Toyota Gazoo Racing

Lapierre quickest for Toyota on second day of WEC Prologue

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Nicolas Lapierre made the most of his first appearance in Toyota colors since 2014 by topping the timesheets on the second day of the FIA World Endurance Championship pre-season Prologue at Monza on Sunday.

Lapierre was confirmed as returning to Toyota’s line-up for 2017, two-and-a-half years after being dropped for a lack of performance, and will race in its third car this year.

The Frenchman turned in a fastest lap time of 1:30.547 on Sunday afternoon to finish as the fastest driver overall at the Prologue, edging out Toyota LMP1 teammate Anthony Davidson by 0.262 seconds in the final timesheets.

Toyota locked out the top four positions in the overall timings, with Porsche failing to beat the laps it set on Saturday night prior to the rain that scuppered much of the running.

TDS Racing led the way in LMP2 courtesy of Mathieu Vaxiviere, who narrowly beat Bruno Senna’s benchmark from Saturday by 0.016 seconds to finish fastest overall in the No. 28 ORECA-Gibson. Ho-Pin Tung ended third-fastest in class in the No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing entry.

Michael Christensen’s fastest time for Porsche on Saturday went unbeaten in GTE Pro as the test came to a close, with teammate Kevin Estre lapping a tenth off in the No. 92 911 RSR. Harry Tincknell was the fastest non-Porsche driver, ending up fourth in class for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing as less than a second separated the top 10 in GTE Pro.

Miguel Molina took Spirit of Race to the helm of the timesheets in GTE Am, putting in a best time of 1:49.843 in the No. 54 Ferrari 488 GTE. While Saturday leader Ben Barker was able to improve on his previous best, he still fell 0.167 seconds short of P1 in the No. 86 Gulf Racing Porsche 911 RSR.

The WEC paddock will next convene at Silverstone for the opening round of the season on April 16.

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

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
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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.”