Stoffel Vandoorne returns to ART for second season of GP2

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Belgian ace Stoffel Vandoorne will return to the GP2 Series championship for a second season with ART Grand Prix, the team announced Wednesday.

He should enter the season as clear championship favorite.

“In the wake of a great season in 2014, I am very happy to continue with ART Grand Prix in GP2,” Vandoorne said in a release. “We showed we are the team to beat and many of our competitors have already pointed to us as their target, it’s normal and rather flattering.

“I am confident because it will be my second year with a fantastic team that I know well. Apart from the DRS, the regulations won’t change and I now have experience of the circuits, races, pit stops and tire management. The objective is clear: we want to win the title.”

Team manager Sebastien Philippe also praised Vandoorne’s ability.

“The results of our first collaboration with Stoffel in GP2 in 2014 speak louder than words!” he said. “He is part of that breed of naturally talented drivers, who work hard and are brilliant technically. He is instantly able to adapt in a professional context so he can make the most of the car and his colleagues.

“His personal qualities are also strong with his high ambitions similar to that of ART Grand Prix. After an outstanding first year where he missed out on the title by very little, it makes sense that we continue this partnership in the quest for the title in 2015.”

Vandoorne was a star for his rookie season in the championship and ended second to Jolyon Palmer. He also served as McLaren’s reserve driver, and was the first to have an official outing in the team’s new Honda-powered car at the Abu Dhabi postseason test.

March 28 in Motorsports History: Adrian Fernandez wins Motegi’s first race

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While auto racing is an international sport, oval racing remains uniquely American. 

That almost always has remained the case since the inception of the sport, but in 1998, the citizens of Japan got their first taste of American oval racing.

Having opened the previous year, Twin Ring Motegi was built by Honda in an effort to bring Indy-style racing to the Land of the Rising Sun. 

Adrian Fernandez was the first driver to win at the facility, taking the checkered flag in CART’s inaugural race after shaking off flu earlier that day.

Fernandez held off a hard-charging Al Unser Jr to win by 1.086 seconds. The victory was the second of his career and his first since Toronto in 1996.

Adrian Fernandez celebrates with Al Unser Jr and Gil de Ferran after winning the inaugural race at Motegi. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The race was also memorable for a violent crash involving Bobby Rahal.

Running third with 15 laps remaining, Rahal’s right front suspension broke in Turn 2, causing his car to hit the outside wall and flip down the backstretch.

Luckily, Rahal walked away from the accident without a scratch.

“The car was on rails through (turns) 1 and 2, and all of a sudden it just got up into the marbles, and it was gone,” Rahal said. “Thank God we’ve got such safe cars.”

The following season, Fernadez went back-to-back and won again at Motegi. The track remained on the CART schedule until 2002.

In 2003, Honda switched their alliance to the Indy Racing Leauge, and Motegi followed suit.

The track continued to host IndyCar racing until 2011 with the final race being held on the facility’s 2.98-mile road course, as the oval sustained damage in the Tōhoku earthquake earlier that year.

Also on this date:

1976: Clay Regazzoni won the United States Grand Prix – West, Formula One’s first race on the Long Beach street circuit. The Grand Prix would become an IndyCar event following the 1983 edition of the race.

1993: Ayrton Senna won his home race, the Grand Prix of Brazil, for the second and final time of his career. The victory was also the 100th in F1 for McLaren.

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