FIA WEC: Toyota #7 victorious in Bahrain as LMP1, GTE Pro and GTE Am titles are decided

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Toyota enjoyed its most memorable race in the FIA World Endurance Championship to date at the 6 Hours of Bahrain today as Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi were crowned drivers’ champions with one race remaining.

An alternator failure meant that the title-chasing duo in the #8 car lost a great deal of time in the pits after fighting at the front early on, and could only finish down in 11th position, some 18 laps down on the race winning #7 runner.

However, with the #2 Audi of Benoit Treluyer, Andre Lotterer and Marcel Fassler only coming home in fourth place, Davidson and Buemi head into the final race of the season with an unassailable lead.

Behind the wheel of the #7 car, Alexander Wurz, Stephane Sarrazin and Mike Conway controlled the race at the front, leading from the second hour to claim its first win of the season. For Conway, this marked his first LMP1 victory in the World Endurance Championship.

Porsche enjoyed its best outing of the season to put pressure on Toyota towards the end of the race, finishing in second and third place to complete the podium. The #14 of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb came home 50 seconds behind the winning car, with Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley a further seven seconds down the road after letting the sister car past in the final stages of the race.

After a difficult week in Bahrain, the Audi cars finished the race in fourth and fifth place, marking the handing over of the mantle in the WEC to Toyota. The #13 Rebellion Racing car crossed the line sixth overall, winning the LMP1-L class.

In LMP2, the #47 KCMG car took the top honors with Matthew Howson, Richard Bradley and Alexandre Imperatori enjoying a three lap lead over SMP Racing’s #37 car at the flag. However, late drama for the #27 SMP car saw second-placed Nicolas Minassian come into the pits in the final hour with smoke spewing from the rear of his car, spilling oil on the track.

Minassian was cruelly forced to retire just 15 minutes short of the finish, causing teammate Sergey Zlobin to lose the lead in the LMP2 drivers’ standings. This is the only drivers’ title that was not decided in Bahrain.

In the GTE Pro class, fans were treated to yet another incredible scrap between AF Corse and Aston Martin Racing that eventually saw the #51 Ferrari of Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander win by 1.8 seconds from AMR’s #97 driven by Darren Turner and Stefan Mucke. As a result, the #51 drivers have also clinched their respective championship and the teams’ title, with Davide Rigon and James Calado completing the GTE Pro podium for AF Corse.

There was some solace for Aston Martin, though, as Kristian Poulsen and David Heinemeier-Hansson won the GTE Am title. Third driver Nicki Thiim kept up his 100% win record in the #95 car as the Danish trio finished one lap ahead AF Corse’s #81 car.

The final race of the 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship takes place on November 30th at Interlagos, Brazil.

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.”