Winward Racing, HTP pair up for Mercedes AMG GT4 effort

Photo courtesy Winward/HTP Motorsport
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Russell Ward and Damien Faulkner made a positive impact on the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge paddock this year as Winward Racing ran with CJ Wilson Racing in a Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport.

Now, the driver pairing and Winward Racing outfit will link up with Mercedes-AMG GT specialists HTP Motorsport to run two brand new AMG GT4 cars in the same series next year.

The full release and details are below.

Today Winward Racing announced a partnership with German GT powerhouse, HTP Motorsport to run two brand new AMG GT4 cars in the 2018 Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge.

The Houston-based team has also announced a comprehensive 2017 test and race program which will see the car make its U.S. debut at the 24 Hours of CoTA in November, followed up by the team’s first ever entry at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill in early December.

The team will be known as Winward/HTP Motorsport and it will be a true partnership between the Texas-based squad and the team based in Altendiez, halfway between Cologne and Frankfurt. Competing in the two end-of-season endurance races means an astonishing 49 hours of racing between now and the start of the 2018 season. To put that in perspective, the total race time for the 2017 Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge was just 24 hours.

As newcomers to the challenges of twice-around-the-clock endurance racing, Winward will not only rely on HTP for engineering support but they will also welcome it’s experience with regard to race strategy. The crew will be bolstered by a number of staff from Germany while Winward regular drivers, Damien Faulkner and Russell Ward will be joined at the Circuit of the Americas by HTP’s Maxi Götz and Dutchman, Indy Dontje. The full driving line-up for Thunderhill is yet to be confirmed, but it is expected that GT and Touring Car deity Bernd Schneider will join the squad for the 25-hour event.

Russell Ward. Photo courtesy Winward/HTP Motorsport

“2017 was the first season for Winward Racing in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and it proved to be a very successful one. The partnership between CJ Wilson Racing and Winward Racing was a great success and we thank CJ Wilson Racing for all they have done for us throughout the season,” explained Team Principal, Bryce Ward.

The Winward/HTP Motorsport AMG GT4 secured pole position at last weekend’s 12 Hours of Spa which has further cemented Ward’s belief that he has found the right partner for this ambitious project.

“HTP Motorsport is the best in the business in Europe. We will draw on its experience, helping us to us to further develop as a championship contending team.” He went on to explain how this unique partnership will create opportunities on both sides of the Atlantic. “The Winward/HTP agreement will open up opportunities for European drivers in U.S. events and it could also give U.S. drivers the opportunity to compete in Europe under the Winward/HTP banner.”

Faulkner. Photo courtesy Winward/HTP Motorsport

For veteran GT ace, Damien Faulkner, the agreement means working with some familiar faces. “The partnership is extremely exciting. Having raced with HTP in Europe this year, I got to experience not only how great a team it is, but also the brilliant product that Mercedes AMG produces.”

The Irishman also fully understands the benefits of such a hectic Winter’s racing. “The opportunity to do two, twice-round-the-clock events in the all new AMG GT4 in the “off season” should be a value of immeasurable proportion for Winward. It should allow us to hit the ground sprinting at Daytona in January when our 2018 season begins.”

HTP Team Boss, Norbert Bruckner expressed his enthusiasm for this new venture. “This new project in the USA means another big step in the development of our team. I am excited to have a strong partner like Winward Racing at our side, who have knowledge of the both the country and the racing series. I am sure Winward and HTP will create a formidable partnership and a team that can’t be ignored.”

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.