International aces Rene Rast, Sam Bird added to Rolex 24 lineup

Rast in Formula E. Photo: Getty Images
0 Comments

The driver roster for the 55th Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona continues to grow.

This week, two more teams announced additions to their respective driver lineups.

VISIT FLORIDA Racing has added German driver Rene Rast to its team. Rast will join Belgian driver Marc Goossens and Dutch driver Renger van der Zande in the No. 90 Gibson-powered Riley Mk. 30 in the Prototype class.

Rast has outstanding credentials, particularly in the Rolex 24, having won the GT class for Magnus Racing in both 2012 and 2016.

Photo courtesy of IMSA
Rast. Photo courtesy of IMSA

He also finished second in the LMP2 class in the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans for G-Drive Racing. He also won in LMP2 at Bahrain and earned podium finishes at Silverstone and Circuit of the Americas.

Rast is also a two-time winner of the 24 Hours at Spa and the 24 Hours of Nurburgring.

“The Rolex 24 is one of my favorite races during the year and I can’t wait for the action to begin,” Rast said in a media release. “I have won the Rolex 24 now two times but not overall. My big dream was always to one day win it overall.”

Scuderia Corsa, whose Ferrari 488 GT3 makes its Daytona, also added to its driver lineup.

Sam Bird
Bird. Photo courtesy of IMSA

Ferrarri factory driver Sam Bird completes the lineup and will join 2016 IMSA and NAEC GT-Daytona champions Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan, along with confirmed third driver Matteo Cressoni.

Bird earned two victories last season in the WEC, piloting a Ferrari 488 GTE, and was a key component of Scuderia’s WEC Manufacturer championship.

As for Cressoni, he previously drove for Scuderia Corsa in the 2014 Petit Le Mans.

Scuderia Corsa is defending champion of the IMSA and North American Endurance Cup GT-Daytona championships.

“With this driver lineup and the proven success of the 488 GT3, I am confident that Scuderia Corsa will defend our Championships this year. The GTD field has expanded this season to factory entries and we welcome the challenge” Scuderia Corsa team owner Giacomo Mattioli said. “2017 marks the 70th anniversary for Ferrari and there is no better way to celebrate than success at the race track, where it all began.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward points’ slide

0 Comments

Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.