Gasly crowned GP2 Series champion in Abu Dhabi finale

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Red Bull junior driver Pierre Gasly has been crowned the 2016 GP2 Series champion at the final race of the year in Abu Dhabi despite only finishing ninth at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Gasly moved back into the lead of the drivers’ championship by taking pole and the feature race victory on Saturday in Abu Dhabi, leapfrogging Prema Racing teammate Antonio Giovinazzi.

Gasly entered the final race of the year holding a 12-point advantage over Giovinazzi, but started only eighth on the grid by virtue of the reverse order from Saturday’s results. Giovinazzi lined up fourth on the grid, needing a podium finish to stand any chance of winning the title.

Giovinazzi’s hopes were dashed off the line when he bogged down, dropping to fifth and failing to make up any ground through the opening stages. Gasly also failed to make up any positions, sitting eighth in the early stages.

From there, neither driver was able to mount the kind of charge that is perhaps expectant of would-be champions, but for Gasly, it mattered little. He managed to close up on Giovinazzi as the Italian toiled for position, going wheel-to-wheel with Norman Nato and slipping back to sixth.

A late charge from outgoing GP2 racer Mitch Evans relegated Gasly to ninth by the checkered flag, but with Giovinazzi only finishing sixth, the Red Bull junior had done enough to clinch his maiden GP2 title.

“It’s unbelievable, it’s been such a long season with hard moments. We kept fighting to the end,” Gasly said after the race.

“The car has been fantastic all year, the team did a great job. To get it at the last race is just unbelievable.”

The race itself was won by Alex Lynn in his final GP2 start, with the Briton poised to move into the FIA World Endurance Championship for 2016. Lynn was joined on the podium by GP2 veteran Johnny Cecotto Jr., while Sergey Sirotkin finished third to also secure P3 in the drivers’ standings.

Gasly’s future remains unclear after being passed over for a Formula 1 seat with Toro Rosso for 2017, with reports suggesting that he could be poised to spend next year racing in the Japanese Super Formula series.

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing
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Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”