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Jean-Eric Vergne claims WEC seat with Manor for 2017

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Ex-Formula 1 driver and current Formula E racer Jean-Eric Vergne will make his debut in the FIA World Endurance Championship next month after signing a deal with Manor for 2017.

Vergne raced for Toro Rosso in F1 between 2012 and 2014 before spending two years in a reserve role at Ferrari.

The Frenchman moved into Formula E following his race stint in F1, driving for Andretti and DS Virgin before joining Techeetah for season three and taking a stake in the team.

Vergne will balance his Formula E duties with a drive in the WEC this year, announcing on Friday that he would be linking up with the CEFC Manor TRS Racing team.

Vergne will make his debut for Manor at the 6 Hours of Silverstone on April 16 ahead of a nine-round season that will also see him make his first appearance at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.

“I’m extremely happy to join CEFC Manor TRS Racing for the WEC season,” Vergne said.

“Endurance racing and especially the 24 Hours of Le Mans is something that has been more and more on my mind lately. I couldn’t ask for more than to start this experience with such a great team.

“I can’t wait to be behind the wheel and bring my motivation to the team to achieve great results together!”

“We are very happy to welcome Jean-Eric to the team. He is a very talented driver that we have followed over the years as we have raced alongside him in Formula 1,” Manor sporting director Graeme Lowdon added.

“We are really looking forward to starting the season and working together with Jean-Éric and I hope that, together, we will have a really successful year.”

Vergne is the fifth driver to join Manor’s two-car effort for the 2017 WEC campaign, taking a seat alongside Tor Graves, Jonathan Hirschi, Roberto Gonzalez and Simon Trummer.

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

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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.”