Cadillac Hyper Excited About Heading Back To Le Mans

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, February 28 2023

A trio of Cadillac Hypercars will be headed to Le Mans in June.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

The official, 62-car entry list for the landmark 100th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans includes three Cadillac V-Series.Rs set to compete in the evolving Hypercar class for the overall victory.

The sanctioning Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) will play host to the largest field of cars competing for the overall win since 2011, when 17 LMPI entries based on six different chassis started the twice-around-the clock classic in France.

The 16 Le Mans Hypercars scheduled to compete June 10-11 on the 8.467-mile road-course represent seven different brands _ more than triple the 2022 list _ and includes five-time defending champion Toyota. Sebastien Buemi of Switzerland, Brendon Hartley of New Zealand and Ryo Hirakawa of Japan are the reigning event champions for the Japanese manufacturer, which will return with two GR010 Hypercars.

Cadillac Racing most recently competed at Le Mans in 2000, 2001 and 2002 with its 4.0-liter turbocharged V8-powered Northstar LMP.

“We are thrilled to return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the full Cadillac Racing team,” Rory Harvey, Cadillac’s global vice president, said Monday in a news release from Detroit. “Over the last 20 years Cadillac Racing has built a legacy of winning on the track and we feel very privileged to return to Le Mans during this exciting new electrified era in racing.”

The No. 2 Cadillac V-Series.R received an automatic entry based upon its 2023 full-season participation in the FIA World Endurance Championship. Earl Bamber of New Zealand and Alex Lynn and Richard Westbrook, both of the United Kingdom, are the assigned drivers.

The No. 3 Cadillac V-Series.R is a full-season IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship entrant in the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class, where it races as the No. 01. Sébastien Bourdais of France, Renger van der Zande of The Netherlands and Scott Dixon of New Zealand will share driving duties.

The No. 311 Whelen Engineering Cadillac V-Series.R is a full-season IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship entrant in the GTP class, where it races as the No. 31. Pipo Derani of Brazil and Alexander Sims and Jack Aitken, both of the United Kingdom, will be the drivers.

“Cadillac is excited to build on its racing legacy by competing against the very best internationally and at one of the world’s toughest races,” said Laura Wontrop Klauser, GM sports car racing program manager. “We’re proud to be representing the United States, and the Cadillac V-Series.R is a great continuation of our racing heritage.”

The three hybrid Cadillac V-Series.Rs made their competition debut Jan. 28-29 during the 61st annual Rolex 24 at Daytona, with the No. 01 Cadillac earning a third-place result. The No. 02 Cadillac V-Series.R placed fourth and the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac V-Series.R finished fifth. Bourdais, Dixon and van der Zande combined to lead 198 laps in the No. 01, while Bamber, Lynn and Westbrook led the field for 29 laps in the No. 02. 

“Obviously, we didn’t run the perfect race but as close as you can get to it considering it was the first outing in a race for the Cadillac V-LMDh,” said Bourdais, a  native of Le Mans. “Honestly, I didn’t think a win would take the perfect race and then some. I’m really surprised that everybody ended up having a pretty clean race. It’s tough to be on the wrong side of things, but we scored some strong points and all the hard work from the group at Chip Ganassi Racing, Cadillac, Bosch and Dallara have been rewarded by a triple finish.”

The No. 2 Cadillac V-Series.R will make its WEC debut in the Hypercar class March 18 during the 71st annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.

The most recent overall victory at Le Mans by an American entrant was scored in 1967 by icons A.J. Foyt Jr. and Dan Gurney in a Ford GT40 Mark IV fielded by Shelby American Inc., then based out of its original shop in Venice, Calif. Shelby and Roy Salvadori of Great Britain won the 1959 race sharing an Aston Martin DBR 1/300 entered by David Brown Racing Dept.

“We are all looking forward to Cadillac returning to Le Mans and challenging for the overall victory,” said Bamber, overall winner at Le Mans in 2015 and 2017 in Porsche 919 Hybrid entries. “It has been decades since an American manufacturer has achieved this and we will be strongly pushing to achieve our goal.”

The guiding principles for convergence of the top categories of endurance racing in IMSA and the WEC were announced in 2020. Design and development of the new Cadillac race car began immediately. The Cadillac V-Series.R platform_ co-developed by Cadillac Design, Cadillac Racing and chassis constructor Dallara _ was formed around the Project GTP Hypercar unveiled in June 2022. The race car incorporates distinctive Cadillac design elements, specifically the current street car’s vertical lighting and floating blades.

The Cadillac V-Series.R features an all-new Cadillac 5.5L DOHC V-8 engine developed by GM’s Performance and Racing Propulsion team based in Pontiac, Mich. The spec energy recovery system was developed by Bosch, Williams Advanced Engineering (now WAE) and Xtrac.

The Cadillac V-Series.R began on-track development in July 2022 and logged more than 12,500 miles (20,000 kilometers) on racetracks in the United States leading into the 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona on Daytona International Speedway’s “roval.”

“It’s been special to be a part of this from the beginning,” Bamber said. “We started this journey nearly two years ago testing in the simulator. It’s been an awesome journey and the adventure is only just beginning. It’s going to be incredible all the way up to Le Mans.”

The first Cadillacs to compete at the Circuit de la Sarthe were entered by privateers Briggs Cunningham and Miles and Sam Collier in 1950. Both Series 61 Coupes were powered by Cadillac’s 5.4-liter OHV V-8 engine. Miles and Sam Collier co-drove the No. 3 “Petit Pataud” to a 10th-place overall finish. Cunningham shared the wheel of the No. 2 “Le Monstre” with Phil Walters and finished 11th overall despite an early off-course incident. That same year, Sydney Allard and Tom Cole Jr. finished third overall in a Cadillac-powered Allard J2.

Fast-forward to 2000, when Franck Lagorce, Butch Leitzinger and Andy Wallace drove the open-cockpit Team Cadillac No. 1 Cadillac Northstar LMP to a 21st-place overall finish. In addition, Wayne Taylor, Max Angelelli and Eric van de Poele finished 22nd in the No. 2 sister car.

In 2001, Taylor, Angelelli and Christophe Tinseau co-drove the Cadillac Northstar LMP01 to a 15th-place finish. A second LMP01 _ co-driven by Eric Bernard, Emmanuel Collard and Marc Goossens _ retired from the race with a mechanical issue.

In 2002, two Cadillac LMP02s were entered. Angelelli, Tinseau and Taylor co-drove to a ninth-place overall result. A second Cadillac LMP02 _ co-driven by Bernard, Collard and JJ Lehto _ finished 12th.

(Editor’s Note: John Sturbin is a Texas-based journalist specializing in motorsports. During a near 30-year career with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he won the Bloys Britt Award for top motorsports story of the year (1991) as judged by The Associated Press; received the National Hot Rod Association’s Media Award (1995) and several in-house Star-Telegram honors. He also was inaugural recipient of the Texas Motor Speedway Excellence in Journalism Award (2009). His list of freelance clients includes Texas Motor Speedway, the Dallas Morning News, New York Newsday, Rome (N.Y.) Daily Sentinel, Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller Times, NASCAR Wire Service, Ford Racing and Used Car Dealer magazine).



| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, February 28 2023
No Comment