Nissan LMP1 drivers cut their teeth in Nurburgring 24 Hours and Imola ELMS

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Five of the nine drivers that are set to make their Nissan LMP1 debuts at next month’s 24 Hours of Le Mans cut their teeth at Imola and the Nurburgring over what was a busy weekend in the endurance racing world.

A bumper field of 151 cars took to the Nurburgring’s Nordschleife layout on Saturday afternoon for one of the most fearsome 24 hour races in motorsport, with Audi’s no. 28 car emerging victorious by 40 seconds ahead of the Marc VDS Racing no. 25 BMW.

Nissan enjoyed a particularly fruitful race as three of its LMP1 drivers drove in the no. 35 car for the twice-around-the-clock event. Lucas Ordonez, Michael Krumm and Alex Buncombe ran alongside Super GT racer Kazuki Hoshino en route to ninth place overall, marking the Japanese marque’s best result in recent years.

“We had a very straightforward race,” team boss Bob Neville said. “After the initial single stints the drivers all did doubles and didn’t put a foot wrong. We were pretty cautious during the night when it was raining and this worked out well for us.

“The car ran like clockwork and it is always good to be able to say that the car didn’t need any repairs during the race. I’m very pleased with my team and very happy to take such a good finish here.”

Imola played host to the second round of the 2015 European Le Mans Series season on Sunday, with Nissan’s Harry Ticknell claiming a podium finish in the no. 38 Jota Sport car in the LMP2 class. The race was won by Thiriet by TDS Racing’s no. 46 car, piloted by Pierre Thiriet, Ludovic Badey and Tristan Gommendy.

Another Nissan LMP1 driver, Mark Shulzhitskiy, made his debut for Lanan Racing in LMP3 where he finished third in class.

The quintet will now be turning their attention to Nissan’s LMP1 racing bow at Le Mans, which is less than one month away and promises to be yet another thrilling event.

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

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
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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.”