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Audi on pole for WEC swansong in Bahrain

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Audi will start its final race in the FIA World Endurance Championship from pole position after Oliver Jarvis and Lucas di Grassi topped qualifying for the 6 Hours of Bahrain.

Audi announced last month that it would be quitting the WEC following the final race of the season at the Bahrain International Circuit, ending its LMP1 program after 18 years.

Despite trailing rivals Porsche throughout practice, Audi hit back in qualifying as Jarvis and di Grassi combined for an average of 1:39.207 to secure their third pole of the season.

Porsche heads into the final race of the year pushing to add the drivers’ championship to its manufacturers’ success secured last time out in China, with the no. 2 crew of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb needing a sixth-place finish to wrap up the title.

The trio could only qualify third on Friday in Bahrain, losing out to the sister no. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid car after a late improvement spearheaded by Timo Bernhard that reduced the pole-sitting Audi’s advantage to just two-tenths of a second.

The no. 7 Audi R18 ended the session fourth, half a second off the pole time from across the garage, while the Toyotas lagged over a second behind in P5 and P6.

LMP2 saw G-Drive Racing take pole with its no. 26 Oreca Nissan, edging out the championship-winning no.36 Signatech Alpine entry by just 0.018 seconds. The no. 44 Manor slotted into third place, finishing a further three-tenths of a second further back.

Aston Martin Racing continued to dominate proceedings in the GTE Pro class by clinching a one-two finish, headed up by the no. 97 Vantage V8 shared by Jonny Adam and Darren Turner. Remarkably, the duo set the exact same lap time to the thousandth of 1:56.953, handing them class pole by just over one-tenth of a second.

The championship-chasing no. 95 AMR entry of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen ended up second in class, while the no. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 ended up third, a further three-tenths of a second behind.

Aston Martin also tasted success in GTE Am as Pedro Lamy and Paul Dalla Lana combined to take class pole, ensuring that the title fight will continue until race day. The no. 83 AF Corse crew had been able to clinch the title by scoring pole, but ended up three-tenths of a second behind in P2.

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

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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.”