Audi, Ford, G-Drive, Aston Martin secure Fuji poles

Getty Images

Audi Sport’s pair of Lucas di Grassi and Loic Duval, in the No. 8 Audi R18 they’ll share with Oliver Jarvis, have captured the overall and LMP1 pole for Sunday’s Six Hours of Fuji for the FIA World Endurance Championship – but only just.

The two-lap average for the No. 8 Audi of 1:23.570 was just ahead of the No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid, qualified by Timo Bernhard and Mark Webber, whose average was 1:23.595.

The leading Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050 Hybrid will roll off third, with Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi taking qualifying duties in the No. 5 car. Their average was 1:23.739.

Porsche has won the last four FIA WEC races, with Audi having won only once this year (Spa) and Toyota yet to break through – obviously the closest it came was at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The second Toyota, Audi and Porsche were next up, ahead of the pair of privateer LMP1 entries from Rebellion Racing and ByKolles.

G-Drive Racing, with a slightly altered lineup of Will Stevens in for Rene Rast alongside Alex Brundle and Roman Rusinov, slotted into the LMP2 pole with a two-lap average of 1:31.698 for the No. 26 Oreca 05 Nissan.

The class-leading No. 36 Signatech Alpine A460 Nissan (Nicolas Lapierre, Stephane Richelmi, Gustavo Menezes) and Jagonya Ayam-backed new No. 30 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier JS P2 Nissan lineup (Giedo van der Garde, Sean Gelael, Antonio Giovinazzi) roll off second and third.

Menezes, Giovinazzi and Pipo Derani, who shared the No. 31 ESM Ligier Nissan which will start only eighth in class, entered qualifying on the heels of being confirmed for the LMP1 Rookie Test in November at Bahrain.

The pair of Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs went 1-2 in GTE-Pro qualifying, ending the recent run of form for Aston Martin Racing in the process. It’s Ford’s first WEC pole since the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which was achieved by Dirk Mueller in one of the U.S.-entered Ganassi Fords there (the full season IMSA entrant, rather than the full season WEC ones).

The No. 66 Ford of Stefan Muecke and Olivier Pla, fresh off his Petit Le Mans win with Michael Shank Racing, edged the sister No. 67 Ford of Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell, with that car’s lineup reduced to just two drivers following Marino Franchitti’s team-enforced “step back” for the rest of the season.

Muecke and Pla’s No. 66 car had a two-lap average of 1:37.681 to the Priaulx/Tincknell pair’s average of 1:37.725.

The two Ferrari 488 GTEs were next, followed by the two Aston Martin Vantage V8s, followed by the single Dempsey/Proton Porsche 911 RSR in a very Noah’s Ark-style grid.

Aston’s No. 98 entry did secure the GTE-Am pole, with Paul Dalla Lana and Pedro Lamy qualifying and Mathias Lauda joining them for the race. That car’s average lap time was 1:39.490, which was a few tenths up on the No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia (1:39.863).

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.”