Stefan Johansson’s latest blog: Recapping the 2016 season

Photo: United Autosports
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Stefan Johansson’s blogs were a source of good inspiration, insight, analysis and occasional humor throughout the 2016 season and with all that said, he put all of those elements together in one good, year-end blog to recap last year.

It’s latest conversation with Jan Tegler live on Johansson’s website, which continues what we’ve chronicled throughout the year on NBCSports.com.

Prior to a full look back at the 2016 season, Johansson got behind the wheel himself to end the year. The Swede competed along with Jim McGuire, Matt Keegan and Nico Rondet in one of United Autosports’ Ligier JS P3 chassis in the Gulf 12 Hours in Abu Dhabi. The pair of six-hour segments combine to make up a casual and laid-back, but still competitive, 12-hour enduro to cap off the campaign.

Johansson hadn’t raced at the Yas Marina Circuit or been in the LMP3 prototype, but was complimentary of both after his first outing.

“It was good fun. I hadn’t been in a proper car for a while. It’s been four years since I last raced a prototype. It felt a bit rusty to start with but as the weekend went on I started to get sharper. It started to feel pretty good in my last stint of the race. I guess if I had to rate myself over the weekend, I’d give myself a “5” out of 10. There’s definitely room for improvement but I really enjoyed it.

“The Ligier LMP3 is a great car, fantastic fun to drive. I really like the concept of the LMP3 class with economical, proper prototypes.

“The facility is outstanding and visually it looks amazing when you first see it but it’s not very interesting once you drive it. There are four 1st-gear corners, ten 2nd-gear corners and one each which are 3rd, 4th and 5th-gear. So, the track is really all 1st and 2nd gear corners with the exception of turns two and three which are somewhat tricky to get right.”

In looking back then on 2016, Johansson hit most of the high notes he did in other blogs throughout the year.

He reflected on Nico Rosberg’s retirement in the immediate aftermath of the moment. After a month has passed since, Johansson noted Rosberg went out at a rather good time.

“I personally respect the way he bowed out of F1. When you think about it, what would a guy like that want to do next. Would he want to hang in there trying to break every record?” he said.

“Everyone has their own morals, desires and ambitions in life but I think what Rosberg did was classy and graceful.

“He figured out what he had to do, did it his way and succeeded. That’s very admirable.”

As F1 looks ahead to a different range of cars in 2017, Johansson thinks more speed will come but not necessarily better racing.

“Yes, we’ll have a completely new style of cars for better or worse. The cars will probably look a lot better but whether they’re going to be better in terms of racing remains to be seen. I doubt it very much personally.

“You have to assume that Mercedes will maintain some kind of advantage but whenever there’s a reset like this there is an opportunity for someone else to get it more right than the others and that advantage then tends to stay for a while as we’ve seen with Mercedes the past few years.”

In the wake of Audi’s withdrawal from LMP1 in the FIA World Endurance Championship, Johansson said the GTE and LMP2 racing that still exists deserves a bigger stage.

“Much like F1, the development of the cars have reached a point where the racing is not very interesting any longer, the GTLM and LMP2 categories are far more interesting to follow than the LMP1 is now, with great drivers in both categories and great teams running the cars. It’s hard racing all the way,” he said.

“I personally think we’re at a point now where we could take the GTLM cars and make them the main category. The goal for the ACO has always been for the fastest cars to be in the 3 min 30sec lap time bracket, they seem to think this is the safe area to be in for overall lap times. The GT’s are in the low 50’s now and if you took of all the restrictors they would gain a significant amount of horsepower which could translate to a lap time somewhere in the mid 40’s probably.

“Allow each manufacturer to then develop the cars bit further, add some wider tires and wider wheel arches which would make the cars look a lot more cool and aggressive and the lap times would be in the 30’s in a couple of years. The racing would be awesome with a whole grid full of the same cars essentially.”

Of course these are but just a few of the nuggets from Johansson’s latest blog, with the full blog linked here.

Previous linkouts to Johansson’s blog on MotorSportsTalk are linked below:

Additionally, a link to Johansson’s social media channels and #F1TOP3 competition are linked here.

 

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
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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.