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Stevens joins G-Drive for Le Mans after Berthon departure

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Ex-Formula 1 driver Will Stevens will race for G-Drive Racing at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans after the Russian team parted company with Nathanael Berthon.

Berthon made his debut with G-Drive at Silverstone in April as part of the three-man crew in the no. 26 ORECA-Nissan LMP2 car, racing alongside Rene Rast and Roman Rusinov.

The trio finished third in the FIA World Endurance Championship season-opener at Silverstone before recording a fifth-place finish at the 6 Hours of Spa at the beginning of May.

However, G-Drive announced on Thursday that Berthon had left the team with immediate effect, just days before the first test for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“I would like to thank Nathanaël for his efforts with the team in 2016,” G-Drive Racing’s David Clark said in a short statement.

“We achieved two solid results in the first races at Silverstone and Spa and he showed he can be part of a front running team and we wish him every success in the future.”

G-Drive followed this up with a statement confirming Stevens’ arrival, stressing that the Briton will return to Manor for the remainder of the FIA WEC season after Le Mans.

“The offer to join G-Drive specifically for Le Mans and share the car with Rene and Roman was compelling,” Stevens said.

“My partnership with Rene at WRT Audi is working well and with his and Roman’s experience in this race, it offered me a race winning opportunity which I’m pleased to accept.

“I’m grateful to the Manor WEC Team for releasing me for this occasion and we will continue to work together for the remainder of their first season in endurance racing.

“I’m very much looking forward to my first 24-hour race within this line-up and am very grateful to G-Drive for the opportunity.

“I’m enjoying the whole endurance racing scene and no doubt my first Le Mans will be a special event in my career.”

Having only entered one car for Le Mans, Manor confirmed that it would be drafting Roberto Merhi in to replace Stevens in its no. 44 entry. Merhi will race alongside Matt Rao and Tor Graves.

“I am very excited to be taking part in this great race that has so much history,” the Spaniard said.

“I am really looking forward to racing with Matt and Tor and seeing what we can achieve together.

“I would like to thank the team for this amazing opportunity.”

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

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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.”