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Porsche storms to 1-2 in Bahrain WEC qualifying

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Porsche’s no. 17 crew of Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard took a huge step towards securing the FIA World Endurance Championship title in Bahrain by taking pole for the final race of the year in Bahrain.

The trio arrive at the Bahrain International Circuit with a 12-point lead over Audi’s no. 7 crew of Marcel Fassler, Benoit Treluyer and Andre Lotterer, needing a top-four finish to be sure of a first world title.

Hartley and Bernhard shared driving duties in qualifying for Porsche, recording a two-lap average of 1:39.736 to take pole by three-tenths of a second.

The no. 18 Porsche followed in second place, while Fassler and Lotterer finished a further 1.2 seconds back in P3 for Audi. The no. 8 Audi followed in P4 ahead of the two Toyotas in fifth and sixth.

In LMP2, Signatech Alpine picked up where it left off in Shanghai to pick up its first pole position of the season. Tom Dillmann and Paul-Loup Chatin edged out the championship-leading no. 26 G-Drive by just 0.067 seconds, leaving Sam Bird, Julien Canal and Roman Rusinov to settle for P2.

KCMG’s no. 47 crew still has an outside chance of winning the LMP2 title, but saw its best time in qualifying deleted after abuse of track limits, leaving Nick Tandy, Richard Bradley and Matthew Howson to settle for P3 with their second-best lap.

GTE Pro pole went to defending champions Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander in the no. 51 AF Corse entry. Their chances of retaining the title may be slim, but a combined average of 1:58.347 saw them edge out the no. 95 Aston Martin Racing Vantage of Christoffer Nygaard, Marco Sorensen and Nicki Thiim.

Championship leader Richard Lietz requires just eight points to clinch his first GT title in the WEC, but made life difficult for himself by only qualifying sixth in the no. 91 Porsche 911 RSR alongside Michael Christensen.

In GTE Am, Aston Martin Racing’s no. 98 entry of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda took their fifth pole of the season, finishing four-tenths of a second clear of the no. 50 Larbre Competition Corvertte. Class leading team SMP Racing’s no. 72 Ferrari 458 Italia qualified third, requiring six points to secure the title.

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.”