WSR: Vaxiviere claims last gasp win at Motorland Aragon

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France’s Mattieu Vaxiviere emerged victorious from the second race of the 2015 Formula Renault 3.5 season following a race-long battle with McLaren junior driver Nyck de Vries at Motorland Aragon in Spain on Sunday.

Vaxiviere failed to convert pole position on Saturday into a race win, crossing the line in fourth place as Britain’s Oliver Rowland won the first race of the year. He managed to qualify second on Sunday behind de Vries.

The race started under the safety car due to torrential rain, but was red flagged after five laps. Once the worst of the weather had been allowed to pass, the race resumed, with the safety car peeling in after two laps.

De Vries managed to pull out a lead over Vaxiviere, but found himself under attack after both drivers had made their mandatory pit stop. The Frenchman continued to reel the leader in, and managed to launch a last lap attack to move into the lead and cross the line for his maiden Formula Renault 3.5 victory.

“I missed my chance of winning yesterday, but I was able to score a lot of points,” Vaxiviere said. “Today, we had to wait until the conditions improved, but the race stewards made the right decision.

“I remained focused and pressured Nyck. The team did an excellent pit stop, allowing me to get closer. I managed my rain tires in such a way as to keep them cool on a drying track surface and I saw an opportunity.

“I had a go on the following lap and I am very happy to take this victory! I hope it continues like this at Spa and Monaco.”

De Vries may have come within touching distance of a victory in just his second race in the series, but he was humble in defeat.

“Qualifying went very well and I was satisfied with what we have done,” the McLaren junior said. “The pace was good and I managed to create a nice gap, but my tires suffered.

“Following the pit stop, I held off Matthieu, but he found an opening. Fair play to him.”

By finishing third, race one winner Oliver Rowland retains his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship after one round, with the next race taking place in Monaco on May 24.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”