IMSA: Helio Castroneves eager for first race ever at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park

Photo courtesy IMSA
0 Comments

It’s rare to find a racetrack that Helio Castroneves has not raced upon in his illustrious career.

But the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner will do just that in this weekend’s Mobil 1 Sportscar Grand Prix IMSA race in his first-ever visit to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park – otherwise known as CTMP (and formerly known as Mosport) – in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada.

“It’s an amazing track,” Castroneves told the IMSA Wire Service of CTMP. “It’s a very fast track, which they say suits my style, so I love that.

“I’m looking forward to getting to know the track. I haven’t been there before. I’ve watched the races on TV, of course. I can’t wait to race there.”

After 20 years as a full-time driver in the CART, Champ Car World Series and IndyCar series, the 43-year-old Brazilian native is in his first full season on the IMSA WeatherTech Championship Series.

In the first six races of the season, Castroneves and Taylor have one win, two podiums and one pole. They come into Sunday’s race in sixth place, 20 points out of first place, while teammates Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya are in third place, 13 points out of first.

This is both Castroneves’ and Team Penske’s first full season effort in the IMSA series. Castroneves, Ricky Taylor, Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron have proven to be formidable contenders in the team’s rookie season.

Taylor and Castroneves are teammates in the No. 7 Acura DPi, while Montoya and Cameron are in the identical No. 6 Acura DPi.

And now comes CTMP, a nearly 2.5-mile, 10-turn track that hosts the two hour, 40-minute race this weekend. Taylor, last season’s WeatherTech Championship Prototype champion, has one win already at CTMP back in 2015 and also has twice sat on the pole there, including last year’s event.

In addition, Cameron, the 2016 WeatherTech series champ, is also the two-time defending Prototype winner at CTMP. Meanwhile, like Castroneves, Montoya will also be making his first career start at the road course west of Toronto.

“Ricky and I, Juan Pablo and Dane are really working all together,” Castroneves said. “So, this program with Acura Team Penske will be as successful as possible.”

Castroneves earned his second career IMSA win in May at Mid-Ohio, adding to the standalone win he earned in 2008 at Petit Le Mans.

With each race – six races have been contested, with four more to go to decide the championship – Castroneves is becoming more comfortable and successful in his “rookie” season.

“The car is great,” he said. “The car is very similar to an open-wheel car. Different tires, and I’m still learning a little bit, not only how to manage that with the tires but also manage the traffic.

“There’s so many cars around. Sometimes you have a big gap and that big gap can go away in, like, three corners.

“It’s fun. I have to say it’s very intense, a little more intense than IndyCar, plus you have so many buttons in the car. I’m still learning and understanding. I’m really, really happy to be around, for sure, now let’s continue to have some fun. Hopefully we can have the result that we want.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images
0 Comments

Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.