Here are some Americans to cheer on at the 24 Hours of Le Mans

This weekend it’s 88and The 24 Hours of Le Mans is a bit short of big-name American drivers, especially given the lack of Chevrolet Corvette The C8.R racing team, who have chosen to stay home in this coronavirus pandemic.

There are 177 drivers entered in 59 cars, compared to 62 last year – there would have been 60 but the Ginetta co-driven by American Chris Dyson was pulled from the LMP1 grid at the last minute. Of those 177 drivers, only nine are listed as Americans, and even then some – like Mark Patterson, 68, who are not US residents – he was born in South Africa and lists Mexico as his home.

Probably the driver best known to American fans is Juan Pablo Montoya, who has driven in F1, NASCAR, IndyCar and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, with Team Penske’s Acura. He was a last-minute addition to Dragonspeed USA’s LMP2 entry, the #21 car, co-driver with US Grand Am series lagging Memo Rojas and replacing IMSA regular Pipo Derani.

In another Dragonspeed USA LMP2 entry, #27, is Renger van der Zande, driver of the #10 DPi Cadillac Konica Minolta in the IMSA WeatherTech series. Long duration Corvette Driver Jan Magnussen drives the #66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE Evo in GTE Am with two Americans, Richard Heistand and World Challenge driver Max Root.

Gustavo Menzes, born in California, is the only American in the LMP1 category, at the wheel of the Rebellion n°1, co-driven with Bruno Senna. They have a real chance of winning if anything were to happen to the dominant pair of Toyota The Gazoo TS050 hybrids, which are getting a hat trick this year.

If you need to encourage real Americans living in America, here are some suggestions.

COOPER Mac NEIL

MacNeil has driven GT cars with his family’s brand by his side, WeatherTech, for over 10 years. At 28, MacNeil has grown into a solid and careful driver, who may not be as fast as his professional co-drivers, but the goal of an amateur or a gentleman driver is to bring the car back undamaged and in good condition. head. knees. MacNeil does it, whether at Le Mans, in IMSA competition or in the Ferrari Challenge.

Cooper MacNeil

Brian ClearyGetty Images

Speaking of which, right after Le Mans ends on Sunday, MacNeil will return to the United States. Next week he will take part in two races of the Ferrari Challenge – he intends to do the second at least – and then the IMSA WeatherTech race. in Mid-Ohio next weekend, where he will race the WeatherTech Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 in the GT Daytona class. He and co-driver Toni Vilander sit ninth in the standings here, with four more races to go after Mid-Ohio.

MacNeil and Vilander are partnered at Le Mans, with Ferrari specialist Jeff Segal – they will drive the #63 GTE Pro Ferrari 488 Entry GTE Evo. Yes, despite MacNeil’s presence, they race in the 100% pro class, where 100% pro riders are allowed, but not required. MacNeil is the only one of 24 drivers in the class to have a ‘Silver’ amateur rating – Segal is gold, the legendary Vilander is platinum. Bronze, the lowest grade, applies to many of the other lesser-known but deep-pocketed Americans in the race.

You should know that the stakes can be higher in France than just the race. According to a CNN article published on Tuesday: “After young French people took advantage of the lifting of the confinement and the summer months to socialize freely, hospitalizations linked to COVID-19 increased in large cities like Paris, Bordeaux and Marseille. on the Mediterranean coast. French hospitals are now preparing for the long work. The country has just set a record with 10,000 new cases in one day.

“I’m tired of living in a bubble. If I get it, I will get it and I will have to fight.”

MacNeil, who takes the necessary precautions, ignores this. “I’m sick of living in a bubble,” he told Autoweek. “If I get it, I get it and I will have to fight it.” The Illinois resident said there is no upcoming or forthcoming quarantine at this time. But the reason they race in the tougher, but much smaller, Pro class is because its Bronze rider, needed to race in the Am class, couldn’t make it to the track in time due to traffic restrictions. coronavirus, so they opted for Segal and race as pros.

And don’t be surprised if they finish on the podium – “We should have the speed,” said MacNeil. “We just have to execute, make no mistakes and hope for luck.”

BEN KEATING

Keating, 49, is a Texas car dealership with 19 stores, as far north as Dallas-Fort Worth, as far south as Port Lavaca (and, incidentally, he said his business is having a banner year, both despite and because of the pandemic, which has reduced inventory and increased demand).

creventic 24 hour series
Ben Keating

Brian ClearyGetty Images

Keating, which remains the largest in the world Dodge the Viper dealer even years after the car was discontinued, got into racing because of his love for driving Vipers, and he dominated a Viper-only series. This led to the IMSA WeatherTech race, and he won the IMSA Endurance Cup three times in a row. Even though he is racing full-time in the Europe-based World Endurance Championship, he was aiming for a fourth Endurance Cup, based on finishes in the four longest IMSA races.

Traditionally, the WEC starts racing at the end of one year and then ends the following year, with Le Mans being the end of the season. But the WEC moved Bahrain to November 12, and the season ends there, which conflicts with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, which is now the end of the IMSA season. So Keating, with points races in the WEC remaining, will miss Sebring and give up four consecutive Endurance Cup championships.

He is third in the WEC standings. But Le Mans is a double-point race, and Bahrain is offering 1.5 points for every point, so a lot can happen, and he thinks he has a shot at winning the WEC title.

wec world endurance championship
The #57 Porsche 911 RSR

James Moy PhotographyGetty Images

So what’s next year’s WEC schedule? Nobody knows. But Keating expects to be back. “I love racing in the WEC,” he said, although every race takes him out of the United States except for the Circuit of the Americas in Texas and the companion race at Sebring with IMSA. , which according to IMSA President John Doonan is scheduled for next March.

Anyway, this weekend Keating teams up with longtime Gold-ranked co-driver Jeroen Bleekemolen and Silver-ranked Felipe Fraga. Keating is a bronze, although he technically won this category last year – driving the only privateer Ford GT he crossed the finish line first, but after 30 hours of post-race review he his fuel tank was said to hold more than it should, “About a can of Coke’s worth,” Keating said. But he knows he can win and he has a strategy to get the upper hand. “We will see if it works.

Keating, Bleekemolen and Franga tackle the 8.5-mile, 38-turn track in the #57 Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR.

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