F2, GP3 2018 schedules released

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Both the FIA Formula 2 and GP3 schedules for their 2018 seasons have been revealed on Monday, largely mirroring the Formula 1 calendars.

The F2 schedule expands by one weekend from 11 to 12 compared to 2017, and GP3 expands by one weekend as well from eight to nine.

Both championships are added to the weekend slate at Paul Ricard in France and Sochi in Russia. The standalone round at Jerez this season, where both Charles Leclerc (F2) and George Russell (GP3) clinched their championships, drop off.

Also notable is the lack of inclusion for a German round at Hockenheim, as that country returns to the F1 calendar next season.

Bruno Michel, CEO of both F2 and GP3, had this to offer about the respective schedules:

“I am pleased to announce that next year’s calendar will hold twelve events alongside Formula One. One of our mission statements is to prepare young drivers to the next step: F1. Having all of our race weekends take place with F1 will help our drivers to learn as many F1 tracks as possible, but also to prove their race crafts directly in front of the F1 paddock.

“The 2018 calendar includes two new venues: Le Castellet and Sochi. It features one more event compared to this year, and is a good balance between racing on F1 circuits in Europe and overseas,” he said of F2.

As for GP3, Michel said,  “I am pleased to confirm that we have expanded the 2018 calendar to include a ninth round for the new season, with all of the race weekends taking place alongside Formula One. We are delighted to race for the first time in Le Castellet and to return to Sochi once again, balancing the need to control costs and to provide a full season for our teams and drivers, and to create more entertainment for the fans.

“This campaign will bring new challenges for the teams with the addition of the new circuits, and for the drivers in mastering the DRS to our third generation GP3 car. I am convinced that there will be many opportunities for our drivers to showcase their talent in front of the F1 paddock and the fans.”

The full calendars are below.

2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship Calendar*

Date

Venue

06-08 April

Sakhir, Bahrain

27-29 April

Baku, Azerbaijan

11-13 May

Barcelona, Spain

24-26 May

Monte Carlo, Monaco

22-24 June

Le Castellet, France

29 June – 01 July

Spielberg, Austria

06-08 July

Silverstone, Great Britain

27-29 July

Budapest, Hungary

24-26 August

Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium

31 August – 02 September

Monza, Italy

28-30 September

Sochi, Russia

23-25 November

Yas Marina, UAE


*Subject to final approval by the FIA WMSC

2018 GP3 Series Calendar

Date Venue
11-13 May Barcelona, Spain
22-24 June Le Castellet, France
29 June – 1 July Spielberg, Austria
6-8 July Silverstone, Great-Britain
27-29 July Budapest, Hungary
24-26 August Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
31 August – 2 September Monza, Italy
28-30 September Sochi, Russia
23-25 November Yas Marina, UAE

Jenson Button joins NASCAR Garage 56 at Le Mans with Jimmie Johnson, Rockenfeller

Jenson Button NASCAR Le Mans
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The NASCAR Garage 56 entry in the 24 Hours of Le Mans will be driven by champions of three major-league series — Jenson Button, Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The lineup of the Hendrick Motorsports-prepared Next Gen Camaro was announced Saturday before the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

NASCAR’s Garage 56 project was announced in March 2022 as a joint effort by NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear. It marks the return of a NASCAR team to Le Mans for the first time in nearly 50 years with Hendrick fielding a Camaro ZL1 as the “Garage 56” entry in the 100th edition of the sports car classic.

It’s long been expected the car would include Johnson, the seven-time Cup Series champion who is returning to NASCAR’s premier series as a driver-owner in 2023. Rockenfeller, the 2013 DTM champion and 2010 Le Mans overall winner, has attended every NASCAR Garage 56 test since last year while racking up simulator testing hours.

The surprise was Button, the 2009 Formula One champion who has become a popular commentator. Rick Hendrick initially said wanted four-time Cup champion and current Hendrick Motorsports COO Jeff Gordon to drive the car, and Gordon had raced a sports car at Indianapolis last year to test his race shape.

GARAGE 56 ANSWERS, ANALYSISMore on the NASCAR-Hendrick entry for the 24 Hours of Le Mans

“Since the beginning of the Garage 56 project, it has been our goal to partner with the top racers in the world to represent us in Le Mans,” NASCAR chairman and CEO Jim France said in a release. “The lineup of Jimmie, ‘Rocky’ and Jenson is everything we could have dreamed of – three elite drivers who have won at the highest levels of motorsports worldwide. As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of NASCAR, we are honored to have these world-class champions help bring the sights and sounds of a NASCAR race car to fans in Le Mans, and across the world.”

Button had one of the most prolific careers in F1 history finishing with 15 wins and 50 podiums on top of his 2009 World Championship and is widely considered one of the top British drivers of all time.

“As a lifelong racing fan, I have always dreamed of racing certain cars, with and against certain drivers and competing in certain events,” Button said in a release. “In June, a number of those dreams will come true in one event when I get to bring NASCAR to the world stage alongside my pals Jimmie and ‘Rocky’ for the 100th anniversary of the most prestigious race in the world. I’m really looking forward to sharing this journey with NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and current and future NASCAR fans from around the world.”

Johnson will make his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut a year after starting his first Indy 500. He has 83 victories in the Cup Series, where he will return for the Daytona 500 next month with his Legacy Motor Club team.

He also has been involved with testing the Garage 56 Camaro.

“I’m super thrilled – it’s been at the top of my bucket list to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans someday,” Johnson said. “To have this opportunity come – and to partner with everybody and this driver lineup – is truly an incredible opportunity and one that I am thankful to be a part of.”

Rockenfeller teamed with Johnson on the No. 48 Ally Cadillac in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2021-22. The German driver has been the lead test driver for Garage 56 and has driven during every on-track test.

“It has been a great journey so far with the whole team and project,” Rockenfeller said. “To be involved as a driver from day one until now was already a great honor, and to now have Jimmie and Jenson alongside me as teammates in Le Mans is unbelievable.”

The car will continue testing with all three drivers next week at the Daytona International Speedway road course. Rolex 24 and four-time IMSA champion Jordan Taylor, who drives for Corvette Racing, will be the team’s backup driver and coach. Taylor also won the GTE Pro class in 2015 at Le Mans, where he has four podium finishes.

The project also is being supported by IMSA GTP team Action Express, whose general manager is former NASCAR executive and Daytona 500-winning crew chief Gary Nelson. Action Express built the first test car for the Garage 56 but since has handed off the project to Hendrick, where it’s being over seen by vice president of competition Chad Knaus (the crew chief for Johnson’s seven championships).

“Action Express got it going and built the mule car, and then Hendrick joined the program, took it from where we had it, and they’re doing a major percentage of the work,” Nelson told NBC Sports. “We just did a test a couple months ago on a wet track. We’ve done a couple of other tests as they were ramping their program up. Now their car is good, tested and running. We’re still involved and here to help. The Hendrick guys have taken the reins, and Rick Hendrick and Chad Knaus are a thrill to work with and doing a much better job. It’s more NASCAR than prototype racing.”