Wayne Taylor Racing ahead of Acura Team Penske in Twelve Hours of Sebring practice

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The top two teams battling for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in DPi paced the first three practice sessions Thursday for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the 12-hour season finale.

Renger van der Zande was fastest overall at Sebring International Raceway, clocking a 1-minute, 47.478-second lap in the second session on the 17-turn, 3.74-mile road course in his No. 10 Cadillac for Wayne Taylor Racing.

The car will enter Saturday’s Twelve Hours of Sebring two points behind the No. 7 Acura Team Penske, which was fastest in the Thursday morning session.

Ryan Briscoe and van der Zande are trying to win the championship in their final full-time year with WTR, which is moving to Acura in DPi next year. Briscoe and van der Zande also will be joined for the 12-hour race by six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon, who won with the team in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Petit Le Mans.

PRACTICE SPEEDS: First session l Second session l Third sessionCombined by class

PENSKE PRIDE: Acura No. 7 team trying to end its run with a championship

“It’s fantastic to be in the car with Scott again,” van der Zande said. “Every time he shows up, we win a race. So that’s really nice. I think with Ryan, we had a really good season. We were leading the championship until (the Nov. 1 race at) Laguna Seca. I think we still have a good shot at winning it this weekend. Which we’re going to try. I think that’s the main goal. We still can win the long endurance championship and obviously winning a championship in DPi would be a dream come true.

“Today didn’t go so well. We had a gearbox issue, but somehow we got it fixed just before this session. I got in at the end just for a new tire run, and I was fast. I’d say not too bad for a driver without a job.”

The No. 7 Acura of Helio Castroneves, Ricky Taylor and 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi (making his third endurance start with the team this season) was sixth fastest in the second session and nearly a second behind the No. 10 (on a 1:48.458 lap by Rossi). Castroneves had led the morning session with a 1:49.360 lap.

Taylor improved the time slightly by leading Thursday night’s final 90-minute session with a 1:48.358 lap.

The No. 10 was fourth fastest in the evening session on a 1:48.840 lap by Briscoe. The last practice, which ran after sunset from 6:15-7:45 p.m. ET, was considered critical because just under half of Saturday’s race, which starts at 10:10 a.m., will be run at night.

With the Twelve Hours of Sebring being run in November instead of March for the first time in 68 years, there will be a few hours of daylight than ever. Qualifying will take place Friday morning.

“The track conditions you fight tonight, you’ll fight to the end of the race as well,” van der Zande said between practices. “The practice we just had setting up the car for the heat is not so important, it’s tonight you’re in night practice. We’ll keep working on the car and find out how the car reacts. Hopefully, it’s fast.”

The No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR-19 of Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber at Sebring (IMSA).

Laurens Vanthoor led GTLM across three practices with a 1:57.975 lap in the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR-19. The No. 911 Porsche turned the second-fastest lap while also sporting a special red white and blue livery that both cars have in honor of Porsche Motorsport’s last race in the IMSA class.

“A little sad,” Vanthoor said about the weekend. “It’s a program I really love to do, and it’s coming to the end. We’re trying to go out with a bang and win the 12 Hour Race. I haven’t won this race yet, so it’s pretty much my last chance to do this in the top GT class. Porsche has been strong here and won the last two editions. It’s a track that suits our car well.”

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.