Sage Karam joins F Performance Racing’s new Lexus program in IMSA

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Sage Karam will race in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with F Performance Racing this season following the team’s announcement of a partnership with Japanese manufacturer Lexus.

Karam spent much of 2015 racing for Chip Ganassi Racing in the Verizon IndyCar Series, claiming one podium finish at Iowa and establishing himself as the championship’s new ‘black hat’.

However, Ganassi released Karam from his contract at the end of December, prompting the American to claim a drive with the Dreyer and Reinbold team for the 2016 Indianapolis 500.

In a statement issued on Friday, Karam confirmed his plans for the forthcoming year, joining forces with F Performance Racing and Lexus.

“Lexus and their F Performance Racing group have reached an agreement with the International Motor Sports Association to campaign the RC F GT3 in the IMSA Weather Tech SportsCar Championship,” a statement reads.

“The agreement gives the Japanese Luxury automaker a presence in GT Daytona (GTD) class the race series through the 2018 season.”

Karam was delighted to confirm his move to Lexus, where he will be joined by veteran sportscar racer Scott Pruett. The two have previously raced together in IMSA events at Daytona and Sebring.

“I’m really excited to be a part of the F Performance Team, it’s a great opportunity for me,” Karam said. “I have worked alongside Scott Pruett for a few years so we have a good relationship and I’m really looking forward to driving alongside him. We like to work with each other and we push each other to each other’s limits.”

“We have had our eye on Sage for some time,” F Performance Racing managing partner Paul Gentilozzi added. “His experience in IMSA events with Scott at Daytona and Sebring showed us great maturity.

“Our program is a building experience, and having Scott Pruett as a teammate/mentor is really a priceless commodity. I am sure Sage will fit in with our group and help us get a first victory for Lexus and F Performance Racing.”

Technical director John Gentilozzi confirmed that the team is still developing its car and testing ahead of hitting the grid later this year.

“The program is too new [to do the full season],” Gentilozzi said. “We have every intention to race hard, and every intention to win.

“Right now we’re going through extensive testing and engineering analysis, we hope to be racing as soon as possible.”

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.