Formula E/LAT

WEC Nurburgring entry list confirms FE subs, Buemi set to miss NYC

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Pipo Derani and Filipe Albuquerque are among the drivers substituting for Formula E regulars in the FIA World Endurance Championship round at the Nürburgring next month, as confirmed with the publication of the entry list for the latter event.

The clash between Formula E and WEC on the July 16 weekend has been a long-running saga for both series, with no resolution workable due to a lack of communication regarding the placement of the Formula 1 race in Germany that was ultimately canceled.

With drivers racing in both series, a number were left with a key dilemma to make when picking which race to entry, ending with a majority opting to partake in Formula E’s double-header race weekend in New York.

Two drivers have chosen to prioritize WEC, including Formula E championship leader Sebastien Buemi, who is bound by his contract with Toyota’s LMP1 team. Jose Maria Lopez is also in a similar position, racing in the sister TS050 Hybrid at the Nürburgring.

Here’s a run-down of the drivers who had to work around the clashes and where they’ve ended up, and who will be replacing them.

Sebastien Buemi

Formula E championship leader Buemi had hoped to be racing in New York – where he could have sewn up the title – but is now risking a 50-plus point loss by missing the double-header.

Buemi said that his Le Mans result would decide whether or not he could have the chance to skip the Nürburgring, only for the No. 8 Toyota crew to have a miserable race, finishing eighth overall after two hours in the garage.

Buemi’s replacement for New York will need to be decided in the next 24 hours when the race stewards are informed of the entry list. Red Bull youngster Pierre Gasly is thought to be leading the chase for the seat.

Jose Maria Lopez

Like Buemi, Lopez was tied down by his Toyota contract and was not able to get out of his duties, meaning he will be missing New York as well.

Lopez will return to the No. 7 Toyota for the Nürburgring round, having been moved into the third car for Le Mans given his lack of prior experience following his Silverstone crash and the subsequent injury that forced him to miss Spa.

Lopez will be replaced at DS Virgin Racing in New York by Alex Lynn, the team’s reserve driver. Lynn, in turn, will miss the Nürburgring race with G-Drive in LMP2, with Ben Hanley taking his place.

Sam Bird

Lopez’s Formula E teammate, Sam Bird, is another driver who said his dilemma would be solved by his Le Mans result. The Briton is fourth in the WEC GT drivers’ championship with AF Corse and just 14 points off the lead, yet he opted to prioritize his Formula E duties in New York.

Bird will be replaced at AF Corse in the No. 71 Ferrari 488 GTE by Toni Vilander, who races in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for Risi Competizione and featured at Le Mans earlier this month.

Nicolas Prost

Renault e.dams appeared the face the prospect of having neither of its regular drivers in place for New York, only for Buemi’s teammate Nicolas Prost to put his Formula E duties first.

Prost has raced with Vaillante Rebellion Racing in LMP2 so far this season, but will step back for the Nürburgring. Seasoned sportscar racer Filipe Albuquerque takes his place.

Nelson Piquet Jr.

Nelson Piquet Jr. is another driver who had the same decision as Prost, putting Formula E over his duties with Rebellion in the sister Oreca 07 Gibson. Piquet will be replaced in the No. 13 car by Pipo Derani, whose three-race stint with Ford Chip Ganassi Racing came to an end at Le Mans.

Jean-Eric Vergne

Jean-Eric Vergne has made a flying start to life in the WEC this year with Manor, regularly featuring at the top of the timesheets, and stood out at Le Mans with some mammoth quintuple stints.

Vergne won’t be at the Nürburgring, though, putting his Formula E duties with Techeetah – a team he also has commercial interests in – first. Roberto Merhi takes his place, returning to Manor after previously racing for the team in both F1 and WEC.

IMSA: Sims, De Philippi deliver first win for BMW M8 GTE in Michelin GT Challenge at VIR

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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DANVILLE, Va. – After coming tantalizingly close two weeks ago at Road America, the BMW M8 GTE is a first-time winner.

Co-drivers Alexander Sims and Connor De Phillippi delivered the new-for-2018 race car’s first victory anywhere in the world in a strong and strategic performance aboard the No. 25 BMW Team RLL machine en route to the Michelin GT Challenge victory at VIRginia International Raceway.

The No. 25 duo combined to lead a race-high total of 32 laps of 88 trips around the 3.27-mile road circuit that comprised the two-hour, 40-minute race. Sims led the final 31 laps and crossed the finish line 1.323 seconds ahead of Jan Magnussen to take the victory.

The VIR victory was redemption of sorts for the No. 25 team after the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase, when De Phillippi appeared on his way to victory only to be forced to pit lane for fuel with two laps to go.

Sunday, the team had to overcome a midrace incident in which Sims tangled with the GT Daytona (GTD) class car of David Heinemeier Hansson. Sims had to serve a drive-through penalty for incident responsibility.

“It’s fantastic,” Sims said. “The team’s done an awesome job. They’ve been working really hard all year. Some races haven’t really gone our way. But they haven’t given up. BMW and Rahal have done a mega job. It’s fantastic to get us this first win for the M8. Connor did a great job at the start of the race to get us up to third.

“He did a flawless stint, despite my mistake at the start of my first stint. I kind of held my hands up. That was my mistake. We deserved the drive through. We got back in the race after the safety car and had mega pace. I was really, really pleased.”

It was Sims’ fourth career WeatherTech Championship victory and the second for De Phillippi. Both drivers’ last victory came at Motul Petit Le Mans last season, Sims in the final race for the BMW M6 GTLM and De Phillippi with the Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi team in GTD. De Phillippi became a BMW factory driver prior to this season.

“It was down to the last pit stop,” De Phillippi said. “Obviously, after the contact, we had to rethink what we were going to try to do. We went with a more aggressive strategy and we saw that if we stayed out longer we’d have a clear track and the others would be hitting the GTD traffic. We went forward with that strategy and with that we gained while they were stuck in traffic which was enough to keep us out front.

“The Michelin tires were hooked up and held up so well we didn’t have to put any on the last stop. Alex just drove the wheels off to it for the finish. This win feels amazing. This is a new program, and obviously when you switch to a new brand and a new family you always want to win the first year out. I got one at the Nürburgring, and now to do one with my full-time team in this series, it’s really special to me and feels really great.”

After winning the Michelin GT Challenge each of the past two years, Magnussen came up just shy of a three-peat in the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R along with co-driver Antonio Garcia. It was the team’s seventh podium result of the season and sixth consecutive and it vaulted them into the GTLM championship lead by four points, 269-265, over No. 67 Ford GT co-drivers Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe with three races to go.

John Edwards and Jesse Krohn made it two BMW M8s on the podium with a third-place run in the No. 24 BMW Team RLL entry. In addition to it being the first victory for the M8, it also was the first time two M8s finished on the podium in the same race.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing saw its GTLM winning streak stopped at four in the Michelin GT Challenge. No. 66 Ford GT co-drivers Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller finished fourth, while the No. 67 entry of Briscoe and Westbrook was forced to retire early from the race with clutch problems. Westbrook started the race from the pole position and led the first 28 laps before pitting to turn the car over to Briscoe, and the problem reared its ugly head shortly thereafter.

No. 912 Porsche co-drivers Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor came back from an opening lap incident with the No. 4 Corvette to finish fifth.

Baumann In Right Place At Right Time As Lexus Wins Thriller At VIR

Dominik Baumann and 3GT Racing celebrate a GTD triumph. Photo courtesy of IMSA

It was an example of being in the right place at the right time for Dominik Baumann in a victorious effort alongside co-driver Kyle Marcelli in Sunday’s Michelin GT Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway.

Running in the fourth position with 30 minutes remaining, Baumann successfully navigated his No. 14 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 through a series of incidents involving the top three ahead of him. Once clear, he went on to lead the race’s final 17 laps, beating the No. 58 Porsche 911 GT3 R of Patrick Long to the stripe by 0.567 seconds in a thrilling last-lap battle for the GT Daytona (GTD) class win.

The race-winning sequence began when the No. 44 Audi R8 LMS GT3 of Andy Lally got a run on the race-leading No. 93 Acura NSX GT3 of Lawson Aschenbach. The two made slight contact allowing the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Jeroen Bleekemolen to pull alongside Lally for the lead. One corner later, Lally and Bleekemolen made side-to-side contact, sending the No. 33 into a spin with Baumann capitalizing to pass both for the lead.

“I saw the Audi and Mercedes fighting in front of me and going off,” said Baumann, who won earlier this year alongside Marcelli at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. “We just stayed out of trouble and just did our race.”

“Thanks to the Mercedes, and the Audi and the Acura coming together, it inherited us the lead, and those closing laps under pressure are tough to drive, and Dominic was a true professional today,” added Marcelli. “I think if you look up and down the grid, we’ve all made a few mistakes, but it’s just minimizing them. It’s a track that’s demanding physically and mentally and easy to make mistakes and drop wheels and fill the radiator full of grass. It was he who made the least mistakes who came out with a victory today.”

It certainly wasn’t easy for Baumann from there, however. In the closing minutes, Katherine Legge made up a nearly 10-second deficit in her No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing w/ Curb-Agajanian Acura NXS GT3 to get to the bumper of Baumann on the final lap.

The two raced side-by-side up the backstretch of the 3.27-mile circuit, but Baumann had the benefit of the inside line. Long took advantage of the battle ahead of him and was able to slip by Legge to finish second alongside co-driver Christina Nielsen.

Legge and co-driver Mario Farnbacher finished third, with Legge making up significant ground in the GTD points race with two races remaining. A midrace unscheduled pit stop for contact for the points-leading No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 of Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow relegated the team to a sixth-place finish. Sellers and Snow now lead Legge by 13 points, 275-262, heading to the penultimate race of the season at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

The No. 63 WeatherTech Ferrari 488 GT3 of Cooper MacNeil and Gunnar Jeannette finished fourth, with Bleekemolen and co-driver Ben Keating finishing fifth. Lally was hit with a stop and go penalty for his previous contact with Bleekemolen and finished seventh with co-driver John Potter.

Next up for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the penultimate round of the season, the America’s Tire 250 as part of the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on Sept. 7-9.

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