Kiwi driver Brendon Hartley poised to make F1 debut at US Grand Prix - report

New Zealand  driver Brendon Hartley has reportedly emerged as a front-runner to drive for a Formula 1 team in the United States Grand Prix before accepting a full-contract for next season.

According to Autosport, Hartley is the leading contender to drive for Toro Rosso in Austin in a fortnight with regular driver Pierre Gasly returning to Super Formula on the same weekend in an attempt to try and secure the title.

Toro Rosso team Principal Franz Tost reportedly wants to use next the race as a chance to evaluate a new driver to add to next year's roster and while Gasly remains a favourite to retain one of the team's cars, the other is currently up in the air.

The 2017 Le Mans winner has emerged as a front-runner to gain the US Grand Prix audition after years as a reserve driver and time in the junior programme with the Red Bull team.

However, acquiring the Kiwi will require some ironing out by the Italian Formula 1 team - the 27-year-old is currently contracted to Porsche in the World Endurance Championship - a competition he could win this weekend with a solid performance in Fuji.

Hartley's signature is also reportedly being chased heavily by IndyCar team Chip Ganassi for next year's series where he could race alongside fellow Kiwi Scott Dixon for the same organisation.

New Zealand's last F1 driver was Mike Thackwell who raced in 1984.

Brendon Hartley, 26, returns home after winning endurance championship alongside Porsche teammates Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard. Source: 1 NEWS


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Shane van Gisbergen finishes second in Sandown 500, extends V8 Supercars lead

Red Bull Holden Racing duo Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell have romped to victory in the Sandown 500, cashing in on their superior pace to lead home a Triple Eight Racing podium.

Shane van Gisbergen and co-driver Earl Bamber, on his Supercars debut for Red Bull's other combination, improved to second and boost the series leader's championship hopes.

Veterans Craig Lowndes and Steven Richards (Autobarn Lowndes Racing) rounded out Triple Eight's first 1-2-3 since a sprint race win at Queensland Raceway two years ago.

In a mind-numbingly dull start to the Enduro Cup, car No.1 cruised to a success that looked likely from Friday's first practice session.

Dumbrell trashed Whincup's long-running lap record on his first spin around the Melbourne circuit, showing the awesome pace of their ZB Commodore.

Whincup took his own record back in qualifying, when only an overly-cautious decision to put on wet tyres cost them pole position.

That didn't matter on Sunday, when Dumbrell jumped polesitter David Reynolds' co-driver Luke Youlden from the line.

The dynamic duo were never headed for effective control, claiming a third Sandown victory by almost seven seconds.

"I couldn't be happier, the car's been awesome all weekend," Whincup said.

Whincup's win was his fourth in the Sandown 500 - he won with Lowndes in 2007 - while Van Gisbergen's race-day resurgence headed off a hit to his title hopes.

The Kiwi was off the pace at the Home of Horsepower until Sunday, when Bamber improved from his 11th placed start and van Gisbergen did the rest.

"What a privilege to drive these cars with the Red Bull Holden Racing Team. They gave us some rockets today," van Gisbergen said.

The Kiwi's chief rival for the title, countryman Scott McLaughlin, finished fourth by holding off outside championship shot Reynolds.

Van Gisbergen's lead now stands at 55 points with four rounds remaining.

Storm clouds that provided drama on Saturday cleared, and even the notorious turn six - possibly Australia's most dangerous Supercars corner - didn't cause any serious issue.

Early safety cars following bungles by Dean Fiore and Jason Bright made no difference to the outcome.

McLaughlin and the rest of the field were never in the contest, as the Red Bull team tuned up for Bathurst in emphatic fashion.

Shane van Gisbergen, Red Bull Holden Racing Australia.
ITM Auckland Supersprint V8 Supercars. Pukekohe Park Raceway, Auckland, New Zealand. 04 November 2017. © Copyright Image: Marc Shannon / www.photosport.nz.
Holden driver Shane van Gisbergen in action at the Pukekohe Park Raceway in Auckland. Source: Photosport


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Kiwi driver Scott McLaughlin 'trying bits and pieces' to regain Supercars championship lead

Supercars title chaser Scott McLaughlin knows he has a massive opportunity to retake the championship lead in the Sandown 500.

But he also knows that having an opportunity to taking it are two very different things.

The Kiwi flyer will start from the second row in the 500km endurance classic tonight after falling on the right side of a major strategic call in qualifying.

With rain and even hail teeming down, his team chose to not to pit for wet tyres and reaped the benefits when the shower moved on just minutes later.

Title rival Shane van Gisbergen's car No.97 went in to the pits, along with most of the field, where he was left stranded, double-stacked as he waited for his teammate to clear out.

Van Gibsergen will start on the sixth row as a result, giving McLaughlin a major chance to return to the top of the standings in Melbourne.

"At the moment it is an opportunity," he said.

"Today really went well for us and didn't go so well for them.

"It looks like he probably doesn't have as much speed as car No.1 does.

"We've got try and do our best and execute tomorrow and we'll worry about (the title standings) at the end."

McLaughlin sits 19 points behind van Gisbergen as the series begins the three Endurance meets - the Sandown 500, Bathurst 1000 and the Gold Coast 600.

Whincup sits a further 343 points back but he too should close the gap on Sunday.

Together with co-driver Paul Dumbrell, the Red Bull Holden Racing Team ZB Commodore has resembled a rocket ship, lowering record lap times in Melbourne through practice and qualifying.

Their decision to go in for wet tyres cost them pole position, won by David Reynolds and Luke Youlden.

McLaughlin said the team would keep on working to find extra speed before the race kicks.

"For us at the moment, yeah, (car speed) is an issue. I'm probably losing two car lengths," he said.

"I'm losing time on both the cars I raced today - nine and one.

"We've been trying bits and pieces all weekend."

Scott McLaughlin of DJR Team Penske during the Coateshire Newcastle 500,  at the , Newcastle, New South Wales, November 24, 2017. Copyright photo: Clay Cross / www.photosport.nz
Scott McLaughlin Source: Photosport


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Scott Dixon 'wanted to cry' after IndyCar crash threatened to ruin 2018 title bid

Kiwi driver Scott Dixon has admitted he "wanted to cry" after thinking his chances of a fifth IndyCar title were ruined by a crash at this week's Portland Grand Prix.

Dixon entered the penultimate race of the 2018 season on Monday leading the drivers' championship but after getting tied up in a six car pile-up on the first lap, he was brought close to tears.

"I felt like I wanted to cry for a little bit, actually," Dixon told IndyCar.com.

The Kiwi was however surprised to discover after the crash his car was not seriously damaged and he recovered a substantial amount of ground to go from 21st place to fifth.

The stunning performance saw him not just defend his overall lead in the championship but extend it to 29 points over American Alexander Rossi who finished eighth in Portland.

"I definitely thought it was over before it began," Dixon said. "That old saying, 'better lucky than good,' that definitely played out. I knew it was going to be a pretty lucky day from that point on."

Despite the heroics, Dixon still only has one hand on the title heading into the final race at Sonoma, California on September 17.

The race offers double points, meaning not only can Rossi take the title but Australian Will Power and defending champion Josef Newgarden also have a mathematical chance of winning despite sitting 87 points back.

If Dixon wins in California, the title is his. If Rossi wins, Dixon must finish second or he'll lose. 

Scott Dixon.
Scott Dixon. Source: Associated Press


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