Hartley, Bamber head up Porsche front row for Fuji WEC

Porsche AG
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The pair of New Zealanders, Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber, have secured the pole position in their No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid for Sunday’s FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Fuji.

Bamber hadn’t yet won an FIA WEC overall pole and shared qualifying duties with Hartley, the pair posting an average lap time of 1:35.160.

Qualifying took place under wet conditions in advance of a potential wet race on Sunday.

If Bamber, Hartley and Timo Bernhard end ahead of the No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, they wrap the driver’s championship.

“Due to the bad weather forecast for tomorrow it is very important to have both Porsches starting from the front row – this could be an advantage for us. We have again collected another point in the defence of both world championship titles,” Fritz Ensinger, vp of Porsche’s LMP1 program, said. “As expected, Toyota was very fast. A huge compliment to our whole team for a tremendous concerted effort. Now we are looking forward to an endurance race that will be the third last for us with the 919 Hybrid.”

Porsche also scored the GTE-Pro pole courtesy of Richard Lietz and Fred Makowiecki in the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR.

Other class polesitters included the No. 13 Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07 Gibson (Nelson Piquet Jr. and David Heinemeier Hansson qualifying) in LMP2 and the No. 61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari 488 GTE (Weng Mok Sun and Matt Griffin qualifying) in GTE-Am.

The race starts at 10 p.m. ET Saturday night, which is 11 a.m. Sunday local time in Fuji.

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AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing
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Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”