Mark Webber’s 1st WEC season to end in a very familiar place

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The World Endurance Championship wraps up its 2014 season this coming weekend at Interlagos with a six-hour race, and that will also mark the end of Mark Webber’s first campaign in the series.

Webber, now driving for the Porsche LMP1 factory team, knows the Sao Paulo track very well from his previous life in Formula One. The Australian took two of his nine career Grand Prix wins there, and also ended his F1 tenure there in 2013.

But now, he’s about to see the legendary Brazilian track in a whole new light.

“I always enjoyed driving there in Formula One,” he said in a Porsche release. “With the Grand Prix wins in 2009 and 2011, I have some very special memories of the place. The atmosphere is electric with the fans being very close to the track, different to modern circuits where the grandstands are farther away.

“At 4.3 kilometers, it means it is a small circuit and the WEC is a huge grid. It is a little bit of a shame they resurfaced the track, because the bumps were a special challenge that is taken away now. I think the 919 will like the track and, hopefully, we can push for our best result of the year there.”

Webber and No. 20 Porsche 919 Hybrid co-drivers Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley are coming off their third podium run of the season in the most recent WEC race in Bahrain.

That race also marked the first time that both sides of the Porsche 919 Hybrid program landed on a WEC podium, as the No. 14 team (Romain Dumas/Neel Jani/Marc Lieb) finished second.

Now, Porsche has one more opportunity in 2014 to take the next step: Winning.

“We can be proud of having achieved three pole positions and five podium finishes with such a complex race car in such strong competition,” said Porsche’s LMP1 head, Fritz Enzinger. “Even more important for the future: The way we improved race by race shows that we’ve got the structures right. This goes for the technical concept, as well as for the driver line-up and the operational side with a team growing so well together.

“We have learned from every situation and tried our utmost to reduce the competition’s advantage in terms of experience. In case a small opportunity would open up to climb on the next and final step of the podium in Brazil, we want to be ready to take it.”

All of the Porsche LMP1 drivers have been announced today as confirmed to continue their current roles in 2015. Additionally, the marque says that it will field a third 919 Hybrid for next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans (June 13-14) and, in a tune-up for that race, the WEC event at Spa-Francorchamps (May 2); Porsche says no decisions have yet been made regarding a driver line-up for the third car.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
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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.”