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WEC grid continues to shape up ahead of Paul Ricard Prologue

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The field for the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship is continuing to shape up ahead of the collective pre-season ‘prologue’ test at Paul Ricard later this month following a series of announcements in the LMP2 class.

The WEC paddock will come together for the first time in 2016 at Paul Ricard on March 25 and 26 for five sessions of running ahead of the opening race of the year at Silverstone on April 17.

Here’s a run-down of the recent WEC news as the countdown to the beginning of the new season continues.

CANAL JOINS GREAVES MOTORSPORT FOR ELMS, LE MANS

Defending LMP2 WEC champion Julien Canal has moved from G-Drive to Greaves Motorsport for the 2016 European Le Mans Series campaign.

Canal won the LMP2 title last year alongside Sam Bird and Roman Rusinov, but will not defend it this year after his move into ELMS. However, he will still race at Le Mans alongside Memo Rojas.

RENE RAST IN AT G-DRIVE

Following Canal’s move to Greaves and Bird’s switch to AF Corse in GTE Pro, G-Drive announced earlier this week that Audi driver Rene Rast would be joining its line-up for the full WEC season.

Rast enjoyed an impressive outing in the third Audi LMP1 car at Le Mans last year, but the German marque has cut back to two entries for 2016. Rast joins Nathanael Berthon and Rusinov in the no. 26 entry.

RICHELMI TO MAKE WEC DEBUT WITH SIGNATECH ALPINE

Former GP2 driver Stephane Richelmi will make his debut in the FIA WEC this year with Signatech Alpine after the French team completed its line-up for 2016.

Richelmi left single-seaters at the end of 2014 and spent much of last year racing in the Blancpain GT Series, but will now move into endurance racing full-time.

The Monegasque racer will race alongside Nicolas Lapierre and Gustavo Menezes in the no. 36 entry this year, while the outgoing Nelson Panciatici has moved to the no. 35 DC Racing team.

ENTRY LIST SET FOR PAUL RICARD PROLOGUE

The entry list for the pre-season Prologue at Paul Ricard has been released by the FIA, featuring 29 of the 32 cars signed up for the full WEC season.

Audi and Toyota are both only taking one LMP1 car to Paul Ricard, while Aston Martin Racing is doing the same in GTE Pro with its Vantage car.

“The Prologue has now become an established part of the WEC calendar and is greatly anticipated by both media and fans alike,” series CEO Gerard Neveu said.

“Our manufacturer partners and teams take this opportunity to reveal their 2016 cars to a growing number of international media each year, and of course it is the first chance for all the competitors to test themselves against their rivals.

“For fans in France and beyond it is a fantastic event, with an open paddock, autograph session and pit walk on Saturday. The friendly and open spirit of the WEC begins here at The Prologue and we welcome everyone.”

You can see the full entry list here.

IndyCar’s season finale at St. Pete approved to have 20,000 fans

IndyCar St. Pete fans
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The NTT IndyCar Series’ season finale will be permitted up to 20,000 fans, making the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg possibly the circuit’s most well-attended race of 2020. The race originally was scheduled as the season opener before being moved to Oct. 25 because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

IndyCar has enjoyed limited crowds at Road America, Iowa Speedway, Gateway, Mid-Ohio and this weekend’s doubleheader races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, which could have up to 10,000 fans in attendance. That had been the largest maximum grandstand crowd for an IndyCar race this season.

At a St. Petersburg city council meeting Thursday, Mayor Rick Kriseman approved plans by race organizers Green Savoree Racing Promotions to hold the Oct. 23-25 weekend for the IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Pete with 20,000 fans who would follow health and safety protocols that include mandatory temperature checks and masks.

 “My thanks to Green Savoree Racing Promotions and IndyCar for their flexibility and resilience during this challenging time,” Kriseman said in a release. “I know that everyone is excited to get back on the track in St. Pete. I can’t wait for Oct. 23rd. I know everyone will embrace this race the St. Pete way, adhering to the COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Let’s have some great racing in the Sunshine City.”

Paddock and the pit lane will remain closed to spectators, and social distancing of at least 6 feet will be observed on site.

“Our entire team greatly appreciates the patience and understanding of our ticket holders as we worked through this process with Mayor Kriseman, City Council and local health officials,” Kim Green, co-owner, chairman and CEO of Green Savoree Promotions. “It’s important for everyone who attends to read and follow all the COVID-19 protocols to contribute to a fun, safe and successful event for us all.”

“The ongoing guidance and support of Mayor Kriseman, City Council, and the City of St. Petersburg’s event team have been phenomenal,” said Kevin Savoree, co-owner, president and COO of Green Savoree Promotions. “We also would not be in this position to move this spring tradition to fall without Firestone’s unwavering commitment and dedication. It’s going to be a terrific weekend again in downtown St. Pete in three weeks featuring world-class racing from INDYCAR.”