IndyCar champs seek fence changes

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NASCAR dodged a major bullet last Saturday in its Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway. Despite the multicar accident on the last lap that sent substantial debris into the grandstands, including Kyle Larson’s engine, the 28 fans injured have all survived. The two fans who were in critical condition were upgraded to stable.

After the accident, there’s been renewed discussion about the safety of catch fencing at race tracks.

IndyCar drivers Dario Franchitti and Ryan Hunter-Reay each chimed in on the situation. They’ve seen the effects of these type accidents first-hand, as they had to deal with the loss of Dan Wheldon at IndyCar’s 2011 season finale in Las Vegas when Wheldon’s car struck a post on the inside of the catch fencing.

“it’s time @Indycar @nascar other sanctioning bodies & promoters work on an alternative to catch fencing. There has to be a better solution,” Franchitti tweeted Saturday. “@indycar @nascar give the engineers and scientists a budget and they’ll find a fix. they did it with the safer barrier…”

Meanwhile, the defending IndyCar champion told USA Today Sports that, up-front costs aside, something can be done to improve this safety aspect.

“The fence acts as a cheese grater, and the car is the cheese,” Hunter-Reay said. “When it gets airborne, the fence tears it up into pieces. It’s an industry-wide problem, and one we can fix quickly. It would be revolutionary for the sport, and it’s at the forefront of what we’ve been talking about for five years.”

There were two instances in IndyCar where fans were killed from debris going over the fence in the late 1990s. A CART-sanctioned race at Michigan International Speedway in 1998 saw three deaths after a tire that came loose from Adrian Fernandez’s car went over the wall. In an Indy Racing League event the following year at Charlotte, three spectators were also killed when more debris went into the stands. Wheel tethers were later added to the cars.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.