Jean-Eric Vergne surges to Formula E pole in Berlin

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BERLIN, Germany – Jean-Eric Vergne will start Saturday’s Berlin ePrix from pole position after edging out championship contender Sebastien Buemi in the final stage of qualifying.

Vergne finished second to Buemi in the first leg of qualifying around the streets of Berlin, and despite going slower in the Super Pole shootout, the Frenchman’s lap of 57.811s proved to be enough for his first pole position since the Moscow ePrix almost one year ago.

Buemi posted the fastest time in practice and the first stage of qualifying, and when championship rival Lucas di Grassi was made to pay for a minor error on his 200kW lap and ended up 10th overall, the Renault e.dams driver appeared to have a golden opportunity to cut the points gap by taking pole.

However, his final qualifying effort was one-hundredth of a second slower than Vergne’s lap, meaning he was forced to settle for P2 on the grid.

“It’s good. I didn’t think the lap was going to be good enough, but in the end everyone went slower,” Vergne said.

“Everything is going well at the moment, hopefully we can put on a good show. The e.dams are really strong in the race, they were stronger than us in Paris.

“It’s going to be really difficult, but I’m going to give it my best. I’ve got nothing to lose.”

Behind Vergne and Buemi, Daniel Abt qualified as the top German on home soil in third place, with the Mahindra Racing duo of Bruno Senna and Nick Heidfeld following in P4 and P5.

In the sister DS Virgin Racing car, Sam Bird qualified sixth ahead of Nelson Piquet Jr., who impressed for NextEV TCR. Teammate Oliver Tuvey also reached the top 10, finishing ninth behind Nicolas Prost and ahead of di Grassi.

Dragon Racing’s recent struggles continued as Loic Duval and Jerome d’Ambrosio finished 11th and 12th respectively ahead of Simona de Silvestro. Venturi also had a qualifying to forget with Mike Conway and Stephane Sarrazin finishing 14th and 15th, while Robin Frijns struggled to 16th for Andretti.

Team Aguri will occupy the final row of the grid as Rene Rast outqualified Ma Qinghua on his Formula E debut and with his first full power lap in the car.

Meyer Shank Racing wins second consecutive Rolex 24 at Daytona to begin GTP era

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Grand Touring Prototype era began just as the previous one ended as Meyer Shank Racing’s Acura captured its second consecutive Rolex 24 at Daytona with star Tom Blomqvist emphatically starting and finishing the race.

The No. 60 ARX-06 won the 24-hour endurance classic at Daytona International Speedway by 4.190 seconds over Filipe Albuquerque of Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport, giving Acura a sweep of the top two spots.

The Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac V-LMDh cars took the next two spots with Renger van der Zande (the No. 01) and Earl Bamber (No. 02) as four of the nine new GTP cars finished on the lead lap within 12 seconds of each other and four more finished the race – quashing the prerace hand-wringing of mass failures for the highly technical cars in the debut of the hybrid prototype premier category.

“Amazed is the right word,” Honda Performance Development president David Salters said when asked about reliability. “These are sophisticated cars. It’s not easy. It’s a testament to each group that they did a really good job. It was a fight all the way through the race. I didn’t expect that at all.”

There were major problems for the manufacturer newcomers Porsche Penske Motorsport and BMW M Team RLL, whose two pairs of cars all finished at least a dozen laps down or more because of major mechanical problems in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener.

But there were no such failures for Acura despite the manufacturer skipping any endurance testing with the new LMDh car. Salters said his

It’s the third Rolex 24 at Daytona victory for co-owner Mike Shank, who won his first in 2012.

Just as he capped the 2022 season by winning the Petit Le Mans season finale in the No. 60 Acura to clinch the final championship of the DPi division for MSR, Blomqvist was behind the wheel again for his third overall victory in IMSA.

“That was crazy,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee. “I knew we had a fantastic car. I’ve been working hard. Unbelievable. Massive, well done, everyone being part of this project and worked together on this project. What a car we’ve built.

“I was just a bit nervous. The 10 was definitely second fastest car, but we held them off.”

It was the second consecutive Rolex 24 victory for MSR’s trio of Blomqvist, Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves, who were joined this year by Colin Braun (winning his first Rolex 24 overall).

Castroneves joined select company in winning the Rolex 24 in three consecutive years (his first win was with Wayne Taylor Racing in 2021 — also in an Acura, which now has three consecutive Rolex 24s). Peter Gregg won the Rolex 24 in 1973, ’75 and ’76 (the 1974 race wasn’t held because of the oil crisis).

Castroneves and Pagenaud are entering their second consecutive year as teammates for Meyer Shank Racing’s Dallara-Hondas in the NTT IndyCar Series.

“Can you believe that?” Castroneves told Lee. “Big props to everyone. Everyone did an amazing job. Everybody worked so hard together. We got it! Another one. I can’t believe it. This is absolutely a dream come true.”

The four-time Indy 500 winner led the team in his signature fence-climbing celebration afterward — just as he had when he finished MSR’s victory in last year’s Rolex 24 and when he won the 2021 Indy 500 for the team.

“It’s always fun to climb the fence with Helio,” said Pagenaud, who drove the second-to-last stint before Blomqvist closed it out: “The competition as amazing. It was tough out there. So much fun. Hope you had as much fun as we had. I’m going to savor this one.”

Winners in other classes were the No. 55 ORECA 07 of Proton Competition (which triumphed on a last-lap pass by James Allen on Ben Hanley), WeatherTech Racing’s No. 79 Mercedes in GTD Pro, Heart of Racing’s No. 27 Aston Martin in GTD and AWA’s No. 17 in LMP3.