IMSA, U.S. teams set to race at Le Mans

June 15, 2018

IMSA, U.S. teams set to race at Le Mans

June 15, 2018

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams and drivers competing at the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans are ready to go for Saturday’s race.

Three of the four factory supported Michelin technical partner teams in IMSA’s GT Le Mans class have made the voyage to Le Mans.

In what may feel like an IMSA race, five of their six combined cars will start in a row on Saturday.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 68 car qualified fifth in the GTE-Pro class. Then Porsche GT Team’s No. 93 car was sixth, followed by the No. 69 Ford, No. 94 Porsche and No. 63 Corvette.

Ford’s No. 68 and 69 cars are the Nos. 66 and 67 cars in IMSA. Similarly at Porsche, where CORE autosport supports the two U.S. cars, these are the Nos. 911 and 912 cars in IMSA. Corvette’s Nos. 3 and 4 cars in IMSA add a 6 in front at Le Mans to become Nos. 63 and 64.

Sebastien Bourdais shares the No. 68 car with Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller. The same lineup won here for Ford two years ago. Le Mans is particularly special to Bourdais as he grew up here. The IndyCar star makes his return in 2018 after not being able to defend that win due to injury last year.

“It’s a pretty interesting week for me, given my history with the event,” he says.

“It’s just a privilege. I was lucky to win in ’16. Words couldn’t quite describe the emotion.

“Like our bosses say, it goes way beyond anything you can achieve personally. When Ford arrived here it was very straightforward: you understood how big a deal this race is. Being here is awesome and adds to the history.”

Unfortunately for Porsche’s No. 94 car, the team suffered a setback with an incident in qualifying Thursday. Sven Mueller went off at Indianapolis, which has forced the team to make significant repairs. He shares this car with Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas. Bernhard and Dumas are longtime co-drivers reunited after a long absence.

The second Corvette will start from 14th in class. Corvette has eight wins at Le Mans and looks for their ninth in their 19th consecutive year here.

“Le Mans is the cornerstone of what we do with Corvette Racing,” said program manager Doug Fehan. “Everything we learn, everything we look for, everything we try to develop is to get us here and be successful.

“We have eight victories at this place. One is enough to call a lifetime achievement. Eight is incredible. Obviously number nine is next up on the list, and we’re working very hard to develop the C7.R to get it ready for the race on Saturday.”

In GTE-Am, the four extra cars with notable IMSA ties will attempt to work their way through the field.

Ebimotors starts seventh, JMW Motorsport ninth, Keating Motorsports 11th and Proton Competition 12th.

Two-time IMSA GT Daytona class champion Christina Nielsen is part of the Ebimotors lineup. JMW features Americans Jeff Segal and Cooper MacNeil in a WeatherTech-backed car. Keating sees the longtime pair of Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen together. And the Black Swan-partnered Proton car has this year’s lone all-American driver lineup of Tim Pappas, Patrick Long and Spencer Pumpelly.

Team Project 1, a full-time FIA World Endurance Championship team, also has American ties. Longtime co-drivers at Park Place Motorsports, Patrick Lindsey and Joerg Bergmeister, are part of a Porsche GTE-Am class car.

There are plenty of other IMSA drivers peppered in the field in the LMP1 and LMP2 classes.

Renger van der Zande flies the flag for IMSA in DragonSpeed’s LMP1 car, a new chassis for this race. Elton Julian’s DragonSpeed team competes in multiple classes, both in LMP1 and LMP2.

Prototype class regulars Felipe Nasr, Filipe Albuquerque, Ricky Taylor, Juan Pablo Montoya are all in LMP2.

Nasr’s Cetilar Villorba Corse faced challenges as one of his co-drivers, Giorgio Sernagiotto, had a nasty accident.

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