The FIA and Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) have jointly confirmed the entry lists for this year’s FIA World Endurance Championship and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
As expected, the launch conference revealed a slimmed-down WEC field for 2017, with the headline omission being Audi following its decision to end its LMP1 program at the end of last year.
Toyota confirmed late last night that it would be fielding three cars with the rounds at Spa and Le Mans, with Jose Maria Lopez replacing Stephane Sarrazin in a full-time seat. Sarrazin will race in the third car at Spa and Le Mans.
Defending manufacturers’ champion Porsche confirmed its line-up last December, with Andre Lotterer, Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber all getting LMP1 seats. Despite many hoping it would revive its third car entry from 2015, Porsche will only race with two cars at Le Mans once again.
Following Rebellion Racing’s move down to LMP2 means that ByKolles is the only non-factory team racing in the LMP1 class this year, entering one car. Ex-Formula 1 racer Robert Kubica will make his Le Mans debut with the privateer team, being listed as its driver for Le Mans.
The LMP2 grid will feature 10 cars through the WEC season, with a bumper grid of 25 slated for Le Mans. As expected, all the full-season entries will run ORECA chassis.
In GTE Pro, 13 cars were confirmed to be racing at Le Mans, including a full complement of four Ford GTs that combines both the US and European squads, as seen at Daytona last weekend. The biggest talking point here is the signing of rising endurance star Pipo Derani for the first three races, the Brazilian joining Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell in the No. 67 Ford GT.
In GTE Am, five cars will take part in the full WEC season, with a grid of 16 set for Le Mans.
Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.
There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.
Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.
Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.
By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.
With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.
This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.
Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.
Two privateers have started the season on a high note.
Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.
The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.
Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.
In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.