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Matsushita closes out GP2 post-season test quickest

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Honda youngster Nobuharu Matsushita closed out the final day of GP2’s post-season test in Abu Dhabi at the top of the timesheets for ART Grand Prix.

Matsushita helped ART win the teams’ championship in GP2 this year, claiming one race win and two further podium finishes in his debut season.

The Japanese racer is set to remain with ART in GP2 for 2016 thanks to its ties with McLaren, who Honda powers in Formula 1.

Across the three days of testing at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, Matsushita topped three of the four sessions he took part in, posting a fastest time of 1:48.313 on Friday.

Matsushita went four-tenths of a second quicker on Wednesday, but the fastest time of the three days of testing was set by Nicholas Latifi on Thursday afternoon for DAMS.

The test saw a number of drivers enjoy a taste of GP2 machinery ahead of a possible move up to the series in 2016, including DTM champion Pascal Wehrlein, F3 drivers Felix Rosenqvist and Antonio Giovinazzi, and GP3 drivers Jimmy Eriksson, Emil Bernstorff, Luca Ghiotto and Alex Fontana.

GP3 has also been testing at Yas Marina over the past three days, with FIA F3 graduate Charles Leclerc setting the pace for ART.

Leclerc, 18, is widely regarded as being one of motorsport’s future stars, and has been tipped to join Ferrari’s Driver Academy for 2016. A report from motorsport.com has also linked the Monegasque racer with a development role at Haas F1 Team for 2016.

April 5 in Motorsports History: Alex Zanardi’s amazing Long Beach rally

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Alex Zanardi entered the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 5, 1998 as the race’s defending champion and the series’ defending champion.

But the Italian didn’t seem a serious contender for much of the 105-lap event. Zanardi started 11th position and lost a lap early when he was involved in a multicar spin in the hairpin.

Alex Zanardi celebrates after winning the 1998 Grand Prix of Long Beach. Photo: Getty Images

But the race was still young, and despite emerging from the incident in 18th place, Zanardi slowly progressed through the field while battling radio problems that made communication difficult with his team.

With five laps remaining, Zanardi passed Dario Franchitti on the backstretch for second place and then focused in on leader Bryan Herta.

With two laps remaining, Zanardi made his move, making a daring pass on the inside of Herta in the Queen’s Hairpin (which no longer exists as the track layout was changed the following year).

The move was reminiscent of Zanardi’s famous last-lap move on the inside of Laguna Seca’s famed Corkscrew in 1996, which deprived Herta of his first CART victory.

Franchitti passed Herta as well, and Zanardi went on to clinch his first victory of the season.

“On a day when everything went wrong, we came back and won,” Zanardi said following the race. “I can’t explain it. It wasn’t until I saw Bryan ahead of me that I ever thought I had a shot at winning. It was amazing. I have no words to describe it.”

Following Long Beach, Zanadri won six more times in 1998 en route to his second and final CART championship.

Also on this date:

1992: Bobby Rahal led from start to finish to win the Valvoline 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. The win was the first of four victories for Rahal during his championship season.

2009: Ryan Briscoe won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first of three victories for the Aussie in 2009. The race was also the first IndyCar Series on Versus, which was rebranded as NBC Sports Network in 2012.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994