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WEC: Porsche storms to front-row lock-out in Shanghai

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Porsche’s dominant form in the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship continued in qualifying for the 6 Hours of Shanghai on Saturday as it romped to another front-row lock-out.

The no. 17 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard romped to its fourth pole position of the year by seven-tenths of a second, leaving the sister no. 18 entry to settle for P2 for the start of tomorrow’s race.

The result maintains Porsche’s 100% pole record in 2015, as well as extending its streak that dates back to last year’s race in Shanghai.

Audi struggled to match the relentless pace of the Porsche cars once again, being forced to settle for third and fourth place on the grid. The no. 7 entry of Marcel Fassler, Benoit Treluyer and Andre Lotterer will start from P4, starting Sunday’s race in Shanghai one point behind Webber, Hartley and Bernhard at the top of the championship standings.

Toyota assumed its usual grid slots of P5 and P6 once again in Shanghai, finishing some three seconds off the pace of the pole-sitters.

LMP2 class pole went to the no. 26 G-Drive of Roman Rusinov, Julien Canal and Sam Bird, with the latter duo sharing duties in qualifying. A blistering lap from Bird saw the Russian team claim pole ahead of the no. 47 KCMG car by six-tenhs of a second, with the second G-Drive runner rounding out the top three.

In GTE Pro, defending champions Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander claimed their second pole position of the season in the no. 51 AF Corse entry, heading up a one-two for the Ferraris ahead of the no. 71 of James Calado and Davide Rigon. Aston Martin Racing’s no. 99 was forced to settle for P3, finishing less than three-tenths off the pole time.

AMR hit back in GTE Am, though, as the no. 98 of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda charged to pole by less than two-tenths of a second, edging out the British marque’s no. 96 entry. The no. 50 Larbre Competition Corvette finished third as the Ferrari and Porsche privateer entries struggled for pace in qualifying.

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.”