WEC: No. 2 Porsche wins COTA after No. 1 moves aside

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Porsche LMP Team dominated Saturday’s Six Hours of COTA at the Circuit of the America’s to finish 1-2, with the No. 2 919 Hybrid of Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley, and Earl Bamber taking victory over the No. 1 of Neel Jani, André Lotterer, and Nick Tandy.

The result was not without its controversy, however, with Tandy twice being forced to slow down and give way to the No. 2 machine, which is currently leading the FIA World Endurance Championship.

The first order came in the second-to-last stint, when Nick Tandy slowed and moved aside in Turn 15 to allow Earl Bamber through. Yet, the move was negated after the final pit stop sequence, which saw Tandy cycle back into the lead.

However, in the final minutes, Tandy was again ordered to slow and allow Bamber through into the lead, with the move getting completed on the front straight away.

Though controversial, the move does see Bernhard, Hartley, and Bamber extend their championship lead. Behind the two Porsches, the No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid for Toyota Gazoo Racing finished third with drivers Sébastien Buemi, Stéphane Sarrazin, and Kaz Nakajima.

In LMP2, the No. 36 Signatech Alpine Matmut Alpine A470 Gibson rolled to victory with drivers Nico Lapierre, Andre Negrao, and Gustavo Menezes. However, the final minutes were somewhat stressful as the team needed to pit for a damaged rear light.

Still, the car, in the hands of Menezes at the end, had a large enough lead over second-place that it maintained the lead. The victory is also the second in a row for Signatech Alpine Matmut.

In second was the No. 13 Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07 Gibson of Mathias Beche, David Heinemeier Hansson, and Nelson Piquet Jr. Their teammates Julien Canal, Bruno Senna, and Nico Prost finished third in the sister No. 31 entry.

In GTE-Pro, a thrilling battle saw the two AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE machines battle with the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR from Porsche GT Team and the No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage from Aston Martin Racing. In the end, it was the No. 51 of James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi taking victory over the No. 92 machine of Michael Christensen and Kévin Estre.

However, like LMP1 and LMP2, GTE-Pro saw late drama as the No. 51, in the hands of Pier Guidi, suffered a left-front tire puncture in the dying minutes. In fact, as he limped back to the pits, Pier Guidi nearly collected the eventual LMP2 winner Menezes in the process.

Pier Guidi exited the pits directly in front of Christensen, but was able to build the gap back up as they worked through traffic to eventually win by 5.6 seconds. The victory is also the first of the year for the AF Corsa team.

GTE-Am also saw its winner overcome drama, though this one occurred early on. The No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage, then in the hands of Paul Dalla Lana for Aston Martin Racing, suffered a spin after contact with the No. 54 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE of Francesco Castellacci in the early laps of the race. Though Dalla Lana quickly regrouped and continued on, the contact damaged the rear splitter of the Aston Martin, forcing it into the pits and briefly into the garage for repairs.

However, the team and driver trio of Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy, and Mathias Lauda used the rest of the race to make up for lost time, eventually regaining the lead and winning by just over 50 seconds, their second victory of the 2017 season.

In second was the Clearwater Racing Ferrari of Weng Sun Mok, Keita Sawa, and Matt Griffin. Third place went to Spirit of Race, with drivers Castellacci, Thomas Flohr, and Miguel Molina.

A relatively clean racing was only slowed once by a safety car following a spin and wall contact from the No. 86 Gulf Racing Porsche of Mike Wainwright. Though he made it back to the pits, a safety car was needed to repair the barriers.

The next event for the FIA World Endurance Championship is the Six Hours of Fuji at Fuji Speedway in Japan in October 15.

RACE RESULTS: Overall, Class Results

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Kyle Busch interests McLaren for Indy 500, but team is leaning toward experience

McLaren Indy Kyle Busch
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With Arrow McLaren SP heavily weighing a fourth car for the Indy 500 next year, Kyle Busch is a candidate but not at the top of the IndyCar team’s list.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown addressed the possibility Wednesday morning during a video news conference with Gavin Ward, the team’s newly named racing director.

“I have not personally spoken with Kyle Busch, but you can read into that that someone else in our organization has,” Brown said. “We want to make sure if we run a fourth car, we’re in the mindset that we want someone that is experienced around the 500. It’s such an important race, and from a going for the championship point of view, we’ve got three drivers that we want to have finish as strong as possible, so if we ran a fourth car, we’d want to be additive, not only for the fourth car itself, but to the three cars and so bringing in someone who’s not done it before potentially doesn’t add that value from an experience point of view.”

Busch will race the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing next season in NASCAR under a new deal that will allow the two-time Cup Series champion to make his Indy 500 debut. Busch, who had a previous deal to run the Indy 500 nixed by Joe Gibbs Racing, openly courted Chevy IndyCar teams to contact him during his introductory news conference with RCR last month.

After Team Penske (which has given no indications of a fourth car at Indy alongside champion Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), McLaren is the second-best Chevy organization, and it’s fielded an extra Indy 500 car the past two years for Juan Pablo Montoya. The Associated Press reported last month that McLaren was in “serious conversation” about running Busch at Indy with Menards sponsorship.

But with its restructured management, the team is in the midst of significant expansion for 2023. AMSP is adding a third full-time car for 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi to team with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, and a massive new shop also is being built in the Indianapolis area.

“(It’s) not because of him but purely because of experience,” Brown said of Busch. “He’s an awesome talent and would be huge, huge news for the speedway. But yeah, I think everyone is under consideration if we decide to do it, but experience is right at the top of the list as far as what’s going to be the most important to us.”

And it seems likely there will be a veteran joining Rossi, O’Ward and Rosenqvist at the Brickyard.

“A fourth car at the 500 is very much under consideration,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t even want to get ahead of ourselves, but we wouldn’t be ruling out a fourth car in the future on a full-time basis. That definitely wouldn’t be for ’23. But as we expand the team and get into larger facilities and things of that nature, it’s something that Gavin and I have spoken about.

“I think we would be in a position to run a fourth car at the 500 this upcoming year. If we do decide to do that, we’ll make that decision soon for maximum preparation, and I would say we’re open minded to a fourth car in ’24 and beyond and probably will make that decision middle of next year in time to be prepared if we did decide to do that.”

Brown also addressed the future of Alex Palou, who will be racing for Chip Ganassi Racing next season after also signing a deal with McLaren. Though Brown declined to get into specifics about whether Palou had signed a new deal, he confirmed Palou will continue to test “our Formula One car from time to time.

“Everyone has reached an amicable solution,” Brown said. “We’ve now had Alex in our Formula One car as we have Pato. That will continue in the future, which we’re quite excited about. At this point we’re laser-focused on 2023 and glad to have the noise behind us and now just want to put our head down and get on with the job with the three drivers we have.”