Toyota Gazoo Racing continued its strong late-season form in the FIA World Endurance Championship as Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway teamed up to grab pole position for the 6 Hours of Shanghai on Saturday.
Entering the penultimate round of the WEC season after a one-two finish in Fuji three weeks ago, Toyota picked up its fourth pole of the season with its No. 7 TS050 Hybrid, finishing four-tenths of a second clear of the rival Porsche team.
Kobayashi’s time of 1:42.526 proved crucial in securing the No. 7 Toyota pole after Conway lapped some six-tenths of a second slower, giving the duo an average of 1:42.832.
Nick Tandy and Andre Lotterer finished 0.440 seconds behind in the No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid, with Lotterer losing his first flying lap after being adjudged to have exceeded track limits.
The duo were left to settle for second, with the No. 8 Toyota and No. 2 Porsche cars finishing two-tenths of a second further back in P3 and P4 respectively.
The No. 2 Porsche crew of Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber will clinch the WEC drivers’ title in Shanghai with a top-four finish on Sunday.
The No. 31 Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07 Gibson took pole position in LMP2 through Bruno Senna and Julien Canal, beating the No. 26 G-Drive Racing crew by two-tenths of a second.
GTE-Pro pole went to the ‘Dane Train’ No. 95 Aston Martin Racing crew, with Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen combining to finish two-tenths of a second clear of Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre in the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR. Class championship leaders James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi will start third in the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE.
Aston Martin also topped the timesheets in GTE-Am as Pedro Lamy and Paul Dalla Lana grabbed pole by four-tenths of a second in the No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage GTE, beating the No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing team by four-tenths of a second.
Travis Pastrana will attempt to make his first NASCAR Cup series race on February 19 with the grandaddy of them all, the Daytona 500, but his road to get there will not be paved and his car will have only two fenders as he tackles Florida Speedweeks and the DIRTcar Nationals.
“It’s good,” Pastrana said in a press release. “We’re going to go down, we’re going to go hangout with [NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion] Matt Crafton, one of [Black Rifle’s] drivers, we’ll go to Modified races and watch all the Late Models. We’ll watch the racing, and we’ll bring [United States military] veterans down and hangout with [Steve] Arpin.”
But there is a saying among dirt track fans that goes, ‘asphalt is for getting to the track; dirt is for racing’ – and Pastrana is taking that to heart.
After racing on the snow in Nitro Rallycross February 4-5 in Calgary, Alberta, the original plan was to head to Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida to watch the modified and late model races. Until Crafton called him out for not racing.
Pastrana relayed the conversation: “I told Crafton [I was coming to watch] and he goes, ‘Ah, too much of a sissy to drive?’ I called Arpin, and said, ‘So, Longhorn, I heard you guys have vehicles that can kick the crap out of Crafton’s vehicle.’ [Arpin] said, ‘Yeah, if you don’t suck, you can beat him.’ I said, ‘Alright, I’m in.’”
The DIRTcar Nationals run from February 6-18. The first week features six UMP Modified Mains each night they run, on Monday (Feb. 6), Friday (Feb. 10), and then the prestigious Gator Championship race on Saturday (Feb. 11). Pastrana hopes to run every night in one of Arpin’s cars, also with sponsorship from Black Riffle Coffee.
And this is not just for bragging rights; there is money on the line. Pastrana and Crafton have a $1 bet on who has the best finish.
It took a day for Pastrana to get comfortable in the modified. And it took a little coaching from Arpin, who has experience in both dirt modifieds and rally cars to make him fast.
“[Arpin] showed up the second day after hearing how bad the first day was,” Pastrana said, which is confirmed in the Instagram post embedded above. “But he just told me, until you commit, it’s not going to work. Once I committed, it started making a lot of sense. But coming in, if you’re lifting off the gas while trying to turn, it just doesn’t turn and all your natural instincts say, ‘Don’t get on the gas.’ So, yeah, I feel like it should suit my driving style because I’m more of an aggressive sideways type of driver, but it was very difficult. Turning and sliding, I’m fine. Getting it there is not the easiest.”
Pastrana has one previous start in a dirt late model that came in the 2010 Prelude to the Dream. He finished 23rd in the 27-car field and was three laps off the pace. He wasn’t the only driver having difficulty getting a feel for the car that night; Jeff Gordon finished on the same lap, only one position ahead of him.
The price of the weekend could well exceed the dollar he may lose to Crafton.
“It’s going to be an expensive weekend,” Pastrana said. “Not everything is covered. If I crash anything, it is going to be all on me. This is one of those things where I want to come down and have fun. I want to hang out with the crowd, I want to sign autographs and give high fives. Especially for the Modified crew, that’s the grassroots racing that I love and some of my friends are involved with. We’ll be camping down there with Arpin and all the Longhorn guys, just hanging out. I feel like that’s a great opportunity for us to bring a lot of [US] veterans and bring people that are into racing and aren’t into racing, friends and family, and just have an awesome time.”
And it’s not out of the question that Pastrana could add another top-10 to his record book in the DIRTcar Nationals. After the rocky first day, Pastrana gained speed. Enough so that Arpin’s confidence was raised.
“We’re pretty confident Crafton is going to have to run hard to keep his dollar,” Arpin said.