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Vandoorne scores maiden Super Formula victory at Okayama

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Future McLaren Formula 1 driver Stoffel Vandoorne scored his maiden victory in the Japanese Super Formula series at Okayama on Saturday.

McLaren announced last weekend at Monza that Vandoorne would step up to an F1 race seat in 2017, partnering Fernando Alonso.

The 2015 GP2 Series champion has been racing in Super Formula this year as a stop-gap with the Docomo Team Dandelion operation, as well as working as McLaren’s reserve driver, leading to his F1 debut in Bahrain in April.

Vandoorne qualified third for Saturday’s race at Okayama, but rose to second before the start after pole-sitter Kazuki Nakajima lined up in the wrong grid slot, prompting race officials to send him to the back of the field.

Vandoorne shot off the line and sped past new pole-sitter Yuji Kunimoto, moving into a lead he never relinquished before crossing the line almost five seconds clear of the field.

Super Formula is the sixth different championship that Vandoorne has won a race in, following successes in GP2, Formula Renault 3.5, Formula Renault 2.0 NEC, Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 and the F4 Eurocup.

The anticipation surrounding Vandoorne’s arrival in F1 in 2017 has been great, and is surely only set to grow after this latest victory.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.