Gastaldi: Lotus and Renault “engaged to be married”

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Lotus deputy chief Federico Gastaldi has described the team’s pending takeover by Renault like being “engaged to be married” as talks to finalize the deal continue.

Renault is poised to upscale its involvement in Formula 1 next season by reviving its works team at Enstone that last raced back in 2010.

On Monday, Renault announced that it had signed a letter of intent ahead of the purchase of Lotus, saving the team from administration due to an unpaid tax bill in the UK.

Speaking ahead of next weekend’s Russian Grand Prix in Sochi, Gastaldi was upbeat about the pending takeover, believing that the agreement will only motivate Lotus until the end of the season.

“It looks like we’re engaged to be married again, which is interesting as we’ve had a few relationships together before!” Gastaldi quipped.

“It’s positive for the sport and it’s positive for Enstone that a company with the history and prestige of Renault is looking to strengthen its role in Formula 1.

“It’s true we’ve both experienced a few knocks over the years but we’ve also had some exceptional highs and that makes us all collectively exceptionally motivated to harness our resilience and show everyone what we can do.”

The new Renault team will enter F1 in 2016 with one new driver after Romain Grosjean announced on Tuesday that he would be joining Haas for its debut season.

Gastaldi admitted that the Frenchman would be missed at Enstone, and that the team would take its time before confirming his replacement for next season.

“We know that we can now publically say bonne chance to Romain who is headed to pastures new next year,” Gastaldi said. “He’s been a real asset to us over the years so we’ll certainly miss him.

“We know we have Pastor [Maldonado] confirmed for one seat and we know that there are quite a few tasty drivers available out there and we’re doing everything to ensure that we’ve got a desirable race seat, which needs to be filled.

“What happens next is that there’ll be a number of discussions in a number of places then at some point we’ll have an announcement to make.”

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”