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Porsche leads Friday WEC practice at the Nurburgring

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Porsche edged out Audi and Toyota to lead both practice sessions ahead of this weekend’s FIA World Endurance Championship round at the Nurburgring in Germany.

In the first on-track action for the WEC teams since the 24 Hours of Le Mans last month, all three of the LMP1 manufacturers debuted their high-downforce aero kits introduced for this weekend’s race.

The Le Mans-winning no. 2 Porsche crew of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb headed up a one-two finish for the German marque in their 919 Hybrid car, edging out the no. 1 team by 0.047 seconds.

Audi followed close behind with Marcel Fassler and Andre Lotterer – missing regular teammate Benoit Treluyer due to injury – finishing two-tenths shy of the fastest time in third place.

The three-time Le Mans winners drew closer in second practice, finishing just 0.014 seconds behind the no. 1 Porsche as Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber and Brendon Hartley set the pace.

The second Audi R18 followed in third place, but with just 1.3 seconds separating the six LMP1-H cars, the battle over the rest of the weekend looks set to rage on.

“We can’t read too much into today’s lap times, as it is race conditions that count,” no. 1 Porsche driver Mark Webber said.

“But we got the maximum out of today and the most information we could. The Nürburgring is fantastic for these fast cars, and we we’re happy to see the sun all day.

“Car number 1 is in good shape and we’re looking forward to qualifying tomorrow.”

In LMP2, G-Drive’s no. 26 Oreca led both FP1 and FP2, enjoying an advantage of over one second in the evening. Manor finished second ahead of Strakka in FP1 before the two teams swapped places at the end of FP2, both running with revised line-ups since Le Mans.

GTE Pro offered a tight battle between Aston Martin Racing, AF Corse and Ford through the day. The no. 97 Vantage V8 shared by Richie Stanaway and Darren Turner posted the fastest time of the day in FP2, leading the pair of Ferrari 488 GTEs in P2 and P3.

AF Corse led FP2 in GTE Am from Larbre Competition, having trailed behind the no. 98 Aston Martin Vantage earlier in the day.

Australia SuperCar Champion gets IndyCar Test at Team Penske

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Scott McLaughlin’s latest reward for winning the 2019 Virgin Australia SuperCar championship is an INDYCAR test at Team Penske.

“Scott has been incredibly successful for DJR Team Penske over the last three seasons and he has become a true champion of our sport,” said team owner Roger Penske, who will become the owner of INDYCAR, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500 in early January. “He certainly embraces new challenges and we think this is a great opportunity to utilize the IndyCar Series rookie testing program so Scott can experience what it is like to get behind the wheel of one of our Indy cars.”

McLaughlin, who has scored back-to-back Virgin Australia Supercars Champion for DJR Team Penske (DJRTP), will participate in an INDYCAR Rookie Evaluation test at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Fla. on Monday, January 13.

“I am always open to new challenges and I’m thankful to Team Penske for providing this opportunity to test an Indy car,” said McLaughlin, who established a new Supercars single season record with 18 victories this past season. “We had an amazing year in 2019 and I’m looking forward to defending our Supercars championship next season. I’m also excited to grow as a driver and being with Team Penske creates cool opportunities to try something new. Although I have spent a few hours in a simulator earlier this year, it’s going to be a blast to see what one really feels like at a place like Sebring.”

McLaughlin joined DJR Team Penske in 2017 as one of the brightest stars in Supercars. He has produced 35 victories and 44 pole positions over the last three seasons while helping DJRTP claim team championships in 2017 and 2019, the driver’s title each of the last two seasons and the legendary Bathurst 1000 race in October, along with co-driver Alex Premat.

McLaughlin will defend his Supercars title for DJRTP in 2020 in the No. 17 Shell V-Power Ford Mustang.  He will build on his already successful racing career by driving a full-sized open-wheel car for the first time.

Team Penske enjoyed another successful IndyCar Series season in 2019. The team earned its record 18th Indianapolis 500 victory as Simon Pagenaud captured the checkered flag in May, while Josef Newgarden won his second series title in three years and the team’s 16th INDYCAR Championship. Team Penske will once again compete with three full-season entries in 2020, featuring series champion drivers Newgarden, Pagenaud and Will Power.

Team Penske is one of the most successful teams in the history of professional sports. Cars owned and prepared by Team Penske have produced more than 540 major race wins, over 620 pole positions and 37 Championships across open-wheel, stock car and sports car racing competition. Over the course of its 53-year history, the team has also earned 18 Indianapolis 500 victories, two Daytona 500 Championships, a Formula 1 win, overall victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring along with a win in Australia’s legendary Bathurst 1000 race. Team Penske currently competes in the IndyCar Series, the NASCAR Cup Series, the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The team also races in the Virgin Australia SuperCars Championship, in a partnership with Dick Johnson Racing, as DJR Team Penske.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500