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Nikita Lastochkin moves to Exclusive Autosport

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Nikita Lastochkin will move to Exclusive Autosport in 2019 to compete in his third consecutive season in the Pro Mazda division of the Road to Indy ladder.

In 2018, the Russian-born driver finished ninth in the standings with Cape Motorsports.

“I’m extremely excited to come into the season and join Exclusive Autosport,” Lastochkin said at IndyCar.com. “From the testing we’ve completed so far, the car feels very quick and suits my driving style well. (Team principal) Michael (Duncalfe) has been very welcoming and helped me feel at home right away and I think we are going to have a great year ahead of us.”

In 2019, Exclusive Motorsports intends to run as many as three cars.

Last year, Parker Thompson finished second in the standings with Exclusive behind Juncos Racing’s Rinus Veekay.

“I am thrilled to welcome Nikita to the Exclusive Autosport Pro Mazda program,” Duncalfe said. “Nikita’s experience in the Road to Indy and maturity are great assets to the EA program. Overall, Nikita is a great fit with the Exclusive Autosport team. We are looking forward to a very positive and successful year with him in Pro Mazda.”

In two previous seasons in Pro Mazda, Lastochkin has earned a best finish of third at Road America.

Michelin appoints new North American motorsports director

Michelin
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Michelin North America has named Tony Ménard as director of motorsports, effective Jan. 1, 2020.

Ménard is succeeding Chris Baker, who has held the role for the past eight years. Baker is scheduled to retire in March of 2020, ending a lengthy career that began with Michelin in 1982.

“Chris has played a vital role in the growth and success of our motorsports program, both for BFGoodrich and Michelin in North America,” said Matthieu Bonardel, global director for Michelin Group’s motorsports business entity. “His passion and understanding for motorsport fueled growth in the organization and established credibility in the market. Chris’s leadership propelled the Group, which experienced tremendous success with race wins, and advanced the way the brands leveraged our motorsports participation to benefit the overall business.”

A native of Le Mans, France, Ménard has served in several positions during his 30-year career with Michelin, most recently serving global business leader for Michelin brand in the passenger-vehicle category. Ménard has worked closely with the North American motorsports team since early July in preparation for the transition.

Baker oversaw the development of the motorsports function for Michelin and BFGoodrich Tires brands as a single business unit in North America. He also directed the expansion of Michelin’s involvement in IMSA sports-car racing as the “Official Tire of IMSA” and BFGoodrich Tires partnership with SCORE International Racing as the “Official Tire of SCORE.”

During Baker’s tenure, BFGoodrich achieved an unprecedented 650 off-road class wins, including five overall victories in the Baja 1000. The brand also demonstrated performance in the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires, Lucas Oil Off Road Racing, Ultra4 King of Hammers, and provided strong support of grass roots racing across North America with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), National Auto Sport Association (NASA), and Super Production Challenge in Canada.

“I am incredibly grateful to Michelin for the opportunities and support throughout my career, and to all the folks that I have worked with and continue to work with,” Baker said. “I want to thank all the teams, partners, officials and fans who have made our relationships so successful and are essential to the brands’ successes. I look forward to witnessing the continued success of our motorsports programs under Tony’s leadership, as well as the contributions of the Michelin Motorsport North America staff and volunteers, who are completely dedicated and invested in representing our brands in competition.”