Andre Lotterer confirmed for Caterham debut at Spa

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Andre Lotterer will become the first driver in 20 years to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans and compete in a Formula One Grand Prix in the same season (Yannick Dalmas, 1994).

Lotterer, the 32-year-old German, has inked a deal to make his Formula One debut with the Caterham team this weekend in the Belgian Grand Prix, replacing Kamui Kobayashi. Earlier this week, Autosport’s Jon Noble reported Lotterer was linked to the team that now features Colin Kolles and Christijan Albers, two people Lotterer worked with in sports cars.

“I am delighted to be given the opportunity to take part in a Formula One race weekend – I want to thank Caterham F1 Team for this chance,” Lotterer told Sky Sports. “I’m ready for this challenge and I cannot wait to jump in the car and make the most out of the weekend ahead.

“I will need to get settled and used to the car quickly, as the team has worked on a number of updates and we will need to have as much time as possible out on track to optimise the car’s performance. I really enjoy racing at the legendary circuit of Spa-Francorchamps, it’s one of my favourite tracks and it’s very close to where I grew up, so this makes the weekend even more special and one to remember.”

To make this happen, Andrea Caldarelli will race in Lotterer’s place for this weekend’s Super Formula open-wheel race in Japan, and Audi has additionally given its blessing for Lotterer to race at Spa.

For Lotterer, it’s a rare dovetail back to F1 after a career that in 2002, saw him as a rising star as Jaguar’s test driver. But he never got the opportunity to race – the team had Eddie Irvine and Pedro de la Rosa in ’02 and swapped the veterans for then-young guns Mark Webber and Antonio Pizzonia in 2003.

Since, Lotterer has carved a successful single-seater career for himself in Japan, shifted to sports cars, linked up with Kolles’ customer Audi team in 2009 and earned a spot on Audi’s factory roster in 2010. He’s become a three-time Le Mans champion, co-driving to win with Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler in each of 2011, 2012 and now 2014.

And now, Lotterer has the opportunity that “Mr. Le Mans” – Tom Kristensen, the nine-time Le Mans champion – never got. Kristensen tested but never raced in F1; Lotterer will now have a one-off opportunity to sample modern F1 technology, and compare it to the technological advances of his usual bullet in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the Audi R18 e-tron quattro.

Here’s who were picking to win the Indy 500 — who are YOU picking?

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Several members of the NBC Sports motorsports staff have made their predictions on who will win Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Of the six voters, two are going with 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden, while two others are going with Helio Castroneves to win a fourth 500, which would tie him with A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.

Here’s our picks. Who are YOU picking?

Leigh Diffey: Helio Castroneves — He drives the place better than anyone else. For me (for what its worth) he deserves a fourth 500 ring for the frustration he went through never getting the IndyCar title!

Townsend Bell: Josef Newgarden

Nate Ryan: Simon Pagenaud — All of his 2018 misfortune on the track has disappeared in May, and it culminates in the biggest victory of his career.

Jerry Bonkowski: Helio Castroneves – There’s no pressure as he pursues his fourth Indy 500 win. All Helio has to do, as late NFL owner Al Davis would say, is “Just win, baby!” (But if Helio falls short, watch for Marco Andretti)

Kyle Lavigne: Josef Newgarden — I think he has everything he needs to get it done this year.

Dan Beaver: Robert Wickens – Has driven like anything except a rookie and his second-place finish at Phoenix proves he’s just as good on an oval as the road courses.

Follow: Jerry Bonkowski