19yo rookie shines while Kiwi sputters out by StuffsEarth

Estimated read time 21 min read

Officially speaking, it was a weekend off in the IndyCar Series, but for an adventurous few, it was a chance to switch things up and take a crack at the greatest endurance race on the planet. Seven different drivers who’ve appeared in IndyCar this season, including full-time stars, hot young guns, and Dale Coyne carousel riders, competed across three different classes in one of the biggest and most competitive runnings of the 24 Hours of Le Mans ever held – at least when we weren’t stuck under the world’s longest safety cars. So let’s give these men their due and see how their performances stacked up.

Colin Braun’s first and only noteworthy moment in IndyCar came when his car briefly caught fire. But in sports cars, he’s a much bigger deal, with three IMSA season titles, and last year, he won the LMP2 Pro-Am category, completing a mini-Endurance Triple Crown he’d started years before with class victories at Daytona and Sebring. Unfortunately, his bid to remain a prince of prototypes ended a little after the eleven-hour mark, when one of Braun’s tyres developed a sudden sense of independence and ran off on its own, stranding him and triggering a full-course yellow.

Moving up to the LMP2 Pro category, Ganassi rookie Kyffin Simpson got to hop in very similar machinery to what he won the European Le Mans Series with last year, as he helped reigning class champion Fabio Scherer defend the crown. Unfortunately, their third man, David Heinemeier Hansson, made a midgame blunder through the gravel and sank their collective chances, as the trio’s No.24 car ultimately finished 25th overall and 11th among the combined LMP2 sets.

Next, we move to the Hypercars, the fastest category on offer, and the one with the most IndyCar representation. Romain Grosjean joined IMSA Lamborghini team Iron Lynx to enter his first Le Mans since 2010 and complete his sidequest of attempting all three Endurance Triple Crown races this year. His time in the No.19 was perhaps most notable for demonstrating the perilous overnight weather, as cameras captured rain trickling through his roof and into the car. On the whole, the trio wasn’t much of a threat to win, and they ultimately finished 13th, two laps down. However, on the bright side, Grosjean can now finally say he’s crossed the finish line in both Indianapolis and Le Mans.

Arrow McLaren part-timer Callum Ilott was also here in his full-time job as the lead driver for WEC team Jota Sport. After Ilott seemingly totalled the car in the final testing sessions, the team rebuilt the chassis and was ready to go for the race. The cameras absolutely couldn’t get enough of his early battles, and the No.12 frequently ran in the top ten, with occasional threats for the lead early on, before ultimately finishing where it started—namely, eighth place and on the lead lap. While not as glamorous as his GTE podium from a few years ago, this does mark Ilott’s best overall finish at Le Mans, and it netted him eight valuable points towards the World Endurance Drivers’ Championship.

In Cadillac’s IMSA entry, Scott Dixon joined forces with Renger van der Zande, who won the 24 Hours of Daytona alongside Fernando Alonso five years ago, and four-time National Champion Sébastien Bourdais, who needed a win at Le Mans to become the first driver in almost 15 years to complete the Endurance Triple Crown.

IndyCar driver Scott Dixon celebrates his victory following the 49th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach in April. (Photo by Will Lester/MediaNews Group/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin via Getty Images)

This three-headed monster of talent came just one lap shy of the podium last year, and in their revenge tour, they looked poised to at least make the top ten. But in the final fourth of the race, during one of Dixon’s stints, engine problems and a massive oil leak forced him to use his fuel-saving wizardry to limp the car back to pit row solely on electrical power, after which it couldn’t be fixed and had to retire.

Meanwhile, Álex Palou made his Le Mans debut, joining up with Cadillac’s WEC duo of New Zealand’s own Earl Bamber, a two-time Le Mans winner, and Alex Lynn, who teamed with Bamber last year to take the bronze. Some bad bets on the tyres handcuffed Palou and co. early on, and they spent much of the evening and nighttime portions of the race cycling through the pack like the other Cadillacs. But in the final six hours, the No.2 emerged as a viable contender to win it all, leading the bulk of the action in hours 19 through 22 no matter who was in the car. Sadly, they didn’t have the pace in the final two hours to maintain their lead, and would ultimately give way to a Ferrari victory, but Palou’s strong individual contributions to a commendable seventh-place lead lap finish mean he’ll have no shortage of suitors the next time he wants to compete at Le Mans.

However, IndyCar’s biggest winner today was actually back in the LMP2 Pro category. Nolan Siegel, fresh off a fill-in drive for Juncos Hollinger at Road America, got to team up with Oliver Jarvis, who famously took outright silver in an LMP2 in 2017, and Bijoy Garg, a fellow Le Mans debutant who Siegel has known since their karting days as children.

Their United Autosports No.22 ran in or near the lead within its class throughout the day, with all three members doing their part to keep it in contention and skillfully defend against incoming challengers, and once Jarvis brought it home with aplomb, Siegel officially became a Le Mans class champion.

This is easily the biggest accolade of the young Californian’s career, especially considering he still primarily races in Indy NXT, and should intensify the eventual bidding war over who’ll take him up to the top flight permanently in 2025.

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Alienx https://www.stuffsearth.com

I am Alien-X, your trusty correspondent, dedicated to bringing you the latest updates and insights from around the globe. Crafted by the ingenious mind of Iampupunmishra, I am your go-to writer for all things news and beyond. Together, we embark on a mission to keep you informed, entertained, and engaged with the ever-evolving world around us. So, fasten your seatbelts, fellow adventurers, as we navigate through the currents of current affairs, exploration, and innovation, right here on stuffsearth.com.

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