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WEC, Le Mans ‘attractive’ to Kubica as he considers 2017 options

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Ex-Formula 1 driver Robert Kubica says he finds the possibility of a move into the FIA World Endurance Championship “attractive” following his first LMP1 test on Sunday.

Kubica joined the ByKolles team for the WEC rookie test in Bahrain, completing 27 laps behind the wheel of the CLM P1/01 AER car.

The Pole raced in F1 between 2006 and 2010 before being forced to quit single-seater racing due to severe injuries sustained to his right hand and arm while rallying in the off-season.

After spending three years in rallying, Kubica is now looking to return to circuit racing in 2017, with Sunday’s test being the latest step towards that.

Speaking to reporters following the test, Kubica said he was open to a possible move into the WEC next season should the stars align.

“The races are high-level races. It’s not that you go chill out and you do 12 hours, 24 hours cruising; you have to push,” Kubica is quoted as saying by Sportscar365.

“Because it’s something new, I’m not 100 per cent sure I will like it. But on the other hand every new challenge gives you some extra motivation to try them to see if you can do it well.

“But for sure if I would decide to do it, it’s because I want to do it, not because I don’t have anything else to do. I came here just to see, to get rid of some doubts I have.

“I know there are areas where I will need to dedicate a bit of time if I will become a proper endurance race driver, but I think if most of the drivers can get used to it and they manage to do it, I don’t see the reason why I shouldn’t do it.

“The category is a very high level and I think it’s growing up a lot, although Audi pulled out which is a shame, but for sure endurance races plus Le Mans makes something very attractive.”

Kubica said he had no firm idea of his racing plans for 2017 yet, but is in no rush to make a final call.

“The fact is I do not know what I will be doing, and to be honest it’s a bit of putting me, not under pressure, but I admit I would prefer to know.

“But on the other hand I don’t want to hurry. If something good comes, I will speak about it.”

Oliver Askew: ‘I was starting to lose confidence’ after ‘hardest hit I’ve had’

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Oliver Askew knew something was medically wrong in the days after concussion-like symptoms began from “the hardest hit I’ve ever had” in the Indianapolis 500. He’d been evaluated and cleared to race after the Aug. 23 crash, but he just didn’t feel right.

The IndyCar rookie told The Associated Press on Thursday he has been experiencing dizziness, sleeping difficulties, irritability, headaches and confusion since he crashed in the Aug. 23 race. He continued to race in four more events as he tried to “play through it” until friends and family encouraged him to seek medical treatment.

He since has been diagnosed with a concussion and is working on a recovery plan with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s sports medicine concussion program, the same place NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. received care after concussions in 2012 and ’16. Askew will not compete in next weekend’s doubleheader on the road course at Indianapolis, and Arrow McLaren SP will put three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves in the No. 7 Chevrolet.

“This is all I’ve worked for,” the 23-year-old told AP. “I don’t come from money, and I’ve worked my way up and have finally gotten my shot in a good car. And then all of a sudden, the results just weren’t there in a car I knew should be performing. And I just didn’t feel like myself, you know?

“So initially I felt like I needed to stay in the car and continue to improve. And then I didn’t feel like I could do that with my condition and what was going on. I was starting to lose confidence in myself.”

Earnhardt praised Askew for going to Pittsburgh to see Dr. Micky Collins.

“Oliver is in the best hands when it comes to taking care of this problem and getting back on the racetrack. It was very smart of him to get in front of Micky so that he could understand the seriousness of the situation and begin the process of getting well,” Earnhardt said. “You can absolutely heal from this but not without taking the step of getting help. Often that’s the most difficult step.”

Athletes often hide injuries to continue competing, and even Earnhardt admittedly masked concussions during his driving career. Askew didn’t know what was wrong with him but was frightened to get out of the car.

He is a paid driver who brings no sponsorship money to the team (but did bring a $1 million scholarship for winning last year’s Indy Lights championship), and owner Sam Schmidt holds the option on his contract.

As he tried to race on, his performance suffered. Askew had finished third and sixth at Iowa — the previous two races before Indianapolis. After the crash, he was part of a multicar accident the next week at Gateway and has not finished higher than 14th in the four races since Indy.

A year after winning seven Indy Lights races, Askew has fallen from 12th to 18th in the standings and slipped considerably off the pace. He said he struggled in team debriefs, had difficulty giving feedback and has gone through a personality change that was noticeable to those close to Askew.

Spire Sports + Entertainment, which represents Askew and was among those who pushed the driver to see a doctor, noted Arrow McLaren SP did not reveal that Askew was suffering from a concussion in its Thursday announcement he would miss next week’s race.

“Oliver clearly demonstrated his talent until Lap 91 of the Indianapolis 500, and I hope this does not become another case study of why athletes do not tell their teams they are injured,” said agent Jeff Dickerson. “The reason they do that is because more often times than not they are replaced. In motorsports, there is always somebody to replace you, and whether it was Dale Jr. or Oliver Askew, there is always another driver available.

“I hope this is not a barrier to progress for other drivers — especially young drivers afraid of losing their job — to notify their teams they are hurt. I hope the team proves me wrong because the good news is, the kid has had a head injury for the past month and has still run 14th in IndyCar.”

After finally seeking medical treatment, Askew said he was relieved to learn there was something wrong. He said doctors told him the injury has a “100% recovery rate” and he believes he will be able to race in the IndyCar season finale next month at St. Petersburg. He’s been rehabilitating with exercises and tasks that strain the brain such as deliberately going to grocery stores and the airport.

“Honestly, you know, if I had not gone to see medical professionals I would probably stay in the car,” Askew said. “But now after hearing what’s wrong and that it could get worse, God forbid I have another hit, I know I did the right thing. I think I can be an example for young drivers now in stepping up and saying something is wrong, I need to have this checked out.”