Tandy, Jani capture Bahrain WEC pole for Porsche’s final race

Porsche
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SAKHIR, Bahrain – Porsche will start its final race in the LMP1 class of the FIA World Endurance Championship from pole position after Nick Tandy and Neel Jani saw off the challenge of Toyota in qualifying for the 6 Hours of Bahrain on Friday night.

Porsche confirmed back in July it would be closing its LMP1 program at the end of the 2017 season in order to turn its attention to Formula E, making this weekend’s race in Bahrain its last in the category.

The No. 7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid shared by Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez looked poised for pole after all four LMP1 cars had completed two flying laps, enjoying a buffer to the No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid in second place.

Tandy had time to go out for a late run in the session after Porsche completed its initial efforts early, and by gaining six-tenths of a second lifted the No. 1 car’s average to take pole position.

The sister No. 2 Porsche will start the race from third on the grid ahead of the No. 8 Toyota in P4, which finished over a second off the pace.

American racer Gustavo Menezes captured pole position in LMP2 for Signatech Alpine alongside Andre Negrao in the No. 36 Alpine A470 Gibson, with the No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07 Gibson following in second ahead of the No. 31 Vaillante Rebellion entry.

AF Corse dominated qualifying in GTE-Pro through Sam Bird and Davide Rigon in the No. 71 Ferrari 488 GTE, with both drivers posting lap times faster than any of their rivals.

Aston Martin took second in class with Darren Turner and Jonny Adam, with Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx finishing third in the No. 67 Ford GT ahead of the points-leading No. 51 AF Corse shared by James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi.

GTE-Am pole went to Paul Dalla Lana and Pedro Lamy in the No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage GTE, with the bonus point meaning a top-three finish in Sunday’s race will be enough to deliver the team a maiden set of class titles.

Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward points’ slide

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Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.