All-American Porsche lineup headlines recent Le Mans entry updates

Photo: WeatherTech Racing
0 Comments

A bummer as it was to have not seen Bill Riley’s Riley Motorsports team and its Dodge Viper GTS-R get a spot on this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans entry list, as it’s turned out, things are shaping up fine for its planned lineup of drivers at Le Mans after all.

Ben Keating announced a deal to where he, Jeroen Bleekemolen and another Riley veteran in Marc Goossens would be in the No. 48 Murphy Prototypes Oreca 03R Nissan for Le Mans. It’s an open-top LMP2 car and one of the oldest in the field, but a tried-and-true package featuring two aces.

Marc Miller, meanwhile, will get the chance to return to the race for a second time as well – with an assist from Keating, Bleekemolen and Riley who were keen to see the talented American driver back on the grid in a GTE car.

Miller will be one of three drivers in an all-American driver lineup, along with Cooper MacNeil and Leh Keen in the No. 89 WeatherTech-backed Porsche 911 RSR run by Proton Competition. Gianluca Roda had been that car’s nominated driver.

MacNeil and Bleekemolen ran the 2014 Le Mans race on their own in GTE-Pro without an available fill-in Bronze-rated driver in a backup Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, which proved an incredible story. Miller, meanwhile, will get to race a Porsche at Le Mans as he does in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge.

“My second time doing the race was an experience I will absolutely never forget,” MacNeil reflected. “Jeroen Bleekemolen and I finished fifth in GT Pro driving an antiquated car, compared to the competition, with all odds against us.

“We were a privateer team going up against strictly factory efforts with factory drivers while we were in an older car racing against the best in the world with one less man. Every time I got out of the car I would get some food and then lay down to sleep. As soon as my head hit the pillow there was a knock at the door for me to go back to the pits and prepare for my next stint in the car. I did over 11 hours in the car and the Dutchman did the rest.”

Added Miller, “When I think about Le Mans, I think about the 917’s and 911’s that have enjoyed so much success. It is incredible to have the opportunity to say that I will have raced a Porsche at the most storied race in the world. I have a huge amount of respect for Cooper and Leh and the entire WeatherTech Racing program. They have been front runners in the series and both also have experience at Le Mans, making this year even more focused and exciting.”

Some other changes/updates of note:

  • Joel Camathias has been confirmed at KCMG as its third driver of its Porsche 911 RSR in GTE-AM for the full FIA World Endurance Championship with Christian Ried and Wolf Henzler. Henzler was originally scheduled to step up as third driver of Dempsey Proton’s No. 77 Porsche 911 RSR in GTE-Pro for Le Mans with Richard Lietz and Michael Christensen. Assuming he stays there, the No. 78 KCMG Porsche would need a third driver for Le Mans.
  • Algarve Pro Racing has been promoted to the main entry list as the 23rd car in LMP2 with its No. 25 Ligier JS P2 Nissan that will run in the European Le Mans Series. Michael Munemann is the car’s nominated driver with Andrea Pizzitola the second confirmed driver. Indian driver Parth Ghorpade is testing with them this week in Paul Ricard, among several others.
  • Algarve Pro takes the place of TDS Racing, whose No. 59 Aston Martin Vantage was withdrawn from GTE-Am.
  • Greaves Motorsport’s Gibson 015S Nissan, which had been the first reserve, has withdrawn as have the Riley Viper (seventh reserve) and extra Proton Porsche (ninth reserve).
  • Clearwater Racing’s Ferrari F458 Italia (GTE-Am) will switch from No. 58 to No. 61.
  • The number of driver openings are dwindling. Some of the key spots not yet nominated include the third drivers for the Ferrari 488 GTE seats in GTE-Pro, Krohn Racing’s third seat in LMP2, and the Beechdean-backed Aston Martin in GTE-Am. There, Jonny Adam will be with Alex MacDowall and Andrew Howard in the ELMS, but will be in a factory GTE-Pro entry for the WEC.

Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward points’ slide

0 Comments

Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.