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Lando Norris promoted to McLaren reserve for 2018

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Lando Norris has been named McLaren F1’s official test and reserve driver for the 2018 Formula 1 season, the team announced Monday.

Norris won the prestigious McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver Award last December, then completed his first official F1 test with the team’s Honda-powered MCL32 at the Hungaroring in August. He was second on the timesheets behind Sebastian Vettel.

The soon-to-be-18-year-old Englishman won the FIA F3 European Championship this year and is also confirmed alongside Fernando Alonso and Phil Hanson in one of United Autosports’ Ligier JS P217 Gibsons at next year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Beyond his reserve program, Norris’ racing program for 2018 is in the process of being finalized. Like Stoffel Vandoorne, it could be in Japan in Super Formula or in Formula 2.

“No words can fully describe my feelings to be given this amazing opportunity by McLaren,” Norris said. “My first introduction to the [McLaren] brand came with winning the McLaren AutosportBRDC Young Driver Award last December and then within two months, I was selected on to its McLaren Young Driver program. Both have been an incredible experience. But to now get the chance as an official test and reserve driver in 2018 is another vital step towards my goal of one day racing in F1.

“It’s also a fantastic opportunity to become further integrated within the McLaren ‘family’ and that starts next week with a tire test at Interlagos. I’ll continue to work hard and my aim is to broaden my skills. I have two excellent tutors in Fernando [Alonso] and Stoffel [Vandoorne] and the intention is to help with the team’s efforts to get back to the front. My management team is working hard to finalize my own racing program for 2018 which will be either Super Formula in Japan or Formula 2. In terms of Formula 3, I will sign off from this category in Macau the weekend after next.”

Zak Brown, McLaren Technology Group Executive Director, added: “His summer test for McLaren was also remarkably impressive, and was further proof that he is ready to step up and take on a role of this size, scope and responsibility. At McLaren, we are all extremely keen to help him achieve his goal of racing in Formula 1.”

Eric Boullier, McLaren Racing Director, said: “We feel it’s very important to have a fully enrolled test and reserve driver within the team. Lando will attend grands prix and become a fully integrated member of the team. Lando is somebody who arrives with a very high level of ability, ambition  and application; it is our job to develop and fine-tune his focus as we increase his understanding of how a Formula 1 team operates and how a modern grand prix car works. There will be plenty of opportunity to observe, learn and participate throughout 2018, and we want to make sure Lando is fully prepared, if needed, to step into Fernando or Stoffel’s shoes at a moment’s notice.”

IndyCar star Scott Dixon to test skills on ‘American Ninja Warrior’

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Scott Dixon will be the latest IndyCar driver to enter the realm of reality TV when he auditions in Indianapolis next week for “American Ninja Warrior.”

The four-time IndyCar champion, nicknamed “The Iceman,” thought it sounded fun when he was approached with the idea of trying out. As the competition has drawn near, Dixon is wondering what he got himself into.

“I feel a lot of pressure on this one,” Dixon told The Associated Press before heading to this weekend’s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama IndyCar race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. “When it got to be about a month away, I figured I should start training for it, and it’s pretty hard stuff.”

IndyCar drivers Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden and Tony Kanaan all auditioned for the show, which follows competitors as they tackle a series of obstacle courses in qualifying rounds across the country. None of IndyCar’s contestants advanced out of the first round and neither did NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Dixon’s appearance comes about the same time the Game Show Network has Sebastien Bourdais as a guest host for “Daily Draw” for the entire week leading into the month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Most recently, Alexander Rossi and Conor Daly teamed to finish fourth on “The Amazing Race,” and James Hinchcliffe was a runner-up last year on “Dancing With The Stars.” Castroneves is a former “DWTS” winner.

Dixon, the 2008 winner of the Indianapolis 500 who ranks fourth on IndyCar’s all-time wins list, is accustomed to success. But the New Zealander not so sure he’s going to become the next great ninja. Most of his fitness work focuses on endurance training, and preparing for the obstacle course has taken Dixon out of his element.

“It’s not my wheelhouse,” he said. “This is agility kind of stuff and I’m looking forward to the process. I’m not looking forward so much to the failure, because it’s going to happen at some point, so I guess I just have to make the most of it and enjoy the experience.”

Dixon was famously robbed at gunpoint in the drive-thru of a Taco Bell last year hours after he won the pole for the Indy 500. Asked if his ninja training will have him better prepared should that happen again, he did not think so.

“I suppose if I run away it would help,” Dixon said. “But I don’t exactly have a ninja toolkit to get me through that situation.”