Photo: Porsche AG

Porsche confirms 2018-19 WEC line-up, four-car Le Mans GTE-Pro entry

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Porsche has confirmed its factory GTE line-up for the 2018-19 FIA World Endurance Championship “super season,” including a four-car entry to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.

Following the closure of its LMP1 program at the end of the 2017 season, Porsche’s GT interests will become the priority for the new season, starting with the 6 Hours of Spa in May.

Porsche confirmed at its Night of Champions event on Saturday in Germany it would be tweaking its GTE-Pro line-up for the new season, with Frederic Makowiecki being moved over to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for the North American Endurance Cup events.

His seat will be taken by WEC veteran Gianmaria Bruni, who will return to the series after serving his gardening leave since leaving Ferrari.

Bruni will partner Richard Lietz in the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR, while Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre will once again share the No. 92 Porsche entry.

For the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, Porsche will field four factory entries in the GTE-Pro class as its pair of IMSA cars hops across the Atlantic for the race.

Makowiecki will return to the No. 91 Porsche for Le Mans alongside Bruni and Lietz, while Laurens Vanthoor will join Christensen and Estre at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

Patrick Pilet will be joined by recently-exited LMP1 drivers Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber in the No. 93 Porsche entry, with Le Mans winners Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas joining Sven Muller in the No. 94 car.

Porsche also confirmed interest from customer teams in fielding a 2017-spec Porsche 911 RSR in the GTE-Am class of the WEC next year, with seven cars being sold for the WEC, Le Mans and European Le Mans Series.

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.”