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  • Fast Friday: Leclerc fires up Ferrari through Maranello streets, plus a new McLaren

    Need your motorsport news fix? Welcome to Fast Friday!

    This is where Racing Edge discusses all the main news and talking points from the past week in motorsport.

    Keep up to date with all the main motorsport news below.

    Leclerc ‘spotted’ driving Ferrari around Maranello streets

    F1 news

    Charles Leclerc this week fired up his new 2020 Ferrari F1 car for the first time in 110 days.

    At the crack of dawn, Leclerc piloted this season’s SF1000 through the streets of Maranello. It is where the team’s race factory is based. The unique route saw Leclerc drive out of the factory gates and past the Maranello museum. He then drove through the town to Ferrari’s test circuit at Fiorano.

    Ferrari noted Leclerc is the first driver of the modern era to drive an F1 car through Maranello.

    The car’s name references Ferrari’s 1000th Grand Prix, which will be at the Hungarian Grand Prix on July 19. It is the first time its engine has been started since the end of pre-season testing in Barcelona, three-and-a-half months ago. The new 2020 Formula 1 season begins with the Austrian Grand Prix on July 5.  

    Leclerc said: "I don’t normally like getting up early, but this morning there was a great reason to do so. Maybe it woke a few people up. But it was great to drive through the streets of Maranello in the SF1000. It was exciting to get back in the car today, particularly on such a special route. Being back in the cockpit felt like coming home again.”

    In other news, Ferrari released a preview for Le Grand Rendez-Vous. The film, by Claude Lelouch, stars Leclerc and a Ferrari SF90 Stradale. It was filmed on the streets of Monaco on May 23 and 24 – the weekend the Monaco Grand Prix was meant to be held before it was cancelled. The film is a remake of a cult classic, also made by Lelouch, on the streets of Paris.

    Mercedes engine boss Cowell to leave team

    Big F1 news this week as Mercedes engine boss Andy Cowell will leave his role at the end of June. Cowell has been influential in the team's recent F1 dominance.

    He is the Managing Director of Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP). Cowell oversaw Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes capture six successive driver and constructors’ championships in the past six years.

    His departure will see a restructure of the top brass at HPP, who also supply Mercedes’ Formula E team. Cowell informed the team of his intention to leave in January. Hywel Thomas will replace him at the start of July.

    Team Principal Toto Wolff said: "Andy's leadership of the team at HPP has been a key factor in our championship success in recent seasons. He has made an outstanding contribution to our motorsport legacy. I have valued and enjoyed our working relationship since 2013. I am sure he will enjoy great success in the next challenge he decides to take on.”

    Mercedes are also hoping to fit car upgrades ahead of back-to-back races in Austria. Their F1 facility is now operating again following the enforced lockdown during the pandemic.

    In other news, Mercedes-AMG affiliated team Black Falcon announced it will step back from elite-level GT3 racing later this year. The team has won the 24 Hours Nurburgring twice and 24 Hours of Dubai five times. Black Falcon were GT WEC Cup champions in 2018.

    F1 news: No pre-race parades, podium ceremonies

    Lewis Hamilton

    F1 will ditch its pre-race parades and traditional post-race podium ceremonies when the season finally starts.

    The move comes to protect drivers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. No fans will attend races. F1’s motorsport Managing Director Ross Brawn revealed a host of changes to promote social distancing.

    Drivers will not stand together for the national anthem, while trophies will not be handed out by local dignitaries.

    Brawn told F1’s official website: “The practices we have had in the past just can't be done. The podium procedure can't happen, but we're looking at doing something on the grid after the race. One option would be to line the cars up on the track and the drivers will stand in front of cars.”

    "We can't present the trophies, as you can't have someone in close proximity presenting a trophy, but we have worked it out, we have plans and procedures, we're looking at how we can present it on TV."

    The ongoing pandemic is currently delaying the start of the 2020 F1 season.

    In other F1 news, China is currently considering an offer to host two Grands Prix in Shanghai. F1 could announce further races in Asia and the Americas in the coming weeks.

    Meanwhile, Williams F1 driver George Russell clinched victory in the final Virtual F1 Grand Prix. It was his fourth successive win in the series.

    News: Rebellion wins Virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans

    https://twitter.com/LouisDeletraz/status/1272177310804869122

    The Virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans race proved a success as Rebellion came out on top.

    The sim racing version was held on the same weekend the historic endurance race was originally scheduled. The iconic event will take place in September due to the pandemic.

    The virtual race was a huge hit; it attracted over 63 million digital impressions worldwide. This included a TV audience of 14.2 million over 57 countries, as well as 49 million social media impressions.

    Featuring 50 teams and 200 drivers, including a mix of professional racers and sim racers, the event succeeded. It also featured an all-female driver line-up for the Richard Mille Racing Team.

    The Rebellion-Williams Esport No.1 ORECA LMP clinched victory in its class thanks to excellent drives from Louis Deletraz, Raffaele Marciello, Nikodem Wisniewski and Kuba Brzezinski.

    In the GTE class, Porsche won on the 50th anniversary of the marque’s first real Le Mans victory. The Porsche eSport Team No. 93 RSR saw off the challenge from Aston Martin and Corvette.

    Nick Tandy, Ayhancan Guven, Joshua Rogers and Tommy Ostgaard piloted the Porsche to victory. The Aston Martin Racing No. 95 Vantage GTE came second, with the No. 80 Corvette C7.R for Romain Grosjean’s eSports team in third.

    Former F1 drivers Giancarlo Fisichella, Felipe Massa took part as well as current drivers Antonio Giovinazzi and Charles Leclerc. Afterwards, Ferrari driver Leclerc hinted he would one day like to participate in the real race. 

    New Le Mans 24 Hours timetable revealed

    Le Mans news

    Significant news came this week of the revised format for the rescheduled Le Mans 24 Hours weekend.

    Practice for the world’s most famous endurance event will now take place on the Thursday and Friday ahead of the race. Traditionally, practice is held on the Wednesday and Thursday of race week. The race takes place September 19-20.

    The new Hyperpole qualifying format will remain.

    In other endurance racing news, the 24 Hours Nurburgring is set to go ahead in late September. Germany currently has a ban on major events until October. Organisers are doing everything possible to ensure the race, scheduled for September 24-27, goes ahead. No fans will be present.  

    NASCAR moves All-Star Race to Bristol

    The 2020 NASCAR All-Star race will take place at Bristol Motor Speedway. Up to 30,000 fans will be admitted to the July 15 event.

    It marks only the second time the event’s history that it has been moved away from Charlotte Motor Speedway. Speedway Motorsports owns both the Charlotte and Bristol circuits. The event was held in Atlanta in 1986.

    Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith said: “The NASCAR All-Star Race is an event known for making history, and we will enhance that legacy by hosting the event at Bristol Motor Speedway. While Charlotte will always be recognised as the birthplace and traditional home for [this event], the current data surrounding the pandemic in North Carolina makes Bristol a better option for fan access this summer.”

    In other NASCAR news, James Davison will have to wait to make his Cup Series debut. The Australian’s name was on the entry list for Talladega this weekend, driving the No. 77 car. However, with no practice or qualifying ahead of Sunday’s race, NASCAR reconsidered his entry.

    Historic Meetings take hit after COVID-19

    Monterey Historics news

    It’s been a bad week for vintage meets. Both the Monterey Historics and Goodwood Festival of Speed have been cancelled for 2020.

    The events are the latest to fall victim to the Coronavirus pandemic.

    The legendary Monterey Historics, which takes place at Laguna Seca, was scheduled for August 13-16. It has been cancelled to “ensure the safety and well-being of entrants and guests resulting from COVI-19 conditions and its impact on large public events.”

    Large public events are gatherings are currently not allowed under state guidelines in California.

    Laguna Seca president John Narigi said in a statement: “The highest priority is for the health and safety of race participants, crews and their families, as well as guests and our Monterey County residents. As was our plan, we waited until June after weighing all the options and different scenarios before making a final decision. No matter how much we hoped, no one can fully anticipate what state mandates will be in place that will affect public events and social gatherings.”

    A private event for vintage racers will instead take place on August 8-9.

    The UK’s Festival of Speed and Revival will not take place at Goodwood this year. Charles Gordon-Lennox, the Duke of Richmond, released a statement earlier this week citing fears around large gatherings amid the pandemic. 

    The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb will still go ahead on August 30, without fans present.

    News: Formula E to finish season with six races in nine days

    Formula E news

    Formula E will pack six races into nine days in order to finish the current 2020 season.

    The current pandemic has severely delayed the all-electric championship. Now it is moving to Berlin’s former Tempelhof airport to complete its season. Races will take place on August 5-6, 8-9 and 12-13 behind closed doors.

    Formula E Chief Executive Jamie Reigle said in a statement: "We're heading to Berlin Tempelhof, a venue that our teams, drivers and fans love, to stage a nine-day festival of racing with three back-to-back double-headers," Formula E chief executive Jamie Reigle said in a statement.

    "The festival will feature three track layouts, presenting a new challenge and creating the conditions for an unpredictable and drama-filled climax to our season."

    A maximum 1,000 people will be on the site at any given time. There will also be mandatory coronavirus tests both on arrival and on the track. DS Techeetah driver Antonio Felix da Costa currently leads the championship standings.

    In driver news, two-time DTM champion Rene Rast will replace Daniel Abt at Audi for the remainder of the season. Abt lost his race seat after letting a professional Sim Racer take his place in Formula E's virtual series.

    IMSA to allow limited fan presence at Daytona

    Up to 5000 fans will be allowed to attend IMSA’s WeatherTech 240 at Daytona International Speedway on July 4.

    The championship will work closely with public health officials and local, state and federal authorities to implement safety protocols. Fans will be expected to socially distance, and must be Florida residents.

    "We’ve waited a long time to welcome our loyal race fans back to Daytona International Speedway and the Daytona Beach area," said Chip Wile, DIS President. "There has been a lot of work and extensive planning by our track staff, IMSA, government and health officials, as well as NASCAR to methodically bring fans back to our historic facility. Rest assured we will make sure that every fan in attendance is safe and can enjoy the excitement of the IMSA WeatherTech 240 At Daytona. Having the IMSA sports cars back for this summer tradition just got more exciting with fans here to see it."

    McLaren releases ‘Le Mans’ limited edition 720S

    McLaren news

    McLaren is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its 1995 Le Mans 24 Hours race win with a new toy.

    The British marque will release 50 McLaren 720S Le Mans Special Edition coupes worldwide in memory of its famous win. In 1995, JJ Lehto, Yannick Dalmas and Masanori Sekiya claimed victory in the manufacturer’s first appearance as a constructor at Le Mans.

    The new model carries a dedication plate, while each VIN will begin with 298 – the number of laps completed by the race-winning F1 GTR. It comes in McLaren Orange or Sarthe Grey paint schemes. The model features unique 5-spoke Le Mans wheels, and carbon-fiber racing seats.

    The 720S Le Mans features a 4-liter twin-turbo V8 McLaren engine and hits 0-100 km/h in 2.9 seconds. It has a top speed of 341 km/h.

    Meanwhile, reports this week suggest McLaren is considering selling a minority stake in its F1 team to raise funds. McLaren drivers Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris both returned to track this week. Each driver tested F3 cars at Silverstone ahead of Formula 1’s return next month.

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