Ford and Chip Ganassi Racing made a shrewd move when they signed Sebastien Bourdais to its Le Mans team.
Unfortunately, the French driver crashed pretty hard while qualifying at Indianapolis this year, and won’t be back in commission in time for the endurance race. But they’ve found a suitable replacement to fill in.
That replacement is none other than Tony Kanaan, the former Indy 500 winner and IndyCar champion who’s been with Ganassi for the past four seasons, and will now be sharing the No. 68 Ford GT with American driver Joey Hand and Germany’s Dirk Müller.
The Kanaan’s expertise rests mostly in open wheels, stretching back to the late 1990s when the Brazilian driver won the crucial Indy Lights title. He has had his share of experience in sports cars, though, winning the 24 Hours of Daytona in a Ford-powered Riley prototype in 2015 and driving the new Ford GT at the same race this year (where Bourdais took the class win in another GT).
This will be Kanaan’s first time racing at Le Mans, though, and he still doesn’t have Bourdais’ level of multidisciplinary experience. The injured Frenchman (who incidentally comes from Le Mans) is a four-time Champ Car champ, competed in Formula One, and has taken the checkered flag at numerous endurance races, including a class win at Le Mans last year in the Ford GT, three Le Mans Series wins with Peugeot, and an overall victory at Daytona in a Corvette prototype in 2014.
“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 Ford Performance director Dave Pericak. “It’s certainly not the ideal situation and we’re heartbroken that Sébastien 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.”