Marco Andretti proud of “incredible achievement” by team

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Andretti Autosport wasn’t able to come away with the pole position for the 97th Indianapolis 500, but still placed all five of their drivers within the first three rows for next Sunday’s race — an accomplishment that thrilled one of their own, outside front-row qualifier Marco Andretti.

“Extremely proud of my team,” said Andretti, who posted an average of 228.261 miles per hour in the No. 25 RC Cola Chevrolet and will start on the front row alongside pole winner Ed Carpenter and rookie teammate Carlos Munoz. “Five out of the top nine is just an incredible achievement. That has to be some kind of a record. I don’t think there’s been five cars on one team, let alone in the top nine.”

Andretti was the fourth qualifier in the Fast Nine shootout and brought the crowd at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to its feet when he popped a 229.049 mph lap on the first of his four qualifying laps. His average of 228.2 was enough to take the provisional pole away from teammate E.J. Viso.

But the next man after him, Carpenter, went even quicker on his own opening lap (229.347 mph) and went on to post an average of 228.762 mph that would prove to be enough for the pole when the engines finally stopped roaring.

Andretti managed to catch a break, however, when Team Penske’s trio of A.J. Allmendinger, Helio Castroneves and Will Power were unable to stretch solid opening laps into faster four-lap averages.

“We knew [Carpenter] was faster, but those laps were really stout,” said Andretti. “We didn’t see that kind of pace out of him earlier, but I think he went for a trim and he balanced the car, so it rewarded him, where the other guys — the [Team Penske drivers] — had more of a drop-off. We were lucky that happened, and it bumped me back to the front row.”

Amongst the other Andretti Autosport drivers, Viso wound up qualifying fourth, while Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe will start the “500” from seventh and ninth respectively.

SMP Racing unveils BR1 LMP1 car in Bahrain ahead of WEC entry

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SMP Racing has publicly unveiled its new BR1 LMP1 car that will enter the FIA World Endurance Championship from 2018.

SMP Racing opted to pull out of racing full-time in the WEC for 2017 in order to focus on its preparations for an LMP1 entry the following year, with the decision being taken long in advance of Porsche’s exit announcement.

Officials from the Russian-backed SMP Racing, as well as drivers including recent IndyCar racer Mikhail Aleshin (sporting a broken arm in a sling), Vitaly Petrov and Sergey Sirotkin were all on hand to unveil the car on Friday in the Bahrain International Circuit paddock ahead of this weekend’s WEC finale.

The BR Engineering BR1 features a Dallara chassis and an AER engine, and has completed over 2,000 km in private testing, with further running set to be completed in the coming weeks.

SMP Racing plans to field two cars in the WEC’s LMP1 class next year, and is keen to get as many Russian drivers as possible in the seats from its wide pool of talent.

Even with Porsche’s departure from LMP1, the class is set to feature a bigger field thanks to the increased number of privateers moving up, with Toyota set to remain the sole manufacturer in the class.