Dale Coyne Racing caps tumultuous month with addition of Alex Palou as driver

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Just one month ago, Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser and Sullivan appeared to be in complete disarray. Because of changes to its financial backing and changes to the engine lease contract, the team was unable to move forward with longtime driver Sebastien Bourdais.

Despite having a contract for 2020, the four-time Champ Car Series champion was told by team owner Dale Coyne that the team did not have the funding to continue and he was released from the team.

This past Monday, the team lost its top engineer, Craig Hampson, to Arrow McLaren SP.

That is why Thursday’s announcement from the team that Alex Palou of Spain will be the new driver of the No. 18 car in 2020 was so important.

It proved that despite the recent obstacles, team owner Dale Coyne remains a survivor and will continue leading one of the smallest teams in the NTT IndyCar Series into competition.

Palou, a young driver from Spain, was a Super Formula race winner and Rookie of the Year in 2019.

Palou will be vying for Rookie of the Year honors as he takes on the 17-race schedule. The driver from Sant Antoni de Vilamajor had an impressive season in the Japanese Super Formula Series with TCS Nakajima Racing. In addition to finishing as the top rookie, he scored a victory, three pole positions (the most of any competitor that season) and placed third in the Championship. He also drove for Team Goh piloting their McLaren 720S GT3 this past season capturing the pole position during the last round of Super GT series at Twin Ring Motegi by setting a new GT300 class record.

“I’m very excited about coming to America to race Indy cars,” said the 22-year-old driver. “I’m grateful for all that have helped me get to this point of my career and especially Dale Coyne and Mr. Kazumichi Goh for giving me this opportunity.”

The new arrangement will be known as Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh.

“We’re very pleased to partner with our friend of many years Kazumichi Goh in this collaborative effort for 2020,” Coyne said. “We tested Alex at Mid-Ohio earlier this year and he impressed everyone. His rise in performance over the past three years shows great promise for the future.”

Team Goh has a long history in racing.  It won the 1996 Japanese Grand Touring Championship (JGTC) and became one of the prestigious Privateer teams to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2004 with Seiji Ara, Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo Capello.

“Alex shows great promise and we all are excited to continue our relationship with Alex and to see him progress his career towards the IndyCar series,” said team owner Kazumichi Goh. “It will be an honor to be part of the Indianapolis 500, the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, and we hope to have the same success we achieved at Le Mans 24hr race with our overall win thanks to great team collaboration between Alex and Dale Coyne Racing.”

Prior to his season in the Super Formula championship, the Spaniard raced in the Japan Formula 3 Championship, finishing third in the year-end standings on the strength of three wins and five pole positions. Before his time in Japan, Palou became the first Spanish racing driver to win a GP3 race when he took the victory at the final round of his debut season in 2015 with Campos Racing.

Palou made the jump from racing karts to cars in 2014 and placed third in the EuroFormula Open Championship and second in the Spanish Formula 3 Championship before his move to GP3 where he spent the next two seasons.

DCR had a test with Palou at Mid-Ohio in July.

The team plans to begin extensive testing in February in preparation for the season opening race at St. Petersburg, Florida on March 15th, 2020.

Dale Coyne Racing will have further details on its complete 2020 program at the beginning of the new year. It currently does not have a signed contract with either Honda or Chevrolet for 2020, but is considering its options.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

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.