Ryan Hunter-Reay will race Twelve Hours of Sebring for Chip Ganassi Racing

AUTO: AUG 15 NASCAR Cup Series - Verizon 200 at the Brickyard
Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ryan Hunter-Reay will return to the track next month with Chip Ganassi Racing in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, joining Renger van der Zande and Sebastien Bourdais on the No. 01 Cadillac.

Hunter-Reay had raced full time in the NTT IndyCar Series from 2008-21, winning the 2012 championship and 2014 Indy 500 during 12 seasons with Andretti Autosport. He also is a sports car veteran, having won the 2020 Twelve Hours of Sebring with Mazda in his most recent start in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Series. Hunter-Reay, 40, also won the 2018 Petit Le Mans in a Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac that also included van der Zande and Jordan Taylor.

In his debut with Ganassi, Hunter-Reay, 41, will be reunited with van der Zande and also will be teamed with Bourdais, whom he competed against throughout his IndyCar career. The March 19 race on the historic 17-turn, 3.74-mile Sebring International Raceway also is a sort of homecoming for Hunter-Reay, a resident of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

“I’m thrilled to be joining Chip Ganassi Racing and returning to Cadillac for the 70th running of the Twelve Hours of Sebring,” Hunter-Reay said in a release. “This is a tremendous opportunity to work with one of the very best teams and manufacturers in motorsports. Sebring is my home track, and the Twelve Hours of Sebring is one of those iconic events that you focus on as a competitor.  After winning the 2020 race overall, I’ve been eager to get back with a top team and compete for another win.”

“It’s beyond belief that Ryan Hunter-Reay is available to be a Cadillac teammate at Sebring,” Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull said. “Chip Ganassi Racing has admired his ability to consistently win major globally recognized events. He has that special knack to be a separator. We’re excited that Ryan’s an integral part of our team at the Twelve Hours of Sebring.”

Ganassi’s No. 02 Cadillac will be driven at Sebring by full-time drivers Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn joined by Kevin Magnussen, who drove for Ganassi in IMSA last season.

IndyCar drivers Scott Dixon, Alex Palou and Marcus Ericsson had rounded out the endurance lineup for Ganassi’s Cadillacs among the 12 full-time IndyCar drivers in the Rolex 24 at Daytona last month. But with the Twelve Hours of Sebring falling on the same weekend as the March 20 race at Texas Motor Speedway (the first IndyCar oval of the 2022 schedule), logistics will preclude as much crossover between IndyCar and IMSA in this year’s race.

Cadillac has won the overall in three of the past five Twelve Hours of Sebring. The No. 5 Cadillac of Tristan Vautier, Loic Duval and Richard Westbrook also will be in the field for next month’s race.

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).