Aleshin, Sirotkin confirmed among others for Le Mans

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The 24 Hours of Le Mans grid, the marquee event of the FIA World Endurance Championship season, is nearly at completion following a couple other lineup announcements in the last two days.

Mikhail Aleshin, who was nominated as SMP Racing’s driver for No. 27 Dallara P217 Gibson chassis on the initial entry list, has been confirmed for what will be his third straight Le Mans with the team.

Aleshin is also involved in BR Engineering and Dallara’s testing work for a 2018 LMP1 chassis. The last two years at Le Mans, he ran in the team’s BR01 chassis, but the car was not one of the four eligible constructors confirmed for the new 2017 LMP2 regulations.

“We’re working to produce our own car for 2018… I’m one of the test or development drivers. I don’t know yet (Le Mans)… but maybe,” Aleshin told NBC Sports of his sports car program for this year at the Phoenix test in February.

“For me, the main thing this year is concentrate on two things. One is IndyCar. And then I have a very similar responsibility in taking care of our LMP1 project with SMP, as that will be very big.”

He’s the third full-season Verizon IndyCar Series driver confirmed for this year’s Le Mans, along with Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais, who are returning to two of Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s Ford GTs. NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell, who like Bourdais also won class last year at Le Mans (Bourdais co-won in GTE-Pro and Bell co-won in GTE-Am), is also in the field to defend that title with Scuderia Corsa in what is now a Ferrari 488 GTE.

Aleshin’s co-drivers will be Sergey Sirotkin and Victor Shaitar. Sirotkin, Renault’s reserve driver, will make his Le Mans debut while Shaitar will also be back for his fourth straight Le Mans with SMP.

Shaitar, Kirill Ladygin and Vitaly Petrov were on the podium at Le Mans last year, finishing third in the No. 37 BR01 Nissan.

In the GTE-Am class, one of the remaining TBA slots has also been filled. The Beechdean AMR No. 99 Aston Martin Vantage V8 will see Andrew Howard share the car with Ross Gunn and Oliver Bryant.

Additionally in GTE-Am, JMW Motorsport is now listed to run a Ferrari 488 GTE at Le Mans instead of the venerable Ferrari F458 Italia. No drivers are listed yet for the No. 84 car although Robert Smith, Rory Butcher and Jody Fannin are listed for the car’s European Le Mans Series entry.

Further cars without their lineups for Le Mans confirmed at the moment include the No. 22 DragonSpeed-operated, G-Drive Racing entered Oreca 07 Gibson (Leo Roussel not yet confirmed alongside Memo Rojas and Ryo Hirakawa), the No. 40 Graff Oreca in LMP2 and Nos. 88 and 93 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSRs in GTE-Am.

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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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.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

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.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

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.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

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.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

More SuperMotocross coverage

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Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
Talon Hawkins set to relieve injured Jalek Swoll in Houston
Jalek Swoll out for an indefinite period with broken arm
Ken Roczen urgently needed a change
Chris Blose joins Pro Circuit Kawasaki in 250 East opener
Seth Hammaker to miss Houston with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list
Injury sidelines Austin Forkner for remainder of 2023 SX
Chase Sexton wins Anaheim 2 in 450s; Levi Kitchen takes 250s
Results and points from Anaheim 2