Photo courtesy of IMSA

Fittipaldi flies to Long Beach IMSA pole

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LONG BEACH, Calif. – Christian Fittipaldi took the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP to the overall pole position for Saturday’s BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach, Round 3 of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, in a slightly abnormal qualifying session.

Fittipaldi, in the car he shares with Joao Barbosa, posted a 1:14.962.

He is just ahead of another Corvette DP, this time the defending race-winning No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing entry qualified by Ricky Taylor.

Mazda’s practice pace proved no fluke with Tom Long getting the No. 70 Mazda Prototype within 0.679 of a second of overall pole.

Thing was, both Mazdas had a strange moment during qualifying after Marc Goossens spun the No. 90 Visit Florida Racing Corvette DP at Turn 11.

Goossens lost control of his car at the hairpin, then was hit by Tristan Nunez’s Mazda. Tom Long made it through around the outside without damage himself.

Misha Goikhberg (PC) and Bill Auberlen (GTLM) were the other two class polesitters, with the PC pole decided on an oddity.

James French was fastest during the session at 1:17.910 in the Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09, over Jon Bennett in the CORE autosport car at 1:18.623.

However, contact between Robert Alon in the PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports car and Mark Kvamme in the No. 88 Starworks Motorsport car left Kvamme’s car stranded and needing a flatbed to come back to the pits.

The incident meant the PC session did not meet its 10 minute minimum green flag time, and the grid set by driver points.

That would have moved Alon to pole; alas, with Alon penalized to the back of the grid for causing a red flag, it bumped second-placed Misha Goikhberg to pole in the JDC/Miller Motorsports entry he shares with Stephen Simpson.

The GTLM qualifying battle was a shootout with Auberlen securing his second straight pole both this season, and at Long Beach.

Last year Auberlen took the class pole here in the BMW Z4 GTLM at 1:17.268, and was within 0.004 of a second of that time this year.

In the No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM he shares with Dirk Werner, he posted a best time of 1:17.272 today.

He edged Earl Bamber, who per IMSA Radio pitted for a tire pressure change, by just 0.003 of a second. Bamber clocked a 1:17.275 in the No. 912 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR.

The qualifying order is linked here.

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.”