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Reports: No Porsche, Audi third cars at Le Mans in 2017

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Next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans will be the same as this year’s in at least one respect: there won’t be a third Audi and a third Porsche, respectively.

The respective LMP1 program heads confirmed to Autosport that as part of their parent company Volkswagen’s budget cutbacks in the wake of their emissions scandal that it wouldn’t make financial sense to go back to three cars after scaling back to two this year.

“Three cars is not in the plan,” Head of Audi Sport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich told Autosport’s Gary Watkins, thus confirming what Ullrich had hinted at to Endurance-Info during the Total 24 Hours of Spa GT3 endurance race.

In the same Autosport report, Porsche LMP1 team principal Andreas Seidl told Watkins the third car for Porsche was “not a topic for discussion.”

Toyota could still run three cars at Le Mans next year, but hasn’t done so since arriving in the WEC in 2012.

Porsche’s third car famously won Le Mans in 2015 overall with Nico Hulkenberg joining Porsche factory aces Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber in their LMP1 Le Mans debuts.

But the scale back that came into play this year was always going to leave a gap on the LMP1 grid. The LMP1 grid fell from 14 cars at Le Mans in 2015 to nine cars this year.

Porsche, of note, should have more of its works drivers to place around its GT program in 2017 because of the impending arrival of a new GTE car to replace the venerable latest 911 RSR, which premiered worldwide in 2013.

Audi’s leftover third car drivers wound up in LMP2 seats, with Rene Rast (G-Drive Racing) and Filipe Albuquerque (RGR Sport by Morand) running the full season this year.

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).