Lucas di Grassi

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Lucas di Grassi ‘likely’ to make Le Mans, WEC appearances in 2017

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Lucas di Grassi says that he is “likely” to race in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans despite Audi’s withdrawal from the FIA World Endurance Championship at the end of 2016.

Di Grassi previously balanced duties between Audi’s LMP1 team and with its affiliated ABT Schaeffler operation in Formula E, with the latter now becoming his priority for 2017.

A number of drivers involved in both WEC and Formula E face dilemmas over which to prioritize later in the year.

Most notably, the New York Formula E double-header clashes with WEC’s visit to the Nürburgring, ruling out a number of drivers from the electric event including Sebastien Buemi, Jose Maria Lopez and Sam Bird.

Di Grassi believes it will be hard for Formula E to avoid clashing with other series as it expands, and thinks that drivers will need to fully commit to the championship down the line.

“With Formula E expanding, I think it will be hard not to have clashes in the future. I hope there are no clashes,” di Grassi told NBC Sports.

“For me with Audi, they told me: ‘The priority is Formula E. If you want to do one or two other races, you can.’ They even told me if you want to do WEC, you can, but the priority is Formula E. You have to miss the WEC.

“It’s a very clear, straightforward view for us, for ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport. For the team the priority is Formula E. That I understand and I agree that Formula E is getting to a level where it is getting very complicated, very detail oriented, so you need to focus on that.”

When asked if he would be racing at Le Mans and making other WEC appearances, di Grassi said it was “likely”.

“My interest is in the Pro categories. Either LMP1 or GTE Pro,” di Grassi added.

“I think GTE is the future. P1, you have very little cars, only two manufacturers. For GTE the tendency is to grow. GTE is very interesting in a career point of view.

“But still to be discussed if Audi would release me or not to do it.

“But normally Audi understand quite well if I want to do another race in which they don’t compete.”

Formula E Season Preview: Can Buemi and Renault defend their titles?

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HONG KONG – Three months on from Sebastien Buemi and Lucas di Grassi’s tense championship showdown in London, Formula E returns this weekend for the start of its third season.

The all-electric series has gone from strength-to-strength over the past couple of years, welcoming on board a number of the biggest names from the motorsport and automotive worlds.

Buemi clinched the second Formula E title by two points last time out in London, but he nor his renault e.dams team will have rested on their laurels over the off-season.

With pre-season testing completed at Donington Park and excessive private running also undertaken by all the teams, the stage is set for another thrilling season of racing.

2016-2017 FIA FORMULA E SEASON PREVIEW

Drivers and Teams

DS Virgin Racing
2. Sam Bird
37. Jose Maria Lopez (R)

NextEV NIO
3. Nelson Piquet Jr.
88. Oliver Turvey

Venturi
4. Stephane Sarrazin
5. Maro Engel (R)

Faraday Future Dragon Racing
6. Loic Duval
7. Jerome d’Ambrosio

Renault e.dams
8. Nicolas Prost
9. Sebastien Buemi

ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport
11. Lucas di Grassi
66. Daniel Abt

Mahindra Racing
19. Felix Rosenqvist (R)
23. Nick Heidfeld

Panasonic Jaguar Racing
20. Mitch Evans (R)
47. Adam Carroll (R)

Techeetah
25. Jean-Eric Vergne
33. Ma Qinghua

MS Amlin Andretti
27. Robin Frijns
28. Antonio Felix da Costa

The grid for season three gets a small shake-up with the arrival of five new drivers and some tweaks in the owernship and management of teams, as well as one big-name newcomer.

Of the incoming drivers, Jose Maria Lopez is perhaps the best-known following his hat-trick of WTCC titles with Citroen from 2014 to 2016. The Argentine replaces Jean-Eric Vergne – having nearly stepped in for him in Buenos Aires earlier this year – via the connection between Citroen and its sub-brand, DS.

Vergne in turn moves to the new Techeetah team, whch replaces Team Aguri. The Aguri operation had been running on a shoestring budget through season two, but now has a bright long-term future thanks to investment from China. Armed with Renault powertrains that are identical to the one used by e.dams, Vergne could be a dark horse with Techeetah.

Dragon Racing continues with both Loic Duval and Jerome d’Ambrosio for season three, with the team now enjoying a tie-up with EV development company Faraday Future. The same ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach to drivers has been taken by Renault and ABT, both of whom retain their successful partnerships from season two. MS Amlin Andretti parted company with Simona de Silvestro after London, bringing in Antonio Felix da Costa by virtue of its new partnership with BMW.

NextEV has cut ties with Team China Racing (previously the ‘TCR’ in its name) for season three as part of a sizeable restructuring of the operation overseen by CEO Martin Leach. The fresh investment being made in the team is evident by the presence of a Formula 1-style race truck in testing and a new two-tier garage in Hong Kong, the first of its kind in the series.

At Mahindra, recent Indy Lights racer Felix Rosenqvist replaces Bruno Senna, the Swede having cut his teeth in F3 for the past five years and driven a wide variety of cars. DTM and GT racer Maro Engel also enters the series with Venturi in place of Mike Conway.

The biggest new name on the Formula E grid for season three is Jaguar. The British manufacturer returns to top-line international motorsport 12 years after its ill-fated F1 project ended with a renewed sense of optimism. Its first all-electric car, the I-Type, will be driven by Adam Carroll and Mitch Evans, both of whom may be series rookies but boast a wealth of experience and potential.

Calendar

1. Hong Kong – October 9
2. Marrakesh – November 12
3. Buenos Aires – February 18
4. Mexico City – April 1
5. Monaco – May 13
6. Paris – May 20
7. Berlin – June 10
8. Brussels – July 1
9. New York – July 15
10. New York – July 16
11. Montreal – July 29
12. Montreal – July 30

The calendar for season three acts as quite the diversion from season two. Gone are rounds in Beijing, Putrajaya, Punta del Este, Long Beach and London, while Hong Kong, Marrakesh, Brussels, Montreal and New York are set to debut, with Monaco also returning following a season’s break.

While the calendar does now venture to some important markets – most notably New York and Montreal – the omissions are somewhat glaring. After Hong Kong, the next most easterly race on the calendar is Berlin, while the loss of London following a long-running tussle with local officials is also a great shame.

Series CEO Alejandro Agag has always stressed that the season three calendar is one of ‘transition’. Between Marrakesh in November and Mexico City in April, there is just a single ePrix – any momentum in the early part of the season will be hard to sustain as a result.

Alas, from season four, we should have a more winter-centric calendar that packs additional races into the period when other series are on their break.

Team-By-Team Previews

Renault e.dams
As the defending champion team and with last year’s title-winning driver, expectations are high at Renault e.dams. Buemi and Prost have forged a potent partnership through the first two seasons of Formula E, and will be gunning for another big year. Maintaining the powertrain advantage over the rest of the field may prove difficult, given the expectation that the field will converge.

ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport
The challenge for ABT this year will be trying to overcome Renault before Audi steps up its work involvement from season four. Lucas di Grassi could feasibly have two Formula E titles to his name by now, yet he sitll seeks that elusive championship. Daniel Abt has been an adept number two, but will want to step out of that shadow this year.

DS Virgin Racing
Losing Jean-Eric Vergne may have been a blow to DSVR, but the arrival of Jose Maria Lopez is hardly a step down. Sam Bird has led its charge through season one and two, taking three race wins and wiping the floor with his teammates in the process. The switch from a twin-motor powertrain to a single-motor should boost the team’s chances as well.

Faraday Future Dragon Racing
Dragon has enjoyed two fairly similar seasons in Formula E thus far, both featuring one strong half and one weak one. If it can find some consistency, the driver pairing of d’Ambrosio and Duval is certainly capable of fighting for a title. The arrival of Faraday Future should also offer a boost to the operation (not just spice up its livery).

Mahindra Racing
Formula E fan-favorites Mahindra enjoyed a number of breakthrough results through season two, scoring its first podiums and taking the fight to many of its bigger rivals. Now the focus for Mahindra will be stepping up a gear and battling at the sharp end of the field on a more regular basis. The arrival of Rosenqvist is a huge coup for the team given his prowess in F3 and – notably for Formula E – street tracks.

Venturi
The arrival of German manufacturing giant ZF bodes well for Venturi in the future, but it may be a bit early in the relationship to see any significant progress for season three. Maro Engel’s acclimatization to single-seaters after spending so long in GTs and tin-tops will be worth tracking, while Stephane Sarrazin has been one of Formula E’s unsung heroes through its first two seasons.

MS Amlin Andretti
After hobbling through season two with a season one-spec powertrain, Andretti now has its in-house design working properly and geared up for the new campaign. The new technical partnership with BMW is also significant, teaming together two notable racing organizations. Robin Frijns and Antonio Felix da Costa will combine to form what is arguably the most exciting driver line-up on the grid.

Techeetah
Survival may have been the focus for Team Aguri through season two, but revival is now the name of the game at Techeetah. With significant backing secured and a flashy launch taking place in Hong Kong on Thursday, the team is gunning to spring a surprise. Renault powertrain in hand and JEV behind the wheel, keep an eye on them.

NextEV NIO
Like Techeetah, the focus for NextEV in season three is recovering from a difficult second campaign. Season one drivers’ champion Nelson Piquet Jr. returns alongside Oliver Turvey, the pair both capable of some excellent displays on occasion. With the processes completely overhauled – even down to the exercise each team member is completing – the team will want to return to the podium this year.

Jaguar Racing
Jaguar’s much-anticipated return to motorsport starts this weekend in Hong Kong, and expectations are high. Carroll and Evans both arrive with bags of experience and pace, while the operation is slickly-run even at such an early stage. Time will tell just how far Jaguar can get up the field this year – bearing in mind it is starting two years behind the other teams – but regardless of how it fares on-track, its arrival is significant for the series.

VIDEO: Recapping Formula E’s electric second season

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With the new Formula E campaign just two weeks away, the series has released a video recapping its electric second season as Sebastien Buemi and Lucas di Grassi battled for top honors.

Traveling all over the world from Beijing to London via Long Beach and Mexico (among others), Formula E continued to go to strength-to-strength in its second season.

The title fight is documented in this video, featuring interviews with the protagonists and many of the other drivers on the grid through last season.

The new Formula E season starts on October 9 in Hong Kong before finishing next summer in New York City, the latter’s race being launched earlier this week in Brooklyn.

Lucas di Grassi drives Formula E car on Arctic ice cap (VIDEO)

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Formula E has broken yet more ground by taking its all-electric car to the Arctic ice cap in Greenland for a special demonstration with Brazilian driver Lucas di Grassi.

In a bid to raise awareness about global warming and the erosion of ice in the Arctic, Formula E teamed up with series partners Julius Baer, Visa, DHL, Schaeffler, Mumm champagne and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation for the show run on ice.

“I have four children and the future of the planet depends on how we can control the effect that human life is having on the environment and the climate,” Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag said.

“That is why I think climate change is very important to address, to control, to face, and everyone can do something. We do something for motorsport, other people can do something from whatever they do in their lives.”

“It was such a beautiful, peaceful place,” di Grassi added.

“To come here and see how huge the ice cap is and how the effect of global warming is changing it, melting it, gives me a completely different understanding of what we are doing with Formula E and the importance of driving electric cars.”

A special documentary on the show run will premiere at COP22 in Marrakesh, a low-emissions solutions conference, in November.

Duval, di Grassi score WEC pole for Audi in Mexico City

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Audi bounced back from Porsche’s domination at the Nürburgring last month to score pole position for the FIA World Endurance Championship round in Mexico City with the no. 8 R18 car shared by Loic Duval and Lucas di Grassi.

Duval and di Grassi teamed up to post a two-lap average of 1:25.069, good enough for Audi’s third pole position of the 2016 WEC season and the first for the no. 8 crew.

The Le Mans-winning no. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid will line up second on the grid at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez as Neel Jani and Romain Dumas finished just 0.042 seconds behind.

Audi’s no. 7 car shared by Andre Lotterer and Marcel Fassler qualified third, two-tenths of a second further back. The pair will race without regular teammate Benoit Treluyer on Saturday, the Frenchman ruled out through injury.

Porsche’s no. 1 car was fourth ahead of the pair of Toyota TS050 Hybrids, the no. 5 finishing within nine-tenths of a second of the pole time.

In LMP2, the RGR Sport by Morand team enjoyed a memorable maiden home qualifying session by taking pole position with its no. 43 Ligier Nissan.

Ricardo Gonzalez and Bruno Senna posted a combined average of 1:35.485 to finish three-tenths of a second clear at the top of the timesheets. The no. 43 Signatech Alpine entry was second ahead of the no. 42 Strakka Racing Gibson-Nissan.

Aston Martin Racing enjoyed a sweep of the GTE classes, locking out the front row in Pro with its no. 95 and no. 97 cars.

Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen combined for a two-lap average of 1:40.458, edging out the sister AMR entry by one-tenth of a second. The no. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE was half a second further back in third place.

The no. 98 Aston Martin Vantage V8 shared by Pedro Lamy and Paul Dalla Lana swept to pole in GTE Am, finishing four-tenths clear of the no. 88 Abu Dhabi Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR.

The FIA WEC 6 Hours of Mexico kicks off at 1:30pm local time on Saturday in Mexico City.