Indy Lights testing continues at Sebring

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Firestone Indy Lights drivers and teams will be busy over the next week or so thanks to two Open Test sessions in the Southeast.

Tomorrow and Friday will see the Lights contingent tackle the famous Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway, and then they’ll join the IZOD IndyCar Series for testing at Barber Motorsports Park (Birmingham, Ala.) next Monday. Nine participants, one of them being a Sam Schmidt Motorsports driver that’s yet to be determined, are expected to take part in the Sebring test.

Amongst that group is top American prospect Zach Veach, who has moved up to Lights this season with Andretti Autosport. Veach and teammate Carlos Munoz were at the top of the charts in January’s FIL Open Test session on the Homestead-Miami Speedway road course, and the 18-year-old Ohioan believes that working with Munoz (who finished fifth in Lights last season) will make him a better racer.

“I’m very fortunate to have such a strong teammate this year like Carlos,” Veach said in a recent INDYCAR teleconference. “He was very successful last year, and he’s really putting a lot of pressure on me this year and definitely making me drive a lot harder.

“Throughout testing here the past couple of times, we’ve been [within] tenths or hundredths of Carlos, so I have a feeling that we’ll be really prepared as we go into the season, and I’ll be pushing really hard to get some wins this year.”

In addition to the Andretti duo of Veach and Munoz, Sam Schmidt Motorsports is expected to bring three drivers to Sebring: The aformentioned “Driver TBD,” Gabby Chaves, and 2012 Pro Mazda champion Jack Hawksworth. Also in for Sebring are two Belardi Auto Racing pilots, Jorge Goncalvez and Peter Dempsey, and Team Moore Racing’s Juan Pablo Garcia and Mikael Grenier.

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.