Briscoe, Pagenaud set for Corvette at Daytona, Sebring

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IndyCar aces Simon Pagenaud and Ryan Briscoe will join Corvette Racing for the first two rounds of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season, the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

Pagenaud, the longtime Honda driver, has joined under the Chevrolet umbrella in the Verizon IndyCar Series this season with Team Penske. He will add a Corvette C7.R to his last two cars, an HPD ARX-03b open-top P2 car and Riley-BMW Daytona Prototype, that he has driven at Daytona the last two years.

“Corvette is definitely an icon in American racing and as an American sports car,” Pagenaud said in a release. “When I was racing with for another manufacturer, I always noticed the presence of the Corvette and Chevrolet fans.

“I’ve always said that Corvette Racing is a proper program – well put together with a very impressive presentation, great drivers and a fantastic team. The results speak for themselves. It’s great to be part of it now.

“It is definitely a very different experience compared to prototypes but I have some good experience in GT cars. I look forward to now being part of the family by driving for Chevrolet and Corvette Racing. The Corvette C7.R is a beautiful piece of machinery with a lot of high-tech development. It’s a great platform for the development of road cars and supercars.”

Pagenaud is also a rarity as Team Penske rarely allows its IndyCar drivers to run other events. He made sure to thank “The Captain,” Roger Penske and Penske president Tim Cindric for the chance.

“Thanks to Chevrolet for the opportunity, and of course thanks to Roger Penske and Tim Cindric in allowing me to be available. With this type of opportunity where you have the chance to go and run in a different category with a car and team that can win, it’s exciting and gets you very motivated. I really want to win Daytona. If we can do that with Chevrolet and Corvette Racing, I’ll be super excited and over the moon.”

Briscoe returns to Corvette Racing, where he drove three times in 2014, at Daytona, Sebring and Petit Le Mans.

The talented Australian will co-drive with Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia in the No. 3; Pagenaud will share the No. 4 with Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin.

“It’s such a massive honor to be a part of the Corvette Racing program,” Briscoe said. “To come back this year and be a part of the team for the endurance events, I’m really excited. We’re hoping the pace and everything is there that we need to have to win with one of the Corvettes. We really were strong last year and had a little bad luck. Everyone on the team is extremely hungry and I’m really looking forward to it.”

“It was definitely a new experience for me last year to be racing in the GT class. I thought it went really well. The team brought me on and gave me all the tools I needed to get up to speed and feel comfortable with the racecar. I feel like it’s a comfortable pairing with Antonio and Jan. I really felt like I got really good track time and could put down really good lap times to hold my own. Before you get into it, you really don’t know how it’s going to go. You just want to do your best.”

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.