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Pipo Derani joins Ford Chip Ganassi Racing for opening three WEC rounds

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Rising endurance star Pipo Derani has joined Ford Chip Ganassi Racing for the opening three rounds of the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship season, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Derani, 23, made his WEC debut in the LMP2 class in 2015 with G-Drive, before joining Extreme Speed Motorsports last year.

As part of his Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup program, Derani won both the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring to kick off his 2016 in style. However, he failed to pick up any victories for the team in the WEC, finishing the year fourth in the final LMP2 drivers’ championship.

On Thursday, Ford announced that, alongside his NAEC program with Tequila Patron ESM, Derani would be making his debut in the WEC’s GTE Pro category in 2017, racing alongside Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell in the No. 67 Ford GT for the opening three rounds of the season.

“I am delighted and proud to have been chosen to represent such a successful and respected manufacturer like Ford,” Derani said.

“To compete for a team like Ford Chip Ganassi Racing has been one of my aims since starting in racing and to be recognized and selected by them is a big deal for me. I especially want to thank George-Howard Chappell for his trust and belief in order to give me this opportunity.

“The way that the Ford GT has performed in endurance racing over the last 12 months has been exceptional and I am very much looking forward to working with the team to try and bring more success in the FIA World Endurance Championship and to defend the Le Mans LM GTE Pro title.”

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing will field two cars throughout the 2017 WEC season – the No. 66 and No. 67 entries – before adding its No. 68 and No. 69 cars for Le Mans, giving it a full contingent of four Ford GTs with which to defend its class victory from 2016. The lineups again feature Billy Johnson, Sebastien Bourdais and Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais as the extra Le Mans drives in the Nos. 66, 68 and 69 cars, respectively.

“We are really looking forward to getting back to Le Mans with the Ford GT this year,” Chip Ganassi said.

“Although we came home with the win last year, I think we also learned a great deal about that race, the Ford GT and what it takes to compete for the win.

“I feel like we will be even better prepared this time around. In addition, we will also once again take four cars and 12 of the best racing drivers in the world so I can’t wait to get back there and defend our title.”

Robert Hight extends Funny Car victory streak to 13 seasons

Photo: Gary Nastase and Auto Imagery
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MORRISON, Colo. (AP) Robert Hight beat Tommy Johnson Jr. on Sunday in the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway to extend his Funny Car victory streak to 13 seasons.

Hight topped Johnson with a 3.995-second pass at 317.57 mph in a Chevrolet Camaro SS for his 38th career victory.

“We definitely struggled through the first few rounds and we were lucky to get those round wins, but I have a great team who figured things out and helped get me to the winner’s circle,” Hight said. “It’s definitely a long-time coming and we hadn’t had much luck, but today we had some luck and we hope this continues throughout the Western Swing.”

Antron Brown won in Top Fuel, Drew Skillman in Pro Stock, and Eddie Krawiec in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Brown edged teammate and No. 1 qualifier Leah Pritchett with a 3.792 at 319.82. He has three victories this season to push his career total to 64.

Skillman raced to his second straight victory and the fifth of his career, beating points leader Bo Butner with a 6.916 run at 198.15 in a Camaro.

Krawiec topped Matt Smith with a 7.145 at 188.28. The Harley-Davidson rider has two victories this season and 38 overall.

Sauber confirms Matsushita for Hungary test as well

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Honda junior driver Nobuhiro Matsushita will have a run with Sauber F1 Team on the second day of the Hungarian Grand Prix post-race week test, in the team’s C36 chassis.

Sauber’s engine selection for 2018 is up in the air. While the team announced a switch from year old Ferraris to Hondas, this was done under prior team principal Monisha Kaltenborn and rumors have persisted the deal may be off, or wasn’t fully done in the first place.

That Matsushita is running at this test for his first day in an F1 car – Gustav Malja will run on day one – could indicate the Honda switch isn’t yet a dead topic.

“When I was four years old, I was fascinated by Michael Schumacher, watching him racing in Formula 1. Since then my dream was to become a Formula 1 driver,” he said. “I am very excited about my first Formula 1 test and I am really looking forward to driving the Sauber C36-Ferrari at the Hungaroring – it is a great opportunity for me. I hope it will be a productive day for the team as well as for myself, so that I can learn as much as possible. I would like to thank the Sauber F1 Team for making this happen.”

New team boss Frederic Vasseur, formerly of Renault, gave his take on the test.

“I am pleased that Nobuharu has this great opportunity. He deserves the experience of his first test in a Formula 1 car. Ever since his debut in Formula 2 with ART Grand Prix, I have been following his progress closely, and have watched him advance his performance from year to year. With this Formula 1 test, he comes one step closer to his dream of becoming an F1 driver one day.”

Renault confirms Robert Kubica will test in Hungary

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Renault Sport F1 Team has confirmed Robert Kubica will make his return to a current Formula 1 car in the post-Hungarian Grand Prix test, which will only continue to fuel the hype train for a possible race return.

The Pole has undertaken two tests in recent weeks with older cars but this day in the Renault R.S.17 will provide the team a chance to evaluate him in current machinery to gauge his race level fitness.

It’s a story that has got the F1 world buzzing in recent weeks as Kubica, injured in a rally accident before the 2011 season, has made a comeback to restart his racing career.

Poor Nicholas Latifi, also confirmed for the test that runs the Tuesday and Wednesday after the Hungarian Grand Prix, will be undoubtedly overlooked as a result.

Jolyon Palmer will race in Hungary this weekend at least but whether the Brit continues beyond the summer break that follows afterwards remains a question mark.

Haas F1 driver Romain Grosjean to launch cookbook

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Haas Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean may be one of the sport’s most promising talents on-track, but he also has a burning passion off it: cooking.

Grosjean may have been spent a good part of this year cooking his brakes, but you’ll now be able to cook bakes instead…

F1’s resident foodie is set to release a cookbook alongside wife Marion Jolles in the coming weeks, as announced on his Facebook page.

Grosjean currently sits 13th in the F1 drivers’ championship with 18 points to his name, helping Haas to match the points total from its debut season after just 10 races in 2017.