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Lando Norris promoted to McLaren reserve for 2018

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Lando Norris has been named McLaren F1’s official test and reserve driver for the 2018 Formula 1 season, the team announced Monday.

Norris won the prestigious McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver Award last December, then completed his first official F1 test with the team’s Honda-powered MCL32 at the Hungaroring in August. He was second on the timesheets behind Sebastian Vettel.

The soon-to-be-18-year-old Englishman won the FIA F3 European Championship this year and is also confirmed alongside Fernando Alonso and Phil Hanson in one of United Autosports’ Ligier JS P217 Gibsons at next year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Beyond his reserve program, Norris’ racing program for 2018 is in the process of being finalized. Like Stoffel Vandoorne, it could be in Japan in Super Formula or in Formula 2.

“No words can fully describe my feelings to be given this amazing opportunity by McLaren,” Norris said. “My first introduction to the [McLaren] brand came with winning the McLaren AutosportBRDC Young Driver Award last December and then within two months, I was selected on to its McLaren Young Driver program. Both have been an incredible experience. But to now get the chance as an official test and reserve driver in 2018 is another vital step towards my goal of one day racing in F1.

“It’s also a fantastic opportunity to become further integrated within the McLaren ‘family’ and that starts next week with a tire test at Interlagos. I’ll continue to work hard and my aim is to broaden my skills. I have two excellent tutors in Fernando [Alonso] and Stoffel [Vandoorne] and the intention is to help with the team’s efforts to get back to the front. My management team is working hard to finalize my own racing program for 2018 which will be either Super Formula in Japan or Formula 2. In terms of Formula 3, I will sign off from this category in Macau the weekend after next.”

Zak Brown, McLaren Technology Group Executive Director, added: “His summer test for McLaren was also remarkably impressive, and was further proof that he is ready to step up and take on a role of this size, scope and responsibility. At McLaren, we are all extremely keen to help him achieve his goal of racing in Formula 1.”

Eric Boullier, McLaren Racing Director, said: “We feel it’s very important to have a fully enrolled test and reserve driver within the team. Lando will attend grands prix and become a fully integrated member of the team. Lando is somebody who arrives with a very high level of ability, ambition  and application; it is our job to develop and fine-tune his focus as we increase his understanding of how a Formula 1 team operates and how a modern grand prix car works. There will be plenty of opportunity to observe, learn and participate throughout 2018, and we want to make sure Lando is fully prepared, if needed, to step into Fernando or Stoffel’s shoes at a moment’s notice.”

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.”