Sato provides Foyt a home pole for Houston Indy race 1

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After a brutal stretch of races, A.J. Foyt Enterprises has a bit of home luck on what’s been a challenging weekend for the IZOD IndyCar Series.

Takuma Sato scored his third career pole (2 in 2011 with KV Racing Technology) and first for Foyt’s team since 1999 at an Indy Racing League event in Atlanta with driver Billy Boat, in qualifying for the first race of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

Sato had the advantage of going in the second group – the first was shortened due to an accident by rookie Tristan Vautier – and laid down a flier of 1:00.4535 to capture the spot.

“It’s a great achievement for the team. The team has made huge strides. A.J. had to miss Long Beach where we got the first win. It’s been difficult of late. Team did a tremendous job and I was able to push,” Sato said.

Team director Larry Foyt added, “I think we won ‘happiest team winning a pole award.'”

And from A.J. Foyt: “It’s great to be in your hometown and win the pole, so I’m real happy and real thrilled. Just as long as we finish up first.”

Will Power led the first group, shortened by the incident, and will start second for Race 1.

“We literally had one lap on blacks and one lap on reds,” Power said.

“You’re running to the very left. I think they need to do a bit more grinding honestly. But we can race,” he added, regarding the new surface on the front straight and how to handle the “jump.”

The qualifying for Race 1 shifted from the Firestone Fast Six format to one that mirrored qualifying for Race 2 at the Detroit and Toronto doubleheaders. The field of 24 cars were split into two groups of 12, each getting 12 minutes of track time to set laps.

The rest of the grid was set by group order, with those in Sato’s group to start on the inside and Power’s on the outside.

Scott Dixon will start third in his quest to close the championship gap to Helio Castroneves. Sebastien Bourdais qualified fourth in pursuit of his third straight Houston race win.

Fifth through 10th in qualifying order are Simon Pagenaud, Simona de Silvestro, James Hinchcliffe, Luca Filippi, E.J. Viso and Dario Franchitti. Castroneves starts 22nd after a troubled session.

In Group 1, Vautier walled it exiting the left-handed Turn 10, which cost him his two fastest laps for causing a red flag. His fastest of 1:01.7544 had been second before the incident.

Group 1 ended, as it turned out, with only 5 minutes of green flag time. Group 2 had a full session with no major incidents. Ed Carpenter lost a piece of bodywork but other than that, nothing affected the session.

Bourdais, Franchitti and Rahal have 10-spot grid penalties coming for unapproved engine changes.

Both races will feature a standing start. It has not yet been determined whether races will have single file restarts, but it is under consideration.

IZOD IndyCar Series – Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston Race 1
Unofficial Starting Lineup

Row 1
14-Takuma Sato
12-Will Power

Row 2
9-Scott Dixon
77-Simon Pagenaud

Row 3
78-Simona de Silvestro
27-James Hinchcliffe

Row 4
98-Luca Filippi
5-E.J. Viso

Row 5
16-James Jakes
25-Marco Andretti

Row 6
18-Mike Conway
19-Justin Wilson

Row 7
11-Tony Kanaan
7-Sebastien Bourdais*

Row 8
1-Ryan Hunter-Reay
83-Charlie Kimball

Row 9
67-Josef Newgarden
3-Helio Castroneves

Row 10
6-Sebastian Saavedra
10-Dario Franchitti*

Row 11
4-Oriol Servia
20-Ed Carpenter

Row 12
55-Tristan Vautier (R)
15-Graham Rahal*

*Denotes 10-spot grid penalty for unapproved engine change

Rebellion confirms LMP1 return, all-star line-up for WEC super season

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Rebellion Racing has confirmed it will return to the LMP1 class of the FIA World Endurance Championship for the 2018/19 ‘super season’ with an all-star line-up featuring Le Mans winners Neel Jani and Andre Lotterer.

Rebellion raced in LMP1 as a privateer between 2009 and 2016 before stepping down to LMP2 for the most recent season, capturing the class titles at the first attempt.

Following a push from the WEC and Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) to make LMP1 more appealing to privateer teams, Rebellion announced on Wednesday it would return to the premier class for the 2018/19 season with a two-car effort.

WEC LMP2 champion Bruno Senna will return with Rebellion next year, as will Mathias Beche, with the pair set to be joined by four new faces.

The most notable arrivals are Porsche factory drivers Lotterer and Jani, both of whom were left without an LMP1 drive following the closure of the German manufacturer’s program at the end of the season.

American racer Gustavo Menezes will also join Rebellion, stepping up after two years in LMP2, while outstanding 2017 rookie Thomas Laurent completes the Swiss team’s line-up.

“I am looking forward to coming back where my endurance career started nine years ago,” said Jani.

“Rebellion Racing played a huge role in my career and also helped me become a factory driver for Porsche. When Porsche stopped in LMP1, it was clear for me that I wanted to race again for Rebellion.

“With the new regulations, I hope we can reach the overall podium at Le Mans and with a bit of luck, maybe we can even grab some wins during the super season of WEC.”

“I am very happy to join the champion Rebellion team,” added three-time Le Mans winner Lotterer.

“The LMP1 project is very exciting and to be able to go on with the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the FIA WEC challenge is something I did not want to miss.

“I am motivated and looking forward to have a great time with great people there.”