IndyCar star Tony Kanaan will get his first taste of the 24 Hours of Le Mans when he fills in for the injured Sebastien Bourdais during the French endurance classic.
Ford Chip Ganassi Racing confirmed the Brazilian would join Joey Hand and Dirk Muller in the defending GTE-Pro class-winning No. 68 Ford GT after Bourdais was ruled out following a heavy crash during qualifying for last month’s Indy 500.
Kanaan has long targeted racing at Le Mans, however, this opportunity comes at the demise of a colleague, forcing him into the world’s most iconic endurance race with only limited experience in the car since spending seven hours wheeling the No. 69 Ford GT during this year’s Rolex 24.
“It’s an honor to be named a part of the Ford GT lineup for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing at the Le Mans 24,” Kanaan said in a statement.
“It’s obviously an unfortunate situation that brought us to this point with Sebastien’s injuries, but I’m going to do my best to take his place and try to help win this amazing race for the team again this year.
“This race has definitely been on my bucket list for a long time, so I’m thankful that Chip and our partners at Ford have given me this opportunity.”
The former IndyCar champ won’t get the chance to acclimatize himself to the Circuit de la Sarthe’s old school blend of public road and race track as his IndyCar commitments in Detroit will force him to miss the official test day.
However, like his teammate and 2016 Le Mans rookie, Scott Dixon, Kanaan will get an exemption from the ACO due to his Platinum driver rating.
“We’re very pleased we are able to get a driver of Tony’s experience and talent in the No. 68 Ford GT for the Le Mans 24,” said Dave Pericak, Global Director, Ford Performance.
“It’s certainly not the ideal situation and we’re heartbroken that Sebastien won’t be back to defend his race victory, since we know how much that race means to him personally.
“He is an important part of our family, and we look forward to him making a complete recovery.”
It’s not like Kanaan is completely foreign to tintop racing, he’s been a part of the Ford Racing family since 2014 and has competed in the Rolex 24 for the company every year since, including overall victory in 2015. During the 2017
During the 2017 race Kanaan was the third-quickest driver in class, behind teammates Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe.
Look for more Le Mans news in the coming weeks as we ramp up towards the green flag on Saturday, June 17.