”

The old Marussia F1 Team collapsed following last year’s Russian Grand Prix after falling into administration, but thanks to the hard work of Lowdon and Booth was able to return to the grid in 2015 as Manor.

Lowdon took the opportunity to thank a number of figures who ensured that Manor would race in 2015, including F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone.

“Now is probably my only opportunity actually to thank a few people who were instrumental in the team being able to continue and certainly over that period, November, December, January, we received a lot of help from Bernie Ecclestone in particular, also from Jean Todt,” Lowdon said.

“I have to say everybody involved in the governing side and the commercial rights side were entirely constructive during that whole period and the team wouldn’t have survived without that input.

“But also from Ferrari who were really, again, instrumental, not just in the team being able to survive and get an engine deal at very short notice but also from the very first race, a commitment from James Allison in particular.

“He has a very important and public task at Ferrari, ensuring that their team is in a good position but from our point of view, as a customer team, we received some really pivotal support from him.

“And of course the staff at the team; we had to get a team back together very very quickly and that would not have happened if we hadn’t have been able to attract a lot of the same faces who were with the team in the previous years.

“Again, that was extremely important. If that hadn’t have happened, the team wouldn’t have continued as well, so a lot of things had to come together and so from my point of view, this has been a pretty difficult season but that’s secondary to the fact that the team continues, and that’s the most important thing.”

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

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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.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

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.