GP2: Vandoorne continues pole position streak in Bahrain

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Stoffel Vandoorne’s streak of pole positions in the GP2 Series has carried over into the new season as the Belgian driver topped the timesheets during today’s qualifying session in Bahrain.

Vandoorne started on pole position for the last four races of the 2014 season en route to securing second place in the drivers’ championship, and claimed a fifth to start the new season at the Bahrain International Circuit on Friday evening.

The ART Grand Prix driver posted a fastest lap of 1:39.237 to finish three-tenths of a second ahead of teammate Nobuharu Matsushita, who will make his GP2 debut from the front row of the grid.

Another rookie that excelled in qualifying was DAMS driver Alex Lynn. Last year’s GP3 winner qualified third on the grid ahead of the returning Arthur Pic, whilst Ferrari junior driver Raffaele Marciello could only finish fifth due to a technical problem on his car during the session.

Jordan King was unable to repeat his run to first place in practice during the qualifying session, but qualified sixth ahead of fellow debutant Norman Nato.

American hopeful Alexander Rossi will start his third season in GP2 from eighth place on the grid ahead of Red Bull youngster Pierre Gasly and ex-Sauber reserve Sergey Sirotkin, who qualified ninth and tenth respectively.

Vandoorne has been tipped as the favorite for this year’s championship, and was pleased to have lived up to the hype during qualifying by extending his record run of pole positions.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” Vandoorne said. “We’ve had a good pre-season, although we were not always showing pace. It’s good to grab the first pole of the year. It’s my fifth in a row in GP2.

“I’m really happy. It’s also a really good team result because we’ve locked out the front row. Now we’re in the best position for tomorrow.”

Vandoorne managed to convert pole position into a race win at this round last year, but believes tire management will be key to a repeat result on Saturday.

“I’m starting from the best position, but we’ll see tomorrow,” the Belgian said. “Last year, as a rookie, I did pretty well here. It shows you can do a great job as a rookie.

“Tomorrow is going to be an interesting race especially with the medium and soft Compounds. I think degradation will be quite important for everybody so let’s see how this is going to pan out.”

An IndyCar iRacing Challenge at Talladega? Drivers have discussed it

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If Dale Earnhardt Jr. is interested in an IndyCar iRacing event on an oval, he might like the latest idea being kicked around by NTT Series drivers.

“I personally would want to run at Talladega, but I don’t think that’s an option,” Arrow McLaren SP driver rookie Oliver Askew told NBCSports.com in a Friday interview about his simulation work for the second round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. “IndyCar drivers have a group chat with iRacing, and someone had the idea of running at Talladega, and I thought it was brilliant.”

It actually would be a throwback of sorts as a USAC-sanctioned race with Indy cars at Talladega nearly happened 40 years ago.

The IndyCar iRacing Challenge will be running its second consecutive road course Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN or streaming here).

Of the four remaining races in the six-race series, there’s a chance that three of them could be ovals: A Drivers’ Choice track April 11; a “Random Draw” April 18 and a non-IndyCar “Dream” track May 2 (the April 25 race will be at Circuit of the Americas).

ENTRY LIST: Who will be racing at Barber

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IndyCar drivers are voting on next week’s track, and the options include high-speed ovals such as Texas Motor Speedway and Michigan Speedway.

A multicar crash at Talladega last October. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Talladega apparently isn’t on the list for next week, but surely it could be considered for a future race if it meant having Earnhardt in the field. The 15-time NASCAR Most Popular Driver is a six-time winner at Talladega, and the NASCAR on NBC analyst’s family is synonymous with the 2.66-mile oval where his late seven-time champion father won a record 10 times.

“I hope he can make that happen,” Askew said of racing against Earnhardt. “I hope IndyCar can grant his wish on that.”

The addition of Earnhardt would fit well with an IndyCar iRacing Challenge that already features champions from NASCAR (Jimmie Johnson) and Supercars (Scott McLaughlin).

Will Power would like to see more of that.

“I think that would be great if we can get big-name drivers from other series,” Power said. “Getting a couple guys from Europe would be cool.”