Photo: Porsche

Porsche secures FIA WEC pole in Mexico

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The FIA World Endurance Championship resumes its season with the first of five flyaway races to conclude its nine-race season at the 6 Hours of Mexico from Mexico City.

While the championship’s future plans were the topic of discussion earlier this weekend, on-track it was time for the 26 cars to focus for qualifying late Saturday afternoon following two practice sessions earlier in the day.

LMP1/LMP2

Three different cars led practice earlier in the weekend with the No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid, the No. 2 Porsche and No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, respectively, top of the charts in LMP1 between Friday’s lone practice, and then the No. 2 Porsche and No. 8 Toyota top of Saturday’s second and third practice sessions.

That set it up for qualifying, which was bumped up a few minutes owing to incoming bad weather, to see the latest battle between the two remaining LMP1 hybrid manufacturers for the pole spot.

In the end, it was Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley, sharing the No. 2 Porsche, who scored the pole position with a best average lap time of 1:24.562 at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. Those two share their car with Earl Bamber.

The sister Porsche (No. 1 of Andre Lotterer, Nick Tandy and Neel Jani) ended just behind at 1:24.710, with the Toyotas not far off either. With an average of 1:24.802, the No. 7 Toyota ended ahead of the No. 8 Toyota.

Similarly in LMP2, it was the No. 36 Signatech Alpine Matmut Alpine A470 and Nos. 38, then 37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07s which made it three different cars leading practice prior to qualifying there.

In qualifying, it was the lone Signatech Alpine car on pole. Nicolas Lapierre and Gustavo Menezes share that car with new third driver Andre Negrao, moving over from the No. 35 car that has been withdrawn from competition. A 1:32.809 average lap time put this car atop the charts.

The No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing, No. 31 Rebellion Racing, No. 26 G-Drive Racing and No. 25 CEFC TRS Manor Orecas completed the top five here.

GTE-Pro/GTE-Am

AF Corse secured the GTE-Pro class pole with Davide Rigon and Sam Bird in the No. 71 Ferrari 488 GTE at an average time of 1:39.425.

The two drivers are reunited this weekend after Bird missed the series’ most recent race at the Nürburgring in mid-July owing to his FIA Formula E Championship commitments at New York City.

This result comes after the No. 51 Ferrari, No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage V8 and No. 71 Ferrari led the three practice sessions in order. The No. 95 Aston Martin slots in second, ahead of the pair of Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford GTs.

Dempsey-Proton Racing scored the GTE-Am class pole with Christian Ried and Matteo Cairoli in the No. 77 Porsche 911 RSR (1:42.166). That pair shares the Porsche with Marvin Dienst. The No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage V8 of Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda will roll off from second in class.

Sunday’s race runs from noon to 6 p.m. local time, so 1 to 7 p.m. ET.

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.”