IndyCar: CFH confirms Luca Filippi as road/street race driver of No. 20 car

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Italian Luca Filippi will have his longest and perhaps best opportunity yet in a Verizon IndyCar Series seat next season, as he has been confirmed as the road and street course driver of the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet for CFH Racing.

Filippi will race 10 events this season, starting with the St. Petersburg race in March and ending with the Sonoma season finale in August. Team co-owner Ed Carpenter will race the six oval events remaining on the calendar.

“It’s a great feeling. I can’t wait to race and share the No. 20 with Ed this year,” Filippi said in a release. “I have to thank Ed, Fuzzy’s Vodka and CFH Racing for this fantastic opportunity and I look forward to the successes we will enjoy this season!”

He replaces Mike Conway, who was officially confirmed overnight as a full-season driver for the FIA World Endurance Championship with Toyota Racing. Conway won at Long Beach and Toronto race two last year.

For Filippi, the 10 events will eclipse the eight he has driven previously in his IndyCar career.

He showed impressive speed in four outings for Bryan Herta Autosport in 2013, with one top-10 finish and the fastest race lap in race two at Houston.

Again at Houston in 2014, Filippi qualified in the Firestone Fast Six in his first time back in an IndyCar in nine months when in a second Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing entry.

“We have seen the potential that Luca has shown over the past two seasons in his limited races and we feel that he will allow us to continue to compete for wins,” Carpenter said of Filippi. “I cannot wait to get the season started so we can work towards our goal of claiming the entrant points championship.”

Like several others (CFH teammate Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud), Filippi is a longtime Honda-affiliated driver who is making the switch to the Bowtie brigade in 2015.

Sebastien Ogier in driver’s seat for sixth straight World Rally Championship title

Sebastien Ogier leads the way in the WRC title chase. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) — Thierry Neuville finished the sixth stage of Rally Australia on Friday without a rear left tire, damaging his chances of catching five-time defending champion Sebastien Ogier for the World Rally Championship title.

The Belgian driver entered the rally just three points behind Ogier in the closest title fight in 15 years.

He held the upper hand on his French rival, building a near-10 second gap through the first five stages at Coffs Harbour before hitting a chicane and finishing the stage with only three tires on his Hyundai.

Neuville was fortunate the puncture occurred late enough in the day to finish all six forestry stages and avoid a retirement. But the mistake cost him 40 seconds and gave Ogier, who is 33 seconds ahead of him, a clear run at his sixth straight championship.

In his last start with Ford before a move to Citroen next year, Ogier struggled as the first to drive the dusty, slippery forest routes.

“I pushed like crazy, I was on the limit over the jump and everywhere, I can’t do (any) more,” Ogier said. “I was on the limit.”

With Ogier on sweeping duties the back markers flourished, and Mads Ostberg took the lead in his return to the series.

Ostberg was forced to miss the previous round in Spain to make way for rally winner and nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, who was making the last of his three guest appearances for Citroen.

Now back in the seat, Ostberg leads Jari-Matti Latvala by 6.8 seconds in the Australian rally, with sixth-stage winner Craig Breen in third.

Ogier was seventh, 38.2 seconds off the pace, but only needs to finish ahead of Neuville to claim the championship title. Neuville is in 10th place after six stages.

Roles will reverse on Saturday, with Ogier to start further back in the field and do his best on cleaner roads to make up the day-one deficit before Sunday’s final stages.

Andreas Mikkelsen, the 2016 Rally Australia champion, was an early dropout after rolling into a ditch in his Hyundai. Mikkelsen had only just avoided a tractor that had found its way onto the course.

Former winner Molly Taylor and co-driver Malcolm Read were also forced out of their event when their Subaru hit a hay bale at high speed on the morning’s second stage. Both reported soreness but suffered no serious injuries.

The 24-stage rally totals 319 kilometers (197 miles). Ten stages are scheduled Saturday with the final six on Sunday, most of them through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.