Perez enjoys “fantastic day” at top of time sheets

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Force India’s feeling pretty good about their work today at Bahrain International Circuit, and it’s easy to see why.

Sergio Perez was fastest today in the VJM07 with a time of 1:35.290, and was able to crack the 100-lap mark with a total of 105 laps turned on the 3.36-mile course.

“We really needed a good day to start this week and today, we had it,” Perez said. “We managed to do a lot of laps, try several different [tire] compounds and mappings, and it’s been a fantastic day in terms of learning about the car.

“Tomorrow is my last day in the car before the season starts so hopefully we can have another solid day to be in good shape for Melbourne.”

The afternoon was especially impressive for the Mexican and his colleagues, who were able to carry out a full race run.

“The morning was mainly devoted to working on the tires, gathering data about the various compounds at our disposal, in addition to a few performance runs to optimize our set-up,” team technical director Andrew Green said.

“We were satisfied with the results of this work, so in the afternoon we switched to longer runs. We were able to do some good long run simulations, which sets us up nicely for the remainder of the week.”

On Saturday – the final day of the first Bahrain preseason test – Perez had been forced to the garage after just 19 laps due to a drive train issue on the VJM07.

But things appear to be looking up now for the team, which will have Nico Hulkenberg take over for Perez on Saturday and Sunday.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”