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Gasly takes second straight Super Formula win at Autopolis

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Pierre Gasly continued to strengthen his bid for a Formula 1 race seat by taking his second straight win in the Japanese Super Formula series on Sunday at Autopolis.

Gasly, 21, was placed in Super Formula for 2017 by Red Bull after winning the GP2 title last year, and took his maiden victory in the series at Motegi last month.

Gasly qualified fifth for Sunday’s race at Autopolis, but managed to jump up to second at the start before closing on early leader Tomoki Nojiri on the softer compound tire.

Gasly made his sole pit stop earlier than Nojiri, who by not reacting immediately handed the Frenchman the undercut and the chance to jump ahead.

A series of fast laps on fresher tires saw Gasly move into the lead once Nojiri pitted, with the Japanese racer then tangling with Kamui Kobayashi and dropping down the order.

Despite Formula E racer Felix Rosenqvist being within striking distance towards the end, Gasly was able to hold on and secure his second straight win, thrusting himself into the thick of the title fight.

Gasly sits 5.5 points shy of Hiroaki Ishiura at the top of the standings with three races to go, with Rosenqvist sitting just half a point further back after taking three consecutive podium finishes.

The result is well-timed for Gasly following reports that Carlos Sainz Jr. is poised to move to Renault as part of the deal that will see Toro Rosso take on Honda power units in Formula 1 next year.

Autosport notes in its report regarding the deal that Sainz could move across to Renault as early as the Malaysian Grand Prix should the team cut ties with Jolyon Palmer early, perhaps paving the way for Gasly to make his F1 debut at Sepang.

The Super Formula season continues in two weeks’ time at Sportsland SUGO, with the final double-header round being held at Suzuka on October 22, clashing with the United States Grand Prix weekend.

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.”