Photo courtesy of IMSA

Handful of changes, additions highlight IMSA Watkins Glen entry list

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The third round of IMSA’s Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup season at Watkins Glen International takes place next week, June 29-July 2, with 39 cars and a handful of notable additions in terms of cars and drivers. The Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen kicks off the post-Le Mans portion of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.

ENTRY LIST

Gianmaria Bruni makes his debut as a Porsche factory driver alongside Laurens Vanthoor in the No. 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR in GT Le Mans.

Bruni, formerly of Ferrari, has been out of competition since the end of last year. Kevin Estre was in that car the opening rounds of the year before he departed for the FIA World Endurance Championship; Wolf Henzler was in at Circuit of The Americas last time out for the class.

That’s one of eight GTLM cars listed, while the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE is not. The team’s chassis that raced at Le Mans suffered significant front-end damage there after being contacted by Mathieu Vaxiviere’s TDS Racing Oreca 07 on the Mulsanne Straight going into a chicane.

It was a separate chassis from the one raced in IMSA, although consecutive first-lap accidents at Long Beach and Austin took them out of contention.

The Prototype class sees Onroak Automotive veteran Olivier Pla the latest pro in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217 Gibson alongside Jose Gutierrez. The team ran limited laps at Detroit with Kenton Koch and Ryan Lewis listed, with Gutierrez unavailable. Bobby Oergel’s team has cycled through primary lineups of Gutierrez and Tom Kimber-Smith, Kimber-Smith and Will Owen, then at COTA, Gutierrez and Marco Bonanomi.

Pipo Derani (No. 2) and Bruno Senna (No. 22) return to the Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPis as third drivers, both after racing in different classes at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Pla and Derani were in Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs while Senna was in one of the Vaillante Rebellion Orecas in LMP2.

Other third drivers that return to action include Filipe Albuquerque, Spencer Pigot, Marino Franchitti and Chris Miller.

The GT Daytona class sees roughly half the 17-car class add third drivers. It’s not a requirement to have a third for Watkins Glen. 3GT Racing, Paul Miller Racing, Stevenson Motorsports, Michael Shank Racing and Turner Motorsport, do not, at the moment, have third drivers.

Notable additions include the Alex Job Racing Audi R8 LMS of Townsend Bell, Bill Sweedler and Frankie Montecalvo and the Dream Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3. The Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi, which ended second in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and had considered doing this race, is not listed.

The Prototype Challenge class has four cars and a bevy of TBAs, as could be expected. While Starworks Motorsport is listed it’s not guaranteed the team will run, Peter Baron instead working towards finalizing his impending LMP2 effort for either later this year or the start of 2018.

A busy weekend for IMSA also features the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda, IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama and Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama, Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America action.

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.”