Toyota Gazoo Racing

Toyota takes second straight WEC win with dominant Spa display

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SPA, Belgium – Toyota swept to a dominant one-two finish in Saturday’s FIA World Endurance Championship round at Spa-Francorchamps, continuing its perfect start to the 2017 season as Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima took their second straight win.

After winning the opening race of the year at Silverstone two weeks ago, Toyota sent out a warning shot to its rivals by topping all three practice sessions, only for Porsche to snatch pole with its No. 1 919 Hybrid on Friday afternoon.

Andre Lotterer led the early part of the race for Porsche, only for tire management issues to cause the German driver to drop back, with Mike Conway blasting into the lead for Toyota in the No. 7 car.

Conway and teammate Kamui Kobayashi were in control of the race until a full course yellow was thrown in the fourth hour, with a mistimed pit stop allowing the No. 8 Toyota to move into the lead.

Conway put in a stunning stint to reduce the gap between the two TS050 Hybrids from 20 seconds to just two in just 40 minutes, only to be burned by another full course yellow that widened the gap once again.

Porsche managed to get its No. 2 car up into second place briefly before Conway fought back, with Kobayashi then putting in a blistering final stint to cut the gap at the front once again. Late traffic cost the ex-Formula 1 driver the chance to catch Buemi at the front, with the No. 8 trio finishing two seconds clear at the checkered flag.

Porsche was left to settle for third and fourth, the No. 2 finishing ahead of the No. 3, but has placed its focus on preparing for Le Mans by running its cars in low downforce aero packages for the opening two rounds of the year. Toyota’s third entry, the No. 9, finished two laps down in fifth place.

G-Drive Racing converted pole position into victory in the LMP2 class at Spa after a back-and-forth battle with Rebellion ended when the Swiss team was hit with a penalty and suffered a bodywork issue, leaving Alex Lynn, Pierre Thiriet and Roman Rusinov to sweep to the win in the No. 26 Oreca 07 Gibson.

GTE Pro offered up a fascinating fight between the two AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTEs that even made contact at one point, only for Sam Bird and Davide Rigon to emerge victorious in the No. 71 car. Aston Martin Racing took GTE Am victory with its No. 98 Vantage GTE courtesy of a convincing display from Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda and Paul Dalla Lana.

The WEC season continues with the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.

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.”