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Toyota, unsurprisingly, on provisional pole at Le Mans

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With the pace advantage showcased in the Le Mans Test Day, it was no surprise to see the Toyota TS050 Hybrid top the timesheets in provisional qualifying for this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi posted the quickest time of the first qualifying session overall and in LMP1 at 3:18.793 in the No. 7 car he’ll share this race with Mike Conway and Stephane Sarrazin.

The No. 8 Toyota was next up at a 3:19.431, with the No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid at least within one second in third at 3:19.710.

TDS Racing made it through to the provisional top spot in LMP2 with the No. 28 Oreca 07 Gibson in the hands of Mathieu Vaxviere, who shares the car with Emmanuel Collard and Francois Perrodo.

Vaxviere’s top time of 3:29.333 blitzes the prior LMP2 track record of 3:32.301 set by Jos Verstappen in a Van Merksteijn Motorsport Porsche RS Spyder set in 2008, and again, comes as expected with the intense top speeds turned in by the new powerplant.

The top 12 cars in class are either the Oreca 07 or the rebadged Alpine A470, continuing that chassis manufacturer’s dominance. It comes to 13th place before the first other chassis appears, the No. 29 Racing Team Nederland Dallara P217 at a best time of 3:33.796, in the hands of Le Mans debutante Rubens Barrichello with co-drivers Jan Lammers and Fritz van Eerd.

Aston Martin Racing has the provisional GTE-Pro pole, perhaps not the manufacturer you’d choose off hand, with the No. 95 Vantage of Nicki Thiim, Marco Sorensen and Richie Stanaway in at 3:52.117 ahead of the two AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTEs and the second factory GTE-Pro Aston Martin.

The best Ford (No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK) is fifth at a 3:54.118, the best Porsche (No. 92 Porsche GT Team) sixth at a 3:54.243 and the best Corvette (No. 63) ninth at a 3:54.827.

Aston also tops the GTE-Am provisional pole charts with the factory No. 98 car of Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda and Paul Dalla Lana in at 3:55.134.

Of note, the four Verizon IndyCar Series drivers active since 2016 (including NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell) are provisionally here:

  • Tony Kanaan, 11th GTE-Pro, No. 68 Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA Ford GT, 3:55.059
  • Scott Dixon, 12th GTE-Pro, No. 69 Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA Ford GT, 3:55.553
  • Mikhail Aleshin, 16th LMP2, No. 27 SMP Racing Dallara P217 Gibson, 3:34.407
  • Townsend Bell, 9th GTE-Am, No. 62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GTE, 3:57.267

Aleshin’s car reportedly stopped on track with a fire, one of several LMP2 cars to have had mechanical issues this session.

There are four more hours of qualifying tomorrow.

Provisional results are below.

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

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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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.”