It’s anyone’s race as IndyCar competitors prepare for iRacing event

0 Comments

There will be 25 drivers and maybe no favorite in this Saturday’s American Red Cross Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, the first race in the virtual INDYCAR iRacing Challenge.

The six-race series will begin Saturday and run through May 2 as IndyCar’s real-world competition remains sidelined by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

While many of the drivers entered in this weekend’s race are IndyCar regulars, the event will be like no other and easily could feature a surprise winner.

ENTRY LIST: Who will be racing in IndyCar’s iRacing opener

In a real-world race weekend, the team a driver competes for and their car setup would play a huge role in their odds of winning. But this weekend, iRacing will give all of this weekend’s competitors the same car setups (the eNASCAR races also have featured fixed setups; the IMSA online race at Sebring last Saturday had an open setup).

Likewise, in a real race, past experience would play a major role in predicting a driver’s performance. The same can be said for iRacing. But not all of IndyCar’s regulars are iRacing regulars.

Alexander Rossi is IndyCar’s most recent real-life race winner at the Glen, having won the series’ most recent visit to the track in 2017 in dominant fashion.

The seven-time IndyCar winner is obviously no stranger to open-wheel racing,  but he essentially is a newbie to sim racing.

While Rossi said he is happy to be part of the unique event, he is unsure how it will turn out.

“I think everyone is a little bit unknown of how it’s going to be just with the varying levels of experience and kind of skill sets,” Rossi said. “Nonetheless, it’s going to be great to put on a show and give people something to get excited about IndyCar.”

IndyCar veteran Tony Kanaan, also entered in this weekend’s race, has been racing professionally for nearly three decades. But the 2004 IndyCar champion did not get his iRacing start until he was loaned a simulation rig by George Steinbrenner IV earlier in the week.

“We basically went to George’s house, Alex had the code, [and] we took the two sims he had,” Kanaan said. “That was basically a week ago.

“I’m nowhere near as competitive as I thought I was going to be, but I’ve been getting a lot of help from Rossi. He’s obviously got a better handle of it than I do. Hopefully, we’ll have some fun.”

Rossi and Kanaan may not be iRacing regulars, but plenty of other IndyCar drivers are. Team Penske’s Will Power is one of them.

On road courses alone, the Australian has made 1,145 starts in the game, winning 156 times (13.6 percent). Power also has finished in the top five in 46.5 percent of the road course events he’s entered.

Power’s teammate Simon Pagenaud has not competed as much virtually (36, road-course events), but the Frenchman has shown to be a skilled sim racer. Pagenaud has won nine wins in those 36 starts with five poles and 16 top-five finishes.

“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Pagenaud said. “Obviously we are all home confined. It’s nice to find an avenue to have some fun, also show our sponsors on the racetrack, even though it’s virtual.”

Perhaps no driver enters Saturday’s race with more experience than Sage Karam. The 25-year-old is an unofficial iRacing expert with 143 wins in 532 road course starts alone. While Karam is incredibly knowledgeable about the simulation itself, even he is unsure of what will happen in Saturday’s race.

“I don’t really know what to expect,” Karam said. “We’re going in there practicing, we’re practicing quite hard, hoping that everybody can keep it together. I think it’s definitely a challenge. I think we thought it was going to be a bit easier maybe than what it’s turned out. We changed the setup I think like seven or eight times now. Hopefully, we can get it worked out.

“I think the whole series is going to be cool, to be able to do some ovals and road courses. It’s for the fans, give them something they can watch. We’re really the only sport that can do something like this.”

The American Red Cross Grand Prix will begin at 4:00 p.m. ET Saturday and will be live-streamed on a variety of platforms including indycar.com, IndyCar’s YouTube and Facebook as well as iRacing’s Twitch.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter

 

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.