Jeansonne, Kotyk are 2017 Team USA Scholarship recipients

Jeansonne and Kotyk. Photo courtesy Team USA Scholarship
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The next two drivers to make their name as winners of the prestigious Team USA Scholarship are Aaron Jeansonne and Jonathan Kotyk. See the full release about the 2017 recipients below.

Two talented young American race car drivers hailing from entirely different backgrounds have earned an opportunity to represent the Team USA Scholarship following an intensive evaluation program conducted over the past few weeks.

Aaron Jeansonne, 19, from Sulphur, La., and Jonathan Kotyk, 23, from Atlantic Beach, Fla., have been selected from an impressive group of six finalists to follow in the footsteps of a long list of accomplished alumni, including IndyCar series champions Jimmy Vasser and Josef Newgarden, by traveling to England this month to contest the prestigious Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch. The duo then will carry the program’s patriotic red-white-and-blue livery on their respective Cliff Dempsey Racing Ray Formula Ford cars in the subsequent Walter Hayes Trophy event at Silverstone.

Jeansonne (left, above) and Kotyk also will gain an invitation to the second annual Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200k Scholarship Shootout which will take place at the Bondurant Racing School near Chandler, Ariz., in December. The winner will secure a $200,000 prize to graduate onto the first rung of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel development ladder in 2018. Last year’s Team USA Scholarship winner, Oliver Askew, also secured that award, then went on to win the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and another Mazda Scholarship, worth $325,000, to graduate into the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires in 2018.

Aside from a brief foray into dirt-oval karting in his native Louisiana a few years ago, Jeansonne is contesting his first season of racing and has created quite an impression in the Lucas Oil Formula Car Race Series. Kotyk has a longer and more traditional background in karting, achieving much success with the Ocala Gran Prix team before gaining his first opportunity to transition into cars this year. Kotyk finished third and posted fastest race lap in the recent SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Indianapolis, and lies third in the F1600 Championship Series heading into this weekend’s final three races at New Jersey Motorsports Park.

“I can honestly say that this year’s candidates provided the judges with some of the toughest decisions in the history of this program which dates back to 1990,” said Team USA Scholarship Founder and President Jeremy Shaw. “The selection process began with 10 talented youngsters being interviewed by an illustrious panel of judges during the Verizon IndyCar Series/Mazda Road to Indy weekend at Mid-Ohio in late July. We had a hard time whittling the group down to six for a shootout at the M1 Concourse facility in suburban Detroit, and an even tougher task in selecting our two winners.

“I am indebted to Team USA alumni Dane Cameron, Spencer Pigot, Josef Newgarden, Charlie Kimball and Joel Miller as well as Chip Ganassi Racing Managing Director Mike Hull, Mazda Motorsports Operations Director Kyle Kimball, American Honda Motorsports Manager T.E. McHale, Mazda Road to Indy promoter Dan Andersen, Neil Enerson of the Lucas Oil School of Racing, Aaron Bambach from M1 Concourse, Bell Racing USA Director of Motorsports Chris Wheeler and RaceCraft1 Principal Kelly Jones, among many others, for helping in the selection process. My thanks also to Dr. Jacques Dallaire of Performance Prime and Jim Leo of PitFit Training for conducting a comprehensive mental health and physical assessment of each of the candidates.”

Jeansonne and Kotyk will fly to England next week to begin preparations for the Formula Ford Festival on October 21/22.

“I couldn’t be more excited to represent the Team USA Scholarship,” said Kotyk. “With its history of past champions like Josef Newgarden, it’s something I’m honored to be a part of and look forward to bringing home a great result. I would like to thank Jeremy Shaw and the entire team behind the Team USA Scholarship for giving me this amazing opportunity.”

“I feel like the luckiest person alive,” added Jeansonne. “What was so recently just a wild dream is now a reality; I am beyond honored to be named a Team USA Scholarship Recipient. There were so many great people that helped give me this opportunity and I cannot thank them all enough.”

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
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Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.