Toyota dominates Silverstone WEC qualifying for first pole since 2013

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Toyota put its aerokit advantage to good use in qualifying for the FIA World Endurance Championship season-opener at Silverstone on Saturday afternoon, scorching to a one-two finish to mark its first pole position in over three years.

Entering 2017 after a tough year notable for its heartbreaking defeat at Le Mans, Toyota made a range of updates to its TS050 Hybrid car and tweaked its driver line-up by drafting in three-time WTCC champion Jose Maria Lopez.

With the rival Porsche team opting to run its Le Mans-spec aerokit for Silverstone, Toyota was able to make its high downforce setup advantage tell by romping to a one-two finish.

Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi combined to record a two-lap average of 1:37.304 in the No. 7 TS050 Hybrid, clinching pole by almost three-tenths of a second from Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima in the sister No. 8 car.

Defending champion team Porsche was left to settle for third and fourth for the start, finishing over a second adrift of the Toyotas with its No. 1 and No. 2 919 Hybrids.

G-Drive Racing picked up pole in the LMP2 class courtesy of Alex Lynn and Pierre Thiriet, edging just 0.046 seconds clear of the No. 36 Signatech Alpine entry.

Ford eased to pole position in GTE Pro as Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell finished eight-tenths of a second clear, leaving Sam Bird and Davide Rigon to settle for second in the No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE. Aston Martin’s No. 98 entry will start at the head of the GTE Am field.

2016 Knoxville Nationals champ Jason Johnson succumbs to injuries from sprint car crash

Photo courtesy Jason Johnson Racing official Facebook page
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Former Knoxville Nationals champion sprint car driver Jason Johnson has died from injuries suffered in a crash Saturday night in a World of Outlaws race at Beaver Dam (Wisconsin) Raceway).

Known as the “Ragin’ Cajun” for his aggressive style of racing, Johnson, 41, passed away this morning, according to an announcement by WoO. He was one of the most respected and well-liked drivers on the circuit by both fellow competitors and fans.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Johnson, a Eunice, Louisiana resident, was racing for the lead in the main event on the one-third-mile clay track with eventual race winner Daryn Pitman, when Johnson crashed on Lap 18 shortly after a restart.

Johnson’s car left the track surface in Turn 3 and flew through at least one billboard adjacent to the racetrack, according to media and witness reports.

It took rescue workers several minutes to extricate Johnson, who was taken by ambulance to a local hospital before being airlifted to Aurora Summit Hospital in Summit, Wisconsin, according to the Journal Sentinel report.

How many will remember Johnson:

Johnson, who won the 2016 Knoxville Nationals – the sport’s biggest race – in Iowa in storybook fashion, had been a primarily part-time racer on various sprint car circuits from 1998 until he went full-time on the Outlaws series, capturing Rookie of the Year honors in 2015.

MORE: Knoxville win should be big boost to Jason Johnson’s season, career

Johnson had 12 wins on the Outlaws circuit, including two victories this season.

The Journal Sentinel also posted a statement from SLS Promotions, which promoted Saturday’s race:

“Everyone at SLS Promotions offers our deepest, most sincere thoughts, prayers and condolences to Bobbi Johnson (Jason’s wife), Jaxx Johnson (the couple’s son) and the entire Johnson family and JJR Racing team.

“Jason was a great competitor and true ambassador for the sport. It was an honor and a privilege to work with him during his time on the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series trail. Jason will never be forgotten”

Other notables also commented on his death on social media:

According to the Journal Sentinel, Johnson is the second driver in four years to die at the small track northwest of Milwaukee. In September 2014, Scott Semmelann, 47, was killed there while practicing for an Interstate Racing Association event.

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