Santino Ferrucci gaining positive reputation in IndyCar

INDYCAR Photo by Chris Jones
INDYCAR
6 Comments

FORT WORTH, Texas – Santino Ferrucci is quickly shedding the negative baggage of an incident in F2 last year and becoming one of the many positive stories in the NTT IndyCar Series in 2019.

When Ferrucci arrived in IndyCar last year to drive in four races as a replacement for injured driver Pietro Fittipaldi, he was considered one of North America’s most promising international drivers.

But last July, Ferrucci was banned from four F2 races (Hungary and Belgium) after making deliberate contact with his teammate Arjun Maini after the Sprint Race at Silverstone on the weekend of the British Grand Prix.

He was also disqualified from the Sprint Race results at Silverstone for a separate incident when he deliberately forced Maini off the track, and was found to have driven his car from the support race paddock to the race pit lane wearing just one glove while operating his cellular telephone, earning him a €60,000 fine.

On July 18, Ferrucci was fired by the Trident F2 team, citing behavioral issues, and non-payment of money required by contract. Trident alleged that money had been used to pay for his ride with Dale Coyne Racing for the Detroit IndyCar race.

Needless to say, when the native of Woodbury, Connecticut, arrived in the NTT IndyCar Series paddock, his reputation was a bit sullied.

His four races were unimpressive, at best with finishes of 22nd and 20th in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader and 20th at Portland.

But in the season’s final race at Sonoma Raceway, Ferrucci showed why he is considered a top racing prospect when he started 20th and finished 11thd.

Team owner Dale Coyne saw plenty of promise in the young driver and agreed to put him in the team’s No. 18 Honda for the full season. His teammate is proven veteran Sebastien Bourdais, the only driver to win four straight Champ Car Series championships from 2004-2007.

Ferrucci just turned 21 on May 31 and has shown impressive speed in the NTT IndyCar Series. He won the Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Award with his seventh-place finish.

Saturday night in the DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, Ferrucci had the best race of his short career, starting 18thand racing his way to an impressive fourth-place finish on the high-banked oval.

“I can’t thank my crew enough,” Ferrucci said. “We had a stellar crew in the pits, they did fantastic stops, and we just made our way to the front while avoiding a couple of incidents in front of us. I can’t thank my spotter Pancho (Carter) enough to get me to push my limits in the car, coaching me throughout the race.

“To bring home a top five with our Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda, my first one in the NTT IndyCar Series, feels pretty good.”

Ferrucci was expected to be better on the street and road courses than on the ovals, but his two best races of the season have come on ovals including the Indianapolis 500 and the DXC Technology 600.

“For someone who had no experience on ovals, I’m starting to say I love them,” Ferrucci said. “I’m happy with a fourth place. After Indy, knowing what kind of car we had, how hard our crew has been working and how much power we have from Honda as well, I knew we could do something special here, regardless of what happened in qualifying, and we did.”

Ferrucci has moved into ninth-place in the NTT IndyCar Series standings after nine races. He is one position ahead of his much more acclaimed teammate, Sebastien Bourdais, who also had a top-10 finish.

“We finished eighth and got some good championship points, but obviously, we were hoping for a lot better,” Bourdais said. “The No. 18 SealMaster Honda was good. I think we had a top-five car. The guys did a good job with the pit stops. We had a strategy that could have worked, but the yellows worked against us.

“Honestly, I am not really sure what happened. We’ll just have to sit down and take a look at the race and get it figured out.”

Bourdais represents a great era of race drivers in the 2000s, but Ferrucci along with other young drivers such as Colton Herta, Marcus Ericsson and Felix Rosenqvist represents IndyCar’s future.

The outlook calls for a pretty bright future for this group.

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

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
0 Comments

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.