Third drivers increase depth of Petit Le Mans field

October 10, 2018

Third drivers increase depth of Petit Le Mans field

October 10, 2018

Motul Petit Le Mans this week provides teams in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship a chance to add to their lineups for the last time in 2018.

As the fourth and final race of the Patron Endurance Cup, a championship within a championship, extra drivers can often make a difference in both the race win and title pictures.

Within the GT Le Mans class, Corvette Racing and Ford Chip Ganassi Racing have two different approaches to this week’s race.

At Corvette, Marcel Fassler will pull double duty. The Swiss driver will split his time between the Nos. 3 and 4 Corvette C7.Rs. This is a strategy Corvette has deployed before at this race with Ryan Briscoe. The reason for this move is that Fassler’s other endurance teammate, Mike Rockenfeller, is unavailable with a DTM commitment.

Fassler explained why this event is so dynamic and the role he’ll have to fill, being ready and on call for both cars.

“Petit Le Mans is something special and exciting for all of us,” he said. “It has been growing from year to year. It has become a race that is growing toward being a legend. Maybe it’s not quite on the same level as Sebring, but it is getting close. It’s a big event for all of us, especially us in Europe, because you want to be part of a race like this.”

Ganassi, as usual, goes to its pair of IndyCar champions to bolster the lineups in its two Ford GTs. Scott Dixon recently won his fifth IndyCar title last month and will look to support Briscoe and Richard Westbrook in their pursuit of Corvette’s No. 3 pair, Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia, for the GTLM title. Sebastien Bourdais has starred in his drives alongside Dirk Mueller and Joey Hand this year, and reprises the role once more for Petit. Both pairs of Ford drivers can also win the Patron Cup title.

Within the rest of GTLM, there are two debutantes. Veterans Bill Auberlen (BMW) and Fred Makowiecki (Porsche) join the No. 25 and No. 911 cars as they have in other IMSA endurance races this year. Makowiecki was part of Porsche’s winning lineup at Sebring. Auberlen has a win to defend here at Petit Le Mans, having shared in the 2017 win there.

Chaz Mostert (No. 24 BMW) and Mathieu Jaminet (No. 912 Porsche) make their class debuts. Jaminet has past IMSA experience in another class and won this year’s ADAC GT Masters title. Mostert, an Australian V8 Supercars veteran, steps in with BMW facing a three-way clash among its IMSA, FIA WEC and DTM programs this weekend.

Jaminet (photo by Porsche, below), a Porsche Young Professional, is up to the task of learning and bolstering Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor’s chances.

“I’m very grateful to Porsche for this chance,” he said. “It’ll be my first outing in the works team’s 911 RSR. During the tests, I got to know the car and the procedures, but it’s still a big step for me. I know very little about the characteristics of the tires and I know nothing about the race track. With this in mind, I’m facing a huge challenge. I’ll do my very best to help my teammates and the entire squad. Hopefully we can achieve a great success together.”

Risi Competizione Ferrari’s trio of Toni Vilander, Miguel Molina and Andrea Bertolini are new as a combined unit but high on Ferrari experience. Vilander and Molina already have a title together in another series this year.

The Prototype ranks see drivers like IndyCar veterans Graham Rahal, Simon Pagenaud, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Spencer Pigot, Gabby Chaves and Tristan Vautier among the additional extras. Romain Dumas makes his fourth IMSA start of the year, as he aids CORE autosport’s pursuit of the Prototype title.

Dumas’ longtime co-driver, Timo Bernhard, is part of Patron ESM’s No. 22 Nissan lineup as that team runs its last race with Patron support. Bernhard’s record run in the Porsche 919 Evo at the Nurburgring earlier this year stands out as one of 2018’s top racing stories. He had a chance to reunite with the car at Porsche Rennsport Reunion VI last month. Endurance veterans Marino Franchitti and Lucas di Grassi join the Mazda Team Joest lineup for the first time this year, deputizing for Harry Tincknell and Rene Rast while they’re on assignment elsewhere.

GT Daytona also has its share of notable extras. Young Americans Corey Lewis (No. 48 Paul Miller Lamborghini) and Trent Hindman (No. 86 Meyer Shank Acura) have won titles in other IMSA-sanctioned championships. They’ll work to support their teammates as they battle for that class title.

Elsewhere, Daniel Serra is a past Le Mans winner with Aston Martin and a two-time GTD polesitter this year; he’ll be in the No. 63 WeatherTech Ferrari. Jaminet’s GT Masters co-driver, Renauer, is another one to watch. Atlanta locals Sean Rayhall, Andrew Davis and Spencer Pumpelly are also racing this weekend. Turner BMW brings back its lineup that last raced, and won, at Watkins Glen in July.

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