2024 06 13 Cadillacs At Le Mans

Cadillac Keen to Build after Strong Return to Le Mans

Lessons Learned in 2023 Should Bolster Chances for Trio of Cadillac V-Series.R Cars 

By Tony DiZinno


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It’s fair to say Cadillac impressed the sports car world with third- and fourth-place finishes in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans in the Hypercar class. It’s also fair to say that Cadillac isn’t keen to rest, as it seeks its first 24-hour endurance race victory for the Cadillac V-Series.R in its second year of competition.


“We were excited to race in the 100th anniversary of Le Mans in 2023. To be on the podium in 2023 with a brand-new car, new team and new rules was amazing,” said Laura Wontrop Klauser, GM sports car racing program manager. “In 2024, we’ll keep pushing forward, use the lessons from 2023 to make us stronger on the program and be ready to go against the best in the world at Le Mans.”


The Cadillac record at Le Mans dates back to its maiden appearance in 1950 with two Series 61 coupes, one mostly stock and the other heavily modified and nicknamed “Le Monstre.” A largely fruitless three-year run with the Northstar LMP cars from 2000 to 2002 followed before Cadillac made its anticipated and strong return to the Circuit de la Sarthe in 2023.


The cars mirroring the initial two car numbers at Le Mans, Nos. 2 and 3, finished P3 and P4 last year. These two cars made it into the Hyperpole session and stayed out of trouble in the race when others around them, such as the third Cadillac, failed to do so.


Ganassi-Prepared Cadillacs Set for Final Le Mans Together


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This marks the last run for Chip Ganassi Racing’s team at Le Mans with Cadillac for now, after an announcement earlier this year the two entities will go their separate ways at year’s end. For now, though, Ganassi has a clear and obvious goal for this year’s Le Mans.


“I want to win. It’s that simple. I’m not going there for the food,” Ganassi said.


Ganassi has won Le Mans in the former GTE PRO class with the Ford GT, but an overall win is a key box left to check for most of its six drivers in the team’s two Cadillacs. Earl Bamber (2015 and 2017) has a pair of overall wins while Sebastien Bourdais (2016) and Alex Lynn (2020) have GTE PRO class wins. Renger van der Zande and Scott Dixon seek their first Le Mans wins in any class and Alex Palou makes his Le Mans debut this year in the No. 2 Cadillac that runs the full FIA World Endurance Championship season with Bamber and Lynn.


An overall win for Bourdais could be a crowning lifetime achievement after 16 previous starts. The four-time IndyCar champion and 12-time IMSA race winner was born in Le Mans and shares the No. 3 Cadillac – normally the No. 01 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – with van der Zande and Dixon. Justin Taylor, a member of the winning Ferrari Hypercar lineup last year, aids the No. 3 car’s attempt as its new race engineer.


“Obviously, it’s a huge challenge but we’ve had some very promising findings and learnings from last year. I think we definitely have a very competitive car with our Cadillac V-Series.R to be able to contend,” Bourdais said.


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“Hopefully, we can give it a shot to get that win that is missing on my resume. It’s obviously one that means a ton to me and I’m looking forward to going back there to give it another go.”


Van der Zande, a Cadillac stalwart and 20-time IMSA race winner, explained how he thinks the race will go.


“I think we were better prepared than everybody else, but this year everybody else will be better prepared than they were last year,” he said. “I think the competition will be stronger than last year because of reliability, not because of speed. Teams have their cars and systems better sorted, so from that perspective it will be more interesting.


“I think we’re going to see a lot of high-level duels on track where you need to be on top of your game from the moment you start racing to when you see the checkered flag. That’s what we come for – to race against the best in the world and to win the race. We’re ready for that challenge.


“I think it’s amazing what we did this past year with the Cadillac program finishing third and fourth. That was a testament to the development and everyone’s hard work in the first year of the program. We have really strong teammates, really strong teams and partners to make this all work to go for the win.”


IMSA Championship-Winning Whelen Cadillac Racing Seeks Le Mans Rebound


For the Whelen Cadillac Racing trio, its second Le Mans attempt as a collective unit is about atonement and redemption.


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A team renowned for its preparation and championship-winning execution experienced a rare mistake at the start when Jack Aitken hit the barrier with the No. 311 Cadillac on the opening lap. It set the team’s results back, but not its fighting spirit. If anything, it brought the team closer together as they wound up learning the race in a low-pressure environment. Ultimately, the team finished 10th in class in its Le Mans debut.


“My approach is I’ll never come down on a driver for trying hard. The only time you’ll frustrate me is if you back off and don’t push,” explained Chris Mitchum, director of race team operations for Action Express Racing that fields the Whelen Cadillac and guided it to the 2023 Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) title in the WeatherTech Championship to earn a Le Mans invite. “Jack at Le Mans was a learning lesson for him and us. It was certainly an investment in the future. Him going part-time and starting to learn IMSA before being thrown in as full-time was invaluable.”


Aitken has taken a step as a finishing driver for several IMSA races and stood on the podium as runner-up in three of the first five races this year. Teammate Pipo Derani, a two-time IMSA champion, reflected on where the team is now ahead of its second Le Mans bow.


“We’re happy to go back to Le Mans, and winning the IMSA championship in a way cemented our way back to Le Mans, which is a nice way to go back,” he said.


“The fact that we were there, made a full event of experience and now we’re able to go back with all that knowledge is exciting.


“Last year we had an incident right at the beginning but there was a lot of promise shown during the race. We had good pace despite being laps down. If we can use all that knowledge that we accumulated last year and make a few things better, then we should have a good weekend.


“There are so many details that you don’t know when you haven’t been there; it was the first for the team. So, to have that experience and put it to use will be fantastic.”


The team adds Felipe Drugovich, the 2022 Formula 2 champion, as its third driver this race as Tom Blomqvist was initially set to miss it with a conflict. The young Brazilian tested well and has earned the opportunity.


“Felipe has been on our radar for a couple of years,” Action Express Racing team manager Gary Nelson said. “After watching him race a sports car in the ELMS (European Le Mans Series) recently, we finally got a chance to meet him and work with him in some simulator testing. We were impressed by his maturity, discipline and knowledge.”