Jose-Maria Lopez wins WTCC championship; Ogier clinches second WRC title

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Two of motorsport’s biggest series crowned their champions today as Sebastien Ogier and Jose-Maria Lopez won the World Rally Championship and the World Touring Car Championship respectively.

Lopez’s name may ring a bell with many motorsport fans in the United States, given that he was intended to be one of the drivers for the US F1 Team upon its entry to Formula 1 for the 2010 season. Ultimately, the plans did not come to fruition, and the project remains a spectre looming over any hopes of taking an American team into the sport in the future.

Lopez’s career continued in touring cars, though, and he entered the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) for a one-off race in his native Argentina last year, winning one of the two races.

For 2014, Lopez went full-time in the WTCC, and today was crowned the series’ first non-European champion after finishing sixth in the second race at Suzuka. He is also Argentina’s first motor racing world champion since the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio won the last of his five F1 world championships.

“It means a lot to me to win the title here at Suzuka, where Ayrton Senna, my idol, was crowned F1 champion twice,” Lopez said. “If there was a place where I wanted this to happen, it is here

“Of course, I can imagine that there are a lot of people happy in Argentina at this moment. It’s the first world title since Fangio. He was the one who made motor racing so popular at home, and it is a big honour for me to be bring a world title to my country and make my countrymen happy.”

In the World Rally Championship, France’s Sebastien Ogier clinched his second world title with victory in Spain this weekend.

“It’s a great achievement to win one title but even better to take a second,” Ogier said. “It’s a confirmation and proves the first title was not a one-off.

“It’s been a fantastic weekend, but it was tough. I pushed so hard on leg one and it was a long two days on tarmac where I had to watch Jari-Matti Latvala [his title rival] flying. I had to be clever and keep watching him all the time.”

Ogier has been the man to pick up the mantle at the top of the rally world following Sebastien Loeb’s departure from the series. Loeb won every title between 2004 and 2012 before taking a step back to pursue other racing interests in – to nicely take this article full circle – the WTCC.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III