Alonso, McLaren test IndyCar at Texas Motor Speedway on Tuesday

INDYCAR Photo by Chris Owens
INDYCAR Photo by Chris Owens
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Two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso returned to a high-speed oval on Tuesday at Texas Motor Speedway. It was the first time he’s been on an oval in an Indy car since the 101st Indianapolis 500 in 2017.

Alonso and the McLaren IndyCar team had a private test at the 1.5-mile, high-banked oval in Fort Worth, Texas as the team prepares for the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26.

“It was great obviously,” Alonso said Tuesday from Texas. “It’s only the first couple of laps with the car. We are taking care of everything slowly with the speed. I drove in Barber (Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.) last year in the Indy car, but it’s good to be back on the oval with a very specific setup — this car that turns left self-steering a little bit.

“It’s some weird feeling for me to try to get used to with the speedway especially with a lot of banking on the corner, especially Turns 3 and 4. It’s different than Indianapolis but hopefully a good preparation for us.”

TMS is a high-banked oval compared to the flat, four-cornered 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was a unique experience to the Formula One great from Spain compared to his first oval race in the Indy 500 in 2017.

“It’s just about getting comfort in the car,” Alonso said. “It’s a new car, new team so in terms of seat position, headrest, pedals, steering wheel preferences I think all these things we can start now the work.

“I think it is quite important to set up everything as a team, who does what in the team, also the pit wall. The facility is completely new for everyone (and) try to solve as many problems here and at the open test on the 24th(of April at Indianapolis Motor Speedway) and getting ready for the Indianapolis 500.”

Because it was a private team test, speeds were not released. This was also a test designed to help the McLaren team familiarize themselves with the Dallara/Chevrolet combination. In 2017, they were a partner team with Andretti Autosport and used a Honda.

This year, McLaren is getting engineering and technical advice from Carlin.

The aerodynamic rules have changed since 2017 and Alonso was asked to compare how the universal aero kit handles on the oval.

“So far it’s too early to say because I am not up to speed,” he said. “I guess listening to everyone in the last year I think there will be less downforce. They can be more trickier to drive, especially followings. Today’s not a problem because I am alone. But I guess it’s going to be challenging, especially this year I am not with the Andretti, let’s say, environment.

“It’s all by ourselves this year.”

Alonso and McLaren will participate in an “Open Test” at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on April 24, along with the other teams and drivers entered in the 103rd Indianapolis 500.

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

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
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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.