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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.

Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew ready for IndyCar ride

Road to Indy
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Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew has done nothing but dominate the 2019 season, winning seven of the 16 races run so far and finishing on the podium in all but two of those events.

Now all the 22-year-old Floridian needs to do to formally clinch the 2019 title is simply start the final two races of the season, both of which will be held this weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

For Askew, his maiden Indy Lights season will likely be one he’ll never forget. 

“It’s been a dream come true,” Askew told NBC Sports. “Being with the championship-winning team from last year, we had a really good shot at winning it again for Andretti Autosport. It’s very rare that we show up to a track and struggle to find speed. 

“That’s a fantastic feeling, especially as a driver. That gave me a lot of confidence and hopes of holding the million dollar check at the end of the year. That was the goal going into it.”

This weekend, Askew will accomplish said goal. The championship will not only bring him a sense of pride, but also the opportunity of a lifetime. 

As an award for being crowned the Indy Lights champion, Askew will be awarded a scholarship that guarantees him entry into a minimum of three NTT IndyCar Series events next year – including the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500. 

Time will only tell which team Askew will race for in IndyCar next season, and whether or not Askew’s rookie campaign will be a full-time or part-time affair, but Askew’s performance during the last few seasons in the Road to Indy system has certainly drawn attention of IndyCar’s top team owners.

In August, Askew had the chance to drive an Indy car for the first time in his career during a test session at Portland International Raceway, driving the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda usually piloted by Scott Dixon.

“It was an opportunity with Chip Ganassi Racing that I was very fortunate to have,” Askew said. “I think with my experience in the past couple of years with Cape Motorsports and this year with Andretti Autosport, going into that test was very helpful.

“Going into the test, it was more of trying to treat it as just another day at the racetrack, when it really wasn’t. It was a fantastic opportunity for me – a great experience – and I hope I can take that into my rookie season next year in IndyCar.” 

The final two races of the 2019 Indy Lights season will take place this weekend on Saturday, September 21 at 6 p.m. ET and Sunday, September 22 at 12:05 p.m. ET. Both races will air live on NBC Sports Gold.

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