Pirelli World Challenge begins 25th Anniversary Season

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Writer’s Note: The following is a recap of today’s first race of the 2014 Pirelli World Challenge season from the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida. NBCSN will broadcast the race on Sunday, April 6 at 5:30 p.m. ET. If you don’t want to know who won until then, we suggest you find another post to read here on MotorSportsTalk…

Series GT newcomer Tomas Enge and defending GTS class champion Lawson Aschenbach were victorious in today’s season-opener for the 2014 Pirelli World Challenge championship on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida. In addition, Andrew Palmer earned the first win in the series’ new GT-A subcategory for gentlemen drivers.

This weekend was supposed to see the GT and GTS classes compete in two races on the 1.8-mile St. Pete street course, but a heavy storm and a lack of track time afterwards wound up cancelling Saturday’s race. Qualifying times from Saturday set the grid for Sunday’s race, and only single-event points were awarded.

Enge had a poor standing start from the GT pole position, but marched to the front of the field during Sunday’s 50-minute race. With almost five minutes left, he capped off his comeback in the No. 25 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo FL2 with a bold inside pass of Andy Pilgrim and his No. 8 Cadillac Racing CTS-V.R in Turn 1 that proved to be the race winner.

Pilgrim placed second, while Palmer finished third overall in the No. 21 GMG Racing Audi R8 Ultra after dueling with Anthony Lazzaro and Nick Mancuso in their R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italias. Lazzaro ended up fourth, while Mancuso picked up fifth (second in GT-A).

In GTS, Aschenbach took the No. 1 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro to Victory Lane after taking advantage of slower traffic to make the race-winning pass on Andy Lee (No. 20 Best IT/Crown 7 Chevrolet Camaro) at Lap 26.

Jack Baldwin, who swept both St. Pete races last year in GTS, earned a third-place result in his No. 73 GTSport Porsche Cayman S. Tony Buffomonte (No. 33 Capaldi Racing/Ford Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302S) and Jack Roush Jr. (No. 60 ROUSH Road Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302R) completed the Top 5 in GTS.

The Pirelli World Challenge will be back in action Sunday, April 13 on the Streets of Long Beach, California as part of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend.

CADILLAC GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG presented by StopTech – FULL RESULTS

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

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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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.”