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IMSA: Porsche to end factory GTLM program

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Porsche will end its factory GT Le Mans program at the conclusion of the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, citing financial problems due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The program, run in partnership with CORE autosport, fields the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR for Nick Tandy and Frederic Makowiecki, and the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR for reigning GTLM champions Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor.

The announcement does not impact Porsche’s customer programs in IMSA, including the GT Daytona class of the WeatherTech Championship, the Michelin Pilot Challenge series, and the GT3 Cup Challenge series.

“The decision to halt our factory involvement in the IMSA series was not an easy one for us,” Porsche Motorsport Vice President Fritz Enzinger said in a statement.

“With a view to the current corporate situation in connection with the Coronavirus pandemic, it is only logical for Porsche Motorsport to make a contribution to coping with the economic fallout.

“We’ve openly discussed our exit with all involved. At this point, we’d like to convey our sincere thanks to Jim France and the colleagues at IMSA for their understanding.

“Porsche belongs in endurance racing. We will work hard to ensure that this is only a temporary Auf Wiedersehen.”

The 2020 WeatherTech Championship resumes July 4 at Daytona International Speedway, with the No. 912 of Bamber and Vanthoor sitting second in the GTLM standings.

Here is Porsche’s full statement:

Porsche will cease its factory involvement with the 911 RSR in the GTLM class of the North American IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (IWSC) at the end of 2020. The current season will not be affected.

With this step, Porsche Motorsport makes a significant contribution to overcoming the economic effects that the coronavirus crisis has had on the sports car manufacturer. As the reigning champions in the GTLM manufacturers, team and drivers classification, Porsche currently ranks second in the championship with its American partner squad Core autosport after the season-opening 24 Hours of Daytona. After taking an essential break for health safety reasons, the IMSA championship plans to resume its racing activities on the first weekend in July. The restart will be held at Daytona. Porsche Motorsport would like to bid farewell to the series by defending its title.

The support of customer teams in the GTD class of the IWSC, as well as the Michelin Pilot Challenge (GT4) and the GT3 Cup Challenge USA, will continue unchanged in cooperation with Porsche Motorsport North America and Porsche Cars North America.

“The decision to halt our factory involvement in the IMSA series was not an easy one for us,” emphasises Fritz Enzinger, Vice President Porsche Motorsport. “With a view to the current corporate situation in connection with the Coronavirus pandemic, it is only logical for Porsche Motorsport to make a contribution to coping with the economic fallout. We’ve openly discussed our exit with all involved. At this point, we’d like to convey our sincere thanks to Jim France and the colleagues at IMSA for their understanding. Porsche belongs in endurance racing. We will work hard to ensure that this is only a temporary Auf Wiedersehen.”

Pascal Zurlinden (Director Factory Motorsport): “For us sportspeople, such endings are always painful. For our operational team Core autosport and everyone involved, I’m very sorry that we were unable to make this decision with more lead time. At the same time, I’d like to thank everyone affected by this for their professional handling of this situation.”

Steffen Höllwarth (Head of Operations IMSA Championship at Porsche Motorsport): “We hope that this season’s races will still be contested so that we don’t leave the IMSA stage soundlessly. Of course, such decisions impact the mood, but we’re all professionals and we’re now focusing on the remaining races of the current season.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.