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St. Petersburg Saturday IndyCar, MRTI, PWC results

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – There are seven total races (four Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, two Pirelli World Challenge and one Stadium Super Trucks) today, plus two other qualifying sessions, and Verizon IndyCar Series third practice and qualifying.

Here’s Friday’s notebook and results.

Quick results and notes from the sessions that have occurred, by series, are below. We’ll update this post as the day goes on.

Verizon IndyCar Series

Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires

RESULTS

Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires

  • It was a banner qualifying session this morning for Andretti Autosport, ahead of race two. Colton Herta in the No. 98 Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing delivered the team its first pole since the introduction of the Dallara IL-15 Mazda and at 16 years old, he is the youngest polesitter in series history. The younger Herta turns 17 later this month. In third and sixth, Dalton Kellett has his best start yet in Indy Lights while Nico Jamin is sixth. Santiago Urrutia starts second with Pato O’Ward and Kyle Kaiser completing the top five.
  • In the race, Aaron Telitz dominated from pole position to win in the No. 9 Belardi Auto Racing entry. Telitz, who also won his first Pro Mazda race in race two at St. Petersburg last year, took the checkered flag by 11.033 seconds over Colton Herta and Neil Alberico, who joined Telitz as Indy Lights first-time podium finishers, with Telitz and Herta doing so on their respective series debuts. Although Telitz had a huge margin of victory, the battle for second on back behind him was excellent and saw all five active Indy Lights teams in the top six. Belardi won over the Andretti-Steinbrenner entry for Herta, Carlin’s for Alberico, Belardi’s for Shelby Blackstock, Team Pelfrey’s for Pato O’Ward and Juncos Racing’s for Kyle Kaiser. Herta was a passing demon, having made several successful moves at the inside of Turn 1 for position, and surviving a near bit of contact with Alberico when trying to get around another Californian. Santiago Urrutia retreated to the pits on lap one in his first race for Belardi with damage in a first-corner mess, while Matheus Leist was slowed by an apparent loss of power in his debut for Carlin and Juan Piedrahita saw a career-best qualifying run of third go for naught with front wing damage at Pelfrey.

Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires

  • Anthony Martin took his second pole of the weekend in as many opportunities in his debut weekend in the series with Cape Motorsports, again ahead of Victor Franzoni for Juncos Racing.
  • The same two drivers went 1-2 in the race itself, Martin led from Franzoni the entirety of the race en route to a debut race victory. TJ Fischer of Team Pelfrey scored his first podium of his career in third. Martin was over the moon with the victory, Franzoni equally effusive with happiness because of his late arrival into the series, and Fischer pleased to break through for his first podium. Outside of Nikita Lastochkin passing Phillippe Denes for fifth, the top eight drivers finished as they started in the same order.

Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda

  • Robert Megennis executed a brilliant defense of the lead in his No. 80 Team Pelfrey entry to win in the debut of the new Tatuus USF-17 Mazda, which seemed to race pretty well in the first of two races. The 17-year-old series sophomore started from pole and led flag-to-flag in the 24-lap, caution-free race. He defended against series debutantes Oliver Askew, the Team USA Scholarship winner for Cape Motorsports, and Rinus Van Kalmthout, the talented Dutch driver who’d been set with Benik and Carlin before their separation, tested with Newman/Wachs Racing before signing with Pabst Racing. Askew and Van Kalmthout have a bunch of karting experience.
  • In the afternoon race, polesitter Parker Thompson ran wide on a restart at Turn 1 which opened the door for Askew to get through. The 20-year-old native of Jupiter, Fla. ran consistently from there en route to his first career victory, perhaps the first of many in his Mazda Road to Indy career. Van Kalmthout was second with Thompson making a late dispatch of Kaylen Frederick for third, to get on the podium for Exclusive Autosport. Megennis, the race one winner, crashed out late in the race and fell to 19th.

Pirelli World Challenge

RESULTS

  • Alvaro Parente, the defending series champion, has claimed overall victory in the kickoff to the new PWC GT/GTA/GT Cup season. The GT race was marred by a long caution that took more than 20 minutes in the 50-minute race for one of the two GT Cup entries, a Ferrari Challenge entry driven by Marko Radisic. But once the caution was over, there was a spirited battle behind Parente after he’d got to the lead by Turn 4 of the second lap, past polesitter Daniel Mancinelli. Mancinelli then led Pierre Kaffer, James Davison, Johnny O’Connell and Patrick Long before Long and O’Connell engaged in an epic scrap. Davison got by Kaffer for third late, with Long following in behind but unfortunately cutting Kaffer’s tire and knocking the Magnus Racing driver from a potential podium. On the final lap, Davison and Long both got past Mancinelli for podium spots at Turn 4, and Mancinelli’s baptism by fire ended against the Turn 8 wall, leaving him 14th. Last year’s GT Cup champion Alec Udell won his GTA debut while Preston Calvert, the sole remaining GT Cup driver, won that class by default.
  • The second GTS race of the weekend saw the same 1-2 as on Friday, with Andrew Aquilante in his Phoenix Performance Ford Mustang Boss 302 ahead of Lawson Aschenbach in the Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4. Parker Chase ended third in his Ginetta G55 for his first podium of the weekend.

Porsche announces LMP1 withdrawal from FIA WEC

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Porsche has announced its withdrawal from the FIA World Endurance Championship’s LMP1 class, the top class, a year earlier than its current contract called it to.

The move comes after a high-profile meeting in Germany to evaluate the effectiveness of Porsche’s top-tier LMP1 program to the overall Porsche brand.

Additionally, Porsche has confirmed its entry into the FIA Formula E Championship from season six, starting in 2019.

This aligns with the company’s new electric direction focus for its product line, Porsche Strategy 2025, which will see Porsche develop a combination of pure GT vehicles and fully electric sports cars, such as the first fully electric Porsche model, based upon the Mission E concept car.

Porsche released the following statement today about the end of its LMP1 tenure:

“Building up the Le Mans team from scratch was a huge challenge. Over the years, we have developed an incredibly successful and professional team. This will be our basis going forward. I am certain that we will maintain our high level in Formula E. Confidence is high, and we are excited to get started,” said Fritz Enzinger, Vice President in charge of LMP1.

Porsche said it plans to keep the LMP1 team intact, including its factory drivers, elsewhere within the framework of the company. Additionally, the new mid-engined 911 RSR will continue in the GT ranks; the new car won its first race in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with Dirk Werner and Patrick Pilet at Lime Rock Park this past week.

The Porsche 919 Hybrid won the last three 24 Hours of Le Mans overall, taking its overall win total to a Le Mans record 19 wins. It’s also won the last two FIA World Endurance Championship LMP1 championships, with Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley in 2015 and with Neel Jani, Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb last year.

The move leaves the FIA WEC’s marquee LMP1 class in a difficult position from 2018 and beyond, as Porsche joins fellow VAG brand Audi as a second manufacturer to withdraw from the top class in as many years.

Toyota is left as the single manufacturer, its contract good through 2019. But while LMP1 privateer has witnessed several announcements of new programs, how many actually materialize beyond the press releases into cars on the grid remains to be seen.

Despite the excitement over manufacturers in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s Daytona Prototype international (DPi) formula, the DPis paired with the 2017-spec LMP2 cars in IMSA’s Prototype class, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest would need to allow DPis to race at Le Mans if they are to make an appearance in Europe. Right now, the cars are ineligible.

The GTE-Pro ranks will be bolstered with BMW’s arrival with the new M8 GTE, joining the existing four manufacturers there, and that will likely emerge as the series’ marquee class.

Porsche announces entry to Formula E for season six

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Porsche has announced that it will be joining the FIA Formula E grid in 2019, taking the 12th and final slot currently available.

In the same announcement that confirmed the closure of its LMP1 program at the end of the season, Porsche revealed that it would be moving into the all-electric series for the 2019/20 campaign with a factory-backed operation.

“Entering Formula E and achieving success in this category are the logical outcomes of our Mission
E road car program,” said Michael Steiner, Member of the Executive Board for Research and
Development at Porsche AG.

“The growing freedom for in-house technology developments makes Formula E attractive to us. Porsche is working with alternative, innovative drive concepts.

“For us, Formula E is the ultimate competitive environment for driving forward the development of high-performance vehicles in areas such as environmental friendliness, efficiency and sustainability.”

Porsche has held an interest in Formula E for some time, with many of its key motorsport bosses venturing to the recent races in Monaco and Berlin in order to undertake research regarding a possible entry.

Following Monday’s news that Mercedes would be taking up its option on an entry to Formula E for season six, Porsche’s arrival acts as another huge boost for the burgeoning electric championship, which already enjoys involvement from manufacturers such as Renault, Audi, BMW and Jaguar.

“I’m delighted to welcome Porsche to the FIA Formula E Championship,” Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag said. “If somebody told me when we started this project five years ago, that we’d be announcing a partnership with a brand like Porsche, I wouldn’t have believed it.

“To have a name like Porsche in Formula E, with all it represents in terms of racing and heritage – and in terms of sport cars – is an inflexion point in our quest to change the public perception about electric cars.

“The electric revolution continues, and Formula E remains the championship for that revolution.”

FIA president Jean Todt added: “Porsche is a brand which has a fantastic history in motorsport, and its intention to join the FIA Formula E Championship alongside so many of the world’s biggest car manufacturers is very positive.

“It’s clear that the hard work done to create a relevant laboratory for developing electric vehicle technologies has been successful, and I look forward to seeing Formula E continue to be a place of great sporting competition as well as innovation.

“I’m very happy that Porsche is coming to Formula E, but I regret their decision to leave the World Endurance Championship.”

The decision to end its LMP1 program and quit the FIA World Endurance Championship with one year still to run on its contract sees Porsche follow in the footsteps of sister Volkswagen Group brand Audi, which pulled a similar move less than 12 months ago.

Audi closed its long-running and hugely-successful LMP1 team at the end of last year in order to shift its focus to Formula E, enjoying works status with the ABT Schaeffler team from season four.

Porsche’s entry to Formula E marks its first foray into single-seater racing with a factory team since the end of its CART program in 1990.

Bottas feels at home at Mercedes as a challenger, not No. 2

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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) Valtteri Bottas feels like he finally belongs at Mercedes, and that is not as a support driver to Lewis Hamilton.

The Finnish driver has exceeded expectations since joining from Williams as an emergency replacement for Nico Rosberg, who dramatically retired days after winning last year’s Formula One championship.

“I feel very much part of the team, I feel I can definitely perform at my best level,” Bottas said Thursday ahead of this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix. “(There is) plenty more to come.”

The widely held perception was that Bottas, who had never won a race before this season, was clearly arriving as the No. 2 behind Hamilton, a three-time F1 champion.

Yet at the halfway point of the 20-race season, Bottas is in third place overall, 22 points behind Hamilton and 23 behind four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari. That puts him within touching distance.

Bottas won in Russia and Austria, and finished second in Canada, Azerbaijan and Britain. With four straight podium finishes, he has good momentum for the Hungarian GP, the last race before a month-long summer break.

If not for his failure to finish the Spanish GP in May, Bottas could be even closer to Hamilton and Vettel.

“I feel like I am getting up to speed now. In a way I hope there wasn’t a break,” Bottas said Thursday. “I always set targets higher. I didn’t expect myself to be behind (Hamilton) all the time. I’ve shown it is possible to battle and show my skills.”

Asked if he thinks he can win the title, the 27-year-old Bottas says “everything is wide open,” adding “I believe I can fight for the pole (position) here.”

The twisting nature of the 4.4-kilometer (2.7-mile) Hungaroring circuit may favor Ferrari more than Mercedes, however.

Mercedes struggled at this season’s Monaco GP, which is a similarly tight-turning track where overtaking is much harder. Vettel won in Monaco from pole, while Bottas was fourth for Mercedes and Hamilton managed only seventh spot.

“We’ve learnt a lot since Monaco,” Bottas said. “I think it will be a good test for our car, we’re expecting a close battle.”

F1 Paddock Pass: Hungarian Grand Prix (VIDEO)

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Formula 1’s final race before the summer break takes place this weekend with the Hungarian Grand Prix from the Hungaroring in Budapest.

It’s a busy time of year and a highly important weekend on the calendar, with the two championship combatants only separated by one point and all the silly season talk about 2018 heating up – particularly with the two-day young driver test set to run on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week after the race.

And with the confirmation the Halo device is set to be introduced next year, what are the drivers thoughts on that?

All that makes for ideal timing of this weekend’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass with Will Buxton checking in from the ground in Hungary.

Here’s the pre-race episode, below.