Photo courtesy IMSA

IMSA Le Mans Thursday Notebook

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Courtesy: IMSA Wire Service

Among the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship regulars competing in this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, the No. 68 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT trio of Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais posted the best qualifying result, taking fifth on the GTE Pro grid.

Mueller did the honors, turning a best lap of 3 minutes, 49.582 seconds around the 8.467-mile Circuit de la Sarthe on Wednesday evening, the first of three qualifying sessions for the twice-around-the clock race. The No. 68 trio head into the weekend hoping to repeat their performance from two years ago, when they won the race on the 50th anniversary of the Ford GT40’s historic Le Mans victory in 1966.

“You always wish you had more time at Le Mans,” said Hand. “You see four-hour practices and two-hour qualifying sessions and you think you have so much time, but you have the slow zones and the red flags and it cuts into your time. It’s been tricky here for sure. We rolled off at the test and were really good. And I thought we had a similar car when we rolled off for the first practice session this week, but the track rubbered up, and we’ve seemed to have too much understeer that we’ve been working on.

“We just got it better in this last qualifying session (Thursday night). We’ve been trying to work on having a great car for the race here. We’ve been successful in the past doing that. This year, with the 17 GTE Pro cars, it’s going to take everything going right.  This race is going to be won by the guys who make no mistakes.”

The race starts Saturday at 3 p.m. local time (9 a.m. ET) and will be televised live in the U.S on the Velocity network. Radio Le Mans also offers complete live coverage throughout race week, including live race coverage starting at 7 a.m. ET on RadioLeMans.com.

Top 10 Starting Spot for Segal and MacNeil in No. 84 WeatherTech Ferrari

Cooper MacNeil and Jeff Segal know what it’s like to stand on the podium at the end of 24 hours of racing at Le Mans, and their efforts to return this year will start with a top-10 qualifying result in the GTE Am class.

Segal placed the No. 84 WeatherTech Ferrari 488 GTE prepared by JMW Motorsport ninth on class grid with a best lap of 3:53.439. He’s finished on the podium in both of his previous appearances at Le Mans, including a victory in his last appearance in 2016. MacNeil took third last year in GTE Am.

“The JMW/WeatherTech Ferrari has been handling very well,” MacNeil said. “It is the same chassis that won the race last year, so the team and the car is very capable. We have been searching for speed, finding little bits every session. The Porsches are showing a lot of pace. Come race time we plan to be very competitive. The JMW Motorsport team has been very welcoming and easy to work with. We all have the same goal – to win. So far, so good, now it is time to see what race day will bring us.”

Notes:

  • Five full-time WeatherTech Championship drivers are scattered throughout the LMP2 field, and the one with the best qualifying position is current Prototype class points co-leader Filipe Albuquerque in the No. 22 United Autosports Ligier. His run of 3:26.772 set in qualifying Wednesday night held up for eighth on the class grid. He’s sharing the car with a pair of 2018 Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup competitors, Phil Hanson and Paul Di Resta.
  • Another IMSA regular whose car has a solid starting position is two-time defending WeatherTech Championship GT Daytona (GTD) champion Christina Nielsen. Her teammate, Fabio Babini, placed the No. 80 Ebimotors Porsche 911 RSR seventh in the GTE Am class with a lap of 3:53.402.
  • The lone full-time IMSA driver in the LMP1 field, Renger van der Zande, will see his team start from sixth on the grid in his Le Mans debut. He’s sharing the No. 10 Dragonspeed BR Engineering BR01-Gibson with Ben Hanley and Henrik Hedman. The car’s best qualifying lap was a 3:21.110.
  • It’s going to be an extremely busy 36 hours or so for the Cetillar Villorba Corse team that includes another WeatherTech Championship Prototype points co-leader in Felipe Nasr. The team’s No. 47 Dallara LMP2 machine was damaged in a crash by Nasr’s co-driver Giorgio Sernagiotto during the first of two qualifying sessions on Thursday evening due to a technical issue. The incident brought an early end to the session, but Sernagiotto avoided injury. The team is working to repair the car prior to Saturday’s 3 pm local time race start.

See Will Power ‘in the flesh’ as he’ll appear on Indy 500-winning Borg-Warner Trophy

Matthew Thacker
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Will Power has had thousands of photos taken of him during his racing career by media, fans, family and friends.

But Power has never undergone the type of photos – and the sitting/modeling he took part in, posing for the image of him that will adorn the Borg-Warner Trophy, symbolic of Power’s win in this year’s Indianapolis 500.

Power on Thursday was at the Tryon, North Carolina studio of noted artist and sculptor William Behrends to complete the finishing touches on the clay model of his face and head.

From there, Behrends will create a miniature version of Power’s likeness to be placed on the Borg-Warner Trophy, which is set to be unveiled December 5 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

“It’s actually really cool to come in the first time and see your face there,” Power told MotorSportsTalk. “All the experiences that goes with the Indy 500 are just all great, and it’s amazing I’m sitting there getting my face sculpted to go on the Borg Warner.”

Power discussed the procedure Behrends went through with him.

“He took photos the day after the race, multiple ones, all the way around my face, the whole periphery of it,” he said. “And then he started sculpting the clay face we see right now, my head.

“And then he had me sit there to get it closer. It’s pretty good as it is, but yeah, he sits there and works on it until he thinks it’s right-on. That’s why he had me there in-person.”

Does it look like you, Will?

“Yes, yes. It was funny, because you’re always looking in the mirror and it’s a reverse of your face,” he said. “No one’s face is completely symmetrical.

“It is funny seeing yourself for the first time like you can almost say in the flesh, an actual model of your face and it looks different from what you expect.”

Power was a perfect subject, Behrends said.

“Oh, he’s a wonderful subject, just a very affable, easy-going guy,” Behrends said. “He was very good company during the sittings.

“These sittings I think, are rather difficult for the subject just because he’s just sitting there. I’m working, but the subject has to sit there for long periods of time.

Will Power watches as sculptor William Behrends puts the finishing touches on the clay molding of Power’s face and head. Photo: Matthew Thacker.

“But Will’s very, very cooperative and very easy-going and we had some very nice conversations.”

Power will be the 29th image that Behrends has created for the Borg-Warner Trophy, dating back to his first effort in 1990 with Arie Luyendyk.

“It doesn’t seem like it, but it’s that many years,” Behrends said. “This is the only thing I do that I’ve done more than once. All of my pieces are one-of-a-kind. But it becomes a regular thing on my calendar of the Fall.”

Behrends explained how the process has worked for nearly the last three decades. It starts with taking photos the day after the Indy 500 to rough drafting and sculpting the model, to having the winning driver come to his studio to do some final touches (as Power did Thursday), and then taking the completed clay model and replicating it to be placed on the trophy.

“There’s really three different parts of the process for my work. I’ll spend 3-4 days here, and then two weeks later, I’ll spend a couple more days, so it’s broken up. I guess if I stacked it all together, it’d be about 2-3 (full-time) weeks’ work of different types.”

After Thursday, seeing the finished product that will eventually be placed on the trophy, Power now has yet another bit of inspiration and motivation to win the Indy 500 again.

“You understand everything that goes into winning that race,” Power said. “(To be on the trophy) will be a lot of great satisfaction and gives you a lot of motivation because you want to go through this process again because it’s such a cool process.”

Here are some more tweets from Thursday’s session at Behrends’ studio for Power:

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