Le Mans: Pre-race post roundup, notes and quick race preview

Photo: Toyota
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Here’s a quick roundup of posts from the week leading into the 24 Hours of Le Mans and a few key things to look forward to in this weekend’s 85th 24 Hours of Le Mans:

Here’s the provisional starting grid.

PREVIEW

The race from an overall standpoint has a rather simple story line: Either Toyota finally breaks through after years of heartbreak, that culminated with its final 10 minute failure last year, or it doesn’t. The Toyota TS050 Hybrid has the clear one-lap pace and Kamui Kobayashi threw down an absolutely amazing pole lap; Toyota will look to translate that over 24 hours. It’s never that simple, of course, and Porsche will play the long game to hope its Porsche 919 Hybrids can overcome the pace deficit.

In LMP2, higher than expected top speeds have the ability to wreak havoc on the rest of the field. How well will the LMP2s and LMP1s interact together in traffic? Will the performance capabilities of the new LMP2 cars outperform the abilities of some of the drivers in them? Which Oreca wins? OK, we’re hoping it’s not a complete Oreca whitewash but all indications are it will be one of the 14 combined Oreca 07/Alpine A470 chassis that will win in this class.

GTE-Pro, fortunately, seems a bit less settled with Aston Martin and Ferrari locking out the first two rows and Ford and Corvette just behind. Porsche is slightly further back but not out of it either. After last year’s two-horse race between Ford and Ferrari, it looks set to be a proper fight here.

The same is true in GTE-Am, with a surprise pole coming for the sole Corvette in that class, but its one-lap pace may be limited as the race goes on with two gentlemen drivers alongside. There’s still a good potential seven or eight winners here in the 16-car class.

The four IndyCar drivers of note we’re following look to shine in their stints – Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Mikhail Aleshin add Le Mans to their busy schedules while Townsend Bell looks to defend his class victory in GTE-Am.

Add in Rubens Barrichello making his debut, a host of IMSA stars including both Taylor brothers in the field, the number of Formula E drivers back in sports cars and some other Mazda Road to Indy graduates in their first race and there’s plenty of drivers with story lines to watch.

The race kicks off at 3 p.m. local time and 9 a.m. ET.

Santino Ferrucci will drive No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing full time in 2023 IndyCar season

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
James Gilbert/Getty Images
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Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.

Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.

He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.

In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.

Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.