Bobby Rahal will move team into IMSA’s new LMDh prototype category in 2023

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BRASELTON, Georgia — The expansion by Bobby Rahal in motorsports will continue in 2023 when BMW Team RLL will field two prototypes in the new LMDh hybrid category of IMSA sports car racing.

BMW Team RLL also will enter two BMW M4 GT3s in the new GTD Pro category next season. Rahal said Saturday at the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta that he’d only race in the GTD Pro category next year and then focus on the LMDh program when it debuts in 2023 and attempt to qualify for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“For me personally and professionally, this is a dream come true,” Rahal said. “To first run a brand-new car like the BMW M4 GT3, and after that make the next step with BMW Team RLL to race for overall wins in the LMDh class is a direction we definitely wanted to go. I’m so pleased, so proud, so thankful that we’ll be able to do it together with BMW M Motorsport.”

Rahal’s team is the fourth to commit to the new LMDh platform, which will replace the current Daytona Prototype international class in 2023. Five manufacturers have announced intentions to participate in the hybrid-based category.

BMW Team RLL has two entries in the GT Le Mans class in Saturday’s 10-hour season-ending IMSA race. Jesse Krohn won the pole position in the No. 24 BMW Team RLL M8 he co-drives with John Edwards and Augusto Farfus.

Rahal has been partnered with BMW in sports cars since 2009. He fields cars powered by Honda in the NTT IndyCar Series, and this year began preparations for a new full-time third entry in 2022. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing also is building a new shop in Indiana that will house all the racing programs when it is completed in 2022.

Chip Ganassi Racing suffered a setback even before the start of the Petit Le Mans when star driver Kevin Magnussen was pulled from the lineup because of illness.

Magnussen qualified the Cadillac and was scheduled to start the 10-hour endurance race Saturday at Road Atlanta. Instead, he was replaced by Earl Bamber in the lineup.

The Ganassi team did not disclose what was ailing the Danish driver.

Magnussen is moving to the Peugeot sports car program next season, and Bamber already has been announced as one of three new full-time drivers to join Ganassi’s team in 2022. With Magnussen out, Bamber got an early start on his new job and was able to turn laps in Saturday morning’s warmup ahead of the race.

“I was just saying to the guys I was about to enjoy a nice breakfast and now I am getting suited for the warmup,” Bamber said early Saturday. “This all happened in about the last hour. I have to say thanks to the Chip Ganassi Racing team for putting the trust in me to jump into the car.”

Bamber tested at Road Atlanta with Ganassi last month.

The No. 31 Cadillac of Action Express Racing started from the pole Saturday afternoon and only must finish ahead of Wayne Taylor Racing to win the IMSA championship. The season finale will decide the championships in five different classes.

Felipe Nasr led Action Express in Friday qualifying to win the pole and earn the valuable points in the championship race. Prior to winning the pole, Action Express needed to beat Wayne Taylor Racing by two positions to win the title; now it is a head-to-head competition.

It is the final race with the team for Nasr, who is moving to an unannounced program next season. He was emotional after winning the pole.

“I promised myself that I wouldn’t let the emotions come until after the checkered flag drops,” Nasr said. “That shows how much respect and love I have for the team. There is so much on the line, and you just want to deliver.

“They took me in as family when I joined halfway through 2017. They’re just a big family to me. It will be sad to leave them.”

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

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing

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.

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.