Chevrolet’s huge Detroit home weekend highlights big weekend overall

Photo: IndyCar
1 Comment

There’s no secret that when you come to the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix weekend at Belle Isle Park, that it is a huge weekend for General Motors.

Its headquarters are in the backdrop and most prominent throughout the weekend, and the detail-oriented effort the Penske-run event puts on is second to none.

Chevrolet then delivered on track in the two primary series it was competing in at Detroit in a big way:

  • Swept the two Verizon IndyCar Series races with Sebastien Bourdais (race one, KVSH Racing) and Will Power (race two, Team Penske) and secured four of the six podium positions with Bourdais, Power, Simon Pagenaud (second, race two) and Juan Pablo Montoya (third, race one). Pagenaud also scored both pole positions.
  • In the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, brothers Jordan Taylor and Ricky Taylor led a 1-2 finish for the Corvette Daytona Prototype in its home race at Belle Isle. The Wayne Taylor Racing duo won for the second time in three years in the Detroit Sports Car Challenge presented by Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers with their No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP. The No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP crew of Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa finished second, Fittipaldi having scored the pole.

Here’s your accompanying win quotes from Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. Vice President, Performance Vehicles and Motorsports:

“That was a great drive by Will, a strong race strategy by the team and the crew executed so well throughout the race,” he said after Power’s win on Sunday.

Prior to that, here’s what he said of Bourdais’ Saturday win: “Congratulations to Sebastien Bourdais and KVSH Racing for winning at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit for the second consecutive year. Teamwork was key. Sebastien drove a great race, Jimmy Vasser, Kevin Kalkhoven and the engineers made the right strategic calls, and the crew executed all race long. Sebastien’s win means a lot in Chevrolet’s hometown.”

And here’s what he said after the IMSA 1-2:  “This is an exciting day for Chevrolet and our Corvette Daytona Prototype programs. Congratulations to Ricky Taylor, Jordan Taylor and everyone on the Wayne Taylor Racing Konica Minolta Corvette DP team for today’s win. It was a great battle with the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP of Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi. Both teams had fast Corvette DPs, executed quick pit stops and were on top of race strategy.  This gives the Corvette DP teams a 5-0 record on Belle Isle, and today also earns Chevrolet the lead in the Prototype Engine Manufacturer Championship standings. It was great to have the support of so many Chevrolet and Corvette owners here at the track and following the racing action on TV.”

Then around the rest of the world, Chevrolet teams did pretty well, as well.

  • On Monday in Pocono, Kurt Busch won the rain-delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in his No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing.
  • Kyle Larson took the win in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Pocono in his No. 42 Cessna/NTT Data Group Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing.
  • Greg Anderson and KB Racing took the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock win at Epping, N.H.
  • Overseas, Corvette Racing led the test day for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in what figures to be a highly competitive GTE-Pro class. Antonio Garcia set a lap of 3:55.122 (129.680 mph) in the No. 63 Konica Minolta/Mobil 1/Sirius XM Chevrolet Corvette C7.R. Garcia, who celebrated a birthday Sunday and will team with Jan Magnussen and Ricky Taylor, led a Corvette Racing effort that focused on race setup and strategy as the team works toward what it hopes will be a ninth victory at the French endurance classic.

Also of note in Detroit, although it was a non-points race, Chevrolet teams did well in the Trans-Am Series too. RJ Lopez (Chevrolet Corvette) and Paul Fix (Corvette) went 1-2 in the first of two races on Saturday in the TA class, with Kyle Marcelli (Chevrolet Camaro) winning the TA2 class. On Sunday, Ernie Francis Jr. (Camaro) won the TA4 class.

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.