FIA WEC: Toyota goes back-to-back with win at Spa-Francorchamps

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With the 24 Hours of Le Mans coming up, Toyota Racing has now opened the 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship season with back-to-back wins after its No. 8 TS040 Hybrid emerged victorious in the Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.

Nicolas Lapierre, Anthony Davidson, and Sebastien Buemi took the No. 8 to a 1 minute, 13-second win over Audi’s No. 1 R18 e-tron quattro of Lucas di Grassi, Loic Duval, and Tom Kristensen.

During the second hour of the race, Buemi was able to pull away from the No. 14 Porsche 919 Hybrid after a round of pit stops.

From there, both Porsche 919s would find problems later in the race. The No. 14, with Romain Dumas behind the wheel, suffered an electrical issue that forced him to run two slow laps before he could reset the car from the cockpit. Still, that car was able to soldier on to a fourth-place finish.

As for the No. 20 919 Hybrid, it sustained a broken rear damper and, later, a broken front driveshaft. It would spend an extended period in the garage before returning to the track late with Mark Webber at the controls.

G-Drive Racing also earned its second consecutive win in the LMP2 category with Olivier Pla, Roman Rusinov, and Julien Canal having a clear run to the win in their No. 26 Morgan-Nissan.

Ferrari and AF Corse enjoyed a sweep in the GTE categories, with the No. 51 458 Italia (Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander) winning in GTE-Pro and the No. 61 458 (Marco Cioci, Mirko Venturi and Luis Perez Companc) winning in GTE-Am.

AF Corse narrowly missed a 1-2 finish in Pro when Patrick Pilet managed to wrestle second away late in his No. 91 Team Manthey Porsche 911. Davide Rigon wound up third in his Corse Ferrari.

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

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If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.