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WSR: Rowland one point away from FR3.5 title

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Oliver Rowland moved to within just a single point of the 2015 Formula Renault 3.5 title by storming to his seventh victory of the year at Le Mans on Saturday.

Formula Renault 3.5 is the flagship series on the World Series by Renault roster, and has produced a number of Formula 1 drivers including Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Kevin Magnussen and Carlos Sainz Jr.

Sainz won last year’s title with a record seven victories before joining Toro Rosso in F1 for 2015, but his tally was tied by Rowland on Saturday after the Briton dominated proceedings from pole position on the Bugatti layout of the Circuit de la Sarthe.

Rowland came under pressure throughout the race from title rival Matthieu Vaxiviere, but when the Frenchman lost part of his front wing trying to take the lead, he dropped back into the pack.

Vaxiviere took a rather liberal attitude towards to the track limits, frequently cutting the chicane in a bid to gain position and keep the chasing drivers back. The stewards decided that enough was enough after he had cut it four times and handed him a time penalty.

This left Vaxiviere tenth at the end of the race, giving him one point that in fact denied Rowland from being crowned champion on Saturday. With 75 points remaining, Rowland leads by 74, making his title victory a mere formality.

“The start was difficult and Egor [Orudzhev, who finished second] was very close to me, but I managed to keep him behind me,” Rowland explained.

“After that, I really had no answer to Matthieu’s pace. Although the contact made my life easier, I was a bit worried for my tyre and tried to stay away from the curbs, as well as stay within the track limitations to avoid a penalty.

“I spent two seasons with Fortec in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 and this is my second season in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series with them. It is great to reward such fantastic people with this victory record.”

Rowland and Orudzhev were joined on the podium by Tom Dillmann, who edged out Dean Stoneman for P3 on the final lap of the race.

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.”