Former Ferrari F1 chief Sergio Marchionne dies at 66

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Legendary automotive industry CEO and former Ferrari Chairman Sergio Marchionne died at 66 on Wednesday in Milan, Italy.

The Agnelli family, which is the holding company that controls Fiat, announced Marchionne’s death in Zurich, Switzerland.

His death is believed to have resulted from complications of recent right shoulder surgery he underwent. The company announced last week that Marchionne would not return to his post with Fiat, a somber indicator of what was expected to occur.

Marchionne reportedly suffered an embolism during the surgery, which resulted after he bad reportedly been diagnosed with invasive shoulder sarcoma.

“Unfortunately, what we feared has come to pass. Sergio Marchionne, man and friend, is gone,” John Elkann, FCA President and Ferrari Chairman, said in a statement. “I believe that the best way to honor his memory is to build on the legacy he left us, continuing to develop the human values of responsibility and openness of which he was the most ardent champion.

“My family and I will be forever grateful for what he has done. Our thoughts are with [partner] Manuela (longtime partner Manuela Battezzato), and his sons Alessio and Tyler.”

The charismatic Marchionne was a leader both at the race track and in the corporate board room. In addition to leading Ferrari’s F1 fortunes as company president for more than a decade, he also is credited with saving financially troubled Fiat and Chrysler from what many believed was certain extinction.

While he had a demanding style of leadership, he also was endeared and looked upon with great admiration for both his leadership and generosity.

Marchionne, who maintained Italian and Canadian citizenships, never got the chance to see his vision for Ferrari off the racetrack to be implemented. A new business plan was expected to be announced in September that would expand the Ferrari brand, including putting Ferrari motors inside Maserati’s.

Marchionne had planned on retiring as CEO of Fiat Chrysler at the end of the year.

“He taught us to think differently and to have the courage to change, often in unconventional ways, always acting with a sense of responsibility for the companies and their people,” Elkann said. “He taught us that the only question that’s worth asking oneself at the end of every day is whether we have been able to change something for the better, whether we have been able to make a difference.”

As for Ferrari’s racing fortunes, Marchionne helped lay the foundation for the team’s rebound in Formula One. Ferrari leads all F1 organizations with 16 constructors’ titles, but the last one came in 2008.

However, Ferrari has roared back this season to title contention for both the constructors’ and drivers’ titles (with Sebastian Vettel), winning four of the first 11 races of 2018.

Here are several tributes to Marchionne’s passing from those in the racing community (courtesy The Associated Press):

* Formula One CEO Chase Carey: “We are deeply saddened by the passing of Sergio Marchionne. He was a great leader of not just Formula 1 and the automobile world, but the business world overall.

“He led with great passion, energy and insight, and inspired all around him. His contributions to Formula 1 are immeasurable. He was also a true friend to all of us and he will be deeply missed. At this difficult time we extend our deepest sympathies to his family, friends and colleagues.”

* Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff: “This is a sad day for all of us in F1. We have a lost a huge supporter of our sport, a fierce competitor, an ally and a friend. Our heartfelt sympathies are with Sergio’s family and all at Scuderia Ferrari at this difficult time.”

* British F1 team Williams issued a statement via Twitter: “We are very saddened to hear of the passing of Sergio Marchionne. On behalf of all at Williams, we would like to express our condolences to Sergio’s family, friends and ScuderiaFerrari.”

* FIA president Jean Todt: “It is with great sadness that I learned that Sergio Marchionne tragically and unexpectedly passed away. Sergio achieved a colossal amount for the automotive industry and motor sport worldwide.

“He dedicated himself fully to turn around the FIAT-Chrysler group and put all his energy to bring Scuderia Ferrari back to the top. He was an endearing, upstanding and brave man, an unconventional and visionary leader. … His death is a considerable loss.”

* IMSA Chairman Jim France: “Sergio Marchionne was Chairman and CEO of several important automobile companies with significant history in motorsport. He was one of the most influential personalities the auto industry has ever seen, and that influence manifested itself on the racetrack through numerous race victories and championships over the years. On behalf of IMSA, I offer our sincere condolences to Sergio’s family, friends and numerous business associates. He will be remembered as an icon of the industry and will be missed by many who considered him a friend.”

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Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”