The Verizon IndyCar Series is well represented in this week’s 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance sports car race, with three INDYCAR regulars competing for Chip Ganassi Racing’s Ford GT program at one of racing’s most historic events.
Between them, Sebastien Bourdais, Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan possess a combined nine Indy car championships (Bourdais four, Dixon four, Kanaan one), 97 wins (Bourdais 37, Dixon 43, Kanaan 17) and 75 poles (Bourdais 34, Dixon 26, Kanaan 15). Each is also a winning driver in sports car competition.
This week marks a welcome homecoming for Bourdais, who missed last year’s 24-hour race in his French hometown while recuperating from injuries sustained in an Indianapolis 500 qualifying crash. Bourdais was part of the 2016 Le Mans GTE Pro class winner in the Ganassi Ford GT with co-drivers Joey Hand and Dirk Muller. The trio are teamed again this year in the No. 68 Ford GT.
“It’s been a year and a half (that) I haven’t come back, so it’s great,” said Bourdais. “It seems like the car has got the potential this year to be in the game, so that’s pretty cool. It’s always a tough week for me, but it’s also a great opportunity to see a lot of friends and race at home.”
Dixon is riding a tidal wave of momentum into Le Mans. He’s won two of the last three Verizon IndyCar Series races, including the DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday to move into sole possession of third place on the all-time Indy car victory chart. The win also put him put him atop the 2018 championship standings after nine of 17 races.
However, racing on Texas’ 1.5-mile superspeedway oval doesn’t exactly translate to the 8.467 miles and 38 turns that await at Circuit de la Sarthe.
Dixon is no stranger to endurance racing. He is a three-time Rolex 24 at Daytona winner, including overall victories in 2006 and ‘15 (with Kanaan as a co-driver). He also scored a third-place class result in his Le Mans debut in 2016.
“Le Mans, as an event, it’s really cool,” Dixon said. “I think it's always hard to know how the package is going to play out until you get to the race.
“Pretty confident that Chip's team, the Ford GT program, is going to be strong. Our team on the (No.) 69 over there has managed to get a third place. Obviously, we'll be shooting for a class win.”
Dixon is teaming once again with former Indy car driver Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook in the No. 69 Ford GT. They were third fastest of the team's four Ford GTs in qualifying -- two cars each from the Ganassi stable's World Endurance Championship and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship programs -- and seventh among all LMGTE Pro class entries. Bourdais' No. 68 car qualified fifth in class and second among the team.
Kanaan, who made his Le Mans debut last year substituting for the injured Bourdais, is paired with Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx in the No. 67 Ford GT this year. They were slowest of the Ford GTs in qualifying and 11th in class, but all of the team cars ran top qualifying laps within a second of each other over the eight-mile circuit.
Two-time Formula One champion and 2017 Indianapolis 500 rookie of the year Fernando Alonso is part of the Toyota entry that won the overall pole by a full two seconds over its sister car. Other drivers in the Le Mans field with Indy car experience include Juan Pablo Montoya, Mikhail Aleshin and Mike Conway.
The race begins at 9 a.m. ET Saturday. The Velocity Channel will air it in its entirety.