Haas’ F1 interest piqued by Anderson’s USF1 project

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Some six years after USF1’s false start, as it never even made it to the 2010 Formula 1 season opener, Haas F1 Team remains on target, on schedule and with full focus on preparing not just for Melbourne, but the season’s first test in Barcelona.

The origins of Gene Haas’ squad, however, date back to the USF1 era, when Haas was a supplier of some USF1 machinery and had talks with his former Haas CNC Racing technical director, Ken Anderson.

The tale of Haas F1 Team, then, in a sense almost comes full circle to the USF1 project, as Haas told assembled reporters today during this week’s NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte.

“Everything in F1 is a long process. Guenther (Steiner), actually, approached Joe (Custer) and myself at dinner one night,” Haas said. “We’d been involved with Ken Anderson in his project. He said, ‘Hey, are you guys interested in some F1?’ He preached customer cars, which were on the table at the time.

“We spent time dillying and dallying when the customer car concept was around. Like we could think, ‘We’d just get a car from Ferrari, I know the guys over there.’ Then it came to B, ‘We can do this and be cost effective.’ But like everything else, you put these things out on the table, and hardly anything actually gets approved. So customer cars never happened, and a couple years wasted there.

“Then Guenther said, ‘What do you want to do?’ We talked to Bernie a bit, and he was a bit standoffish. It was like, ‘If you want to be serious … you’re welcome to take a shot.’ But I don’t think he took us serious. He was kind of, well, ‘I have people ask all the time. But of 100 people, hardly anyone makes it.’

“After three years, if you’re serious, we put forth a tender. And it went from there.”

Haas expanded on the Anderson/USF1 partnership later in the media session, noting that Anderson and USF1’s progress – regardless of them not actually making the grid – still piqued his interest.

“I found it rather intriguing. It was a whole different racing venue. I thought it was interesting,” Haas said.

“If anything, Ken Anderson left a taste in my mouth for Formula 1. I liked the Formula 1 format. Formula 1 has a lot of history, great racetracks. And so being able to participate in that is very gratifying.

“We supplied USF1’s CNC machines, and they had a handful of machines. I went to that shop maybe twice. He showed me how they were doing things. It was different.”

Much of Haas F1 Team’s program is different – the several location-effort between the U.S., England and Italy and the combination of two veteran manufacturers (Dallara and Ferrari) to produce the chassis and power unit.

But again, and we’ve written this before, Gene Haas didn’t get to where he is in business and racing by being status quo.

And being different is one of several reasons why Haas F1 Team is so damn intriguing heading into this F1 season.

The key is that it’s different enough from USF1, where the idea entered Haas’ mind.

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

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing

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.