Conor Daly confirmed for full season of GP2 with Lazarus

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Conor Daly has been confirmed for a full season of GP2, with the same Venezuela GP Lazarus squad he has tested and raced the opening round of the season with.

The 22-year-old American spent the winter determining whether another season in Europe or a full-season in North America would be his next career step after racing the last three seasons in GP3, and also dovetailing with some other part-time open-wheel opportunities.

Unfortunately for Daly, options for both a full Verizon IndyCar Series season or even a month of May program dried up, due to the nature of requiring a sizable budget for opportunities. Thus when Lazarus came calling late this year to confirm he’d be testing for them at Abu Dhabi, GP2 suddenly became an option.

This officially confirms Daly alongside Alexander Rossi as the two Americans with full-season programs in GP2.

“This has been a long winter of uncertainty for me, but I am committed on my path to Formula One,” Daly said via a team release. “GP2 is where I want to be right now, and the Lazarus team really has a great group of people. We have learned a lot so far this season and have more work to do, but I will give everything to the team to help achieve a great result.”

Added team principal Nicolo Gaglian, “We are delighted to have reached an agreement for this season with Conor Daly, a driver we have followed in recent years in GP3 and that has now thoroughly impressed when he got behind the wheel of our GP2 test in Abu Dhabi. It is a pleasure for us to be able to get on track an US driver: Conor, despite having little experience with the GP2 car, knows the circuits having raced three seasons in GP3. He’s a talented driver and we hope to reach good results together.”

Sebastien Ogier in driver’s seat for sixth straight World Rally Championship title

Sebastien Ogier leads the way in the WRC title chase. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) — Thierry Neuville finished the sixth stage of Rally Australia on Friday without a rear left tire, damaging his chances of catching five-time defending champion Sebastien Ogier for the World Rally Championship title.

The Belgian driver entered the rally just three points behind Ogier in the closest title fight in 15 years.

He held the upper hand on his French rival, building a near-10 second gap through the first five stages at Coffs Harbour before hitting a chicane and finishing the stage with only three tires on his Hyundai.

Neuville was fortunate the puncture occurred late enough in the day to finish all six forestry stages and avoid a retirement. But the mistake cost him 40 seconds and gave Ogier, who is 33 seconds ahead of him, a clear run at his sixth straight championship.

In his last start with Ford before a move to Citroen next year, Ogier struggled as the first to drive the dusty, slippery forest routes.

“I pushed like crazy, I was on the limit over the jump and everywhere, I can’t do (any) more,” Ogier said. “I was on the limit.”

With Ogier on sweeping duties the back markers flourished, and Mads Ostberg took the lead in his return to the series.

Ostberg was forced to miss the previous round in Spain to make way for rally winner and nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, who was making the last of his three guest appearances for Citroen.

Now back in the seat, Ostberg leads Jari-Matti Latvala by 6.8 seconds in the Australian rally, with sixth-stage winner Craig Breen in third.

Ogier was seventh, 38.2 seconds off the pace, but only needs to finish ahead of Neuville to claim the championship title. Neuville is in 10th place after six stages.

Roles will reverse on Saturday, with Ogier to start further back in the field and do his best on cleaner roads to make up the day-one deficit before Sunday’s final stages.

Andreas Mikkelsen, the 2016 Rally Australia champion, was an early dropout after rolling into a ditch in his Hyundai. Mikkelsen had only just avoided a tractor that had found its way onto the course.

Former winner Molly Taylor and co-driver Malcolm Read were also forced out of their event when their Subaru hit a hay bale at high speed on the morning’s second stage. Both reported soreness but suffered no serious injuries.

The 24-stage rally totals 319 kilometers (197 miles). Ten stages are scheduled Saturday with the final six on Sunday, most of them through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.