Photo: Getty Images

Alonso victorious in WEC debut with Toyota

Leave a comment

Fernando Alonso scored his first race victory in over five years on Saturday’s Six Hours of Spa, the season opener for the FIA World Endurance Championship “Super Season,” which covers both the 2018 and 2019 calendars.

Alonso, alongside co-drivers Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, started on the pole for Saturday’s race, and dominated the outing in the No. 8 Toyota TS050, though they did have to withstand a late challenge from the sister No. 7 Toyota.

Alonso, who piloted the No. 8 entry for two stints during the race, took over driving duties for good just before the final hour began, with a lead of over one minute on teammates Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and Jose Maria Lopez in the No. 7.

However, a Safety Car early in the final hour erased that gap, and allowed Conway, who finished the race in the No. 7, to close on Alonso.

Yet, Alonso was able to hold off Conway during the final hour, which included a final round of pit stops, and eventually built the gap back up to around three seconds before both drivers backed off to preserve the 1-2 finish.

Alonso was elated to score a long-awaited victory, his first since the Spanish Grand Prix in 2013.

“I was telling the guys before, (it was) a long time since I stood on the podium. I will be here all night long, until tomorrow morning!” Alonso quipped afterward in his victory interview.

However, Alonso was not the only outlier driver at the WEC “Super Season” opener. Verizon IndyCar Series stalwart Tony Kanaan was also a participant, joining Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell in the No. 67 Ford GT for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing UK.

However, their day ended early, with Tincknell crashing hard in Eau Rouge, the same corner in which Pietro Fittipaldi crashed and suffered leg fractures the previous day. Luckily, Tincknell emerged unhurt.

Meanwhile, the sister No. 66 Ford, in the hands of Stefan Mucke, Olivier Pla, and Billy Johnson, scored victory in the GTE-Pro class.

Other class winners were G-Drive Racing’s Roman Rusinov, Jean-Eric Vergne, and Andrea Pizzitola in LMP2 –  in the No. 26 Oreca 07 Gibson – and Aston Marton Racing’s Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy, and Mathias Lauda in GTE-Am – in the No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage.

Full results can be found here and race highlights can be viewed here.

Follow@KyleMLavigne

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
Leave a comment

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.”