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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.

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

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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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.”