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Vandoorne confirms McLaren test and reserve role for 2016

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GP2 champion Stoffel Vandoorne has confirmed that he will take up a test and reserve role with parent team McLaren for the 2016 Formula 1 season.

Vandoorne wrapped up the GP2 championship in Russia last month, but missed out on a possible seat with McLaren in F1 after the team opted to retain veteran driver Jenson Button for 2016.

Given that GP2 champions are not permitted to return to the series, Vandoorne looked poised for a year on the sidelines much like current McLaren reserve Kevin Magnussen experienced in 2015 unless he took one of the remaining seats with Manor at the back of the F1 grid.

In an interview with McLaren’s official website, Vandoorne confirmed that he would be taking up the reserve role with McLaren for 2016 in place of the outgoing Magnussen, but is also working on a deal to keep racing.

“I definitely want to race something next year, but what it will be we don’t know yet,” Vandoorne said. “There’s definitely some options though, and we’re talking about them.

“I’m going to be test and reserve driver at McLaren anyway, which is a good position to be in. Obviously I want to race something next year as well, to say sharp, to stay fit, and to stay focused, so we’ll see what comes out.

“And if you stay sharp, fit and focused, then if any opportunity arises in F1 you’re 100 percent ready to jump in.”

Vandoorne is set to test a Super Formula car ahead of a possible race seat in Japan’s leading single seater series to complement his McLaren reserve duties.

“I’ll be doing a Super Formula test in Japan soon. The Super Formula car is definitely a good car – it’s at least as quick as a GP2 car or maybe even quicker.

“As I say, as I’m McLaren’s test and reserve driver next year, but I want to keep racing alongside that, and I think Super Formula is one of the options, but it’s not decided yet whether I’m going to do it or not.”

NHRA Gatornationals: John Force qualifies 15th with no motor explosion, says ‘I need to race smart’ Sunday

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There’s good news and bad news for John Force fans.

The good news is the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ did not suffer yet another motor explosion after enduring his third in three races during Friday’s qualifying session at Gainesville (Florida) Raceway.

In fact, Force intentionally feathered the gas pedal on his Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car to make sure it wasn’t again overtaxed, qualifying 15th with a run of 4.281 seconds at 222.88 mph.

Now for the bad news.

When Sunday’s final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. ET, Force will be matched against daughter and No. 2 qualifier, Courtney Force (3.914 seconds at 332.18 mph).

“It is a little bit of a bummer that I have to race him in the first round,” Courtney Force said of her father. “Tomorrow is a new day and we will have all our stuff ready and we will put on our game faces to go for that win.”

Courtney Force is seeking her second consecutive win, having also won two weeks ago at the second national event of the season in suburban Phoenix.

“I want to have a good side-by-side safe race tomorrow in round one,” Force said. “Our goal is to take my dad down and have a long day at the track winning rounds.

“We want to move the momentum over from Phoenix. I feel like my guys have a good handle on this Advance Auto Parts Camaro.”

But don’t count out dear old dad, an eight-time Funny Car winner at Gainesville.

“I am the kind of guy that, when it is qualifying day, I run it to the edge.,” John Force said. “I run it even if I know it will hurt itself.

“(With his three motor explosions this season) I am rethinking all that. What I am looking is the long haul. To go out here and say I have to win this race or I have to qualify low after as much stuff as we have put on the ground in Pomona and Phoenix and then to come here and do it again is bad. … We want to fix this problem and move on.

“Tomorrow I am going to have to play the odds game. I am going to run it to 700 or 800 feet and hope (Courtney) gets in trouble. I need to race smart.”

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