© Baku City Circuit

Baku City Circuit gets first test run ahead of inaugural F1 race

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The Baku City Circuit in Azerbaijan has enjoyed its first test run ahead of its inaugural Formula 1 race later this month.

The European Grand Prix will take place on June 19 in Baku on what is set to become the fastest street circuit in F1.

FIA race director Charlie Whiting will have one final visit to the track ahead of the race, but has already given the track his seal of approval.

As part of the build-up to the race, Azerbaijani racer Gulhuseyn Abdullayev completed a run in a GP3 car at the Baku City Circuit last Sunday, and was impressed by the challenge it poses.

“Baku City Circuit consists of a combination of both slow and fast turns. In general, this track has a very unique layout. Unlike other street tracks, Baku City Circuit has a sufficient width as well,” Abdullayev said.

“Turns 8-10 around Qosha Qala gates were particularly very interesting. I believe we will witness breathtaking moments during the race. In fact, driving through those turns is not easy at all.

“The track was free for now, and did not require much effort from me, but during the race when there will be racing cars and slow moving pilots around or any incidents it will present a serious driving challenge for pilots.

“I liked this track very much. If allowed, I would drive even a longer distance. In general, Baku City Circuit does not fall behind of other street circuits, I would say it is even exceeds other street tracks. Therefore, I believe all Formula 1 drivers look forward to racing at this track soon and they will be very delighted to drive at this circuit.

“Driving in Baku gives me a special feeling. Since my childhood, I have always dreamed of having a track in Azerbaijan; either a street track or a permanent circuit, so I could drive. Today, my childhood dream has come true. So, I am very happy!”

The Baku City Circuit will host both F1 and GP2 from June 17-19.

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.”