Vandoorne scores first Super Formula pole at Fuji

© Getty Images

McLaren junior Stoffel Vandoorne scored his maiden pole position in the Japanese Super Formula series on Saturday at Fuji Speedway.

Vandoorne, 24, moved into Super Formula for 2016 after winning the GP2 Series last year to keep sharp ahead of a possible Formula 1 debut.

The Belgian deputized for the injured Fernando Alonso in the Bahrain Grand Prix, scoring a point on debut by finishing 10th.

Vandoorne is in a two-man race for a seat at McLaren in 2017 alongside Alonso, with Jenson Button’s future uncertain.

On Saturday, Vandoorne did his chances a world of good by taking his first Super Formula pole in just his third race in the series.

On a damp track after rain early in qualifying, Vandoorne posted a time of 1:40.778 in Q3 to beat defending champion Hiroaki Ishiura by three-tenths of a second and pick up pole.

Vandoorne sits fifth in the championship after two rounds, having finished third on debut at Suzuka before failing to score any points at Okayama, crossing the line 12th.

IndyCar disappointed by delay of video game but aiming to launch at start of 2024

IndyCar video game 2024

An IndyCar executive said there is “absolutely” disappointment that its long-awaited video game recently was delayed beyond its target date, but the series remains optimistic about the new title.

“Well, I don’t know how quick it will be, but the whole situation is important to us,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said during a news conference Monday morning to announce IndyCar’s NTT title sponsorship. “Motorsport Games has spent a lot of money, a lot of effort to create an IndyCar title. What we’ve seen of that effort, which is not completely obvious, is very reassuring.

“I think it’s going to be outstanding. That’s our shared objective, that when it is released, it’s just widely accepted. A great credit both to IndyCar racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, something that our fans love.”

In June 2021, IndyCar announced a new partnership with Motorsport Games to create and distribute an IndyCar video game for the PC and Xbox and PlayStation consoles in 2023.

But during an earnings call last week, Motorsport Games said the IndyCar game had been delayed to 2024 to ensure high quality.

Somewhat compounding the delay is that IndyCar’s license for iRacing expired after the end of the 2022 season because of its exclusive agreement with Motorsport Games.

That’s resulted in significant changes for IndyCar on iRacing, which had provided a high-profile way for the series to stay visible during its 2020 shutdown from the pandemic. (Players still can race an unbranded car but don’t race on current IndyCar tracks, nor can they stream).

That’s helped ratchet up the attention on having a video game outlet for IndyCar.

“I wish we had an IndyCar title 10 years ago,” said Miles, who has been working with the organization since 2013. “We’ve been close, but we’ve had these I think speed bumps.”

IndyCar is hopeful the Motorsports Game edition will be ready at the start of 2024. Miles hinted that beta versions could be unveiled to reporters ahead of the time “to begin to show the progress in a narrow way to make sure we’ve got it right, to test the progress so that we’re ready when they’re ready.”

It’s been nearly 18 years since the release of the most recent IndyCar video game for console or PC.

“(We) better get it right,” Miles said. “It’s something we’re very close to and continue to think about what it is to make sure we get it over the line in due course.”