GP2: Japan F3 champion Matsushita joins ART Grand Prix

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ART Grand Prix has completed its line-up for the 2015 GP2 Series season with the signing of 21-year-old Nobuharu Matsushita.

The French team confirmed in January that McLaren junior driver Stoffel Vandoorne would be retained for 2015, with the Belgian hoping to go one better than his second-place finish in the standings last year.

However, Takuya Izawa has been dropped for the new season and replaced by Matsushita, who has enjoyed success in Japan’s junior championships.

“First of all, I would like to thank ART Grand Prix for giving me the opportunity to race in GP2,” Matsushita said. “I am honored to be a part of ART, which is one of the most prestigious teams in young drivers’ promotion.

“The GP2 Series gives me the chance to race alongside great rivals, following the Formula 1 calendar all around the world. This is a big challenge for myself but I am determined to do my best as GP2 is the best way to race in F1, which is my dream since my childhood.

“I would like to express my thankfulness to Honda who supports my challenge, my fans, friends and family.”

Matsushita won the Japanese F3 title in 2014 with six wins and five pole positions, following on from his Formula Challenge (now Japanese F4) win in 2012, and ART team owner Sebastien Philippe believes that he has the perfect teammate in Vandoorne.

“Nobuharu has a lot of experience in motorsport and his talent is a certainty just from reading his resume, including that he is the reigning Japanese F3 champion,” Philippe said.

“Nobuharu will have many new things to discover and the start of the season will be marked by a learning phase for him, but ART Grand Prix has full confidence in his qualities and in the team’s experience to help Nobuharu integrate very quickly into the discipline. With Stoffel Vandoorne by his side, he also has the ideal teammate.”

Maverick Vinales scores first MotoGP win of season after Bagnaia crashes

MotoGP Maverick Vinales
ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images
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Maverick Vinales ended a seasonlong winless drought in MotoGP, winning the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix after Francesco Bagnaia crashed while leading with seven laps to go.

Holding off Joan MIr and Pol Espargarao at the Misano circuit, Vinales, 25, won his first race since the Malaysian Grand Prix last year. The Yahama rider is the sixth different winner in eight rounds this season.

With his eighth career victory, the Spaniard moved into a tie for second in the standings with Fabio Quartararo, who finished fourth Sunday after being penalized 3 seconds for violating track limits and losing a spot. There are seven races remaining in the season, which has had no repeat winners since Quartararo opened with consecutive victories in Spain.

“Amazing job this weekend,” Vinales said. “(Bagnaia) was very fast, I was pushing a lot and trying to save a bit of tire for the last 10 laps. Very happy because my mentality ha been competely the same, we just found a better setup.

“I appreciate all the work, because threre had been tough times in my team, but we kept pushing and found better luck, and we have to continue like that.”

Andrea Dovizioso, who finished eighth, leads the championship by a point over Vinales and Quartararo.

Bagnaia, who finished second a week earlier, was on track to become the fifth first-time winner in MotoGP’s premier series this season. But he lost control in Turn 6 while under pressure for the lead from Vinales.

Pramac Racing rider Francesco Bagnaia stands after crashing from the lead during the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at the Misano circuit (ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images).