IndyCar, IMSA drivers seeking Le Mans glory


As always, the 24 Hours of Le Mans features a “Who’s Who” of driving talent from around the world, with big names from North America, Europe, and Asia all convening on the Circuit de la Sarthe in hopes of securing one of the biggest crown jewels, and some say THE biggest crown jewel, on the calendar.

And the North American racing scene sports a particularly strong lineup in the 2018 Le Mans, with a host of drivers from the Verizon IndyCar Series and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship featured.

The biggest collection from IndyCar can be found within Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, which features three current IndyCar drivers.

Scott Dixon joins Ryan Briscoe (himself a former IndyCar driver for Ganassi and Team Penske) and Richard Westbrook in the No. 68 Ford GT – the trio won the GT Le Mans class at the Rolex 24 at Daytona back in January.

Sebastien Bourdais returns to Le Mans after missing last year’s event and partners Dirk Mueller and Joey Hand in the No. 69 entry – this trio won the GTE-Pro class in 2016, the same year the Ford GT debuted at Le Mans.

LE MANS, FRANCE – JUNE 19: The Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT of Sebastien Bourdais, Joey Hand and Dirk Muller drives during the Le Mans 24 Hour race at the Circuit de la Sarthe on June 19, 2016 in Le Mans, France. (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)

Also of note: the Nos. 68 and 69 again represent the full-time IMSA entrants, making those entries an IndyCar/IMSA “hybrid” of sorts.

In the team’s entries from the FIA World Endurance Championship, Tony Kanaan joins Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx in the No. 67. Of note: Olivier Pla, Stefan Mucke, and Billy Johnson pilot the No. 66.

And former IndyCar driver Mikhail Aleshin will also be competing, with the No.11 SMP Racing BR1-AER entry in the LMP1 class – alongside former F1 driver Vitaly Petrov and 2009 Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button, who makes his Le Mans debut.

Not to be forgotten, IMSA is also well-represented with several of its own stars making the trip to France.

The two most prominent ones from the IMSA faction are likely Acura Team Penske drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Ricky Taylor.

Taylor is a Le Mans veteran of sorts, as this will be his fifth try at the twice-around-the-clock French enduro. He joins an entry for he Jackie DC Racing team, class winners from last year, in the No. 34 Ligier JS P-217 Gibson alongside Come Ledogar and David Heinemeier Hannson.

Meanwhile, Montoya, the former CART champion and Indianapolis 500 winner, makes his Le Mans debut, piloting the No. 32 Ligier for United Autosports, joining Will Owen and Hugo de Sadeleer.

The most recent IMSA winner, Felipe Nasr, also makes his Le Mans debut, as he partners Roberto Lacorte and Giorgio Sernagiotto in a Dallara P217-Gibson for Cetilar Villorba Corse. Nasr’s Action Express teammate Filipe Albuquerque joins United Autosports in the No. 22 Ligier, partnering Phil Hanson and Paul Di Resta.

And Wayne Taylor Racing’s Renger van der Zande makes his Le Mans debut with DragonSpeed alongside Ben Hanley and Henrik Hedman.

In GTE-Pro, Corvette Racing, as usual, sends their entire fleet to the Circuit de la Sarthe. The American marque has dominated at Le Mans in the 21st century, winning eight times since 2001, the most recent coming in 2015.

Corvette Racing’s last Le Mans triumph came in 2015, with Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, and Jordan Taylor.

Both the Nos. 63 and 64 Corvette C7.Rs expect to be among the favorites in GTE-Pro. Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, and Mike Rockenfeller share the No. 63, while the No. 64 is shared by Oliver Gavin, Marcel Fassler, and Tommy Milner.

Porsche GT Team, in the hands of CORE Autosport, also has their IMSA team at Le Mans in the Nos. 93 and 94 efforts, and their driver lineup could be the best one ever assembled for a GT effort, with four overall Le Mans winners represented across both cars.

Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet, and Earl Bamber will pilot the No. 93, with Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas, and Sven Muller in the No. 94.

BMW Team RLL driver’s Alexander Sims also heads over with the BMW Team MTEK group, partnering Augusto Farfus and Antonio Felix da Costa in the No. 82 M8 GTE.

And Risi Competizione’s Toni Vilander, Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado will be competing as well with AF Corse. Vilander partners Antonio Giovinazzi and IMSA star Pipo Derani in the No. 52 488 GTE, while Calado and Pier Guidi join Daniel Serra in the No. 51.

The GTE-Am class is also populated with IMSA standouts. Cooper MacNeil and Jeff Segal share the No. 84 Ferrari 488 GTE for JMW Motorsport with Liam Griffin. Keating Motorsports heads over with IMSA commodities Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen alongside Luca Stolz.

Two-time IMSA GT Daytona champion Christina Nielsen  will be behind the wheel of a Porsche for Ebimotors – she joins Fabio Babini and Erik Maris in the No. 80 entry.

And Proton Competition might be the biggest sleeper in the GTE-Am class, with two-time class winner Patrick Long anchoring a lineup with Spencer Pumpelly, a Porsche stalwart himself, and Tim Pappas.

And don’t forget about Fernando Alonso’s exploits with Toyota Gazoo Racing in the LMP1 category – he shares the No. 8 TS050 Hybrid with Sebastien Buemi and Kaz Nakajima, while Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and Jose Maria Lopez pilot the No. 7 entry.

It all adds up to a genuinely star-studded field across LMP1, LMP2, GTE-Pro, and GTE-Am.

Other notables include: Andre Lotterer and Neel Jani, former overall Le Mans winners, in the No. 1 Rebellion Racing R13-Gibson with Bruno Senna. Nicolas Lapierre, who won the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring with Tequila Patron ESM, partners Andre Negrao and Pierre Thiriet in the Signatech Alpine A470-Gibson.

And other American hopefuls include Tracy Krohn (No. 44 Eurasia Motorsport Ligier, with Nic Jonsson and Andrea Bertolini) and 2016 LMP2 class winner Gustavo Menezes (No. 3 Rebellion Racing R13, with Thomas Laurent and Mathias Beche).



Jett Lawrence wins Pro Motocross opener, remains perfect at Fox Raceway; Hunter wins in 250s

How they finished in the 450 Overall at Fox Raceway
Align Media

PALA, California – In his 450 bike debut, Jett Lawrence scored a perfect round at Fox Raceway in Pala, California to win Pro Motocross Round 1. He posted the fastest time in both qualification sessions, won the holeshot in both motos, and scored a pair of wins to take the overall victory and the early points’ lead.

Chase Sexton stalked Jett Lawrence throughout Moto 2, but could not find his way past. – Align Media

No one seriously questioned Lawrence’s opportunity to make noise in the 450 class. Few would have been surprised to see him podium in his Pro Motocross National, but Lawrence outperformed all expectations by dominating Moto 1. He entered the weekend with zero points and his eye on 20th in the standings so he would receive an automatic invitation to the inaugural SuperMotocross World Championship (SMX).

He well surpassed expectations.

“It’s awesome,” Lawrence told NBC Sports’ Jason Thomas. “I can finally smile. I’ve been trying to stay serious and not get too excited with emotions coming up – and now I can finally let loose. The second one was a little harder, I couldn’t hear him but I’d look back and I’d still see the red bike. It was like a chess match.”

By the end of the race, Lawrence made up 30 percent of the points he needed to claim 20th and served notice that he will be one of the favorites to win the championship. He closed the gap even further in Moto 2, but the two races had entirely different storylines.

While Lawrence was able to run away from the field in the first race and win with a 10-second advantage, Honda teammate and defending Monster Energy Supercross champion Chase Sexton pressured him for the entire 30 minutes plus two laps that made up Moto 2.

Lawrence is the 16th rider to win in his first Pro Motocross race, the 10th to do so in an opener and second youngest, (behind Rick Johnson, 17 when he won at Hangtown in 1982).

Sexton was within two seconds of Lawrence for the entire moto. He rode a patient race with the realistic expectation that the 450 rookie Lawrence might make a mistake. Lawrence bounced from rut to rut in this race, but would not be forced into losing his focus.

“Toward the finish line area I had some decent lines, I thought maybe, if I could get close enough, I could make a move,” Sexton said. “I tried my hardest; I got close. I made a bit of an attempt with maybe 10 minutes to go and messed up. Jett was obviously riding really good. We were pushing the pace and it was a fun moto. It felt a little like last year.”

With his 1-1 finish and the overall victory, Lawrence remains perfect at Fox Raceway after sweeping Victory Lane in five rounds his 250 career.

Dylan Ferrandis returned to the track after suffering a concussion in the Supercross season in Round 4 in Houston. He attempted to return for the Daytona Supercross race, but another hard crash on Media Day set him on the sideline.

“Earlier this week I was pretty far from a podium position, so got together with the team and we made it happen,” Ferrandis said. “It was very hard. [Aaron Plessinger] was pushing me and I had to dig very deep.”

RESULTS: How they finished in the 450 Overall at Fox Raceway

In a pre-race news conference, he indicated that the best course of action was to get up to speed before he fully sent his bike into the turns. But adrenalin is a wonderful factor and once he got into the pace of the race, he held off charges from Cooper Webb in Moto 1 and Plessinger in Moto 2. Ferrandis’ 3-3 finishes in the two races earned 40 points and puts him back in the conversation to be among the top 20 in the combined SuperMotocross standings.

Plessinger and Webb each ended the day with 34 points. Plessinger won the tiebreaker for fifth overall in the standings. But it was an adventurous afternoon for Plessinger who had to overcome a pair of falls in the first Moto to finish fifth.

Round 1 of the Pro Motocross season marked the return of Webb after he suffered a Supercross series ending concussion in a heat race at Nashville.

“This was a last minute decision,” Webb said. “I sat out last summer and I didn’t want to do that again. Once I got cleared from the doctor, it was game on.”

The battle between Lawrence and Sexton gave Honda a 1-2 finish in this race for the second straight year, but perhaps most importantly, it provided a glimpse of what can be expected during the opening rounds.

I think there is more to come from Chase,” Lawrence said. “He had that crash in practice so it rung his head a bit, but I know it’s going to be a war in the outdoor season. I know there’s going to be times when I’m behind Chase and can’t get around him. It’s going to be an awesome season and I can’t wait to race my teammate.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Jett wasn’t the only Lawrence to win Fox Raceway Motocross. Hunter’s win in the 250 class marked the first time in history that brothers won a Motocross National on the same day.

The reigning 250 East Supercross champion scored the overall victory with a third in Moto 1 and a victory in Moto 2. A poor start in the first race forced Lawrence to mount a charge from behind. Riding with discomfort, Lawrence was out of his rhythm early. A spirited battle with Jo Shimoda and Justin Cooper for third through fifth forced him to push through the pain of an injury suffered at the start of the week.

“The start was crucial,” Lawrence said. “I had a massive crash Monday and could barely ride press day for three laps, I was in so much pain. This one goes out to Dr. [Rey Gubernick]. He has magic hands.”

Lawrence’s strong start to Moto 2 put him in a better zone and he pulled an eight-second advantage over the second-place rider.

Haiden Deegan got a taste of the Motocross series last year, but that was all it was: a nibble.

Deegan failed to crack the top 10 in either of two starts and had some questions for himself before the race began. Deegan did not believe there were high expectations placed on him for this race, which is precisely how he described his first Supercross attempt. In that inaugural SX race, he finished fourth and was as surprised as anyone in the field.

Again: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Deegan surprised himself again by finishing second in only his third Motocross National. He finished sixth in Moto 1 and second in Moto 2, giving him a second-place finish overall.

“I’m actually a little surprised,” Deegan said. “A lot of people said I wouldn’t even be close to this. I guess we’re proving people wrong and that’s what we’ve got to do Second place in my first full season. I’m hyped.”

Deegan is closing in on his first 250 win.

Click here for 250 overall results

RJ Hampshire had to overcome a pair of falls in Moto 2 to score the final podium position in the overall standings. – Align Media

RJ Hampshire made a statement in Moto 1. An entirely new discipline allowed Hampshire to grab an early advantage. But then a poor start to Moto 2 provided an entirely different challenge. Two falls on Lap 1 dropped Hampshire to 39th in the running order.

“I didn’t have a great start and got mayhem in that second corner and went down,” Hampshire said. “Picked [myself] up in last and made some really good passes and then going uphill on the [backstretch], someone got out of whack – took me out and I was dead last again. I didn’t really know if I had a shot at the podium, but I was digging really deep.”

It took half of the race to get back into the points in 20th, but Hampshire kept digging. Passing riders one at a time, he climbed to 11th in Moto 2 and salvaged enough points to give him the third position overall.

Maximus Vohland made a statement of his own by holding off a determined Lawrence on the last two laps. Lawrence was able to pressure Vohland when they were slowed by a lapped rider who fell in front of the battle.

Tom Vialle was in a position to take the final overall podium spot with a solid third-place finish in the second moto. He did everything he could, but Hampshire’s determined charge from the back of the pack was capped off with a two-position advance on the final lap to slide onto the final step of the box.

2023 Supercross Race Recaps

Salt Lake City: Chase Sexton ends the season with win
Denver: Chase Sexton wins, takes points’ lead with Eli Tomac injury
Nashville: Chase Sexton keeps hope alive; Cooper Webb out
New Jersey: Justin Barcia wins muddy race; first in two years
Atlanta: Chase Sexton is back in the championship picture
Glendale: Eli Tomac wins 51st, breaks tie with James Stewart
Seattle: Eli Tomac wins and ties Webb for first
Detroit: Chase Sexton inherits win after Aaron Plessinger falls
Indianapolis: Ken Roczen gets first win in more than a year
Daytona: Eli Tomac extends Daytona record with seventh win
Arlington: Cooper Webb wins for second time, closes to two of Tomac
Oakland: Eli Tomac ties Ricky Carmichael with 48 wins
Tampa: Cooper Webb gets first 2023 win
Houston: Eli Tomac bounces back from A2 crash to win third race of 2023
Anaheim 2: Triple Crown produces new winners Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen
San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Eli Tomac wins opener for the first time

More SuperMotocross coverage

Record Supercross attendance reported in 2023
450 Champion Chase Sexton takes back what he gave away
250 West Supercross champion Jett Lawrence ends dream career
250 East Supercross champion Hunter Lawrence overcomes doubt and injury
Cooper Webb returns to action at Pala
Caden Braswell joins Troy Lee Design
SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Supercross finale