Ganassi’s Ford GT Le Mans lineup set for likely reveal next week

Photo: Michelin

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The remaining extra drivers for the four Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans are highly likely to be announced next week.

A team spokesperson confirmed to NBC Sports that it’s likely the early part of next week will see the remaining drivers picked for the June 18-19 race, once Ford finalizes its plans in partnership with the team.

Team principal Chip Ganassi didn’t drop any hints of who on Saturday during a media availability with select reporters at the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, but did tease that it likely won’t be too much of a surprise.

“You can probably guess,” Ganassi said.

The eight confirmed drivers for the four Ford GTs – which will compete in the GTE-Pro category of the third round of the FIA World Endurance Championship – are all full-season drivers.

The WEC quartet of Olivier Pla, Andy Priaulx, Marino Franchitti and Stefan Muecke with the IMSA quartet of Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller, Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe set to join. All full-season lineups will stay in their same car at Le Mans.

While not formally confirmed beyond the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring next week, Sebastien Bourdais is highly likely to be nominated as one of the third drivers as well in what would mark his return to Le Mans for the first time since 2012, then driving with the Pescarolo team. Bourdais has three overall runner-up finishes but no victories at the track where not far from where he grew up.

Scott Dixon is also a strong and highly rumored candidate for one of the seats, and the Verizon IndyCar Series champion hopes to know officially either way soon.

If Dixon gets the call, he’d need to figure out the logistics of making it happen, although it’s possible to do so.

As a Platinum-rated driver by the FIA, he is exempt from Le Mans Test Day participation on June 5 even as a Le Mans rookie. That date is the same date at which point IndyCar races its second of two races in Detroit.

He’d need to, however, be on a plane immediately after the Saturday night race at Texas on June 11 to ensure he’d get to Le Mans in time for scrutineering (downtown technical inspection) on Sunday, June 12. Scrutineering runs for two days, and teams have their photo shoot and other scrutineering activities only one of the two days.

He’d also have to complete simulator training to learn the track and safety procedures. This was done by NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell last April, for instance, as he made his Le Mans debut (and will make his return this year with Scuderia Corsa in the same Ferrari F458 Italia) last year.

Ganassi’s other IndyCar drivers – Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball and Max Chilton – all have limited sports car experience but seem less likely to be in the frame as it stands. Kanaan told me in January he’d go wherever Ganassi tells him to and would love to if asked, while Chilton has said on multiple occasions that while any Ford GT chance would be a good one, he has unfinished business in LMP1 after his Nissan GT-R LM NISMO experience last year, his maiden Le Mans race, was far from an ideal debut. Kimball’s name has not been mentioned in regards to the Le Mans seat.

Ganassi did say that having drivers from his other programs – be it IndyCar or NASCAR – does add a cachet to sports car races the team competes in.

“Back in the era when I did it, it was a good thing,” he said. “That’s a better question for the drivers really.

“It helps, obviously. Do I want to have IndyCar drivers in sports cars or stock car in sports car? Not really.

“But with successful ones, it brings cachet. A Dixon, (Dario) Franchitti, (Kyle) Larson, (Jamie) McMurray… and you bring it to that, it brings cachet.

“Anytime you have winners, it brings cachet to sports cars.”

IndyCar disappointed by delay of video game but aiming to launch at start of 2024

IndyCar video game 2024

An IndyCar executive said there is “absolutely” disappointment that its long-awaited video game recently was delayed beyond its target date, but the series remains optimistic about the new title.

“Well, I don’t know how quick it will be, but the whole situation is important to us,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said during a news conference Monday morning to announce IndyCar’s NTT title sponsorship. “Motorsport Games has spent a lot of money, a lot of effort to create an IndyCar title. What we’ve seen of that effort, which is not completely obvious, is very reassuring.

“I think it’s going to be outstanding. That’s our shared objective, that when it is released, it’s just widely accepted. A great credit both to IndyCar racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, something that our fans love.”

In June 2021, IndyCar announced a new partnership with Motorsport Games to create and distribute an IndyCar video game for the PC and Xbox and PlayStation consoles in 2023.

But during an earnings call last week, Motorsport Games said the IndyCar game had been delayed to 2024 to ensure high quality.

Somewhat compounding the delay is that IndyCar’s license for iRacing expired after the end of the 2022 season because of its exclusive agreement with Motorsport Games.

That’s resulted in significant changes for IndyCar on iRacing, which had provided a high-profile way for the series to stay visible during its 2020 shutdown from the pandemic. (Players still can race an unbranded car but don’t race on current IndyCar tracks, nor can they stream).

That’s helped ratchet up the attention on having a video game outlet for IndyCar.

“I wish we had an IndyCar title 10 years ago,” said Miles, who has been working with the organization since 2013. “We’ve been close, but we’ve had these I think speed bumps.”

IndyCar is hopeful the Motorsports Game edition will be ready at the start of 2024. Miles hinted that beta versions could be unveiled to reporters ahead of the time “to begin to show the progress in a narrow way to make sure we’ve got it right, to test the progress so that we’re ready when they’re ready.”

It’s been nearly 18 years since the release of the most recent IndyCar video game for console or PC.

“(We) better get it right,” Miles said. “It’s something we’re very close to and continue to think about what it is to make sure we get it over the line in due course.”