F1 driver Marcus Ericsson to move to IndyCar, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for 2019

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Schmidt Peterson Motorsports on Tuesday announced it has signed Formula One driver Marcus Ericsson to compete full-time in the IndyCar Series in 2019.

Following the remaining two races on the 2018 F1 schedule, the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 team driver will shift focus to pilot the No. 7 Honda for SPM next season, teaming with James Hinchcliffe and Jack Harvey (who competes part-time for Meyer Shank Racing with SPM).

“It’s a great honor to be picked as one of the drivers at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and IndyCar for the 2019 season,” Ericsson said in a SPM media release. “It feels like a perfect step for me and my career after five years in F1.

“I can’t wait to start work with SPM and all the people in the team, which I’ve heard a lot of good things about. They’ve had some great success over the years and I’m looking forward to work hard to continue and improve on that path.

“The racing in IndyCar looks great and I feel really excited to be part of it in the future. It will be a lot to learn including new tracks, oval racing, etc. I know it won’t be easy, but it’s a challenge I’m very much looking forward to and I can’t wait to get started.”

SPM has agreed to allow Ericsson to remain as a reserve driver on the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 team’s lineup due to his long-time relationship with the team.

A SPM team spokesperson told NBC Sports that while Ericsson’s priority will be IndyCar, he would be available for Alfa Romeo Sauber in instances where there would not be a conflict with an IndyCar race, etc.

Alexander Rossi had a similar deal with Andretti Autosport in 2016, where he was also listed as a reserve driver for F1 team Manor Racing, but never drove for the latter team that season.

Ericsson, a 28-year-old native of Kumla, Sweden, is coming off a ninth-place finish this past Sunday in the Mexican Grand Prix, tying his second-best single-race career showing in F1.

Ericsson has 95 career starts in five seasons of Formula One competition. He’s on track to finish a career-best 17th this season.

Prior to his F1 tenure, Ericsson was a two-time champion in Formula BMW UK in 2007, captured the Japanese Formula Three title in 2009, and also competed in the British Formula Three, GP2 Asia and GP2 series.

Team co-owner Sam Schmidt said of Ericsson, “He has a ton of experience racing in the top levels of motorsports, so we believe that he will be able to contribute to our development program that began in earnest in 2018.

“While the circuits on the IndyCar schedule will be brand new to him, particularly the ovals, we have a lot of confidence and trust in his eagerness to learn, along with his work ethic. We think he and (Hinchcliffe) will be a good fit to push one another and fight for those wins.”

The team also announced that the No. 6 Honda “remains open” for the return of 2018 IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Robert Wickens.

Wickens revealed late last week that he has been rendered a paraplegic, paralyzed from the chest down, from injuries sustained in a horrific crash August 19 during the ABC Supply 500 IndyCar race at Pocono Raceway.

Wickens, currently receiving treatment and physical therapy in a rehabilitation facility, said in a tweet that he remains optimistic he will one day walk again.

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Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

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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.