FIA WEC: Porsche confirms 2015 works drivers; Conway gets another go at Bahrain

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Two quick hitters from the FIA World Endurance Championship heading into this weekend’s Six Hours of Bahrain:

The first is that Porsche Team has confirmed all six of its works drivers for 2015, the same six as competed this season: Romain Dumas, Neel Jani, Marc Lieb, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard.

Additional drivers will be needed only if Porsche opts to run a third car at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. While Formula One star Jenson Button has been rumored, the more likely scenario is Porsche would pull from within as many of its GTE drivers in both Europe and North America have tested the team’s Porsche 919 Hybrid LMP1 car.

At Toyota, reserve driver Mike Conway will have his second start of the season after all in Bahrain this weekend. The Englishman will again deputize for Kazuki Nakajima alongside Alex Wurz and Stephane Sarrazin in the team’s No. 7 Toyota TS040 Hybrid, as he did in Austin. Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi look for a three-peat in the sister No. 8 after wins in Fuji and Shanghai the last two races.

“I am really pleased to be competing with TOYOTA Racing again and I’m looking forward to joining Alex and Stéphane in the #7 again. It’s good for me to get more time behind the wheel of the TS040 HYBRID; it’s an impressive car to drive and obviously very competitive. I will be pushing hard to contribute to the team’s World Championship challenge this weekend. I know the Bahrain track pretty well from my LMP2 days, when I won the class and also the championship in 2013. So I know what to expect and I can’t wait to get started.”

Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward points’ slide

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Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.