Mixed reactions to IndyCar’s consulting group report

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IndyCar sought some opinions and advice on how to improve the visibility and results of its product from the Boston Consulting Group, and last week the Associated Press gained access to a copy of the report. Reactions have been mixed to what the report had to offer. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway responded immediately after the report came out.

AP’s auto racing writer Jenna Fryer, who acquired the report, expanded on some of the details in her Monday “In the pits” column this week. Some suggestions – avoiding direct conflicts with the NFL and other racing series, and pairing international races on a single trip, for example – she considered “no brainers.”

Still, she did a good job of saying how the report ended with the line that IndyCar is “the best pure racing motorsports league in the U.S.” but then contradicts itself by offering ideas that remove the “pure racing” aspect of the equation. Among them, the possibility of a playoff at year’s end.

Noted open-wheel reporter Robin Miller, one of NBC Sports Network’s 2012 pit reporters who has done the “grid run” for two years, offered a more humorous take in his feature, “My IndyCar fixes for only $29.95.”

To the suggestion of a condensed season of 15 races in 19 weeks, Miller wrote the schedule needs expanding because six months out of the public consciousness is bad for business. A marketing strategy wanting to promote IndyCar drivers as “daredevils” triggered this: “Indy car racing has always been faster and more dangerous than stock cars so what now, shoot drivers out of a cannon in pre-race introductions and put a ramp on the front stretch at Iowa?”

Autoextremist editor Peter De Lorenzo took the report further to task, going so far as to say the series should no longer operate under the ownership of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Hulman-George family.

Lastly, RACER magazine editor David Malsher took a deep, detailed look beyond just the report in addressing a number of ideas IndyCar should consider to enhance its relevance. Embracing a new technological formula that would remove the “easy” bit of driving, and using some good quotes from interviews, notably one from two-time CART champion Gil de Ferran saying “An IndyCar should be an intimidating beast,” were among the suggestions.

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.