© FIA WEC

Audi locks out front row for WEC 6 Hours of Nurburgring

Leave a comment

Audi made the most of damp conditions in qualifying to lock out the front row for Sunday’s FIA World Endurance Championship round at the Nurburgring.

Running with its new high downforce aero kit for this weekend’s race, Audi ran 2015 Nurburgring winners Porsche close in practice on Friday.

A damp but drying track left Audi and Porsche to scrap for pole with Toyota lurking just behind, making the timing of laps and tire strategy crucial.

The no. 7 Audi R18 may be a man light this weekend after Benoit Treluyer was ruled out through injury, but Marcel Fassler and Andre Lotterer were still able to produce two emphatic laps to clinch pole on home soil for the German marque.

A two-lap average of 1:39.444 between the pair was enough to secure their second pole of the season, heading up a one-two finish for Audi.

Lucas di Grassi posted the fastest time of the session in the no. 8 Audi R18, going half a second quicker than Lotterer’s best lap, but a slower effort from Oliver Jarvis meant they fell two-tenths of a second shy of pole.

Porsche was left to settle for P3 and P4 on the grid, the no. 1 919 Hybrid shared by Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard in qualifying finishing four-tenths off Audi’s pole time. The sister no. 2 car was just three-hundredths of a second further back in P4.

Toyota ailed to fifth and sixth in LMP1, finishing over a second behind Audi at the top, but as witnessed at Le Mans, the race pace of the TS050 Hybrid car is to be reckoned with.

LMP2 qualifying followed the form from practice as G-Drive Racing continued its perfect pole record in 2016. A rapid final lap from Rene Rast was almost a second quicker than any other driver in class, giving G-Drive a buffer of 0.7 seconds over the no. 36 Signatech Alpine crew in second place. British squad Strakka Racing qualified third, less than a tenth away from a place on the front row.

Aston Martin Racing picked up its maiden GTE Pro pole as Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen set the pace, recording a two-lap average of 2:01.712 in the Vantage V8. The no. 66 Ford GT shared by Stefan Mucke and Olivier Pla finished two-tenths further back in P2, with the second AMR entry qualifying third in class.

It proved to be a good day for Porsche entries in GTE Am was Abu Dhabi Proton Racing and KCMG locked out the front row in class, both running Porsche 911 RSRs. The former took pole by less than two-tenths of a second, with a rapidly drying track handing the initiative to those running later in the session.

The FIA WEC 6 Hours of Nurburgring kicks off at 1pm local time in Germany on Sunday.

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

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
Leave a comment

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.”